New Steps

I feel like I haven’t utilized this website to it’s full potential. So I’m going to start doing an arrangement, composition, or a post every week. It’ll be interesting. First arrangement is Gruntilda’s Lair from Bango Kazooie, for trombone Choir.

Composer of the Week: Christopher Tin (Choir and Orchestra)

I have wanted to do a few blog posts mentioning new composers for awhile mostly for myself, but I suspect there are people out there who would like to know some the the names of new composers. New composers bring new and exciting repertoire to the table.

 

Christopher Tin is by no means a new composer, but I know I don’t pay attention to living composers as much as dead ones. Mr. Tin has been composing for awhile now and back in 2005 he won two Grammy awards for his song ‘Baba Yetu’ and his album ‘Calling All Dawns’ . On his website you can buy the full orchestra for ‘Calling All Dawns’. He has kept busy composing for many movies, t.v. shows, advertisements, and video games; including companies like Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, and the New York Times. He has also put out a new album ‘Love of God’. These compositions are not classical, but instead a dark synth-pop album. I would still encourage people to look at some of his choir music for use, especially those with an orchestral background.

Mid-West 4: Identifying Quality Repertoire

Identifying Quality Repertoire for Bands of all Levels
Presented by: Mr. Richard LoPresto; Mr. Matthew Moore; and Dr. Brian Shelton

In this modern age of band music there are thousands of pieces to choose from and more are written every day. How do you determine what is good literature and what is not? Well there are some criteria that has been proposed. Here is a list provided in the book Wind Band Accoring to Specific Criteria of Serious Artistic Merit (by Acton Ostling):
Form- Look for a piece that has a good balance between contrast and repetition.
Shape and Design- A piece that continues to develop
Craftsmenship in orchestration- with regards to solo and tutti sections
Includes musical tension
Avoids direct and obvious routes in part writing
Consistent in quality through the entire piece
Intelligently designed development
Transcends historical importance and pedagogical usefulness- the pieces that sound good and help develop musicians

The list that is suggested by Mr. Richard LoPresto, Mr. Matthew Moore, and Dr. Brian Shelton is as follows:
Music that contains:
Variety of styles Rhythmic variety
Interesting scoring Interesting part writing
Historical relevance teachable concepts (to improve musicianship)

Both lists offer a standards of good music and would be helpful to any director looking to judge a piece. But what if there was a list of material that was already selected by these directors? Behold another list.
March del Mar- John O’Reilly (grade 1.5)
Xerxes- John Mackey (grade 4)
American Riversongs- Pierre LaPlante (grade 3)
Albanian Dances- Shelly Hanson (grade 4)
All the Pretty Little Horses- Anne McGinty (grade 2)
American Hymnsong Suite- Dwayne Milburn (grade 4)
Whirlwind- Jodie Blackshaw (grade 1)
Incantation and Dance- John Barnes Chance (Grade 5)
October –Eric Whitacre (grade 4)
Bloom- Steven Bryant (grade 4)
Soldiers’ Procession and Sword Dance- Bob Margolis (grade 1)
Vesuvius- Frank Ticheli (grade 4)
Simple Gifts- Frank Ticheli (grade 2)

A good way to experience new pieces is by checking State listings of pieces, by checking publishing websites, and by going to other band’s concerts. If you are a band director you should always keep an ear open for new incredible music. I think the simplest way to judge if a piece is worth buying is if you answer a simple question: Would I enjoy listening to this over and over again?

Mid-West 3: Slip Sliding Away

Slip Sliding Away: Decoding the Mystery of Trombone Legato
Presented by: Dr. Alexandra Zacharella

As a Trombone major I thought that going to a trombone clinic would be good. When I first went I wasn’t expecting to learn about giving private lessons on the trombone and trombone history, but I did. The information was presented into 8 sections: Warming up, Lip slur concepts, books of study, Overtones, execution of legato, practicing legato, Lyrical Studies, and practice order.

In warming up, Long tones were talked about. Long tones are one of the most important tools in warming up for several reasons; they help establish the sensation of lip vibration, and establishes a connection between your brain and lips. To maximize the effectiveness of long tones the student should focus on making long clear tones without any pitch bending. As your student becomes more advanced make them sustain the notes even longer.

Lip Slurs are another fundamental warm up skill; they help players build flexibility in their range. Beginning players tend to have a space between their notes. To fix the spaces just make the students try it slower or start in a more comfortable range. Start Lip slurs tongued, but then listen for smooth connected strains. Also as the student becomes comfortable with one style of lips slur patterns change it up with different speeds, ranges, and note patterns.

Four books that are suggested to look at for beginning trombone players are The Remington Warm-ups studies, Basic routines for Trombone, A ‘singing’ approach to the Trombone, and Daily Drills and Technical Studies for the Trombone.

On the trombone the Overtone series affects the positions. What I mean by that is as you change partials the positions on a trombone change slightly. As you go higher on the trombone the slide position become closer and closer. For exact position please e-mail me and I can send you a chart.

For Trombone legato you want to use as little tongue as possible. Strive to use lips slurs as much as possible, but in the event that you are playing notes in the same partial use a legato tonguing of ‘doo’ or ‘loo’ or ‘dah’.

When practicing legato tonguing make sure to practice without using any tongue, the more smearing and glissing the better. Practice the passage with staccato tonguing, than move to using just air with the desired tonguing. Once all that is done approaching the passage with legato tonguing should be easy. When practicing remember to give good support for a warm sound, good posture will aid with this.

A good book that helps with lyrical and legato practice is Melodious Etudes for Trombone Selected from Vocalises of Marco Bordogni by Jonnas Rochut

When working with your student remember to help establish a routine of warming up, and approaching passages correctly. Remember to start with long tones and lip slurs. After the warm up move them onto etudes, then to their works. And as always listening to professional musicians helps to establish what a good sound is supposed to sound like.

New Year

Well, today starts the new school year for me at Grove City College. I have a lot to look forward to and a lot of work yet to do. That being said I am, starting this Tuesday, posting every Tuesday a new article of notes that I have received from clinics (like Midwest), workshops, or from my independent study this semester. Needless to say there will be a lot of information and updating this coming year. So keep an eye on this site Tuesdays.

Mid-West 2: A Composer’s Secrets

A Composer’s Secrets
Presented by Frank Ticheli

Going to this clinic was a special treat, not just for the chance to see Mr. Ticheli rehearse a song, but also for all the knowledge that was presented. The first and most important bit of information that he presented was get beyond the notes and the music. Mr. Ticheli took out a penny to help us understand what he was really trying to communicate. He held up a penny and asked us, “How do you describe a penny to someone who has never experienced one before?” It was an interesting concept and many good descriptions were used. His point was that we, as conductors, need to think of different ways to describe and view the music.
Frank Ticheli also pointed several other things that conductors should pay attention to while rehearsing:
-Don’t conduct the entire ensemble the whole time, conduct individual players by making eye contact. This will make them look up and let them see your facial expressions.
-Conduct to create expression, not precision. The score is an approximation of the real music.
-When conducting lyrical passages use more of a horizontal pattern, it is smoother then a vertical pattern.
-Contact the composer. They wrote the piece, so they are a great resource for making the music come alive. Sometimes they mess up in writing and can tell you how to fix the piece you are working on.
-There are surprises written into the music. Don’t be afraid to surprise the ensemble or the audience, just not too often.
-Don’t be afraid of taking dynamics, tempos, and articulations to the edge, sometimes. That is when real music comes alive.
Frank Ticheli’s last remark was a quote from Yoyo Ma who said, “Music is not perfection, but expression.” If there was one thing that I will always remember from this clinic it is that, no matter what kind of music I play or conduct I need to make expressive music.

Today’s Links

  • Mid-West 1: Ready, Aim, Fire: Tuning the Brain for Intonation
    Ready, Aim, Fire: Tuning the Brain for Intonation Session Presented By: John Carmichael   This workshop was all about how to improve the intonation of your ensemble. Mr. Carmichael suggested that when you start any kind of tuning you start by singing or humming the tone to help internalize the pitch. This helps prep their [...]
  • Mid-West
    Expect quite a few posts to be coming up after the 19th of December. Once I finish with finals. Some of the clinics to be posted: “Get ‘em Moving: Shifting in the Beginning Strings Classroom” -Adam Davis and Sarah Maurice “A Composer’s Secrets” -Frank Ticheli “Clear Conducting Technique that Conveys your Aural Picture” -Dr. Paula Holcomb [...]
  • So I spent my night listening to music…
    Yesterday night I discovered an old gem of a composer. His name is  Erik Satie. I was listing to the demos on the midi keyboards in Grove City Music Technology classroom and it was his famous work called Gymnopedie No.1. For the rest of the night I looked online for sheet music to follow along [...]

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Mid-West 1: Ready, Aim, Fire: Tuning the Brain for Intonation

Ready, Aim, Fire: Tuning the Brain for Intonation

Session Presented By: John Carmichael

 

This workshop was all about how to improve the intonation of your ensemble. Mr. Carmichael suggested that when you start any kind of tuning you start by singing or humming the tone to help internalize the pitch. This helps prep their ear for listening to each other, instead of themselves. It is important to make sure that you are comfortable singing in front of the band, otherwise the whole process might take a turn for the worst. Tuning is all about active listening, so do not use a tuner, only let the oboe or first clarinet players keep a tuner on their stand. Deaf people can use tuners and we have working ears, so use them. The point of tuning without a tuner in front of the students is to train your ensemble to listen and tune to each other. That being said, every person has the ability to improve their active tuning skills. An easy way to start to teach active listening is to build chords, while keeping the sections in tune with each other. Once that is done try moving the chords up by half or whole step maintaining balance and chordal structure. This will prove hard are first, but the payoff is worth the time. Also, try tuning high instruments to low instruments and vice-versa to change the set of pitches students are looking for. A few good exercises to look for are playing through the circle of fifths and the ‘Treasury of Scales’ by Leonard B. Smith.

 

Since we are on the topic of tuning it should be stated that there are two tuning styles. Just Intonation is based on the ratios of pitches, as discovered by Pythagoras. Good vocal choirs will tend to use just intonation, along with trombones and unfretted strings. The other type of tuning is equal temperament, which is based on creating equal space between half notes and whole notes throughout the entire range of the instrument. Most instruments tend towards equal temperament, but the easiest way to visualize equal temperament is with a piano.

 

In the event that you do use a tuner, you probably can see that the degree of ‘in tuneness’ is measured by cents. Cents is a measurement of music interval based upon the frequency of the sound. The threshold of pitch change for a musician is about 5 cents, even for perfect pitch. The threshold of a normal United States citizen is about 25 cents, which is about a quarter step between two pitches. There is about 4% of the population has amusia. Amusia is the medical term for being tone deaf, where the brain has problems identify pitches.

 

All this time teaching students to have better intonation can be seen in its culmination, through more professional players. Most professional groups only need 7 seconds to fully tune their instruments, as demonstrated by the army field band. After their initial tune, the upper echelon of bands stay in tune by listening to the tonal center, which may move. In those cases they ‘agree to play out of tune.’

 

Mid-West

Expect quite a few posts to be coming up after the 19th of December. Once I finish with finals. Some of the clinics to be posted:

“Get ‘em Moving: Shifting in the Beginning Strings Classroom” -Adam Davis and Sarah Maurice

“A Composer’s Secrets” -Frank Ticheli

“Clear Conducting Technique that Conveys your Aural Picture” -Dr. Paula Holcomb

“Good Music is Good Music: Quality Rep for bands of all Levels” -Richard LoPresto, Matthew Moore, and Dr. Brian Shelton

“Ready, Aim, Fire!: Tuning the Brain for Intonation.” -John Carmichael

“Teaching Music with Purpose” -Dr. Peter Boonshaft

“The Art of Conducting” – John W. Knight

“Why Can’t We All Just Get Along: Bridging Jazz and Classical Music” -Orbert Davis

“A Composer’s Forum” -Frank Ticheli, Kevin Walczyk, Johathan Newman, and Ben Hjertmann

“Slip Sliding Away: Trombone Legato” – Dr. Alexandra Zacharella

 

 

 

 

 

So I spent my night listening to music…

Yesterday night I discovered an old gem of a composer. His name is  Erik Satie. I was listing to the demos on the midi keyboards in Grove City Music Technology classroom and it was his famous work called Gymnopedie No.1. For the rest of the night I looked online for sheet music to follow along while I listened to a number of his compositions (www.imslp.org is an amazing to find public domain pieces). I was so enthralled with his work I even ended up analyzing one of his pieces for fun.  I would encourage anybody who wants to find haunting and beautiful music to listen to his pieces.