Friday, April 29, 2016

The Arban Trumpet Method

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The Arban method is an acknowledged method intended to provide trumpet players with proper playing technique and develop their musicality. Private instructors have relied on this system for years to guide students in conventional methods of breathing, articulation, and technique. Students who triumphantly complete this method gain a solid technique and the ability to play numerous difficult trumpet works. Professional trumpet players refer to this method as the "bible" of trumpet technique.


The Arban method begins with an overture that discusses proper stance and how to hold the trumpet. The player should sit up straight or stand and keep the shoulders relaxed. The support for the trumpet comes from the left hand so that the right hand is free to manage the valves. Breathing involves taking the air into the diaphragm without trapping air in the chest. Proper posture is the source of exceptional trumpet technique.


Arban’s method addresses legato, staccato, accents, slurs and standard tonguing. The proper tongue position and syllable to play each articulation is given a meticulous discussion of the Arban method. Students should practice all tonguing exercises with a metronome to develop uniform attacks. The method also presents the trumpet player with many exercises to develop and improve the ability to articulate neatly and precisely.


The largest portion of the Arban method concentrates on increasing the trumpet player’s technique. Trumpet players work through several scale excerpts, arpeggios, and rhythmic drills to increase their technical skill. Most teachers will also require that the student transposes each exercise into several keys since the trumpet player often has to transpose music in orchestras. Students who successfully complete the entire Arban method will have the ability to play any original piece of music.


Sections in the Arban method are loaded with etudes and solo compositions. Etudes help the trumpet player practice their ability to interpret phrases and play musically. Trumpet players need a fusion of technical work and practical musical works to help them promote an all-around musical gift.

Legendary trumpet solos such as “The Carnival of Venice” and an excerpt from the opera “Norma” are included for study within the Arban method. The musical portion is essential to teach the student proper phrasing and musical understanding.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Musically Gifted Characteristics and Identifiers

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The musically gifted express four main categories of intelligence that others posses to a lesser degree. When assessing the musically gifted it is important to evaluate all of these areas of cognitive performance. Musically gifted individuals often show talent in the area of special organization and problem solving. Composers and musicians are typically able to recognize patterns easily. Discovering the basic characteristics of the musically gifted will help you to identify these traits in others and yourself.


While it may be surprising to hear, not all people are able to recognize the difference between high and low pitches. The musically gifted will not only be able to recognize the difference between high and low pitches, they will be able to understand the relationship between pitches. When two pitches sound in harmony or melodic, they create an interval. The musically gifted can easily recognize the difference between intervals. Highly gifted individuals may even be able to pinpoint specific notes played.


Musically gifted individuals often exhibit an unusual ability to recall and repeat rhythmic patterns heard. These individuals can recognize a rhythmic pattern without the use of musical notation and can identify common structures in rhythms that others may not notice. A young child may exhibit this behavior by drumming rhythmically or being able to match short rhythms played by the parent. This skill requires a significant degree of spatial reasoning to accomplish.

Melody and Harmony

Melody and harmony are the basis for all music. Melody is the horizontal aspect of music often referred to as a tune or song. Harmony is the vertical aspect of music and deals with chords and chord progressions. Those that are musically gifted can easily memorize and recall melodies and harmonies. If you were to put a new melody over a previously played harmony the musically gifted would be able to identify the harmony was unchanged and vice-versa.


Timbre is a term used to describe the individual characteristics of an instrument tone. A clarinet has a different timbre than a flute and the musically gifted will be able to easily notice this. Some timbres are more obvious than others, such as a tuba and a piccolo. Gifted individuals often exhibit strong memories of timbre; and will perceive subtle difference between similar instruments like a cornet and trumpet.

Monday, April 25, 2016

How to Write Lyrics for Songs

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As with writing music, too many people believe that lyric writing is too difficult for most people and that it requires a supernatural skill to do so effectively. While the ability to write song lyrics does vary between people, talent is not the only factor that determines whether your song lyrics are going to work well with the composition. As with music composition, writing song lyrics is as much a craft as it is a talent. Lyric writing is a personal activity that requires the ability to express your thoughts with words and set them to music.

 Write What You Know

Prospective lyric writers are told to write what they know. This mantra is hammered into your head as a writer, but lyric writers fail to get much more direction beyond that. Writing lyrics requires you to express a thought, idea, or theme in a manner that makes them suitable for singing. It's more than simply putting words on a page, since if the lyrics are awkward or stilted, the music is going to be difficult to sing. Since writing lyrics is such a personal thing, it's not possible to write a single article that tells every songwriter in the world how to express their feelings. However, like music composition, there are certain basics that can be learned to make the process of writing lyrics go more smoothly.

The Purpose of Lyrics

Writing lyrics serves two main purposes -- form and practicality. The form of a piece is largely dictated by the words that are going to be used in the piece. I know very few songwriters who write music first and then go to look for appropriate lyrics to fit the melody. Because of this, the words end up dictating the form of the piece to a large degree. The other side of that involves the practicality of singing. Singers don't need lyrics to sing, and they can simply vocalize; but, since they are using their voices to produce sound, it makes sense that adding words to a piece of music can provide an extra element to the piece. Some people that write lyrics are writing them purely for the message. The creativity of the words and rhyming scheme are less important than the actual message of the lyrics. Others put a greater emphasis on the actual music; they want lyrics that accurately represent the tone and mood of the music. Deciding what you want to achieve with your lyrics before committing words to paper is the first step to creating effective lyrics.

Types of Music

Classical music is going to require a different approach to lyric writing than popular music. In a classical piece, you want lyrics that flow smoothly with the music and often, the lyrics don't need to have a "hook" or "ear candy" to bring the listener to the piece. Classical music relies more on the content of the music than the lyrics to express a message. Take the example of Opera, each plot line can usually be summarized in a single sentence. But, the message, moods, and character development in an opera far surpasses that of any popular album. The nature of Opera is to deal with dramatic human interactions and exchanges in a musical form. On the other hand, popular music tends to deal with one specific idea, and its main purpose is to provide entertainment. Because of this, the "hook" can help to make a song more memorable and bring the audience into the music. Determine the type of music you are writing before you start writing your lyrics so that you can get a feel for the type of content, structure, and purpose of the lyrics. If you're writing popular music, the lyrics need to be catchy and possibly even a bit bizarre. With popular music, the words are much more important than the message, although, that doesn't mean that popular music can't also have a deeper message. With classical music, the words are less important than the mood, emotion, message, and music expressed in the musical composition.

Popular Music

If your aim is to write popular music, then coming up with the hook should be one of the first things you aim to create. The hook is going to help you or your composer refine the melody and create the chorus. It can also help you fill out the lyrics for the rest of the song. If you don't yet have an idea for the song, you can create any hook without having to worry about how it ties into the actual composition. Once you create the hook, you can refine the music so that it fits with a melody and title for the piece. Chances are, if you're writing popular music, you're going to have to create the lyrics entirely by yourself or with the help of a lyricist. With classical music, it's a little bit different and there are certain shortcuts available for composers that don't want to write their own lyrics. If you're having trouble coming up with a hook, think about phrases that are popular by looking at trending topics on Facebook and Twitter. If you're in a rut coming up with lyrics, the most important thing is movement. Keep searching and eventually, an effective hook will come to you. Once you create a hook, check the hook to see if it accurately sums up a single point. Unless you want to achieve a particular goal, with popular music you should focus each song on one particular point.

Classical Music

With classical music, you generally have a different objective than you would have when writing lyrics for popular music. In a classical piece, it's more about the music and the message. Because of this, many composers choose lyrics that are already in the public domain. Generally, anything written more than 70 years ago is free game for composers that want to write music. Emily Dickinson is a commonly used writer for composers that don't have the ability or desire to come up with their own lyrics. With a classical music song, since it's more about the music and the message, it's important to select poetry and writings with words that are singable. It's unlikely that a classical composer is going to create a hook for their composition. The "hooks" in a classical music composition are all about the motives and melody. It's a good idea to select a poem early on and then spend time reflecting on that poem and trying to figure out how you want the music to reflect the message in the poem.

Generating Ideas

If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, it's time to take a trip back to your high school English class. Remember brainstorming? It's something that is taught to all writers because it's an effective way to get your mind going. Start with a sheet of paper and write one or two words that come to mind. Then, removing any self-talk, freely start writing down any words that come to mind. Don't hesitate, if a word pops into your mind, write it down. Complete this process for at least five minutes and then review the words to see if any ideas for a hook or song pop out at you. Start to devise a storyline based on the ideas created during your brainstorming session.

Lyric Considerations


Once you've started creating your lyrics, you need to pay attention to some basic grammar issues that often crop up. You can certainly be creative in your lyrics, and not everything has to be grammatically correct; however, in general, you should use the same tense throughout the entire piece. Jumping from the past to present generally only works if you are trying to accomplish a very specific goal with a narrative that starts in the past tense and then comes into the present or future tense. This sort of technique works well when you're dealing with a composition that goes through a storyline or development of the main character in the song.


The voice of the song should also remain consistent. If the song starts in the first person, with the narrative describing a person's depiction of something that happened to them as if they were telling the story, then the piece should generally stay in the first person. Avoid switching between narrative voices. Changing the voice not only sounds strange, it can cause problems when trying to set the lyrics to music.

Choosing a Mode

The mode in lyric writing refers to the manner in which the narrator expresses the emotions of the piece. Mode refers to the different types of verses in a poem and as such, it has a significant bearing on the creation of lyrics in a music composition. Basically, the mode helps the writer determine the focus of each verse and determine what each verse is designed to do -- it's purpose. The three most commonly used modes are the lyric, narrative, and dramatic modes.

Lyric Mode

This is probably the most common mode used by lyric writers. The lyric mode always uses a first person narrative and is told from the viewpoint of the narrative. In a first person narrative the word "I" is crucial to expressing the viewpoint. First person narrative doesn't mean that the lyrics have to be told from your viewpoint. It can be the viewpoint of an imaginary person discussing their mood, feelings, or thought processes. Most songs in the lyric mode are written in the present tense as well.

Narrative Mode

In a narrative mode, the point of the lyrics are to tell a story. Unlike the lyric mode, it's not dealing with a person's emotions, feelings, or thought processes. This can be a bit confusing because songs written in both lyric and dramatic mode can contain elements of the narrative mode. But, the main point of the song is what determines the type of mode used. The sole purpose of a narrative mode is to tell an account or story of something that happened, or possibly will happen. Because of this, narrative songs are often based in the past tense. However, there are many examples of songs that use a narrative mode that exist in both the present and future tense as well. First person and third person points of view are both commonly used. It depends on whether you want the narrator to depict something that occurred, or if you want someone outside the events to describe something as it happened.

Dramatic Mode

The dramatic mode is in the form of a speech given to someone or something. The dramatic mode attempts to express a feeling or emotion to another person. Unlike the lyric mode, the dramatic mode is talking about feelings or emotions, while directing those feelings as a message toward a specific person. If the song aims mainly to give voice to a narrator's feelings, then the song is still in lyric mode. In contrast, if the song aims to send a message to a particular person or thing, then it is in dramatic mode. Gloria Gaynor's song "I Will Survive" is an example of dramatic mode.

Setting the Lyrics to Music

Once you have the basic mode selected and a framework for your lyrics, it's time to refine everything and set the lyrics to music. When writing the music, it's important to sing through the lyrics. Otherwise, the emphasis might get placed on the wrong syllable. For instance, if you have the word "Assigned," then you have to be very careful to write that word in such a way that the vocalist doesn't sound like she is cursing. Extending the first part of that word on a high point in the song could create the wrong impression and obscure the clarity of the word. Most vocalists will adjust the words as necessary to avoid this type of confusion, but in classical music especially, it is expected that the composer has already worked through these issues. Pay careful attention to the rhythm and the meter of the song when you're setting your lyrics to music.

Chord Progression and Counterpoint Ideas

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Chord progressions act as the harmonic basis for any musical work. Beyond the standard major and minor chords, you can create logical progressions without using traditional chords. Master composers think about chord progressions in a creative way and don't necessarily follow the standard procedures prescribed by music theorists. Increase the originality of your work and create new harmonies to support your melodies. Create something new and discover the realm of musical sonorities waiting for you. Master composers create more than simple chord progressions based on a theory text; they create contrapuntal lines that work to build new chords and sounds in their compositions.

Chord Arpeggiation

Arpeggiations create broken chords that allow you to separate traditional block chords and create a complex background. Arpeggiate your chords by breaking them into sixteenth notes and running from the bass note of the chord to the top note. Try rearranging the notes in your chord to make more interesting arpeggiations. You can also insert pitches between chord tones to create passing tones and expansive melodic lines.

Chord Types

Non-harmonic tones consist of the tones not built out of the major and minor thirds used in tonal works. Major and minor triads built on top of each other create major and minor triads. A major triad has a major third between the bottom two notes and a minor third between the top two. Inverse that order and you get a minor triad. Diminished triads consist of two minor thirds. Add additional major or minor thirds to your basic triads to create sevenths, ninths, or even thirteenth chords. Use these in your chord progressions to see if you like the sound produced. Proper voice leading helps smooth out chords. Without going into great detail on voice leading, you can create an effective work by moving between notes of consecutive chords by step. Also, avoid skips or leaps unless you jump in one direction and then resolve by step in the opposite direction. By doing so, you avoid creating random and disorganized sounding music.

Quartal Progressions

Move to a quartal system when you grow weary of creating triad-based chords. Aaron Copland famously used quartal harmony. The sonorities produced create a spacious and open harmonic tapestry. Create bass lines using your normal method, then add intervals a fourth from the lowest note in the bass. Experiment using different interval voicing to get the sound you want. Reduce any fourths in the piece that have an open spacing into clusters that create an edgy, sharp, and distinctive sound.


Study counterpoint to understand how chord progressions naturally form by combining multiple independent melodies. When two or more melodies sound together that are a third or more apart, you create harmony. You could even create counterpoint with intervals of a minor second, but many composers and audiences object to intervals of a second and seventh. These harmonies tend to be more dissonant than thirds, sixths, and sevenths. Study 16th- and 18th-century counterpoint to increase your skill and ability to write multiple parts. Counterpoint consists of First Species to Fifth Species. Each species uses different note values to teach you progressively how to write multiple independent lines.

Once you get through the first five species of two-part counterpoint, you can move on to three-part counterpoint. First species three-part counterpoint teaches the creation of chords that work to create independent melodies in three parts. Learn to create melodic lines that support your main melody rather than simply inputting block chords into your composition. Counterpoint teaches you to create music that merges synergistically with the melodic components. Online courses, community colleges, universities, and private theory or composition instructors can help you learn counterpoint. You can also do a self-study using some of the many books created on the subject.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ways to Learn to Hit Low Notes in Singing

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Extending the low range of your singing voice will improve your tone production and ability to hit high notes. By extending your range, the vocal cords expand and become more flexible. This makes it possible to extend your reach both high and low. Care should be taken to avoid extending the range too quickly. Daily practice is the key to slowly developing your voice to hit the low notes when singing.

Piano Exercise

Sing a note that is in the lower part of your comfortable range. This note should come easily. Once you have found it, locate the same pitch on the piano. Then sing on whole notes a major scale descending into your low range. Go as low as possible without straining your voice. This exercise will help to expand your range slowly over time. Always begin each practice session with this exercise to expand your range.


Developing vocal flexibility will help to loosen your vocal cords and expand your low range. Pick a note that is in the middle of your range and jump up a perfect fifth. Then, slowly extend down through the pitches of the chromatic scale back to the original note. Practice this exercise by continuing to lower the starting pitch one half step each time until you get to the lowest part of your range.


Make a sound as if you are yawning and skip up one octave and then down one octave. Continue this several times on quarter notes; be careful to not strain your voice. As with other exercises, you will practice this exercise on several pitches, slowly moving downwards through a chromatic scale. Complete this exercise going up the scale as well. Every time you increase your high or low range, you improve the opposite end of the range as well.

Quarter Notes

Practice quarter note scale fragments using the same vocal technique that you use when you yawn. Pronounce the syllable “Gee” and sing quarter notes starting on G in the middle of the staff. Sing the following progression of notes and then move down a half step chromatically for the next set: G -- G-sharp -- A -- A-sharp -- B -- A-sharp -- A -- G-sharp -- G. Hold the G out for four beats and then move the series down to F-sharp.


"Vocal Warm Ups & Exercises"; Christina E. Branz; 2006
Your Personal Singing Guide: Extend Your Singing Range []

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Classical Period in Music

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The Classical period was a time in which the concept that the universe was rational and explainable became the predominant mode of thinking. Through scientific discovery, people believed that the answers to life’s questions were within reach. The laws of physics were revealing themselves, and concepts such as an elliptical orbit that binds and allows planets to revolve around the sun were formulating and accepted on a large-scale. In the past, people thought Earth was the center of the universe. In the Classical period, these ideas were starting to give way to rationalism. With this new rationalism, the power of God as an idea lost some of its credence among rationalists. Scientists were beginning to explore alternative explanations. Superstition somewhat gave way to rationalism and people started to trust in the idea that all events were explainable with science provided the observer asked the right questions. The belief in demonology and witchcraft declined significantly in this period. Those previously accused of having occult powers received a reprieve and were no longer burned at the stake and killed in inhumane ways. Rationalism led to a questioning of superstitions and many people began to choose science over faith. This was a time when people were questioning the Catholic Church and the principles of the relationship between man, God, and the church. They stopped trusting the Catholic Church to provide them with their sole source of spiritual education. The concept of a ruling King started to lose its power as well. In 1647, Charles I was executed by the Parliament. This in itself was proof that the sovereignty of the King was questionable. People were starting to care more about democracies and governments that were fair and equal. The First Viennese School The most influential composers of the Classical period were Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. However, the Viennese School included Schubert as well, a composer from the Romantic Period. These composers garnered the nickname, ‘The Viennese School’ since they hit the high point of their careers in Vienna. They were musically bound to the city of Vienna. Mozart was a close friend of Haydn, Beethoven wanted to study with Mozart but studied with Haydn when Mozart died, and Schubert was a torchbearer at Beethoven’s funeral.

The “C” in Classical

The capital C in classical music represents the music of the Classical period while the lower case c represents all Western art music. Music that is written today is still referred to as classical music, but not Classical music.

Vienna, Austria: City of Music

Vienna was the capital of the old Holy Roman Empire. It was the central point for a large portion of Europe, including portions of Germany, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria. The city of Vienna was an extremely influential and important place to live to gain worldwide influence. This is why so many of the greatest composers eventually found their way there, it was essential that they make their name in Vienna if the rest of the world was to hear their music.

Vienna had a large population of aristocrats near 2,500 with a total population of 215,000. These 2,500 noblemen had over 40,000 footmen, house cleaners, and other servants. The fact that there were so many noblemen may somewhat explain why there was such a high desire to have high music and art.

The nobles funded music concerts and they often enjoyed them with middle-class citizens at public and semi-public concerts. Because of the large amount of money to be made in Vienna, musicians such as Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714 – 1787) from Bohemia (Czech Republic), Antonio Salieri (1750 – 1825) from Italy, Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) from Rohrau in lower Austria, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) from Salzburg in upper Austria, and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) from the German Rhineland eventually found their way to Vienna.

Vienna became a melting pot, like the United States, in which a variety of cultures merged and created a universal musical style that set the standard for all of Europe.

The Classical Style 

The Classical period continued many of the concepts that were prominent in the Enlightenment: clarity, simplicity, formal balance, and naturalness. Buildings in the 18th century also exhibited these same traits. Music, art, and architecture often influence each other. Because the building architecture drew inspiration from many of the classical Rome structures, this type of architecture garnered the title neoclassical architecture. The White House and some other government buildings in the United States are a good example of neoclassical architecture.

Form in Classical Music

Music in the Classical period built upon particular forms and structure. Forms built upon conventional or pre-existing concepts about music. Some of the forms from the middle ages, such as rondo and theme and variations found their way into the Classical period. Forms that were developed and created in the Baroque period such as ternary and rounded binary forms also had a predominant place. The Sonata form, developed in the Classical period, had its roots in binary and ternary form. The Classical period was a time of great innovation, growth, societal change, and discovery. The most influential composers of the period helped add to this growth through their original music and through the development of the orchestra. Haydn defined the period through his famous string quartets. Mozart served to refine the period through his collection of over 600 works and major Operas. Finally, Beethoven propelled music to new heights with his Romantic period ideals and innovation to the Orchestra.

References and Additional Information:

Classical Music: The Era of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven (The Norton Introduction to Music History) The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (Expanded Edition)

Monday, April 18, 2016

What Is a Tie, Slur, or Phrase Mark on Sheet Music?

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The slur, phrase, and tie mark all look very similar. Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images Knowing how to distinguish the difference between a tie, slur and phrase mark in music will make it possible for you to play music effectively. While all three symbols look exactly the same, they can be identified by looking at the characteristics of the underlying music. Learning how to tell the difference will require an understanding of how each symbol appears and affects the music.


A tie looks like a curved line that attaches two notes together. Ties will never connect more than one note at a time; knowing this will make it possible for you to identify the difference between a tie and the other similar markings. When a tie appears, it means that you need to add the values of two notes together to create a longer value. For instance, a quarter note would normally be worth one beat. But if you tie that quarter note to another one you will now have to hold it for two beats.


Slurs will commonly appear over more than one note as a curved line similar to a tie. It can be difficult to tell if you are looking at a slur or a phrase marking. Some of the best musicians are confused by these markings. Slurs will appear only over a few notes, and not the entire melody. When you see a slur, you need to avoid articulating any of the notes that fall under it in order to play a technique called legato. This makes the music sound smooth and connected.

Phrase Marking 

Phrase markings look just like slurs; however, they extend the entire range of the melody. A phrase marking will be identifiable if the curved line goes over the entire length of a melody that would be too long to sing in one breath. Generally, phrase markings are not used, since they can be too easily confused with a slur. Instead, some composers opt to use breath marks, which look like apostrophes, to indicate the end of a phrase.


Another type of slur worth noting is one that appears in string music. When you see slurs or phrase markings in string music, it indicates that the entire passage should be played with a single movement of the bow, from one end to the other. Basically, this means that the player must coordinate her timing on the bow to ensure that all the notes under the slur are played before she reaches the tip or frog of the bow, depending on what end she began with. Each time a new slur appears, it indicates to the string player to change the direction of the bow.

Characteristics of Matisse Style of Painting

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The painting of Henri Matisse incorporates absorbing colors and hues to create lasting impressions of ephemeral moments in time. Matisse created an iconic and stylized mode of painting by integrating several elements of color and texture that have become synonymous with early-20th-century modern art. A great friend and rival of Pablo Picasso, Matisse had a strong influence on artists of his time.


Early Matisse paintings were representative of a style called Fauvism, which some critics described as the work of beasts. The basis for the style involved an unusual attention to color that obscured an object's natural image. For instance, a portrait of a green pasture with a house might use high contrast to create pink grass and a yellow house. Critics of the time viewed his approach and those that worked in this style as absurd and over the top.


Matisse's style incorporates several elements of nature. He created imagery of fields, homes, common fruits and nudes against backdrops of grass, meadows, and rivers. The art approached everyday objects from a standpoint of distortion by presenting real objects in aberrant ways. As his style developed, he became a steward of the French classical style. Many of his later works toned down some of the extravagant colors and brought more realism to the art.


The colors Matisse used depend upon the period of his life under evaluation. In the early period, before 1905, he used vibrant, dramatic and highly emotional colors. As he matured, the art developed into even shapes with a little perspective or three-dimensional shapes. Restricted outlines and emotional content took priority over detail. For instance, he wouldn’t create realistic images of a door and detail all of the parts of a doorknob. Instead, his paintings would aim to represent an emotion associated with that door -- whether freedom, isolation or fear.

Drawing and Sculpture

While the Matisse style mainly deals with paintings, he also dabbled in sculpture and drawing with pen and ink. His drawings were mainly simple, unadorned lines that dealt with subjects of female form and still life. The sculptures helped him visualize his paintings and conceptualize how to transfer those objects to painting. He is quoted as saying “I sculpted like a painter.”

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Movements of a Piano Concerto

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The most important element that defines a piano concerto is the instrumentation; a piano concerto is written for a piano soloist with an orchestra. Classical and traditionally structured piano concertos generally have three movements, although since the time of Beethoven it has become more common to include an additional, fourth movement. More recently, composers have written concertos in other forms, including single-movement works, but all concertos meet the basic requirement of a having a piano soloist and an orchestra.

Movement 1

The first movement of a piano concerto is traditionally cast in sonata form with an added cadenza. Classical sonata form comprises three parts: exposition, development, and recapitulation; in a concerto, however, right before the recapitulation a cadenza is added; a cadenza is an opportunity for the pianist to show off her technique and improvisational skills, during which the orchestra generally stops playing to allow the pianist to play freely. After the cadenza, the main theme returns (the recapitulation) and the orchestra rejoins the soloist to play the end of the movement.

Movement 2

The second movement of a concerto is traditionally a slow movement, often infused with rubato. Many second movements are lyrical, pastoral or songlike in nature, and cast in a simple da capo aria or rounded binary form. However, the form of the slow movement is more flexible than the first, and may be anything that the composer wishes as long as the piano remains the primary focus of attention.

Movement 3

The third movement of a concerto often uses some type of rondo form; a rondo intersperses repeated material with different, contrasting sections of music. A rondo might, for example, take the form "ABACA" in which the A sections all contain the same material or melody and the B and C sections are entirely new music. In concertos, typically, such rondos are a structured as a call and response, in which the piano will play an idea and the orchestra will respond.

Other Structures

While piano concertos are often cast in the standard three-movement form, several composers have diverged from this model. The concertos of Mozart, for example, usually followed this convention, while Beethoven added a fourth movement, or even new sections within the movements, to fulfill a dramatic rather than a simply formal interpretation of concerto structure. Modern composers who write piano concertos use a great variety of formal designs from single-movement works to more traditionally organized pieces and everything in between.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Traveling With Expensive Musical Instruments

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Musical instruments are a large investment and it pays to consider your traveling options carefully before taking a trip to your next performance. Keeping your instrument with you at all times provides the best insurance against damage. However, airlines and buses often require that you check anything over a certain weight and size.


You can purchase renters or homeowners insurance to provide financial compensation in case your instrument gets lost, damaged or stolen. In the case of theft, you must complete a police report and provide information to your insurance company immediately after the theft to ensure compensation. You can also purchase travel insurance that specifically covers your musical instrument. Musician performing rights organizations such as ASCAP and BMI usually provide discounted insurance for members.


Prepare your instrument by wrapping it inside the instrument case using a lint-free towel and then packing any loose areas inside the case with paper or Styrofoam. Make sure that all caps, oils, rosin and other lubricants for your instrument are secure. Since items have a tendency to shift and rattle around during travel, secure any lubricants using tape to prevent the caps from coming open. Once the instrument has been secured, close the case and lock the instrument. You can use the locks pre-installed on the instrument, or purchase a wire bicycle lock and wrap it around the case and through the handle to secure your instrument.


While every musician should insure his instrument against accidental damage, when traveling you should also consider transporting the instrument via an air courier. If transporting the instrument via an air courier service isn’t possible, then get a letter from TSA stating that you are allowed to bring your instrument with you through security checkpoints. While this won’t allow you to take the instrument on the plane, it does allow you to take the instrument to the gate. Upon arrival at the gate, you can ask the baggage handler to load the instrument on top of other bags or isolate it from the rest of the baggage. You can also request to have your instrument manually removed from the plane and left in the security center of the receiving airport. Often, instruments aren't damaged until they fall down the conveyor belt in baggage claim.


Bus drivers may allow you to take your instrument on board if the bus hasn’t reached full capacity, and you can ensure that the instrument doesn’t obstruct the driver’s view or put other passengers at risk. If the instrument is too large to fit on the bus, you can ask the attendant to load the instrument last. In some cases, the driver may allow you to load the instrument yourself.

Rental Cars

The ideal situation for traveling with your instrument involves using your own car or renting a car. Long distance and international excursions make this possibility unrealistic. However, if you can rent a car, then you have more control over how you store your instrument. Make sure that your auto insurance policy covers loss or damage to your instrument. If it doesn’t, check to see that your homeowners or renters insurance will cover loss or damage.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Overtone Series in Music

8:00:00 AM
Major and minor scales are the result of centuries of experimentation and careful observation of nature. This scale was created as a concept which was only vaguely understood at the time. This concept was later referred to as the overtone series and it consists of a series of pitches that gradually become closer together on a continuum. For more information about what it takes to be a composer, check out The Mystery of Music Composition.

Fundamental Tone

In the overtone series, the lowest pitch is called the fundamental. The fundamental is the lowest natural note that is produced by the instrument. If you strike a note on the piano, you can hear remnants of the overtone series. Hold down the pedal and you will hear it echo several pitches in addition to the fundamental tone. If you listen carefully enough, you should be able to hear this relationship to the fundamental tone.

When playing a C, it is not just a single pitch that is sounded. There are a combination of pitches which sound together to create the note C. Looking at the first couple of notes from the overtone series it will become evident these notes spell a major triad. This is one of the reasons that the minor key wasn’t used as a home key very often. It was seen as weaker, imperfect, and further away from the natural pitches.

The overtone series is outlined below. The low C is the fundamental tone, and the notes in parentheses illustrate notes in the series that do not conform, (are out of tune), with the tempered scale. Notice how the higher the overtone series goes, the closer the pitches become to each other.

The C is given the value of a whole note in this series to help illustrate a very important point.

It is the fundamental tone, and therefore; it is also the strongest pitch in the series.

The Major Triad

Looking at this series it becomes evident where the major scale came from. The major triad is illustrated between the C, E, and G on the 4th, 5th, and 6th overtones. The second strongest relationship is the octave, and then after that the Perfect 5th. This helps to explain why the dominant (fifth) plays such a huge role in classical music. Because of the close proximity of the dominant to the tonic, there is a natural pull between those two scale degrees.

The Major Scale

To create a major scale, use the fundamental tone and the series it generates, the dominant and the series it generates, and the subdominant and the series it generates. Try creating an overtone series on F, C, and G and see if it is possible to find the major scale in it.

Crescendo, Decrescendos, and Dynamic Sound Effects

6:00:00 AM
Crescendos and decrescendos work together to increase and decrease tension in a composition. These dynamic markings create compositions that avoid sounding dull and lifeless. Without these dynamic attributes, a composition would stay the same volume throughout the work. 8-bit music, certain types of techno, harpsichord music, and music played with a celeste usually contains no dynamic contrasts. Composers use dynamics in music for various reasons. Crescendos consist of a gradual increase in sound throughout a composition while a decrescendo slowly decreases the sound over a specified length of time.

Musical Climax

Composers often use crescendos to create the climax of a composition. In order to create effective climaxes, composer's increase tension by increasing the volume in a steady manner. Maurice Ravel's Boléroshowcases how a composition can start quietly and increase the intensity and volume to the final climactic point. However, the continual build and dramatic increase in tension evident in Bolero isn't common. Most composers use crescendos for short periods within the music.

Drum Rolls

Drum rolls are created by drummers. Drummers are capable of performing extended drum rolls that create impactful emotional effects on the listener. The deep rumblings of the bass drum can gradually intensify with a dynamic crescendo as it emanates from the lowest part of the orchestra. Percussion instruments are capable of playing rolls to create exciting dramatic effects. The timpani is often used by composers to create large orchestral crescendos to bring about a cadence or ending to the piece. Often, the timpani technique includes alternating between two intervals. In Classical music, the interval was generally a fifth. However, modern composers can use any interval that fits the style of music being played.

Wind Instruments

Brass and woodwind players increase airflow and intensity the sound of the instrument when a crescendo is written into the piece. Woodwind players create smooth volume changes that can build subtly and start at extremely soft dynamics levels, or decrease gradually to decrease the intensity of a piece. Brass players are capable of louder crescendos while woodwind players are capable of starting at very low volumes.

String Instruments

String players in an orchestra may use vibratos to increase intensity and create crescendos. Violin, viola, cello, and bass players quickly rock a single finger back and forth on a string to gradually wobble the string and create a vibrato or increase the volume of the piece. Quicker bows travel across the string and the sound becomes even louder. String players, like woodwinds, can produce very low dynamics; however, they don't need to breathe. This makes it possible to create longer crescendos than a woodwind player without needing to take a break.

Electronic Music

Electronic music creates crescendo sound effects using artificial means. Composers specializing in digital music use complex audio-processing and effects to increase the audio volume over a potentially indefinite period of time. Some composers use warming pads, in which a gradual increase in volume continues the longer the composer or performer rolls the electronic device. Crescendo sound effects using electronic means can potentially go as loud as necessary as long as the composer doesn't exceed the limits of the software and create clipping within the recording. Some clipping can be avoided by using 64-bit capable digital audio workstations.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Singing Birthday Party Tips, Suggestions, and Ideas

8:00:00 AM
A singing birthday party can use musical themes as decorations. Use a treble and bass clef design on your cake and music-themed party bags for the guests. The halls and tables can be decorated with music notes and famous singers. However, none of these ideas will be sufficient to entertain the guests if you don't have enjoyable singing themed games. Each game can last 20 minutes, with the winner receiving a prize. Between games, you can serve cake, open presents and play music to let the guests mingle.


Play a chord progression on a piano that repeats. Something simply like C major, G major and back to C major. Repeat this progression and let singers individually improvise the tune.

If you don't have piano skills, get a recording of a well-known piece like "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." Play the instrumental version only and let the singer sing along to this and other familiar tunes while making up her own lyrics. This is a great way to pass the time, and you can even place someone, maybe the guest of honor, to judge the contestants.

Breath Support

Because this is a singing party, you will likely have many singers in attendance. Have all of the singers stand up and sing the same note for as long as possible. The last singer standing wins and will know that he has the largest diaphragm.
Another option for a similar game is to have singers compete with each other to see who can repeat four notes the most amount of times. Play or sing four notes and have each singer sing each note and repeat the pattern until he makes a mistake or runs out of air. The singer who gets the most sequences of the four-note pattern wins.


This is an effective and enjoyable way to pass the time in a singing birthday party. Rent a karaoke machine so that participants can go up on stage and follow the words on the screen while singing. Many songs even allow for more than one singer so that groups can go up and sing together. This can be a lot of fun for the singers and provides you with an easy and relaxing way to entertain your guests. No prize is necessary for this event because the participants can receive recognition and applause from the audience.

Song Identification

Depending on the nature of the singing party, choose a selection of songs from a particular genre. For instance, if the group consists of opera singers, gather a selection of opera arias from several different operas. If you have a general group where not everyone is a singer, then select hits from a certain period of time. Use songs from the 1980s if most of the people grew up during that decade, for example, or you can choose more modern music if the guests are younger. Play songs and have guests try to guess the name of the song. For each correct answer, give the participant a piece of candy or some small prize.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What Are Mallet Instruments?

8:00:00 AM
The timpani only tunes to a single pitch at a time.

Mallet instruments make up a meaningful portion of the percussion family. Instruments that use mallets come in two basic types: pitched and nonpitched. Several other approaches exist for identifying the types of percussion instruments, including categorizing them by idiophones, membranophones, chordophones and aerophones. However, in the context of mallet instruments, the distinction between pitched and nonpitched creates the most clarity.


Mallets are sticks with heads made of varying parts including felt, rubber, wood, metal and yarn. The material used on the head greatly affects the sound of the instrument. Percussionists must choose the heads carefully to decide the type of sound desired. Mallets made from hard materials provide a penetrating sound while softer materials create mellow, soft timbres. Percussionist training includes instruction in determining the correct mallet to use as composers don't always indicate the correct mallet in the score.

Bar Instruments

Pitched barred mallet instruments, also sometimes called definite pitch instruments, emit a definite pitch when struck with a mallet. The instruments consist of several bars made from various types of wood and metal. The metal instruments include vibraphones and glockenspiels. Marimba and xylophones consist of several wooden bars made of pine, rosewood or maple. Percussionists use various mallets to strike each instrument to produce sound. The percussionist holds one mallet in each hand, although some more experienced percussionists play with several mallets in each hand. Dean Gronemeier, of The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, plays with up to 8 mallets in each hand.


Nonpitched mallet instruments consist of gongs, cymbals, tam-tams, and crotales. These instruments provide an indefinite pitch. There is an approximation of sound and nonpitched instruments generally adhere to high, middle and low pitches. However, musicians can't name specific pitches, such as the specific pitch middle C. These instruments typically employ specific effects and dramatic stimulus to the music. For instance, a cymbal crash using a mallet helps increase the power of a crescendo. Musicians often refer to nonpitched instruments as instruments of indefinite pitch.


Membranophones use a stretched membrane acted upon by a mallet to create a pitch. These instruments generally do not provide a specific pitch; however, the timpani does have the capability to play specific pitches. Other membranophones include various drums such as the snare drum, toms, bass drum, war drums and various hand drums. Percussionists typically use hard mallets to create the desired sound on these instruments. Originally, membranophones were made with animal skins, but now they consist of synthetic materials and plastics.


Yamaha: Dean Gronemeier []
"The Study of Orchestration:" Samuel Adler; 2002

Monday, April 4, 2016

What Are Tenor Sax Fingerings?

8:00:00 AM
The tenor sax features 24 keys.

Having to study all of the fingerings on the tenor sax may seem like an unconquerable assignment; however, with the right exercise technique and fingering chart, you can memorize the fingerings and develop your craft. There are five ranges the saxophonist must remember to become skilled. Master each of these ranges by practicing major and minor scales daily while using a fingering chart.

First Octave

The first octave of the tenor sax fingerings are the ones most often used in music. They extend from an A below middle C to the C-sharp an octave above middle C.

Play the lowest note by holding down the first three keys of the left hand and the first three keys of the right hand along with the low C side key. From this position, you can use your fingering chart to memorize the rest of the notes.

Second Octave

The second octave isn't used as much, but is important to learn. Using precise pitch notation, C4 is middle C right below the treble clef. Each C above or below that increases or decreases by one. For example, the C above C4 would be called C5, and it will appear on the third space of the treble clef.

The second octave begins on D5 and extends to F6. To play the pitches in this range, you must use the left thumb or octave key. This key is located on the top side of the instrument. Use the left thumb key for the first note, the first three left keys and the first three right keys.

Lower Altissimo

The first note of the second octave is F #6. This note may be played most easily use the octave key along with the first and third left main keys and the first main right key. You may find that you have to depress the lower Eb key as well if it is out of tune on your saxophone. The range of the lower altissimo is a minor third and stretches from F #6 to A6. Using the tenor saxophone-fingering chart, you should experiment to see what key combinations sound best.

Middle Altissimo

The middle altissimo range starts with A#6 and ends on C#7. The fingering for A#6 is less obvious than the other fingerings. It requires the use of the octave key, the third key of the left-hand, and the C key on the right-hand. The C side key is located in the middle of the set of three smaller keys. Practice scales that extend into the altissimo register to study your fingerings; scales help you to memorize the fingering patterns.

Higher Altissimo

The upper altissimo is the highest range of the tenor sax. Upper altissimo notes rarely appear in music and require the use of the octave key for each pitch. The range extends an octave and one-half step from D7 to D#8. The first note of this register uses the octave key, the left F key, the C side key and the third right main key.


Woodwind Fingering Guide: Fingering Scheme for Saxophone []

Resources (Further Reading)

Woodwind Fingering Guide: Saxophone []

Musical Elements: Building a Strong Music Composition Technique

6:00:00 AM
If you're interested in learning about the future of music, make sure to check out the latest blog post over at, The Future of Music Is Up in the Air.

Developing a better understanding of the concepts and elements of music through education can greatly improve one's musical appreciation. Just as you can come to better enjoy fine cuisine, art, dance, and theater by cultivating a foundation of knowledge and familiarity on the subjects, music is a vastly more rewarding experience when you know how to listen actively. By becoming aware of the five fundamental disciplines within a musical composition, it is possible to open your ears to a piece of music and hear the beauty within that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Music Theory

Music theory teaches musicians how to read and write music.

Music theory encompasses melodic elements such as major and minor scales, chords, chord progressions and non-tonal scales. With music theory, students begin to learn about the different types of meters, time signatures, and basic rhythmic patterns. As students become more advanced, music theory begins to address concepts such as serialism, atonality, chromaticism, minimalism and advanced concepts of music such as aleatoric music. Music theory helps composers write and theorists analyze music. Musicians that attend universities and colleges learn music theory, as it is the basis for advanced study in music.


Learning about individual instruments is an important element of music.

Instrumentation is an important element of study for a composer. Composers will spend several years listening to individual instruments, learning to recognize timbres and the limitations and abilities of each instrument. In the orchestra, there are several groups of instrument types classified as woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion and keyboards.

Composers must know how each instrument works if they are going to write effective music. This is crucial information as a composer lacking this basic knowledge will not be able to write works that are performable. The range of the instruments, their strengths, and weaknesses, as well as special techniques are all issues addressed in the study of instrumentation.


The orchestra sound familiar to many is created through the careful combination of instruments.

The concept of orchestration is one that a composer or musician could spend an entire lifetime studying without fully absorbing everything there is to know. Orchestration addresses how the combination of specific instruments in the orchestra come together to create a unique, overall sound. Composers and musicians learn ways to combine sound and to develop a conceptualization of orchestral sound. In orchestration, examples from past literature are studied and scrutinized in order to learn about effective ways to combine sounds.


Creating parts that work together and create independent melodies is essential to music.

Counterpoint is a concept that entails creating multiple independent lines. In counterpoint, composers learn about dissonant and consonant intervals and how these work in a composition. The methods of employing multiple independent melodic lines are crucial to the development of a contrapuntal style.

Counterpoint instruction is broken up into five smaller elements, beginning with melodic lines that are equal in tempo and duration, and moving toward a more complex form of counterpoint that allows the composer to create several independent lines with differing rhythms. These elements of music progressively add additional rules until the student is writing multiple independent lines that could function on their own, but also work as part of the greater musical whole in order to create harmony.


Analyzing the overall shape of a piece is an important concept in music.

In music, the structure of a piece is called form. Just as a literary composition can be broken up into sections, paragraphs, sentences and words, music has a similar architecture. Sections in a literary composition correspond to sections within a musical composition. Paragraphs in literature correspond to musical periods. Sentences in literature correspond to musical phrases, and words may be likened to musical motives that are put together to form melodies. A class in which musical form is studied will discuss each of these elements in detail.

Friday, April 1, 2016

What Are the Baroque and Classical Periods?

8:00:00 AM
The Baroque and Early Classical periods saw a great divergence in musical styles. The Baroque period came before the Classical period and had great composers such as Bach, Handel, and Corelli. The Classical period sought different aims and included the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Both time periods saw drastic developments in music and sought to improve and clarify the medium with which music was conveyed to the audience.

Baroque Music

The Baroque period came before the Classical period, from 1600 to 1750. The Baroque period developed music that was highly ornamented. Similar to a Christmas tree with its ornaments, the classical period dressed up and enhanced its basic musical lines with extra notes and complex rhythms. Composers started to write for specific instruments and experimented with new structures and forms. Baroque music was largely responsible for the establishment of the Opera genre and gave rise to larger forces of musicians.

Early Classical Music

The Classical period spanned from 1750 to 1830, although its roots go back to 1730. Early Classical music includes music from 1750 to 1790. Classical composers sought to reduce the complexity of the ornate Baroque period. Their focus turned to clearly identifiable melodies and chords. To do this, they reduced the number of independent music lines and used chords to support melodies; this created clarity of style. The difference between Classical and classical music is subtle. The uppercase C refers to the time period from 1750 to 1830. The lowercase c refers to all western art music.

Baroque Composers

Bach is one of the most famous composers of the Baroque period. His music is so famous, NASA launched it into space on the “Voyager Golden Record” in 1977 as an example of humanity's greatest achievements. Bach created several fugues and religious works throughout his life. Handel wrote several oratorios, operas, and concertos in his lifetime. Handel’s music contained rich polyphonic textures that used multiple melodies to create a harmonic backdrop for the music.

Classical Composers

Haydn earned the nickname “the father of the string quartet.” Haydn wrote 68 string quartets and helped to refine and polish the art of writing for strings. His symphonies received great acclaim as well, and he helped to shape the form of the symphony that Beethoven later expanded. Mozart was a celebrated child prodigy and was responsible for establishing the style of Classical music. Mozart certainly was an innovator, but more importantly, he took a style and refined it. Symphonies and operas were Mozart’s forte. Mozart wrote some of the most famous operas that still receive performances today.


"The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven"; Charles Rosen; 1998
"Baroque Music"; Claude Palisca; 1990