Monday, May 30, 2016

Explanation of the Pedal Marks on a Piano

8:00:00 AM
The pedals of the piano each create a different effect when utilized. Composers tend to favor the sustain pedal, as it is the pedal that gives the piano the strongest reverberation between the notes. Pedals are not always depressed entirely; you can depress a pedal at differing degrees to create a stronger or weaker effect. It is mainly up to the pianist to use his judgment on how far to depress a pedal.

Pedal Notation

There are two ways to indicate a pianist should use pedal. The written method will place the word "pedal" at the point to depress the pedal. In most cases, this command abbreviates as "Ped." An asterisk (*) signifies the pedal release. Another method of indicating pedal notation is with lines. A horizontal line that extends beneath the music indicates to depress the pedal. Steep diagonal lines that go up and down indicate to quickly release and re-engage the pedal. Vertical lines indicate to release the pedal entirely. Some special pedal techniques will also include a written indicator.

Una Corda

The una corda pedal is the pedal on the far left. The una corda pedal uses the left foot. Sometimes, pianists call this pedal the soft pedal, as it dampens the sound and creates a muted sound. This pedal will only enhance softly played notes. The second movement of Beethoven's "Piano Sonata No. 14 in C# minor," more commonly known as "Moonlight Sonata," uses the una corda pedal. It is indicated in the score by writing "una corda" under the section to be used and "tre corda" to release the pedal.


The sostenuto pedal is the pedal in the middle and uses the right foot to play. Only American grand pianos have this pedal, but it provides a very useful technique for composers. The notes held down immediately before depressing the pedal will continue to sustain, while any new notes will decay at the normal, quicker rate. This makes it possible to play chords with a melody on top without blending the sound of the melody notes. To mark this in the score, composers will write "sost. ped." below the sustained notes.


The sustain pedal appears on all pianos. It allows the notes to sustain and play in a connected legato style. The resonating of the notes creates an echo effect that sustains as long as the pedal is depressed. The pedal is on the far right, and the right foot is used to play it. This is the most commonly used pedal, and when no other indication is given, the pianist will use this pedal to enhance the notes.

About the Artwork of the Ballet Russes

6:00:00 AM
The Ballet Russes was a Russian performance group that resided in Paris and toured internationally from 1909 to 1929 and included performers, dancers, and music. The artwork of the Ballet Russes was controversial and applauded for its use of actual artists instead of stage designers. This brought an entirely new element to the visual arts and dance genre. Colors were integrated and matched with the style of dance and music. For the first time in history, costumes and sets were coordinated to create an overarching visual theme.


Primitivism and exoticism were primary elements in the artwork of the Ballet Russes. Artists would reconstruct basic, tribal costumes and use earth tones to create the tapestry of color for sets. The art, including costumes, used elemental and three-dimensional images of natural, outdoor scenes usually coupled with animals. The style was interested in borrowing colors and themes from other cultures, specifically, Chinese influences for the production of "Parade," with a Chinese conjuror and the erotic India influenced red sultana from "Scheherazade."

Leon Bakst

Leon Bakst was a Russian painter that created artwork for the Ballet Russes from 1908 to 1922. He made a name for himself by painting background scenes and providing the inspiration for many of the costumes. His artwork made use of orange, red, hues of brown and natural warm hues mixed with vibrant reds. One of his most famous works was the creation of the costume for the main character of "The Firebird."

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso was responsible for the stage design and artwork of the production "Parade" in 1917. This was the first production that made use of an art technique called cubism. The costumes and the artwork followed the basic principles of this new art style. In this form of art, the painting breaks up into smaller, abstract blocks and fragments. In many ways, cubism reflects the image of broken glass in which the shards are super-imposed upon each other creating an abstract and shallow use of space.

Natalia Goncharova

Natalia Goncharova worked for the Ballet Russes beginning in 1921 with her design of the artwork for "Le Noces" which translates to "The Wedding." Her art was highly influenced by Russian folk art, Fauvism, and cubism. Fauvism was a form of art that used unusual, bright and unnatural colors to create vivid imagery. Originally, her creations for the play were inspired by fauvism, but the director requested that she take a simpler, more folk-like approach. The end result was a collection of images that were very simple and sober, with black and white paintings that helped to reinforce the feelings of bleakness and isolation created by the war.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Factors Affecting the Pitch of an Acoustic Band

8:00:00 AM
Playing with good intonation is one of the most important concerns for an acoustic band. Without proper pitch, the band will sound dull, lifeless and amateurish. Preventing pitch problems should be the number one priority of all acoustic bands. Several factors influence the ideal pitch of a band. Each one of them has specific methods that the band may employ to reduce and eliminate the pitch problems.

Room Temperature

The temperature of a room will greatly affect the pitch of an acoustic instrument. If the musicians fail to warm up before going on stage, the temperature of the instrument will rise during the concert. This creates poor intonation as the pitch of an instrument changes depending on its temperature. Not all instruments will change pitch at the same rate either, so this creates further tuning problems since each instrument will change pitch at a different ratio. The solution is to warm up before going on stage for at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Individual Tuning

Unless the group tunes to the same pitch after having warmed up, the group may end up with several different tunings. This is why it is essential to tune to each other before a concert. If the group has a piano, it is best to tune to the pianist since the pianist is unable to modify the pitch of their instrument. Groups without a piano should tune to a brass or woodwind instrument to get their starting pitch.


Players that perform when they are sick have a greater time knowing whether they are playing in tune. This is especially problematic for a singer and it is the reason why singers have to cancel concerts if they are sick. It isn’t that they don’t feel well and simply don’t want to perform. Two things can happen to a sick singer: they could overextend their voice and cause damage and they may have hearing difficulties. Unfortunately, if a member of your band is sick, it might be necessary to call off the concert.

Instrument Timbres

Many musicians find it easy to tune to a similar instrument -- brass instruments find it easier to tune to another brass instrument and woodwinds prefer other woodwinds. This is because the timbre between related instruments is very similar; however, tuning a piano and a flute poses problems because the piano functions as a hammered string instrument and the flute is a wind instrument. Since both instruments have different methods of creating sound, it becomes harder to identify correct tunings. The best workaround for this is to practice tuning daily to several different instruments to develop a flexible ear.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

French Horn Repair Tools

9:38:00 AM
Having the right tool to repair your French horn with will make a difference in the success of your own personal repair job without the need to go to a repair job. Each tool performs a specific function, and their cost is relatively inexpensive, possibly saving you a trip to the repair shop. Acquire the tools you need and keep them available so that when accidents happen, you will be ready.

Mouthpiece Trueing Tool

When performing, it sometimes happens that a mouthpiece will fall out of the instrument and land in such a way that it dents the lead pipe of the mouthpiece. A mouthpiece-trueing tool makes it possible to remove dents and restore the mouthpiece to its original form. The tool consists of stainless steel and a metal grip to make it comfortable to hold.

Water Key Spring Installation Tool

The water key spring installation tool makes it possible to install a new, more reliable spring in your instrument. Springs tend to lose their firmness over time, so it is important to be able to remove the water spring and replace it. The tool works by attaching the spring to the end of the tool, and then, the tool will help you maneuver inside the water key to install the spring successfully.

Mouthpiece Puller

French horn mouthpieces become jammed for many reasons. Often, it is because of an improperly handled horn dropped on the mouthpiece. To remove the mouthpiece without damaging the lead pipe of the horn, you will need to use a mouthpiece puller. This tool attaches to the lead pipe and the mouthpiece and then separates the two parts with the use of a crank.

Dent Hammers

Several different sized dent hammers may be used to remove dents in the French horn. The easiest dents to remove are the dents near the bell and the front of the lead pipe. As you move towards the center of the instrument, it becomes necessary to separate the instrument at the joints to reach the dent to hammer the dent back to its original form. The hammers used have smooth rounded circular corners, making it possible to safely remove dents.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Gifts for a Cello Player

8:00:00 AM
Finding the right gift for a cellist requires attention to items that a cellist needs to play her instrument. Most cellists will appreciate a thoughtful gift that shows you are interested in their music. Remember that musicians can be very passionate and particular about the components for their instrument. For this reason, it is best to find a present they can customize, or that doesn’t relate directly to their playing.

Gift Cards

Cellists spend plenty of money on supplies needed for their instrument. Gift cards can be a good solution for those who want to ensure their recipient receives exactly what he needs. The problem with purchasing supplies for them is that you can never be sure you have bought the right item. Cellists need rosin, bow maintenance, polish, music stands and several other items that a cellist needs to perform at a high level.


Jewelry can be an ideal gift if the recipient is a woman or a man who wears jewelry. Plenty of options are available for you to select. The cello plays in the bass clef, which makes a bass clef necklace or pendant a good choice. You may also be able to find a necklace with a cello bridge, the instrument itself or a cello bow. Taking the time to select a piece of jewelry is a way to show that you appreciate her.


Cellists who wish to make a name as a performer need to have professional headshots taken. This can be expensive, but it is an important part of their career development. If they don’t have headshots, pay for them to get their headshots taken at a high-quality photo studio. They will surely appreciate the amount of thought that you put into this gift, and a performer can always use more than one set of headshots.


You can find several classy figurines on the market to purchase for your cellist. Figurines of cello players performing in silver, gold and bronze exist and make ideal gifts for them to remember you by. Other options include cello pins, magnets, and models of cellos carved in detail. All of these ideas will make the cellist in your life a very happy performer.

How to Compose Your Own Music Compositions

6:00:00 AM
Writing music requires some talent and understanding of basic theoretical principles.

Learning to write your own music is a challenging but rewarding experience. Beginning composers can learn to write music in a variety of ways ranging from free advice to paid professional instruction. There are talented composers are willing to help newcomers learn the ropes and start composing original music, but they can be hard to find. Still, even advanced composers can benefit from a second opinion. No matter whether you have never written a note of music in your life or are an experienced composer, writing original music requires a thoughtful and careful approach to composing.

The College Path

Study music theory by attending a college or university, or find a teacher through a local music store. It is also possible to study theory online. By studying music theory, composers can learn quickly about music that has already been created. To write something original, you have to first know what already exists. Music theory is one of the quickest ways to develop this understanding. Courses exist to teach you the basics of music so that you can learn to read and write notes, scales, chords and key signatures. Most students should start with 18th-century theory and progress through the modern period.

Score Analysis

Reading musical scores and listening to music to apply the knowledge obtained from your music theory courses. A score is the composer's handwritten manuscript of their musical composition. Listen to music from all the major time periods. and seek out music from the classical, romantic, and modern periods. Pay attention to what makes each of these time periods unique. While listening to the music, begin to think about ways in which you can improve or interpret the music in a new way. Even if your plan is to write rock, jazz, or country music, a background in classical music will help your writing because classical chord structure is the basis for all music.

Study Privately 

Find a private composition instructor or study composition online. Look for an instructor that has a background in the type of music you want to write. It doesn't make much sense to go to a classical composer if you want to write rock music. Check whether they have a degree in music composition or extensive experience composing to determine whether they are qualified to teach composition. Your spending your hard-earned money, so you have a right to find an instructor that fits your needs.

Counterpoint Study

Study counterpoint from the 16th and 18th centuries and modern periods with your private instructor. The basis for music theory and the construction of chords lies within the discipline of counterpoint. Take a course online or from a local community college. Counterpoint teaches the basics of how musical lines are constructed. This will teach a composer not only about common chord progressions but also how to make progressions that will be new and refreshing.

Review online resources that deal with advanced composition techniques. Modern techniques that can be loosely applied to all music include 12-tone, aleatoric music, and other less commonly used compositional devices that will help to make your music special. Composers that write original music have a strong background in theory and know the techniques that are available in music so that they can avoid replicating music of the past.

Additional Reading

USC School of Music

"Composing Music" William Russo, 1988 (Affiliate Link)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Good Warm-Ups for Middle School Choir

8:00:00 AM
Warming up a middle-school choir will provide you with time to work on intonation and balance using simple chorales that are easy to sing. Basic and advanced choirs need a structured schedule for warming up. This will help prepare the students mentally and physically for the rehearsal.

Long Tones

Create an exercise where the entire choir sings long tones. Start with a G above middle C and have the students sing sets of three notes without taking a breath. For example, the choir could sing G – A – B or G – A – G. As long as they hold each pitch out for four beats and play the complete phrase without taking a breath, the warm-up will work. This will help students do two things: develop breath support and improve their intonation. Tell the students to listen carefully to each other and adjust their pitch as necessary.


Have the choir sing the same major and minor scale each day in rehearsal. When they are capable of singing major and minor scales without singing out of tune, add a 12-note chromatic scale to the warm-up routine. Choose a vowel sound to sing the scales on, or use solfege to help teach them about the relationships between notes. Aim to sing the scales a third higher than the highest note in the concert music. This will make it possible to sing high pitches with ease in a concert.


Provide students with piano support by playing I – iii – V – IV – V – iii – I progressions. The students should each sing a different member of the chord depending on their voice classification. This exercise repeats a half-step higher each time until students reach the upper part of the middle-school choir’s range. Additionally, this exercise is useful for practicing balancing harmonies. Have the choir hold each note and adjust the individual parts to get a full, balanced sound.


Select a set of no more than five Bach chorales to alternate each day of the week. The chorales should stay consistent from week to week to provide structure for the students. This way, they will know that every Monday they will sing a specific chorale. Throughout the year, they will become very proficient at singing these chorales, which will help you to develop an ensemble sound and improve their tone and balance.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How Are Different Sounds Made on the Trumpet?

8:00:00 AM
Trumpets make use of various mechanical and the organic human element to create sound. Four basic components determine the sound of a trumpet. The embouchure, metals used in manufacturing, the valves and the breath support of the player all play a major and crucial role. These elements must work together to create the more than four-octave range of the trumpet.


An embouchure consists of the muscles in the face that come together to create tension between the lips. To mimic an appropriate embouchure for playing trumpet, pretend to suck through a straw. Your cheeks will tighten, your lips will come together and you will feel the muscles in your chin and the side of your face contract. A tight embouchure allows the player to increase the pitch, while a loose embouchure makes it possible to lower the pitch.


The metals used in the manufacturing of a trumpet directly affect the sound of the instrument. Trumpets consist of either brass or silver metals. The trumpets that use brass have an edgy and penetrating sound. These trumpets create great sounding fanfares and majestic pieces. Trumpets made of silver have a smooth and mellow sound. The smoothness of the sound makes these instruments suitable for brass choirs and orchestral settings in which the trumpet needs to blend with other brass instruments.


Trumpets have three valves that redirect air into tubes of varying length. Each tube will shorten or lengthen the distance that air has to travel through the instrument. This means that when the air has to travel further the notes of the trumpet will become lower in pitch. When air travels through a valve with a shorter length of tubing, the pitch will increase. This combined with the relative tension of the embouchure allows the trumpet player to play several octaves of pitches.

Breath Support

Breath support affects the sound of the trumpet dramatically by modifying the tone quality of the instrument. Weak breath support will result in an airy and out of tune tone. Too much breath support will result in a jagged, harsh tone in which notes sound overblown. Finding the right balance and airspeed becomes the goal of all trumpet players. Learning how to manipulate the level of breath support depending on the current range will allow the trumpeter to maintain a consistent sound throughout the instrument.

"Arban's Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet"; Jean Arban; 2011
"Instrument Repair for the Music Teacher"; Burton Stanley; 1978

Monday, May 16, 2016

High-Hat Techniques

8:00:00 AM
Hi-hat technique involves learning how to use the foot pedal to play open and closed positions with the hi-hat. The drummer also must know the standard and non-standard hand position. Usually the dominant hand is used to play the hi-hat, while the non-dominant hand plays the snare drum. However, there are exceptions to this type of playing as well. Hi-hats consist of two cymbals that face each other and are controlled by a foot pedal.


When the drummer closes the hi-hat by pressing down on the foot pedal the hi-hat is said to be closed. This creates a muffled sound since the cymbals on the hi-hat are not free to vibrate unimpeded. Closing the hi-hat is often used along with a right hand steady eighth or 16th note rhythm to help provide the back-beat and tempo for a song. The drummer may also choose to turn a cymbal upside down and put it on top of the hi-hat to create an extra timbre.


Open position is the natural position of the hi-hat. It is achieved by leaving the foot pedal all the way up. Often, the drummer will alternate between closed and open position, clanging the lower and top cymbals together. This creates an effect that provides an effective vibration on the main beats when the cymbal is open and a closed muffled sound on the offbeats when the cymbal is closed. A drummer will rarely use a closed position on the first beat and an open on a weak beat. The nature of strong and weak beats, demands the more powerful and penetrating open cymbal on strong beats.


Cooking is a technique when used in jazz music to slightly offset the beat. This type of playing is also known as swing. The note values are not taking literally, and couplets of eighth notes are typically played with the first note longer than the second. With cooking the cymbals are closed and struck for the first part of the pattern and then opened and allowed to ring on the second part of the pattern. Sometimes, the drummer may throw in an additional clicking sound by hitting the side of the snare drum.

Open-Handed Playing

The traditional playing technique is to play the hi-hat with the right hand while the left and crosses under to play the snare. A technique called open-handed playing allows the drummer to play the hi-hat with the left hand since that hand is closer to the cymbal and the left hand plays the snare drum. This prevents the crossing of hands that can be awkward in certain playing conditions. This technique was termed open-handed because the drummer is not crossing his hands to play.

What Are Binaural Tones?

6:00:00 AM
Listening to binaural tones can apparently have an effect on mental states.

Binaural tones, or beats, are the audible results from two slightly different frequencies at the same time. There is anecdotal evidence, as well as some research, to suggest that these tones can have an effect on the mental state of the listener. There are several methods of producing these tones and the field of study has fascinating ramifications for meditation and brain studies.


Binaural tones may affect human performance.

While there is still more research to do, studies into binaural tones show promising indications that listening to these tones through headphones can positively affect human performance. It is possible to create tones that stimulate beta, theta, alpha, and delta brain waves and to simulate the "psychomotor performance and mood" of the subjects. The results could provide better mood, improved concentration, and more accurate task-driven results.

Stereo Headphones

Listening with headphones is the most effective way to listen to binaural tones.

Listening with stereo headphones seems to be the best way to achieve the effects of binaural tones. One frequency goes to the left ear, and one goes to the right ear. Together these frequencies combine and create a middle frequency that is between the frequencies sent to the left and right ear. Additionally, these two frequencies will create amplitude that rises and falls between the two frequencies. This creates a steady beat or pulse perceived by the ear.

Composite Tones

Binaural tones with speakers may be less effective.

When headphones are not used, the two frequencies come already combined. This seems to be a less effective method of creating mood-affecting binaural tones. However, there are certain companies that are marketing this technology to the public and providing their software for use with or without headphones.

Commercial Products

For a fee, companies will provide you with their products to simulate brain states.

As is often the case with new research, several companies have attempted to profit off this phenomenon. There are apps for mobile devices as well as recordings that cover the tones with classical music. The main criteria that consumers should look for is whether the frequencies are sent separately through the left and right ear and if the frequencies correspond to a particular brain wave. The brain wave frequencies that have been studied and tested are beta between 16 and 24 Hz, and theta between 1.5 and 4 Hz.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Group Time Activities for Music & Movement for Preschoolers

8:00:00 AM
Music and movement are perfectly complemented pairs for teaching preschoolers abstract reasoning, coordination and music skills. Abstract reasoning skills are developed through the anticipation of the beat of the music. Coordination skills are developed by teaching children to use both hands to beat a drum in a controlled, rhythmic pattern. Music skills come from listening and responding to music using both physical and mental processes. Whether the child is listening and responding to a new song or walking around the room to the beat of that song, music and movement are two actions that complement each other well.


Ask the preschoolers to sit in a circle on the floor. Place one child in the center, standing up. Have the child in the center close his eyes; instruct him to point in the direction that he hears music. Point to a random child in the outside circle and request that she sing a few notes. The child in the center of the classroom must quickly turn toward the singing child and point in the direction of the sound. When the child in the center correctly locates the singing child, the child that was located goes in the center and the game continues.


Provide the children with paper and a marker or set of crayons. Begin playing a musical selection of your choice. Choose music that is calming and not too energetic to help keep the preschoolers’ attention. Ask the children to draw impressions of the music based on what the children are hearing. Tell them to attempt to draw the melody as well as they can. When the music gets higher, they should trace a line that extends to the top of the paper, when it gets lower tell them to draw to the bottom. Have them switch hands between pieces to develop both hands.


Pick a song that has words the children can understand. Go over the words ahead of time and put on a dramatic act that portrays the children’s interpretation of the music. The children can point, make faces and interpret the music with yelps or cries. Encourage each child to experiment and develop his ability to express his interpretation of the music. Allow the children to paint and color pictures to include in the drama.


Marching to the beat of the song is an activity that will develop coordination, provide the children with a physical release and teach them how to identity the beat in a song. Play a song that the children seem to like and know. Ask all the children to stand up and begin marching in time. Tell them to try and match your footsteps as much as possible. Form a line and begin marching around the room with all of the children following you in time. With enough practice, a child will begin to match your steps and learn to identify the beat in music on his own.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How Is a Cornet Different From a Trumpet?

8:00:00 AM
Many of the differences between the cornet and the trumpet have disappeared throughout the years. The modern cornet functions in much the same way as a modern trumpet. There are some structural, performance and timbral differences between the two instruments. Composers will typically use a cornet when a subdued passage is needed and a trumpet when the orchestration calls for a powerful sound.


The trumpet mouthpiece slants inward from the rim to the throat. The throat is the small hole just inside the mouthpiece that flares outward toward the mouthpiece shank, which fits inside the leadpipe. This gives the trumpet a direct, focused sound. The cornet, on the other hand, uses a mouthpiece with a cup-shaped interior. This smooths out the sound and creates a darker, less focused timbre. Cornets also have a conical bore, which means that the bore flares slowly outward from the leadpipe to the bell. Trumpets have a cylindrical bore that remains constant throughout until reaching the bell of the horn, which then flares outward.


The trumpet and cornet can be made to sound very similar if the right mouthpiece and playing technique are employed. However, when the instruments are played in their intended manner and there is not an attempt to disguise their true sounds, the trumpet, and the cornet will produce different timbres. The trumpet has a bright, brilliant sound capable of penetrating the orchestra. The cornet has a mellow, dark sound suitable for lyrical and melodic playing.


One of the big differences relevant for trumpet and cornet players is the varying level of resistance between the two instruments. A trumpet blows less freely than a cornet. This makes it more difficult to play the trumpet since there is more pressure directed back at the performer. On the other hand, due to the lack of resistance with the cornet, the cornet player will find it more difficult to play in the higher range, since a certain amount of resistance helps to play higher.


The dynamic range of the cornet and trumpet vary due to their differences in structure. Dynamics refer to the overall volume that an instrument produces. There can be soft and loud dynamics and anything in between. Since the trumpet has a more focused sound, it is capable of sounding much louder than the cornet. The cornet, with its round, full sound, tends to be softer and unable to achieve the same dynamic level as a trumpet.

Monday, May 9, 2016

How Does a Brass Instrument Get Its Tone?

8:00:00 AM
Learning about the many factors that affect a tuba’s tone will help you to improve your understanding of the instrument and basic acoustics. The tuba contains a series of brass tubes, welded together to create resistance, making it possible to successfully direct air through the horn. The tuba works through vibrations that turn into audible sound and become colored by the vibrations from the materials of the tuba.


All sound starts with a vibration that creates a pitch. These vibrations travel through the air causing the eardrum to transfer sound vibrations to the three small bones called ossicles in the middle ear. Vibrations occur anytime you hit, move or act upon an object by force. In the case of the tuba, the vibrations initiate from the vibrations of the lips.


The mouthpiece of the tuba makes it possible to focus sound through a quick stream of air that moves through the instrument. Mouthpiece materials play a large part in the timbre produced. Brass mouthpieces will create a strong, brassy tone while silver mouthpieces will create more mellow, soft tones. Steel mouthpieces produce stronger tones and gold will produce soft, supple tones. Plastic mouthpieces exist for extreme temperatures when playing outdoors, but should not be used for regular performances. The tubist learns specialist knowledge about what type of mouthpiece to use based on the music and environment.


The size and materials of the tuba have a major impact on the sound the tuba creates. Brass alloys, consisting of combinations of copper, nickel and zinc, create the materials used to mold tubing. Depending on the type and percentage of allows used, the tuba will have a different sound. Nickel gives the tuba a softer sound while copper gives the tuba more of an edgier brassy sound. The bending of the tubes makes it possible to use a reasonable amount of air to create sound. If the tubes didn't bend, air resistance would be minimal and it would create great difficulties in playing this large instrument. The resistance from the tubing makes it possible to play the tuba.


The bell's position directs the flow of sound into the room. For this reason, sousaphone bells on tubas will point directly forward. This helps ensure that the sound projects into the audience. Since a sousaphone performs outside, it is important to direct the sound forward so that it doesn't get lost. In concert halls, the tuba's bell will point upwards and be of varying diameters. Bells that have a narrow outwards flare and small diameter tend to have more precise sound. The bells that flare outwards with a larger diameter produce a great, booming tuba sound.

What Are Church Modes?

6:00:00 AM
Church modes were used by composers starting in the 16th century.

Sixteenth-century church music consists of seven different modes based on the C major scale. Each mode has different characteristics and had a specific purpose in 16th-century religious music. Each mode starts on a different degree and creates a different sound. Early composers felt that each mode could evoke specific emotions within the listener. For instance, the sixth mode had characteristics that were thought to induce sloth.

Ionian and Dorian

Ionian and Dorian modes use the first two degrees in the major scale to create their modes. Although there was no major scale in early church music, the equivalent and identical mode went by the name Ionian. This mode consists of the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. The Dorian mode started on the second degree of the Ionian (major) mode and consists of D, E, F, G, A, B, and C.

Phrygian and Lydian

Phrygian and Lydian modes start on the third and fourth scale degree. The Phrygian mode consists of the notes E, F, G, A, B, C and D, and the Lydian mode consists of the notes F, G, A, B, C, D and E. Sometimes the B has been changed to a Bb to avoid the tritone that may occur between the B and F. A tritone is a dissonant sounding interval to their ears, and musicians went to great lengths to avoid the it. It bore the nickname “Diabolus in musica” or “The Devil in music.”

Mixolydian and Aeolian

Mixolydian and Aeolian modes consist of the last two practical modes in church music. The Mixolydian mode began on the fifth scale degree and consisted of the notes G, A, B, C, D, E and F. The Aeolian mode starts on the sixth degree and uses the notes A, B, C, D, E, F and G. The Aeolian mode is the same as the modern natural minor scale.


The Locrian mode never found a place in practical church music. Locrian as a theoretical mode existed only as a conceptual idea. It begins on the seventh degree and consists of the notes B, C, D, E, F, G and A. Since there is a tritone between the root and the fifth of the mode, it did not make it into common practice. Although there are tritones in other modes, they do not occur between the first mode degree and the fifth. Since the fifth degree is essential for proper cadences and cannot be changed, composers omitted this mode.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Ways to Get Children to Sing Louder

8:00:00 AM
Requiring that children sing louder than their voices are capable of is dangerous to their voices. Avoid forcing children to artificially increase their voices, and select music that is appropriate to their range. There are many ways to increase the sound of a child’s voice, but always keep the health and best interest of the child in mind. Children’s voices are still developing, so use methods that allow the voice to develop naturally and healthily. Don't ever let them scream or sing louder than their voices can handle.

Breath Support

Teach the children proper breath support to increase their ability to sing with a full volume. Show the children how to breathe into their diaphragms by asking them to yawn. When we yawn, we take in a full breath and hold it in our stomachs. Make sure they are not breathing into the chest. Breathing into the chest creates a shallow and weak sound. One good exercise to improve this is to ask the child to breathe in for four beats and out for eight beats. Practice this sequence five to 10 times at the beginning of each session.


While correct pronunciation doesn’t help a child to sing louder, it can create the perception of a louder voice. When children are not able to enunciate each word in a song, they lose their ability to project to the audience. Clearly articulated syllables will greatly help the voice to travel over a longer distance and make it intelligible. If you are teaching a children's choir, ensure that each child is singing the syllables the same way.


Children that have the ability to sing in tune will have more resonant and powerful voices. Poor intonation dulls and weakens the sound of the child’s voice. Practice with a piano to help the child learn where the pitch resides in his voice. Another exercise that is useful is to sing a note and have the child match the tone. Then, ask the child to lower and raise his voice so that he can hear what it sounds like to sing out of tune. With daily practice, this exercise will help improve their intonation.


One of the best things that you can do to help children to increase their volume is to teach them good posture. Tell them to imagine there is a string pulling up on the top of the head. Ask them to stand up straight and keep their shoulders back and relaxed. The jaw should be free of tension and the tongue should be slightly raised in a relaxed position.


"Sound Advice: Becoming a Better Children's Choir Conductor"; Jean Ashworth Bartle; 2003

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

How Did the Trombone Evolve?

8:00:00 AM
"Trombone" is an Italian word for “large trumpet;” the original trombone did not use a slide and was, in fact, a larger version of the trumpet. The modern slide trombone developed from an early English instrument called a "sackbut," and the first known European slide trombone dates from the 1420s. Over time, the trombone developed into today's modern instrument and finally became a standard part of the orchestra in the late Classical period.


Due to the Italian influence in Renaissance music, the Italian term for "large trumpet" became the common word for referring to the trombone. The Renaissance period, between about A.D. 1400 to 1600, saw the trombone used in several settings, including secular outdoor gatherings as well as religious settings. Gabrieli, Giovanni, and Andrea, composed extensively for the trombone during this period. In the Renaissance, the trombone usually appeared in combination with other instruments.


The Baroque period, from 1600 to 1750, was a time of experimentation and ornamentation in music. Ornamentation occurs when the instrumentalist or composer “decorates” the melody by adding additional notes to the main melodic line. Handel used the trombone in his dramatic works, and Bach often used it in combination with the Baroque trumpet. The trombone continued to develop during this period, as the bell started to flare more towards the end of the instrument.


The trombone changed very little in the Classical period, between 1750 and 1820. Trombones appeared most prominently in Austria in the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, who set many standards for Classical music and expanded the role and use of the trombone; Beethoven made the trombone a standard part of the orchestra in his Fifth Symphony. From that point on, composers began taking the trombone more seriously and writing extensively for the instrument.


The trombone gained popularity between the Romantic period and the current day. Jazz bands started to develop in the 1920s, and composers were developing extended techniques for the trombone. Many of these novel techniques include multiphonics that requires the player to speak or sing through the instrument while playing, glissandos that make use of the slide to blur or slide through a series of notes between two pitches and the use of microtones or notes smaller than a half-step.

Monday, May 2, 2016

How to Make Music for Production Libraries

8:00:00 AM
Music production libraries provide news agencies, department stores and film and television companies with music to create ambiance and add theatrical flair to productions. Production libraries can be created through the use of electronic music or acoustic music. Electronic music is created with a computer while acoustic music uses live players. Choosing between computer-based music samplers or acoustic music will depend largely on the skills you already possess. If you are unfamiliar with creating electronic music, purchase sheet music and hire musicians for a recording session.

Electronic Music 

Step 1: Attach your MIDI keyboard to your sound card using a MIDI cable. Most sound cards have a MIDI input and output connector. This connector is about the size of a dime and makes it possible to connect a MIDI cable, allowing audio signals to pass through to your computer.

Step 2: Open your audio editing program. Audacity. Sonar and Peak Pro are some options you can use. Each of these programs have very similar and, in many cases, identical editing functions.

Step 3: Press the "Record" button at the top of the audio editing program. The "Record" button looks like a red dot inside of a circle.

Step 4: Improvise by playing the keyboard. If you don't have piano skills you can use the "Step Record" feature if your audio program supports it. "Step Record" allows you to enter one note at a time. If you make a mistake and play the wrong note, simply highlight the note in the audio editor and delete it. With enough practice, your piano skills and your ear will improve, and you will learn to improvise in real-time.

Step 5: Modify the music by using the options available in the "Effects" menu. You can increase or decrease the speed of the music by using the "Change Tempo" option, create a dramatic fade in or fade out using the "Fade" options or create an echo using the "Echo" option.

Acoustic Music 

Step 1: Select music that is no longer protected by copyright law. Generally, this is music in which the composer has been dead for 70 years. However, check with the publishing company to ensure you can use the music freely. Classical and Romantic period music from composers such as Brahms, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert are all good options. If you want a more diverse library, hire a composer to create music for you.

Step 2: Hire the performers that are needed to perform the music. Check the local musicians union to get a list of working performers. You can also advertise and recruit performers from local colleges and universities. Hang fliers in music stores and approach musicians after local performances at the reception that follows most concerts.

Step 3: Book time in a recording studio. If you have one hour of music to record, plan on scheduling four hours of recording time. It takes time to conduct a sound check and you may need more than one run-through of the music to ensure all of the notes are played correctly. The recording engineers will help you select the right microphones for each instrument. Miking is a complex process and must be completed by a professional.

Step 4: Record the music and pay for the recording studio to provide you with an edited and mastered recording. Mastering is the process of running the music through audio filters and ensuring that the music does not have any distortion or wrong notes in the mix.

Save money in the long-term by taking classes and learning how to record acoustic instruments professionally. You can also take courses in audio editing and mastering to improve your ability to make a music production library. Hire a composer to write music for you if you want original music. Alternatively, take some music theory classes and learn to write your own music.

What Are the Differences Between Chamber Music and a Full Orchestra?

6:00:00 AM
Classical music offers a variety of venues from soloists to orchestras. The piano concerto requires a massive ensemble of instruments to be performed, but it took a long time for these developments to occur.

Classical music hosts a wide range of ensembles that have a specific timbre and purpose. Composers decide on the instruments that best communicate their ideas. For small intimate settings, an orchestra would be too large. To communicate large, expansive ideas, a small chamber ensemble wouldn't be large enough. Composers take into account the different instruments, musical techniques, abilities and sound when deciding on a piece for an ensemble or an orchestra.


The development of the orchestra has been a long process that saw its first developments in the 1600s. The Baroque period made extensive use of several small combinations of instruments. Towards the end of the Baroque period, composers started experimenting with using standard ensembles. Starting with the Classical period, string quartets and orchestras became standardized and the development towards the current orchestra rapidly progressed. In the Romantic period, the orchestra expanded and added new instruments. Chamber music and larger full orchestras developed, as composers needed increasingly complex apparatus's to communicate their ideas.

Chamber Music

Chamber music can be any group of smaller ensembles that composers use to express their musical ideas. Chamber orchestras generally have a single player per part. Other chamber music groups include woodwind quintets, string orchestras, brass quintets and other groups with only one player per part. These were the most common types of ensembles used in the Baroque and now Modern periods. In the Baroque period, composers used whatever instruments were available and only in special circumstances wrote for specific ensembles. In the Modern period, beginning about 1910, composers began to experiment with increasingly complex ideas. These complex ideas were well suited for simpler, smaller ensembles.

Full Orchestra

Full orchestras consist of four smaller chamber music groups including woodwinds, strings, brass and percussion. Each group includes several instruments from each ensemble. The woodwinds typically have one piccolo, two flutes, two oboes and two bassoons. In the string section, there are typically 16 first violins, 14 second violins, 10 violas, 10 cellos and eight basses. The brass section has four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and a tuba. Within the percussion section, you’ll find a timpani and a bass drum. There are also several smaller percussion instruments such as triangle, bells and a cowbell.

Chamber Music and Orchestra Uses

Small chamber music ensembles are enjoyable for intimate settings, short pieces and music performed in a small music hall. These small ensembles are light, can more easily learn complicated music and do not require a conductor. This is one of the reasons many modern composers left orchestras to write for smaller ensembles. Full orchestras are extremely useful for composers with expansive ideas developed over a longer period. With the larger orchestra, composers are able to keep the interest of the music by moving the melody from one instrument to another. This helps to create a variety of timbres not possible with small chamber music.