Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Maintaining the Correct Clarinet Embouchure

8:00:00 AM
Correct clarinet embouchure enables a player to enhance her tone and improve her flexibility on the instrument. Avoid bad habits and incorrect embouchure placement from the beginning of your studies to ensure that you learn to play effectively and correctly from the beginning. Correcting an improperly trained embouchure can be very difficult, so it is important to learn proper clarinet embouchure as soon as possible.


The clarinet should be pointing toward the ground at a 35- to 45-degree angle. The exact angle will change slightly among players. Players with an extended lower jaw will need a greater angle while those with an inward sloping jaw will need less of an angle. The reed of the mouthpiece should be facing the floor, and the actual mouthpiece should extend into the mouth about 1/4 of an inch.


The mouth needs to form a tight seal with the tip of the mouthpiece. To do this, you must tense the muscles in your cheeks. Imagine you are sucking through a straw to form a proper embouchure. Elevate the tongue inside the mouth slightly to create a ramp for the airstream to travel. Place the tip of the tongue close enough to the reed to use the tip for articulations.

Lips and Teeth

The upper teeth will make contact with the top of the mouthpiece. The upper lip then forms a seal between the teeth and mouthpiece. This helps ensure that air does not leak through the sides of the lips. To prevent breaking the reed, the bottom lip curls over the bottom teeth and forms a tight bond with the reed and mouthpiece tip. Flatten the muscles at the front of the chin and point your chin slightly downwards.


Pronounce the vowel sound "ah" to open your throat. When the throat constricts the airflow will be hampered. To prevent this, you must keep your neck relaxed and sit up straight. Poor posture will create tension in your neck and shoulders, preventing you from forming a proper embouchure and appropriate tone production. Try finding the position that gives you the freest sound while pronouncing "ah." Do this by slowly rotating your neck up and down until you find the position that works best.

Monday, August 29, 2016

How Did "Taps" Begin?

8:00:00 AM
"Taps" plays in military services to honor soldiers. It has long been associated with soldier funerals and solemn ceremonies in the military. The story of "Taps" is full of romantic accounts and legends. Many of these accounts have no basis in historical fact.


"Taps" started partially because of the limited notes available to buglers. Bugles are capable of playing tones that exist because of a natural phenomenon called overtones. The bugle call "Taps" uses these natural overtones to create all of the pitches in the tune. A bugle player can play taps without the need for valves. The first brass instruments did not have valves and relied on different sized extensions to change the key of the instrument. Practically speaking, bugles needed to be low maintenance since in battle valves need lubrication.


Bugle calls alert troops, announce military services and signal commands. "Taps" signifies lights out. Appropriately, "Taps" appears in military funerals as one last final "lights out" ceremony for the service member. According to Jari A. Villanueva, a writer for, "Taps is unique to the United States military since the call is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying and memorial services."


"Taps" began as a simple notification to soldiers to turn out their lights. In 1862, the Union army had a general bugle call to signal the end of the day. Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield of the Army of the Potomac wanted to use a different one for his brigade. He hummed some of a tune called "Tattoo" for his brigade bugler Oliver W. Norton. The two expanded on "Tattoo" until they came up with the melody that now forms "Taps." It quickly became identified with solemn military occasions and gained popularity with buglers on both sides. The 24-note tune got the official name "Taps" in 1874. In 1891, the army required that it be played at military funerals.


There is a common story about the origination of "Taps" that is highly romanticized and in no way true. The story states that a young northern soldier had written the notes for the tune as he lay dying in the field. When his father discovered the boy, he took the notes and used them for his funeral service. Villanueva's story says there is no evidence to back up the story.


According to, the following lyrics are commonly used for "Taps."
"Fading light dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar drawing nigh -- Falls the night.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Then good night, peaceful night,
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright;
God is near, do not fear -- Friend, good night."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Private Voice Lesson Costs and Expenses

8:00:00 AM
Voice lessons are invaluable for singers who want to study effective techniques, improve their range and extend their vocal longevity. A vocalist should be aware, up front, of costs associated with these lessons. When deciding to take lessons, vocalists must weigh all factors in determining the actual cost of vocal coaching.


As of 2011, according to CostHelper (, a typical studio will charge $10 to $15 per half-hour lesson and professionals with advanced degrees and performing experience may charge upward of $100 or more for this duration. Vocal tuition will vary among studios and will be based on the teacher's skill, abilities and location. According to, a teacher living in a major city will usually charge more for lessons than a teacher who lives in a rural area due to the generally higher cost of living and higher demand for teachers.


In some instances, a vocal teacher may include materials in the tuition. However, this is rare since no two students will need the same materials. It is hard to predict what songs and repertoire students will require since materials vary depending on voice ranges and styles. According to CostHelper, as of 2011, students annually should expect to spend $50 to $150 -- and in some cases more -- for books and materials.


Many students may not consider the cost of transportation – and if a student can walk to lessons, this isn't a concern. However, a vocal student often must drive to a nearby university or voice studio to take lessons. When this happens, the cost of lessons increases with the amount of fuel required to get to those lessons. This small figure will add up toward the end of the year. To cut overall costs, find an instructor close to your home.


According to CostHelper, as of 2011, recitals may come with a fee of "$2 to $25 for informal activities and $30 to $200 or more for larger or more prestigious events." These fees cover the cost of the vocal teacher’s time, award-certificate creation and the cost of food and drinks at the reception. However, for the enthusiastic musician, it is a small price to pay for the experience of performing before an audience.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Main Difference Between Regular Music Theory and Jazz Theory

8:00:00 AM
Regular music theory and jazz music theory are essentially the same things with different terminology. This can be confusing, but even within traditional theory, different terms exist depending on what side of the world you live. The process of learning the difference involves learning the terminology for both styles. Breaking it down to the simplest elements, jazz music is just shorthand for classical theory. This is important in jazz because performers have to improvise and don't have time to think about Roman numeral relationships and extended analysis. Learning the terminology for both styles will make you a better musician.


Jazz musicians often cite a large amount of chords available in jazz music that are not available in classical music. Again, this is a misunderstanding. Jazz music makes use of flat five chords, called diminished chords in classical music. The seventh chords used in classical music exist in jazz music as well. The only difference is the notation. Think of jazz as shorthand for classical music. Since jazz musicians have to play and realize chord changes quickly, the chord's name is notated. For instance, a I chord in classical music might be written as a C in jazz music.

Sevenths and Extended Chords

There are several ways of creating jazz shorthand, and jazz players must learn all of them. A minor seventh chord is a C-7, Cmin7, Cmi7 or Cm7. Classical music would more than likely use a Roman numeral to represent the scale degree as opposed to spelling out the actual chord name. For instance, in the key of C, a major-minor seventh chord on G is V7. In jazz music, there are also 9th, 11th and 13th chords that essentially have extra tones added on to the top of 7th chords. Classical music was using 9th, 11th and 13th chords early on and can be seen in the symphonies of Gustav Mahler and several other Romantic period composers.

Blue Note 

Many jazz musicians assert that the "blue note" is unique to jazz. However, this too has precedence in classical music theory. The "blue note" is typically a slightly flattened 3rd, 5th, and 7th. However, these semitones exist throughout history and have their basis in the portamento of the violin. Composers of the early 20th century also cited the possibility of writing entire compositions using semitones. Arnold Schoenberg even invented a system for composing with these semitones.

Chord Changes and Figured Bass 

Jazz music makes use of chord changes. In baroque music, there is an identical concept referred to as figured bass. Figured bass method instruction occurs in many universities, although it is mostly outdated. With figured bass, shorthand appears beneath the staff. This shorthand tells the performer what chords to use and the voicings. The lowest pitch is written in the score with figured bass, such as a 6/4 chord. Each number refers to a note the distance away from the bass note. For instance, a 6/4 chord on D would have the pitches D-G-B. While in jazz, the chord quality is spelled out. Instead of spelling out the numerals 6/4 you would have a G/D written in the score. This indicates that it is a G major chord with the D in the bass. Again, both of these chords exist in classical music theory, but jazz and classical theory use different notation methods.


Both classical and jazz music use the same type of cadences. While classical music will usually refer to these cadences with simple terminology such as half, full and plagal cadences, jazz music usually spells these cadences out. For instance, a half cadence in jazz would be written out as a ii - V - I cadence in jazz. Aurally, they are the same thing, but there is simply a different terminology used to express each term.


Jazz and classical theory use major and minor scales as well as modal, octatonic, whole-tone and pentatonic scales. The blues scale is often quoted as belonging specifically to jazz, however, it is just a modified diatonic scale or pentatonic scale. Remember, that a diatonic scale is essentially the white keys of the piano from C to C while a pentatonic scale is a 5-note scale written diatonically. The six-note blues scale is a minor pentatonic scale with a flat fifth that sometimes enharmonically spelled as a flat fourth. The seven-note blues scale is a natural minor scale with a lowered 5th and raised 6th. The nine-note blues scale is a major scale with an additional half step between the 3rd and 4th scale degree and the 7th and 8th scale degree. Carl Orff is a famous classical composer that used pentatonic variants of these scales often.

Monday, August 22, 2016

How to Make Background Music for a Song

8:00:00 AM

You've got a great melody, wrote some vocals, and now you need to set the background music to make your song come alive. If you don't have the necessary skills to notate your music, you can get a composer for hire to help you with writing your background music. You could also use various ambient music composition techniques to create music that works with your song and vocals. The best option for a songwriter that has an idea of what they want the song to sound like is to hire a professional to help with the background lyrics, and in the meantime, begin learning to compose their own background music. So, let's take a look at some key techniques you're going to need if you want to compose your own background music.

Musical Basics

If you’re serious about learning to write your own background music, you need to learn about musical notation. Once you can notate your ideas, learn about chords, chord progressions, and key signatures. If you only develop a basic understanding of how chords work and learn about the basic key signatures, you can gradually build upon that knowledge through experience and by composing daily. The best option for learning to create your own background music is to take a complete tonal theory course so that you can analyze other composers music and learn from their writings. Without an understanding of the mechanics of music, you're going to miss out on a whole world of music composition techniques and concepts that would help you to improve your music.

Key Signatures

Key signatures are important for most melodic music. Many modern composers don't use key signatures at all since the music tends to be more chromatic and a key signature doesn't accurately reflect the music being played. For most composers, especially those just starting out, a key signature can help you stay on track and focused. Key signatures can indicate whether a piece is major or minor and the type of scale used to create the piece. There aren't any key signatures to indicate other scales, such as diminished, octatonic, augmented, whole tone scales and others. Review the information on the circle of fifths and key signatures before you begin to write your music. If you don't know how to identify key signatures, this is something you should learn about before you attempt to write background music.

Chords and Progressions

There are four basic types of chords: major, minor, augmented and diminished chords. If you don't know what these chords are, you can learn more about them by reading about chordal dissonance. These chords provide the basis for most pop, rock, and classical music. Regardless of the style of music you write, it's important that you take these subjects seriously so that you can begin to write your own chord progressions. Once you learn about the chords, there is a neat little trick that you can use to write progressions.
  1. Figure out what key you're in before you write your chord progression. If you don't know how to do this, then look at your melody. What note does the melody revolve around? Does it start and end on the same pitch? If it does, chances are good that the note your melody starts and ends on is the name of the key. For example, if you have a melody that begins and ends on C, then you are very likely either in C Major or C minor. This is why you need some basic music theory so that you can analyze your own music. 
  2. Select your first chord to fit your melody. When possible, choose a chord where the root is the same as the key. So, if you're in C Major, then use a C Major chord. Simple, right?Even if you don't choose the C Major chord, make sure that for any chord you use, one of the notes in the chord lines up with the corresponding pitches in the melody. For example, if you have a melody with a D in it, then there should be a D in the chord that supports the melody as well. The D can be the root, third, or fifth of the chord, but it works best when you can duplicate the D in the root or the fifth. You want to avoid the third because the third is what determines the quality of the chord, and it's a powerful note that will stick out.
  3. Move to a new chord. This is going to require you to use your ear and move to the next chord when it feels right in the composition. However, if you want to create an effective chord progression, then you also need to pay attention to what chord you use. When moving between chords, try and choose chords that have at least one tone in common with the previous chord in the progression. For example, if you move from C Major to D Major, that wouldn't be a very smooth chord progression since there are no common tones between the C Major (C, E, G) chord and the D Major (D, F#, A) chord. A better chord progression would be from C Major to G Major (G, B, D). Still, better yet would be from C Major to E minor (E, G, B). Why? Because E minor has two notes in common with C Major and this makes for a smoother progression. 
  4. Fill out the rest of the chords to match your melody, and always use your ear to help guide you with your choices. There is one exception, while you are learning more about chord progressions, you can use a little shortcut to end your progression. Use a V or IV chord as the second to last chord in your progression, and end on the first chord you started with. You can figure out the V or IV chord by counting up five musical letter names from the original pitch to find the V chord, or four letter names to find the IV chord. Make sure that the V or IV chord is in major. 

Other Means for Writing Background Music

Okay, so you insist that you don't want to learn how to write music using the methods that composers have used for centuries. That's fine, but your music is probably going to lack depth and originality. However, for those of you that just want to create some basic background sounds, you can invest in some loops and pre-created samples that you can then use in a digital audio workstation to create background effects. Programs like Logic Pro and Sonar often provide loops of pre-recorded material that you can use. You can pick and choose from the available options and preview what the music is going to sound like. This is an option that requires absolutely no musical skill, but depending on how naturally talented you are, you can get creative and combine these pre-existing loops into something new and interesting. There is an artform to creating effective electronic music and it can end up taking just as much effort as learning to write music using traditional methods.

Friday, August 19, 2016

How to Create Heavy Metal Riffs & Songs

4:42:00 AM
Heavy metal riffs combine small musical motifs to create melodic fragments. A motif is the smallest identifiable musical idea that consists of more than one note. A melodic fragment is simply a chunk taken from a potentially longer melody; fragments are not complete musical ideas and serve only to ornament the music. Heavy metal riffs used in songs add ornamentation and help to create interest in the songs. Basic knowledge of key signatures, note names and basic chords will make it possible for you to create your own songs and riffs.

Creating the Song

Write or hire someone to write the lyrics for your song if you have not already created them. If you don't have lyrics, look through poetry books with poems from authors that have been deceased for 70 years. These are in the public domain in most areas but double-check with copyright laws. The Library of Congress website has information on copyrights for United States citizens.

Determine the form of the piece. A common form is a 32-bar form in which there are four sections with eight bars in each section. The first section repeats, followed by a new, bridge section and then a return to the original section.

Choose a key signature for the piece. Using fewer flats and sharps will typically make the piece easier to play.

Write the first chord into your song. If you are in the key of C, the first chord should be a C major chord since C is the first scale degree. This helps to establish the home key; it is rare to start with a chord that is not the first chord of the key signature.

Create a chord starting on the fourth degree in the third measure and then move back to the chord starting on the first degree in the fourth measure. This will create a half cadence. A half cadence sounds less definite than a full cadence and is used in the middle of a phrase.

Place a chord starting on the fifth scale degree in the seventh measure. Even if it doesn't fit the key signature, make sure the chord is a major chord. The eighth measure should have a chord starting on the first scale degree.

Create a chord progression. When creating chord progressions, the most important thing is that there is a common tone between each chord. For example, a C major chord has the notes C, E and G, while a D major chord has the notes D, F-sharp and A. You wouldn't want to move from C to D because there are no common tones.

Use the chord progressions from the song to create quick riffs that accent the chords. For instance, if there is a C major chord on the first beat of a song, quickly strum the notes of the chord from bottom to top.

There are seven scale degrees in a key. Each one starts with a different note name. In C, the scale degrees are alphabetically from C to B. When you hit G, the note names start over at A.

Common chord progressions in heavy metal music include a I - IV - I or I - IV - V - I. The roman numerals refer to scale degrees; in the first example, you have a first-degree chord, followed by a fourth and then a return to one.

Experiment with different types of picking to increase the speed. Use alternate picking in which you strum across in a downward and upward motion. Single picking only strums down; by strumming in both directions, you can increase the speed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How Does a Trumpet Function?

8:00:00 AM
The trumpet is the highest-pitched member of the brass family of instruments. Trumpets have a range of about three-and-a-half octaves, from F below the treble clef staff to C two octaves above the treble clef. Some trumpet players have the ability to play even higher, or lower. The trumpet is capable of playing these pitches because of the acoustic principles and mechanical construction.


Vibrations are the basis for the trumpet sound. The trumpet player creates vibrations by pressing his lips together to create a buzzing sound. Trumpeters can buzz specific pitches by creating additional pressure with the lips and concentrating the airflow by keeping the cheeks tucked in. By increasing the speed of the vibrations the trumpet becomes capable of playing pitches of varying ranges. Trumpet players use the muscles in the embouchure to control pitch. The embouchure are the muscles of the mouth and lips.


The trumpet uses a concept known as the overtone series. This series allows for the creation of several pitches without having to use valves. The overtone series is a naturally occurring phenomenon in which several pitches can be produced based on an initial fundamental note. The first overtone is an octave, the second is a fifth and the intervals get smaller as the pitch increases. Without the overtone series, you would need several additional valves to play melodies. Each valve redirects the airflow and sends the air through different sized tubes. The size of the valve determines the pitches.


Trumpet mouthpieces come in several varieties. Mouthpieces direct the airflow into a small opening called a bore. The bore can be of varying sizes and the trumpeter will pick a mouthpiece that fits her preferences. Some players respond best to large bores, while others find it easier to play on a small bore. Small bore mouthpieces create additional airflow resistance that actually pushes against the performer. Large bore mouthpieces create less resistance which requires more airflow to maintain the pitch of the trumpet.


The instrument tubing amplifies the sound of the trumpet and changes the timbre depending on the metals used in construction. Brass alloys provide a metallic and penetrating sound, while silver creates a smooth and mellow sound. Most trumpets are a combination of more than one metal. The size and length of the tubing affects the overall pitch of the instrument. Using less tubing would create a higher pitched trumpet, while increasing tubing length would lower the pitch of the trumpet.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Types of Chinese New Year Music

8:00:00 AM
The Chinese calendar adds a month every few years. This means that Chinese New Year is not the same day every year. The extra month occurs because their calendar uses lunar and solar cycles. Adding a month every few years helps to keep the calendar aligned with these cycles. The date changes and can range anytime between January 21 and February 20 of each year. In 2011, the date for Chinese New Year was February 3. The Chinese have a deep respect for music and several types of music exist for the celebration of each New Year.

Vocal Music

Chinese New Year celebrations make use of vocal music based on Chinese scales and rhythms. Smaller string instruments such as the erhu, a two-stringed fiddle, often accompany the vocal music. The use of vocal music has a strong tradition in China and places heavy emphasis on glissando and quartertones to slide into notes instead of immediately falling directly on individual pitches.

Instrumental Music

The Chinese will use mostly traditional Chinese instruments to play New Year music. These instruments include lutes, zither, harps, huqin and hammered string instruments. Traditional instruments exist in small groups to play highly melodic music. Lutes are plucked instruments, zithers have several plucked strings, the harp functions like the western harp, the huqin are bowed instruments similar to our violins and the hammered string instrument is a dulcimer that is played with bamboo sticks.

Chinese New Year Music

Several songs classified as Chinese New Year Music deal with legendary topics and percussive elements. These songs often depict stories dealing with dragons, merriment, food and luck. Some of the more popular songs include, "Chinese New Year Music," "Great New Year," "Dancing Dragon and Phoenix," "Chinese Happy New Year" and "Deng Li Jun's Happy New Year Album."

Dragon Dance

The Dragon Dance involves a large dragon presented to the public with dancers and music. This is a yearly tradition in China. This type of music is highly percussive with prolonged melodic tones rather than easily definable melodies. Most often, the dancers will use gongs and cymbals in time with their rhythm to create this coordinated dance music. The improvised rhythms use a steady beat kept with a drum.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ideas for Music Note Memorization

8:00:00 AM
With a few tricks, memorizing the notes of the bass and treble clef is a simple process you can learn in a single afternoon. Both the treble and bass clef have similarities in their structure. They both have five lines and four spaces and use ledger lines to extend the staff when the notes ascend higher than the staff allows. When these lines and spaces are put together, a musical alphabet is spelled from bottom to top.


Acronyms in music can help students learn the names of the notes. Have the student create a phrase that starts with the first letter of each line and then have them create one that starts with the first letter of each space. For instance, in the treble clef there are 5 lines: E-G-B-D-F. Have the student come up with a phrase to remember those lines such as "Eat Good Berries During Football." It doesn't necessarily have to make sense, just as long as the student can remember the phrase.

Clef Position 

The position of the clef is another way to remember the names of the notes. In the treble clef if you look closely at the curled end of the symbol, you will notice it wraps around the G line. In fact, the curl and the tail of the treble clef look like a G. This is one of the reasons the treble clef is the G clef. By memorizing this fact, a student can then count up or down the alphabet to learn any other note on the staff. This works for the bass clef too. The bass clef looks a bit like an F with its two dots. The two dots are always on either side of the F line; hence, the reason the bass clef sometimes gets the name F clef.

Flash Cards 

Create flash cards to help learn the names of the notes in the bass and treble clefs. Don't purchase a set from a retailer, create your own. The simple process of creating flash cards will help you memorize the notes. On one side of the flash cards draw a staff, the clef and the note. On the other side write the name of the note. Shuffle the cards and then quiz yourself. Since there are only 9 total cards for notes within the staff, you should find that it is fairly easy to memorize the notes. 

Sheet Music 

Take a piece of sheet music for piano and name every single note in the piece. By the time you have finished one piece of sheet music, you will have the notes memorized. It shouldn't take you longer than a few hours the first day to get through all of the notes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Music Instruments for Toddlers

8:00:00 AM
Glockenspiels are made of several smaller metal plates that create specific pitches when struck with a mallet. This is a great toy for a toddler, as it requires no experience to produce a sound and is relatively inexpensive. Small toy versions and miniature professional versions are available, depending on your budget. Allow your toddlers to experiment with the toy at their leisure. This helps them to learn cause and effect, with the added benefit of exposure to high and low pitches.


Drums are relatively inexpensive and come in a large variety of styles. There are buffalo drums, toy snares, and hand drums that your toddler can bang to create sound. Make this even more interesting for the toddler by purchasing several mallets for him to use. Look for feeling, rubber, wood and even string mallets so your toddler can hear how different mallets change the drum's sound.


While a toddler won't be able to play correct recorder fingerings or learn songs, she'll still love to blow on recorders to produce sound. Toddlers’ natural inquisitiveness will propel them to cover the holes on the recorder to produce different pitches. As they grow older, they'll learn to associate fingers with notes and start playing songs. Recorders are wonderful introductions to concert woodwind instruments such as the flute and clarinet.

Toy Pianos

Toy pianos with plastic keys are popular and safe instruments for toddlers. Toddlers love to experiment with pressing the keys and playing different tones on the piano. This sort of exposure probably won’t make them virtuoso pianists, but it can certainly help to foster a healthy attitude towards the piano if you plan to provide your child with piano instruction later in life.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Structure of a Piano Concerto

8:00:00 AM
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.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Uses for Music Degrees

8:00:00 AM
From performance to business, music degrees provide several career opportunities

Music degrees can provide you with a secure future in careers both directly and indirectly related to music. It is important to remember that a Bachelor of Music degree comes with the benefits of an advanced education. Music students will still study the required core subject areas of the university and will be prepared to enter into several occupations.


Becoming a performer is a very real and practical option for someone with a music degree. Musicians who have stage presence, an ability to maintain professional connections, and discipline can succeed as performers in orchestras, small ensembles and even solo careers.


Musicians with music degrees can work in private and public schools; they must obtain the appropriate certification to teach in public schools. Advanced degrees in music also make it possible to pursue professional music positions in universities and colleges.


Musicians have to regularly interact with other musicians, work as a team and pay close attention to what is going on around them. This is excellent training for any business as music teaches students to adapt quickly to change and react appropriately to decisions and group meetings. According to the Live Science website, "Learning to play a musical instrument changes the brain, leading to a slew of potential benefits, including improved learning and understanding of language." These are essential skills for many professional business people; some with music degrees move into administrative positions with orchestras and other arts organizations.

Graduate and Specialized Schools 

According to the Peabody Institute "There are doctors, lawyers, and psychologists out there who did their undergraduate work in music." Musicians are commonly accepted into medical school, law school and graduate programs in non-musical fields. The skills and discipline required to learn an instrument are applicable to any professional field of study. Musicians are accustomed to practicing long hours and studying abstract theoretical concepts. This sort of training is invaluable in many careers.

References Peabody Institute: What Can You Do With a Music Degree [] Live Science: Music "Tones the Brain" []

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Are Aleatoric Elements in Music?

8:00:00 AM
Chance music allows the composer to roll the dice with compositional elements.

Although the first half of the 20th century saw an increase in highly formalized and restricted compositions, the second half saw the emergence of a restrictive antithesis. Composers were starting to write music that gave the performer more control over the performance of a piece of music. Aleatoric music gave additional creative responsibility to the performer and left some elements of the music up to chance. Keep reading to find out more about this extraordinary development in Western art music.

Aleatoric Music

Aleatoric music gives more creative responsibility to the composer.

Aleatoric music allows the performer to control certain aspects of a composition. The composer will decide ahead of time which elements are aleatoric. The elements left to chance can include one or all of the following elements: medium, expression, duration, pitch or form.


Instruments may be left to the performer to decide in chance music.

The medium is another way of talking about the instruments employed in the piece. Much like the beginning of the Baroque period where pieces didn’t specify particular instrumentation, in the 20th century, some pieces allowed for performance on a variety of instruments. The main requirement would be whether the instrument could perform the music. If the instrument was suited to the part, then it was acceptable to use it. This allowed performers greater variety in the overall ensemble sound and texture.


The dynamics of the piece may be left to the performer with aleatoric music.

Expression is not the expression that one might carry on his face when trying to play a difficult passage. Rather, it is the dynamics, or loudness and softness, of a piece. By allowing the performer to choose how loud or soft to play certain sections, a freedom in interpretation arises. The performer can choose to play a piece quietly to create a somber mood or loudly to inspire emotion or even fear. The dynamic level of a piece can drastically change the perception of the work.


How long to hold specific elements may be left to chance.

Duration refers to the individual pitches length and could refer to the actual time that a section repeats. Musicians may play a particular motive for an unspecified length of time. They may also have to choose how fast or slow to play the piece. Duration can drastically alter the sound of a composition. Try playing Brahms at a snail's pace and it will begin to sound a little like Wagner.


The highness or lowness of pitch can be determined by the performer.

A composer might choose to allow the performer to pick from a set of several pitches or may write a rhythm in which the performer must decide upon the pitches. This type of modification can have a drastic effect on the composition. With performers given the freedom to change pitches, no two versions of the piece will be alike. It is possible to listen to the same piece several times and not be able to identify it by anything but the rhythm.


The formal building blocks can be moved around in chance music.

The form is the final element that composers of aleatoric music will leave up to the performer. With this type of change to the piece, the performer might be able to move entire sections. The middle of the piece might become the beginning and the beginning may move to the end. The piece can be reordered and played in such a way that it doesn't ever have a true ending. This can be useful for performers who need a piece of a set duration. By choosing the form, the composer has assured that every section is complete in itself. This allows for any combination of "musical blocks" to be set together.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Transcribing Audio to Written Notation

8:00:00 AM
Transcribing audio files to written notation requires persistent effort and a certain degree of musical knowledge to succeed. Musicians should already have an understanding of how to read music. Without this basic knowledge, it will not be possible to transcribe audio to written notation. For those that do have the knowledge to transcribe music methods exist to accomplish transcription successfully.


Looping refers to a process of taking a small segment of the audio and repeating it. This technique makes it possible to concentrate on a small portion of the music. If the music is slow, you can try looping each chord until you can accurately notate it. For faster music, it may be beneficial to purchase an audio editing program. Choose a program that will allow you to slow the music down significantly without distorting the sound. These programs are useful for beginners, but they should not be used as a long-term solution. Developing your speed and learning to transcribe music in real-time should take preference over using audio editing programs.

Musical Form

Transcribers determine the musical form before starting. This helps them set goals and makes it possible to map the progress of the transcription. Concentrate on one section at a time. By mapping out the musical form, it makes it easier to copy sections that are repeated. Most music will repeat parts with only slight variations. In a piece in ABA form, once you get the first A section done, you are effectively half-way done. Each new letter in an ABA form represents a new section.


If you are having trouble figuring out the melody and the harmony, try writing out the rhythm first. Once you get the rhythm notated correctly, it will be easier to write the melody. Often, notating the rhythm will be simpler than the melody. The rhythm will provide a roadmap on which to base the melody. Writing the melody first makes it possible for you to skip melodic pitches that you are having trouble identifying. This makes it possible for you to come back later and fill in the remaining pitches.


When transcribing a tonal piece, figure out the key signature first. Most melodies are stepwise, so if you can't find an exact pitch, writing the stepwise diatonic notes may help you. Don't worry about the leaps at first. Concentrate on filling in as much of the melody as you can, then go back and work out what the intervals that leap are.