Sunday, October 18, 2020

Beginner OBOE - Choosing an Instrument

An oboe
An oboe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For a beginner oboe player, the first step in the learning process is a rather obvious one, - to purchase an instrument to play on. There are a number of issues to consider in making the ideal choice. These could probably be divided into three main issues; - the type of instrument, the cost of the instrument and the make of instrument.

THE TYPE OF INSTRUMENT: There are two main fingering systems for the oboe. These are the "Thumb-Plate System" and the "Conservatoire System". Most of the fingerings are identical but there are just a few differences around the C & Bb fingerings in the middle of the instrument. I am not going to go into further detail over this here. Your best bet is to consult a player who will be able to demonstrate the two systems. In the UK the vast majority of players use the Thumb-plate system whereas on the Continent of Europe most use the Conservatoire. Each country tends to have its own 'school' of oboe playing which will focus on one or other of the systems. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter as both systems have their strengths and weaknesses. You will find that people who play on the Conservatoire system claim that it is the better one and those who play on the Thumb-plate make a similar claim. If you are having lessons with a teacher let he/she guide you.

Some of the popular professional oboes now have a combined system which incorporates both finger systems on the one instrument. If you are a beginner oboe player, you are highly unlikely to be playing on such an oboe.

There is also the issue of the instrument quality to take into consideration. Some of the pointers here will be covered by the sections below, but there are different levels of instrument, i.e. - student models, intermediate models and full professional models. The difference between the cheapest of these and the most expensive runs into thousands of pounds/dollars.

THE COST OF THE OBOE: This is a tricky one as the Oboe is significantly more expensive than either the flute or clarinet. Instruments in the UK range in price from around Pound 1000 for a good student instrument to about Pound 7000 for a professional instrument. Always go to a reputable oboe or woodwind specialist to purchase an instrument and not just go for the cheapest oboe you can find on eBay or you are likely to end up with an instrument of highly dubious quality. The oboe is demanding enough to play even when you have a good instrument. If your oboe is poorly made it will be a nightmare to play.

Many of the specialist retailers will have hire schemes of one kind or another which will allow you to try out an oboe for a trial period before making the final purchase. Until you start to play you can never be sure whether you will take to the instrument or not. There will also be financial arrangements to allow you to spread the cost. Schemes such as this will only usually be available through the 'good' specialist shops. These arrangements can be very helpful to a beginner oboe player.

THE MAKE OF INSTRUMENT:The makes of oboe you will find available will depend on where you are in the world. Here in the UK we have, Howarth of London, who manufacture a whole range of instruments from student to full professional. Their instruments are excellent. Other oboes readily available in the UK are Loree, Marigaux, Ward & Winterbourne, Buffet and Yamaha, all of which are quality instruments. If you live elsewhere investigate available instruments and check their relative merits.

A final word on the purchase of an oboe, if you don't know exactly what you need then ask someone who can give you informed and unbiased advice. For a beginner oboe player you simply must have a good instrument to start on or you will find the whole experience of learning very dispiriting.

    Robert Hinchliffe is a professional oboist, composer, teacher, conductor and music director. This article is based upon over 35 years of both playing and teaching the oboe. If you have found this article helpful and would like to know more, please visit
    Article Source: EzineArticles

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Composers Corner - A Brief Biography of Wolfgang A MOZART

Drawing of Mozart in silverpoint, made by Dora...
Drawing of Mozart in silverpoint
made by Dora Stock during
Mozart's visit to Dresden, April 1789
(Photo credit: 
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [1756 - 1791] began his amazing but tragically brief musical career as a child prodigy, making appearances as an accomplished violinist and keyboard player from the age of five. He was born in Salzburg in what is now the country of Austria, and lived most of his life in that land (then known as the Holy Roman Empire), although he travelled extensively throughout Europe -- in the company of his family as a child, and later on his own so as to supervise premieres of the various musical works he composed.

Despite Mozart's relatively short life -- the cause of his death at age 35 has been attributed to various ailments down through the years, although it was most likely a recurrence of rheumatic fever -- he was incredibly prolific as a composer. His material clearly exemplified what is known as the Classical style, the period of music that immediately followed the Baroque. In addition to 41 symphonies and close to a dozen masses and other large choral works (including his Requiem, which was left unfinished at his death), Mozart composed hundreds of chamber music pieces for various solo instruments and ensembles. Despite his success as a composer, however, he struggled financially throughout most of his life.

The era in which Mozart lived was a financially perilous one for writers of music. Without wealthy patrons to sponsor their works, most composers ended up working for the church in various roles. This might include organist, concertmaster, choir director, or some combination of the three. In his late teens, Mozart was assistant concertmaster for the archbishop of Salzburg but tired of the drudgery of composing only liturgical music while working with a group of equally low-paid musicians. Through the influence of his father, Leopold, a more prestigious post as Salzburg court organist was arranged; this helped raise his profile with the monarchy, which was where the real money resided.

Following Wolfgang's marriage to Constanze Weber in 1782 -- the couple relocated to Vienna soon after they were wed -- and thanks to the successes he enjoyed from having his music (especially operas) proliferate throughout Europe, five years later Emperor Joseph II named Mozart to succeed Christoph Willibald Gluck as the court's official chamber composer. Despite the relative financial stability, this position afforded him, Mozart's extravagant lifestyle outstripped his ability to pay for it. In a way, though, the world of music is the beneficiary of this indebtedness. Because of all the money he borrowed to pay for a fashionable Viennese apartment, private schooling for the two children (out of six) who survived infancy, the years 1787 through 1791 were his most prolific by far.

While his instrumental works remain the core of his legacy -- an expert once suggested that a Mozart composition is being performed somewhere in the world every second of every day -- it is his operas that seem to have enjoyed the greatest acclaim down through the years. Among his most famous pieces are works from his mature years, including Die Zauberflöte ("The Magic Flute"), The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte (roughly translated as "Women Are Like That"), the latter three collaborations with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. But some of his earlier operas continue to enjoy support on the world's stages, notably Abduction from the Seraglio [1782]. His final opera was La Clemenza di Tito, which premiered only three months before he died.

The video clip that accompanies this article is the final scene from "The Marriage of Figaro." The performers include Bryn Terfel [Figaro], Alison Hagley [Susanna], Rodney Gilfrey [Count Almaviva], and Hillevi Martinpelto [Countess Almaviva]. The conductor is John Eliot Gardiner.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Classic ROCK PERFORMERS Who Have Had A Lasting Influence On Music

Classic rock is a fundamental part of American history. Many of today's leading bands can trace their styles back to the influence of certain musicians. While every song made available to the world has had an impact on the music industry, there are certain performers who will eternally stand at the forefront of music.

From folk-rock to psychedelic rock, there have been many groundbreaking sounds and voices. Here are the top ten most influential classic rock bands in history.

A cropped photograph depicts singer Elvis Pres...
Elvis Presley's bust.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Elvis Presley

While Elvis is not traditionally viewed in the classic rock genre, it is impossible to ignore his influence on the world of Rock-n-Roll. As the first to expose mainstream America to something other than traditional family music, he faced a tremendous amount of opposition from the mainstream.

Despite the extreme racism exhibited during the 1950's, Elvis never hesitated to give appropriate credit to his inspirations. Mainly African-American performers influenced Elvis' sound and style. Southern radio disc jockeys originally refused to play Elvis' singles, because they sounded "too Negro" for white stations to air.

It was not just Elvis' sound, but also his performance, that drew controversy. The movement of his hips in a suggestive manner sparked an entire decade of debate.

Despite the firestorm of criticism that surrounded Elvis' reign, his continuing popularity has ensured that Elvis' crown as the King of Rock and Roll would remain valid for decades, even decades after his death.

The Beatles

As the best-selling musical act of all-time, it is hard to deny the influence of the Beatles, not only on the musical culture of America but also on every aspect of human life. The Beatles included John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Star, and George Harrison.

Their innovative style defined the music of the 1960s -- twice. They began their career in England, and when they came to America, they were already a huge success in the United States. In their early years, they had defined pop music for a new generation.

As the hippy days of the late 1960s began to take hold of America's young people, the Beatles redefined their music again, with another new style of music lauded by the masses. Their very loud stance on drug use and war made them a controversial group, but their popularity never wavered. Although the Beatles retained the loyalty and admiration of their late 1960's audiences until the group broke up, the touring days of the Beatles ended in 1966 when John Lennon proclaimed, "The Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ."

Bob Dylan

Dylan has one of the most easily recognizable voices in the world. Raspy and full of passion, Bob Dylan's sound is distinctive. His songs are amazing and defined a generation obsessed with the themes of social unrest, an anti-war stance, and encouragement for the civil rights movement.

A traditional folk singer, Dylan's works transcended all genres and appealed to countless young Americans. His sincere lyrics spoke to many and made it possible to empathize with his many causes.

English: Jimi Hendrix performs for Dutch telev...
Jimi Hendrix performs for the Dutch television show
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jimi Hendrix

As the undisputed master of the electric guitar, Jimi Hendrix is a classic rock foundation. The self-taught guitar player refused to be limited by many of the conventional views of guitar players.

Prior to Jimi Hendrix's development as a guitar player, the electric guitar was considered to merely be a louder version of the acoustic guitar. Hendrix embraced the uniqueness of the electric guitar and showed his appreciation for it to the rest of the world.

Pink Floyd

Easily considered the greatest band of all time, Pink Floyd's unique style and showmanship defined psychedelic rock. Their concept albums were thematic masterpieces that appealed to countless audiences. The Dark Side Of The Moon, Animals, and The Wall each still stand out today as great Rock masterpieces.

The Who

Also known for their thematic records, The Who pioneered the idea of rock opera. Most famous for their collaborative efforts with every major musical figure of their time, Tommy The Rock Opera ensured the longevity of the band into the future.

Their success and fame were not limited to their unique approach to concept albums. Their musical skills are still highly regarded in both mainstream circles and in the entertainment industry. Their music is currently being used as the theme song for at least three of the most popular show on TV on the air today.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones have easily maintained their position as one of the longest-lasting bands in recording history. Like most popular rock bands of the age, they were an England-based band that was more than happy to take on America.

Their grungy unkempt image became so popular; many artists are still attempting to master it. Their unique sound and high-quality lyrics have kept them at the top of the charts for almost 40 years.


Cream, featuring guitarist Eric Clapton, was one of the most technically advanced music groups of their time. Their instrumental techniques became legendary and paved the way for other bands to focus on developing their instrument techniques, in addition to their lyrics.

The Doors

The Doors have always been one of the most controversial bands that had ever existed. Jim Morrison's wild behavior sets the tone for the countless musical bad boys that would follow in his footsteps.

The poetic lyrics of The Doors, as well as their outrageous behavior, made them a crowd favorite.

Led Zeppelin

The road to heavy metal was paved by Led Zeppelin. Their first album was pivotal in its inclusion of distorted amplification techniques. Over the years, their experimentation included mixing acoustic and electric sounds, with the addition of synthesized melodies. The success of Led Zeppelin helped establish a strong base for the development of metal music.

Few people of their generation or the current generation realize that like Elvis, Led Zeppelin took most of their inspiration from African-American performers. As a lifelong fan of Led Zeppelin, it is was oddly fascinating to listen to some of the not-so-famous African-American rhythm-and-blues performers of the 1930s, and to be able to hear the Led Zeppelin songs we have loved for years in a whole new way.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, these ten bands had a significant impact on the evolution of Rock-n-Roll music through the generations, but it is more difficult to put them into an ordered list of important groups. Let's just agree that most of us love all ten bands on this list.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Mastering VIRTUAL DRUMS for the Live Beat Maker - BEATH THANG

Every music creator, regardless of his or her type or size, feels the urge to impress a screaming audience and become not only a music creator but a creator of amazing concerts as well. A showman or show woman, if you will. But if you’re more of a beatmaker than a music creator per se, chances are that you write music on software instruments like virtual drums.

The problem with writing music on virtual drums is that it doesn’t translate into live performance the same way more traditional music creators can warp their craft for such. So what is a beatmaker, a different animal than a pure music creator, to do?

Become a beatmaker on virtual drums that make the live performance as easy as possible, of course! Most virtual drum sequencers used by beatmakers require the navigation of a laptop while on stage, or the mental ability to use piano keys as drum pads.

Virtual drum studios like Beat Thang (this tool does a whole lot more than just drums, but more on that later) has a user interface with pads that can be converted for any noise and will make more visual sense to beatmakers using it for virtual drums than the interfaces mentioned above.

To get a little more specific, let’s take a look at exactly the things Beat Thang allows music creators to do on stage, virtual drums, or not. Aside from the familiarity of the above-mentioned keypad, Beat Thang most impressively offers real-time looping with virtually no load time. This means that beat makers and other music creators can make loops on the fly during a live set.

There will be no load time delay, which is especially important if you’re looping virtual drums. As any beatmaker knows, even the slightest mishap in a drum loop and the whole thing sounds off.

Beat Thang’s features were designed by professional musicians for all levels of musician, so it’s no surprise that they came up with this next feature for beatmakers: the ability to design your own effects (reverb, delay, chop & screw parameters, etc.) and program them in pre-sets to use when performing live.

Any music creator or beatmaker knows how great it can be to have a sound you designed in your back pocket to use when just the time is right during your set. If you tweaked every individual virtual drum kit sound, you could potentially create a set the likes of which have never been heard before, except only in your head!

Beat Thang also has patents pending for side-mounted pitch shift and modulation wheels, another feature music creators and beatmakers could use for every sound on Beat Thang. Even an instrument like virtual drums that are atonal would sound more interesting with the occasional pitch shift.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

FRIEDRICH HANDELS Oratorio "Israel in Egypt"

Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Deutsch: Ge...
Georg Friedrich Händel (1733)
(Photo credit: 
"Israel in Egypt" stands out among the oratorios composed by Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759) with its rich use of the choir and extraordinary scope of tone painting.

Most oratorios by Handel differ from those of his predecessors and contemporaries in the musically and dramatically importance given to the choir, but with "Israel" this has reached an even higher level.

No doubt, this oratorio contains many excellent solo songs, but the overall impression of the composition is determined by the impressive choral scenes.

As these already are examples for the highest artistic creativity, the admiration still increases if you know the original material used by Handel for his composition and note the superior finesse with which he introduced parts that create dramatic tension.

Also, the strong, graphic character of Handel's work, his love for nature, the most important source of his inspiration, are nowhere more strongly expressed than in "Israel in Egypt". Using an elated tone painting, in particular, the representation of the Egyptian plagues offers an excellent motive for a naturalistic but never trivial representation.

"Israel in Egypt" is close to the very successful "Messiah", with the similar use of the figure of a narrator who links the historical images with short recitals, likewise the fact that the whole text is taken directly from the Bible.

Georg Friedrich Handel started composing "Israel in Egypt" on October 1st, 1738 and completed it on November 1st of the same year.

The first performance on April 4th, 1739, was unkindly received, as a large amount of parts for the choir, which were utilized to express the ideas and actions of the composition, was not understood. Händel, if the reports of different contemporaries can be believed, was deeply struck for the first time in his life and tried to meet the taste of the time by interposing solo songs and organ music in a new version.

Only in the 19-th century, the commitment of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847) could lend certain popularity to Handel's oratorio.