Saturday, April 20, 2019

Learn to Play the FLUTE - Find Out How Easy it Is!

English: Yankees considered education very muc...
Yankees considered education very much the study of music. Most children learned to play the flute 

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can learn to play the flute through a variety of ways, not just the traditional private lessons once a week for 30 minutes or one hour.  If you're an adult beginner, this style of flute lessons is very difficult, sometimes impossible to stick with.

You're busy with work, taking care of your family, and all the other activities that adults have to deal with.

And how about finding free, uninterrupted practice time?  No wonder adults want to give up before they even start!

And it's too bad, too, because the dream of many adults is to learn to play the flute.  For whatever reason, an adult didn't learn to play the flute as a young person in school.  Maybe they thought the band was dumb, faced peer pressure not to be in a band, their school schedule didn't permit it, or their family couldn't afford to have them play in the band.

No need to wait any longer!  Today you can take flute lessons on the internet!  Your lesson time is whenever is convenient for you.  Break free from that rigid schedule the teacher sets up.

Sure I understand that teachers' time is valuable.  If someone sets up a lesson time, then the teacher should be paid for that time.  Otherwise, a teacher couldn't stay in business.  But if that schedule is too constrictive for the adult student, well, the adult student will probably not start to learn to play the flute or quit.

  Somebody is always throwing a monkey wrench into adults' schedules:  the boss, children's school, or any number of small crises that pop up.

On-line lessons are a convenient way to learn to play the flute.  Fire them up whenever you're ready!

Are you worried that these prerecorded lessons won't cover the topics you have questions about?  Learning to play the flute is pretty basic and there is a very good possibility that everything you need to know has already been addressed.  If not, e-mail the teacher or web site owner and ask for another lesson on that trouble spot.

Hey, don't give up that dream! If you want to learn to play the flute, you still can!  Turn on your computer and get out your flute--it's your lesson time!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Learning to Enjoy MARIMBAS

Folk marimba with gourds, Highland Guatemala
Folk marimba with gourds, Highland Guatemala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Marimbas are wooden keyboard instruments in the percussion family of instruments. Players usually strike the keys with two - four mallets and one instrument may be played by one or two players; depending on the orchestral piece, you may even see three or more marimbists playing the same instrument. Marimbas are wooden instruments that resemble xylophones and they accentuate the unique harmonies and rhythms of the music. 

Other instruments in the percussion family include such instruments as cymbals, chimes, the triangle, bells, to name just a few. The marimba is a pitched percussion instrument. Other pitched percussion instrument examples include the timpani, the vibraphone, the glockenspiel, and chimes

Marimbas are used mainly for 20th Century music orchestral music, usually, as a sound effect or as a solo instrument. The marimba actually had long solos in the soundtrack to the film American Beauty.
The marimba keys are arranged like the keys of a piano and they may have as many as 4 - 5.5 octaves of professional Orff-style marimba bars. The bars are tapped to play the notes, similar to the xylophone. Marimba bars are finely crafted from hardwoods such as rosewood, mahogany and padouk. The keys are fine-tuned to reflect the tones played in African societies.

For marimbas in the United States, the resonators under the wooden bars are usually metal and most likely aluminum. They are hollow metal pipes of different lengths with holes covered by thin cellophane (similar to the West African balafon). This is so that when the marimba is struck, you can hear the buzzing sound characteristic of these instruments.

The mallets generally have wooden shafts but may be made of fiberglass, as well. Rattan shafts are also available and they have a little bit of "give" to them while other materials do not. Depending on training and preference, a marimbist may like the flexible shaft better than the ones with no "give" or vice versa. The material that actually strikes the key is usually some type of rubber wrapped in yarn. The marimba keys themselves will define which type of mallet is used on which part of the keyboard. The harder mallets are usually used to strike the high notes and the softer mallets for the lower notes. This is particularly important in playing the marimba because a mallet that is too hard for the keys it strikes may damage the instrument.

Most marimba music calls for several mallets to be used in one composition. It is not uncommon to find 2-3 players stationed at the marimba during a performance. Because two or three people will wield four to six mallets, it is possible to hear beautiful chords coming from the instrument. Many marimba players also play with more than one mallet in each hand. Different methods have also been developed to hold the mallets necessary for a piece of music in one hand. The Burton grip and the Musser-Stevens grip are the two common methods of gripping multiple mallets and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

The repertoires of bands in the United-States tend to overlap, probably due to the fact that most of the marimba music is composed by the Zimbabwean musician Dumisani Maraire. He is one of the key people who first brought Zimbabwean music to the West, moving to and working at the University of Washington in 1968. He was a master at playing an instrument known as the mbira which greatly resembles a small hand-held instrument known as the thumb piano.

A marimba is an expensive but beautiful instrument. Professional marimbas start in the $2,000 range for a used instrument. They add an open tone to many different compositions that make them very unique and sought after in the instrument family.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

WAGNER's Goetterdaemmerung in Melbourne

English: Richard Wagner, Munich Slovenščina: N...
Richard Wagner, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Goetterdaemmerung as it happened

Wagner's Goetterdaemmerung completes the operatic tetralogy 'The Ring of the Nibelung', an allegory of greed and power set to addictive music of considerable complexity. In a nutshell: Siegfried, after rejecting his betrothed Bruennhilde, succumbs through Hagen's treachery to the curse Alberich has put on the ring, whereupon Bruennhilde returns the ring to the Rhine and causes the destruction of Valhalla, the new home of the corrupted gods.

The Goetterdaemmerung broadcast from Melbourne (13.12.13, the final night of the third Melbourne cycle) is very disappointing so far, not matching up to the hype at all. Pietari Inkinen's orchestral opening had no mystery. Tired, unruly, small voices were not able to convince in the Prologue. The orchestra was much too prominent. Siegfried's horn call lacked boisterous enthusiasm and the performance of his Rhine journey by the orchestra was pedestrian. Hagen and Gunther have redeemed things vocally somewhat in Act I and the blood-brotherhood duet between Siegfried and Gunther was powerfully delivered. Bruennhilde's sister Waltraute (Deborah Humble) at last injected some drama into the proceedings.

I am hoping for mystery at the beginning of Act II. In the event, at least on the radio, Warwick Fyfe as Alberich has a live presence, no figment of the sleepy Hagen's imagination. He makes Alberich's complex music portray sharply the dwarf's dangerous and elemental nature.

Hagen's famous call to the vassals was tremulous, but introduced real excitement into the wedding and revenge scenes. Susan Bullock as Bruennhilde sounded genuinely shocked and distressed. Barry Ryan's regal anger as Gunther was also evident. The revenge trio was a vocal and dramatic climax to the Act.

Superb singing from the Rhine maidens at the beginning of Act III. Apparently, they are dressed like Follies; I think I am glad I can't see the production (I'm watching The Ashes cricket concurrently, with the TV's sound off).

Siegfried's Erzaehlung is going very well (I'm taking a leaf out of a cricket commentator's book); Stefan Vinke has now warmed up vocally, and the orchestral accompaniment has receded into the background: perhaps he's right at the front of the stage.

Hagen's 'Meineid raechte ich' descended totally into melodrama, but Vinke has restored the intensity with the conclusion of his monologue. The orchestra have at last excelled themselves in Siegfried's funeral music and Susan Bullock has found opportunities for a chamber-music restraint, rich with sorrow. Her Immolation is shaping up to be the emotional and vocal high point of the performance. The orchestral playing at the conclusion, offering hope for the future of mankind, is powerful and convincing.

What a trajectory. Rather like Australia's first innings in Perth.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

SALSA DANCING Burns Calories

Salsa dancing
Salsa dancing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Experts agree that dancing salsa can burn up to 10 calories per minute. But best of all, salsa dancing is easy to do. It’s an excellent workout exercise that combines aerobic and anaerobic training.

Let me explain the difference between the two…

Aerobic – Specifically refers to the use of the same large muscle group, rhythmically, for a period of 15 to 20 minutes or longer while maintaining 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. Basically it’s doing an activity for a long period of time at low intensity. Activities using aerobic exercise include jogging, swimming, walking, biking and cross-country skiing.

Anaerobic - Anaerobic activity refers to activities that are short in duration and high in intensity. Some anaerobic activities include: weight lifting, sprinting, racquetball, downhill skiing, softball, soccer and football. Its high intensity and works the muscles quickly and rigorously.

Aerobic refers to air or oxygen. To easily remember the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise just think that since aerobic is air or oxygen, that these types of activities should allow you to speak while performing the activity without gasping for air. If you are gasping for air during your activity you are most likely working anaerobically – which means faster, harder and at a higher intensity.

The continual movement of the salsa dance style steadily burns calories but also tones the body – most specifically the legs. But not only does it tone the body but it also adds strength to muscles without the high impact of most other exercises like weight training or running.

Salsa is also an excellent exercise choice because it combines individual dance routines that can also be paired up with a partner. Actually, salsa dancing can be practiced alone and then adding a partner for added excitement. The social charm that partnered with salsa dancing has is very appealing.

A night of dancing is an excellent workout. If you are just learning to salsa dance you most likely will be working anaerobically. But as you advance to quicker salsa movements that are more complex like the professional salsa dancers twirling through the air with jumps and intense spins requiring strength, you will most likely be working your body anaerobically. This means that your muscles are working at a high-intensity level.

In general, salsa dancing is an excellent workout. You’ll get fit, more toned and look better but also have fun while you’re doing it! Start joining the salsa craze now by visiting

Friday, March 29, 2019

COMPOSING for the Beginning Band

Perhaps there is no greater challenge to a serious composer of school band sheet music than creating an interesting and challenging composition for either the young band or the beginning band.   Composing for these groups is not the focus of the university composition programs.  The education of the composer in major universities covers all aspects of music composition from learning to write Bach style fugues to film scoring.  

The set of skills that the band music composer obtains at the university is complex and complete, but writing band music for beginning band requires composers to develop a new mindset.    Composers must write motifs, rhythms, and forms that are clearly understandable to young band students and to put those elements together in a way that will motivate beginning band students to work hard and learn more.  It is not easy to write sheet music that will energize young band students and at the same time meet the restrictions of the first or second year learning levels.

An example of band music that does meet the requirements of a successful beginning band composition is “Abacus” by Tom Tucker of PDF Band Music.  A quick look at the score of “Abacus” reveals that no instrument range exceeds the notes learned by an average beginning band student.    Clarinet parts to not cross the “break” and the highest note for trumpet is fourth line “D”.  Rhythmically this sheet music does have some sixteenth notes in the percussion parts, but in all other parts, the most complex rhythm is eighth notes.

The middle section of “Abacus” is interesting because of the variety of time signatures.  Beginning with a two-measure phrase in ¾ time the melodic line ascends stepwise up to a major fifth.  The ¾ measures are followed by a measure of 4/4 time and then a measure of 2/4 time.  The dynamic changes from pianissimo to forte and the variety of time signatures give this section of “Abacus” a unique flavor and yet, it is very playable by beginning band students.

“Abacus” is an excellent example of how band sheet music can be composed in such a way that the beginning band student, the conductor, and the audience feel they are performing and listening to sheet music of merit.

Much of the challenge of energizing young band students to continue to musically achieve is on the shoulders of band music composers.   There has never been a better time for composers of band sheet music to publish because of the growing number of online music publishing websites such as