Showing posts with label Bands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bands. Show all posts

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

Monday, January 7, 2019


Crush at Badger Bowl
Photo by ibm4381
When your band and you as the lead singer use electronic musical instruments such as the electric guitar, electric bass or the microphone etc, conducting a sound check is necessary to balance the sound of the instruments and your voice.

Your band members will sound check their own instruments and their systems such as the monitor first and then you, the singer or the vocal section will do your own sound check last once the sound system for the musical instruments is already well balanced. Soundcheck in this sequence will enable you to hear how you sound when you are actually singing with your band.

At the sound check, make sure that your microphone is free from its stand if you want to move around or dance during your singing performance. Also, ask the sound equipment technicians for a monitor to be placed in front of you so that you can hear yourself sing. If you can get your hands on a pair of sound monitor earpiece, that will be better because this will give you more room to prance around and entertain your audience and fans.

How to sound check the singer's microphone?

Your singing voice when produced by the microphone should be louder and above the sounds produced by the band so that your voice can carry the songs well and able to portray your feel, song interpretation and emotions clearly. Sometimes, this may result in loud feedbacks (that loud piercing screeching sound produced by the microphone) so much so that your sound technician or yourself must know where the maximum volume can be before the irritating screeching feedback occurs. The sound technician should mark this threshold on his soundboard control.

During the crescendo parts of songs, move away from the microphone so that you do not trigger feedback and move back in again during the softer part of the songs. By doing this, you are not only able to control feedbacks, but you will also not irritate sensitive audience who may not enjoy loud singing. On the other hand, when the singing is soft and you are far away from your audience, they may not be able to make out what you are singing and that is why you need to move closer to the microphone when the interpretation of the song calls for you to sing softly.

It is important to watch out for consonants or lyrics beginning with 'P's and 'B's. When you are singing loudly into the microphone, these consonants may cause explosive pop sounds on the microphone. If you think 'M', you will be able to prevent 'please' and 'baby' exploding out of the speakers.

The final sound check

At the end of the sound check session, you and your band must run through a couple of songs. This is done not only because you want to hear whether the sound is good from the audience perspective but also whether all your band members can hear themselves, the band as a whole and sound from their monitors.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

BANDS Known By Initials

From left to right, John Fogerty, Stu Cook, an...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In rock ‘n’ roll history there have been many bands whose moniker and names were shortened and universally recognized by abbreviated lettered names.  Let’s explore some popular initial nicknames of bands.

Creedence Clearwater Revival (also known as CCR) began churning out classic rock ‘n’ roll singles shortly after the John Fogerty led band formed in 1967.  With their “swamp-rock” sound and style, the group amassed seventeen top 40 hits like “Bad Moon Rising,” “Green River,” and the wedding band staple “Proud Mary.”  The group disbanded in 1972 and any hopes of a CCR reunion were quashed with the death of band member Tom Fogerty in 1990.

Another 60's band that had huge commercial success was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, also known as CSN & Y.  Band members David Crosby (formerly of the Byrds), Graham Nash (of Hollie's fame), Stephen Stills and Neil Young (both with Buffalo Springfield), blended their flawless harmonies into a long and successful career.  With hits such as the Nash-led “Teach Your Children,” Neil Young’s antiwar protest song “Ohio” and a Joni Mitchell composition “Woodstock” about the legendary rock festival, CSN & Y blended their unique acoustic-folk and progressive hard rock sound to be a classic example of the 1960's psychedelic era.  Additionally, after Young left the group, Crosby, Stills and Nash (also known as CSN) continued to release melodic pop/rock songs with 1977's “Just A Song Before I Go” and “Wasted On The Way,” which was released in 1982.  The group still tours, occasionally joined by Young.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive performing live in Ör...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Hard-rocking Bachman-Turner Overdrive, or simply BTO consisted of Randy Bachman (formerly of the Guess Who), fellow Guess Who alum Chad Allen, C.F. “Fred” Turner and Randy’s brother drummer Robbie.  Capitalizing on the arena rock/pop rock era of the mid 70's, BTO had a short but successful career with chart singles such as “Takin’ Care Of Business,” “Let It Ride” and the number one single “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” a song which was intended for an audience of one- Randy’s brother Gary Bachman who had a speech impediment-stuttering.  They recorded the song for fun but needing another song to complete the lp “Not fragile,” Randy Bachman was pressured to include the joking stuttering lyrics and the song spent twelve weeks on the Billboard charts in 1974.

There are many other rock ‘n’ roll bands that were known by initials as well as their “given” name and I will include a couple more that I know of.  The Electric Light Orchestra (also known as ELO) led by guitarist Jeff Lynne, scored twenty top ten hits with songs like “Telephone Line and “Don’t Bring Me Down.”  A similar sounding name ELP was a supergroup consisting of keyboard genius Keith Emerson, bassist Greg lake (of the band Nice) and drummer Carl Palmer (a former member of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown).  They instilled their keyboard dominated, progressive rock throughout the 70's, creating an FM radio phenomenon with songs like “Lucky Man,” “Still You Turn Me On” and “From The Beginning.”