Friday, October 5, 2018

CLARINET Tone and Tuning

English: Bb- and A-Clarinet, German System (wi...
Bb- and A-Clarinet
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The enjoyment of musical performance by both the performer and listener depends on several factors apart from the work being performed, two of these are the instruments tonal qualities and its tuning.

The clarinet tone is dependent on the design and construction of the instrument, the clarinet reed and the skill of the player developed over many years of practice.

Instrument design and construction has gradually been improved over the years and quality instruments are now capable of producing a very fine tone indeed, given a good quality instrument the bore of the Clarinet will affect the tone and this has become a fashion thing which has varied over the years, a slightly larger diameter bore will produce more of a mellow tone than a smaller bore which would be referred to as a bright sound, however, it must be recognized that the player has a great influence on the sound produced.

Factors affecting tone are the air supply and how the player controls its flow into the instrument with the tongue together with the lips controlling the reed, a steady flow of air into the instrument is achieved by control from the diaphragm, I prefer to think of it as breathing into the instrument rather than blowing. A fine tone can only be developed by playing long sustained notes and slow tunes as part of the daily practice over the formative years, in fact, this aspect of practice should always be part of the daily routine.

Clarinet tuning is, of course, a very important part of the player's activity, and yet it is an activity which is frequently misunderstood by conductors and players, modern quality clarinets have come a long way in this respect the over the past fifty years but we still see players setting up their instruments incorrectly.

The availability of affordable electronic tuners certainly helps but the recognition of the correct procedure is frequently missing. The body of most common instrument pitched in B flat is made in five parts, starting at the top we have the mouthpiece, the barrel, the upper joint, the lower joint and the bell.

At the end of the mouthpiece and the upper and lower joints cork covered tenon's push into the barrel and the bell, the method of tuning most frequently adopted is to warm up the instrument by playing for a few minutes, temperature will cause the pitch to rise, and then with the joints pushed together play B with all holes covered, this will be a little sharp, then pull out the barrel to lower the pitch to the correct level, unfortunately this approach will put some parts of the instruments range out of tune!

The correct method of tuning is to start with all fingers off, this will give open G then adjust the barrel to bring G into tune, then play B with all holes covered and pull out the center joint to bring B into tune, a good instrument will then be in tune over most of its range, the highest register, above top C may need adjustment on some notes with the players embouchure.

    Adrian McQuire
    Amateur Clarinetist for over 55 years

    Article Directory: EzineArticles               

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Nothin' Fancy bluegrass band.
Nothin' Fancy bluegrass band. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bluegrass is a type of music that that is often mistaken for the blues. This type of music first emerged in the 1940’s during the time of World War II. The Blue Grass Boys are coined as being the founders of this type of music and that is where the name came from. There have been some changes in the forms of bluegrass that are offered though since then. Yet they all remain true to some common elements of the original type of bluegrass music. There are even forms of Christian bluegrass music out there. 

It has a sound that is quite similar but the lyrics and the flow of the songs sound very country as well. One element that makes bluegrass stand apart from other types is that it is acoustic in nature. You won’t find electrical gadgets hooked up to bands that are performing it. For this reason, bluegrass takes place in smaller and more intimate environments.

The main instruments found in bluegrass music all belong to the string category. You will find this sound is full of the fiddle, banjo, and various types of guitars. It has a very deep sound that is full of life and that is why people love it so much. Some of it doesn’t even have lyrics, just a very rich sound for people to enjoy.

The types of bluegrass music that do have lyrics also has several people singing them. There are different types of harmony that blend into one with this type of music. It isn’t uncommon for a bluegrass band to be made up of eight or ten members which are quite large compared to the bands for other types of music.

Bluegrass music may not be as popular as other types out there but it is still great to listen to. You may want to go online and hear some songs that are of the bluegrass genre. If you haven’t really listened to it before then you may find it very exciting to try something new. There is plenty of great bluegrass CD’s out there you can buy to listen to as well. Some of them are from one band or artist while others have a variety on them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Electric VIOLINS

English: Silent violin
Silent violin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are many different types of violins out there a person can choose to play. One that is popular for performing is the electric models. These are violins that are plugged into an amplifier. This allows the sound to be generated louder as well as a further distance. You will find many bands may incorporate the use of an electric violin in all of their songs or just a few of them to provide a more unique sound. These days you can find an electric guitar in just about any genre of music.

Some people think that the electric violin is a newer type of instrument. However, they have been around for about 85 years. Of course, these early models didn’t give the same quality of sound that you get today. This is a reason why they weren’t used very much for performing to large crowds. The feedback from them was an issue that could really annoy the audience as well as hinder the overall sound they were trying to produce. 

In order to ensure there isn’t any feedback from the use of an electric violin, they are designed a bit different from other types. The most significant difference is that the design of the body is solid. You will find the various types of wiring needed for the sound to be produced lives inside of the body of the violin.

The violin has always been a well-loved instrument for hundreds of years. It continues to evolve and to keep up with the advances in music technology. With an electric violin model, a person is able to get the sound they want from it. Yet they can use it to pay in front of hundreds or thousands of people without any problem.

Most music stores carry several models of electric violins that you can choose from. If you are interested in them go and try out some of them. You may have a particular manufacturer of musical instruments that you are loyal to. If that is the case then you should check to see if they make any types of electric violins. They are lovely instruments that will last a very long time. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Evolution Of BRASS

Brass instruments in the Musical Instrument Mu...
Brass instruments in the Musical Instrument Museum, Brussels, Belgium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Brass instruments are popular specifically in jazz and marching bands work because of the vibration of air against the inside of a brass tube. Another term for brass instruments is labrosones which means “lip vibrating instruments. One of the most popular of the brass instruments is the trumpet. 

Trumpets, though now crafted out of metal, were originally made out of the shell. They were not constructed in that medium, but rather whole shells were utilized (conch shells in particular) to create a horn sound. These original trumpets were used as ancient ritual musical in many ancient cultures. Like the modern trumpet, the sound was coaxed from the shell with the vibration of the player’s lips against the conical side of the shell or “mouthpiece.” 

Trumpets created out of can date back to as early as ancient Egypt and some specimens from this time still exist. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that the trumpet began to take on the look and sound that his has today. During that time, they began to add valves to the trumpet to give it the musical range we are familiar with. Earlier horns had no such range and could only play different pitches through the manipulation of the player’s lips.

The cornet and the trumpet are similar in history and design. In fact, it is impossible to talk about the history of one without mentioning the other. Both acquired keys during a similar period which allowed them both to increase their range. Keys and valves allow brass players to change pitch as they are playing a note. The valve can be opened and closed. When the valves are opened and closed to different degrees, different amounts of air flow through the instrument creating specific tones and pitches. Valves can be used alone or in coordination to emit different notes. Thought the trumpet is just one of many brass instruments, the community of jazz artists is tight-knit and embraces all players of all instruments. For example, this community is universally disappointed in the disappearance of one manufacturer, as explained below.

Couesnon, once a famous and well-admired producer of brass instruments, was in business for over 170 years. They had one particular horn, the flugelhorn that in the 1950’s because popular with American jazz trumpet artists. To the shock and dismay of brass and jazz enthusiasts, this cornerstone of brass horn culture stopped importing to the US in the late 1970’s and can now only be purchased through vintage instrument brokers.

Monday, October 1, 2018


Do you always need to have the sheet music to play a song? Do you wish you could sit down at the piano and just play like your favorite performers do?

Well, you are not alone. Most pianists feel the same way as you do.

But don’t give up just yet:

There is an easy way for you to conquer this problem, and it’s guaranteed to work.

The 3 x 5 Method

Part 1: Creating Your Tool In 5 Simple Steps:

All you need is a 3 x 5 index card to get started.

1. Mark off 4 empty measures evenly spaced across your index card (from left to right)

2. Place the chords for each measure between the bar lines.

3. Continue doing this for the entire song: always staying with 4 measures per line.

4. Use repeat signs as well as 1st and 2nd endings to save space as well as to simplify.

5. If the song has a bridge (middle section), draw a horizontal line below the verses and then place the chords in the same way as you did for the other measures.

Note: Many songs have 3rd verses that are the same or nearly the same as the 2nd.
No need to write these chords on the card.

Part 2: Using Your Index Card as Your Ticket to Success

1. Put the index card on the piano and play the chords with your left hand in time (slowly) as you look at them on the card instead of on the sheet music.

2. Next, focus exclusively on the first 4 measures. Look at the index card as you play the chords with your left hand and the melody with the right hand. You will surprise yourself at how easily you’ll be able to play the melody without music after a few minutes.

3. Repeat step #2 without the index card this time. Even if you need to refer to the card a couple of times, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be able to memorize this section.

4. Every time you practice, review the part of the song that you have already memorized. Once you can play this with confidence, follow the same process to memorize more of the song—always concentrate on 4 measure sections.

5. Carry your index card with you in your pocket or purse at all times. Anytime that you have a free moment—standing in line at the grocery store, sitting traffic, waiting for your meal to be served—pull out the card and review the names of the chords in order.
Remember to focus on 4 measure sections before moving ahead.

Part 3: Free at Last

1. Once you have the first song memorized, play your newly memorized song on as many pianos and keyboards as possible. You may need to refer to the index card occasionally. That’s okay. You’ll still be building up your confidence.

2. Start working on another song and follow this same method. This will actually help you play your first memorized song better because you’re now developing this habit.

3. Set a goal such as: “I play 5 songs beautifully and confidently from memory by…pick a date.” Review this goal 2 or 3 times every day.

4. Use visualization to help you: picture yourself playing the piano effortlessly a concert stage, as the center of attention at a party or just sitting in your living room alone.

The instrument is clear of all traces of music, and you are smiling from ear to ear.

5. Listen to recordings of your memorized song by great performers to inspire you.

Action Exercises

Here are three things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action.

First, spend part of your daily practice sessions working on your songs to be memorized. Your investment of a few minutes every day will yield powerful results.

Second, copy the chords onto an index card for each song you want to memorize. The act of writing alone helps to imprint the chords into your memory.

Third, review the chords on your 3 x 5 card every time you have a free moment. Your time away from the piano will become a turbocharger for your time at the piano.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Short History of OPERA

Queen of the NIght
Queen of the Night - Magic Flute - Photo   by   VilleHoo
Opera is an entertainment style involving combined with orchestral music and singers who perform with characteristic classical method top project their voice. Besides being trained in singing, the Opera performers are also trained in stagecraft.

Opera was invented by a group of actors the mid-1500s in the Italian city of Florence, they were actually performing classical Greek theater. In addition, these actors were noble men educated in Latin and Greek.

The music style played in original Greek plays was quite simple with only a handful of instrumentalists playing flute, drums and lyre.

Fuller instruments often had drowned out the voice of the performers leading actors to develop techniques for amplifying the voice. This helped the singers to sing their parts. Singing allowed performers to project their voices further during the renaissance time as it was changing from religious austerity to more creative endeavors.

This new style of theater was becoming popular by the end of the 16th century. New productions especially are written for singing with accompaniment started appearing. The De Medici family in Florence paid a composer Jacopo Peri for the very first opera entitled 'Dafne' in 1598 performed in their private court. Unluckily much of the score was lost but it still has a place in the history of opera.

After few years, opera spread from Florence to the rest of Italy, German Principalities, far west as England, north to the Austrian Empire, Spain and France. Florence and other great Italian cities like Venice, Rome and Milan dedicated opera houses started to be built and tickets for performances sold. Venice took the lead starting in 1637 eventually becoming the spiritual and cultural home of opera.

One of the fathers of opera, Claudio Monteverdi took the decision early in his operas to add short performances within his works that were designed to appeal to a wider audience. Ultimately these short pieces were dropped as the crowds started to appreciate full length opera without interruption.

The growing demand for opera created different schools of thought on the nature of opera. Some composers preferred complex subtexts and interwoven plots while others preferred a modest approach.

As opera productions generally told the story of love, many characters appearing on stage were of course meant to be women, but renaissance society frowned on female actors which led all actors being men. This situation encouraged castrated men from all over Europe and the Arab world to make their way into the theater.

The language of original operas was written in the Italian of the great cities such as Florence and Venice. However, Opera proved popular in other languages and has been able to transcend the language barrier to become popular elsewhere in Germany and France. In the 20th century, English operas became very popular.

English opera had developed wholly different directions after getting banned during Cromwell's reign. After the return of the monarchy, opera prospered again but opera buffa proved more popular which led to a clearly English style of opera humor.

European immigrants in the US brought the love of opera with them and passionate Americans adopted the opera quickly as their own. In New York, the Metropolitan Opera company in the 20th century was leading in the development of modern opera providing a base for modern opera to flourish.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Asian Elegance of the WILLOW FLUTE

A simple willow whistle.
A simple willow whistle. 
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The willow flute is simple in design, as is the case with most flutes. It differs from most others, however, in that it does not have any finger holes to manipulate the sound that it emits. It has a fipple mouthpiece, meaning that the air escapes from a small hole just below where the musician blows into the instrument. The willow flute is also known as a sallow flute and was created by the Scandinavians and was often used in their traditional folk music. It is certainly a unique instrument that has its own unique sound and one that has been around for a fairly long time.

When the willow flute was first created, it was made out of the bark of willow trees and this is where its name came from. Today, this flute is often made out of plastic, like other types of flute such as the fife or recorder. When looking at how a willow or sallow flute is played, one might be curious at how one can alter the sound to create different notes.

Most other flutes have either finger holes or holes with keys that would allow a musician to manipulate the sound made by the flute in order to make different notes. This particular flute, however, does not have any finger holes; instead, the musician alters the sound that is made by the willow or sallow flute by changing the amount of air they blow into the instrument. To be more exact, the musician alters the pressure of the air blown into the instrument. The sound is also changed by the musician covering or uncovering the end of the willow flute. Covering the end of the flute actually creates certain overtones while leaving the end of the flute open allows for a different set of overtones to be created.

The willow or sallow flute is certainly unique in many different ways. First, its design is quite a difference from how other more typical flutes are created in that it does not have any finger holes drilled into the tube. It is also unique in the sound that it can create. While it may seem odd in how it is played in order to created different sounds, it is not an overly difficult instrument to learn. It can be quite challenging at first, but once someone gets used to it the instrument can be quite easy to play. It is not an overly expensive instrument and can be easier to acquire than other, more complicated instruments.

It may not be the best for a beginner, but it can be an instrument that a more experienced musician might enjoy. It can be more difficult for someone who is new to playing music because it is not like playing a recorder or some other basic flute. A person playing this particular instrument has to have good control of their breathing in order to create the sounds that they want. Once this is mastered, the instrument can be quite rewarding in the music that it can allow one to create.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

GUITAR LESSONS – String Bending

Example of bending on electric guitar
Example of bending on electric guitar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bending strings is used to give the guitar a more personalized and harmonic quality. The technique is used mostly by lead guitar players but is also applied in all styles of playing. String bending and vibrato techniques are two large components in making up a guitar player’s style. The combination of these skills more or less defines a considerable part of what makes your playing different than the next guy.

Bending the strings far enough to reach the desired pitch is the goal. One of the keys is to use three fingers to bend the string, instead of just one finger. Use your third finger on the fret you're bending and place your first and second fingers on the frets behind it, and use the strength of all three fingers when you do a bend.

Fret the note on the 7th fret of the third string with your third finger. Your other finger should follow on the 6th and 5th fret. Our goal is to bend this note up one step (the equivalent of two frets) and then release the note to its original pitch. Before you do your first bend hit the note on the 9th fret, this will be your reference note. When you do your bend the goal is to make the tone of your bend “reach” the tone of the reference note. Repeat: hit your reference note, then immediately jump to the correct position and play a bend until to can consistently match the reference note.

The length you hold the bend, how quickly you release it and any vibrato you add to the bend will define a large part of playing your style. It’s good to just have fun and try doing a number of bends and releases to hear all the different sounds you can generate. Try bending the note before you strike it so you just hear the release, or try using a wide or narrow vibrato so act character and color to your bends.

Be patient you haven't used these muscles before, and it will take time to strengthen. Keep practicing, and you'll get the hang of it eventually.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What Is the Secret to a Good ORGAN PEDAL Technique?

English: A 30-note pedalboard of a Rieger organ.
A 30-note pedalboard of a Rieger organ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Playing organ pedals can be a challenging task. All these fast-moving passages with our feet can give the organist much trouble and it can be frustrating to learn difficult pedal lines. However, there is one secret to overcome challenging pedal parts and develop a superb pedal technique.

Perhaps the most famous organist of the 20th century, the Frenchman Marcel Dupre once wrote that the secret to the perfect pedal technique is the flexibility of an ankle. Here I would like to tell you a little story about Dupre when he was a teenager. This story is, of course, related to pedal technique, as you will see.

In his youth, Dupre used to practice a lot on the piano. In fact, the very first piano pieces that he learned was a collection called "Musical ABC". It consisted of as many little pieces as there are letters in the alphabet. So Dupre learned them all during one summer.

When he started to play the organ, one time he cut one of his wrists on the broken glass. The cut was quite dangerous - only millimeters away from the main nerves of the hand. So for some months, he could not play the organ with his hands. Did he give it up? No, he started practicing the pedal playing. In fact, he was so furious that he could not play with his hands and as he wrote later, he started playing the pedals with vengeance.

By the way, all these months he practiced pedal scales and arpeggios. He became so good at them that he could play any musical passage with his feet on the pedals. Later in his life, he even published a collection of all major and minor scales and arpeggios as a help for organists to perfect their pedal technique.

Of course, we all know about how good are scales and arpeggios for our finger technique. Some people practice them regularly. However, pedal scales are underused, and not too many organists know their real value: they help to achieve the flexibility of an ankle.

No wonder why organists of the French school develop an unbeatable pedal technique. We all have heard of French women organists playing with an incredibly high heels unbelievably hard pedal line with ease and elegance. This is how they achieve that level of mastery: they practice pedal scales.
So this is the secret how to achieve a perfect pedal technique: practice pedal scales and arpeggios regularly and you will have no difficulty with your challenging pedal parts.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Role of the SAXOPHONE Section in a Big Band

The saxophone section. 12th, October, 2008
Photo  by satchelmouth1 
The saxophone section in a big band consists of 5 players - two altos, two tenors and one baritone sax. In a traditional big band setup, the saxes are located in the first (front) row of three rows of horn players. The trombones and trumpets are found in the rows directly behind the saxes.

Saxophones are considered agile instruments, much like the clarinet and flute. They are able to play fast lines or perform effects that cannot be achieved so easily on a brass instrument. This characteristic gives them the ability to cover very fast passages within the ensemble - passages that would be too difficult for the brass section to pull off.

Melodic Roles
Saxophones are often called on to state the melody of a big band composition or arrangement. Playing in unison gives them the power to cut through punches and harmony played by the brass section. When stating the melody as a section (i.e. 4-5 part voicings) the lead alto player must project the lead line so it can be heard above other instrumental activity going on within the arrangement at any given time.

Saxes can also be coupled with other instruments to create a homogeneous sound. Altos are often combined with trumpet, while tenor saxes are most often found sharing a melody with one or more trombones. These melodic couplings work well because the timbre of trumpet and trombone are similar to the alto and tenor respectively. Baritone sax at times plays melody alone or coupled with a bass trombone.

Harmonic Roles
Because the sax section covers a wide range, it lends itself well to supplying harmony and harmonic "pads" to a big band arrangement or composition. In ballads, for example, the saxes are often written as lush voicings that provide all the necessary notes of a chord. They are used in this manner within an arrangement as background to a soloist, or as a counter melody to another instrument.

Solos and Solis
The tenor saxophone is one of the more popular solo instruments in jazz, so it only makes sense that tenor solos are written quite regularly throughout the big band music repertoire. Although any of the saxes are called upon at one time or another for solos, the tenor seems to get more improvised solos than the others. Baritone sax solos are written sparingly throughout big band literature. Depending on the level of skill of the players, solo sections can be passed around so that good soloists - even bari sax players - have a chance to shine.

Sax solos occur when the saxophone section is featured by itself by playing a composed jazz "solo". A soli is most often composed in four or five part harmony that is voiced for the entire section. The lead line is played by Alto 1, while the rest of the section is voiced below the lead line and follows in rhythmic unison. In a four-part setting, the bari sax player will often double the alto melody at the octave.

The saxophone section is an integral part of any big band in a variety of ways. Brass players may complain that the saxophones are written too many solos, but it is hard to beat a terrific saxophone section ripping through a difficult Thad Jones or Don Menza soli. As they say, if you can't beat them, join them!

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Role of the TRUMPET Within a Big Band

English: National Symphonic Band Trumpet secti...
National Symphonic Band Trumpet section rehearsing in the Asociacion Rosalia de Castro.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The trumpet has always been an integral part of the traditional big band, both as a lead instrument and as a soloist.  The section consists of four players, with the first chair being labeled the "lead" chair and the second part generally considered the "jazz" chair.  Although improvised solos can be played by any of the four players, the second trumpet is usually depended upon to cover the solos within the section when needed.

It is the "lead" trumpet that carries the melody over all other musicians during full band sections.   This important position carries quite a large responsibility, mainly because it is he/she who is called upon to play the highest notes within the ensemble sections.

Melodic and Harmonic Roles

In traditional big band repertoire, the trumpet section provides both melodic and harmonic roles.  Melodies can be played by one or up to all four players at one time. Melodic roles are often coupled with instruments of similar timbres, such as the alto saxophone.  As a melodic instrument, the trumpet is generally in the middle range when matched with other instruments.  The upper register is used for full ensemble sections where the lead player must carry the melody over the rest of the band.

When fulfilling a harmonic role, the section is usually voiced in either three or four distinct parts.  Since the trumpets are set in the upper register of the ensemble, they have the responsibility of covering the upper extensions of the given chord.  In harmonic roles, the section often extends the basic chord tones (i.e. root, 3rd, seventh) that are played by the trombone and saxophone sections.  These upper extensions often take the form of a simple triad when played alone, but create sophisticated extended chords when playing with saxophone and trombones.

Mutes and Utility Instruments

Modern trumpeters today are expected to own and carry a variety of mutes to alter the sound of the instrument.  In every trumpeter's bag are a straight mute, a cup mute, a harmon mute and plunger.  Each of these "tools" is designed to alter the color and sound of the instrument by bringing out low (cup and plunger) or high (straight and harmon) overtones.  The use of mutes can significantly alter the overall sound of the section with a wide variety of colors.  Gil Evans was one famous arranger that used muted trumpets extensively in his arrangements and compositions.

In addition, most professional trumpeters today own a flugelhorn.  This instrument looks like a large trumpet but sounds much more mellow and with a limited high range.  Flugelhorns are used primarily for melody, but can also be used as harmonic pads with the big band.  Modern writers such as Maria Schneider utilize flugelhorns in this role quite often

Famous Big Band Trumpeters and Sections

Trumpet players and big band trumpet sections can be found throughout the history of jazz.  Maynard Ferguson, for example, made his debut with the Stan Kenton Orchestra during the 1950s.  Maynard played lead trumpet and was featured as a high note virtuoso at a young age.  He later went on to lead his own big and small bands for more than half a century.  High note artists such as Stan Mark and Lynn Nicholson were members of famous Maynard Ferguson trumpet sections.

Bill Chase led one of the more famous trumpet sections in the 1960s with the Woody Herman orchestra.  Known for his high range, Bill Chase provided the high note excitement for the band. In 1974, Chase met an untimely death in a plane crash near a small airport in Minnesota, Among the most famous trumpet sections of all time might have been in the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  Cootie Williams and Cat Anderson filled soloist and high note roles, respectively, for Duke's band for many years.  Duke often wrote entire compositions to feature Cootie (Concerto for Cootie) on trumpet.

The trumpet will always play an integral role within the realm of big band jazz ensemble music.   Because of this, skilled lead players and gifted soloists will always be in demand in the jazz and commercial music industry.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Moving Commands - Fundamentals of MARCHING BAND Maneuvering

University of Wisconsin Marching Band executin...
University of Wisconsin Marching Band executing the Stop at the Top. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Before teaching moving commands, the band should be familiar with marching and executing stationary commands. An entire level of complexity is added when the band actually begins marching. These commands can only be executed while moving. They are presented in the order I teach them. There are many different ways to both teach and execute commands; I can only present what I know.

Marking Time
Today, most all bands use a low mark time. Much like a drag right, the toe remains planted on the ground, while the heel lifts up. In this case, the command is "mark time mark" and the response is "and one." The left heel lifts first two inches or more on the "and" beat and goes up on the "one" beat. This repeats for the right foot. Thus, in two counts both feet have moved up and down. Marking time only occurs when feet are together and shoes should rub against each other. Make sure to keep the upper body solid throughout this move.

Most high school Marching Bands now use the glide step as the method of choice when marching. Some bands still high step or double time, but that is pretty antiquated and rare, even though proper execution makes it neat. The glide step is synonymous with rolling the feet. Teaching just this concept should take a few hours.

The point is to take all of the wobbles out of the upper body when marching. This allows for the vibrato that occurs from the mouthpiece bouncing against the lips to be eliminated. Have the new marchers stick their left foot out with toes up as high as possible. Then, have them individually practice transferring their body weight from the left to the right foot. Start slowly sticking out one foot while the other rolls up onto the toe. Gradually increase the tempo.

Now that the new marchers can perform a glide step, it is important to cover a basic eight to five stride as well as cover points and dressing and covering ranks and files while marching.

Forward March
The most basic and essential step of the band, this step is what is practiced when learning to roll the feet. "Forward march" is the command and the response is "and one." Once the glide step is mastered, this command is easy. Marching always starts on the left foot and feet move one in front of the other. The step size should be eight steps per five yards or 22.5 inches per step. Feet should not lift off the ground, rather be pushed out from the body along the grass with as much force as possible. On beat eight, the shoelaces of the right foot should be in the middle of the yard line.

Backward March
Back marching is done from the standstill (lock, lift, step) or while changing direction (touch and go). The basic concept involves elevating the feet as high as possible. Keep toes planted on the ground, while the heels rise more than two inches from the ground. Move feet back so that each has its own "channel" and they do not cross each other. Slightly lift the foot off the ground for each step, but do not pick the foot up or bend the knees.

From the standstill, the command is "backward march" and the response is "lock, lift, step." On the "march" command of execution, the band says "lock" while stopping previous marking time or movement. During the first beat of the execution, the band says "lift" and elevates their heels as much as possible, while keeping toes planted. Finally, the first step occurs on the "step" beat, where the left foot pushes hardback from the lift position to take a large first step.

Transitioning between forward and backward marching is extremely difficult. One must still take a full last step with the right foot, keeping the shoelaces in the middle of the yard line. This is the "touch" response to the "backward march" command. The second beat is the "go" response and involves transferring weight from the right to the left foot and starting the back march with the left foot. The key is not to move the feet on the "touch and go" response. They should be in a good position from the eighth step of forwarding marching.

A slide is a version of forwarding marching (usually). The purpose is to keep the horns pointing forward to the audience while changing the direction of the feet. Slides can only be called with horns up or at attention. The command is either "right/left shift hut" or "right/left slide hut" and the response is "and one." Key to this move is planting the right foot on the fourth count of the command with the toe still pointed up and turning on count one. The left foot is the one that always moves, no matter what slide direction. A left slide is easier as the left foot simply executes a ninety-degree snap turn. After the command, the movement occurring before the slide continues. For right slides, the left foot must snap over the right foot.

In slides, the most difficult part is keeping "square." This means that the shoulders continue pointing completely parallel to the sideline as marching continues. Hips should move thirty degrees, the torso should move sixty degrees, and the shoulders complete the ninety-degree turn. Such a distribution will help keep slide position throughout the move. Be careful when calling slides, as they can get tricky. For example, you can back march in a slide; the feet simply change direction. More confusing, however, is executing another slide while already sliding. When in a left slide, calling a right slide returns the move to forward march. You cannot call a backward march during a slide and expect people to return to the direction of the horns and back up. Instead, marchers should reverse the direction of their feet. Calling a left slide while already in a left slide is just asking for an "as you were sir"! (the error command)

Flanks are simply snap turns. On the "right/left flank hut" command and "and one" response, the right foot plants on count four and the left foot initiates the turn to the right or left. Motion continues in the forward direction. Pivots occur on the ball of the right foot and weight immediately transfers to the left heel as the move is completed. The entire body turns in a flank and, thus, the horn is pointing in the direction of march. A right flank can be called to cancel a left flank. Multiple flanks can be called on top of each other; this is a difference from shifts. Because the body moves along with the horn, flanks can be repeatedly called without error.

A special kind of flank is a to the rear. The command is "to the rear hut" and the response is "and one." Instead of planting the right foot and turning ninety-degrees, the turn is 180 degrees. The left foot still is the one to complete the turn and it is executed to the left starting on count four with the right foot planting and finishing on count one with the turn. Motion continues in the forward direction after the turn. Be careful not to anticipate to the rear because it is a very quick turn.

Obliques are unpleasant and often overlooked, for few field shows include them. The command is "left/right oblique hut" and the response is "and one." Instead of turning the body ninety degrees as in a flank, one turns forty-five degrees using a pivot turn on the ball of the right foot. The right foot plants on count four of the command and the left foot execute a snap turn forty-five degrees to the right or left on count one. The challenge with obliques is not starting the command, but marching in the new direction. Since you are moving at a diagonal, the step size is twelve steps every five yards. You now dress down the diagonal and cover to the left and right. To get out of an oblique, the Drum Major can call another oblique that results in a forward march or flank. Back marching can be called when in an oblique, but you cannot go from forward march to a backward oblique in one command. A good exercise with obliques is to make a diamond or stop sign shape with the band. Forward eight left oblique eight, left shift, right back oblique, et cetera. Doing this exercise with horns playing a scale is a real challenge and improves marching greatly.

In Sum and Other
In terms of moving commands, these are the most important. There is an entire list of stationary commands in another article that the band should also master. The biggest challenge is to vary step sizes: 16-5, 12-5, 6-5, 5-5, 32-5. There are also some other terms for commands that may be useful. For example, "march" can be replaced with "move." I think this sounds a bit ridiculous, but so be it. Also, the Drum Major can call a "band port arms" or "band trail arms" to move horns up while moving. Then, of course, there is high mark time. For resources directly related to your band, ask a Drum Major or your director. Marching style tends to vary by region, so make sure that what you teach is applicable to your band. Also, consider attending a Drum Major camp. There you will learn some of these commands again as well as more useful teaching methods.
This list of commands is completely my own; I used no resources or Internet sources just my own knowledge to compile it.

    By William J O'Brochta
    William O'Brochta is a recipient of the William T. Hornaday Silver Medal for Distinguished Service to Conservation in the Boy Scouts of America and William T. Hornaday Badge. He is an Eagle Scout with nine Eagle palms and has earned sixty-five Merit Badges. William is currently an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 17 in Roanoke, Virginia working with Troop elections, new Scout advancement, and Eagle projects. He also serves as an active member of the Blue Ridge Mountains Council Conservation, Advancement, Eagle Board of Review, and Troop Committees. He has been involved in Scouting for more than ten years.
    William attends Patrick Henry High School and the Roanoke Valley Governor's School and is ranked first in his class of 500. Currently, he is working on a three-year environmental research project dealing with using plants to remove pesticides from the soil. He has presented this research at the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting. A musician, he plays trumpet and serves as Drum Major for the Marching Band.
    Committed to community service, he has volunteered for six months for Habitat for Humanity in Hungary and helped Breakell, Inc. General Contractors achieve LEED Platinum energy efficiency certification.
    William can best be contacted through his LinkedIn page:
    Article Source: EzineArticles

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Special Note to Band Directors About OBOE REEDS

English: Drawing of a double-reed mouthpiece f...
Drawing of a double-reed mouthpiece for an oboe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let it be known that I like band directors and that without mine long ago I would not be sitting here writing about what I know about the oboe.

He was (and probably still is) a wonderful man who encouraged me, taught me what he knew but then was humble enough to say that he could take me no further. He recommended a professional oboist in town so I could continue learning the things he could not teach me, and I am forever grateful.

So, you could say I have a great deal of respect for band directors.

I know they are teaching a lot of kids a lot of different instruments, and there is no way anybody can be an expert on all of them. I give them credit for trying!

But there's something that has been coming up a lot in my teaching and even when fielding reed questions that has been bothering me. And although I am sure band directors aren't the only ones to "blame," that's where I am starting to work towards a solution.

The problem seems to be in advising the young band oboists in the selection of oboe reeds. Now, many a band director has bought handmade oboe reeds from me, so there are exceptions.

But to the majority out there, do you know how much easier teaching the oboe would be if you handed out handmade oboe reeds instead of fibercane or even those awful profiled music-store reeds?
The reason is plain and simple.

These reeds do not encourage good habits and make the oboe difficult to play, more difficult than it ever needs to be.

The idea I keep hearing is that somehow, good reeds are reserved for good students... but that is completely wrong. A good, handmade oboe reed should be provided for every beginning oboist on their very first day of playing the oboe.

Talk to a professional oboist and see if they can work with you in making reeds that young students can handle, or consult a professional reedmaking company (yes, like MKL Reeds) that can work with these requests.

Although we need "labels" on reeds so that we all know what we are talking about, these labels are perhaps the least helpful part of all of this. Find a place that can make reeds for beginning students, and that should be pretty much all you need to say.

I am on my soapbox lately about all this "hard, medium hard, soft" stuff!! There is also this very large misconception out there that once a student has been playing for more than a year they need to "graduate" to a "harder" reed... and by the time they have been playing a while they are being handed these "hard" reeds they can't even play!

I just don't understand where this all came from, thinking that increased ability on the oboe somehow means you should make it harder for someone to actually play.

Now, it's not entirely the fault of a band director. And the situation is not exactly helped by machine-made reed manufacturers that are labeling their reeds in this way either.

Here's my take on it:
An oboist needs a reed he can play, NO EXCEPTIONS!!

Buy oboe reeds for your students that are handmade and are not classified in this way, unless you can talk to someone and explain what you need.

What a more advanced student needs in a reed is resistance, which is much different that hardness. So, stop handing them hard reeds once they pass the year mark, and especially when they seem like they are struggling.

Unless you can scrape these reeds down for them, they should not be encouraged. Better yet, get reeds from a professional oboist because these will make your job easier and it will make your students improve faster and probably enjoy playing a lot more.

I can't imagine how hard a job it is to be in your shoes, but think of the amazing start you can help give to each and every kid that chooses to play the oboe.

    By Maryn Leister
    Oboist and entrepreneur Maryn Leister helps beginner, intermediate and professional oboists become happier oboe players.
    She is an owner of the oboe learning company MKL Reeds and publisher of the Reed Report and Oboe Success Tips Newsletters. Each newsletter is full of straightforward tips on becoming a better oboe player and on taking control of your oboe reeds.
    Get your free subscription to the Reed Report newsletter and start your own journey towards a more rewarding oboe future right away. Sign-Up now and get your FREE Oboe Reed Tips

    Article Source: EzineArticles

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Why Practice Drums With a METRONOME?

A Metronome, made in West Germany.A Metronome, made in West Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Practicing with a metronome will improve your time keeping dramatically! What... you say you can already keep time? Try to keep time with a metronome for about twenty seconds. It will show you how good you really can keep time. If you have never tried it...try it! You will see there is room for improvement.

In order to be an outstanding drummer you'll need to keep good time, and practicing with a metronome can help you do that. A metronome can improve your time keeping almost by magic. And, we know how important timekeeping is, particularly for a drummer.

You may wonder what the big deal is and think, "No one is gonna be able to distinguish any small changes in tempo in the middle of a song." Well, that may be true, but the major importance of keeping good time is at three different places in a song...

1) The times when you break away for a fill and come back to the original rhythm.
2) If the song contains pauses and later returns to the original rhythm.
3) If the song contains different tempos and returns to the original rhythm.

A metronome is such a vital tool in music education that most teachers of guitar, piano, and violin all utilize the power of metronomes within their lessons. How then, even more, important for the timekeeper of a band to practice with a metronome.

I can't stress enough the importance of practicing with a metronome. Once you go out and invest in one, start out by setting it at 80 beats per minute and play along with a standard 4/4 disco beat. This is a good place to begin. It will give you enough time between beats to concentrate and land your beat in sync with the beat of the metronome.

You will see that when you first start practicing with a metronome it can become very discouraging, but then you will eventually get the hang of it and keep pretty good time. Then it may become a little boring. It's at that point where you must challenging yourself a little bit more.

Adjust your metronome to a few more beats and increase your speed. Not so much where you will sacrifice your form, though. You don't want to become sloppy. Once you feel like you are really getting good at staying in sync with the metronome using a 4/4 beat and at various speeds you should begin to practice a variety of different rhythms, also at various speeds.

Practicing with a metronome will improve your drumming dramatically, so if you don't have one, get one. You will be amazed at how much it will increase your level of playing.
Copyright 2006 Daniel N Brown

The Author Dan Brown - ArticleSource: ArticleCity