Categories
General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Slurs, ties and phrases

Let’s talk about slurs, phrases and ties. As a long time piano teacher, I find many students, even advanced players get confused.

Slurs – curved line over/under two or more *different* notes.
Tie – curved line connecting the *same* note(s) immediately next to one another.
Phrase – a musical idea, often indicated with a slur line over/under many notes or more often, many measures.

Slurs mean to play the notes legato, or to put it into English – play the notes smoothly, connected or without any silence between the notes. How this is done depends on your instrument. On piano, do not lift the finger of the first note until you go to play the 2nd note. In bowed strings, like violin, it typically means to keep the bow going in the same direction. Wind/brass instruments it often means that you don’t tongue between notes. Check with your teacher on the best way to do a slur. You do have a teacher, right? Please tell me you aren’t trying to do this without anyone checking your work to see if it is correct – just because it sounds fine to you doesn’t mean it’s correct.

Example of slurs
An example of slurs

In the entire example above, all the curved lines over/above the notes are slurs, *except* for the D notes in the right hand and the E notes in the left hand in measures 7-8 & 15-16 (3rd beat tied to 1st beat). Those are ties. In all other cases, even measure 5 going into measure 6, the curve line is over/under at least 2 different notes. That’s all there is to slurs. Note that in this piano music example, there are some passages with both stem up and stem down notes at the same time. We call the different directions “voices.” In those cases, the position of the slur makes a difference. For example, the slur in measures 7 & 8 over the high (stems up) voices in the right hand part are under the influence of the slur, but not the low voices.

At the end of a slur it is common to “take a breath” before going to the next note. At measure 22 below in the right hand, a pianist might shorten the length of the  off-beat 8th notes (& of 1, & of 2, etc) ever so slightly. A violinist would change bow directions resulting in a break in the sound. How much breath one takes, if any, is subjective.

Phrase example
An example of phrases

In the above example starting at measure 26, the curved line over the right hand part is more properly called a phrase. A phrase being a musical idea implies that all the notes in the phrase are all part of one musical idea. Whether to play all the notes legato (smooth) as a slur would indicate is more of a performance choice than a requirement. In fact, in this example it is impossible to play the entire phrase connected. Can you spot why not? In measure 27 there are two repeated “G”‘s in the right hand. By definition, repeated notes cannot be played smoothly connected. One has to lift their fingers (or change bow direction, etc.) in order to play a repeated note. That causes a silence between the notes and thus they are no longer connected or smooth.

Ties. In measures 40 to 41 and 41 to 42 are examples of ties. The top note, B on the 3rd beat is tied into the 1st beat. That means play the note on beat 3 and hold the note down until the end of the tied note, in this case the end of beat 1. The F in measure 41, beat one is tied to beat 2. The C on beat 2 is tied into beat 3 *and* into the dotted half note on beat one of measure 42. All the while, there is a phrase/slur line over measures 39 to 42. Both notes in the left hand of measure 41, beat 2 tie into the next measure. In the case of the ties, all the curved lines connect the *same* note(s) to the same note with no other notes between them. Don’t be confused by the slur in measure 34 and 35. The first and last notes are both G in the right hand. Are the two G’s tied? Of course not. Because there are several notes between them it can only mean the curved line is a slur.

I hope this helps. Please comment below.

Categories
Albums Arranging General Organ Music Piano Lessons Reaper Recordings Sibelius Website News YouTube Videos

May 2018 update

Current news

I’m always looking for subjects to write about here or tutorial to do on YouTube. Please use the comments section to give me some ideas.

I’ve not shown a map of where people are buying and performing my sheet music for some time, so here’s the latest (as of Mar 31, 2018)

I’m making some changes to the music catalog. Rather than offer individual keyboard arrangements, I’m only selling collections. I have 8 piano solo collections available. As time permits I will remove organ solos from the catalog and only offer collections. It is easier to manage collections.

I have no plans for anything on YouTube at the present time. This is for two reasons: 1) Nobody who watches my videos on YouTube has bothered to let me know what they want to see and 2) YouTube no longer allows me to monetize my channel and nobody who watches my videos has donated anything to keep it going.

As always, check the sheet music catalog for new titles. At least once a month, sometimes more often there are new titles.

After 15 custom arrangements for a single client I must be doing something right. If you have a beginner/intermediate instrumental group or a church orchestra in need of arrangements, let me know so I can write it for you.

I’m always “playing around” with my various sound libraries and live instruments in my home studio. Look for at least one new album out this summer, if not two.

I continue to teach piano lessons locally and over the internet. So, no matter where you are in the world I can teach you. I can also tutor on composing, arranging, music theory and more. Drop me a note if you are interested.

Categories
Music Theory Other Piano Lessons YouTube Videos

Playing from a Leadsheet (revisited)

Playing from a Leadsheet

for solo pianists

 

Back in 2014 I did a tutorial video on YouTube titles How to play a Leadsheet on solo piano. A followup to it is below.

The video pretty much tells all you need to know to get started playing a leadsheet. One correction is that the D7/F chord on the first line should be a D7/F#. The following description and addition may help in learning to play a leadsheet.

The video shows three different renderings in addition to the original sheet music. The 1st, with just the bass root note in the LH can be a starting point for a walking bass. Imagine a scale based on that root note but not changing any notes from those already in the key signature. Play the 1, 2, 3 & 5 notes or 1,3,5,7 in a measure with one chord. For example, “F G A C” or “C E G B or Bb depending on taste.”

The 2nd sheet music simply shows the block chord with all the notes we could use to harmonize the leadsheet. It is mainly for illustrative purposes. I would never play a leadsheet with just root position block chords.

The final example is the most like one might play. The examples, with the harmony spread between both hands and with rhythmic variation show various rhythmic possibilities for the accompaniment/harmony. However, there’s too much rhythmic variation going on. The last two lines could be played “as is” but the first two lines have, because it is illustrative and not practical, a variety of rhythmic styles.

The next step in leadsheet playing is to listen or look at sheet music of various styles of music similar to the one you are learning. Try and use the rhythmic patterns and harmonic voicing in those examples in your own playing. Leadsheets, after all, are not meant to be a final arrangement. They are there to remind you of how the piece goes and give you just enough information so you can play it such that a listener is reminded of the song.

This is just a starting point to playing from leadsheets.

Bonus points if you recognize what the featured photo shows (besides a leadsheet).

Categories
Arranging Church Music Kindle Organ Music Other Piano Lessons Recordings Website News YouTube Videos

Year 2017 in Review

Goodbye to 2017

To start the blog being moved to this location, I thought I’d start with an article reviewing the past year, 2017, and my musical efforts.

Personally, two things impacted me more than anything else.

First, Hurricane Irma impacted where I live more than other hurricanes in the past have. (I went through Andrew in Miami in 1992 and 3 storms in 2004 here in North Florida). Took probably a month to two to get back to normal. Even now, at least one major highway is impacted due to flooding.

Secondly, I had a USB hub short-circuit or something. It ended up frying the USB ports in my desktop. I had to replace the computer and go through the tedious process of reinstalling software and customizing things to my liking. Of course, the unexpected expense was not welcome.

Most exciting for me (or terrifying I suppose) was one day when I was practicing before my piano students arrived at the church in Micanopy. I saw police go by outside. The short story is that there was a credible bomb threat against two churches in town and a device was found by the propane tanks at the opposite end of the church from where I was. I left the building. A few of my students got to review theory down the street at the library. The crude device would never have gone off let alone caused any serious damage.

Throughout the entire year I released 51 new arrangements or compositions. I performed as a solo pianist three times. Once for a public concert featuring TV & Film music. The other two were for private parties. I played the organ for several funerals this year – more than usual and for at least 3 of them I knew the deceased.

I continue to play for church services at an Episcopal church in Micanopy, FL. It is a good, steady gig at a church that actually sings, sometimes in 4-part harmony, and appreciates music from Gregorian Chant to praise/worship music. (Although they lean more toward the older music than newer).

I continued to coordinate the Concert Series for the above mentioned church. The 2017/2018 series will have 8 concerts, all high-quality performers.

My piano lessons locally and via the internet continued to go well, although I am always wanting more students.

My parent’s cat, featured some years ago in a YouTube video with original music died. He was around 15 years old.

A review of all my music compositions and arrangements follows:

January through March

I released 2 new arrangements and adapted 2 original compositions.
I did one arrangement for a Toronto, Canada church/school for a Reformation celebration.

I’ve also been working with a church in Houston arranging material for their all-volunteer band/orchestra that consists of mostly 12-18 year olds.

Abide With Me — A 12/8 flowing arrangement for solo piano of this familiar piece with large ending. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20407440?aff_id=104230

Was Lebet, Was Schwebet (O Worship The Lord in the Beauty of Holiness) — This was originally a custom arrangement for a Canadian school as they planned to celebrate the anniversary of The Reformation. A hymn accompaniment for Brass Quintet and organ. Suitable for any accompanying of congregational singing. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20407433?aff_id=104230

Missles of October — An original piece, originally for instrumental ensemble. Here adapted for solo piano. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20407445?aff_id=104230

Christ is Made The Sure Foundation — An original piece, originally for choir. Adapted for solo piano. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20441509?aff_id=104230

April through June

During this period I released 19 arrangements or compositions.

All People That On Earth Do Dwell — An unaccompanied setting of All People That On Earth Do Dwell for Soprano, Alto and Tenor or 3-part choir. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20456550?aff_id=104230 Popular Title

BROMLEY (O Trinity Of Blessed Light) — An instrumental hymn accompaniment of this hymn tune. It is intended to be played by any combination of instruments (with keyboard). It consists of two verses of the hymn, each in a different key with a modulation between the two. Parts provided for C, Bb, Eb, F, Alto Clef and Keyboard instruments http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20456546?aff_id=104230

Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross — A contemporary blues, jazz style arrangement of this gospel hymn, Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20456548?aff_id=104230

Amazing Grace, How Sweet The Sound — The popular tune NEW BRITAIN, best known as Amazing Grace here arranged for solo piano. This is a fun, upbeat piece with hints of contemporary and classical music. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20441507?aff_id=104230 Popular Title

Celtic Postlude — When this piece was written, it was popular to have church services that focused on or used Celtic music. This piece is a modern interpretation of an Irish style of music. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20441506?aff_id=104230 Popular Title

Piece in F minor — A piece for concert band in F Minor. An upbeat, almost dance-like piece. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20441502?aff_id=104230

Praise The Lord, Ye Heavens Adore Him    — The hymn tune HYFRYDOL has been set to many different lyrics. Besides this one “Praise The Lord, Ye Heavens Adore Him,” the title “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” is well known. This is a fun, upbeat piece to play. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20441508?aff_id=104230

Amazing Grace    — A setting of the hymn tune NEW BRITAIN, best known as Amazing Grace. For Orchestra. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20441503?aff_id=104230 Popular Title

Nearer My God To Thee    — A setting of the hymn tune BETHANY, best known as Nearer My God To Thee. This is the song the band on the ship Titantic played as the ship slowly sank after hitting an iceberg in 1912. For orchestra. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20441504?aff_id=104230 Popular Title

The Star-Spangled Banner — An arrangement of the US national anthem, also known as The Star-Spangled Banner. For Orchestra. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20441505?aff_id=104230

Awesome God — For Woodwind Quintet. A full arrangement of this popular praise and worship piece.  http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20440218?aff_id=104230

Brass    Bridge Over Troubled Water — For Brass Quintet. An arrangement of this popular Simon and Garfunkel tune. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20436729?aff_id=104230 Popular Title

Crazy — For String Quartet. A country, bluesy setting of this piece made popular by Patsy Cline. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20436742?aff_id=104230

Day By Day — For String Quartet. A classical piece in the style of Mozart. Based on the hymn tune BLOTT EN DAG (Day by Day). http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20436745?aff_id=104230 Popular Title

Fairest Lord Jesus — An arrangement for Brass Quintet of this classic hymn. Also known under the title Beautiful Savior. Hymn tune: ST ELIZABETH     http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20436743?aff_id=104230

Halleljuah Chorus (from The Messiah) — A setting of the chorus from The Messiah, for woodwind quintet. A popular, highly requested title, great for any group. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20436751?aff_id=104230 Popular Title

Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring (Bach) — For Brass Quintet. This popular piece, often heard at Weddings or Christmas time is from BWV 147. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20436744?aff_id=104230

Prelude in E minor (Chopin) For String Quartet. An arrangement of this popular Chopin piece. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20436747?aff_id=104230

The Sound Of Silence — For Woodwind Quintet. A setting of this popular Paul Simon piece. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20440215?aff_id=104230

July through September

The God Of Abraham Praise — An arrangement of the hymn The God of Abraham Praise for SATB choir with piano accompaniment. Hymn tune name: LEONI. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20520291?aff_id=104230

Waiting and Watching — An original composition for orchestra. A minor, reflective piece. For Orchestra. Many parts are doubled so it can be played with a smaller than average group. Piano reduction provided. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20520293?aff_id=104230

LAUDATE DOMINUM (O Praise Ye The Lord) — An instrumental hymn accompaniment of this hymn tune. This is designed to be played by any combination of instruments with piano. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20520292?aff_id=104230

ST GEORGE’S WINDSOR (Come Ye Thankful People Come) — An instrumental hymn accompaniment of this hymn tune. This is designed to be played by any combination of instruments with piano. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20472175?aff_id=104230

There Is Power In The Blood — A new setting of this favorite gospel hymn. For solo piano. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20472177?aff_id=104230
Popular Title

There Is Power In The Blood — A fun to play arrangement of this audience favorite. For Orchestra. There are many doubled parts in this arrangement which means it can be played and sound just as good without all the listed instruments. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20470069?aff_id=104230
Popular title

A Mighty Fortress — A rhythmic piece inspired by the hymn tune EIN’ FESTE BURG. For orchestra. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20467078?aff_id=104230

Amazing Grace — For Piano Duet. An upbeat, rhythmic setting of this all time favorite hymn. Hymn tune: NEW BRITAIN. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20467079?aff_id=104230
Popular Title

Near The Cross — A blues, jazz setting of this lesser known hymn tune. A fun and very different setting for SATB choir with piano accompaniment. Small choirs can sing the piece in unison or two-parts. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20465376?aff_id=104230

October through December

Once In Royal David’s City — For Solo Organ. A favorite Christmas hymn arranged in a meditative style. Hymn tune: IRBY.

There’s A Voice In The Wilderness — For solo piano. For Advent and Christmas. This arrangement is a majestic and festive setting great for a Postlude or Prelude during Advent. Hymn tune: ASCENSION

Now Thank We All Our God — For Solo Organ. A contemporary, upbeat setting of this hymn. Hymn tune: NUN DANKET

SAGINA (And Can It Be) — For organ accompaniment of congregational singing. Hymn tune: SAGINA. Most common lyrics are to the title “And Can It Be.” Alternate harmonization and descant.

Thou, Who At Thy First Eucharist — For Solo Organ. The melody by Orlando Gibbons in the style of a modern chorale prelude. Hymn tune: SONG 1.

At Calvary — For Woodwind Quintet. This popular hymn arranged for woodwind quintet.  http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20666098?aff_id=104230

I Come With Joy — For solo piano. An arrangement of this popular tune. From the Southern Harmony collection, the hymn tune LAND OF REST is often set to the lyrics of I Come With Joy,  a piece often used for communion. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20666093?aff_id=104230

I Remember You — For Solo Piano. An original composition, arranged and adapted here from the original choral piece. This piece could be appropriate for any spot in a church service, school program or recital. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20666095?aff_id=104230

Irma’s March — An original composition for orchestra. A march like feel, a sense of forward motion throughout. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20666091?aff_id=104230

Kyrie from Missa De Beate Virgine — For Solo Organ. An arrangement of this piece by Josquin Desprez. From one of the earliest Renaissance settings of the Mass. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20666092?aff_id=104230

Rejoice, Ye Pure In Heart — For String Quartet. An arrangement of the popular hymn. Tune name: Marion. A fun, syncopated arrangement. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20666097?aff_id=104230

Amazing Grace — An arrangement of the hymn tune NEW BRITAIN – Amazing Grace – for SATB choir with piano accompaniment.    http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20657604?aff_id=104230

Amazing Grace — For String Quartet. A lively, fun to play setting. Hymn tune: NEW BRITAIN. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20657616?aff_id=104230

Amazing Grace — For Woodwind Quintet. An arrangement of the popular hymn. Hymn tune: NEW BRITAIN. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20657617?aff_id=104230

EVENTIDE (Abide With Me) — An instrumental hymn accompaniment designed to be played by any combination of instruments along with piano (or organ). http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20657609?aff_id=104230

NEW BRITAIN (Amazing Grace) — An instrumental hymn accompaniment designed to be played by any combination of instruments along with piano (or organ). http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20657611?aff_id=104230

NUN KOMM, DER HEIDEN HEILAND (Savior of the Nations, Come) — An instrumental hymn accompaniment designed to be played by any combinatoin of instruments along with piano (or organ). http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20657613?aff_id=104230

SLANE (Be Thou My Vision) — An instrumental hymn accompaniment designed to be played by any combination of instruments along with piano (or organ). http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20657615?aff_id=104230

This Is My Father’s World — For SATB, unaccompanied choir. In addition to rich harmonies, the piece ends with a flowing descant. Hymn tune: TERRA BEATA. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20657606?aff_id=104230

Please check back often. I plan to be more active with the blog than I was last year.

Categories
General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Using iPad apps to learn Piano

Does anyone use the iPad or other computer software to help them learn to play the piano?

I asked this question at my tumblr blog – which I have just to have a presence on tumblr. (Usually I post blog content here and link to it on tumblr, but this time its the opposite).

Read my thoughts on using an iPad to learn to play the piano.

Categories
General Music Theory Other Piano Lessons

The piano is dead?

Just an article to get the mind thinking. I’d love to hear some insightful comments on this subject.

Are people learning to play the piano enough to keep the piano going as a popular instrument? Is it becoming like the pipe organ or electronic keyboards/synthesizers, all instruments played by a small percentage of musicians?

Is the future of music in technology? Is music moving to the point where one uses a midi controller (either a keyboard like instrument or a drum pad like Maschine) to produce a loop that is then played by pushing a button on a machine or computer (like an iphone/ipad)? Most music heard today by the majority of people is electronic based music. You may love classical music or live music without processing, but that’s the minority. Even if there is a live guitar player, it is unlikely that it hasn’t been processed by something, whether through an electric guitar amp or a foot pedal or computer based effects. Most TV & film music uses electronic samples (recordings) of instruments. Most live performances, like the large big-name touring artists give have pre-recorded elements as part of the performance. Even the voices are manipulated to make the singer stay in tune. One can half-way learn an instrument, record the bits and pieces, manipulate it in a computer and make it sound like a virtuoso. They then go on stage and play that recording – which I give them credit is something they created – while playing very simple parts. Is the need to learn an instrument really necessary?

If you can put together decent sounding material and play it back through a decent sound system while appearing to perform (like a DJ does), is that not sufficient? Over time as you create the raw material you would naturally become more proficient in your instrument. It would take much longer than in traditional lessons, but you’d still learn. Besides, you can rely on the technology to present a product that people like and that’s what matters.

I ask this because my main livelihood is as a piano teacher, apparently a career that is going the way of the dinosaur. I was shown an article in an actual printed paper (Gainesville, FL Sun 1/3/2015 issue) that said that Piano sales are way down and that fewer & fewer parents want their kids to learn piano. The reasons apparently vary between the appeal of learning computers and technology (eg video games) and the, in my opinion, misguided idea that team sports is preferable to music. I’ve lost many a student to sports and it always seems to be the ones that really should stick in music that go off to sports. It makes me wonder if I should switch to teaching how to use drum machines, music notation/composing software, home recording, etc? Would parents or potential students be more interested in that?

I could write volumes on why team sports is not as good for kids in the long run as taking music lessons. I can’t help but think of the quote from “1984” that goes “Films, football, beer, and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult….” I would paraphrase that to say “Entertainment, alcohol, gambling and above all else, sports captured everyone’s attention so controlling and manipulating, misleading, spying on and taking advantage of society was easy.” (Entertainment being things like Films, TV, YouTube, twitter, etc.). But much better authors than me have pointed out the fallacies of focusing on sports for children. Unfortunately, the parents making the decisions about music lessons don’t listen or don’t care about those facts.

Even if sports were not a big distraction for children & parents, would the side of technology that makes it far to easy to produce music that sounds good be sufficient reason for people not to take serious music lessons? What should a piano or music teacher do if the field of learning a specific instrument is dead or dying?

Comments, ideas? Please share.

Categories
Albums Arranging Other Piano Lessons Reaper YouTube Videos

Summertime (2014)

Summertime

It’s always slow in the music world in the summer, at least for me. Everyone’s out and about and the last thing they want to do is buy sheet music. I guess most people don’t buy CD’s to begin with, but even digital music (MP3) slows down in the summer. Even my piano students like to take off and disappear for a few weeks or even months. So, I’ve not had much to talk about in the blog.

The music workshop I talked about (see earlier post) came and went. I couldn’t get very many people to attend. Apparently, after the fact, everyone who should have told me, now decides to tell me that “oh, you need to start publicity & sign up way back in April.” Thanks for the help then. Not knowing any better, I started publicity in late May. Even with so much advance time, almost 2 months, I still couldn’t get the teens to come. As to the course, everything went quite well. It being a computer music workshop, the potential for technical issues was great. We had none. There were some issues with one person not having installed one of the software titles I required, but the next day they had done so.

Latest activity since May:

All 9 of my CD albums are now available in physical format in addition to mp3 or FLACC format.

If you don’t follow me on my SoundCloud page, please do. I’ve posted quite a few short pieces in a variety of styles. And go back and listen to previous tracks.

In addition to selling sheet music on my website, I’ve also partnered with Sheet Music Plus digital to sell selected titles on their digital download site. They are my go-to site if I need printed sheet music.

My YouTube channel has a few new tutorial videos about Battery 4 & Reaper as well as an introductory look at the new SampleTank 3.

Of course, Spotify, which has an absolutely free version and lets you choose what you want to listen to (unlike Pandora, right?), all of my albums are there. I hope to have a new album or two out later this year.

If you are at all interested in piano lessons from me over the internet, please get in touch via the website, JamesGilbertMusic.com. (I also teach composition, arranging, music software tutoring, etc. on any schedule or frequency you like).  Of course, I also continue to teach lessons locally (near Gainesville & Ocala, Florida).

Any suggestions for content here or on YouTube or SoundCloud or what type of music to put on my next album(s), drop me a note.

Thanks to those that subscribe and to all that read.

 

Categories
Arranging Church Music General Music Theory Organ Music Other Piano Lessons Website News

Update post & Christmas Album announcement

I’m not sure if anyone actually reads this or not, but I hope someone does.

I wanted to let those that are interested know that I’m still around & busy with music projects. That’s one reason I’ve not posted in a while.

The main reason I’ve not posted is that I’m not getting any feedback or comments on any of my articles. My iPad apps article gets a bit of feedback, but there’s really nothing more I can say about music iPad apps. What else would you like me to write about?

I’ve been working much of the summer on music for my first ever Christmas Album. I’m looking at 10 titles, maybe 11 or 12. The styles will range from traditional, almost classical orchestral settings of carols to some rather eclectic electronic sounds. One will be pretty close to an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) version of Jingle Bells. Wait till you hear that. What could go wrong with a classically trained pianist & composer doing EDM?

You can now listen to three of my albums on YouTube.

The website is back to how it was pre-July 2012. My experiment with giving away my music and asking for donations ended earlier in the summer. My music is commercially competitive enough that I should be charging for it. After all, making a living as a musician is what I’m trying to do. I can’t eat if I don’t make money, so I’m back to charging.

For those that would like to help me and get something back in return, it would be most appreciated. See the how to help me page for details.

I’m still looking for a publicist, manager or agent to help me promote my sheet music, 6 albums and me as a musician.

I also have openings for anyone who would like to take lessons via the internet or here in the Gainesville, Micanopy, Ocala area of North Florida.

Feedback, comments. I need it.

Categories
Arranging Church Music General Music Theory Other Piano Lessons Sibelius YouTube Videos

Introduction to Music, Conclusion

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Conclusion

I hope this Introduction to Music series has been helpful. While it is obviously not a comprehensive look at all there is to music notation and music theory, if you know this stuff, you have a great amount of tools to help you as either a performer or composer, no matter the style of music.

I have a number of YouTube videos that cover a range of music topics, some duplicating what was in this series, but many that go beyond this series. Here are a few below for you to take a look at.

To see and hear how I’ve used my musical knowledge, you can download any of my sheet music for Free at the website. I also have six albums (as of January 2013) available on Amazon, iTunes

If you would care to make a donation to help in my efforts with free content – blogs, videos and sheet music – your Donation is most appreciated.

Introduction to Piano Lessons and general music theory
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRdYzYjxl5M
Introduction to Chords
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmezVWK0Ex8
A Review of iPad Apps of help for musicians
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7Ia92GaSrg
12-tone, Dodecaphonic Composition Overview

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMayH_p5GS0
Scales and Modes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHhf7mB4180
Some Sibelius (notation software) Tips
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OouCZ-Uz0zM
Making another Arrangement using Sibelius
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yKV-GI-5KA
Making an Organ arrangement in Sibelius
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B49i8EtmS-w
I hope you enjoyed this. Your comments and questions are welcome here or via the contact page on the website.

 

Categories
Arranging Music Theory Piano Lessons

Introduction to Music, Part 10 (Scales)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Scales and Modes

Scales

Rather than a long blog article about scales, I’ll point you to a video I did on YouTube about scales and modes. I’ve added a few things below the video, so come back here when you’re done with the video.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHhf7mB4180]
Types of scales and modes

There are basically 2 types of scales, Major and Minor that are used the most. The Minor scale has 3 variations. As to modes, which are used less often, there are 7, one for each letter used in music. The Major scale is also known as the Ionian mode while the Minor scale is also known as the Aeolian scale. There are of course, other scales, from blues to whole-tone that are used less often.

One of the easiest ways to remember the correct order of the various scales is by the half-steps, whole-steps order between the notes. Here’s a list:

Major:
whole whole half whole whole whole half
(C-D) (D-E) (E-F) (F-G) (G-A) (A-B) (B-C)

Minor:

Natural: whole half whole whole half whole whole
Harmonic: whole half whole whole half whole+half half (note augmented 2nd from 6 to 7)
Melodic: whole half whole whole whole whole half (Ascending ONLY)

Dorian:
whole half whole whole whole half whole

Phrygian:
half whole whole whole half whole whole

Lydian:
whole whole whole half whole whole half

Mixolydian:
whole whole half whole whole half whole

Locrian:
half whle whole half whole whole whole

Categories
General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Introduction to Music, Part 9 (Intervals & Chords)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Chords and Intervals

Intervals & Chords

Intervals

An interval is the distance between two notes. We describe intervals in numerical terms, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. From the note C to the note D is a 2nd. Although D is only one note away from C, we call it a second because two notes are involved. Think of intervals in terms of letter names. If you are on a G and the next note is a D higher, you have G, A, B, C then D, 5 letters. Thus, G up to D is an interval of a 5th. You can have major or minor 2, 3, 6 & 7ths. You can have perfect, augemented or diminished 4, 5 and octaves. More about these differences later.

We usually only count intervals from a 2nd to 8th. The 8th is called an octave. Once you get higher than an octave it is common to say ‘an octave and’ whatever the interval is. That being said, you will hear about 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and even 13th, particularly when talking about chord extensions. But you rarely, if ever, will see intervals beyond 13ths used.

Why intervals? When reading music, it is often easier to read intervals than specific note names, especially if you are trying to read multiple notes, as in keyboard music or chords. For example, on piano, rather than try to figure out the note name on the music staff then figure out where you play it, you can quickly figure out the interval, then play the finger that many intervals higher. So, if your thumb is playing a G and the next note is a 5th higher, just play your 5th finger. I would say most experienced musicians read music more by intervals than by reading actual note letter names.

Chords

Chords

(See the graphic at the top of the article for examples of chords). The basic definition of a chord is this: “Three notes or more, when played at the same time is a chord.” In the majority of the most popular music in the world, most chords consists of triads. For our purposes, we will only be talking about triads. That is, the notes in the chord are made up of intervals of thirds. A C major chord, for example, consists of the notes C, E and G, all intervals of 3rds.

To properly spell a chord (triad), each letter of the chord must be an interval of a third. For example, a C# major chord is C#, E#, G#. Although E# is the same note as F, it is not considered proper to spell the C# major chord with an F, it must be an E#. The reason being that from C to E (with or without a sharp) is a third. From C to F is a 4th. If you ever wondered why we have double sharps or double flats, this is one reason why. For example, a D# major chord is spelled D#, F-double-sharp, A#. A G-flat major chord is spelled Gb, B-double-flat, Db.

The four types of chords are major, minor, diminished and augmented chords. (Yes, there are ‘suspended’ chords but they aren’t triads). What’s the difference? This is where chords and intervals come together.

A major chord consists of 4 half-steps, which is also called a Major 3rd, between the lowest note (called the root) and the middle note. A Minor chord has three half-steps, also called a Minor-third, from the root to the middle note. From the lowest note to the top note in Major and Minor chords is always 7 half-steps which is better known as a Perfect 5th.

We haven’t talked about scales yet, but another way to think of chords would be using scales. For now, suffice it to say that a C major scale consists of all the letter names (without accidentals) from C to the next highest C: C D E F G A B C. If we assign numbers to each letter, the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale, the C,E & G make up the C major chord. We call the notes of the chord the root, 3rd & 5th (from bottom to top).

An augmented chord consists of a Major 3 from the root to the 3rd and an Augmented 5th from the bottom to the top note. An augmented 5th is 8 half-steps.

A diminished chord consists of a Minor 3 from the root to the 3rd and a Diminished 5th from the bottom to the top note. A diminished 5th is only 6 half steps.

A chord has to be 3 notes at a minimum, but there is nothing that says it can only be 3 notes. We can have chords with 7 notes. To add a 4th note, you guessed it, we add a note a 3rd higher. In a C chord, we would add a B. Then we could add a D, F, etc. I cover this and more about chords in my YouTube series.

For more on chords, see my YouTube series on the subject (shown below)

Next time: Scales and modes

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmezVWK0Ex8?hl=en&fs=1&w=425&h=349]

Categories
Arranging Music Theory Piano Lessons

Introduction to Music, Part 8 (Symbols concluded)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicians, or improve their musicianship

Music symbols, part 2

Symbols (2)

As we look into more symbols a reminder of how we will talk about symbols in this series. I divide symbols into a few categories: 1) Articulations; 2) Accidentals; 3) Dynamics; 4) Tempo or rhythm; 5) Ornamentations and 6) Directions. All of these are shown in the example.

Let’s start with some more Articulations. Take a look at the image (remember you can click on it to see a bigger picture):
Staccatissimo – a very short staccato
Marcato – play marked – emphasizing each note.
Bowing directions – String players only. The first means an up bow, the second a down bow.
Accent – play the note louder than normal, with emphasis.
Tenuto – hold the note for its full value, emphasizing the note’s length
Roll – or arpeggio. Keyboard, harp, guitar only. Play each of the notes one at a time in quick succession, usually holding down the notes when done on piano

Accidentals

These refer to variations in the pitch of a note. Remember the piano keyboard with its 2 black notes and 3 black notes pattern, each separated by two white notes along with white notes in between each black note? The distance from one key on the piano to another is known as a half-step. On a guitar, a half-step is one fret to another. When you go from the note C to the next key to the right, the black key, that is a half-step and the black note is called C-sharp, written C#. To go from D to the next key to the left, the note is now D-flat (written Db). Between B & C and E & F, no matter the instrument, it is always a half-step. On the piano, this is easy to see because there are two white keys right next to one another. An accidental lasts for the entire measure in which it appears. So in our example, the two F# in the last measure of the first line are both sharped.

In addition to sharps & flats, we can have double-sharps and double-flats. These simply raise the note another half-step. Yes, we could write F-double-sharp as G, but there are reasons why you don’t always want to do that. That’s for a later section. We also have something called a natural sign. This cancels any accidental and makes it just the letter name, no flat or sharp. On a piano, a natural note is always a white note.

Dynamics

These refer to how loud or how soft a note is. From softest to loudest they are:
pp; p; mp; mf; f; ff. Pianissimo; Piano; Mezzo-Piano; Mezzo-Forte; Forte; Fortissimo. You can add a 3, 4 or more p’s or f’s to make the sound softer or louder, respectively. There are also symbols, as shown, to indicate gradual changes in dynamics. The crescendo and diminuendo symbols are somtimes written out and abbreviated, cresc. and dim.

Tempo
The tempo marking is indicated above the time signature at the start of a piece of music and whenever a composer wants to change the speed. In the example here, there is a tempo marking at the very beginning of the piece of music and another in the 3rd measure from the end. The 1/4 = 80 is a Metronome indicator. It means that there are to be 80 quarter notes per minute. Notice the ‘rit.’ and ‘accel.’ text at the last line. These are the most common indicators for slowing down and speeding up, respectively, that one will find in music.

Ornamentations
Ornaments are indications to the performer to embellish the given note. The squiggly line is a mordent, the one with the vertical line through it is an inverted mordent. A mordent is typically played, in this example, as a 1/32 D, 1/32 E then back to the original D for the remainder of that beat. A trill (tr) indicates to alternate rapidly (usually 1/16 or 1/32 notes) between the given note and the next note higher, keeping in mind the key signature. In some style periods, you might start the trill on the note above. In some situations, a flat or sharp sign appears after the trill. That indicates to flatten or sharp the trilled note as indicated. A complete discussion of ornamentations could fill an entire book.

Directions
The repeat sign indicates, in this example, to go back to the beginning of that line. If there was no forward repeat sign at the beginning of the line, then one would repeat back to the 1st measure. There are other direction indicators that tell the performer to jump back to a specific symbol (DS), others that indicate to jump back to the beginning (DC) and play to the word ‘Fine’ (pronounced ‘fee-nay’). There can also be jumps to measures near the end, a Coda. We’ll show examples of other direction indicators in future articles.

Next time: An introduction to intervals and chords

 

 

Categories
Arranging General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Introduction to Music, Part 7 (Symbols)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Music symbols, part 1

Symbols (1)

First of all, notice the time signature is “C”. That is known as Common Time which is the same as 4/4 time.

Let’s take a break from rhythm and counting and look at various symbols that can affect the way a note is played; the pitch of a note or other aspects of the music. Above are a number of symbols you are likely to encounter in music. I divide the symbols into a few categories: 1) Articulations; 2) Accidentals; 3) Dynamics; 4) Tempo or rhythm; 5) Ornamentations and 6) Directions. Only a few of the many symbols in music are shown above. I don’t want to overload you with everything right now. The names of many of these symbols are Italian words. Time does not allow an explanation of why this is true, but suffice it to say that you will learn quite a few Italian words when learning music.

Let’s start with Articulations. These have to do with how the note is played. Is it connected, is it played short, is it held, or what? The musician accomplishes whatever the symbol is asking for through the technic, the physical logistics of playing their instrument. (Vocalists will remember that your body is your instrument so don’t feel left out if I only refer to playing an instrument. I mean singing too).

The two most common articulations are the slur, sometimes called a phrase mark, and the staccato. The slur is the curved line that happens over or under two or more different notes. A slur indicates that the notes should be played in a connected manner, smoothly. The Italian word, that is sometimes written out in the music is legato. How you do this depends on your instrument. The resulting sound should be of a sequence of pitches without any gap in the sequence. It should be mentioned that in keyboard music, a slur is sometimes used to indicate a phrase and does not necessarily mean that every note within the slur is to be played legato. A wind instrument could play a slur by not tonguing between the notes. A keyboard player would make sure there is no gap between notes when moving from one finger to another. A string player could keep the bow going in the same direction for the entire slur.

Staccato is just the opposite of legato (slur). When the staccato dot is present above or below the note, it is performed shorter than normal. You will remember I said shorter not faster. If a 1/4 note, for example, is marked staccato, you would play the note and then immediately release (stop the sound) but you would still wait until the next beat before playing the next note. Imagine you have a series of 1/4 notes. Play them as though they are all 1/8 notes with an 1/8 note rest in between them. That is a typical way in which staccato is played.

Notice the line joining the last note in the next to last measure of the treble clef into the last measure is called a tie. Do not confuse a tie with a slur. A tie connects the same two notes (pitches), one after another. It is only when the two notes are the same note and no other notes happen in between those two notes that it is a tie. For a tie, you sustain (hold down on a piano) the note for the combined length of both note values. In this example, it is held for a whole note plus an 8th note. You only sound the first note of the two tied notes. You do not sound the second note. A pianist would play the first eighth note and keep the finger pressed down during the entire next measure.

Finally, in the last measure you will see the half-circle with a dot, sometimes called a bird’s eye. That is a fermata. It means to hold the note longer than marked. How long depends on the music and is open to interpretation by the performer.

Next time, a whole bunch of symbols…

Categories
Arranging General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Introduction to Music, Part 6 (Time Signatures)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Time Signatures and Counting

Time Signatures

Up until now we’ve talked about each measure having 4 beats and the quarter note equaling one beat. Can we have 20 beats in a measure? Can the 8th note equal one beat? Yes, to both questions. But what tells us how to know this?

Time signatures do.

A time signature tells us how many beats are in a measure and what type of note equals one beat. The time signature is the first thing that occurs (from left to right) after the clef. It only happens at the start of a piece of music unless there is a change to the time signature. (You may also see the term ‘meter’ used instead of time signature). The most common time signature is 4/4 time. This means that there are 4 beats in a measure and the quarter note gets one beat. Click on the image to see the full size, easier to read version.

The top number of a time signature tells how many beats there are in a measure. The bottom number tells you what type of note gets the beat. The top number can be anything from 1 to infinity. The bottom number tells you what type of note gets the beat. For the bottom number, the way I look at is this: take just the bottom number and put a 1 above it and read it as a fraction. Thus for 4/4 time, make it 1/4 and say it – “quarter.” That’s the type of note that gets the beat. For 3/8 time, 3 beats in a measure, then 1/8 = “eight” so the eight note gets the beat. The bottom number can be 1 or any multiple of 2.

Other time signatures you will run across include: 2/4, 3/4, 6/4, 2/2, 3/2, 3/8, 6/8, 9/8 and 12/8. Those are the more common time signatures. I’ve seen 1/1 (one whole note per measure) but only for a measure or two, and in the music of J.S. Bach, the great 18th century organist and composer, 16/32, 16 beats in a measure and the 32nd note (twice as fast as the 16th) gets one beat.

While it is true that some time signatures are more often used in faster music or slower music, the time signature itself does not say anything whatsoever about the speed of the music. Yes, 2/2 time, which looks just like 4/4 time, is often faster, it isn’t always. What determines the speed of a piece of music is the tempo marking. See below.

The numbers show how you can count the different time signatures. See how in 6/8 time you count the eighth note as one and the quarter note gets 2 beats? How about 2/2 time? In it, the quarter note is 1/2 a beat long while the whole note is only 2 beats long. In time signatures with a 2 or 4 on the bottom, it is typical to divide the subdivisions into groups of two or four. You’ll see examples of that in future articles. In time signatures with 8 or 16 on the bottom, it is more typical to group the subdivisions into groups of 3. See the horizontal line joining the notes? That is what is known as a beam. When two eight notes are joined together, instead of using a flag, we use the beam. Since a 16th note has two flags, when joined together, we use 2 beams.

Tempo is the speed of a piece of music. Just above the time signature at the beginning of the music, a composer may indicated the speed they want the music performed at. This is the tempo marking. That, and only that, determines how fast a piece of music is. A time signature simply tells us how many beats are in a measure and what type of note gets the beat, not how fast to play.

I wonder what that “C” at the end of the last line of music means? (next time)

If you’re reading this close to when it is posted, no new posts for a few weeks so I can enjoy the Christmas holiday season.

Next time: Introduction to Symbols

Categories
Arranging General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Introduction to Music, Part 5 (Rhythm)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Measures and rhythm

Rhythm

Rhythm is the relationship of note values to one another and their placement in a measure. A measure is the space between the two bar lines. We are measuring beats. If we say that a 1/4 note is one beat long, then in the above example, each measure adds up to 4 beats. Remember that a 1/2 note is twice as long as a 1/4, thus equaling two beats. It is important to keep in mind as you learn to play or sing that you keep each similar note value the same length throughout the piece of music. For example, no matter where in the music you are, a 1/4 note will take up the same amount of time as any other 1/4 note.

As you can see a few notes have dots after the notehead. We describe these as dotted-[whatever the note value of the note is]. A 1/4 note with a dot is called a ‘dotted quarter’. Memorize this saying: A dot increases the length of a note by half its value. That’s a mouthful.

Take the dotted half-note as an example. A 1/2 note is 2 beats long. Half of 2 is 1. So, a dotted half-note is 2+1 or 3 beats long. A dotted-quarter note is equal to one plus a half-beat. Since an 1/8 note is half the value of a 1/4, an 1/8 note is half a beat long. So, a dotted-quarter note is equal to a quarter plus an eight or 1 + .5 or 1.5 (1 and-a-half) beats long. An 1/8 note almost always follows a dotted-quarter note. Any note value can be dotted.

Review the example above and use the numbers to help identify the note values. A dash between numbers indicates the note lasts for that many beats. In order to count 1/8 and 1/16 notes, we need to subdivide the beat into smaller parts. For 1/8 notes, the first of the two 1/8 notes is always the beat’s number. The 2nd half is ‘&’, said ‘and.’ For 1/16 notes, we subdivide the beat into 4 parts. The first is always the number of the beat, the 2nd is ‘e’, the 3rd is ‘&’ and the 4th is ‘a’ (said ‘uh’).

(Note that the next to last measure in the bass clef has a different rhythm than the treble clef. It is held for four beats. This is common in piano music and scores. If you count four beats per measure, focusing on the treble clef part, then you just hold down, if you were playing piano, the bass clef note for four beats).

Try clapping the examples. Whenever there is a dash between numbers, clap the first number, but keep the hands together until the dashes end. Keep the counting steady. You can count out loud, or better yet, use a metronome – there are many online sources for computer based metronomes – or the second hand of a watch or clock to keep the beat steady. The next section will have more on counting.

Next time: Time signatures and counting

Categories
Arranging General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Introduction to Music, Part 4 (Note values)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Note and Rest Values

Now that we know what the letter names of the Treble and Bass clef are, we need to learn about note and rest types and their values as well as an introduction to rhythm.

Note & Rest Values

Shown are the most common note and rest values that you are likely to run across in most music. There is one longer value and at least 3 faster note & rest values. A note’s value tells you how long the note lasts in relation to the other notes. It does not tell you how fast a note is. Read that again, it’s important. (How long the note lasts refers to how much time there is between the time the first note sounds and the next note sounds). All notes have a proportional relation to one another.

(For any readers familiar with the British system of crotchets, minims, quavers and my favorite, hemi-demi-semi-quaver, you’ll have to convert from that to this system which is typically used in North America and elsewhere).

Rests represent silence in music. Yes, silence is an important part of music. With rests, you have no sound for the value indicated. It does not mean to stop. The beat keeps going. That is, there should be silence for the amount of time the rest indicates.

The longest note or rest, the whole note is twice as long as a 1/2 note. The 1/2 note is twice as long as a 1/4. A 1/4 is twice is long as an 1/8 and a 1/8 is twice as long as a 16th. To put it another way, a 1/2 note is twice as fast as a whole, a 1/4 is twice as fast as a half, a 1/8 is twice as fast as a 1/4 and finally, a 1/16 is twice as fast as an 1/8. Whether you describe the notes in terms of longer or faster than one another, it is always twice as much as you move from one value to another. I recommend picking one or the other methods of describing the note relationships and stick to that while learning the note and rest values.

Try tapping a steady, non-stopping, steady beat on one leg while tapping out the various note values on the other leg. For example, you would tap one leg twice for every single time the other leg is tapped in order to indicate eighth (1/8) notes.

Next time: Measures and rhythm

Categories
Arranging General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Introduction to Music, Part 3 (More notation)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Piano Keyboard with LettersBasic Notation, Part 2

Blog02-02

To review from our last posting – Basic Notation, Part 1 – refer to the grand staff shown here.. We have staffs made up of lines and spaces. We have two clefs, the treble for the high notes and the bass for the low notes. Each line or space has a letter name that belongs to a specific pitch and a specific location on the keyboard. Those letter names can also refer to a specific fingering for your instrument. As you go higher in the staff (toward the top of the page), the letter names go forward in the alphabet (remembering to start over with A once you reach G). As you go lower in the staff (toward the bottom of the page), the letter names go backwards in the alphabet.

The grand staff is used primarily in keyboard music (piano and organ). It is also used in harp, some percussion and handbell music. We will use the grand staff for examples so that both clefs are shown. (Not every instrument reads the treble clef). We also show it so that you learn both clefs. Unless you play a keyboard or harp instrument, you will only see one clef in your music. Focus on learning that staff’s notes, but don’t ignore the other one. (Viola players, I haven’t forgotten about you. We’ll talk about the Alto clef later).

As you will see in future sections, some notes extend pass the staff in either direction. They have a little line going through them or just above or below them. These are called Leger Lines. Think of them as a 6th, 7th, 8th or more line temporarily added to the 5 lines and 4 spaces that are always present. Since the lines and space in a staff refer to specific pitches, it is impossible to represent all pitches with just 11 notes. (The 11 being the 4 spaces, 5 lines and 2 spaces on either side of the staff). So, we have to add lines and spaces above or below the staff to represent those notes.

Memorize all the letter names in the two staffs. Remember that the notes on the staff refer to a specific location or fingering on your instrument. For example, the first line in the Treble Clef, E, is the note E two higher than Middle C on the piano and only that “E”, not other “E”‘s on the piano. Use the sayings to help with your learning. Remember, as you go up, go forward in the music alphabet and as you go down, go backwards in the music alphabet.

Next time, Note and rest values and rhythm.

Categories
Arranging General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Introduction to Music, Part 2 (Notation)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Basic Notation, Part 1

Piano Keyboard with Letters

You may be thinking, ‘why a piano keyboard, I’m not a pianist.’ Knowing the layout of a keyboard can be helpful in figuring out some elements of music. This will make more sense later, but for now, be familiar with the look of a keyboard. Note the pattern of the black notes. Plus, there are plenty of times when being able to play notes on the piano, even with one finger, can be helpful. You will find that most good musicians know a little bit of piano. But, the reason I show it here is to point out the letters that are used in music. (Tip: To get a better view of the examples shown, click on them to view the full-size versions).

In music we only use the letters A through G. Once you get to G, you start repeating the letters. As you go forward in the alphabet, you go higher in pitch. For the technically minded, pitch refers to how many times a second a note vibrates. Let’s take string instruments as an example. You can’t see it, but when any string instrument is sounded, the string vibrates. The longer the string, the slower the vibration and the lower the sound. The shorter the string, the faster the vibration and the higher the sound. As you go backwards in the alphabet, the pitch gets lower, as you go forward, it gets higher. In notation, as the notes go toward the top of the page (higher), the pitch gets higher. As the notes go toward the bottom of the page (lower), the pitch gets lower. A good tip is to memorize the alphabet backwards from G to A. While we used the example of string instruments, all pitches vibrate, no matter the source.

Music Staff

This is a musical staff. It consists of 5 equally spaced lines. The distance between the lines is called a space. There are 4 spaces in the staff. We number the staff lines and spaces starting from the bottom up. Music is written on this staff. In order to specify a specific pitch, we use clefs. The two most common clefs are the Treble Clef (also called the ‘G-Clef’) and Bass Clef (also called the ‘F-Clef’). As the names imply, the Treble clef is for higher notes and the Bass clef is for lower notes. Depending on what instrument you play, you will use on or the other, but rarely both. Only keyboard and harp players, of the more common instruments, need to read both clefs. Even so, learning both clefs is a good thing to do. If you want to compose or arrange music for other instruments, you need to learn all the clefs.

Blog02-02

Here are the Treble Clef and Bass Clefs. (Remember, click on the image to see a full-size version where you can read the letter names). Use the sayings shown to help memorize the notes. Remember the keyboard at the top with the one key marked ‘middle’? That is middle C. The first line in the treble clef is the E, two white notes higher than middle-C. The fifth (top) line of the bass clef is A, two white notes lower than middle-C.

Next time: More about basic notation

Categories
General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Introduction to Music, Part 1

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

A quick word or two before we get started

This series is designed to introduce you to the world of music. It is not intended as a music appreciation series for the non-musician, but rather it is intended for those who want to be musicians or want to improve their musicianship. It could be that you’ve never played an instrument or sung before and would like to. Perhaps you learned to play or sing by rote, that is, you copied what you heard and saw but don’t really understand why or what you are doing. Perhaps you’ve reached a point where you just aren’t improving as a musician. Hopefully this series can help all of you.

musical notation example (clef, key signature,...
(From Wikipedia)

There is much in the way of theory and how to read music in this series. If you want to learn to play or sing by ear or in a way that results in you only being able to play music someone else has already recorded or that you’ve heard, there is plenty of other material, good or not, that I would point you to. This series isn’t for you, it’s for the person who wants to be a well-rounded musician. It’s for someone who can read music and understand what they are reading and performing.

If you want to be able to play or sing any music, even music you’ve never heard, and do more than just play notes, actually make music, then you absolutely must learn to read music notation and you need to understand why those notes are there in the way they are there. In other words, learn the theory behind the music. That’s what the series is for. I want you to be more than someone who just copies what they’ve heard. I want you to be a well-rounded musician. This series is a very small step in the long process required to be a good musician.

If you are a musician, each instrument – singers, the body is your instrument – has different techniques necessary to play that instrument. String players have to learn how to bow properly. Guitar players need to learn finger positions. Brass and woodwind players need to learn breathing. Singers need to learn diction. Keyboard players need to use proper hand technique, etc. You can learn much on your own in this department, but the best players, even if they say they are self-taught, have had someone at some point in their career show them the technique of their instrument. A teacher is highly recommended. This series will not discuss technique or how to play an instrument.

For all the examples shown, you can click on the picture to see a bigger version.

Next time, we look at basic notation.

Categories
Other Piano Lessons YouTube Videos

iPad apps for music lessons

Update May 2013. See this followup article

If you have some time, please listen to my music on iTunes (Click here)

I’ve uploaded a video showing three iPad apps that I find useful as supplemental material when teaching my piano students. When I downloaded them, they were all free apps.

QF Notes is a basic Notation Flash Card program. Plain and simple.

Pitch Invasion is a PG Music app for Ear Training. For kids, but adults will more than tolerate it. The aliens play a note and you have to guess it before the alien captures one of the instruments along the bottom row. Various levels of difficulty.

Finally, one definitely designed for kids, but a few of my beginning adult piano students have found it to be challenging enough to keep them playing it.

The short link for the video.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7Ia92GaSrg]

A reminder that if you are looking for some unique sheet music, visit the website and download, for free, any of the over 400 sheet music titles we have available.

For a limited time, I’m offering free music tutoring and piano lessons via the internet. Read more.

I’d love to hear from you about the blog, YouTube, my sheet music, my recordings on iTunes, or Amazon, even if it’s a negative comment.

Categories
General Piano Lessons Reaper Sibelius Website News

Piano lessons and music lessons over the internet

Piano

I’m happy to announce that I’m now teaching piano lessons and general music lessons via the internet. Please pass the word on to all you know.

I mainly teach piano lessons, but I am also available to teach Composition, Music Theory, Sibelius 7, Reaper DAW and Native Instruments Komplete 8 (with the various software like Absynth, Battery 3, FM8, Guitar Rig 5, Kontkat, Massive and Reaktor). For piano I teach all levels of experience and all styles. For Composition, Music Theory and Sibelius 7, I teach all levels, from beginner to advanced. For Reaper DAW and Native Instrument software contact me for details. If you are interested in organ lessons via the internet, let me know.

All that is required of the student is the ability to hear them clearly and see their hands on the keyboard.

Being able to see the piano student’s hands and their keyboard is preferred and is almost essential for beginners. But, if a video connection is impossible on the student’s end, then audio will also work. For other non-piano lessons, audio is sufficient although being able to share our desktops with one another would be desired.

For a limited number of new students, lessons (of any type) are ABSOLUTELY FREE through the end of 2012. After that, I will charge half price through May 2013, then go to regular price.

For general information about piano lessons, either in person or via the internet, use the contact page link in the menu above.

Don’t forget, we have over 400 free sheet-music titles available on my website for FREE! All we ask is that you consider making a donation to help the effort.

Categories
Piano Lessons

Piano Teachers and Professional Organizations – yes/no?

Professional organizations for Piano Teachers

I ran across a Piano Pedagogy book that got me thinking. I won’t mention the book’s name because, frankly, there are too many assertions in the book with nothing to back them up. The first part of the book has some comments and assertions about professional organizations and piano teachers that I’m not sure I agree with. I’ll also add that I would think a Pedagogy book would include lists of curriculum appropriate for those students who have moved on past beginning method books, but it does not.

The book asserts that a good, professional piano teacher will be actively involved in at least one, if not more, local professional organizations. These might include local music teacher’s associations, guilds, music workshops and the like. It also asserts that a truly professional teacher will continue to attend education courses. The book gives no convincing reason why any of this is true. For that matter, it doesn’t give much of any reason why these assertions are true.

Supposedly, the book suggests, only by being actively involved with such an organization will a piano teacher have the skills, knowledge and ability necessary to teach piano students. This assertion is never explained with sufficient detail. I would expect most teachers would never be convinced to join such an organization based on this book. Also, it is supposedly only piano teachers who enter all or at least those ready to do so in annual competitions sponsored by these professional organizations that are any good as teachers. Again, no sufficient explanation is given as to why this is true.

My Experience

I’ve been teaching piano lessons, albeit not full time, but continually since the 1980’s. I’ve worked in an urban/suburban area of slightly less than 2 million people and in a similarly sized area with less than 250,000 people. I’ve been members of organizations that dealt with music education, church  music and pipe organs. If I had known in the 1980’s I’d be writing such an article, I would have kept statistics to prove my assertions, but I’ve not yet learned to predict the future.

One organization did nothing but have a one-week summer workshop. At least 90% of the classes offered were taught by members from within the 2,000 or so member organization. While it was a nice social event and a nice opportunity to perform with other professionals, there was nothing being done by anyone that was ever of any help to me. With so much of the course content coming from within the group, I never felt that I was being exposed to what was going on in the rest of the world of music, only what that group did. After a few years, I found the workshop to be a nice vacation and a nice ego boost but little more than that. It and the courses available became predictable and boring very quickly.

Another organization I was associated with planned about 9 concerts during the year. As with the previous organization, the majority of the concerts were put on by members of the organization with very few outside performers. There was nothing in the way of educational classes – either for us to learn more or to learn how to teach. I could have saved a lot of gas money, stayed home and watched a video or listened to a recording of a single performer and gotten as much out of that organization.

Finally, one other organization I belonged to was a music teacher’s organization. The people who attended the meetings were, for the most part, middle-aged or near retirement age housewives who taught on the side in order to make some extra money or because they liked teaching. The meetings were little more than monthly social gatherings where I can’t remember even one discussion on teaching technique, pedagogy, curriculum or the business side of being a music teacher. They did sponsor a once a year music festival where piano students played so that someone other than the student’s teacher could offer comments and suggestions to the student. The “judges” were always from within the organization, the rooms where the student’s performed were barely big enough for 10 people and sometimes the pianos were digital pianos.

Recitals and competitions

Without exception, every teacher I’ve ever known who was actively involved with competitions and annual recitals fell into one of two categories: 1) The competitions and recitals were venues for the teacher to show off how good she/he thought they were or 2) The students spent all of the time between competitions/recitals learning material for the next competition/recital. Few of their students went on to study music in college or go on to work in the music business. I don’t know if any continued to play piano after leaving those teachers or not.

I’ve had quite a few piano students take lessons from me who previously had teachers who were big with competitions and recitals. Of all the transferring students I’ve had, those students were the worse overall musicians. They knew very little if anything about music theory. In some cases, they didn’t even know the letter names of the notes on the staff. (I’m thinking of some book 2/book 3 Alfred basic piano library students). Others had so-so technic and others had obviously had no aural (ear) training.

Whether recitals or competitions, my observation is that students who take lessons from teachers who require their students to participate in such events are being shortchanged. Their sight-reading skills are poor and their general music theory and ear training abilities are sub-standard. That’s my experience.

The Academic Circle

The assertion that a characteristic of a professional piano teacher is to actively take music courses themselves reminds me of the hamster running around in its exercise wheel. I call this the Academic Circle. (I assume the courses would be college level and related to teaching, but that is not said in the book).  While I agree that reading articles about piano teachers, piano teaching, and the use of new materials (not just technology) for teaching is something one should do. But taking college level courses or taking any sort of paid course seems to be nothing more than keeping the Academic Circle going.

It goes like this. A student takes piano lessons from childhood, graduates from college where they paid a lot of money, were most likely classically trained, and performed music that, let’s be honest, very little of the world population has any interest in hearing. They then decide to teach. If they want to teach in the public schools or a university they then have to spend more money to earn a master’s degree. The degree they earn is probably going to be so specialized that unless they are going to teach, the degree is pretty much useless unless they are in the top 5% of musicians. If they are in that category, it really doesn’t matter what their master’s degree is in.

Now, the student has their master’s degree. They can teach in university or public schools. If they perform what they learned in college, they often will do so in their own university or as guests at other academic venues and rarely in non-academic venues. Their university students then pay a lot of money to be exclusively classically trained. Most of that money does not go to the teachers if the teachers are in the public schools or universities. Private teachers, if they are able to get enough students are better off. Now those students of the original students go on to pay more money for master’s degrees that do little more than allow them to say they have a degree and go on to teach. Almost all public school teachers and I would guess most university teachers would be required to take college courses to keep their license to teach or their job.

So, what the first student learns stays within the academic world, for the most part. Then their students stay in the academic world and the circle continues. Once a teacher, they then keep the Academic Circle going by having to take college courses and so on.

Conclusion

I know this may not be the best written article I’ve done and the last section is not as well written as the other sections.

I welcome comments. As I moderate all comments, I will not be approving all comments. If you want your comments to show up here, please provide the hard facts that I don’t have and thus did not include in my post. For example, if you believe that those students who participate in competitions do better than those that don’t, please include hard facts such as documented percentages/numbers, links to websites of those who made a career in music whose websites discuss how those competitions helped, etc.

Thanks

 

Categories
Arranging General Other Piano Lessons

A musician’s thoughts about the iPad

Background

For about 9 years I’ve been using the MusicPad Pro as a way to view my sheet music rather than carry around dozens of books of music. The MusicPad is a 10×14 inch tablet with only 1022×766 resolution at I believe 72 (possibly 96) dpi. It weighs nearly 5 pounds. All it did was display sheet music and organize it, nothing else. Unfortunately, the MusicPad is no longer manufactured or supported nor was it ever improved upon since it was first manufactured.

Back in mid-March 2012, I was asked to play the organ for a special anniversary service celebrating a priest’s anniversary of her ordination. Being one of the first 100 women Episcopal priests ordained, it was kind of a big deal. In the middle of the service, on a piece the audience was singing along to, my MusicPad went completely blank. Not just froze, it went blank, no power, no battery, nothing. Needless to say, it was not an idea situation to be in. I had some similar issues in the past, always during practice, never in a live performance. So, I knew the time was coming to replace it with something else. But what to replace it with or do I go back to paper music?

Decisions

At the time I started researching what to buy, there weren’t any tablets of the same size that I could definitively confirm could run some sort of music display application. After some time of considering different products, I decided to go with the iPad. The latest, sometimes referred to as the iPad 3 had just been released. The high resolution display looked impressive in spite of the small size of the tablet (at least it was small compared to what I was use to). So, I decided to purchase one. (Please help me pay for it by referring me piano students in the Gainesville-Ocala-Micanopy, Florida area OR by purchasing my recordings on iTunes, Amazon or buying my sheet music at my website).

It should be noted that I am neither a Windows nor Apple fan. I think those who are passionate about either company and/or their products might want to seek professional therapy. I’ve never cared for Apple’s almost monopolistic approach to their products and therefore high prices. Let’s face it, the PC world gives you far more choice and bang for the buck. If you want a computer that does what you want it to do and will run the majority of software out there, get a PC. But the Apple world is known for being easy to use and having good customer support. The iPad will be the first Apple product I’ve used or owned since 1983. (That’s before the Mac came out). Although, my first solo piano CD was recorded and engineered (by someone else) using a Mac.

If I’m not home composing/arranging music or doing web maintenance or design, I’m either teaching piano lessons or at a gig. One of those gigs is a steady job as a church musician. (I might add that too many up and coming musicians ignore the potential income one can make working in churches and at the same time honing one’s skills). So, I couldn’t see much point in having to pay $30 (or more) per month that I don’t have to be able to access the internet via my iPad no matter where I go. That made the choice of the WiFi model the obvious one. Not knowing how much my sheet music and recordings would take up when combined with the size of various applications I opted for the 32Gb model (the middle one).

First impressions

I won’t try to do a comparison with the MusicPad as that would probably be like comparing apples with oranges. As of this writing, I’ve only had the iPad for two weeks. The one thing that I will not be doing with the iPad is returning it. While not as big as my MusicPad pro, something I’ll definitely miss, the screen resolution and added abilities make it a worthy replacement. The ability to have other applications, such as music theory and piano teaching apps as well as calendar and note taking apps have already come in handy. I’ve already used some apps to help with my teaching. My students, adults and children, have been receptive to it.

I’ll talk in detail about the various apps I looked at and am using in another posting. For now, I’ll just talk about the iPad itself. The screen resolution is excellent.  When viewing PDF files, which are the bulk of my sheet music, it is very clear and easy to read. It is a very easy product to use. I had no problems setting up a WiFi connection with my home WiFi network. I’ve had no connection issues.

My one complaint is the iTunes software on the computer side of things. The fastest way to transfer data from the PC (or Mac) to the iPad is via iTunes using the included USB cable. (You can use WiFi, but it is slow). The iTunes software is not a program I care for. It doesn’t feel like a mature product. It feels like a bunch of different programs put together to try and meet all the needs of iTunes, iphones, ipads, app store, video store, tv store, etc. All with an emphasis on ‘store’ as in ‘buy stuff from us’ and do things our way. The software changed file associations without asking me. I don’t understand why I need to add my music and videos to the iTunes library just to transfer it to the iPad. Those libraries take up disk space and use system resources. iTunes also runs some services and apps in the background that they don’t tell you about.

I find the fact that one has no choice but to purchase apps from Apple to be offensive and monopolistic. I know I didn’t ‘have’ to buy an iPad, but why should I be forced to purchase almost everything that goes on the iPad from Apple. I don’t like it and I don’t think it’s right.

The iPad is definitely geared toward using the internet. Since my needs have little practical reason to be accessing the internet, especially when you consider the draconian data caps that ISP providers force on us, I’d rather put something on the iPad and do everything separate from the internet. If I’m going to watch a movie on my iPad, that movie better be located on the iPad, not somewhere on the internet.  I don’t care for the iCloud and am not using it. Not that I have anything to hide, but read the Apple terms of service. It makes it very clear that what you put in the cloud will be viewed by Apple and may be voluntarily shared with private companies (like RIAA and MPAA). What encryption that does happen is done by Apple and they have all the keys to view it.

Final thoughts

I may never use the Safari, Mail, Maps, YouTube, GameCenter, iTunes, AppStore, Newstand and FaceTime apps (which are the bulk of the apps that come with the iPad), but the other apps will get some use. The video and camera apps are nice and of course being able to play music examples for my students is good. The speaker quality is not so great, but acceptable for demo purposes. But, the sheet music reading apps, educational potential and the ability to use the ipad as a MIDI controller or DAW controller are very powerful and worth serious consideration if you are a musician looking for something in those areas.

I’ll write more about the specific music apps I’ve started using and those I’ve decided aren’t worth using. Look for future blogs with those articles.

Categories
Arranging General Piano Lessons

Introduction to Chords, part 6

Another in our Introduction to Chords video series is now on YouTube.

This video takes a look at chord progressions – the flow of chords from one type to the other.

Comments and more importantly, suggestions for future videos are welcome.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNqpv3Q6_eM?hl=en&fs=1]

Enjoy the series.

 

Categories
General Piano Lessons

Introduction to Chords, Part 5

Part 5 of our introduction to chord series is now available on youtube.

This video talks about altered chords, sus and added note chords (eg. C6/9)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G30C2eZuj8I?hl=en&fs=1]

Hope you enjoy it.