Tag Archives: Music

How do you listen to music

Please let me know in the comments or on twitter how you listen to music.

Listening to music

Why I’m asking this question.
I noticed in my collection of computer “junk” that I had a speaker system of a powered sub-woofer and three speakers. They were from a 2006 era computer. The sub-woofer is good, but the other speakers are not high-quality. I couldn’t remember why I wasn’t using them with my current system other than I have some nice near-field monitors. (But they don’t do low end well).

I hooked the system up and they sounded nice. The low end was a dramatic improvement over my current setup. But, after about 20 minutes the speakers started crackling and making a lot of static. Due to the unique (proprietary?) way the sub-woofer connects to the other speakers, I can find no way to use the sub-woofer without them. So, I’m back to just my near-field monitors and good over-the-ear headphones for listening and mixing.

I really liked hearing the low end in the music I was working on. I would like to get the sub-woofer to work with different speakers, but I can’t. This all got me to thinking, how do you and people you know listen to music? Is a sub-woofer commonly used?

 

Few listen to live non-amplified music

Most people will listen to music via some sort of speaker/amplifier system. Unless you regularly go to live performances of non-amplified instruments – which I do recommend – then you are listening to music via a speaker. I’d like to know what type of speakers you listen on. No, I don’t want to know models or brands, just general information. You may listen in various locations. I want to know what the most common speaker setup is for you.

 

Speaker listening possibilities

Here are some possibilities. Do you listen only in your vehicle? Do you only use ear-buds? Do you use the computer speakers that are in your laptop? What about over the ear headphones? Do you use the speakers that came with your computer desktop? Do you listen to the speaker of your phone or tablet? Do you listen through a home stereo or home theater system? When listening on stand-alone speakers are the largest speakers big (10 inches or more)? Are there multiple speakers within the speaker cabinet? Or maybe you listen via some other speaker setup?

 

To sub-woofer or not?

What about a sub-woofer? Do you listen to most of your music via a system that has a sub-woofer? (That’s the ‘point 1’ in a 5.1 or 7.1 system). What do you think of your music when you have to listen on a system without one? When I record or mix music, should I assume most people don’t listen on a system with a sub-woofer and not worry about mixing so it sounds excellent on a system with one? Although I try to mix so my music sounds good on all systems, I’m wondering as a result of this experience whether I need to spend so much time trying to perfect the sound for all systems or focus on the ones that most people listen to? Of course I’ll always strive to sound better on as many speakers as I can, I could save time by not spending so much time working on trying to please all speakers out there.

Any thoughts or comments are welcome here or via my Twitter account @MusicByJames

Visit my website JamesGilbertMusic.com for details about my sheet-music, recordings, piano lessons and more.

SheetMusicPlus Digital

For those who may not know this, SheetMusicPlus – an online distributor of printed sheet music – is also selling music digitally. As a composer/arranger, they allow me to submit material to be published digitally. I get the impression they prefer original material rather than your new typesetting of a public domain title. From the customer standpoint, one can either print out a copy or use an app for a tablet. Apparently they only have an app for the iPad and not Android devices.

I’m happy to announce that I now have about 50 titles (collections) available for purchase on the SheetMusicPlus digital download site:

JamesGilbertMusic.com music on SheetMusicPlus

You’ll find Choral, Organ, Piano, Handchime and Handbell titles. The organ music includes solo material and hymn accompaniments.

Of course, I’d like it more if you bought material straight from my website (and the website has more content and no DRM restrictions like their site). I also have free titles available at my website

You may find obtaining my music via this new service easier or better for you than my website. Either way, I encourage you to check out the listings at either location and please spread the word about my music.

My recordings can be found on iTunes, GooglePlay, Spotify as well as CD-Baby.

Latest Additions to the Music Catalog

Here is a list of additions to the JamesGilbertMusic.com music catalog since the last listing of new titles.

We hope you will find these helpful. If you are looking for a specific arrangement of a piece of music or need midi files created for you, please contact us for details.

Fairest Lord Jesus (Woodwind Quintet)
A nice simple setting of this classic hymn also known under the title Beautiful Savior. Hymn tune: ST ELIZABETH. Instrumentation: Standard Woodwind Quintet (Flute – Oboe – Clarinet – Horn – Bassoon). Settings of this tune for Piano – Organ – Keyboard Trio and Orchestra are also available in this catalog.

Count Your Blessings (Keyboard Trio)
A catchy version of this gospel hymn for Keyboard Trio. Written with three synthesizers in mind this title can be used with various combinations of piano organ and electronic keyboards (synthesizers). A setting of this for solo instruments and orchestra is also available.

O Love, How Deep, How Broad (Organ)
An ornamented setting of this hymn tune DEUS TUORUM MILITUM. This will make for a great prelude or communion piece.

12-Tone Composition for 4 instruments (Instrumental Ensemble)
An example of a 12-tone (dodecaphonic) composition. This is for 4 instruments, any 4 instruments. Parts provided for C Bb Eb F and Alto clef instruments.

What Child Is This (Piano)
An arrangement for intermediate level of the popular tune GREENSLEEVES, best known as the Christmas piece What Child Is This? A setting of this title for orchestra is also available. The orchestra version was featured on our Christmas Album A New Old Christmas

What Child Is This (Orchestra)
An arrangement of the popular tune GREENSLEEVES, best known as the Christmas piece What Child Is This? This orchestra arrangement is also available for solo piano. Instrumentation: Flute Oboe Clarinet French Horn Trumpet Trombone Timpani Violin 1 Violin 2 Viola Cello Bass. This title was featured on our Christmas album A New Old Christmas

Nicene Creed (Modern Version) (Vocal/Choir/Congregation)
A setting of the Nicene Creed, modern translation. Designed for congregational use, this title can be use by a choir as well. For unison voices. This has been successfully used in church services.

BEECHER to HYFRYDOL (Love Divine, All Loves Excelling) (Organ Accompaniment)
A modulation from Bb to F and transition from the hymn tune BEECHER to the hymn tune HYFRYDOL. Try this with the first two verses of Love Divine, All Loves Excelling to BEECHER, the interlude, then the last two verses to the tune HYFRYDOL. Works quite well. For use with congregational singing.

Meditation on LLEDROD (Spirit Of God Unleashed) (Organ)
A meditation on this traditional Welsh tune from the 1850’s. A good prelude or communion piece.

Meditation on BLAENHAFREN (Organ)
A meditation on this Welsh hymn tune.

Moment By Moment (Instrumental Solo)
An adaptation of the flute duet found elsewhere in the catalog. This setting is for solo flute (or any treble clef instrument) and organ accompaniment. The organ part is easily adapted to be played on the piano. Parts provided for high and low C instruments Eb treble clef and Bb treble clef instruments. The following instruments would work well with this piece: Flute, Violin, Oboe, Recorder, Bb Trumpet Bb Clarinet Tenor Saxophone Alto Saxophone Eb Clarinet.

Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah (Handel) (Choir)
Probably the best known choral piece written. The Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah by G.F. Handel. For SATB (Soprano Alto Tenor and Bass voices) with piano accompaniment.

Love Lifted Me (Instrumental Descant)
An instrumental descant for this upbeat gospel hymn. Parts provided for C Bb Eb F and Alto Clef Treble Clef instruments.

In The Garden (Instrumental Descant)
An instrumental descant for this all time favorite gospel hymn. Parts provided for C Bb Eb F and Alto Clef Treble Clef instruments.

Christmas Meditation (Orchestra)
A setting of some traditional Christmas music with some original material. A setting for solo instrument with piano is also available in the catalog. Instrumentation: Flute Oboe Clarinet French Horn Trumpet Trombone Violins Viola Cello Double Bass Harp Timpani and Glockenspiel. The harp part can be played on piano.

YouTube Tutorial (Orchestra)
A short orchestra piece written for a YouTube tutorial about using Sibelius. Visit our YouTube channel for an audio sample. Instrumentation: Flute Oboe Clarinet Trumpets (3) Trombones (2) Violin (1) Cello (1).

New Gigue (Organ)
An original composition. A modern twist on the Gigue.

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MIDI project

Among my regular activities as a musician, I was hired to work on special MIDI project.

I thought you might be interested to hear some of the details.

There are a number of churches that have organs but nobody to play them. Many of the organs are midi capable but the midi files they can find online are, let’s face it, not the greatest. Most them sound like they weren’t played by an organist (or for that matter anyone with any accompanying experience). Others consist of only one verse of a hymn or they don’t have introductions. Others are only on channel one. Many organs don’t use channel one as their ‘Great’ manual and this leaves out the pedals, always on a different channel. Yes, one could create their own midi files, but that’s a lot of work. They could edit the files they find off the internet, but generally speaking, they would require too much editing to make them ideal.

So, I was hired to travel to the Orlando, FL area to record some hymns on an organ with midi capability. The organ in question uses channel 12 for the great, 13 for swell and 14 for the pedals. That is not typical for organs, but this unit (an older Rodgers organ) was designed to be supplemented with an external sequencer/sound module that uses channels 1-10 for general midi sounds. The organ also used sysex codes to change the pistons and stops. I recorded one hymn at a time onto a Roland external sequencer (an RD-70).  Rather than try and set tempo on each hymn, we just recorded at the default tempo of 120. A so-called ‘free form’ recording.

We were able to capture the sysex codes to be able to use when editing sequences on a computer. In total, I recorded about 100 hymns and a few ‘service’ pieces. The client the midi files will eventually be used with is an Episcopal church so we focused on them as well as some hymns that span all denominations. The session took about 2 full days with plenty of breaks. I used my iPad where I use the app forScore to view the PDF files of the hymns.

It would have been helpful to have people singing, not so much to adjust to their singing as a good accompanist would, but rather to help me remember which verse we were on and not to forget to include an introduction. There were several titles that I forgot an introduction or I played one less or one more verse than was in the hymnal. I did some post-production on the computer to take care of those issues.

Since most organs use channels 1 for the Swell, 2 for the Great and 4 for the Pedals, it is an easy thing to edit the hymns I did so they can be played on any organ with midi capability. (Channel 3 is used for a Choir or Positiv, if present). Unfortunately, every organ manufacturer and every model within their companies use a different method for selecting stops or picking pistons (aka presets). Since different organs have different stops to choose from, it is impossible to do midi sequences of hymns that automatically select appropriate registrations unless I know the midi implementation and stop list of each organ that wants to use the sequences. However, if someone is willing to sit at the organ console and select a piston or stops just before each hymn plays, then it is quite possible and very realistic to provide high quality hymn accompaniments.

There is a great deal of discussion in some churches about how terrible it is to use the organ and how old-fashioned it is. I say nonsense. Most likely those churches have suffered at the hands of an accompanist who really doesn’t know what they are doing (even if they think they do). Or the instrument itself was the wrong instrument for the auditorium. When the church I play for recently got a new organ with a top notch speaker system – a pipe organ was out of the question for such a small facility and the musical needs the church has – I had one person tell me they never really liked the organ, until now. Now they really like it. Most people just thought it sounded much better. The point is, if you want good music in a church, you need a great accompanist and a good instrument. You’ll be surprised at how many people really do like those ‘old-fashioned’ hymns when played by someone who knows what they are doing and how much they really don’t like drums, synthesizers and guitars playing a bunch of music that stylistically is 20 years behind the times and is being attempted by a bunch of amateurs.

If you’d like to read more about how to be a good accompanist, visit the Amazon Kindle store and check out my book In the Shadows but still in the Spotlight.  It gives some good tips on how to be a better accompanist.

So, loaded with these sequences, it was time to put them to test in the real world. A small church too far away for me to play there and make it to my current church has a midi capable organ similar to the one I recorded on. The church has its 5 general pistons setup from soft congregational accompanying (1) to loud festival hymns (5). The church emails me a list of the pieces for the coming Sunday. If it is one of the ones I already recorded, I double check it to make sure it has the right number of verses, an intro and the right piston changes at the start and, if needed, between verses. If it isn’t one I’ve already recorded, I get the hymn into my computer sequencer – I use the DAW Reaper for my recording work – add piston changes and make sure all is correct. I then email the church the sequences. The person on that end copies the .mid file to a floppy. (And yes, they still make 3 1/2 inch floppy disk drives and drives). He puts it into the sequencer, hits play and that’s it. For special situations, like an upcoming patriotic choir accompaniment, I utilized the sounds on the sound module (strings, winds, drums, etc) in addition to the organ.

The results? The vicar of the church, who I know and who regularly hears me play for services, says it is just like having me there playing the organ. The breaks between verses, the breathing spots, introductions and stop changes are exactly like if I were there. I’m very pleased with those results.

For you? Even if you do contemporary music, if you have any instrument or sound module that is midi capable, it is possible for me to create a high-quality midi accompaniment sequence of your music. Just insert the disk (or usb memory stick), select the piece and hit play. For those with midi capable organs, I can provide the hymns just like described above.

That’s why I’ve not been doing much here on the blog.

I have posted a few new videos on my YouTube channel. Do check them out when you get a chance.

If you are on Spotify, here are some playlists you may want to check out:

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/5amPipKSeCefguofXXbtJV

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/4COYvc3upBFoabQy6nfwJ8

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/1LrdQ4tq9BRwyN8rVMJim8

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/64gzlDm2FIgX693FBAZG7T

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/0sG01jRAD22KlYO6j7PIcV

Enjoy.

(edit: removed some redundant text 6/29)

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 our sheet music for Free at the website. I also have six albums (as of January 2013) available on GooglePlay, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

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
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRdYzYjxl5M]
Introduction to Chords
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmezVWK0Ex8?hl=en&fs=1&w=425&h=349]
A Review of iPad Apps of help for musicians
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7Ia92GaSrg]
12-tone, Dodecaphonic Composition Overview


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


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHhf7mB4180]
Some Sibelius (notation software) Tips
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OouCZ-Uz0zM?hl=en&fs=1]
Making another Arrangement using Sibelius
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yKV-GI-5KA?hl=en&fs=1]
Making an Organ arrangement in Sibelius
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B49i8EtmS-w?hl=en&fs=1]
I hope you enjoyed this. Your comments and questions are welcome here or via the contact page on the website.

 

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

 

O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing

Our latest additions to the catalog at our website consists of the title: O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing.

There are two titles available. They are both upbeat, rock/pop adaptations of this classic hymn tune also known as AZMON.

One is an MP3 recording and the other is a sheet music transcription for solo instrument. The sheet music version is for solo instrument with piano and optional rhythm section and keyboards. The keyboard part is also made available in parts that could allow you to perform this piece with a full orchestra (with a piano and instrumental soloist).

We try to be versatile with our music and allow for it to be performed with a variety of possible instrument combinations. Much of our instrumental solos, orchestra, instrumental, brass, woodwind and string music can be played by instruments other than indicated in the descriptions. Most, but not all titles include parts for C, Bb, Eb, F and alto clef instruments. (The catalog description specifies which parts are provided).

As with all our music in the past 3 years, it was typeset using the Sibelius notation software program. For recordings, we use the excellent Reaper DAW.

Check out a short YouTube video where you can listen to this title:

 
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaoX950jl2c]

New MP3 recording available

Frozen Look

A new MP3 file is available at the website. Titled Frozen Look this recording is somewhat ambient, definitely electronic and even a bit meditative.

The inspiration for this title was a handbell arrangement I made a number of years ago of a less familiar hymn. I took that, made minor changes to it, added some percussive elements and played the notes through various synthesizers. Some of those synths were part of the Native Instruments Komplete 8 package (eg. FM8, Absynth, Reaktor, etc)

Take a listen to it here:

http://jamesgilbertmusic.com/catalog.php?sid=MP060

Enjoy

New Album on Google Music

New Album

Another album is available on Google Music.

Visit the new album

The new album is entitled Selections from JamesGilbertMusic, Volume 2

There is one free track and a couple that are only available at Google Music. The remainder of the tracks are all available in single form at our regular website. (Link to the website). The CD is a mix of various styles, including Classical, Novelty, Dance/Trance, Jazz and popular music.

Contents:

  • All Glory Laud And Honor
  • James Gilbert Music Theme (free track, used in many YouTube videos)
  • Leoni In Africa
  • Brass & Percussion Piece (Google Music exclusive)
  • Short Tease At The Fountain
  • Blessed Assurance
  • Tidings
  • Soft And Hard
  • Suspense Chase
  • Sweet Feel
  • Through The Forest Mist
  • What Are Those Sounds In The Dark (Google Music exclusive)
  • Shake The Duck’s Jaw

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions. And please spread the word.

New titles added to the website

New Titles – December 2011

We’ve added three new titles to the website.

Shake The Duck’s Jaw

A Novelty, Humor recording. It is meant to be silly and funny. Elementary school-aged children seem to really like it. Artist: In The Loft Players

Short Tease At The Fountain

A peppy piece with a nice blending of acoustic and electronic instruments. Loosely (very loosely) based on a hymn tune. Artist: In The Loft Players

Soft And Hard

An MP3 recording. A moderate speed piece consisting of a synth lead with rhythm section. The composition was written by Martin Flanders, one of our staff artists. The recording was by the In The Loft Players.

In addition to the recording, there are three sheet-music versions available

We hope you enjoy these titles. We’d love to hear your comments about any of our music.