Monthly Archives: February 2012

Artistic Quality and Bow Technique

By Kirk D. Moss, Ph.D.

String performers and teachers regard Ivan Galamian as one of the greatest violin pedagogues in history. Galamian’s system seemed to work regardless of how much or how little natural talent a student possessed, prompting the former first violinist of the Tokyo Quartet to famously joke that Galamian could make a violinist out of a table. In terms of specific exercises, the collé bow stroke was the staple of the Galamian world. Galamian students would warm up every day with collé. Playing it slowly was more important than fast, and Galamian had students play it in all parts of the bow with every possible bow direction combination: all ups, all downs, then back and forth.

Following in the Galamian tradition, the new Sound Innovations: Sound Development for Intermediate String Orchestra, Level 2: Sound Bowings introduces the collé bow stroke. Using collé to develop your students’ right-hand finger flexibility can make a noticeable difference on every bow change and in every attack stroke. Listen for clarity in hooked-staccato bowings and articulate martelé to hear the click at the beginning of each stroke. Refine the height of the spiccato bounce as well as the placement of the spiccato stroke. By paying more attention to these details, your students can share in the Galamian lineage of sound-driven technique. Remember: Artistic quality has no limits.

Why Every Jazz Enthusiast Should Join the Jazz Education Network

By Pete BarenBregge

Last month, Alfred and nearly 3,000 of our friends attended the annual conference for the Jazz Education Network, a group that brings together a variety of individuals and organizations, all for the love and passion for JAZZ.

WHO belongs to JEN and attends the JEN conferences? Aspiring and/or young jazz musicians, professional jazz musicians, jazz fans and aficionados, aspiring jazz educators, experienced jazz educators, jazz journalists, music technology individuals, and the related music industry all come together to perform, present, educate, nurture, cultivate, and push jazz forward in our society.

WHY do we join the JEN organization? Because in some way we have all been touched by the love and passion for jazz—it is a calling and we are all part of the jazz community.

WHAT can JEN do for me and why should I be interested in this non-profit organization?

The JEN mission statement includes three main areas: advancing education, promoting performance, and developing new audiences.

Advancing jazz education! JEN is a network of jazz educators at your fingertips—to seek answers to questions, get ideas, explore concepts, relate to, and challenge. JEN can assist you and educators at all levels to know and understand more about jazz and therefore become more skilled to teach and enjoy jazz. At the annual JEN conference, the daily schedule is packed with terrific educational clinics, master classes and presentations by highly-skilled educators and music technology/industry experts providing essential concepts and information on every conceivable aspect of jazz.

Promoting jazz performances! JEN will provide exceptional opportunities to hear and appreciate world-class jazz musicians perform—both outstanding students and superb professionals. At the three-day annual conference, the schedule each day and evening includes amazing performances by all types of ensembles, individuals, duos, trios and whatever you can imagine in a concert setting—both instrumental and jazz vocal. Where else can you hear such an array of brilliant performers indoors, in a quality acoustical setting? It is first class all the way.

Developing new audiences! JEN the umbrella organization, the JEN website and the JEN conference all provide a cross-section of students, musicians, educators, performers, music technology experts and related music industry. Add to that a well-organized and effective local jazz outreach to hundreds, even thousands of students, all taught by experienced jazz educators and provided with quality materials at no charge. Informing, demonstrating, inspiring, mentoring, nurturing and cultivating; this is how you develop new jazz audiences.

Check out the various outreach and scholarship programs that JEN offers for students throughout the year.

My own experiences at JEN have been remarkable. I have attended both the first three JEN conferences and definitely plan to attend the 4th Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA, January 2-5, 2013. As a musician and educator, I have attended clinics, master classes, heard and participated in concerts, jazz jam sessions of the highest level and benefited immensely from each.

I highly recommend every jazz educator, aspiring jazz educator, jazz musician aspiring or professional, all music industry related, all music technology related individuals to become part of JEN—you won’t regret it. Do it today!

For more information on all these topics, check out www.jazzednet.org.

Alfred's Booth at the 2012 JEN convention

Integrating Your Music Program into Daily School Life

Anna WentlentBy Anna Wentlent, Associate Editor of School Choral & Classroom Music

As school districts face another year of budget cuts, music programs and teacher positions continue to be in jeopardy. In addition to being a regular advocate for music to your administration and school board, one of the most important things you can do is integrate your program into daily school life. The arts should not relegated to separate classes that students go to as part of the “specials” cycle; but rather, artistic involvement should be a consistent, permeating aspect of life at school.

To begin with, remember that you are not alone! Even thought you may be the only music teacher in your building, there are bound to be teachers and staff members (don’t forget secretaries, guidance counselors, principals, etc.) who have some musical background and appreciation for the arts in general. Make this fact known! I used to start the school year by putting together a giant paper tree on the wall outside my room. On it were hung individual paper apples for every teacher and staff member, listing their name and musical experience, be that playing clarinet in fourth grade band, singing in collegiate ensembles, or spending time on the road as a sound technician for a rock band! (Yes, that last one is true.) Many musical conversations resulted from walking past that tree in the hallway.

Look for performance opportunities during the regular school day. That doesn’t mean adding extra concerts, but creating small opportunities to make performing a natural, enjoyable experience for your students, as well as showcase your program as a vibrant, living part of the school. Bring your “experienced” fifth and sixth graders into third grade to demonstrate band instruments. Teach your classes a funky version of “Happy Birthday” to sing for other students, teachers, and staff on their birthday. Does your school hold a regular school-wide morning program? Use that as often as possible for performance opportunities.

When designing large units, look for ways to connect your curriculum with that of classroom teachers. We often forget how interconnected our subject matter really is. When the second and third graders are heading outdoors to explore nature in the spring, teach them a few songs from Creepy Creatures, Weather the Weather!, or It’s Easy Being Green!  Learn multicultural songs to coincide with the students’ geography units. When the fourth graders are studying a particular country, incorporate a song, dance, or instrument from that culture into music class at the same time. Alfred offers many collections with appropriately arranged music, including Ready to Sing … Folk Songs, A Small Part of the World, Children of the World, and Celebrations Around the World!

Consider collaborating with a classroom teacher on an instrument design project. I did a yearly cartoon composition project using regular classroom instruments, until a classroom teacher approached me with the idea of having his students design and build their own instruments as part of a physics unit in class. The level of student effort and interest in the entire project was astounding. The following year, this same classroom teacher had his students make their own silent films, which we then orchestrated in music class. This was truly organic music making!

You don’t have to give over your entire curriculum to this effort—just take the opportunity to make small connections when possible. Of course, once you get going, it’s hard to stop. Consider working with the other “specials” teachers to designate a theme for a full semester or even the entire school year. Focus on a specific culture, genre, time period, or event. Use your combined resources to bring in special performers or an artist-in-resident. By organizing student learning on such a large-scale, you will give your students a unique opportunity to explore important topics from many different angles.

An excellent opportunity for this kind of large-scale collaboration is approaching—the 2012 Summer Olympics. Put your students’ crazy end-of-the-year energy to good use! I’ve seen elementary schools that actually held their own mini-Olympics, complete with organized athletic demonstrations, cultural performances, and a school-wide art competition to design an Olympic banner. Assign each class a country and get their classroom teachers involved in promoting a patriotic spirit for the big event. The sky is really the limit here.

Use as many opportunities as possible to integrate your music program into daily school life. Don’t just tell your administrators how important music is; rather, demonstrate that fact by making your program irreplaceable.

How to Sight-Read 55 Big Band Arrangements in Three Days

By Steve Fidyk

Alfred's Ledger Lines Blog

As a professional big band drummer, I often have the pleasure to record the demo tracks for the newly published jazz ensemble music for the Belwin Jazz catalog. Along with sixteen other excellent musicians, the challenge is to perform these charts with no preparation. That means to sight read everything but it must be accurate, clean and sound like you already have rehearsed the music. What’s the rush? In the music business, like most professions, time is money, so we need to do it right the first time. The Belwin Jazz band leader and session producer, Pete BarenBregge, provides us with clean parts and a simple talk down describing how each arrangement is to be played. The session engineer hits record, Pete counts it off and we are sight–reading. In many instances what becomes the “final take” is actually the band’s first run–through. All solos are live as there is no time for over-dubs. The music difficulty ranges from easy grade 1 to advanced grade 5 or 6. The various musical styles include swing, shuffle, jazz-waltz, Latin, ballad, straight-eighth groove and Afro-Cuban to name a few.

Does this sound like a challenging gig? For most professional musicians, sight-reading on the job is a daily occurrence. The majority of live and recorded jazz, music for films and television that you hear was minimally rehearsed. The performance is executed without fail as a result of the ability of the musicians to sight-read, which includes: playing the written notes, articulations and dynamics, interpreting the musical style, and adding nuance to the music. This skill, I believe, can be developed through education, practice, and experience.

A Macro Approach

There are a number of variables that come into play when sight–reading the drum chair. Below are some big-picture concepts and suggestions that might be of value to aspiring students.

(1)  Form! As you look over the drum part for a big band arrangement, begin by looking for the double bar lines which can help outline the different sections of an arrangement.
(2)  Usually, the first four or eight measures is an introduction.
(3)  Next, the melody is stated which is an opportunity to change texture—for example, moving from brushes to sticks or from the hi-hat to the ride cymbal or vice versa or perhaps some other variation.
(4)  The melody is usually followed by the solo section, which often includes background figures played by a section of the band—saxes, trombones or trumpets. You’ll quickly need to determine who is soloing and temper your volume to suit that soloist and then what section has any background figures.
(5)  After the solo section, many charts develop into a shout chorus for the full ensemble, followed by a restatement of the melody.
(6)  Focus on these larger segments of information as you try to weave the beat patterns, fills, articulations, and dynamics through each macro section of the arrangement.
(7)  Dynamics! Jazz ensemble dynamics are ultimately dictated not only by the written notation, but by the drummer. So, scan the chart for dynamic peaks and valleys, and play accordingly.

The Art of Interpretation

My approach when sight–reading is based on how the band responds to my ideas in the moment. In addition to the written rhythms on my part, I pay close attention to the articulation makings notated above the rhythms. These markings give me a sense of how the phrase is going to swing with the horns in the band, and I apply each “long and short” articulation to a corresponding drum or cymbal. For example, a legato tenuto marking above a note dictates a long sound, and a short sound is indicated with a staccato symbol or a marcato (^) rooftop accent. Sometimes arrangers neglect to put articulations on drumset parts. In that case, it helps to consult the score to be sure that the articulations match with those played by the lead trumpet. Some drum parts have ensemble figures written in the staff and sometimes the figures are notated above the staff in cue-size notes—and sometimes a combination. So, listen, react and always look ahead in the chart.

Why Learn to Read?

As a professional musician, it’s business. Sight-reading is another skill—the more you can do as a musician, the more marketable you become. If you want to be a working player in this economy, it’s essential to take whatever gig comes your way, and being able to sight-read can bring the opportunity for more work. I pride myself on being versatile and sight-reading was a very important part of my development. And I most certainly wouldn’t have gotten the call for this session if I didn’t have strong sight-reading skills.

Have fun and make great music!

–Steve Fidyk

Preparing Practical Editions of Choral Masterworks

By Patrick M. Liebergen

Carefully preparing any choral manuscript before submitting it for possible publication is an important part of achieving success as a writer. When creating a manuscript for submission, great attention must be given to every detail on the score in order to completely and clearly represent the musical intention of the composer, editor, or arranger. Additionally, the manuscript must be artistically rendered with appropriate tempo and dynamic indications as well as other markings, such as titles and subtitles, slurs, breath marks, and fermatas.

If the submission is an edition and/or arrangement of a masterwork, the author must be prepared to supply a hard copy of the source with the date of its original publication, which will clarify what has been done to the original version and that the source is in the public domain. If indeed any part of the submission is not in the public domain, then it is the author’s responsibility to provide the publisher information about music or words under copyright.

For over 20 years, I have completed numerous editions and arrangements of choral masterworks for Alfred Music Publishing Company using original source materials. Since each of my editions is readily useable by today’s singers and contains a wealth of information for a modern day performance, this type of work can be considered a “practical edition.”  Based on an original source and staying true to the intention of the composer,  a “practical edition” is in a contemporary format. It may contain additional items for optimum performance, including modern clefs, traditional note values, tempo and metronomic indications, dynamic indications, an optional text in English if an original source is in a foreign language, fermatas at the end of the music, and a keyboard realization of the original basso continuo part. Occasionally optional notes that either fill in chords or provide lower or high-sounding notes as alternatives may also be included. Everything is clearly labeled as editorial either on the musical score with the use of brackets or in the “editor’s note,” enabling the conductor and singer to perceive what has been done to the original version.

In comparison to an edition of a masterwork which stays true to the intention of the composer, an arrangement is a deliberate alteration of either the composer’s original intent or the commonly known musical material, such as a folk song or hymn. For example, an arrangement may involve a total reworking of a particular piece of music for another performance medium (i.e., a solo revised for choral performance) and the basic musical elements (such as melody, harmony, and rhythm) may be changed and new musical material may be added. Additionally, the music may be reset with different words.

Once a piece is accepted for publication, I usually complete a page of editorial remarks for inclusion in the octavo. Depending on the amount of space available, that kind of information may include a listing of where I found the original source (such as in the published music of one composer or in an anthology) and what changes have been made to that source. Biographical information about the composer, the historical background of the selection, a literal translation and a pronunciation guide of a non-English text, usually incorporating a transliteration, are all quite valuable for educating the performer and achieving an authentic performance.

For a complete listing of Patrick Liebergen’s choral publications available from Alfred, click here.

Warm up? Or Worn out!

By Chris Bernotas
Alfred Author

What is the purpose of a warm up in the band (or any) classroom?  Students come into our classrooms from a variety of places, both physically and mentally.  Maybe they are coming from lunch, or a science lab, or home.  The fact is, not every student comes into the music room with the sole focus of creating and communicating through music.

I believe that the first ten (or even twenty) minutes of class are far more important than even the literature.  Is that a crazy thought?  Maybe it is, but I have always had the belief that if students are prepared properly, physically and mentally, they will absorb the literature more easily and with more meaning.

In preparation for each of our ensemble rehearsals we do much more than a single scale for a warm up, but let’s take a second and analyze one role of using a scale as part of your warm up.

“Here we go, Bb scale, whole notes.  Ready? Go!”  I admit it; I have been guilty of using this scale warm up method and honestly, is starting with a scale in whole notes a bad thing? No, it isn’t.  Is a routine that students can expect when they come into the room a bad thing? Nope.  What is so bad about it then?  Answer: Performing a scale in whole notes without purpose.

It isn’t that the teacher doesn’t know the purpose, but often we forget to share our secrets with our students.  It is called assumed knowledge – we sometimes assume students know the reason for performing each exercise.

Quite often they do not know and will obediently perform as you ask without knowing why it is important.  For a student, warming up might simply mean heating up their instrument.  Really! Ask them! They will tell you.

The Bb scale will take on a whole new meaning if you share with students that in addition to getting their bodies prepared (by paying attention to their breathing and posture) and their facial muscles prepared (by focusing on proper embouchure), they are also warming up their minds.

We are all well aware of critical thinking and problem solving – going beyond surface learning and understanding.  Are students aware that they do this everyday in music? And every time they are making a sound?

When you share the secret with students that when they play long tones in the Bb scale they should be listening to and analyzing the following:

  1. Quality of the sound – is it a good characteristic sound? If not, change it!  This is the problem solving part.  Students need to experiment to change their sound, as a teacher, try to learn to trust their judgment.
  2. Balance within their section – Are you blending well with the performers on either side of you? With the section? With the band overall? Have you, as the teacher, shared with your students how you would like them to play in balance?  What exactly does playing in balance mean?  Maybe you know what you are looking for, but do your students?
  3. Tuning – is your sound in tune?  Do your students know what “in tune” is?  Do they think it is just something that a machine tells them?  Do they know that you need to tune every note? And that each instrument and each person plays differently and they need to be aware of tuning 100% of the time they are making a sound?  Tuning to one note is merely a reference.  We know that, but do our students? Adjusting pitch is problem solving.
  4. Articulation – How does each note begin? Is it an accent? Are notes slurred from note to note? Be sure to let them know!
  5. Phrasing – If the scale is in whole notes, where should they breathe?  Is it staggered breathing?
  6. Dynamics – Is the scale going to be one dynamic? That’s fine, but tell them!

There are many ways to warm up in the band classroom and the Bb scale (or any other, try Concert C for a whole new opportunity to work on critical thinking and problem solving!) is just one of them.

The important thing is to share the why with our students.  Too often we take for granted that our students already know the why and in reality it is our responsibility to be sure that they know the purpose of what we ask them to do.

If students understand the reason for the exercise, they will perform it with more meaning and the end result will be far more beneficial to your rehearsal and to their success.