Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bastien Piano Basics, Level 1, No. 2: Roaring Lions

Focus Points:

  • This song starts in C position and the left hand plays first. 
  • Remember to make the notes connect as smooth as possible, they should flow through one another. How can we tell that the notes should flow?  We look for the curved line above or below notes in the music. The musical word for playing the notes smoothy and connected is legato.
  • One way to practice this piece to use a rhythm like pepperoni pizza for every note so that the hands get comfortable with the notes of the piece.
  • Play the piece the way that it is written: first soft (p) and then strong (f).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bastien Piano Basics Level 1, No. 1: March On

Focus Points:

  • Put hands in C position. Right hand thumb on C and Left hand pinky on a lower C.
  • The right hand starts, because the notes are written on the top staff
  • Remember that the white notes, called half notes, need to be held down for two beats twice as long as the black notes, called quarter notes.
  • After playing each hand, play both hands
  • Play the song faster

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Suzuki Book 1, No. 15: Minuet No. III

Focus Points:

  • Start at the middle of the bow
  • Play the hooked bows, which are the up-up quarter notes gently
  • Since the Minuet is a song that people dance to, try to play it in a way that you would want to dance to it

Suzuki Violin Volume 2, No. 1: Chorus from "Judas Maccabeus"

Focus Points:
  • Play along with the preparation exercise at the beginning of the video until you can play that section effortlessly
  • Use the whole bow on every note and slur
  • Almost every line starts down bow, so be prepared for the bow circle during a rest
  • Play the dynamics (f, mf) dramatically
  • Make the rall. (rallantando) extra slow at the end of the piece
  • Play the piece down one string, starting on the D string, once you know it the way it is written

Bastien Piano Basics Level 1: It's Winter

Focus Points:

  • Put hands in C position
  • Make sure that you put both 3rd fingers on Eb, the black key, before you start
  • Practice each hand separately slow, medium and fast
  • Play both hands slow, medium, fast

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Suzuki Violin Book 1: Go Tell Aunt Rhody in A, D, G Major with Preparation Exercise

Focus Points:

    • Keep polishing the previous pieces, seek to make them more interesting, playing them at different tempi (speeds).
    • Get into a good playing position: violin on the shoulder to the side, curved fingers for the bowhand, stand tall, left thumb by the first finger.
    • Place the bow at the middle between the bridge and the fingerboard.
    • This piece starts on the A string, just like the Twinkles and Song of the Wind, but now we start with two fingers down (the note C#).
    • In the second line you repeat Section B quietly (indicated with a p), watch for that in the video. Make a difference between the p and the mf.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    Should I Rent or Buy the Instrument for Lessons?

         You have thought about private lessons for you or your child, you have found a teacher, but you do not have an instrument. So what should you do? Buy or rent, that is the question. Some parents are not sure if it is worth buying an instrument when they are not sure how long they or their child will be playing.

    Here is the quick answer: buy the instrument.

    Why? Because in the end it is cheaper, at least for violin, viola, and cello. How so? Because the money you pay for renting the instrument is lost, the money invested in buying an instrument can be won back if the instrument is kept in decent shape. The only hardship that you have in buying the instrument is selling it. But that is not a problem, because there are plenty of people looking for instruments, you can even sell it at a music store. In the end, you win out if you buy the instrument.

    It may be different for brass, woodwind, or percussion instruments, so you may need to ask questions of different sellers. It takes a little work, but you can save more money than you think.

    Suzuki Violin Book 1: Twinkle Theme

    Focus Points:
      • Now that you know the notes and can play Twinkle with different rhythms, it is time for the Theme.
      • Get into a good playing position: violin on the shoulder to the side, curved fingers for the bowhand, stand tall, left thumb by the first finger.
      • Place the bow at the middle between the bridge and the fingerboard.
      • Concentrate on keeping the bow flowing and smooth throughout the piece.

      Wednesday, May 15, 2013

      Suzuki Violin Book 1: Song of the Wind in A, D, G Major with Preparation Exercise

      Focus Points:

        • Keep polishing the Twinkle Variations & Theme and Lightly Row.
        • Get into a good playing position: violin on the shoulder to the side, curved fingers for the bowhand, stand tall, left thumb by the first finger.
        • Place the bow at the middle between the bridge and the fingerboard.
        • This piece starts on the A string, just like the Twinkles. 
        • There are rests in the pieces during which you do a bow circle, watch for that in the video.

        Thursday, May 9, 2013

        We're Gone on Vacation Over the Summer, Should My Child Take Lessons Anyway?

             Taking lessons over the summer is one of best things you can do for yourself and your child.  Many students forget more than half of what they learn in school that year over the summer; the same goes for music skills, sports skills, you name it.

        So do not stop lessons over the summer, keep it going even if there is vacations and camps somewhere in there. Most teachers are flexible during the summer because they are gone at times as well. If your teacher does not teach during the summers, ask for a recommendation on someone in the area that you can study until the Fall.

        Still not convinced, here are some more things to consider:

        1. Progress: If you stop lessons over the summer, some students and parents come back with bad habits formed and songs forgotten. Some people just quit their instrument instead of coming back.You do not want to lose the investment you made and pay extra to make-up for the loss. For some students it takes a few weeks or even months to get back to where they were at the beginning of the summer. If you keep up with lessons over the summer, you will continue to move forward with musical skills, motor skill development, consistency, time management, etc. You will not fall behind, which will keep you encouraged when other subjects seem to be lagging at the beginning of the school year.

        2. Opportunities: Throughout the summer, there are great camps you can participate in. At camps, you can meet parents and other students, which will motivate everyone to enjoy the music they learned, learn new music, be challenged to play better, and more (more information about camps here).

        3. Teacher Availability: The summer brings new students for some teachers, which may cause you to lose your slot or even not be able to fit in the Fall schedule. Along the same lines, some parents want to switch teachers and use the "summer break" line as a way to evade the issue. I want to encourage you to use this kind of situation as an opportunity in character development. Your character is on display to your child and others as you deal with harder situations. You can lose more than you know when you just make up excuses or evade issues. Face hard situations with respect and humility, and good things happen in your family.

        Summers are wonderful opportunities to invest in the growth of the family. It is easy to just drop everything, but if you take advantage of what school breaks offer, you will win out in the end!

        Bow Circles: Good for Tone

                  This is one of the simplest ways to build your tone on the violin. It even works with viola, cello, and bass. So what you want to keep in mind:
        • the bow needs to be placed gently on the string at the frog (bottom of the bow).
        • then pull the bow gently watching that the string resonates (wiggles really fast).
        • then circle back to the middle of the bow! 
        • keep the bow off the fingerboard and use as much of it as you can.
        • start by doing 5 bow circles per string, then every week keep adding 1 more bow circle per string.
        • after 2 weeks you can experiment with slower and faster bow circles.
        • you can even do bow circles up bow
        This warm-up exercise is good for the rest of your life, just like marriage, so keep at it and be creative.

        Violin Book 1: Lightly Row in A, D, G Major with a Preparation Exercise

                      You are ready for Lightly Row, so other than a pretty melody what will you learn? Check out some of the focus points:
        • This piece starts on the E string, not the A string like the Twinkles.
        • Playing position. Get into a good playing position: violin on the shoulder to the side, curved fingers for the bowhand, stand tall, left thumb by the first finger. Place the bow at the middle between the bridge and the fingerboard.
        • Hopping. Practice the hop between the 1st two notes, the E string to 2 on the A string, with different rhythms.
        • Once you can play the piece without stumbles, you can try playing it starting on the A string and then starting on the D string, just like in the video.

        Violin Book 1: Twinkle, Variation A "Pepperoni Pizza"

        Thursday, May 2, 2013

        Claudio Monteverdi: The Persevering Cameleon

        Historical Period: Baroque

        Nationality: Italian

        Born: 1567; Cremona, Italy

        Died: 1643; Venice, Italy

        Children: one daughter and two sons, only the sons survived.
        Contemporaries: Heinrich Schutz

        Specialty: Nine books of Madrigals, Vespro della beata vergine (1610); La favola d'Orfeo (1607); Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1640); L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642)

               Have you ever heard someone say “keeping up with the times”? Well Claudio Monteverdi was a composer that had the consistent capacity to re-invent and adapt his musical style as needs arose where he was living.

             What’s Happening in History?

            Around this time, England and Spain start fighting (1568), William Harvey figured out that the heart pumps the blood throughout the entire human body, Galileo Galelei discovered that the planets revolve around the Sun, Robert Hooke makes up the word "cell" for those small things found in our bodies, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn started to dominate the art world with his extraordinary paintings, and Miquel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote. It was in these remarkable times that Claudio Monteverdi lived and wrote lots of music!

        Early Years

               Monteverdi grew up singing in the cathedral choir of his hometown, Cremona, in the country of Italy. By age 16, he became an accomplished instrumentalist, had published a volume of three-part motets and an entire book of sacred madrigals. Motets and madrigals are songs written to be sung in church.

        Mantua, Madrigals, Motets, & Marriage

             In 1587, Claudio composed his first volume of secular madrigals and then his second volume in 1590. It was also around this time that Monteverdi got a job as a string player at the ducal court in Mantua. By 1592, Monteverdi had composed his third madrigal collection and his fame as a composer was spreading around. 
            In 1599, something really important happened: Claudio made the important decision to get married. He was given the joy of having three children, unfortunately only his two sons survived. The eldest son became a musician like him and his younger son became a doctor. 
            Two years later, in 1601, Claudio took a big step becoming the maestro di cappella at the Mantuan court, and over the next four years he finished two more madrigal collections. In 1607, Claudio took another step to challenge himself musically, he started composing his first opera, called L’Orfeo, which was performed in February in Mantua.


             After all this joy and success, Monteverdi’s wife died after a long sickness. Monteverdi had to deal with a lot of sadness and grief, take care of his sons, and work at the same time; it was a very difficult period for him. This however did not keep him from finishing a second opera, L’Arianna, and had it performed as part of the marriage of the Gonzaga heir, Francesco, to Margaret of Savoy in May 1608. It must have been a painful and happy occasion to have his opera performed at the wedding.  Unfortunately, all but one aria of the opera has survived and, even worse, the principal singer of the opera died during rehearsal. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi wrote Vespro della beata vergine, performed by voices and instruments.

        Venice & the End

             In 1613, Monteverdi moved to Venice, where he became maestro di cappella at St. Mark’s Cathedral. This was the place that Monteverdi remained for the rest of his life. It was here that Claudio wrote more operas and ballets. Twenty-seven years later, in 1630, many of Monteverdi’s pieces were destroyed when Austrian troops conquered the palace where he worked.  After this, Monteverdi made another major decision taking holy orders, deciding to become a priest in the Catholic Church.  In the remaining years of his life Monteverdi still wrote more operas and madrigals.

             Claudio Monteverdi never gave through all the hardships in his life, how are you dealing with the hard stuff in your life? We live in a beautiful and broken world, do not be surprised by the bad things that happen in life, none of us have control over that. What we are responsible for is how we act in the tough times and the good times. What will you choose?