Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Practice Strategies for Minuet No. 1 in Suzuki Book 1

     You are a 3/4 of the way through the book and are now going to embark on the 3 Minuets of J.S. Bach! You are now playing Bach, this a good step up! Bach wrote these minuets originally for his wife to play on the harpsichord. Here are some tips to get started:
Structure. The piece is organized in two main sections, but we can think of the song in 3 parts (more why below). Here’s how they are played: part 1 mezzo forte (line 1-2), part 2 piano then mezzo forte (line 3-4), part 3 piano then mezzo forte (line 5-6).

New Skills. 
1. Hook Bows. This bow stroke is also called portato and is played down-down or up-up. You will recognize this in the music where there is a curved line over two notes and dots above them in measures 1 and 3. The best way to work your hook bow for now it to play with a smooth bow and stopping between the two notes. Another way of saying this is don't play hook bows with crunches and squeezing, since it will not give you a good tone.
2. Low-High Two. In the previous piece, Etude, low 2 on A and E string was introduced. But now, in part 1 and 3 we have low 2 on the A string and high 2 in part 2. This is why I break the piece up in three parts, so that it is easier to remember where the high 2 is played.
3. Artistry. Since the Minuet is a dance in 3/4 time, once the song is flowing we can emphasize the first note of every measure with more bow. The emphasis of the first beat in a Minuet is a way to make it more professional and expressive. 

1. Warm-up with the bow exercises, now with an emphasis on hook bows.
2. Play the finger concerto with low 2 and high 2. Play on every string once with low 2 then with high 2 and that will make it easier to switch between them. 
3. Play through the piece with all low 2s then bring the high 2 back in part 2. You can also do it the other way, play everything high 2 and then add the low 2s where they belong. 
4. Play along with the Youtube video above and other recordings.
5. Be creative with your playing this week, add hook bows to all the songs you know.

What do you think? Do you have any tips? Any questions, suggestions or concerns? Let me hear from you. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ludwig van Beethoven: Storm and Stress, Part 3

          In our first and second posts on Ludwig van Beethoven we looked at his early life and music. We will now look at the big changes that would await him in his later years as well as some of his most famous works.

Big Changes
          In April 1800, Ludwig rented a concert hall and performed some of Mozart’s and Haydn’s pieces. He also played a few of his own newly composed. The concert didn’t really turn out well, mostly because the orchestra didn't follow the soloist.
          Around this time, Ludwig began giving music lessons to the daughters of Countess Anna Brunsvik. He fell in love with the younger daughter, Josephine. But since she was the daughter of a countess, and he was only a poor composer, she married off to someone else soon after he began giving her lessons. Beethoven was  very picky about the students that he took on and, at the same time, very dedicated to those he accepted. One of the most famous were Carl Czerny who later taught Franz Lizst.

           The next few years were a bit more prosperous for Ludwig mostly due to the fact that his brother came and helped him manage his money and sell his music.

           But, at age 26, Ludwig tragically began to lose his hearing. He suffered from a ringing in his ears that eventually made him completely deaf. So little by little he could not hear the music he composed. Ludwig also suffered from stomach pain all his life. He moved to a small country town outside Vienna hoping that it  would help his health, which led him to become very depressed during this time. He didn’t want to keep on living, but he wrote a letter to his brothers saying that he would continue to live for and through music.

           When Ludwig returned to Vienna, he began composing more heroic, grand pieces, like his Fifth Symphony. He was very ill at different times during this period. He was also nursing his brother through tuberculosis and taking care of his family, which took a great deal of his money.

His Final Years           

          When his brother died, he fought his nephew’s mother for guardianship of his nephew, because Ludwig thought he could take better care of him. (This nephew’s mother was, among other things, a convicted thief, so it’s no wonder Ludwig didn’t trust her.) During the last years of his life, he tried to control his nephew’s life, but it didn’t turn out very well.

          He wrote his Ninth Symphony in those last years. At the time, he had begun studying older pieces of music in depth – mostly music by Handel and J. S. Bach. But his health was getting worse and worse, and on March 26, 1827, Ludwig died at age 56. The story goes that there was a huge clap of thunder, and the dying man sat up in bed and shook his fist at the thunder, defying nature even as he died.

          Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most famous composers of all time. Some of his well-known pieces include the MoonlightSonata, the Ninth Symphony, Fur Elise, and the Pathetique sonata. He also wrote one opera, called Fidelio

          Beethoven is an important composer because he helped usher music into its next stage, the Romantic era, by writing powerful, grand pieces. So, he is famous as both a classical and a romantic composer. His life was full of trouble and sickness, but he refused to let that stop him from writing his music. His music is sometimes grand and exciting, and at other times it is soft and sensitive. No one can deny that he is one of the best composers that has ever lived.

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Child's Recital is Tomrrow, What Do I Do?

     Your child's recital is tomorrow and you are unsure what to do. Maybe you can say that you are anxious because you do not want your child to mess up. Here are some quick tips that will help in preparation for the recital:

1. Pack. Check your bag and instrument twice the night before and the day of the recital; you want to make sure you have everything you need.
2. Early is on time. Get there 20-30 minutes early to get settled in, unpack, use the bathroom, warm-up, and not feel rushed.
3. Encourage. Tell your child how good they are doing, reassure them that you enjoy their music, and give them some specific compliments. This is not the time to ask them, "Are you ready?" or "Did you practice enough?" or "Are you nervous?" These kinds of questions will just raise the anxiety level of your child and will not help anyone perform their best. They are already nervous, so be there for them to bolster their confidence.
4. Remember. Talk through what to do when it's their turn to perform, like you discussed in lessons with your teacher.
5. Enjoy. Look forward to the recital, enjoy yourself, socialize, video record what your child is playing, bring snacks for the reception and enjoy them with people. Your attitude will affect others around you, so make the most of the recital. 

Are these tips helpful? What have you been doing to make recitals a good experience?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ludwig van Beethoven: Storm and Stress, Part 2

In our first post on Ludwig van Beethoven, we looked at his beginnings in music. He was first taught music by his father and performed regularly, then got the opportunity to study under and work for Christian Neefe. 

Rise to Fame

After the death of his mother, Beethoven's father Johann turned to alcohol to find comfort in his sadness over his wife’s death. So eighteen-year-old Ludwig not only had to deal with his mother’s death and his father’s drinking problems, but he also took charge of his two younger brothers. As a result, Ludwig stayed in Bonn for the next five years, playing the viola in the court orchestra to earn money to support himself and his brothers.
          A few years pass and in March 1792, at the age of 22 Ludwig left for Vienna to study and work on his counterpoint under Franz Josef Haydn and a few other teachers. It was around this time that he composed the Piano Trios. Soon after he arrived, he heard that his father had died. It was at this time that Ludwig started becoming popular and making a name for himself in Vienna over the next few years by improvising music for parties he was hired to play, performing many Bach pieces which he had memorized. During this time, Ludwig wrote pieces of music in the Classical style, like Mozart and Haydn. Soon, not only was Beethoven becoming popular for his extraordinary performance skills, but he was also slowly becoming famous for his compositions. Many rich and famous people paid him money for his musical work, even though he was known around Vienna as a rude and short-tempered man with a disdain for authority and high rank. He stopped playing if the audience whispered among themselves or made any noise and refused to perform if someone asked him to play without giving him previous warning. However, his rude behavior was always overlooked because of his great talent and passion.

Guest author: Rachel Holbrook

Come back next week for Part 3!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pactice Tips for Allegro, No. 8 Suzuki Book 1

     Welcome to the 1st piece out of 5 that Dr. Suzuki composed for this book. Students typically enjoy Allegro because it’s fast and staccato, here are some tips to make it worthwhile:
Playing Position. Go to playing position a few times with your eyes closed. This will help challenge you to get ready to play.

Structure. The piece is laid out in 2 parts. Here’s how they are played: part 1 forte (first line), part 1 forte (second line), part 2 dolce (third line), part 1 forte  (fourth line).

New Skills.
1. Theory. Allegro means fast, live, with energy. Ritardando means to gradually slow down. A Tempo means play at the original speed. Fermata means to hold it out at least 2 times the worth of the note. Tenuto means to play the notes with big bow to have a sustained sound.
2. Speed. At the beginning of part 2 (the third line) you will notice that it has the word dolce, which means sweetly, underneath the notes. To play sweetly musicians usually play with a long and smooth bow at a slower tempo. That is why we see the dashes on top of the notes (tenuto). This is a great opportunity for us to try part 2 at different speeds. Not only that, but at the end of part 2 we have a rit. so we slow down in different ways. I challenge students to hold out the last note of part 2 as long as possible.
3. Always Down. If you look at the beginning of each line, it starts down. So, after the last note of line 1-3 you need to lift the bow and place it back at the middle.

1. Warm-up with the bow exercises, now with an emphasis on long and smooth bows.
2. Play and say the fingerings to focus your mind on the notes that you are playing.
3. Practice making the last note of each line very long and then pause to place the bow at the middle. This way, the bow will be silent as you prepare to start the next line. Over time you will be able to do it quicker and quicker, do not rush yourself because it will prevent you from playing your best.
4. Play along with the Youtube video above and other recordings.
5. Be creative with your playing this week, add dolce to all the songs you know.

What do you think? Do you have any tips? Any questions, suggestions or concerns? Let me hear from you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ludwig van Beethoven: Storm and Stress, Part 1

Historical Period: Late Classical – Early Romantic
Nationality: German
Born: December 16, 1770, Bonn, Germany
Died: March 26, 1827, Vienna, Austria
Contemporaries: Franz Josef Haydn, Christian Gottlob Neefe, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

What’s Happening in History?
In America, the colonists are fighting for liberty from Britain. Jane Austen publishes her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, in 1811. Napoleon Bonaparte conquers much of Europe. In France, the peasants revolt against King Louis, and thousands of people are murdered on the guillotine. Mozart is still giving concerts as a young man.

Early Life
     Ludwig van Beethoven was born in December 16, 1770 to Johann and Maria van Beethoven. (Maria’s father was a chef at the court of an archbishop.) Little Ludwig was first taught music by his father. Some people say that Ludwig’s father was a harsh teacher, but we don’t know that for a fact. What is true is that Johann van Beethoven tried to exploit his son’s talent perhaps for money, and make him famous like Mozart. Johann even pretended that Ludwig was six instead of seven in the advertisements for Ludwig’s concerts. Around that time, Ludwig was also taught by friends of the family and relatives.

     Soon after, Ludwig had the opportunity to study composition with an important teacher in Bonn named Christian Gottleb Neefe. Even though Ludwig did not get much education besides music, he became very interested in philosophy and literature. His interest was spurred on by the fact that Bonn was a place where people discussed new ideas constantly.

     In March 1783, Ludwig had one of his compositions published and began working for Christian Neefe as an assistant organist. The Variations in C Minor on a march by Earnst Christoph Dressler is the first works he composed and published. Around this time, Ludwig was introduced to several important people who liked his music and some of them became his patrons later. A few years later, in March 1787, Ludwig traveled to Vienna to take lessons with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We do not know if they actually met, because after just two months in Vienna, Ludwig received the news that his mother was dying, so he rushed back to Bonn. 

    Come back next week for Part 2!

    Guest author: Rachel Holbrook