May 21, 2015

Jazz Bass Playing Styles

AUTHOR: Daniel J. Conrad

In the early days of bass playing in Jazz, around 1910s to the 1930s, the bass often struggled with being heard when competing with the wind instruments of the day. Prior to the invention of microphones this was a constant issue that plagued bassists. Prior to 1910 players would still use their bows to play a fair bit, but around 1910 a “slap” style of playing was created. This style of playing can be referred to as Bartok pizzicato, where the string is plucked and rebounds off the fingerboard. The loud pluck and rebound gave the bass added volume allowing it to stay in Jazz, and later evolve with the advent of amplification.Jazz is a unique entity that requires special attention when performing. Just like performing other styles within the classical genre, is is incredibly important to understand how to play specific to the period that the pieces are from. Playing bass in Jazz is no exception to this rule, and here we are going to break down the key styles to keep in mind when playing Jazz bass.

From the 1930s to the 1960s and so on, the playing style of choice would be a traditional pizzicato in a simple walking bass line. This style gained popularity as it could outline scales, and and maintain a constant steady tempo. At this time the bass was fully established as a member of the rhythm section, and its added use of keeping time became a key element to its use.

Prior to 1952 everything was strictly played on an upright or double bass. It was in this year however, that the electric bass would hit the Jazz scene in Lionel Hampton’s band. The electric bass solved many of the practical problems of the upright; fixing portability, amplification, and intonation with fixed frets. The electric however wouldn't take off until the 1960s.

The 60s saw the creation of Fusion, and with it a change in style. Fusion caused bass playing to mimic that of Rock and R&B bands. A simple repeated version of walking bass with a presence meant to be on the forefront of the stage. At the this time with Funk also being a form of Fusion, “slapping and popping” became a style of playing unique to the electric bass. The strings could be slapped with the thumb, and then plucked with the tips of the fingers. This style grew in popularity and became a standard part of Funk.

Additionally there are a combination of special effects that a bassist can use when performing. for double bass, musicians can slide between notes in a glissando effect, they can use the bow for a different tone or for sustaining longer notes, and finally using the body as a percussion instrument was possible. For electric bass, using different electronic effects on and off stage will always be an option. So when it comes down to performing Jazz on the bass, just like any other genre, understanding the styles of playing as they evolved is crucial to performing pieces correctly. One wouldn’t want to be using an electric to play a Count Basie chart, nor would to want to be slapping and popping in a New Orleans piece. Always be aware of when a piece is written, and apply your knowledge accordingly.

April 27, 2015

Battling Anxiety: Before and During a Performance

AUTHOR: Andrew Ortega

Its that time, getting ready for the moment you have prepared for; 4 years worth of hard practicing and hundreds of hours spent in a small room playing the same music for the same event in your career. It is terrifying! What can you do to make sure that you are ready to play with confidence and reassurance; especially when having to battle the anxiety that come with people staring and all the music you have to play. I am in my final stretch as a senior getting ready to perform my senior recital in about 3 months, and I am finding out many ways to fight anxiety and play with confidence I have in a practice room and rehearsal.

First of all, always make sure you have the music in a safe place that is always recognizable to yourself. This may sound silly, but when you are getting ready to perform and you don't have the music; well, you better have an alternative. I find it helpful to put it in a folder that is noticeable, a color that is very bright or irritating helps too. Make sure that its in a place away from water and made safe from being with other folders or material of the same nature. Since I have 3 months until my recital, I have been becoming increasingly nervous and I haven't been sure how to approach practicing the entirety of my literature. I sat down with myself and took the time to approach my pieces as if they were being performed, but in chunks. I did not want to continuously perform everything from beginning to end which took about 3 hours, I did try it and it failed. I have to pace myself, so I took the time to play sections of my pieces. For example, I am playing the Rimsky-Korsakov Trombone Concerto in its entirety (3 Movements long), I start out with only playing the first movement until a style change about half way into the piece. Then I move on to the second movement and do the same, third mov. etc. I find this to be less fatiguing when running though 6 solo pieces. Furthermore, I start to expand upon the areas I stopped playing upon and play them too. As a result, this increased my endurance while playing through my literature. I started with 30 minutes and gradually increased 45 and to an hour.

Why is this important to fighting anxiety? Mastery and Ownership of the music. Typically, much of the issues faced by people performing is there uncertainty of their own abilities. When the music is mastered, there is no reason to question yourself and become encumbered with worries. Now the real battle happens, the performance. Lights, people, heat, cloths, all of these can become kinks in the performance; but what you do to ignore them is important. I am a very young performer, but I have also discovered that when you perform more, its becomes more and more clear that everything else doesn’t matter but the music. Most to all young performers worry about that high note coming up in measure 45 or the climax that has very difficult tonguing and technical aspects, meanwhile the audience just wants to hear music and enjoy the performance. “Make music” I have heard these words so many times that I have finally taken a deep breath and just made music. Dont worry about the audience or all those eyes, its about the music! The cure to performance anxiety is quite simple to be honest, I have explained that ownership and mastery of the music is important in fighting anxiety, but also performing will cure it as well; Exposure is critical.

YouTube is a "Reliable" Source?

AUTHOR: Jordan Karg

All through school, including college, students are told to use reliable sources for anything they do. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a professor say, “Don’t use Wikipedia as a source,” “Make sure you sight everything,” or “The library is a great place to start,” then half of my college loans would be paid off! Recently, I have been hearing a lot of professors telling students to use a certain website. That website is called YouTube. When I first heard a professor tell us to use YouTube was in my CIS class. She said to us if we got stuck on something to use that website. I sat there in awe thinking, “You’re kidding right?” This blog will mostly be surrounded by musical instruments and how to play them.

YouTube is, technically, a social media website where videos are uploaded daily on various subjects. I’ve had a YouTube channel since late 2006 and I’ve been using the same account since. Nearly the last 10 years, I’ve been using YouTube as a guide for learning on how
to play guitar. There are now literally thousands of videos on “How to” with playing the guitar. In all honesty, I am not sure where I would be with my career as a guitarist if it wasn’t for YouTube. I have never been the type of person who enjoys formal lessons and learning from someone else one on one. Rather, I’ve been the type who would want to learn instruments on my own. People like me have to start somewhere and I highly recommend YouTube. 

In the last year of my schooling with Music Education, I’ve been told numerous times to use YouTube as a source if I got lost or confused with an instrument with classes like Brass, Percussion, Voice, and most recently, Strings. For example, there was a time when I missed two weeks of Strings class. I was handed a violin and was basically told to learn how to play it in 3 weeks. Not knowing how to approach it, I went to YouTube and searched, “How to play the violin.” Immediately, I found numerous videos on the subject. Thanks to YouTube, I learned how to properly hold the instrument, how to bow and pluck, how to hold the bow, how to play the D Major scale, and even how to restring the violin. This is a prime example why teachers and professors are telling their students to use YouTube as a reliable source.

There are some discussions about the use of YouTube with schooling. I’ve heard and  read that YouTube is used for teachers who are too lazy to teach. I would like to defend those teachers who use YouTube as their teaching method. Even though that is a bold statement, it is not necessarily true. I have personally seen teachers teach the instruments fairly and clearly without the website. You still get your education and still have that one on one interaction with the instructor as well. In fact, I’ve seen instructors teach better than the YouTube videos that are provided for the world. However, again in their defense, YouTube is a method that can help students on their own time at their home. It is also used in class for teachers who find a video that explains a lesson better than they would use in their own words.

Another negativity for YouTube is that the people who upload these instruction videos are amateurs. With that being said, that is true. People who search on how to play an instrument and want a fine quality video that they can rely on, how do they know they are getting that? There are many ways to find that out quickly. Displayed under the video is a thumbs up/thumbs down button. Obviously, if the thumbs up outnumber the thumbs down by a large number, it most likely means it’s reliable. A factor that can play into that method is look at the number of views it has. For example, if a video has 800,000 views with 50,000 thumbs up and 2000 thumbs down, it is most likely an accurate and reliable lesson but sometimes, it’s not always true. Lastly, which I usually use, is look at the comments. If there are a lot of positive comments, then it really is a good video to use as a reliable source. Now, I am not saying the video is 100% accurate every time. Your discretion is still advised however, it is uploaded usually by amateurs. There are companies like Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, & Guitar Player magazines that have accounts and teach methods on obviously, guitar. These are for sure reliable sources. 

As you can see, YouTube is a very reliable source for just about anything, especially on how to play an instrument. I would say you could use YouTube for almost anything and about 9 times out of 10, you’ll find the results you were looking for. I would not recommend using
YouTube as a source for a research paper! But the next time you’re stuck on just about anything, try YouTube first! I’ve been using YouTube for the last 10 years and hopefully for the next 10 more! I strongly recommend anyone using YouTube for anything. Although the results may vary and not always be on the dot accurate, it is a good place to start!

April 13, 2015

Ten Tips for the New (or soon to be new) Music Teacher

AUTHOR: Jennifer Grenus

On March 26-28, 2015 I went to the PMEA State conference in Hershey, PA.  There were so many wonderful workshops and it was a great experience.  One workshop I went to was Ten Tips for the New (or soon to be new) Music Teacher.  The presenter was Dr. Michael Panza who is the superintendent at West Jefferson Hills School District.  What I find interesting is that he was a music teacher before becoming superintendent.  He still continues to play his instrument today which is exciting.

His ten tips were very thoughtful.  The first tip was to get off of social media. In my opinion you should to an extent but not necessarily the whole way if you are being careful.  He presented three cases of teachers who got fired because of inappropriate pictures that were posted on social media either of them at a party (drinking alcohol), or they had an inappropriate relationship with a student.  The second point was always maintain a positive attitude.  If you get mad at your students, take thirty seconds to just breath and just let it go.  You should be in a pleasant mood towards your students or they’re not going to want to be around you.

Number three was volunteer now.  It is good to get your foot in the door, whether it is working for a school committee, or you could volunteer for your local high school marching band, orchestra, church choir, etc.  This will help you prepare for the interview.  You should know your district, whether it is reading the local papers, or looking through old yearbooks.  You need to let your students and the parents know by your actions that you are interested in them, their school, and their community.

One big thing is to be a teacher, not a friend.  We need to get to know our students but we need to keep it on a professional level.  We should be role models for our students.  We should also be a good classroom manager, not a good classroom disciplinarian.  It is important to have good classroom management skills and not just discipline students every time they do something wrong. We need to plan ahead, and we need to keep parents informed.

The number eight tip was to embrace change and accept new assignments.  We should be taking on roles other than the music teacher. If you are asked to do hall duty, lunch duty, run a study hall, whatever it is we should take the role with a positive attitude.  It is also very important to get to know the building secretaries and custodians and be nice to them.  If you are willing to work with them and talk to them, then they are willing to help you.

The last tip he mentioned which I didn’t even think of was to invite the principal or the superintendent of the school to perform with the ensemble.  It will give administration the hands-on experience.  I’m not sure if the administration in every school will agree to this, but this could open their eyes to the arts.  I know that in my high school that the administration was invited to every concert.  Usually someone came, but they did not stay for the entire thing, which was sad.

These tips are things we might already know, but are good things to be reminded of when we go out into the field of student teaching or when we get a job.  These are things that we should be aware of even now.  Personally, I would love to have this superintendent come to Clarion and give another workshop.  He gave some great ideas, and I’m glad there are administrators that are still passionate about music today.

April 9, 2015

Music Advocacy Within the Classroom

AUTHOR: Marcy Rose Sallack

Music advocacy is a topic that has really hit home in the last few years and the importance of it is more necessary now than ever. I think that it is a topic we normally don’t think about when in the classroom. However, in the classroom we can advocate for music the most. As teachers, it is important that we consistently fight for our program when teaching our students. By using best practices and encouraging our students to reach their full potential we are doing just that. By being a fun, encouraging, yet strict teacher we earn the respect of our students and they return that by being enthusiastic about the program. If students enjoy band or choir then their friends want to join. More students in the classroom shows more interest in the program to those just concerned with numbers but it also allows for more opportunities as a large ensemble or for small chamber ensembles. Students who enjoy the program also earn support of the program through their parents. There is another way to advocate for music, the parents. As much as there will the parent or parents you can’t stand talking to you still need to be civil and friendly to keep them supportive of the program. Being cordial will be worth its weight in gold. Not only do you need parents in support of their student being in band or choir but you also need parents in support of the entire program. They will be the ones to give support when dealing with the school board. They will be the ones to consistently call and annoy the board until the point that they realize that the program is really needed. You also need the town where you live to like you as well. If the band has played the same version of the Star Spangled Banner for the last fifty years and you live in a conservative community it is important that you uphold the tradition (you may be able to make a few unnoticeable tweaks). The same goes for a parade the band participates in every year or a competition you think you should compete in, the parade always wins. The parents and public will be the ones that come to the concerts and who buy cookie dough and hoagies for fundraisers. You need them on your side. Another way you advocate for your program is through you music selections. If you pick a field show or a piece for the spring concert that the students relate to and identify with. They will be more excited for band or choir and will stick with it the next year to see what new pieces they’ll get to perform. They’ll also probably be more likely to practice. The public will also enjoy your program more. One of the biggest ways you can advocate for program is being a nice, agreeable, non-confrontational person. You need to respect your students, their parents, and the general public to gain their respect. Their respect and support is the best advocacy you can get for your program.

March 18, 2015

Fundraising Fundamentals: An Introduction to Fundraising for Your Music Program

AUTHOR: Katie Kohlenburg

As a future music educator, it’s important to understand that your program won’t have an unlimited, or even a substantial budget to help with things such as instrument repairs, repertoire, transportation to PMEA festivals, hosting festivals, etc… Therefore, it’s important to figure out ways to raise money without pulling funds out of your own pocket.

The Basics of Fundraising
  • Get started right. Hold a team meeting and set a goal that will challenge your team, class, or program.
  • Encourage everyone to do their part. Fundraising does not have to be boring. You can make it fun!
  • Involve your program in the fundraiser. Allow everyone to throw in their own ideas and give some input. Remember that students always have the best ideas.
  • Focus on the mission. Remember that fundraising is not about the money. It’s about the values and mission of the music program.
  • Remember to not just ask for money, but instead ask others to actually take part in the fundraising.
  • Work together and have fun!
  • Always say thank you to your donors. Write a letter expressing your gratitude. It’s always the best way to show how much you appreciate their support.

How to Fundraise Strategically
  • Always fundraise with a clear vision of your program’s development strategy. In other words, figure out how your program is going to develop its goals.
  • Fundraising should never be donor-led but rather linked to programs that can help make a lasting difference.
  • “Advocacy is vital to secure funding.”
  • Donors will donate to your music program not because the program has needs, but because you meet their needs.
  • Build relationships. Fundraising is about relationships. People want to give to other people. People will want to support a cause because they support you. This can include family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc…
  • Fundraising is an ongoing process. Once people have donated to your program, continue to build that relationship by sending them updates. Invite them to events. Ask for a donor’s feedback. Let them have some input.
  • Many “no’s” may come before a yes. If someone doesn’t want to donate, respect their decision. Ask if you can keep them informed of future fundraisers and events.
  • Develop your case first. Before your program starts asking for money, it’s important to understand why you are fundraising in the first place. People will be more likely to donate if they know it’s for a specific cause or event, rather than, “Oh, we just want to make money.”
  • Fundraising is a learning process. A program will become better at fundraising by reflecting on how they did and coming up with ways to do things better.

Fundraising Ideas
  • Host a Spaghetti Dinner
  • World’s Finest Chocolate
  • Canning outside Walmart (or another major store in your area)
  • Eat’n Park smiley cookies
    • Eat’n Park will design your cookies however you would like.
    • Pay $6.00 per dozen when you first buy the cookies.
    • So, you would make $12 per every dozen you sell.
    • For instance, if you sell 10 boxes of cookies, you’ll make a profit of $120.00.
  • Daffin’s Candy bars -
  • Wristband Fundraiser - The bracelets can have a saying such as, “Music never dies” or something quirky/unique like that.
  • Jane’s Stromboli
    • Make 40% profit.
    • Sell each stromboli for $3.00 and you make a profit of $1.40 per stromboli
    • For instance, sell 40 strombolis and make $56.00.
  • Ask a restaurant, such as Applebee’s, to donate a portion of their profits on the night of your concert. Encourage students’ families to go for dinner before the concert or grab dessert after!
  • In your concert program, sell some advertising space to parents and local businesses.
  • Host a benefit concert and invite students, teachers, alumni, and community members to perform.
  • Host a karaoke night for friends and their families. Charge a small entrance fee and/or sell refreshments.

February 24, 2015

Music Philosophy

AUTHOR: Brian Miller

Throughout the world there are many different ways people think about music. For some it’s a means of escape from the harshness of the real world. Others it is a means of expression unlike any other. Here I will be talking about a few general music philosophies that are common throughout the minds of music advocates and hobbyists.

For some music is a means of escape from a not so pleasant world. Some one might have a situation in their place of work that is tough to deal with. Others might have a bad home life and wish to find peace in a chaotic home. Life can be hard to handle sometimes, and people have different ways of cooping with this. For the musically inclined, the sanctuary they find is in playing music. Music to these individuals represents a light at the end of a tunnel. Things might be bad, but no matter how bad they get, they can always rely on music to be there to aid them in their time of need. 

For others, music is a means of expression. While anyone who peruses music must have a passion for the art, the people who use music as a tool of expression or creativity seem the most driven from my experiences. It’s not about just strumming along on a guitar, but it’s about what kind of feelings can I provoke from my listeners. What kind of expression or emotion am I portraying with this song? Others see music at a spiritual level, relating it to a connection with the divine. This kind of music appreciation gives music a whole new purpose and meaning. To the music educator music can mean a multitude of different things. To some it’s a language of expression, or a tool to be used to help students. For others it is a way of connecting with various cultures and history from all over the world. It is important for the music educator to not only teach his students the fundamentals of music, but to also share the passion, history, and beauty that music possesses.

Music is a cornerstone in the culture of many people from around the world. With each nation, country, state, or even person, music has a different meaning. For some, music is an escape from the troubles of real life. For others it is a means of emotional expression and
passion. These are but a few of the many ideas about what music is to people. Though everyone might have a different view about what music is, it is important that we all realize that music gives excitement and beauty to life and is something that has a huge impact on the lives that it touches.