April 21, 2014

Hearing Loss and the Musician

AUTHOR: Jennifer Grenus

At the beginning of February, I attended the PCMEA Region II Advocacy Festival at IUP. While there, there was a speaker on hearing and how it can affect us as musicians. Studies show that we as musicians and band or choir directors could experience hearing loss in a number of years just by teaching our profession and the noise levels of the instrumentalists or singers.

The lady who gave the presentation showed a representation of each instrument and how many decibels the instrument gives off while played. Some were very dangerous, and some were just right below the normal level. It is shown that 85 db or 85 decibels is a normal frequency for the ear, but listening to that decibel level for 40 hours a week or more can damage the ear. For example, some musical instruments have a high frequency, like trombone, which could have a decibel level up to 114 decibels, or some instruments could have a low frequency, like Violin, at 84 decibels.

The intensity of the music played also affects hearing loss. Music is just one component of the noise exposure in a musician’s life. The noise exposure depends on the location, the seating arrangement, and how loud the music is being played. For example, the clarinets of an ensemble are usually seated in front of trumpets and percussion, those which are the loudest instruments. Their playing can really affect the clarinet players, as the decibel readings are much higher on those instruments and the bell is usually right behind a person’s ear unfortunately. A person can experience temporary hearing loss in the inner ear after being exposed to loud music once, but once it becomes more frequent the hearing loss becomes permanent.

This can also affect those who are listening to music. Again 85 decibels is a safe frequency. But anything louder can really damage your ear and give you permanent hearing loss. That is why it’s important to keep your volume on a lower level, especially when listening to rock music.

There are ways to prevent hearing loss from occurring. One way is to know what noises are causing the hearing loss. It is impossible, but staying more away from the noisy sounds help. There are also types of hearing protectors that help with preventing hearing loss, such as the foam insert hearing protectors, or supra-aural or muff hearing protectors. Sure, you might be worried about your students picking on you for wearing them, but in the long run it will protect your health.

In conclusion, noise is not only damaging for the musician but also to everyone else. Just know that with your profession of music is listening to music of high frequency and loudness. It is important to protect yourself from permanent hearing loss. You should not only protect yourself, but your students as well. Music is beautiful, but can be difficult if we have trouble listening to it.

March 5, 2014

How Music in Schools Affects Society

AUTHOR: Katie Smith

As important as Music to everyone's lives, do they really realize the effect that it has on our society? Being present in society since the beginning of mankind, music is an extremely useful tool in the way we learn. Many spend many hours a day listening to music, whether they see it as a main activity or just as something to take up space in the background.

Music has a great impact on not only how humans think and act, but their intelligence as well. It has been proven that listening to music has been shown to positively affect ones mood and productivity. Simply, listening to music in the background while performing a task makes it seem much easier, or in some cases, it eases the strain of the activity. In addition to helping perform tasks, music is used as a distraction from stress by lifting the mood of the listener, and increasing their productivity in the process. If implemented into the classroom or workplace, the effect of music could improve test scores nationwide and increase productivity of the working class. By doing so music can be used as a stimulant to the intellectual and cognitive development to children, teens and even babies. However, it is possible that the memorization and counting beats may spur brain development, but would be minimal in the average listener.

The effects of music education are even greater. With music lessons, there are so many different facets involved, such as memorizing, expressing emotion, and learning about musical intervals and chords. For example, as a child takes music lessons, it greatly improves their comprehension of proportional math, which is of great importance in higher level mathematics. Also, the child will explore the lyrical rhythm and content of the music, understanding vocabulary, the musical language, all resulting in an improvement on both their reading and writing skills.

However, concerning failing students, music education has been shown to pull children from even the greatest depths of academic failure. It is found that the more they get involved with music the more that they will be able to see music as a way to express thought and emotion, make bonds with other musicians, and feel the need for self improvement. The self improvement will be affective both consciously and unconsciously in the classroom and in other areas of their life.

It is clear that music is a powerful force in human society. Listening to music has been shown to improve mood, increase productivity, and even encourage intellectual growth, all while music education is having an even greater effect. Music is a cornerstone of the human culture; it is a learning tool, a method of communication, and for most, a way of life. As such, music should be treated with respect.

Music is a language that goes beyond speech and letters - a living art that is almost mystical. This is where its emotional impact comes in. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven - without exception they live clearly and palpably in their music, and speak forcefully to us, purifying us, refining us, and awakening in us the highest joy and emotion.
 - Dr. Shinichi Suzuki (via redrabbitmusicnyc)

December 14, 2013

How-To Tune the Tenor Drums/Change the Heads

AUTHOR: Joshua Warren

As you probably know, the tenor drums in marching band have specific pitches.  There are generally between four and six drums, and the fifth and sixth drums are usually the same size and pitch.

When tuning the drums, you usually start with the highest and smallest drum, excluding the drums that are the same size.  You use a drum key to turn the screws that hold the drum-head on (left lowers the pitch, right raises it), starting with the one farthest away from you.  You then start crossing the drum in a star-like formation, turning the other screws.

After you're done with the first drum, you move down to the next drum, and so forth.  The easiest way to figure out the pitches of the drums is to tune them to "Mary Had A Little Lamb".  The first note of the tune would be the second highest drum.  Another way of tuning them is that they would be tuned to relative intervals, most commonly being the minor 3rd, perfect 4th, and perfect 5th.  The two smallest drums would then be tuned as high as possible, as long as the heads don't break, and they would generally be tuned the same pitch.

If you ever need to change a drum head, you would go about changing it the same way you tune them.  Turn the drum key to the left until the screws are unhooked from the rim of the drum, once all the screws are unhooked, you take the rim off, and remove the head.  You place the new head on, put the rim on top, and make sure the head is completely spread out and even on the drum.  Once that his taken care of, you start screwing the screws back on, turning them to the right.  You then go about tuning it to the other drums, using the same method as discussed above.

December 13, 2013

How-To Teach Marcing Band Fundamentals

AUTHOR: Kevin Newton

This will teach you how to teach marching band fundamentals.

Step 1: Tell them what it is and what the purpose is.
Step 2: Demonstrate the fundamental from beginning to end including the Command and Response
Step 3: Practice giving the command and having the marchers give the response.
Step 4: Teach the fundamental step by step or "by the numbers"
Step 5: Sequence the fundamental.

For Example teaching About Face:

Step 1: We will learn About Face. The purpose of this command is to turn 180 degrees in a uniform manner.
Step 2: Demonstrate the fundamental from beginning to end including the Command and Response.
Step 3: The command is "Band - About - Face". The Response is "Hut - Two - Three"
Step 4: The first move for this command will be taking your left foot and placing it directly behind your right so that your toe is touching your heel. The second beat will be pivoting on your toes. The third will be bringing your right foot in. (teach this step by step)
Step 5: Sequence.

December 12, 2013

How-To Practice Scales in 3rds

AUTHOR: Andrew Ortega

In my studies, I find in to be a problem practicing my major scales in 3rds, so I resulted in researching a way to benefit myself while I practiced. I did research on what would be an effective way to start practicing my scales, I would usually start by warming up with my horn by playing from my F in the bass clef staff to the Bb above that chromatically. If I found myself successful in tone and articulation I would move on by going down half-steps to the Bb in the bass clef staff, then I would take the time to think though my scales by playing them and reciting the pitch names. That has always been a persistent problem in my studies but, I took a method I had learned from by previous band director, writing down the scales and then playing them slowly with good technique and tone. This process is very tedious and can take a while to do; but it works, the attention to detail is important when playing scales.

Scales in thirds requires a great attention to how you hear intervals and how well you are knowledgeable on your scales. It also helps if you understand the major triadic form of the scale that you are playing. I found an interesting analogy that breaks down how scales work: “If you are going to boil water, you must keep it on the fire until it boils. If you turn the fire off before it boils it doesn’t. Ever. So if you have a lot of water to boil is far more efficient to distribute it in small pans on several fires. So plan your practice (of everything, not only scales) so that you achieve your goals within a practice session of, say, 10 minutes. You will not learn all 24 scales (or a piece) in such a short session, but you will master an aspect of the scale, (or a bar of the piece). Then you make sure to have a master plan so that the small goals add up to the big goal. This requires very good planning, lots of discipline and day-to-day consistency. One month of this disciplined approach will bring awesome results.”

Scales do require a great deal of attention that takes up time, but it also will end up being of great use when reading music or sight reading. Most modern music and classical forms of music have patterns to them that are usually in forms of major, minor, or 3rd of scales in thirds is a big deal because of its use. The article I sought out to using my research on had seventeen technique methods, the use and demonstrated instrument use was the piano since it has a great use and is easily accessible.

Kant, Richard. "Method for practicing scales." Piano Practicing Tips. N.p., 24 Sep 2007. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <http://kantsmusictuition.blogspot.com/2007/09/method-of-practising-scales.html>

December 11, 2013

How-To Pick Your Tuba Player

AUTHOR: Jeremiah Dobo

All too often we see directors taking their worst trumpet player, or worst French horn player and put them on tuba. Now what they have is a really bad tuba player. But which students should you use then?

Your prospective Tuba student should have an excellent concept of tone quality and good sound due to McBeth’s Sound Pyramid. The second trait should be independence and leadership.

The list could continue but this is a very good start. The tone quality is of great importance for the tuba is the backbone of the band. Most will tune the brass from the lowest to the highest. The pitch must be excellent in the tuba section to provide a solid fundamental for the rest of the band. A student who is somewhat independent and a good leader is a good choice for the reason that the student may be the only tuba player or perhaps one of two tuba players. A player who is confident will not be afraid to take on the responsibilities that come with being essentially a constant soloist.

The other thing to take into consideration is which instrumentalists offer the best results for the switch to tuba?

This answer is a little interesting. We are going to switch to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and go with… flute players. They switch easily for several reasons. First of all, they are used to playing with a fully supported wind stream. Flute players have a natural aperture for their instrument that translates perfect for tuba. The tuba will not restrict their wind-flow and they will most likely find success.

And the success of a student means retention of said student.

Another viable option is if there is a fairly strong euphonium or trombone player who is struggling with the upper range of their instrument but produces good middle and lower range sounds that student too could be a good candidate. Just be cautious that this does not just merely translate to the new instrument. You must work diligently to see that this problem doesn’t continue.

The other glaring consideration to most people is the size. I say that size does not, in fact, matter. The largest student in your band may not be your best tubist while your smallest student just might be an All-State tuba player. Be conscious of technical and musical abilities and don’t be pulled in by the trap of physique. You must work though, to make sure both the student and the instrument are safe. A wise decision for your beginning tubist would be a stand for when they sit and play. This takes the weight completely off of their body and allows for the mouthpiece to be properly aligned with the mouth and will result in a more successful musician.

So when you’re faced with the decision of who should be playing the “heavy metal” of your band, be smart and conscious of your students drive and musicianship. Be honest and keep a close watch of your tubist. Treasure them and make sure to never let go because they are the rock upon which you band is built.

December 10, 2013

How-Too Take Advantage of Performance Nervousness

AUTHOR: Seth Robertson

Every musician has had the feeling. It's 20 minutes and counting till showtime. You're pacing backstage with your third bottle of water, drinking it just for comfort at this point. You run your solo over and over again in your head just to make sure you can still do it. You're knees are shaking, your hands are clammy, and you're sweating the color out of your concert black. Yes, it's the attack of the performance nerves.

It's a malady that many amateur musicians have a lot of trouble getting over. Some may even let it get in the way of their development as performers by declining solos, auditions, and other opportunities for advancement. Music students feel it the most when they're getting ready for that ever-dreaded jury or a recital, and letting it control them can really impair their performance in those critical moments. It's something that you may never get over. So what can you do to save yourself from... well,

1. Understand your symptoms. Your shakiness, sweating, racing heart, pacing feet, etc. are all due to a sudden rush of adrenaline. It's the fight-or-flight response your body usually undergoes when you're faced with danger. Your brain recognizes a forthcoming sticky situation and opens the floodgates, releasing an unusual amount of energy all over.

2. Keep in mind that adrenaline also kicks in when you're having fun. Just changing your mindset and letting loose in front of the audience will make it much easier to get into the character of the piece. This will also help to ease tension and stop negative feelings.

3. Remember that any shaking limbs are still a part of you, and you can control them and their new-found exuberance. It's the same energy that you get when you're excited, furious, enraptured, shocked, and more, so it stands to reason that you are capable of using it in a variety of ways.

4. Also remember that you're out there on stage in front of everyone no matter what. Whether you go out with shy caution or bold courage is up to you. The audience will see and hear all of it.

5. Use the heightened attentiveness that comes with adrenaline. It can help you to stay rhythmically accurate, to properly articulate, and to manipulate dynamics.

6. For singers, in order to avoid fidgeting hands or being frozen in place, give your hands something to do! Being theatrical with your singing will get you into character, which will augment everything else you need to give a spectacular performance. Most importantly, the audience will enjoy it much more!

7. Take advantage of open mic nights, rep and studio classes, and any other opportunities you can find to perform. Just like everything else in music, these benefits will only come with practice!

The more you get up in front of an audience, the better you will be at owning your fight-or-flight.