September 22, 2014

How-To Replace a String on an Electric Guitar

AUTHOR: Jordan Karg

How-To Replace a String on an Electric Guitar

May 21, 2014

The Polarization of the “American” Orchestra

AUTHOR: Jeremiah Dobo

The “American” Symphony Orchestra is in BIG trouble.

We all know about the struggles of the Symphony Orchestra today. Low attendance and a disinterest from the general populace are killing the industry. The orchestras of Honolulu, Albuquerque, Syracuse, Tulsa and Detroit have all been disbanded. Some have been reorganized but have come back in struggling forms. San Francisco and Minneapolis have had labor disputes and the Philadelphia Orchestra, considered one of the “Big Five” American Orchestras, was forced to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection. Thankfully, the Philadelphia Orchestra has come out of Bankruptcy but with a 10 less players, pay cuts and orders to hire no new members.

The League of American Orchestras has recognized their growing problem but refuse to place blame on anything other than the economy and musician unions. Instead, they have led a charge to try to turn the Symphony Orchestra from a vehicle of artistic and musical influence and instead, into a social, community service based organization.

This has created a large rift in the orchestral community. We have people whom we will call, “Progressivists” and others we will call “Traditionalists.” Progressivists believe in adopting this new idea of a community-serving ensemble as well as shifting all performances in a new direction that would include more popular music and electronic accompaniment. Traditionalists believe the opposite. Their train of thought is that the orchestra should remain a musical entity and that the ensemble should focus on the classic works of composers like Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Copland, etc.

Who is correct and what should the “American” Symphony Orchestra be?

I don’t know.

But in the wake of all of this controversy, the program nationwide has become boring and monotonous. While owners and donors bicker with maestros and players, the music is beginning to suffer. Every orchestra seems to be loosing their individual identity. Programs in Michigan look like those in Arizona and those of Georgia look like those of Utah. Orchestra is only helping to destroy itself in America and it won’t be the last. All forms of musical performance genres, from band to choir, should be weary and learn form the plight of the “American Symphony Orchestra.”

So please, go out and support your local orchestras, whether they are amateur or professional. If we are not careful, we may regret. It would be awful to see this endangered species go extinct in the United States of America.

May 20, 2014

Acid Music Studio

AUTHOR: Shannon Best

Acid Music Studio is a computer based program that lets you create music by using different loops of music. It’s perfect for creating midi files and mixing. I remember using Acid in high school with Mr. Reefer. I felt like that program was wonderful for teenagers to make music. I could never write my own music back then from scratch. But, I was able to make music using premade loops. We honestly used that program long after that portion of class ended. There was just something exhilarating about making music that other people can enjoy. We used to sit for hours and create our own songs and compare them to each other’s. There were always the jokes about the program. The main joke was that we were “Doing Acid”. But, even with the name that can cause some inappropriate jokes, that program helped me become more confident with music. Mr. Reefer made music production fun by using Acid, and we loved it. It has such a large range of music loops that you can make close to anything you wanted to with it. I would use this program in a High school classroom, and I believe that it would be a great resource for any music teacher to have.

May 19, 2014

Do Embouchure and Finger Position Really Matter with Young Clarinetists?

AUTHOR: Sarah Butler

When starting a beginning student, there are TWO main concerns for starting the correct habits: embouchure and finger position. You might think these are no brainers for many people, but some students just don’t know the correct thing to do. The clarinet embouchure is a tricky beast. The best way to describe this is to act like you’re sucking on a straw. When you have the mouthpiece in your mouth, make sure you have the corners of your mouth pulled back and firm. The second thing is to make sure your bottom lip is firm. The other “pet peeve” for any clarinet teacher is finger position, and I don’t just mean the correct fingerings. The clarinet is built for speed, runs, and trills. Beginnings students often like to stick their fingers straight up in the air. In order to be successful with speed, runs, and trills, your students can’t be sticking their fingers straight up in the air. It is ideal for fingers to be half an inch to an inch away from the keys when young students are playing the clarinet. These are just two of the problems that beginning clarinetists face, and the pedagogy between fixing these problems.

May 16, 2014

The Best Kind of Practice is Yourself

AUTHOR: Jordan Karg

Music has been apart of my life since literally the day I was born. Some of my first memories is my mother singing Elvis Presley songs to me. As I grew older, I started to become more involved with music in general. I started singing in choirs, was taught how to play piano, and was self taught on the guitar. I am almost 20 years old and I think I know music well enough to teach it to students. But, I wasn't taught how to play and read music like everyone else. I think teaching yourself is the best kind of practice out there.

I believe some of the best practice you can receive in the world of music is teaching yourself. At the age of six, I began to take piano lessons from my teacher and I remember sitting there thinking, “When am I gonna get out of here and go home?” I hardly learned how to play the piano from my teacher. He taught me what the notes were on the piano and how to read music and that was it. Everything else I had to learn on my own even though he was the “teacher.” In the long run, I guess that gave me the motivation to teach myself everything else about music. I wanted to play music more than anything. Just like the old saying goes, “Sometimes, in order to do things right you just got to do it yourself,” and that is exactly what I did. I quit piano and picked up the guitar. I started giving myself lesson and started learning songs by ear. I practiced over and over again for years by myself. Since I did this, I have developed perfect pitch. As I progressed, I started to understand intervals, certain chords in certain keys, etc. One day, I was sitting in my room and it hit me; I've taught myself how to be a musician. I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a professional musician.

I believe for some people the best kind of practice you can get is teaching yourself. You could be teaching yourself how play the guitar, sing, piano, drums, or any type of musical talent. I believe teaching myself was the best way for me to become a musician. Sometimes, people feel intimidated by their teacher because they think if they mess up or don't learn things at a certain pace that they aren't good enough for music. That was me and I am glad I did what I did 12 years ago. This method is not for everyone though. Sometimes, people do need professionals to help them to get where they want to be. Some people say it is a gift that I can pick certain songs up just by hearing it one time and playing it on the guitar. To me, it's just another day in the office.

May 15, 2014

Music Advocacy

AUTHOR: Andrew Ortega

Music in the schools month had just came around and the organization for music education held a DCI event to inspire the lives of young children in schools. Giving students an opportunity to participate in DCI at a young age, they are given an option to share there stories as they experienced and participated in the DCI world. DCI itself is very challenging. Kids between the ages 18 to 21 are given the chance to march in a top of the line professional marching band. That expectation is very high. They need to have the physical endurance to do many things. Marching to be one of they key ones. On top of that they need to play very specific ensemble warm ups that allow them to participate in the competition line ups.

DCI is such a great way to influence young kids to want to do something with music. They see amazing groups performing these outrageous tasks, it becomes very inspirational. It definitely had an impact on me as a young musician and continues to today. Sometimes advocacy is difficult for all ages. Although you as a teacher will come across a time where you will need to show a way to get your students involved, show them a video of a DCI group it changes everything. Perhaps showing a more popular rendition of a piece by a popular artist being played on the feild of a marching band will change there views.

May 14, 2014

Should a Student Play Tuba First or Euphonium?

AUTHOR: Matthew Younger 

From around the time that tubas and euphoniums started to make their appearances in schools or even for the general use to use and learn to play in ensembles (around 1843), there has been the argument, should you start a student on tuba or make them play the Euphonium first.  When it comes to research, we tend to find that most students that start on euphonium first play better when they end up switching over to tuba, whereas the students that started on tuba had a harder time learning the instrument and becoming really good at the tuba.  The only problem with this research that I can find is that every student learns different. 

It takes a very special person to play the tuba and actually want to be there playing it.  One of the fundamental things that is mandatory for a tuba player is that drive to want to be there.  It is understood when you sign up that the parts you are going to play in band are boring and almost always will be boring.  To actually keep up with the rest of the band, you have to have the drive to get better at those boring parts and bettering yourself as a player by learning other literature that isn’t as boring.  You can not get a student to like the tuba if you give them a euphonium, which normally plays more interesting parts, and then switch them to tuba and tell them to play the boring stuff.  They will not want to switch and now you either have a tuba that hates to be in band or a euphonium player and no tuba. 

Along with that drive, a tuba player has to have a good ear.  As the foundation of the band, you have to make sure that the tuba players are always in tune so that the band can feed off it them.  This fact is a double edge sword though.  On one hand, starting a student on tuba helps them develop that ear for the tuning because it is a much more unforgiving instrument.  It takes a lot more work to get a tuba to stay in tune because of its larger mouthpiece and overall size of the instrument.  On the other hand, if you start a student on Euphonium, an instrument that is a lot more forgiving and will ease the students mind and let them focus on the playing of the notes over the tuning of the instrument because it will do a lot of it for you, if allows the student to progress technically and get those tonal centers in their ear so that it could translate over to the tuba.

Overall, it is up to you to decide whether or not you should start a student on tuba.  In my opinion, if you have a tuba, and a student wants to play it, don’t tell them no because you have a student who really wants to play tuba and that is a rare occasion.  Make sure to try and make your students happy and have a quality band to go with the happy students.  Don’t discourage a student from tuba by making them play the Euphonium because in the long run, they may not want to switch afterwards.