2013 Poetry Contest…WINNER Announced!

heart-music

This year, our entrants really brought their A-game!  It was difficult for the judges to come to a decision, but a winner has finally been announced!  The winner is Elizabeth Ryan and her poem “The Beauty of Music.”

A well worn case sits on a shelf, its surface framed with dust. Its leather covering is old, its handle and hinges rust.
In side this case such beauty lies, that’s yet to be untold. The beauty of an instrument, which such rare treasures hold.
The case is lifted gently up, and placed with loving hands. Upon a wooden table near, it finds a place to land.
Its lid is opened to reveal a wooden object there. A Violin, this treasure is, a treasure O so rare.
A small child picks it up, and plucks the strings to tune. A smile gently plays her lips, as fresh as a day in June.
The bow she takes and rosins it, to play her music fair. The Violin on her shoulder she places with such loving, tender, care.
Now, hark! a single string she plays, alive with beauty bright. A melody than slowly forms, it fills every heart with delight.
The music slowly fills the room, with fullness to behold. The melody’s a minuet, from the Great Masters of Old.
The music grows in rapid course, now slow, and now it’s fast. The scenes that dart before your eyes are years of long time past.
Now it’s spring time in the meadows, now it the warm, hot, summer, days. Now the leaves are falling gently, now a visit to winter is paid.
O, the glories of such music, O, the treasures it can hold. O, the joys the Lord has given us, O, such wonders to behold.
We should thank the Lord for music, and remember with each string, that even playing music, should glory to him bring.

The judges really liked her descriptive imagery.  Elizabeth has won our Premium Accessories Package.  Congratulations!

We are also pleased to announced two honorable mentions.  Cecille Lee Gove and her poem “It’s Music.”

What is beautiful and soothing to the ears,
A treasure that brings both laughter and tears.

It comes in all sizes, shapes, and sounds,
And has trillions of fans all around.

It’s high and low, flat and sharp,
And brightens even the dimmest heart.

It’s country, gospel, classical, and rock,
And something no living creature can mock.

It’s the piano, organ, piccolo, and flute,
Violin, viola, mandolin, and lute.

It’s the fiddle, banjo, guitar, and xylophone,
Oboe, clarinet, drums, and saxophone.

It’s bass, treble, soprano, and alto,
Whole, quarter, half, and eighth notes.

It’s better than bronze, silver, and gold,
And anything the ears can ever behold.

What’s the answer – do you know it ?
It’s God’s gift to us all – it’s music !

As well as, Paolo Ferrer and his haiku “Sound Post.”

A Breath. Bow meets strings.
The being’s essence expressed
Soul soars, woes fleeting

Thank you to everyone that participated!  Stay tuned to the blog and our Facebook page for news of upcoming contests.

A Brief History of the Serenade

Photo by Elin B
Photo by Elin B

With Valentine’s Day less than 48 hours away, you might be sweating bullets trying to come up with some way–any way–to impress that special someone.

Well, I’m going let you in on a little secret. There is nothing that wins someone over like MUSIC. Sure, you could always gift your sweetheart a violin. But it’s also prime time for serenading and the singing telegram. And this strange tradition of awkwardly showing up at someone’s door to sing songs (think Christmas carolers) is nothing new. It all began with the serenade.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SERENADE

Going back to prehistoric times, there is evidence that music existed. Like verbal language itself, music is similarly a natural and essential form of communication. The oldest known musical instruments include a collection from China even dating between 6,600 and 7,000 BC. Now those are some serious oldies.

If you think about it, almost any piece of music could be considered a serenade in the sense that all music is intended to be performed for an audience, whether it be a hall of concertgoers or simple an individual.

But when it comes to the traditional serenade, this form developed in Medieval times as a way for an eager gentleman to serenade his lady love of choice. This was typically done in the evening through a window (Romeo-and-Juliet style) with self-accompaniment on a lute or guitar.

These medieval serenades developed into an art form of its own kind. During the Baroque era the serenade evolved into a lyrical piece still sung and played outdoors, but for an an audience rather than a courted lady. By the Classical and Romantic eras the serenade further evolved into a form in concert literature for string ensembles and orchestras, like a light symphonic work with multiple movements and varying tempos, but free of heavy, dramatic orchestration. The serenade kept it’s lyrical, evening-song character.

AND IT’S STILL HAPPENING

Going back to the original serenade with that young man singing at the window, this form of the serenade is still performed today. There is no shortage of young men wooing girls on the guitar. One of my old roommates was even proposed to via song. Singing telegrams, caroling, Italian men singing from gondolas, mariachi band specials, and even Elvis impersonators serenading couples down the aisles of Vegas wedding chapels are today’s popular way to send messages of love.

Now, you can even serenade your loved ones online. For example, my friend Fresh Big Mouf will send his original song, “Secret Crush” to your very own secret crush as a digital message of love. There’s modern serenading at its finest.

Serenade your secret sweetheart with a virtual valentine.
Serenade your secret sweetheart with a virtual valentine. (Photo by Marcello Ambriz)

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So if you really want to win over the one you love, you may find that harmony is the key (signature) to the heart. Ditch the chocolates and warm up your vocal chords because now is the time to confess how you really feel. And while you’re ditching your chocolates, send them to me. I can help you out with that.

How to Use a Metronome

Photo by Mrs Logic
Photo by Mrs Logic

Instrument, bow, stand, music, pencil–that’s all you need when you sit down (or stand) to practice, right? Wrong. One of the most essential and useful tools for the wise, efficient practicer is this marvelous, magical machine: the metronome. The timekeeper. That thing that clicks.

As a string bassist who grew up classically trained, I was used to bending the tempo, slowing with ritardandos, stopping for fermatas and railroad tracks, slightly altering the tempo based on the lyricism of the piece, and sometimes completely throwing the beat out the window to play a cadenza.

When I went to music school in college, I was introduced to jazz, and I realized I was on a completely different playing field, playing a completely different ballgame. As a player used to hashing up melodic solos, playing jazz forced me back to the bassist’s primary role: keeping the beat. I remember my teacher telling me that a bassist who can’t keep time is useless. A musician might have perfect pitch and stellar chops, but without a sense of rhythm . . . well. Good luck.

Another time I was preparing for a blind audition and was given a tip to keep in mind. When you can’t see the adjudicators listening from behind a screen, you won’t see their faces, but you also won’t see their pencil lightly tapping on their knee checking the consistency of your tempo. Hopefully all panel judges aren’t that cruel, but my paranoia of that “one” judge made me reconsider my relationship with my metronome.

We needed to become best friends.

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USING YOUR METRONOME

If you don’t have a metronome, now is the time to keep time. My personal favorites are metronomes with a dial (rather than digital metronomes) such as the Wittner MT60 Quartz. But anything that keeps steady time will do.

Here are a few things your metronome can help you do to become a better musician:

  1. Understand tempo markings. I like metronomes with a dial that show you the numerical ranges for common tempo markings like largo, andante, moderato, presto, etc. The metronome can help you get the feel for the overall tempo of a passage or piece.
  2. Set the tempo. Sometimes composers and conductors mark the music with a specific numerical tempo marking in addition to a general tempo marking (like “largo”). Identify the appropriate tempo for your piece of music. This doesn’t mean you’ll start practicing at that tempo. It’s just what you’re aiming for. (See number 5.)
  3. Warm up. When you pull out your instrument, start with long, slow tones to warm up the rosin on your bow and smooth out your tone. Typically you’ll start with scales. Warming up with a metronome is like getting your musical heartbeat pumping again. Wake up the rhythm in your body! Ole!
  4. Practice scales and arpeggios with different rhythmic patterns. After playing scales with whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes, change it up a bit, moving up the scale in triplets (one triplet per bow) or groups of sixteenths. Then practice arpeggios at a slow tempo, gradually turning up the speed.
  5. Perfect difficult passages. For all music, whether you’re playing scales, arpeggios, orchestral excerpts, or solos, START SLOW. Only increase the speed on your metronome once a passage or lick is free of error. You can apply this principle to even a single measure, a group of notes, or even a single shift between two notes. Zone in on exactly what you’re tripping over and then conquer it with your metronome.
  6. Subdivide. Your metronome beat doesn’t have to just be for a quarter note. Set it four times faster to click on the sixteenths, or three times faster for triplets. This will help you decipher tricky rhythmic passages, steady your dotted rhythms, and keep a steady beat overall.
  7. Learn vibrato. A great way to get your hand and fingers comfortable with the physical motion of vibrato is the slowly roll your wrist, forearm, and/or fingers in time with a slow beat. This will develop a vibrato that vibrates consistently rather that shaking uncontrollably. (See “String Instrument Techniques: How to Learn Vibrato.”)
  8. Sight read. After regularly using your metronome, you should get a good feel for basic tempo markings. Remembering that “60” means 1 beat per second, if you can get the feel for the timing of seconds, this can be your baseline reference. When you get a piece of music to sightread, always identify the expected tempo before taking off. (See “15 Tips to Successfully Sightread.”)
  9. Prepare your accompanist. Whether you’re playing with a pianist, a duet partner, a small ensemble, or an orchestra, you can set the tempo specifically to what you’re comfortable with. It’s the worst when your accompanist rushes ahead of you at a pace that makes you stumble over your tricky passages. Even five extra beats per minute could throw you off if it’s faster than you’ve prepared. It’s also torture when you accompanist drags behind you. Give them an exact number so you can play in rhythmic harmony.
  10. Conduct. If you conduct music, all of these principles apply to your ability to lead musicians in time. Just like I was saying how a bass player who can’t keep time is useless, a conductor who can’t keep time is even MORE useless! Conductors have to be the rock when it comes to keeping the beat. If you tend to rush or slow down, spend more time with your metronome.

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 Now, off you go to the practice room. Have a great TIME!