Category Archives: Music education

Decisions, Decisions: Should I Major in Music?

Working for Kennedy Violins, I am constantly immersed in music–and I like it that way. There was a time in my life, though, when I reached a crossroad that would determine exactly how music might, could, or would be a part of my future. It’s a crossroad many young musicians face.

As high school wound down to an end, I had mixed ideas as far as my future plans were concerned. I went from feeling reluctant to go to college to eagerly applying with the hope of a scholarship. Then, during my senior year, I really started considering not just where I would gain my higher education, but in what emphasis of study I’d immerse myself. At the time, I was very dedicated to two creative pursuits: the visual arts (painting) and the performing arts (classical string bass).

To paint or to play? That was the question. Even though I majored in music, I still enjoy painting.
To paint or to play? That was the question. Even though I majored in music, I still enjoy painting.

When I approached my private bass teacher, the principal of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, with my decision, he surprised me with the question, “Are you sure you want to major in music?” At the time, the symphony was facing serious financial troubles with a lack of funding and drama within the board of directors. Sometimes, apparently, the music business can be no fun.

I went on to major in music–mostly because playing the bass was something I was good at, so why not keep going with it?–but looking back, I wish I had considered some of the following questions regarding my decision, my goals, and my future.

Now that ten years has passed since graduating high school, I am grateful for my music degree and to still be performing, teaching, and sharing a skill (not just a hobby) developed during my years of collegiate study.

So if you (or your child, friends, or associates) are facing the decision to study music, ask yourself the following questions to bring some light to the subject:

  1. What do you think about when you don’t have to think? What occupies your thoughts (when you actually have a moment to think) is a good indicator of what’s important to you and what really interests you. If you find yourself jotting down melodies, humming the theme from a favorite symphony, or mentally practicing a piece you’ve been working on, these are signs of your interest in or passion for music. Don’t major in music if you’re not seriously passionate about it.
  2. Do you plan to seek higher education? Really assess not just your desire for further education, but the path to get there. “Planning” to go to college includes actually having a concrete plan! Talk about it with your parents and guidance counselor. Access all the resources you can. Research scholarship opportunities and financial aid. Learn about different schools and the programs they offer. Put application deadlines on your calendar and schedule time to complete the mounds of paperwork and online forms. If you want to gain a higher education, do all you can to realize the opportunity!
  3. Do you like to practice? Does anyone really like to practice? Well, sure! Practice isn’t drudgery when approached the right way and with a desire to improve. But SERIOUSLY, you need to have a high tolerance level for being in the practice room. If you major in music, you will practically live there. And if you dread stepping foot into the practice room, you’re going to be a miserable music major. You have to be really dedicated to your craft to understand the value of diligent practice.

    My program required three hours of practice per day. Exhausting, but so important!
    My program required three hours of practice per day. Exhausting, but so worth it!
  4. Do you perceive music as a hobby or a potential profession? Maybe music something you simply do for fun or as a social outlet. But perhaps you’re interested in applying your skills in a way that influences others on a greater scale. Consider whether music is something you simply do for yourself and your own enjoyment (and this is great!) or if you want to share your talent for music more broadly in your music community through performance and education. If you hope to share music effectively with others, majoring in music will provide you with effective means to do just that.
  5. What are your career goals? Do you want to be a dentist or a doctor? A journalist? An accountant? Your professional ambitions don’t have to eliminate your musical involvement, but you will need to invest in an education that enables you to reach your professional goals. (Note: You can actually still minor or even major in music and still access those career paths through graduate and doctoral studies.)
  6. Which do you hope to do more: teach or perform? This question will help you decide whether to pursue a degree in music education, music performance, or general music. All music majors can teach privately, but if you plan to teach in a public school, you’ll need a teaching certificate attained through a music education program.
  7. Are you hoping for a scholarship? Whether you major in music or another field of study, you might be eligible to receive a music scholarship! There are so many scholarships, grants, and awards available to musicians. Do some research to find these, and again, be sure not to miss any deadlines to apply or audition!
  8. Will you regret majoring or not majoring in music? This is a hard question to answer because you may not know until after the fact. Whatever you decide to do, I hope there will be no regrets as you look back on the decisions you’ve made and the doors of opportunity you’ve opened. I hope you’ll find success and joy in your future pursuits no matter what they are.

And remember, even if you don’t major in music, there will always be opportunities to study music and be active in the music community throughout your life. (Visit www.kennedyviolins.com/lessons to learn more about lessons offered in our private studio.) Whatever you decide, we hope music will continue to play an important and enriching role in your life as a music performer, teacher, or lover. Either way, it’s totally worth it. Best of luck!

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Looking for more advice? Feel free to contact us at support@kennedyviolins.com or call 1-800-779-0242. As usual, we love hearing from you!

Instrument Setup: How to Set Up a Violin

Bridge, pegs, fine tuners, fingerboard, nut — we do it all!

We recently created a new page on kennedyviolins.com highlighting our setup process and what goes into the finally assembly of a violin. If you want to learn the trade secrets of violin setup, check out our Instrument Setup page! You’re bound to learn something new!

Suzuki vs. Traditional Method

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“Music is the language of the heart without words.” -Dr Suzuki

There is so much confusion surrounding what the difference is between traditional and Suzuki method violin lessons. What’s the difference? Is one better? How do you choose?

I, personally, started on the Suzuki method at the age of three, went through two years of Suzuki pedagogy training,  and currently have a studio of thirty students that I teach the Suzuki method to. I believe in the Suzuki method and really enjoy using it with my students.

Dr. Suzuki was born in Japan and was a firm believer that every child can learn to play music. He was a strong advocate for creating an “environment” where music was fostered and encouraged in every child. The basis of his method was on linguistics and how a child learns spoken language. Just as we do not expect a child to read before they can talk, we should not expect a child to read music before they can play music.

With that idea, a Suzuki teacher will teach at least the first year of violin without having the child read music. The focus is on posture, tone and developing a love of music. This means the child will attend concerts, play with other violinists, perform as often as possible and be immersed in the violin world.  It is for these reasons that the Suzuki method is often the preferred method for teaching younger children ages 2-5. Children at these ages are not trying to keep up with any kind of school orchestra, are often not reading yet and their ear is still developing making them prime candidates for learning music by ear.

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Dr. Suzuki leading a group of children playing violins

Traditional violin lesson teachers will often be leery to start a child before 1st grade and often would prefer to wait until 4th or 5th grade. This is sad because many years have been lost in which the child could have been exposed to music and learning to appreciate it. The other major benefit to starting young is learning to perform at a young age which makes it less intimidating as you get older.

The positive side of waiting and doing traditional method is that the child can be self-propelled and often needs very little help from the parent other then encouragement. The Suzuki method is very parent involved. Especially when you start from a young age. Dr. Suzuki always encouraged the parent to learn along side the child. He felt like this was a positive role modal for the child and then the parent could assist in practice. Ask any teacher; too often a parent ruins a week of practice by giving a student wrong advice.

You can start the Suzuki method at a later age. I have started many students age ten to twelve on the Suzuki method. They do really well. The benefit of only focusing on posture, tone and love of music really brings out the artistry in playing the instrument. Making it way less about the technical side of reading music and more about the artistic side of making music.

To be honest, I do start my students with reading music by Book 2 of the Suzuki method. My reason for this is that my own musical growth was stunted by leaving out the reading of music for so long. By the time most of my students reach Book 2 though, they have been playing for three years. This is plenty of time to focus on posture and tone development without the stress of trying to read music at the same time. I do not however, use the Suzuki book to read music. I supplement with fiddle tunes, duets, scales, etudes and rhythm training.  If a teacher claims to be a Suzuki teacher and just teaches from the books they are missing the whole point of Dr. Suzuki’s method. His method was not about the songs he wrote or pieces in the books. His method is about believing in the ability of every child to play music, to foster the love of music in every child and to start them off in music the best way possible.

 To get a visual idea of what Dr. Suzuki was like and what his method brought about, watch this YouTube channel by clicking here. Crazy what love, devotion and belief in a child’s ability can bring about.

How Young is Too Young?

As a violin teacher, with a pretty good size studio, I think the question I get the most is, “At what age should I start my child?”  There are several responses that I could have with this question, but I will go with the two that I feel most strongly about.

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First, what is best for your child?  In this day and age it is not uncommon for a child to have an extra activity every day.  From soccer to acting class kids’ schedules can be crazy.  If you want them to play an instrument, not have to practice with them, and just have fun, then starting in 5th or 6th grade is probably the best option.  At that age, kids can be pretty self-driven and if they like the instrument will practice.  You may need to be flexible, however,  because your child will probably want to switch as they get exposed to different instruments.  For a child to try violin one year and cello the next is great, but as a parent can be frustrating.

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Second, what is best for you as the parent?  If you want to start your child on violin at the age of three, that’s awesome, but realize you will have to be very dedicated.  Practicing with the child every day, enduring tantrums when practice gets difficult, and having a slow and steady approach to learning the instrument.  I love it when a young child gets a grasp on music early.  The students I have that started at the age of three or four have a way better understanding of music then a child that starts in 5th or 6th grade.  They have been around music longer, appreciate it, and see music almost as a second language.  It is a beautiful thing, however, it is not an easy thing to accomplish as a parent.  If you are not the type of parent that wants to dedicate yourself to learning the violin and practicing with your child every day then hold off on starting them young.  It will cause you more grief than joy.  So, unless you are a bit of a “tiger mom” it may not be best for you.

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I started the violin at the age of three.  There has never been a day, in my adulthood, that I have regretted starting the violin at such a young age.  It is why I love teaching younger students so much.  By the way, all of the children’s pictures in this post are students of mine.

Starting children young can be very rewarding.  My mom was an amazing, dedicated woman and she said there was nothing more rewarding then seeing her children come alive while playing music.  My mother also came up with the best quitting rule when it came to music.  If we ever came to our mom and said that we wanted to quit she always said that was just fine and we would mark the calendar for 6 months from the time that we asked to quit.  If 6 months later we still wanted to quit the instrument, we were allowed to do so.  You would be amazed at how often quitting an instrument is associated with an upcoming performance, current frustration with a technique, or just pure laziness. Often, after 6 months, we would not even remember wanting to quit.  I still use this rule with my own students.  It works brilliantly.  In ten years of teaching I have only had one student quit.

In closing, a child is never to young to begin to experience music. Singing to and with your child, playing music for your child, and being intentional about learning different instruments and their sounds can go a long way towards teaching your child to appreciate music. Music is not so much a talent but a gift and like all art, should be deeply appreciated.

I would start by watching the “Goat Rodeo” sessions on YouTube with your child. Totally entertaining and lively. They will love them.  You can click here to see what I’m talking about. 🙂

Violin and Fiddle: Are They the Same?

Fiddle players get a lot a lot of flack for being lazy violinists while violinists get teased for being snobby fiddle players. There’s even a joke: “What the difference between a violin and a fiddle? A fiddle is fun to listen to.”

So, what is the difference between a fiddle and a violin? At it’s core, nothing. Violin and fiddle players use the exact same instrument. The only difference that could occur is in the “set-up” of the instrument.

Itzhak Perlman, world famous violinist
Itzhak Perlman, world famous violinist.

Amplification set-up: Violinist tend to play in orchestras, quartets, trios and do not often have to use a mic to be amplified over other instruments. Fiddle players, on the other hand often play with bass, guitar and drums and often need a “pick-up” or microphone of some kind to amplify themselves over the other instruments.

String set-up: There are hundreds of kinds of violin strings. Each violinist or fiddle player will have their particular kind of string they like to use best. In general though, fiddle players prefer a steel string for their direct and clear sound. Violinists can talk for hours about different kinds of strings and why they use the type of string they do. It might be one of the reasons why violinists are considered snobby.

Bridge set-up: Often fiddle players have their bridge shaved down because fiddle playing has a lot of chords and double stops. Having a lower bridge helps to keep the strings on a more level plane, making it easier to hit chords. The classical violin style is associated more with single notes so having a more arched bridge is preferred.

So, what’s harder the violin or the fiddle? Violin players and fiddles players, while using basically the same instruments, have entirely different skill sets. A fiddle player is striving to often play super tricky rhythms and lots of doubles stops (playing two notes at once) and chords (playing three to four notes at once). A classical violinist, will be striving to produce clear tone, vibrato and learning the different positions on the violin.

I travel often and without fail whenever I am walking through an airport with my violin on my back a get the questions, “Is that an instrument?”. My response is always the same, “Yes, a violin.” I would say about five out of ten times the response back is, “Oh, my grandfather played the fiddle. Do you fiddle?” I always want to respond yes to this question, but instead I say, “I can fiddle.” I can fiddle and in fact I enjoy fiddle music but I was trained to play classical violin and know that my fiddle playing methods fall short compared to the great fiddle players.

The reality is that In whatever genre of music you play, being proficient at it requires practice, dedication and skill. This has very little to do with the instrument and more to do with the heart, focus and love of the genre of music you are playing.

Mark O'Connor-world famous fiddler.
Mark O’Connor, world famous fiddler.

The Musician’s Résumé – Part 2: Writing & Distributing

A well-written résumé can be your ticket to the job of your dreams. (Photo by woodleywonderworks.)
A well-written résumé can be your ticket to the job of your dreams. (Photo by woodleywonderworks.)

In “The Musician’s Résumé – Part 1: Getting Started” on our Kennedy Violins blog, we brainstormed ideas on how to get started with a musical résumé. Now that we know the direction we’re headed, it’s time to put it all together.

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WHAT TO INCLUDE

Keep in mind that your résumé should include a combination of the information below whether you are a performer or teacher.

THE BASICS

Everyone needs to include the same basic information to start, regardless of your end goal:

  1. Full name
  2. Contact information (phone, e-mail, address)
  3. Educational background and degrees/certifications obtained
  4. Primary Instrument and style (classical, jazz, folk, rock, etc.)
  5. Secondary instrument(s). Note: Only list instruments you can play fairly well–not the oboe you played for one year in middle school. As a rule of thumb, honestly consider your capabilities: could you perform in an ensemble or teach beginner/basic music lessons on this instrument? If so, list it.

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Below your contact information you will clarify your emphasis in the first (and main) section. Group information in a logical way: chronologically, in order of significance (recommended), or in a combination of both (i.e. categories with information within the category in chronological order).

FOR PERFORMERS

Performers will emphasize performance experiences on a shorter, focused, résumé that doesn’t need wordy descriptions. According to The Musician’s Résumé Handbook by Bob Borden and Kathy Ivy of the Eastman School of Music, “Performance résumé must be limited to one page and should include only educational training and performance experience. All material should be listed in order of performance, without any description or list of duties.”

However, while its up to you how much and what information you include, you might consider noting your roles as either a section player, principle, or soloist, unless you’ve exclusively been a section player only and repeatedly mentioning it is unnecessary.

What to include:

  • Ensembles with which you’ve played: orchestras, operas, bands (be selective–don’t mention your garage band to a professional symphony admin or anyone you want to take you very seriously).
  • Teachers of note
  • Master classes in which you’ve performed or taught. Mention notable artists with who you’ve worked.
  • Freelance work and recording gigs. Note studio names and other meaningful specifics about the nature of the gig.
  • Major recitals and other solo performances.
  • Major artists with whom you’ve performed or accompanied.
  • Touring experience.

FOR TEACHERS

  • Workshops and masterclasses you’ve led.
  • Private teaching experience, whether at a studio, a music school, or in your home.
  • Non-music teaching experiences that reflect your capabilities.
  • Certificates and memberships with associations like MENC or Suzuki.

ADDITIONAL SKILLS & INFORMATION

Ttowards the bottom of the page, include info that shows you’re a well-rounded individual with other marketable skills:

  • hobbies
  • languages you speak
  • community service involvement
  • achievements
  • computer/recording skills
A modern résumé layout by Conor Luddy. Choose a style and readable font that reflect the impression you hope to give about yourself.
A modern résumé layout by Conor Luddy. Choose a style and readable font that reflect the impression you hope to give about yourself.

MAKE IT LOOK GOOD

There are many ways to take advantage of the space on the page of a modern résumé, limiting white dead space and including all the important information you can. Working with columns and even spreadsheet cells can help distribute information evenly across a page.

Using light colored paper, like a classy off-white, can also give it a nice touch. However, as most résumés are distributed online now, you may not need to worry about paper. Still, you could make the background of your résumé a non-white, unassuming color for interest in your PDF or digital file.

DISTRIBUTING YOUR RÉSUMÉ

Now you’re ready to send! Send this résumé (along with a brief cover or introductory letter of inquiry) by e-mails or snail-mail to orchestra managers, school administrators, or other potential employers. You might even Include a recording (on a CD or as a sound file attached to e-mail) or yourself performing.

TIP: Once your résumé has been handed over, don’t just wait for a response, be ready to perform! Have audition pieces ready, to play, be brushed up on your conducting, or have a first lesson for students prepared.

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Once your music résumé is complete, we would love to see it here at Kennedy Violins! Feel free to contact me at liz@kennedyviolins.com with questions or with your résumé for review. As supporters of the music community, we want to see you succeed.

All the best!

The KV Team

Music Theory Basics Part 4: Scale Degrees

This is the last installment of Music Theory Basics.  Why?  Well, beyond this you are getting into more intermediate and advanced concepts of music theory.  Even this entry is pushing the limits on what is “basic,” which is why I strongly recommend taking sometime to review the previous three entries before reading this one.

In Part 3 of Music Theory Basics, we discuss how our modern day musical scales developed from the musical modes used by the ancient Greeks.  For today’s purposes, here is a “textbook” definition.

  • Scale: a series of notes arranged, ascending or descending, by pitch.

Most scales are arranged in 8 notes (octave) and there are 7 different pitches within the modern musical scale of the Western world.  Each pitch serves a specific function and a name describing that function. Take a look and the scale degrees of a C major scale.Scale Degrees

  • Tonic: As the first scale degree, the tonic is the strongest tone within the scale and is the pitch that the melody and harmony center around.  Musical phrases usually end on the tonic.
  • Supertonic: The second scale degree which is on step above the tonic. This note is usually used as a passing tone to resolve to the tonic.
  • Mediant:  The third scale degree.  The mediant is halfway between the tonic and the dominant and is often used to harmonize either tone.
  • Subdominant: The fourth scale degree derives its name from being just below the fifth note (dominant) and being a fifth below the tonic.  It’s placement makes it a fairly strong note often leading to the dominant or tonic and sometimes it finishes a musical phrase on its own.
  • Dominant: The fifth note in the scale is the second strongest to the tonic.  In many cases, other notes will resolve to the dominant rather than the tonic and the end of a musical phrase.
  • Submediant: The sixth note of the scale is known as the submediant because it is halfway between the subdominant and tonic.  It’s function is similar to the mediant.
  • Leading Tone:  The last note on the way up to the tonic the leading tone creates the most dissonance and just begs to resolve to tonic.  A great way to torture musicians is to end a musical phrase with the leading tone.

By knowing the names and the roles each scale degree plays in the scale, we can better understand the relationship of melodies and harmonies which can aid in composition, improvisation, and analysis.  You no longer have to say, “I like that song, it sounds pretty.”  Instead, you can say, “It sounded like the composer was going to resolve to the subdominant, but instead he moved to the dominant and then resolved to the tonic.  That move created a little bit of tension, but not too much. I liked that.”  Impressive.

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!

The Classical Music Poetry Corner

poetryHappy Friday! This is no time for serious business. Here are a few original poems by yours truly, pulled off the shelf and brushed off just for you.

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The Vegan Violin
I’d like a violin please,
that doesn’t involve the murder of trees.
No spruce, no maple, no ebony,
or use of animal gut strings.

I’d like a custom bow too,
without horse hair a horse grew,
or lizard skin to make the grip,
or ivory upon the tip

What can you use instead, you say?
Sunshine and recycled leaves!
Organic air and compost tea
Dirt the earth will give for free!

Can’t be had?
You think me mad?
Well, fine.
I guess I’ll buy the Strad.

_____________________________________

Last Chair
Pleasantly, happily last chair
I touch up my makeup and pin up my hair
Brush up on fashion with Vogue on my stand
Paint all the nails on my left and right hands
Munch on a muffin
Sip on some tea
Flirt with the handsome violist by me
Gaze out the window and lavish the view
Who’s the conductor?
I haven’t a clue.

_____________________________________

The Christmas Gift
For Christmas
I asked for a laptop and printer,
a snowboard and skis
to take out every winter,
an iPhone
an iPad
an iPod and headphones,
unlimited music
and customized ringtones,
a ’69 Mustang
with keys made of gold,
an Xbox
a Wii
and a girlfriend to hold
(preferably blonde).

The morning of Christmas
I launched down the stairs
My parents, they beamed
as I surveyed the wares
I saw just one gift for me
under the tree
I knew it must be something
too good to be!

So I ripped off the paper
and what did I see?
Wait just a second.
Are you joking me?

But they clapped
and they cheered
with the biggest of grins
as I held up a
crusty old,
dusty old,
rusty old,
musty old
brown violin.

_____________________________________

The Menu
Pizzicato pizza
Crescendo cannoli
Largo lasagna
Rondo ravioli

Cantabile caprese
Spiccato spaghetti
Fermata fagioli
Mezzo manicotti

Adagio alfredo
Piu presto pesto
Giocoso gelato
Ostinato orzo

Bravura bruschetta
Presto pepperoni
Placido pancetta
Scherzo stromboli

Molto minestrone
Forte focaccia
Piano pugliese
Mezzo marinara

Vivo vermicelli
Calando carbonara
Legato linguini
Marcato mozzarella

Pesante puttanesca
Tutti tortellini
Grande gorgonzola
Music makes me HUNGRY

 _________________________

More to come!

-Liz