Thursday, September 16, 2010


COMPOSER: Chopin Waltz in Eb Opus 18-1 "Grande Valse"

OBJECTIVE: Intro to Recorder: Beautiful and Ugly Sounds/Articulation/Putting Fingers Down
(Periods 2,3,6):
1. Quote by Irving Berlin/famous popular and Broadway musical composer of the early 20th century.
2. Solfege Roll: Review solfege hand signals adding "Sol." Teacher asks with hand signals: Sol-Mi-La-Sol-Mi ("Mar-y did you finish your quote?")/Student answers with hand signals: Sol-Mi-La-Sol-Mi ("Yes I did") and show the quote to me.
The reason I instruct my students to not put any fingers down yet is because I want them to concentrate first on the production of tone. To fix an ugly sound, first you must determine what caused it. If no fingers are being used in the production of the sound then it is very likely that the cause is associated in some way with the breathing (air control) apparatus.
Unlike their modern relatives, the woodwind family, the recorders use small amounts of air in their production of pitched tones. These instruments are not capable of producing a good sound when too much air is blown into them. Too much air results in high, squeaky noises instead of distinct pitches. A good rule to think about, when playing the recorder, is never "blow" on it but instead "whisper" into it.
The speed of the air entering the recorder needs to be controlled and regulated because changes in air speed cause the intonation of the pitches to be altered. Steady streams of air (air speed) need to be going through the instrument in order to keep the sound from becoming wave-like or bumpy sounding. So, good breath control is essential for good intonation and beautiful tone quality. Breath control is directly related to proper posture. Mechanisms in the body responsible for breathing (lungs, diaphram muscle, etc.) can not work at their optimum best when a person has poor posture. Consequently, poor posture not only affects recorder playing, it most importantly, affects the health of the body. I like to connect the idea of air going through the body to water going through a garden hose: If a garden hose is bent or has a kink in it, does the water run smoothly through it? Poor posture does not allow the air to flow as freely through the body forcing the body to work harder then it should to circulate the air. If you overwork the body parts for long periods of time they may not last as long.
When people talk they breathe at the end of phrases (like using a "comma"). Excessive breathing while talking makes the speech sound "choppy" and uncontrolled not to mention physically uncomfortable for the person who is speaking and irritating for the person who is listening to it. Musicians breathe in phrases just like people breathe in speech. To breathe in phrases, the air taken into the body must be portioned out (not let out all at once) so that there is enough air to produce a beautiful sound on each note. In order to do that the places the player breathes in the music must be planned ahead of time. Using a car and gasoline as an example: If you plan a trip through the desert and you don't want to run out of gas, you plan where you will be filling up your gas tank. If you plan incorrectly you will run out of gas. Just as a car will "sputter" as it is running out of gas, so will the sound of the instrument as the player runs out of air because the air stream becomes uncontrolled and thus "choppy" sounding.
Articulation is how sounds are stopped and started. We articulate when we speak as we use our tongue to start certain sounds (consonances) behind our teeth to form words. Musical instruments are in a way imitations of the human voice; they also use articulation in production of their sounds. An example of a good articulated sound is when a triangle is struck. If the instrument is struck incorrectly, the result will be a vibration of sound that is weak (not pleasing to hear) but if it is struck correctly, the vibration will ring for a long period of time and create a beautiful tone. In recorder playing, separate individual sounds are started with the tongue softly (too hard produces sounds anywhere from harsh to squeaky) touching behind (not on) the upper teeth using a "dah" or "tah" tongue position. When playing in groups, instrumental performers playing the same parts need to articulate (and also breathe) the same way at the same time so the group can be heard by the audience as a single instrument.
A recorder is a tube that sound waves go through. The longer the tube the lower it will sound. When holes are covered on the recorder, the size of the tube changes altering the pitch. In reality each different fingering combination is a different size tube so the instrument is actually many sized tubes all in one. If those different size tubes were separated and placed side by side they would like the different sized pipes in a pipe organ (only smaller of course).

2. Left hand: finger springs; how fingers push down strings to start sounds.
a. Starting with left hand thumb placed under the curve of the neck (called 5th position) in a backwards "C" position, students depress the pad of the index finger (called 1st finger) down onto the "G" string in a "spring-like" motion four times (4x) silently then repeat the same on the"D" string 4x, "A" then "E" strings.
b. Repeat the same exercise again using the pad of the middle finger (called the 2nd finger), 3rd finger or "ring finger" and then finally using the 4th finger or "pinky" finger (the hardest finger to use or as I call it, "the dreaded 4th finger").
c. When using the 4th finger, if it can not reach the "G" string comfortably do not stretch it. Instead make more room for it by bring the left arm under the violin more. If when doing that the left arm feels stiff or in pain, try adjusting the violin angle slightly to the left.
d. Try to perform these "spring-like" finger actions by feel; without looking at the hand.
3. Add onto the previous step by performing a "plucking" or pulling the string-type motion called "pizzicato" or "pizz" for short. Pizzicato is the Italian musical term tht means to pluck the string instead of using the bow.
a. To pizzicato: push down the left index finger pad onto the string and start the beginning of the "spring" motion (as we did before) then add a motion where you pull that finger away from the string to let it vibrate. Before performing the next pizzicato place the finger pad on the string (which stops the previous action's vibration) then restart: PLACE, PUSH DOWN, PULL
4. CYCLE OF STRINGS: Left hand pizzicato is practiced 4x on each string starting on the "G" string using the first finger then using the 2nd, 3rd, and lastly the 4th finger. Adjustment of the violin angle may have to occur when plucking the "G" string with the 4th finger.
5. Left pizzicato and open string note reading to song "Cripple Creek."
a. Looking at open string notes (music notation) on the music chart posted (notes are color coated by string (BLUE"G," RED or PINK "D," YELLOW "A" and GREEN will be "E") students are to look at how high or low the notes are [as to their location on the staff (lines and spaces that notes sit on)] placed and comparing that to their violin string sounds determine the names: EX: Lowest color is "BLUE" and lowest violin string is "G."
b. Quarter note concept and notation are introduced (quarter notes are worth one beat of the heart). There are two types of beats: ones you hear and feel and ones that you only feel. The ones you only feel are called "rests" and they are notes that are not played, or silent notes.
c. Students are instructed to read the quarter notes saying the sound of "tah" and patsch (pat the knee with the hand) for quarter beats that are felt and heard and saying "rest" while creating a silent beat by waving the arm out and in for the beats that are only felt.
d. Repeat the above activity except change the tahs to the appropriate note name of the open string it represents.
e.. This activity is then transfered to the violin where the students are instructed to read (sing) the note letter names and rests out loud (as they occur ) while plucking the appropriate string using left hand pizzicato. All this is done to the recording.(The violin is said to be the "imitation of the human voice" so singing (hearing) the music in your head is essential before playing it on the violin.)
f. A music "road map" direction (or what I like to call "music punctuation") for repeats (repeat sign) is introduced (a double bar with 2 dots) and the term "staff" (five lines and 4 spaces) is explained.
g. Tomorrow: open strings reviewed with song "Batman."

OBJECTIVE: Preparation for Harvest Day performance on October 28th/Hoedown music

2. "Hoedown": Class plays entirely to format: INTRO/ "A" 2x / "B" 2x / "A" 2x / CODA
3. "Orange Blossom Special":
a. Review the beginning (train sound) of "Orange Blossom Special" using fingered (perfect 5th) double stops (which slide back and forth 1/2 step) and left hand pizzicato open "E" string. Make sure the bow executes the 1/2 step slide on the same bow as the previous note.
b. Start at the beginning of the piece; count out the first 2 measures [which are silent rests: 1234, 2234) and then practice the next 4 measures. Again review the concept of perfect 5ths.
c. Go over note names and fingerings of the passages to be played.
d. Before playing the next section, work out its rhythm by counting out loud. Giving silly words to standard patterns of sound (rhythm) helps to conceptualize the rhythm before playing it.e. Review fingerings/note names then play. e. Next section is a repeat of a previous section already taught in class. So, go back to the begining and try to put all of the previous sections learned together.