The Finals Countdown

Well, it is about that time again. It is time to turn in those last few papers and study for a week straight. Yes, my friends, the final week of school is here. I, like everyone else, have been trying to gethunger-games-exams-meme my last few assignments together so I can make time to study for my exams. Finals week is the time of the school year that makes us or breaks us. Hopefully we will all make it out alive! No, there is not a magic button that will make those dreadful end of the year exams disappear, but there are a few things you can do to help pull you through. Here are a few tips. Continue reading

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Happy Thanksgiving

So it is officially that time of year again, Thanksgiving! And to counteract all these premature Christmas advertisements, I have decided to dedicate this post to this special holiday. Let me assure you that I love Christmas just as much as anyone else; I am not a complete Grinch! But around this time of the year I do not think that Thanksgiving gets nearly any of credit it deserves. Thanksgiving is a holiday I look forward to every year no matter what. Christmas can be bright, exciting and all together festive, but I think Thanksgiving has a neutral and humble aura that makes it unique and a little more relaxing. We all have our family traditions on Thanksgiving. Most of us get together with our families to eat a lunch or a dinner. Even though I love all the food I eat on Thanksgiving, this holiday is about more than just turkey and stuffing. For me, Thanksgiving is meaningful because it is a day I get to take a break from my busy schedule and spend some time with my family. So in this post I will share my Thanksgiving festivities with you readers! Continue reading

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A Musical Journey: Finale

Here marks the end of our musical journey. We have gone over picking an instrument, reading music, counting rhythms, and a little basic theory. Now that you have an instrument and the knowledge to apply to it you will now want to find some sort of musical ensemble. Why? Well, it is nice to know how to play an instrument but being part of a band will introduce you to other musicians, both new and experienced. Now there a lot are more options out there than you think. Let’s go over the different ensembles you will encounter on your journey.

Start Your Own Band

I'm down!

I’m down!

You can always start your own band. You and your friends can bring all your instruments together and start playing music. This option can be a little more expensive as you will have to provide your own music, unless you want to play by ear. I personally struggle when it comes to playing by ear, so I like to have the notes in front of me. In your own band you may also not be offered the direction you can get from older members and the director. I am not trying to discourage anyone from starting their own band, but you may also want to look into joining a larger ensemble as well.

Community Bands

 Community bands are a great way to expand your musical horizons. You do not have to be playing at a professional level to join a community band, which makes it great for beginners of all ages. LMU has three great community bands: Concert Band, Jazz Band, and Pep Band. So you can play in these bands whether you take classes here or not. Community bands provide more than you would get by yourself, like a director and more experienced members who can provide extra help. They also provide sheet music free of charge which it great because that stuff is expensive! Some community bands that receive enough funding even have extra instruments that you might be able to use if you don’t have your own.

School Bands

I have school bands listed separately because not all community bands are funded by a school and not all school bands are community bands. Some bigger universities only provide ensembles to music majors and minors. Other colleges offer band to only students that attend the school, despite their majors. Of course elementary, middle school and high schools only let their students participate in their band programs. However schools like LMU extend the invitation to join the band to the community.

So now you may be asking yourself, what type of music should I play? My answer is all of it but I will be a bit more helpful than that. I will dive into some of the different ensembles you can join.

My high school concert band.

My high school concert band.

Concert Band

Concert band is more formal than other ensembles. In concert band you will play more classical pieces. However you do also play more contemporary music sometimes too. Some bands include seasonal music and music from movies and TV shows. I’ve played Beatles music, cartoon music, and Christmas music all in one setting! Too many people are quick to stamp the boring label on concert band but these people usually don’t respect music. You do not have to be a musician to enjoy a classical piece!

Jazz Band

Jazz band is my favorite. Jazz bands usually have more limited instrumentation. It is harder to find jazz music for instruments like flutes and clarinets but of course it is not impossible. My freshman year in high school I played clarinet in jazz band,

Jazz is my favorite :)

Jazz is my favorite :)

but I had to read a trumpet part. Now that I play tenor sax, I get a part specified to my instrument. Sometimes members have another instrument they prefer to play for jazz band. You might play flute in concert band and saxophone in jazz band. Being in multiple bands gives you the opportunity to try new instruments.

Pep Band

A pep band plays at sporting events during timeouts and sometimes during halftime. The pep band will play shorter pieces as it is very limited on time. Pep band music varies from cheering music to pop music. The pep band’s job is to play recognizable, upbeat music the audience is more familiar with to motivate the crowd. Pep band also tends to be easier and less formal than other ensembles. I like pep band because it is simply

Pep band selfie!

Pep band selfie!

fun. Even though I love the other music I play, I also like to just kick back and have a good time.

Well, this is where I leave you. I hope you have found this series helpful. If you have any questions about music or band do not hesitate to ask me! I am here to help as you will one day help another beginner. The individual musicians you meet and the different music you play will conduct you on the rest your journey.

I hope you enjoyed my series! Leave me a comment if you have any questions. Please like my post and check back every other Wednesday for a new one!

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A Musical Series Part Five: Scales

Today I am going to cover scales. A scale is simply a series of notes between an octave. It is crucial for musicians to know their scales because scales are the basis to music. I recommend memorizing at least all you major scales. Of course it will be best to memorize you minor and major scales. Some of the scales are a little harder to learn than others but once you learn them your muscle memory takes over. So let’s begin! Continue reading

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A Musical Series Part Four: Counting and Reading Rhythms

Today I am going over counting and reading rhythms. Keeping rhythm is one of the most important aspects of performing. Rhythms helps shape a piece and can make or break a song. Many beginners are not used to counting and can sometimes feel over whelmed but it is not as tricky as it looks. First, I will start out with note and rest values and then I will move on to reading rhythms. Continue reading

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A Musical Series Part Three: Learning To Read Music

I know that learning to read music can seem intimidating, but it is very simple once you get the hang of it. This is one of the largest milestones you will face when learning to play an instrument. Knowing how to read a piece of music is essential in any ensemble you plan to join. It is difficult at first, but it gets easier as you go along. Once you have learned the notes and how to decipher the clefs, you have overcome the hardest part of your journey. Do not let yourself get overwhelmed when you are just beginning. It may be a little frustrating at first but eventually it will become second nature. Let’s go over a few of the basics of reading music. Continue reading

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A Musical Series Part Two: Picking an Instrument

Picking an instrument is one of the hardest things a beginning musician will do. Most people already have a few instruments in mind but narrowing it down to just one can be difficult. The first thing I suggest you do is make a list of instruments you are interested in. Just think of all the different instruments you like and write them down. After you have them written down, put them in categories depending on whether they are brass, woodwind, or percussion. Those are the three main types of instruments you will pick from in most ensembles.

reeds

reeds

Woodwinds include clarinet, flute, saxophone, oboe, and a few others. Most woodwinds require a reed for the instrument to play, though some, such as the flute, do not. Brass instruments are trumpets, horns, euphoniums and baritones, tubas, and trombones. Percussion includes drums, bells, xylophone, triangle, etc. A few ensembles have stringed instruments like violins, guitars, and cellos but these are mostly orchestras. LMU does not have an orchestra, but if you are interested in learning guitar, you can take lessons.

Once you are able to pick what type of instrument you want to play, next you need to find a specific instrument. In percussion you will be required to learn a variety of instruments but in woodwinds and brass, you need to find one you can focus on for a long period of time. When I started band in fifth grade, I played clarinet mostly because my cousin had one to give me. But I also enjoyed playing it and I was able to apply what I had learned on clarinet to saxophone. Many people pick clarinet anyway because it is one of the most common beginning instruments along with flute and trumpet. For most people there are three deciding factors that go into picking an instrument: natural ability, price, and likeability.

Natural Ability

800px-Trumpet_embouchure

Trumpet embouchure

Natural ability does not mean you can pick the instrument up and start playing like a professional. It simply means that you can make a sound when you blow into the instrument. It also means you can adjust to the embouchure comfortably. I personally cannot stand the way the embouchure of brass instruments feels. I, in turn, have many friends who play brass that cannot stand the way a reed feels while they play. Yet others, myself included, cannot keep their hands steady to play percussion instruments. Before you pick out your instrument, make sure you have had a chance to play it. Most places that sell instruments will give you this option. I would not buy an instrument if I had not had a chance to play it. How else will you know if you will be comfortable playing it? So when you are trying out instruments, keep in mind which feels most natural when you play.

Price

Some people will argue that price comes first. I do not because there is no sense in paying a dime for something you can’t make a noise on. However, it is a close second. Clarinets, flutes, and trumpets are the cheapest instruments, ranging from a few hundred to a little over a thousand; that is one of the reasons they are the most popular beginning instruments. If I had to guess, I would say the tuba would be the most expensive. I have seen tubas range all the way up to ten thousand. Most tuba players I have known usually play a school instrument. Instruments are usually ranked student, intermediate, and professional. A student instrument will be much less than a professional. However, you need to be willing to pay a few hundred for a good instrument.

Likeability

Saxophones

Saxophones

Likeability is the third factor that comes into picking an instrument. When I say likeability, I mean preference. Which instruments do you like the best? Which one do you think has the best sound? There is no point in paying for something you cannot play, but there is also no sense in paying for an instrument you hate. I guess you can say that these two factors revolve around price. I would also keep in mind that many programs have a few instruments available to play. These are usually the most expensive instruments. So check to see if the program you are interested in can provide an instrument if price is an issue. When you are making a list of instruments you like, try not to stray too far from it. If you have written mostly woodwind instruments, try to stick to mostly woodwind instruments. Also keep if you specifically chose one instrument, there are a few different types of one instrument. For example I play tenor sax but there is also an alto sax and a soprano sax. I play clarinet but there is also a bass clarinet.

These are three critical factors that go into picking an instrument. I put price in the middle but in some cases, such as playing a school instrument, it can be less of an issue. I recommend choosing something you can dedicate yourself to beyond anything else. That way you will most likely stick with it. Of course, that does not mean you cannot look into playing other instruments. I have found that many clarinet players later pick up saxophone and many trumpet players later pick up euphonium. In the end, you just have to pick what you like the most.

What are some instruments you would like to try? Comment and let me know if you plan on learning an instrument! As always, like my post and check back every other Wednesday for a new one!

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