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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A Musical Series Part One: Where Do I Begin?

I love music. I love singing, dancing, playing and listening to music. Almost all of us love music. There are many people who take their love of music and make it into a career. These people are professionals and they get paid to do what they love. But you do not have to be a professional to learn more about music. If you have ever thought about playing an instrument, or if you just want to understand more about music in general, I can help. In this series I will focus mainly on how to play an instrument and how to read music since I have dedicated a good portion of my time to instrumental music. I play mainly saxophone and clarinet, but my advice in this series can be applied to pretty much any instrument. So if you are ready to take your passion of music to the next level, keep reading.

How to Begin

I know that many students at LMU are not music majors. But one great thing about LMU is that you do not have to be a music major to join the choir or band. We have a community band and a community choir that both welcome musicians of all ages from the surrounding counties and musicians from different departments at LMU. Don’t know how to play an instrument or sing? You can take lessons from the staff for one credit hour if you are interested in learning. You do not necessarily have to take lessons, but they are extremely helpful, especially if you are just a beginner. If you are a beginner, your lesson will mostly consist of learning to play your chosen instruments, but as you go on, you will focus on more nit-picky things like dynamics and entrances. I strongly suggest beginning with lessons since a professional or even an amateur that can give you great advice and can even help you pick an instrument

Pick an instrument

From here, I will mostly talk about band since I have never been much of a singer. However, many aspects that are applied to learning an instrument can apply to choir; reading music, for example, is fairly useful in both band and choir. I recommend you do some research on instruments you are interested in before going out and buying one; they’re not cheap. I am not saying you can’t learn different instruments later, but in the beginning, you should focus on one. I am not going to go too much in depth over picking an instrument right now since my next post will cover all you need to know.

Practice

True Story

True story

 As you can guess, practice is essential to music; it is essential to just about anything, really. When you are first learning to play, you will have to practice reading music, counting music, embouchure, instrument fingerings, and even breathing. You should practice at least an hour a day but as you progress, you might need to lengthen your practice time so you do not fall behind. I know it sounds like a lot, but once you get in down, it becomes second nature. Then real practicing can begin! I will give you tips in practicing later on in the series.

Show up to Rehearsal

 Now that you’ve got your new instrument and you have had a bit of practice time, and you’ve (dare I say it?) gone to a few lessons, you can join band! Don’t be scared to just come to practice; we don’t bite! You can come to concert band on Tuesdays from 6 p.m.. to 8 p.m. for some music that is more on the classical side. You can come to pep band of Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. if you want to play at basketball games. Or you can come to jazz band Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. if you are interested in Jazz.

It's what we do

It’s what we do

Of course you are welcome to come to all three; we would love to have you. The series does not end here, it’s just beginning. You may have some instruments in mind, but you will not get far in practice if you do not know how to play your part. There is more that goes into playing an instrument than you know. When you see your favorite musician play he or she makes it look easy but trust me, it takes hours of practice to perfect a piece of music. Making it look easy comes after you have spent weeks preparing to play it in front of an audience. Learning to play an instrument, no matter what you pick, will not be an easy task. So if you are interested in learning how to play an instrument, keep reading!

Are you thinking about picking up an instrument? Comment if you have any questions and keep reading to learn more! Remember to like my post and check in every other Wednesday for a new one!

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Individually Unique, Together Complete

For those of you out there who do not know, I am part of the Zeta Tau Kappa (ZTK) sorority at LMU. I pledged ZTK the spring of 2012. Our colors are purple, blue, and white and our mascot is a bunny. I decided to pledge because I was interested in becoming more involved with my school and with my community. If there are any ladies out there who are thinking of pledging a sorority, I highly recommend ZTK. Of course, the lovely ladies in Kappa Pi Omega and Delta Theta Sigma Sorority are also part of the excellent LMU Greek organizations. In this post I want to share with you some reasons I decided to pledge Zeta Tau Kappa.

Getting involved
One of the main reasons I pledged was to get more involved in the LMU student body. My sophomore year, I realized that I was not involved in my school as well as I should be. I was involved in band but that was pretty much all I was involved in. So I decided to look at some other organizationsztk bunny. One day, I happened to stumble upon an all-Greek event in front of Liles Hall. I asked a few of the ladies there about their Greek organizations and they all gave me the dates of their open rushes. I attended all of them to find out what organization I would fit in with best and found that out of all the sororities, I fit in best with Zeta Tau Kappa. When I pledged ZTK, I immediately became more involved at LMU; I helped promote other organizations such as Green Dot, and I helped with our sorority events like movies nights in the museum and Zombie tag! If there is anyone out there who feels like they are not involved enough with campus life, then I suggest checking out the sororities and fraternities on campus. They will help you get on the right track!

Community Service
Another reason I pledged was to get more involved in my community. If any of you need some more community service hours, pledging a sorority or fraternity is the way to go. Sororities and fraternities both do a good deal of community service throughout each semester. ZTK volunteers at the animal shelter, with the girl scouts, and during Christmas stuffing boxes full of toys, clothes, and toiletries for low income children in the surronding schools. The ZTK Christmas child is my favorite thing we do. I feel better around the holidays when I am assured that I helped at least one family have a good Christmas. Before I pledged ZTK, I had a lot of trouble trying to find community service hours, but now I get more than enough!

ztk 2013 pledge

I pledged Spring 2012

Great friends
If you decide to pledge a sorority, you will befriend some of the greatest people at LMU. I love getting together with my sorority sisters for meetings, open rushes, study sessions, events and anything else we might do. My favorite event we host is Zombie tag! I will admit that pledging can be very tough and there were some days I thought I might quit, but I am glad I stayed with. When you become part of a sorority, you become part of something better and bigger than yourself. I think our sorority quote embodies that thought the best: individually unique, together complete. We are all unique as individuals but when we join together, we complete are own personal talents. We push each other past our limits and accomplish things we would have never dreamed of. For me, joining a sorority is one of the best decisions I have ever made during my time at LMU. These girls are true sisters and have supported me at my lowest times.

My sisters

My sisters

I understand that Greek life isn’t for everyone, but don’t just assume that you are not cut out for it. My freshman year I thought I would never pledge. I wish I had looked into pledging sooner. So if you are not sure, just go to an all Greek event or an open rush. You will never know if you don’t give it a shot! As I said before, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. So get out there and see if there is a sorority of fraternity you might be interested in pledging!

Are any of  you readers interested in pledging? If you want some more information just leave me a comment and I will be sure to help if I can, even if you don’t want to pledge ZTK! Remember to like my post and check back with me every other Wednesday for a new post!

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