Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - It's All About the Phrase?

men,metaphors,mountain climbers,persons,uphill,uphill climbsThe phrase is that curved line in a piece of music that is like climbing a mountain.  You start out with lots of excitement.  It is hard work to go up that slanted side and you watch every step.  You reach the top and there you are and boy don't you wish you could stay but -- you have to come down again.  Sometimes in our excitement we come down too fast and we have a very bumpy landing.  Ouch.  Let's explore the science and art of singing in phrases.

Okay then is it the words that dictate the phrase or the notes?  If you are talking about orchestra this question is mute.   What is a phrase?  Now here we can get really particular or go with common knowledge.  I have studied "phraseology" (apologies to the mayor in the Music Man) and it can be very complicated.  There are antecedent and consequent phrases, one which sets the sounds and the second follows and finishes the musical thought.  Simply put, the phrase is leading to an ending (antecedent) or creating an ending (consequent).  If you treat every musical phrase as consequent, it would be like those people who make declarative sentences all the time.  You start to tune them out because you can't differentiate between the ordinary and important.  Nevertheless, a phrase happens when and idea needs to be made clear.  The sound starts off with less power, builds to an apex and then goes back gently to a cadence or a finish.

Now, we're cooking.  The phasing of the music helps us to hear what is important.  Phrasing is the words and music broken up by breaths to enhance the meaning and sound.
Listen to this choir who has some really lovely phrasing.  I do like this better no watching but just listening.  What do you think?

Their phrasing certainly adds to the meaning.  And that is what phrasing is all about. Period. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fun Friday Queen - Elton John & Axl Rose - Bohemian Rhapsody - (Freddie Mercury Tri...

This is so much fun to listen to if you haven't done so in a while.  Some really great guitar in here.  The audience is SO into this one.  Are you?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - To Microphone or Not?

microphones,montages,sheet music,songs,leisure,artsIn this day of electronic everything, it is assumed that microphones will be used for most musical presentations.  I find that sometimes the microphones seems excessive and create a sound that is hard on the ears.  I have had to leave some venues because the music seems assaultive rather than pleasant.

So when are microphones appropriate?  Let's see.

1.  Outdoors -  When we sang at the recent Relay for Life, the sound technicians did use 3 microphones for our performance.  They used omni-directional microphones so they picked up a range of sound.  Because we were outdoors and the sound would just disappear into the air, the microphones helped a lot.  We also got to hear ourselves with the speakers they reflected the sound.  Often, when you sing outdoors, the sound disappears and it is very hard to tell whether you are in tune or not.  Blending is almost impossible.  With the help of the microphones, we made some of the best outdoor sound yet.
It does take good equipment and techs. who know their stuff.

2.  Large Venue - Sometimes, you can perform in a huge space that has wonderful acoustics.  The sound hits the walls and comes back blended and beautiful.  Other times, not so much.

There is a large hall built in London, Ontario in honour of our Canadian Centennial in 1967.  It has some of the most difficult acoustics anywhere.  They have made changes over the years but it is really not great.  Here, microphones are necessary.  Again, correct placement and VOLUME are really important.

 I once left a Sylvia Tyson concert because the sound was so loud it hurt my head.  The theatre had great acoustics and the sound became augmented by the electronics.  That loudness drowned out the music.  What a disappointment. This is not a good example of helpful technology.  Loud is not always good.

I did attend a Jon Bon Jovi concert at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and it was spectacular.  It was loud but correctly so.  You could h ear the music during the ballads and the faster music.  i enjoyed it tremendously.  Good technicians!!

3. Saving Voices - A number of years ago, I took our daughter to see Joseph and the Technicolour Dream Coat with Donny Osmond at the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatres in Toronto.  This is a beautifully refurbished theatre complex with terrific seating & acoustics.  However, they had everyone miked.  I really found it hard to get my ears around.  It seemed too loud.  After the first couple of numbers, I became acclimated and the performance went on beautifully.  So why in this amazing venue would they use microphones.  It is to save the voices of the singers apparently. These professionals sing so much they need the support to keep from straining the voice.  In that case, they need to make certain the sound is more realistic, in my view.

Yes, microphones for performances can be great.  If you don't have the correct mike for the situation then it can be a negative.  There are great products out there.  Find out what is best for your group and rent it if necessary rather than buying if you feel you need it.  Maybe, like us you sing in venues where microphones are seldom needed.  Whew!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fun Friday - Jimmy Fallon & Brad Paisley - Balls in your Mouth

Talk about outside the box.  These two are fun.  The intention is serious and the laughter and interaction with the audience certainly get attention.
If you don't care about the protest part, just enjoy the FUN!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Always a Bit Outside the Box - The Piano Guys Too

Talk about Variation on a Theme.  This is an older Piano Guys video.  Can you list all the ways that they do something new or unexpected with the instruments and/or music.

Arrangements do make a huge difference to the way the music is understood.  Kudos to those of you who rearrange music to suit your groups and even more so those who write original harmonies and accompaniments for your groups (Hats off Karen!!)

Keep the juices flowing and the ideas coming.  It doesn't mean that the old formats aren't great.  It is just that new ways to interpret music makes it exciting and refreshing often.

Although this is a longer video, listen until the end to the explanation and understand how it came to be.  Keep it fresh but with meaningful purpose.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - How Music is Important

I just attended an amazing event that recognized the achievements of the sales force during the past year, shared product knowledge & presented training in all areas & levels of the business.  It was a four day event in a large convention centre.  With static displays, interactive booths, & presentations going on before and after the main presentations, it was a busy & amazingly full time.
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What was common throughout the conference was that music was ever present.  I don't mean the "elevator" type of thing but meaningful, on purpose addition of great music.  There was live music with band & singers, recorded music and a soloist who sang about 5 numbers throughout.  Oh yummy!!

So why music?  Well, here are my ideas as to just HOW music is important.  Those of us trying to justify music education to a less than enthusiastic bunch of bureaucrats, maybe you can use some of these.

1. Music stimulates - while people are gathering upbeat and often popular music is played or performed.  The people are energized and ready to sit and learn.  What better way to get students ready for learning than to energize.  There is actually current research that says just this.  

2. Celebrations enhanced by music - Nothing makes you feel more excited than a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday".  Most weddings include songs that say just what the bride and groom mean to each other.  Funerals almost always include poignant musical selections sung and/or played to help the living grieve & remember the loved one in a special way.  At a recent retirement celebration, a marvellous soloist sang "You Raise Me Up" to the retiring executive who had spent his career supporting and building people to be the best they could be.  It was so fitting and nothing else could have said it better.   We have a wonderful outlet for emotions that is healthy and helpful.  

3. Music make us feel GOOD! - Don't tell me you haven't sung at the top of your lungs in the car, the shower or some secret place.  Of course you have.  We all do.  There are times when I have a solved a particularly tough problem and swing into "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" just because.  Hearing some songs just get our "mojo" going.  I can clean and organize up a storm with upbeat music.  It seems if I sing, I don't notice the time or the work.  So I miss a few dust particles.  Mama Mia was meant to be sung flipping the duster.  Music has the power to change us in ways we don't always understand.  It just does.