Growing as a Musician

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Growing as a Musician

Developing the skills it takes to be a rounded musician can take years. It’s important, however, to realize that practice is what makes it happen. Practice is what leads to great shows. It generally takes most human beings about 10 years to reach the skill level of a master in any subject. Music is one of the most challenging pursuits imaginable, but also one of the most satisfying. To reach your own personal best at music, you’ll have to start by expanding beyond your current horizon and by embracing some challenges.

Reading Music

Reading music is a skill and it’s one of the most important ones that performing artists have. That being said, not all musicians—even in classical settings—are expected to read off of music. If you’re a blues guitarist, for example, it would probably look a bit strange to your audience if you were reading a song off of sheet music, especially considering the fact that the relative simplicity of the music doesn’t necessitate that it be read off of sheets.

When you’re reading sheet music, you’ll want to work the way a politician giving a speech works: you read ahead of where you actually are in the music. As you may suspect, this takes some considerable skill. A combination of being familiar with the piece and with being able to sight read music is what makes very experienced musicians able to read very complex music without missing a beat.

Singing and Sight Reading:

Some people are very intimidated by singing. This is natural: hearing your singing voice is sometimes quite a shock and there’s some embarrassment when you hit a note wrong, especially when it comes out comically wrong. However, the vast majority of professional musicians can correctly sing the notes within a comfortable octave for their voice and there’s a good reason for this: When you can reproduce those tones on demand, you can hear sheet music in your head as you read it and, thus, you can reproduce it correctly, every time.

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Music Stress, Melody and Harmony

Flute World sets standards in the industry and serves thousands of customers world-wide. The professionals at flute world can help you better understand concepts such as stress, melody, and pitch.

Stress

Stress gives music its rhythmic feel. There are plenty of slang terms used to describe the feel of music, but the experience is generally very hard to describe and very easy to understand. A 3/4 waltz from the Baroque era, for instance, will have a hard first beat and two less-emphasized beats in every measure. A piece of modern dance music, particularly electronic dance music, will usually have 4 beats in every measure and, most often, those beats will have the same stress, which lends to the music a stomping, driving feel.

In traditional usages, the first beat of a measure is stressed. In 2/4 time, for instance, the traditional method of playing the beat would be strong, weak/strong, weak.

In three quarters time, the beat would traditionally be strong, weak, weak/strong, weak, weak. Syncopation refers to obscuring the beat by emphasizing notes that are normally stressed less. Some music, such as gospel, creates a very energetic feel by emphasizing the second and fourth notes in a 4/4 measure rather than by emphasizing the first and third notes.

Melody

Melody and harmony are staple elements of Western music. A series of pitches that are arranged in a deliberate way to get a specific effect is called a melody. There are rules to melody and mathematical notation is used to varying degrees to describe it in more coherent terms when the language of aesthetics is insufficient to quantify a melody. Melodies, like sentences, have coherent structures, use modifiers to clarify statements, reiterate important themes and, on the whole, constitute a form of language that can express what words sometimes cannot.

Understanding Pitch

Pitch is the quality of sound that is described as being high or low. The pitch of any given note can be understood in both scientific terms and in subjective terms. The various notes of the scale are called degrees and are separated by whole or half-step intervals, which refers to the amount of change in pitch between one and the next. The pitch of a tone can also be described as its resonating frequency. The standard, concert A4 pitch, for example, is officially defined in most places as being exactly 440Hz.

Pitches are also relative, however. In practice, following a very low tone with a very high tone has the effect of making both sound more extreme. Most melodies stay within an octave or two and most of them try to avoid jarring shifts in pitch. When there are significant changes in pitch, the jarring nature of it is usually offset by the creative use of rhythmic devices. In some cases, pitch and rhythm can be used quite creatively. Cartoons, for instance, oftentimes use ascending pitches and the appropriate rhythms to create a soundscape for a character ascending stairs.

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Flute Repairs

Anyone who is in need of repairs, flutes, piccolos, recorders, new instruments, used instruments, new flutes, used flutes, new head joints, used head joints can always rely upon the most reliable services. With flute world, you are given access to one of the best repair departments managed by experienced, expert staff. Being flute players ourselves, they are able to repair a flute to the highest standards. With proper repairs, you can better practice all scales.

How Pitch is Divided

In Western music, there are 12 notes in the chromatic scale. These notes are grouped together in systems of scales and modes, which offer composers a palate from which to work. Each scale and each mode has its own particular flavor. Today, there are two scales that are in use more than any others: major and minor. Modes are antiquated, but the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian modes are still used, to some extent, with the Dorian and Phrygian modes being popular in some Spanish and Latin American music. Most often, however, you’ll only deal with major and minor, which correspond to the Ionian and Aeolian modes, respectively.

In the modal system, each mode is defined by the note on which it starts and its particular feel derives from the arrangement of whole and half-steps between the notes. The Ionian mode—or the C major scale—for instance, has a bright feel. The Dorian mode, which starts and ends on D, has a somewhat darker feel and sounds more exotic. Modes are not particularly important in modern music, though some contemporary musicians use them extensively, as they provide a rarified palate of tones. The modes are as follows.

  • Ionian (C Major): C, D, E, F, G, A, B
  • Dorian: D, E, F, G, A, B, C
  • Phrygian: E, F, G, A, B, C, D
  • Lydian: F, G, A, B, C, D, E
  • Mixolydian: G, A, B, C, D, E, F
  • Aeolian (A Minor): A, B, C, D, E, F, G
  • Locrian: B, C, D, E, F, G, A

The modes you need to most concern yourself with, however, are the Ionian and Aeolian modes, as they are the only two in common usage. There were other systems for naming the modes, but most of them have fallen by the wayside over the course of the years.

Major and Minor

For most people, major and minor modes are the equivalent of light and dark themes in music. This is not necessarily the case, and only using one or the other for such narrow purposes diminishes their flexibility. For your first melody, however, these definitions are adequate. If you want a lighter sounding melody, use the major scale; for a darker sound, use the minor scale. Use C Major or A minor, as neither requires sharps or flats.

The C Major scale is:

C, D, E, F, G, A, B,

The A Minor scale is:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G

When you’re writing, you can use a system of numbers to help you understand which pitches in which combinations will create particular effects. This system is very easy to use and understand. You start by assigning numbers to all of the notes in your scale, and they’re always assigned in the same way.

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Phrasing

Phrasing is one of the most important elements of music. Phrasing defines the way the audience perceives certain passages and  can make a piece a great one or an awkward one. Phrasing is sometimes defined within sheet music and sometimes left up to the musicians.

When you say something with spoken language, you join the words together in what’s called a sentence, which is made up of individual phrases. The phrases have their own meaning and work together to make your point clear. The same is true in music. A musical phrase is a set of tones that are played together as a unit. Using Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as an example again, the first two measures of the piece—which form the leitmotiv—constitute one of the most well-known phrases in all of music.

It sometimes takes time to develop a sense for the proper phrasing for any piece. Practice generally makes it apparent, though some musicians alter the phrasing of the pieces they play a bit as a way of interpreting them in a unique way.

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Harmony, Texture and Timbre

Harmony, texture and timbre can define a piece of music as much as the melody and meter can. Tonal harmony is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Western music and it is every bit as important as the melody in moving any piece of music along.

In music, timbre is a term used to describe the quality of the sound. It is also sometimes called tone color. There are both objective and subjective ways to describe timbre but, for most people, the experience is largely subjective. The timbre of the sound of a guitar, for instance, is much different than the timbre of the sound produced by a French horn. While these differences in tone color can be quantified by measuring them with various scientific equipment, aesthetic definitions are usually more important and more descriptive in everyday life.

The term texture, in music, refers to the way that various elements are brought together to create a cohesive whole. The term can also be used in the description of the timbre of an instrument, however. You could say, for example, that the sound of an oboe has a somewhat rough texture to it.