Warm-Up in 6/8

bluesHere is a poppy warm-up exercise in 6/8, which can be sung in canon:

Timeline with the Most Important Vocal Groups

millsMy working field is the vocal pop and jazz. For the lessons I’m teaching, I have made a handy overview of the twenty most important vocal groups of the past century.

With this concise history you get a good image of the period in which the groups were active, how long they played an important role and what influences they might have had. (The most fun is actually not looking at such an overview, but creating it. I love making lists.)

Playing Scores on the Piano

As a conductor you often have to play scores with more than two staffs. This might be an a cappella piece, in which the parts are notated on a seperate staffs. It might be a work for choir plus accompaniment. Such a piece of sheet music is not easy to play. At first you may be disencouraged by all the notes. What might be a good way to learn such a score?

If you are playing complicated scores, at first you might try to play all notes. However, this will cause you to play very slow, and after a while you will lose overview and you will probably get tired. Let go of your urge to play all notes!

Singing Intervals

In a previous post I shoed that singing from sing will be best if you relate all notes to the key of the music. You will be making less mistakes, you will be able to sing big jumps as faster, and you will be flat less.

Yet, there are moments on which you just have to get the right note, apart from the context of the key. For example, the key might be unclear, or there might be a lot of accidentals.

Knowing Key Signatures

gorillaFor musicians it is important to know how many sharps or flats belong to the different key signatures. A lot of musicians use mnemonics to determine the number of sharps or flats. For the sharps there is ‘Gorillas Don’t All Eat Bananas From Choice’ and for the flats there is ‘Foreign Bananas Eat All Dat Gorillas Can’t’. The drawback of the use mnemonics is that it doesn’t provide real knowledge. It’s just a trick; you don’t get deeper understanding of the material.

A much better way is to derive keys from other keys. C-major has zero sharps. Each time you go up a whole tone, two sharps are added. D-major has two sharps, E-major has four, F#-major has six, and so on. Going down works the other way around. Each time you go down a whole tone, two flats are added. B@-major has two flats, A@-major has four flats, G@-major has six flats, and so on. You can see the relationship of the keys in the following scheme:

Arranging in Ten Easy Steps

Here is a simple plan for writing vocal arrangements, for those of you with little experience in this area. We will go through the process step by step. What is presented here is just one way of going about writing an arrangement. There are countless other ways to get the notes on paper. This is simply meant to help you get started. As you build up experience in writing, you will find your own way of working.

Ear Training

einstein2In a previous post we talked about solfège. Solfège is translating notes on paper to sound without help of an instrument. Going in the opposite direction is interesting as well: analysing melodies and harmonies, in other words, notating music by ear.

Ear training is practicing to analyse melodies and harmonies. Ear training may consist of the following:

  • Analysing the intervals. Whenever the notes are sounding successively, we are talking about melodic intervals and when they are sounding at the same moment, they are called harmonic intervals.

Deriving Keys from the Tuning Fork

A good director is capable of deriving keys from the tuning fork. But doing so isn’t always easy. From the a of the tuning fork you would like to jump to the new root at once. However, not every interval is that easy to find. An ascending second or fourth is doable. But a sixth or a tritone, can be really hard to find.

Bad Beating Technique

silly You learn from your mistakes. Sometimes you can even learn from mistakes made by others, which is the case with conducting technique. To learn to beat in a good way, it is useful to study bad conducting, to be able to see your own technique clearly.

Below is the four beat pattern depicted once more. The way this is drawn is not the only true pattern. But the pattern does combine a couple of good qualities, as I have tried to show in a previous post: