“Intune” Magazine: Sight Singing

In the December 2011 issue of “Intune” magazine, there is a great article about Sight Singing, which is the ability to read a melody and rhythm on sight. I find it ironic to be reading this article now bI was sick two weeks ago and now I’m fine but my cough hasn’t gone away. It’s pretty bad at times. My doctor said my chest is still congested so I need an x-ray to see how bad it may beecause it is a skill I am currently learning in my AP Music Theory class.

One does not need to be a virtuoso singer or a great musician to be able to sight sing; it takes practice. The basic thing one needs to know is understanding pitches and intervals that are on the page. Relative pitch is an understanding how different pitches relate to each other. Perfect pitch is not needed for this!

Some important skills one should know are intervals. It will allow you to move to other intervals in a sequence and then learn to sight sing a melodic line. Knowing the major and minor scales also help, as well as singing the chromatic intervals ascending and descending.

There are also other rhythms that can help sight singing, such as triplets and syncopation. Once one can master this, harmony comes into play. It certainly does help when you know the difference between major and minor scales (Always important!) as well as diminished and augmented chords. The skill of sight singing is not something one aquifers over night. With much practice, it is a skill that will be useful in the long run.

Concert Performance- 3/15

Answer at least 5 of the 7 questions about the Concert Band/Wind Ensemble performance on March 15,2012

1. What were the benefits of performing in this concert?

The benefit was we were able to learn about Classical Music and the composers of the different eras in music.

2. Did you grow as a musician as a result of the concert and preparation process? Why or why not?

I did grow more as a musician as a result of this concert. This is the first time I performed classical music as an ensemble rather than a solo performance on piano. There is a different feel to it. It makes me appreciate classical music a lot more and it made me explore that there’s more to classical music than just playing it on piano.

4. What was your favorite part of this performance? Why?

My favorite part of the performance was when we played “Symphony No.7” by Beethoven. I loved the beginning, when it came in all forte-piano. Then we start building up to forte from that point on until the middle of the piece. The flute melody that begins at that section really makes the piece come alive. It gives me chills every time I hear this piece.

6. What was the most difficult song for you to perform? Why?

The most difficult song to perform was “The 1812 Overture.” There were so many different sections that had different tempos and a different feel that at times it was hard to get that transition. For me, I had to count every single beat so I can make sure I did not come in early or late.

7. What was your easiest song in the concert? Why?

The easiest song for me was “The Battle Pavane.” There were really not a lot of hard rhythms to learn. It was a straight forward song.

SFA Music Continues

We are less than a month away before the Student Faculty Alumni Concert and this week in band we were busy going over most of the instrumental soloists tunes.

Let’s begin with “Body and Soul,” which will feature our Alto Sax player. When I hear this tune, it reminds of a big band on stage ready to go. The beginning is slow and it brings out the best timbre of the Alto Sax. However, the beginning sounds like a mess. There is no balance between the other saxophones. From measure 8 to 9, there was no crescendo. The transition to the new key sign from measure 16 to 17 needs to be smoother. The other transition to cut time two measures before 32 sounds great, but it can be even better. In general, the biggest problem is not following dynamics, which for this kind of piece is certainly a must.

Now we go to “Stompin at the Savoy,” which features our Clarinet player. One of my favorite pieces of this concert, it again reminds me of the Big Band era. Again, DYNAMICS! The first four measures came in with a forte. Maybe we should go down to a mezzo forte that for a couple bars? Measures 31 to 38- wonderful! The saxes had a beautiful balance playing those bars while the trumpets came in for the background. The clarinet solo from measures 57 to 88 and again from measure 97 to 104 is really coming along and I really like it. The one thing there should be is a crescendo into the key change. Also from measures 105 to the end doesn’t seem as if it was played with high energy as with the rest of the song.

Lastly, we go to “Spain” which will feature myself on Piano. Before the song starts, I will be playing an intro, which to me still needs work. We play this song last year, so it was not as hard to relearn this, even though there are some parts that are tricky and need some work, like the beginning to measure 6 and measure 19 to 31. The form is different this time around: the soloists will get measures 76 to 99 (twice) to solo. These are easy changes to solo over, however I need to continue listening to other recordings and see what I can  incorporate. The drum solos are gonna be HOT!! Drum set and Latin Percussion solos…. The HIGHPOINT of this song. From measures 126 to the end, should be another highpoint/in your face thing. But the entrance into 126 really sounds like a mess. There are also blend and balance problems. I think it’s the fact that most of the band is so familiar with the song and they know, they get into without realizing any blend and balance problems, dynamics, etc.

Overall these pieces are on the way to becoming star-studded performances at the concert.

Stompin’ at the Savoy

Another busy week for the BHS Jazz Ensemble as we continue to prep for our Spring Rep. This week we worked on “Stompin at the Savoy” by Benny Goodman.

This piece will feature a clarinet solo and will be performed at the annual Student Faculty Alumni Concert in April. We worked on the entire song while at the same time, took apart and looked at important parts of the song. Some parts of that included the band soli at measure 89, which is where the key change happens. A couple of measures before needs to be more piano and then gradually crescendo up to that part; there will be a better effect.

The first four measures also need a little work. There is a part from measures 31 to measures 39 where I need a little work. When we play those measures for the second time, it is almost like a call and response; the band plays one part and I play a response to that. The clarinet solo is working out great. This song is on its way of being a great classic.

Time to get our “Afro-Cuban” On!

Afro-Cuban is a genre of music, combining African and Cuban music together. This term is used to emphasize the different  amounts of African elements in conjunction with the different rhythms in Cuban music. The BHS Jazz Band is beginning to learn its Spring Rep and being a “Classical Year” (not resorting to Mozart, Chopin, and etc) we get to play “classic”  songs that influenced the creation of current genres such as Pop, Hip-Hop, Rap, etc.

Afro-Blue a song that is included in our rep. I really like this song because of the strong Latin grooves and rhythms. What’s good about this song is that it is easy to open up for solos. A Percussion solo is a must! (As well as a Flute solo.) These two instruments are the core basis for this kind of music.

There are several recordings that I have found that if you take bits and  pieces from some of them and put them into one arrangement, it would certainly be hot!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbE7jf_Hp5w– This arrangement is only Percussion, with the Congos opening the song, Flute, and Xylophone. This is really to emphasize on the Flute!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPlfoXogtdI– Mongo Santamaria himself opens up with Congos! Listen to that Tenor Saxophone solo- that is what you call a solo! Also, I like the ending on this. They play the last note three times while one of them adds a little something in there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-56JerzFO4&feature=related– This arrangement is done by the John Coltrane Quartet, featuring drums, piano, bass and Soprano Sax. The piano and Soprano Sax take the solo in this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjyiG2oaRO8– This is a live recording of Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria playing this song at a concert. Solos include a trumpet (another must in Latin music!), a flute, and piano.

A really great arrangement would be opening the song with congos. We have really great Percussionists who can definitely pull that off. After that, the band would come in with the melody, followed by solos. There is just so much you can do with a song like this.


Jazz Band Winter Tour

The Bayonne High School Jazz Band concluded a “short” Winter Tour, culminating with a performance at Sarelli’s Restaurant. This place was small, and I mean small! The band was basically on top of each other. Despite the fact, the band delivered such an amazing performance.
The small group opened up with Jazz arrangements of Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Frosty the Snowman, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and Silver Bells. The soloists displayed their skill of improvisation. After that, the big band performed such classics such as Big Band Christmas II, Nutcracker Swing, Christmas Time is Here, Feliz Navidad, and Rockin on Top of the World. For songs such as Here Comes Santa Clause, there should have been more dynamic contrast in the band soli. The same thing goes for O Holy Night. It could have been more emotional. The best song of the night was certainly Feliz Navidad. A Latin Percussion solo was added, with Timbales and Congas; that was certainly cooking.
In all, this was a really brief Winter Tour, only spanning two weeks and three performances: a gig at Jersey Gardens Mall and another at Amici’s Restaurant. Overall, it really was not a bad tour; I found it to be rather successful and fun! Just the fact there was not a lot of performances makes it a little disappointing. Even though this was my last Winter Tour with the Jazz Ensemble, it was a memorable one. It makes me even more excited for the Spring Tour!

Holiday Jazz at Amici’s

The pouring rain did not stop the BHS Jazz Ensemble, as they performed holiday favorites at Amici’s restaurant. Playing a two set concert, it opened up with a small Chamber Ensemble, focusing on improvisation solos. Once that was done, the entire band came out and played together.

Some songs, like Here Comes Santa Clause and This Christmas should have had a better dynamic contrast. In Here Comes Santa Clause the band soli would have been a great place to show that dynamic contrast. In This Christmas, have had a better sense of dynamic control and decrescendo when it was the drum break before the band came back in. Out of the songs we played, Feliz Navidad is by far the best!! That Latin Percussion solo in the middle was upbeat and the audience really enjoyed it.

Out of the two sets, I believe the first one was the one, as an individual musician, was the best. Even though I was more relaxed once the second set started, I was more tired (and hungry) and making mistakes I have never done before. However, I believe as an ensemble, the second set was the best. In a way, I enjoyed playing at this place. It was a really great experience.

The Road to Championships-Sewell NJ

       The BHS Marching Band ended a fantastic season with a rockin’ performance entitled “The Road to Kashmir.” At the end, the marching band took home 4th place, with a score of 90.250, the highest score in BHS Marching Band history!

      Leading up to the event, the two biggest problems we had was proper articulation and dynamics. I figured since this music is rock, everyone has the mindset of playing it loud, which is not the case. You really need to shape the music, with proper crescendo and decrescendo. Honestly I did not hear much dynamic contrast (and I’m not just saying this because I’m in the pit!) Even Percussion had problems with dynamics. The songs just weren’t being shaped the way it should be.

         I can tell by the way we went off the field we felt as if we did a great job. We put our heart and soul into that show. Each one of us was smiling. Even though it was not the place we wanted, we should be proud of all the hard work we put into this show. We had great visual effects, nice looking backdrops representing the four different symbols of Led Zeppelin, and fantastic color guard work. This proved to be one of the greatest marching band seasons I have ever had!

Reflection: BHS @ Bergenfield

October 9th 2011- An unseasonably warm day that was filled with high momentum as the BHS Band performed at Bergenfield, NJ as part of the USSBA Competition. In the end, the band came in First Place, taking home Best Music, Best Overall Effect, and Best Visual.

Despite our great achievement on the field, behind the scenes was a different story. Many problems included tempo (in all songs), intonation, and rhythmic accuracy (for me at least). Now that we are in the middle of the season, we can take a step back. Everyone must go forward and continue to work hard to make this show the best it can be!

So what exactly can we do to improve from last weekend. For starters, TEMPO!!! I have many sixteen notes runs in most of the songs, especially in The Battle of Evermore and I have never played it that fast before, since I’m used to playing it at the slower tempo I’m used to. After hearing the tapes, intonation has to be fixed!! For me, there is no blend at all in certain parts of the show, especially in the beginning of Stairway to Heaven. One thing that hasn’t been addressed is that last run in Kashmir with the 3/8 bar. That rhythm DOES NOT sound together at all. It’s like all over the place!

This week is all about going over my parts and making sure I know them. Just practicing them slow and getting it up to speed really helps me get to where I can play them. All these little bug fixes are all we need to ensure a great season. Let’s go bees!!

“Musical Mind Reading” Improvising Part 2

In the January 2011 edition  of “intune” Magazine, it talks about Part 2 of improvising.  This part talks about how one must know the style and the correct feel of the music in order to improvise. It also talks about the harmony involved and how chords are important in improvising.

The one aspect a musician must know is the feel. You can’t improvise a Jazz lick with a Classical piece. Another thing one must know is when a musician sees the melody and knows the feel, he/she can improvise with a harmony background with chord changes.

In order to practice improvising over a set of changes, you need to know the tones in each chord. That means one needs to practice arpeggios and to be familiar with triads. Once you practice this, it will be easier for one to play different rhythmic variations of a song.

I enjoyed reading this article because I have learned more about improvising and techniques you can use to practice it. As long as you know the genre, you can improvise on anything.