THE LONE ARRANGER
by Dana F. Everson
101 TIPS FOR BETTER MUSICALITY
(School, Private Study, and Church Settings) Compiled by Dana F. Everson
(Continued from the Spring issue)PRACTICING:
37) Musicians should ALWAYS have a pencil at rehearsals.
38) When possible, make a "practice tape" of individual parts for players who could benefit from playing along with a tape at home.
39) Try rehearsing a piece from the end to the beginning. One or two phrases at a time.)
40) In instrumental groups, players may silently practice their parts while the director is working with another section.
41) Make the peak of the rehearsal time about 2/3rds of the way through.
42) Use and teach your players to use any tools available.( Metronome, tuning machine, pitch machine, tape recorder, mirror)
43) Constantly challenge players to play their best when sight reading. The first time through should not be "just for the notes", but for all the musicality possible.
44) Teach, model, and remind musicians to practice individually under the best conditions possible. (Keep instrument/voice in good working condition, practice in a comfortable ventilated environment, have a music stand and good lighting.)
45) In individual practice, stress intensity and regularity of practice more than amount of time. It's me, my instrument, and the music. I will only pause to breathe, turn the page, or mark the music.
Qualifications: a) Singers, especially, must be careful to discern musical intensity from vocal strain. b) Brass players should rest their lips about as much as they play. Use the lip rest times to continue reading the music and fingering through the parts.
46) In an ensemble, ALL PLAYERS MUST KNOW WHO HAS THE MELODY AT ALL TIMES and make appropriate adjustments.
47) Some rehearsal definitions:
a) Balance=equal dynamic strength among parts
b) Blend=matching timbres/vibrato/style among parts
c) Drive=a sense of pulse; with out it the music is dead
d) Expression=bringing out the meaning of the composition by using dynamics, timbre, and articulation.
48) Instrumentalists, including pianists, should SING THE MUSIC, seeking to find the appropriate breathing and phrasing points. The listeners should be able to comfortably "breathe the phrases" with the music.
Use word pictures/images to convey musical concepts.
(58) Begin rehearsals on time… even if everyone isn't yet there. Promote punctuality.
(59) Begin rehearsals on time...even if everyone isn't yet there. Promote punctuality.
(60) List the rehearsal order on the board.
(61) When correcting musical problems, be sensitive to players/singers: avoid personal insults or embarrassment. (Try taping yourself and listening to your own tone of voice and approach during rehearsals ...you may be surprised).
(62) An individual or group will generally not produce more than is demanded of them. Set high, but attainable standards, and press toward the ark. Challenge your students/performers; they'll give it to you.
(63) Too much talking by the director is a possible symptom of any of the following:
a) lack of preparation
b) lack of conducting skills
c) lack of vision for what the musicians can accomplish
(64) When sight-reading, briefly point out the major directions of the piece in a positive way. Then, read straight through before going back to work on details.
(65) Do not work with one singer/player too long before re-involving the rest of the group.
(66) Avoid singing/humming along with players...you can't hear them as well, and they can't hear you. Stop the group/individual, sing or play what you are trying to communicate, then start them up.
(67) Be quick to compliment diligence, humility, and other signs of good attitudes!
(68) Tuning of instruments, warm ups for instruments and voices; these should become a part of a performer's regular habits. Dr. Revelli said; Routines are better caught than taught."
(69) Avoid bringing your personal feelings/troubles into the rehearsal or lesson time.
(70) The instant a teacher/director senses the musicians are not responding as they should, take corrective action.
(71) End rehearsals on time.
(72) In an ensemble setting, occasionally do not conduct. Let the performers show their training by playing/singing without you.
(73) Choir directors should constantly be looking ahead and training future student accompanists, even if you use adult/faculty accompanists.
(74) Work separately with accompanists; have more than one available and/or in training; know that the accompanist can make or break a choir or soloist!
Dana F. Everson holds the BME and Master's in Saxophone Performance degrees from Michigan State University, and a Master of Sacred Music from Pensacola Christian College. He has over 100 published works.
(Editor's Note: The 101 Tips were the basis of a workshop given by Mr. Everson. They are printed here with the hope that they will be beneficial to our readers. Tips 1-36 appeared in the Spring issue of Lines and Spaces which is available at: www.despub. com. Tips 75-101 will appear in the Fall issue.)
THE STRING SPACE
Robert Shaw, the leading choral conductor of the 20th Century, wrote letters to his choirs throughout his tenure as their director. Robert Blocker, Dean of the Yale School of Music, compiled many of these letters along with several of Shaw's lectures in The Robert Shaw Reader, published by Yale University Press, 2004. I highly commend this book to all who need to be reinspired about the art and craft of music, and those who would like a breath of fresh air to clear away the thick fog of trite, banal, and blasphemous music that envelops us in the guise of worship. In his lecture on "Worship and the Arts," given November 10, 1981, at Harvard University, Shaw quotes the composer Charles Ives: "Is not beauty in music too often confused with something which lets the ears lie back in an easy-chair? Many sounds that we are used to do not bother us, and for that reason are we not too easily inclined to call them beautiful? Possibly the fondness for personal expression -- which self-indulgence dresses up and miscalls 'freedom' -- may throw out a skin-deep arrangement which is readily accepted at first as beautiful -- formulae that weaken rather than toughen the musical-muscles. … Has [the composer] or has he not been drugged with an overdose of habit forming sounds? And as a result do not the muscles of his clientele become flabbier and flabbier until they give way altogether and find refuge only in platitudes -- the sensual outburst of an emasculated rubber-stamp?" Shaw continues with his own comments: "… We have to agree that only the best is good enough. One does not sharpen his sensibilities to excellence by stuffing his ears with mediocrity, however sanctimonious. One does not gain strength for the terrifying stresses of virtue by gorging his muscles on fraud and hanky-pank. A God of Truth, Goodness and Mercy is not honored by laying last night's Top-Forty or Disco Derivatives on His altar. Man may indeed laugh himself all the way to the bank -- but God is not mocked -- nor is he worshipped." Robert Shaw also identifies criteria for choosing what is worthy for worship. One of these criteria is craftsmanship. "Music is a craft, and it has rules and standards… There is handsomely constructed music, and there is cheaply constructed music. Great text and great music do not meet in Las Vegas or on Madison Avenue. Great text and great music meet on the planes of purpose and craft, where music's edifice on its own terms is as honest and serviceable, and as beautifully proportioned, as the text it seeks to illumine." Another of these criteria is, according to Shaw, historical perspective. "… Art and music worthy of worship will have historical perspective. It will have origins... This criterion is very close to what we mean by "style," and it adds to motivation and craftsmanship the incalculable increments of heritage and tradition. Note that this does not preclude, but embraces the rich legacy of folk-hymns, carols and spirituals: those tunes and texts, lovingly turned and polished by generations of unintentional composers -- nameless amateurs who loved their God and sought to praise Him." To Table Of Contents
by Jay-Martin Pinner
PRAISE AND WORSHIP-A VIEW FROM OUTSIDE THE CAMP or WHAT IS IN OUR OWN BACK YARD?
Musings and Ponderings, Part 3
In the past few months I have had occasion to consider the response of unbelievers to the music in Christian worship services. My observations and conclusions have been disturbing. It appears that we have much work to do as Christian musicians and educators to help those within our sphere of influence refocus our worship on Christ with music that speaks appropriately to the greatness of His finished work on our behalf.
Shaw's father was a Disciples of Christ preacher, and Shaw's mother "was the best singer of gospel songs and spirituals [he] ever heard." Shaw memorized scripture, taught Sunday School classes and filled the pulpit for his father, yet throughout his professsional career Shaw looked to the arts as the hope and salvation of mankind. Despite his personal unbelief Robert Shaw had more spiritual insight about music and worship than many who claim to be believers.
Shaw makes another statement that those of us in leadership positions are responsible musically "for our own back yards." Perhaps we need to look out the back door and see if the fence is still up.
Jay-Martin Pinner is Head of the String Department at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, and conducts the University Symphony Orchestra.