Archive for the 'How To Articles' Category

Singing With Clarity

 By Judy Pringle

Consonants

You and your choir have worked tirelessly on uniform vowel formation, well-tuned singing, focusing the tone, singing correct notes, beautiful phrase lines.  You’re feeling good.  But step back and give a listen and you’ll often find there isn’t a consonant to be heard.   It is our task as singers to articulate so the listeners can share in the delicious words and message.

We want clear, well-defined consonants in our singing and it’s a challenge to achieve.  When our listeners know the text as in a well-known hymn or carol, we are understood because the context is known.  This is far from the case when the text is unknown.

The topic of consonants is Continue reading ‘Singing With Clarity’

Improve Your Ear!

By Carolyn Walter

You may find it strange to see a sheet music-related blog advocating playing music by ear. However, many experienced musicians – including those in our office – would agree that musical proficiency isn’t some stark dichotomy, with “good readers” in one camp entirely separate from people who “just play by ear.” To become a complete, balanced musician, and fully enjoy all that the art form has to offer, a performer must possess sound aural skills right along with a high level of musical literacy.

Start Simple:

Like a lot of things, playing by ear comes most naturally when a young musician is introduced to the concept from the very beginning.  For those lucky enough to be starting off on their musical journey, many beginning method books now feature added emphasis on playing by ear and improvising. The ever-popular Alfred’s Basic Piano Library series includes a corresponding set of books focusing solely on ear training:

Alfred's Basic Piano Library - Ear Training Book

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library – Ear Training Book

As for those of us who have been playing for many years without Continue reading ‘Improve Your Ear!’

Tips for Teaching Rhythmic Fundamentals to Music Students

By Carolyn Walter

I can scarcely think of anything more fundamental to musicianship than rhythm. With few exceptions, I find that a solid rhythmic foundation is truly the root of a good performance.  A piece played with otherwise flawless accuracy sounds sloppy or even falls completely apart without proper rhythmic control; never mind if the notes were pitch perfect, the dynamics were  masterful and the ornamentation was authentic. I feel this is true regardless of ensemble size, style or instrumentation.  A choir/orchestra with 100+ members needs to hold together with precision, as does a small ensemble with just a handful.  Even an unaccompanied soloist playing in a very free, rubato style must have a strong sense of pulse to deliver her musical message most effectively.

Like so many things in music, the basics of solid time and rhythmic notation and accurate interpretation can be explained in a few hours . . and perfected over the course of one’s entire life.   While the elementary process of counting correctly can be summarized in just a couple of pages in a basic theory or method book like the following:

Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory Standard of Excellence Edly's Music Theory for Practical People

I find that Continue reading ‘Tips for Teaching Rhythmic Fundamentals to Music Students’

10 Tips for Improving Sight Reading

By Stephie Stewart

How many times have you seen someone sit down and play music you know they’ve never seen before and play it beautifully? Doesn’t it make you wish you could do that too? Well, the good news is that you can, but it might take a little bit of work. The truth is, most people aren’t naturally great sight-readers. They work at it and they practice it. Sight-reading is more often a learned skill than a natural talent.

“All right,” you say, “so how do I learn to sight read?” A good place to start, would be to start working out of sight-reading method books such as the Four Star Sight Reading and Ear Tests series, Improve Your Sight-Reading! Series, and Creative Jazz Sight Reading.

Four Star Sight Reading and Ear Tests

Four Star Sight Reading and Ear Tests

Improve Your Sight-Reading!

Improve Your Sight-Reading!

Creative Jazz Sight Reading

Creative Jazz Sight Reading

That being said, method books aren’t always for everyone, especially if you aren’t starting at the very beginning of the process. Here are a few tips for anyone who wants to improve their sight-reading, regardless of playing level or experience.

1. Just do it!

As cliché as it might sound, the best thing you can do to improve your sight-reading is to practice sight-reading. Make it part of your regular practice schedule. Find some music that is a few levels below your current level, and just play through it. (Big anthologies are great for sight-reading – there’s a ton of music of varying levels in a single book.) Don’t worry about making it perfect – just concentrate on getting through it. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of working out the hard parts. Do start out a little under tempo if playing up to tempo seems too daunting. As you get more comfortable, slowly increase the level of difficulty of the music and the tempo.

2. Look before you leap

Before you actually begin to play, take a minute to look at what’s coming at you. Look at Continue reading ’10 Tips for Improving Sight Reading’

Become a Sheet Music Plus Power Searcher

By Charles Moehnke

With over 835,000 titles in the Sheet Music Plus catalog, it can occasionally be challenging to find the exact edition you want. During my years in customer service, however, I’ve developed a strategy for zeroing in quickly and effectively. By following these few strategies you can simplify your search experience and become a Sheet Music Plus Power Searcher, just like me!

To quote a fortune cookie I once received, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” That Confucius fellow was obviously way ahead of his time, because Power Searching is all about simplicity! I start every search on Sheet Music Plus by using our main search bar at the top of the page.

SMP Search 1

This search bar will search all fields and descriptions, and your results will be displayed based on the relevance the title has to your initial search. You can modify any set of search results to only show digital or print titles, and you may adjust the order of the listed items, sorting by price, top-selling order, alphabetically and release date–whatever best fits your needs.

To increase the Continue reading ‘Become a Sheet Music Plus Power Searcher’

Managing Musical Performance Anxiety

By Carolyn Walter

While speaking with a friend several years ago, I mentioned that like so many other people,  I wished I was never anxious while performing.  Insecure about my ability to do well at high-pressure performances and auditions, I yearned for a magic bullet that would make me supremely confident and impervious to self-doubt.  I will always remember my colleague’s response:  A dancer and classical bassist by trade, she shrugged her elegant shoulders and replied, “Yes, but I am always a little bit glad when I am nervous at a performance, because it means that I actually care.”

In that moment, I began to Continue reading ‘Managing Musical Performance Anxiety’

How to Improve Music Memorization Skills

By Carolyn Walter

Memorizing music can be a daunting task for musicians of all stripes.  Unfortunately for many of us, repetition alone is not enough.  Simply playing a piece of music from a score over and over again only teaches you to play the piece extremely well. . .but with the aid of the written page.  The key to “getting off of the page” is identifying what kind of musical learner you are, and which strategies will be most effective for you as an individual.

#1 Prepare the piece for memorization
For technically challenging works, memorization will be much more difficult if you don’t have a firm grasp of the most difficult sections beforehand.  In a similar fashion, you should have a clear picture in mind of

Continue reading ‘How to Improve Music Memorization Skills’

How to Practice Efficiently

By Carolyn Walter

As with any artistic discipline, regular practice is essential to any musician’s mastery of their craft and growth as an artist.  While some may feel that practicing for hours and hours on end is the only route to improvement, the adage “quality over quantity” ought to be kept firmly in mind.  The following
list of strategies contains tips which can help musicians of any instrument, style and skill level practice “smarter” without necessarily practicing harder.

1. Organize your time.

Begin your practice session with a clear outline in mind of what needs to be accomplished.  Many choose to divide a practice session into sections, e.g. setting out to practice for one hour total and using Continue reading ‘How to Practice Efficiently’

How to Improve Your Vocal Range

By Jennifer Kay

In my many years of singing, I’ve realized that the topic of vocal range can be very tricky, but always worth discussing. A singer should invest in voice lessons if they want to improve; however, if lessons aren’t an option, there are a few tips that can help. I can’t guarantee you’ll be Continue reading ‘How to Improve Your Vocal Range’


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