A Brief Guide to Baroque Performance Practice

By Jacy Burroughs

The Baroque period is defined as the advent of opera to the death of Bach, which was roughly 1600-1750. Each period of classical music is characterized by its own styles, techniques, and musical characteristics. While most people do not have the option to play on historically accurate instruments, it is still important to work toward historically informed performance by studying the musical style of that time. Several important characteristics of Baroque music are outlined below.

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10 Outstanding Resources for Jazz Musicians

By Zachariah Friesen

Teachers, students, professionals and dreamers, welcome to the jazz reference mecca. This is comprised of some of the great literary resources, DVDs and method books for the aspiring jazz musician. Learn the keys of success from people who have success in the profession. With these must-have resources, you’ll be jamming, gigging and living the jazz life in no time.

1. How To Listen To Jazz by Jerry Coker – To play jazz you must learn how to hear jazz. The great Jerry Coker beautifully explains how to train your ear and what to listen for in jazz music.

How To Listen To Jazz by Jerry Coker
How To Listen To Jazz by Jerry Coker

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10 Performance Etiquette Tips For Musicians

By Zachariah Friesen

1. Dress Appropriately

Generally if you are on a stage and the audience is in a seat, their eye level view is of your shoes and socks. White sox or tennis shoes during a concert are a floggable offense to any conductor. It looks bad and distracts from the performance. Whatever the concert dress code is, follow it. If you can’t dress together how are you expected to play together? If you can’t follow rules, how can you follow music?

2. The Warm Up
It’s bad form to practice things you’re about to perform on stage right before the concert. And really, if you’re practicing it on stage 30 seconds before the concert starts your fate is already sealed. Practicing it on stage before the concert could give the audience the impression you aren’t prepared. And when more “10 Performance Etiquette Tips For Musicians”

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 more “Improve Your Ear!”

Music Ministers – PREPARE!

By Brendan Lai-Tong

Those of you who are music ministers know how challenging it is to coordinate musicians, music and schedules to fit the needs of your church. We recently asked Judy Pringle from Canadian Choral Centre for her expert opinion on the matter.

Judy has served in the Church Music Ministry for over 30 years as a choral director, organist and pianist. In addition to church music, Judy enjoyed a professional singing career on stage and television.  In 1984, Judy founded Canadian Choral Centre, a retail music store in Winnipeg, Manitoba of which she is President.  In 2012, Judy joined Sheet Music Plus’ team as Director of Choral Marketing.

We asked Judy if she could provide us some examples of what she has used to be a more prepared and successful music minister.  Here is her response:

Judy Pringle - Canadian Choral Centre
Judy Pringle – Canadian Choral Centre

Early in my church music ministry I served at Trinity United Church in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.  The more “Music Ministers – PREPARE!”

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 more “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 more “10 Tips for Improving Sight Reading”

10 Tips to Motivate Your Child to Practice

By Jenny Silva

We’re sure that everyone with children knows how challenging it is to motivate a child to practice. Every day there are activities that are vying for your child’s attention. Consistent and smart practice is essential to growing as a musician. The sooner your child can start to develop a regular practice regimen, the more apt they will be to succeed in their musical endeavors. Here are 10 tips to help motivate your child to practice:

1) Make practicing part of the routine – same time every day.  Ideally, it should be before the fun stuff – TV time or computer games. Play with what time of day works best for you. My kids are morning kids, and so morning practice works well for us.

2) Set realistic expectations for more “10 Tips to Motivate Your Child to Practice”

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 more “Managing Musical Performance Anxiety”

A Few Favorite Tools for Studying Jazz Improvisation

By Carolyn Walter

Like many musicians, I consider myself to be a lifelong student of jazz improvisation. Every goal I reach leads me to brand new challenges; most of us could spend a lifetime just on sheer technical mastery of our instrument, let alone the pursuit of a truly original, authentic improvisational voice. That said, I feel lucky to live in such an information-rich an age, with such a wealth of practice tools and educational resources so easily available.

A perfect example would be obtaining a copy of The Real Book, which used to be a bit of a fly-by-night affair due to copyright restrictions, has been made easy these days: this ubiquitous collection of “standards” and other very commonly played jazz tunes is now published legally by Hal Leonard.  Their edition contains almost all of the songs contained in the original bootleg volumes, and has the advantage of being far more accurate and legible than its predecessor.  As it happens, this music school and jam-session staple is on sale at Sheet Music Plus for a few more days (along with lots of other useful fakebooks), so there’s no need to sneak around any longer!

The Real Book

First and foremost, more “A Few Favorite Tools for Studying Jazz Improvisation”