Reuben Vincent Studio March 14-170

If I had a penny for every time I heard a grumpy, narrow-minded, middle-aged moaner say something like: “They don’t make records like they used to” or “They only churn out rubbish in popular music these days” I’d be a millionaire! Concerning popular music, some people seem to be trapped in a time-warp, suspiciously based around the period when they were teenagers and young adults. Like as if the music that was made before and after isn’t worth considering!

And then there’s the classical crowd. Content some are to listen to the faithful few – Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Now don’t get me wrong, I love those composers but what about all the fabulous writers that have come afterwards, some still living even? Come on chaps, let’s be more open-minded!

Personally, I think music has been on an incredible journey since the invention of recorded music and the internet. Now music from all over the world and from every period is easily accessible. Children aren’t just exposed to the music of Read more…

Read More » Comments (0)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music History & Facts

Magic

So much in music can be analysed with rational conclusions drawn as to why a certain result is produced. For example, why does a certain piece of music make you feel melancholy? On closer analysis the composer has no doubt made a series of strategic decisions to create that result; minor tonality, quiet dynamic, low register of a well-chosen instrument, slow tempo, simple rhythm, descending melody etc. The great Hollywood composers have been masters of knowing exactly how to evoke the necessary emotion from a scene, building on a huge legacy of skillful composition for many hundreds of years. Conscious and calculated.

However, I love that music still holds onto some of its mystery. Magical moments that defy analysis. Happy accidents that touch the hearts of millions. Somehow it can manage to penetrate through human boundaries such as race, language, class, education, religion, social status and generation. It can be deeply therapeutic; a massage for the emotions. It can reach the seemingly unreachable; humans with severe learning difficulties, people with severe dementia and even animals! How extraordinary and how little we really know about the secrets of our art even though some of us have made the study of music our lifetime pursuit! Here are a number of mysteries in music to contemplate:

What is it about the groove in a song that gets your body moving to the beat without any conscious thought?

How come certain songs on an album become hits? Why not the other equally well-produced songs?

Why does a certain melody become, as the expression goes these days, an “ear-worm” that plays in your head like tinnitus for hours and hours?

How does that sudden Read more…

Read More » Comments (0)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music History & Facts, Music Theory, Performing

image

Let me tell you about a little secret I’ve been keeping!

All my pupils love it! It’s been handy for helping them learn new songs, especially tricky bits! It’s helped them improve their music reading skills! It’s encouraged a deeper understanding of theory! And best of all it’s free!

So what’s the big secret? Drum roll please…. Noteflight!?!

What does Noteflight do?

Noteflight is easy to use software with which you can create, listen and print out high-quality sheet music notation. And it’s brilliant!!!

Is there a catch?

Not really. Most of my students use the basic version which is free. You can pay a monthly or yearly subscription for extra features but the free version is Read more…

Read More » Comments (0)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music News, Music Theory, Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Groove website-3

“Here’s my top tip for musicians interested in becoming better improvisers: Forget the metronome. Practice with backing tracks, those auto-accompaniment loops that inspire, keep you on the beat, and mesmerize you into practice loops.” -Bradley Sowash, jazz improv specialist.

If you aren’t sure how to find or create backing tracks, I’d like to personally invite you to a webinar called “Groove Your Theory. The idea stems from Bradley’s regular use of backing tracks in his lessons and his own practice. We also use them at our 88 Creative Keys keyboard improvisation workshops that Bradley and I co-founded four years ago.

The webinar will be packed full of ideas that will help you save practice (or lesson) time as you compress theory, timing and technique and creativity into one activity. Read more…

Read More » Comments Off on A Tip for Becoming a Better Improviser (0)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Practicing, Teaching Tips

top-pop-tips-730x730

As students return for lessons after the holidays, why not kick off 2016 with pop music? Surprising your students with some Coldplay along with Chopin–or any favorite tune from the past or the present–could strike just the right balance to keep things interesting during the long winter months ahead.

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to reflect on the past year and make some revisions for the months ahead.  Has your curriculum remained relatively the same and even become stagnant?  Could you better match the interests of potential and eager customers in your local area by revamping your curriculum and adding some hit tunes from Adele, The Piano Guys or Star Wars?

David Cutler, author of The Savvy Music Teacher, discovered from his extensive research that music teachers who generated substantial (successful) incomes were more likely to integrate three elements into their instruction compared to other teachers who did not. They include: improvisation, technology and multiple musical genres.

Need to spice up 2016? Considering a fresh approach? Ready to integrate more improvisation, technology and musical genres, ie, pop music in to your teaching? Then you will want to sign up for and attend the 88 Creative Keys Winter Webinar Webshop. Watch the video below for more details. Read more…

Read More » Comments Off on Kick Off 2016 with a Pop Music Webinar (0)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

creating arrangements1

As a child, I heard people play or sing songs with five or more verses—every verse the same dirge-like tempo, same key, same inflections… The intent of the songs deserved better. I wanted to arrange songs to reflect the message and engage the listener. Now I help my students create arrangements as well.

Start Simply

A very young student might play/sing only one note differently. It’s a start! Perhaps a vocal student has a two-verse song. She goes through the melody twice and ends. Ask her if she can think of a way to change the ending to have more impact. If she can’t think of anything, give an example and have her try it.

Play a repeated passage two ways: once identically and once with a change. Ask which version held his interest, or would keep an audience engaged.

Students singing together might start singing harmony by splitting to a third only on the final note. Starting simply might mean simply making them aware.

Read more…

Read More » Comments (6)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Performing

Leila Viss

How will you play it forward?

December 14th, 2015 by

 

Two weeks ago, my student Addison entered my studio and declared, “I wrote a song for Paris!”

A little puzzled by what he meant, I probed further and learned that he improvised a piece on the piano based on his feelings about the terrorist attacks in Paris and posted it on his YouTube channel. It was Addison’s way of processing the tragedy, paying tribute to the victims, communicating his sorrow and as I thought about it more, this was Addison’s way to give what he could: he wanted to play it forward.

Read more…

Read More » Comments (1)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music News, Performing, Press, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Reuben Vincent

Teaching Grouping

December 6th, 2015 by

21 The Coins of the Money Changers

I always found the rhythmic grouping of notes and rests very difficult to explain to students. How do you try and explain this concept to your theory and composition pupils?

Here’s an idea I stumbled on recently which seems to be helping: “money, money, money!”

• Before attempting to beam notes up into the correct groups, I first lay out a mixed selection of coins equivalent to four pounds sterling (I’m from England but the principle is the same whatever the coinage of your country. You can use real money or plastic play money).

• I then ask the pupil to organise the coins into four stacks equal to one pound, no more no less. The principle that this exercise demonstrates to them is that Read more…

photo by:

Read More » Comments (5)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

“Sonatinas, Scary Songs, and S’More.” Just the fall theme to carry out my goals for students.

I wanted to avoid the crunch of pre-Christmas activities for once. But an earlier recital meant I had a month less to help them prepare. How could I help them shine? How could I motivate the third-year students hanging on the fringes? How could I involve the earliest beginners?

Sonatinas for levels two and up are available (here’s one book). But I found none for my first year students. Some weren’t even reading notes yet.

So—I wrote them! A couple had two movements, but most had three.

I asked questions to discover their likes, hobbies and activities. And I wrote custom-made sonatinas for my beginners.

For Soccer Sonatina I used only six notes. This was for my youngest little one. He conquered “Dribbling” and “Passing Drill.”

For Sonatina Minecraft, I listened to Minecraft’s music. Then I wrote in a similar style. My student thrilled to play “Moving Boxes” and “Oh, Share the Night” and “Find the Path.” One student enjoys mythology. For her I wrote “Flight of Pegasus,” “The Loss of Persephone,” and “Puckish Mischief.” There were also Zoonatina, Puppy Sonatina and Canine vs. Feline Sonatina, among others. I even wrote sonatinas for my beginning guitar students. For Ballet Sonatina I read up on it first. Then I wrote “Allegro,” and “Pas de Valse.” My young man was excited to realize “En L’Aire” made a sound picture of leaping and landing lightly. One student wrote her own piece for the recital.

What about the title “Sonatinas, Scary Songs, and S’More?” Halloween songs are easy to find for all levels. The “S’More” part included Christmas songs and general-themed pieces. It also included non-messy s’more treats later at the reception.

I’ve never had students more motivated. They couldn’t wait to share “their” pieces. As a bonus, the sonatina theme can grow along with their musical skills.

The down-side?

It’s one week later. Now they wonder, “When is our Christmas recital?”

Do you write songs or arrangements for your students? If not, give it a try. Consider the techniques each one is perfecting at the moment. Give it a fun title. I’m sure MTH blog readers would love to hear about it!

Read More » Comments (2)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Performing, Promoting Your Studio

Reuben Vincent

Piano Fingering Success

November 10th, 2015 by

piano fingers

The other month I stumbled on my very first piano tutor book from when I was a seven-year-old. The thing that struck me, as I thumbed through the pages, was that my music teacher had written the word “fingering” on almost every page! I can still hear the frustration in his voice as he yet again tried to explain to me the pitfalls of using “any old finger.”

As a piano teacher myself now, it fascinates me that some students have a natural tendency towards following fingering and others, like me, need constant nagging!

Light bulb!

Most sheet music editions have all the fingering suggestions carefully printed but one of my adult students was learning an arrangement without any fingering. In times past, I would pencil in my suggestions but this time I asked him to go away and work out what fingering would work best. The result was amazing! Not only had he enjoyed “taking ownership” of his fingering but it had made him think long and hard about Read more…

photo by:

Read More » Comments (6)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Teaching Tips