Music History & Facts

Interesting facts about music, music history, etc.

This is the third and final installment of the Essentials for the Classical Vocal Library series. This seems to be a catch all of topics, moving from style and reference resources to performance preparation and finally career development. This installment is particularly useful for the teacher who has budding students interested in doing more serious auditioning and making a go of the music world. Some resources are not books, in particular the career resources, which are online databases for audition searches. If you have used any of these references and have found them helpful, please blog about your experience with them. If you have found another reference equally if not more helpful in any one arena, please list the title below. Thanks for following the series- if you are interested in a series of other singing topics, please list that below as well.

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When teaching a student or a class a particular musical piece, I share the history of the song with them. This induces more interest for the student. I will occasionally write a blog about the history of a particular song that I use with the students.

The first song I would like to discuss is “Let It Be”, recorded by the Beatles. I teach this song on the piano, guitar and bass guitar, and all of my students love learning the song.

Paul McCartney, who wrote the song, sings the vocal, backing vocal, and plays piano and the maracas. John Lennon plays bass, while George Harrison sings backing vocals while playing lead guitar. And, of course, Ringo Starr plays the drums. Other instruments used in the song are an organ and electric piano played by Billy Preston, and two trumpets, two trombones, a tenor sax and cellos played by uncredited musicians.

During the summer of 1968, the Beatle sessions had become hostile. McCartney was worried about the band’s future and threw everything into keeping the group alive. One night he had a dream in which his deceased mom, Mary, appeared to him and told him not to get so depressed about things. She told him to just :Let it be”. This dream quickly became a song.

For some time Lennon thought Mother Mary was the Virgin Mary, and wanted to add a giggle to the song. When Paul said “No”, Lennon went into the studio one night before the song was to be cut, and added a little phrase to the beginning of Let It Be, “Now we’d like to sing ‘All The Angels Come'”. Paul was not happy.

Students know this song, and are instructed to play the song smoothly with a flowing progression. The bass lines consist of many runs from one chord to another. The piano also progresses smoothly from one chord to another (chords from C down to G use C, G/b, F/A and G). Thus, this song teaches students flowing techniques and sequence. Let It Be!

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February is my favorite month to teach, and it’s just around the corner. The reason is because February is Black History Month. This is when I focus primarily on Folk music, Jazz, Blues, and Rock and Roll. If you are interested in devoting the month to Black music history, here’s a list of resources to pull from. They will make your classes more interesting and you might learn a thing or two as well (as I did).

Ken Burn’s: Jazz

This amazing 10-part series covers everything a classroom music teacher needs to teach the history of African-American music. Starting from the early days of slavery and the creation of the “Spiritual”, it takes the viewer all the way up to the Jazz created in the 60’s. I especially love the disc about Swing, because my students get so into the dancing.


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