Monday, November 29, 2004


Keyboard Companion
"Developing habits of good listening"
By Scott McBride

According to Robert Schumann, "The most important thing is to cultivate the sense of hearing. Take pains early to distinguish tones and keys by ear. The bell, the windowpane, the cuckoo-listen to the sounds they make." The first step to proper musicianship is to listen carefully as opposed to just hearing. An ear training exercise to encourage listening is to have students remain silent and make a list of all the sounds they hear during a four minute time span. Students are always shocked by how many sounds the silence contains. Another exercise is to play a middle C on the piano, and students will sing the pitch back every 15 minutes. Over time, students gradually develop a pitch memory of the note and are able to sing it voluntarily.

Tone is linked with legato and dynamics. Good posture, a rounded hand position, and free use of the upper arm are important for tonal smoothness which produces correct tonal matching. There are also three factors that influence the sound of every note: attack, duration, and release. A note attacked too slowly will result in no sound and likewise a note attacked too fast will sound too percussive. Rachmaninoff believes that natural motions, arm weight, and gravity are important in tone production. He believes that the hands should feel as if they are "growing into the keyboard." Most importantly, careful listening is important in maintaining proper tone.

Teaching Music
"Successful Sight-Reading at Your Next Festival"
By Cheryl K. Newton

Sight-reading does not have to be the most frightening or unmanageable aspect of festival performance. There are techniques that can be taught and rehearsed to prepare for an accurate sight-reading performance. The key to successful sight-reading is consistent practice throughout the year. Choose a selection that is one or two grade levels below the performance level of your band. Select music that includes changes in meter or challenging matter. Knowing all of the major scales is imperative for successful sight-reading. This helps one feel comfortable in all keys. Being prepared can help ease nervousness when sight-reading. Packing extra percussion instruments, stopwatches, and post-it notes for marking repeats or codas will make the day less stressful. New terms should not arise during the sight-reading at a festival; all material should be learned ahead of time in the class room.

Above all, a trustful relationship between the conductor and students is the most important factor of successful sight-reading. Sight-reading is a challenge but plenty can be learned, and it is possible to be fun and enjoyable.