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Music Appreciation

  1. Music Appreciation 101:8 - It's Not the Horn. The Ocarina

    Subtitle: How Much Did You Spend on Your Instrument?

    The purpose of this chapter is to show that music must come from within you. Many players get so focused on the difficulties of playing their horn that they don't manage to get their musical feeling out the bell.

    The first in this series will demonstrate a virtuoso performance on the ocarina. It is a hollow body with a mouthpipe to blow into. There are a series of tone holes on the instrument. A very simple type is called ...
  2. Music Appreciation 101, part 7: The Valve Trombone

    I have always been fascinated with the valve trombone. My first instrument was cornet, then I changed to euphonium. It was several years later that I learned to play trombone. Obviously, learning to change pitch with the slide instead of valves was a challenge. The slide certainly gives one access to some nice effects, but it is darned hard to play a chromatic scale! Well, eventually I toughed it out and learned how to play trombone.

    During the All State festival one year we went ...
  3. Music Appreciation 101, part 6: A Glass Euphonium?

    Readers of this blog certainly have a clear idea what a euphonium is. Granted there is some confusion about the difference between euphonium and baritone, but our conceptions are pretty much in the same neighborhood.

    However, there is an instrument that predates the baritone/euphonium by about 50-100 years. It was invented by Ernst Chladni and consisted of glass tubes of different lengths. It operated on the same principal that causes crystal glasses to ring when someone rubs ...
  4. Music Appreciation 101, part 5: Brass without Valves

    As I look over the euphonium discussion topics on my forum I see a lot of talk about valve action and valve oil. But in the early days of brass instruments, this was not a problem because the first brass instruments had no valves. I'm leaving trombone out of this discussion because I think most readers are very familiar with the instrument already.

    Early French horns were made with no valves, for example. They usually had various crooks (like our tuning slides) that could be used ...
  5. Music Appreciation 101, part 5: the Double-Bell Euphonium

    The double-bell euphonium was an interesting invention. It is rumored that it was created so that euphonium players could choose between the large, soloist euphonium sound or a smaller, more trombone-like sound. Here is a photo of a double-bell euphonium:

    The horn has one additional valve. In the photo above, the main horn is a 4-valve euphonium. The 5th valve is used only to divert the air to the small bell when desired. Both bells can not be played at the same time. Other models ...
  6. Music Appreciation 101, part 5: The Talent Behind the Screen

    There are a great many movies where an actor will pretend to be performing onscreen, but in reality there is another musician doing the actual performance. As brass players, many of notice people doing a not-so-good job of pretending. Some are better than others.

    One of the more famous examples is in the Benny Goodman story, where Steve Allen is the actor playing Goodman. Benny was a famous jazz clarinet player, and Steve Allen actually was an amateur clarinetist, so his pretending ...
  7. Music Appreciation 101: Chapter 4, Tommy Dorsey

    This chapter discusses a low brass icon that we should all know: Tommy Dorsey. He was one of the most popular big band leaders in the 40's (and earlier and later), called the sentimental gentleman. His sound was very nice, especially given the small horn/mouthpiece he used, but he was especially famous for his breath control and phrasing. I have heard him play beautifully up to around a high F or F#, and he always seemed to know just how to use his vibrato.

    Frank Sinatra came to fame ...
  8. Music Appreciation 101: Chapter 3, The Theremin

    If you have ever watched an old horror movie or sci-fi movie, you may have heard eerie sounds that seemed to float around in the high register. Examples are found in The Day the Earth Stood Still, Spellbound, and Lost Weekend. The instrument used to make those sounds is called a Theremin, invented in 1919 by a Russian physicist named Leon Theremin (changed from Lev Termem).

    It was a very unusual instrument in that the performer never touches the instrument while playing. It consists ...
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