Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The "Post-It" Trick

I may have blogged this before but, if so, it's worth repeating...

Do you have a short, tricky passage in a piece you're preparing?
Perhaps something with weird intervals or awkward notation?

Try this:
1. Memorize it
2. Cut a little piece of a post-it note and cover that part of your music
3. Play the piece and, when you get to that tough passage, play the memorized lick.

Seems to work.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Wheel" Rubato

OK, I'm back from a trip and can dig through some of the old blog ideas I saved up over the year.
Here's my old "two images" game.

OK, so what do these two images have in common?


(Or really any kind of rhythmic freedom, for that matter. Yes, I know I'm not really using the technically correct definition of rubato)

Sometimes, my students have trouble incorporating rhythmic freedom in a way that works. Often they speed up or slow down in an unpredictable way.

I like to think of rhythmic freedom as a change in the main pulse *but* a change that is predictable.....sort of like that spinning wheel in Wheel of Fortune. The speed of that clicking sound is always changing but n a predictable way. In fact, I believe even that the rate change itself is also changing in a predicable way.
(doesn't this have something to do with calculus?)

As someone listens to you, you want them to be able to follow you, rhythmically. You don't want to throw them off.

Thus we can conclude that rodeo horses aren't very good at rubato.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fixed Do vs. Movable Do

OK, this is a tough one.

One of my big breakthroughs, of late, has been singing more in my practicing. Thus I plunge into that old debate...

Sing in "fixed do" (C is always DO no matter the key)
Sing in "movable do" (The tonic note is always do no matter the key)

Some considerations:
I don't really have perfect pitch
A lot of music I'm working on is chromatic with shifting tonal centers or ambiguous tonality

So this means fixed do. Right?

Here's the thing: the syllables only help if they help you hear the note in your mind.

Since I have less experience singing solfege, I still have many moments when I can hear the correct pitch but hesitate trying to think of the correct syllable to use.

Obviously, at this point solfege ain't helping.

For the time being, I'm trying singing in fixed do but using a slightly altered system:


I replace mi and ti with "may" and "tay" because, if I ingrain this system in my brain, I don't like instinctively thinking of the "eee" syllable when I'm hearing these notes in my head.

Or perhaps, I should just sing everything on "la" or "ba"

OK, enough rambling. Here are some other websites that provide intelligent discussion..

A blog entry by Scott Spiegelberg of DePauw University (some good comments below the blog entry, too)

An interesting article by Jody Nagel

I found a very long thread of comments on the topic at

Your thoughts??