Musicnotes.com Blog http://www.musicnotes.com/blog The official blog of Musicnotes.com Fri, 12 Dec 2014 21:36:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Q & A with Legendary Composer of Film and Stage Alan Menken http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/12/12/alan-menken-interview/ http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/12/12/alan-menken-interview/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 19:33:12 +0000 http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/?p=8357 Alan Menken is undoubtedly one of this generation’s most preeminent composers of film and stage. His work with Disney has helped defined the musical movie experience of countless young people, and his musical stage adaptations continue to innovate and leave audiences awe-struck, allowing us to fall in love all over again with songs like “A Whole New World,” “Part of Your World,” “Beauty and the Beast” and so many more. We were beyond honored to have the opportunity to ask Menken a few questions about his musical background, his process of adapting film music to the stage and just what it’s like to have Grammys, Oscars and Tonys solidifying a
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Alan Menken is undoubtedly one of this generation’s most preeminent composers of film and stage. His work with Disney has helped defined the musical movie experience of countless young people, and his musical stage adaptations continue to innovate and leave audiences awe-struck, allowing us to fall in love all over again with songs like “A Whole New World,” “Part of Your World,” “Beauty and the Beast” and so many more.

We were beyond honored to have the opportunity to ask Menken a few questions about his musical background, his process of adapting film music to the stage and just what it’s like to have Grammys, Oscars and Tonys solidifying a musical career that can truly be called epic.

So much of your work has played a central role in shaping countless childhood cinematic and musical experiences for the past 25+ years. Is there anything from your own experience that inspires your Disney and other children’s film compositions?

A.M. My memories of growing up with the classic Disney movies, as well as other great film musicals, remain a very strong part of what motivates my writing of film music; both song scores and dramatic underscore. ‘Fantasia‘ introduced me to the relationship between visual images and classical music. And, in general, the larger-than-life emotional peaks that were achieved in various movie musicals, from ‘Top Hat‘ and ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy!‘ to ‘South Pacific‘ and ‘The Kind and I‘ to ‘Gypsy‘ and ‘West Side Story‘ to the animated greats like ‘Peter Pan,’ ‘Dumbo‘ and ‘Pinocchio‘ live in me as reminders of what is possible in songwriting and film scores.

We read in your biography that you weren’t the biggest fan of piano practice growing up. Would you be able to offer any words of wisdom to developing young musicians and aspiring composers?          

A.M. I would certainly encourage every aspiring composer or musician to find music teachers they like and enjoy learning from. Even though I did sometimes sneak away from my piano practicing and “fool around” at the piano, it was important that I was engaged in the process of becoming acquainted with great piano pieces and great composers. Having a balanced approach to studying music, with both discipline and freedom, is the key to growing as an artist. If you’re not looking forward to playing music or improvising or creating on a daily basis then it’s important to look at why, and find another way to approach the miracle that is music.

You took your early musical career to the stage, writing scores for shows including the extraordinary ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ Was it a natural progression to transition from theatre to film scores? How did that shift come about, and did you always know you wanted to compose for both the theatre and movies?

A.M. In respect to writing musicals, the progression from theater to film was a natural and relatively easy one for me. In essence, the craft of writing musicals remains essentially the same, irrespective of the medium. The differences come in regard to writing dramatic underscore for films. There definitely was a big learning curve for me in making that leap.

How does your process of composing for musical theatre differ from that of composing for film?

A.M. The differences only occur in the nuts and bolts of production. But, in terms of what the songs need to accomplish and how that is achieved, the crafts are the same. A composer has to capture the dramatic moment, through the voices of the characters, constantly moving the story forward within each song and throughout the song score.

Similarly, you’ve written many of movie history’s most beloved scores, which you’ve then transitioned to Broadway. Would you be able to walk us through that process? Are there any unique challenges or opportunities you see in adapting film scores for theatre? 

A.M. In general, a Broadway musical, as a form, will utilize many more song moments than a film musical. There are no close-ups or panoramic views to lean on for story telling. On stage, the music and the lyrics need to take on much of what a camera might achieve on the screen.

With accomplishments spanning from your work with Disney and other blockbuster films to television features to huge Broadway smash hits, how do you choose which projects to work on?        

A.M. I look for projects that have a compelling story, with a unique and powerfully motivated central character, a strong dramatic conflict and an interesting set of stylist possibilities, related to time, place and tone. Plus, sometimes I am very influenced by the artistic collaboration that a project offers me; a particular director or writer or producer or production company.

We also can’t help but mention those 11 Grammys, eight Academy Awards, seven Golden Globes, Tony Award, Hollywood Star and all the other professional accolades you’ve earned. What does the critical success mean to you, and what do you consider the keys to success? 

A.M. Critical success is immensely gratifying. We all have egos and insecurities. It’s always nice to know that our work is appreciated and admired. But, in the end, it’s most important to be fully engrossed in the creative process. Love the process of writing and working together with others. Try to keep your mind off the results as much as you can. Do your best work and the results will come.

Try to keep your mind off the results as much as you can. Do your best work and the results will come.Alan Menken

How do you continue to innovate? Do you look at composing the same way today as you did when you kicked off your musical career?

A.M. My approach to composing is very much what it always has been, since I was a child. There’s a sense of wonder and joy in creating a new melody or a new song or capturing a mood or a moment in music.

It’s pretty difficult to browse your catalogue of work and not feel awe-inspired, from ‘The Little Mermaid’s’ debut in 1989 to this year’s ‘Aladdin: The Musical’ on Broadway. Might you be able to share a sneak peek into any upcoming projects? 

A.M. My upcoming projects range from stage musicals (‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame, ‘A Bronx Tale’ and ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’) to film musicals (‘Sausage Party’ and a live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’) to a new musical series on ABC, ‘Galavant.’

Our very sincerest thanks to Alan Menken for taking time out of his busy creative schedule to answer our questions. Be sure to shop our entire array of Alan Menken-penned sheet music (there’s really so many gems, you could explore and play for hours upon hours). And check out Alan Menken’s Official Website to learn more about his current and past projects and his musical background.

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Virtuosic Christmas Sheet Music to Amaze, Teach and Delight! http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/12/10/virtuosic-christmas-sheet-music/ http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/12/10/virtuosic-christmas-sheet-music/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 21:57:55 +0000 http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/?p=8338 Is your Christmas sheet music library feeling a bit stale? Are you in need of a guaranteed ‘wow’-factor piece to play at your holiday event or recital? Or, maybe you want to test your skill and work on mastering some advanced technique. If any or all of the three reasons above apply, we have the perfect NEW Christmas sheet music collections for you, arranged by none other than piano virtuoso and composer Jarrod Radnich. Featuring dramatic runs, exciting rhythm changes and challenging jumps, Christmas sheet music by Jarrod Radnich is like none you’ve ever heard before. Watch Radnich’s stunning video of “I Saw Three Ships” to get an idea of
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Is your Christmas sheet music library feeling a bit stale? Are you in need of a guaranteed ‘wow’-factor piece to play at your holiday event or recital? Or, maybe you want to test your skill and work on mastering some advanced technique. If any or all of the three reasons above apply, we have the perfect NEW Christmas sheet music collections for you, arranged by none other than piano virtuoso and composer Jarrod Radnich.

Featuring dramatic runs, exciting rhythm changes and challenging jumps, Christmas sheet music by Jarrod Radnich is like none you’ve ever heard before. Watch Radnich’s stunning video of “I Saw Three Ships” to get an idea of his arranging style.

Pretty amazing, right? Well, now you too can learn to play like Jarrod with three money-saving Christmas sheet music collections featuring various levels of difficulty. Any of the songs in these collections is guaranteed to garner audience ‘wows,’ and each includes skill-building techniques that will help you to improve your playing. Consider downloading these Christmas sheet music collections for practicing this year, and work on mastering them for next year’s celebrations!

3 Pieces for a Virtuosic Pianist’s Christmas

Jarrod Radnich’s first collection, “3 Pieces for a Virtuosic Pianist’s Christmas,” highlights the skills of extremely advanced pianists, and provides a continuing and rigorous technique training ground for piano students to aspire to achieve new levels in their performance skills. Unlike previous arrangements of these traditional Christmas music melodies, these technically challenging and lush arrangements are sure to provide an enthralling experience for any performance or gathering. This collection includes three of Jarrod Radnich’s signature Virtuosic Piano arrangements of popular Christmas songs — sure to amaze audiences and challenge even the proficient of pianists.

Titles in the collection: “Ukrainian Bell Carol (Carol of the Bells),” “Czech Drumming Carol (The Little Drummer Boy)” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

3 Pieces for an Advanced Pianist’s Christmas

The second new collection by Jarrod Radnich, “3 Pieces for an Advanced Pianist’s Christmas,” includes three holiday sheet music pieces in Jarrod’s signature Advanced Piano Solo series. Setting themselves apart from numerous other compositions labeled “advanced” in many books, the arrangements in the Advanced Piano Solo Series are, in fact, considered by recital judges to be advanced. While arrangements produce a grand and full sound, they do not contain the lengthy runs, extreme jumps and rapid rhythm changes found in the Virtuosic Series. These arrangements will provide countless opportunities for piano students to practice and master specific techniques, and they may be played at a slower pace than notated without losing their beauty and grand scale.

Titles in the collection: “Away in a Manger,” “Got Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “What Child Is This?.”

 The Jarrod Radnich Christmas Collection for Solo Piano Best Value!

The ultimate audience-pleasing selection of Christmas sheet music, this collection features nine original arrangements by Jarrod Radnich. You’ll receive all six songs included in both the above collections plus three additional songs. This collection is great for musicians who want to start playing the Advanced works now, and who will be ready to move on to the Virtuosic series in the next year or two.

Titles in the collection: All SIX titles above, plus “The First Noel,” “We Three Kings” and “I Saw Three Ships.”

We also offer more sheet music by Jarrod Radnich, providing the same technically advanced, thrilling style of arranging as the Christmas sheet music collections above. Shop dramatic Movie/TV titles like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Hedwig’s Theme” and “Jurassic Park,”  or inventive classic rock updates to favorites like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Nights in White Satin.” Be sure to check out Jarrod’s YouTube page to see more exciting videos of the virtuoso himself playing,  and subscribe to Jarrod’s newsletter for his expert tips, style explanations and announcements.

Have you previously performed a piece arranged by Jarrod Radnich? We’d love to hear your story in the comments section. Is there a song that you’d like to see Jarrod Radnich arrange in his unique style? Please share your dream sheet music selection below!

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Music for the Masses. Win Your Ralph Peer Biography + A Musicnotes Gift Card! http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/12/04/ralph-peer-contest/ http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/12/04/ralph-peer-contest/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 20:16:48 +0000 http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/?p=8315 Are you a fan of blues, folk, R&B, country or rock music? Chances are, you’re more familiar with the work of Ralph Peer than you might have known.  Barry Mazor’s new biography of the legendary music publisher and label A&R visionary takes a close look at just how influential and radically innovative Peer was, during a time in which music traditionally divided rather than united. Read a bit about Ralph Peer’s influence, and then enter for your chance to win your own copy of Mazor’s book, along with a $25 Gift Card, in the contest below! (Update: This contest has now closed. Congratulations to our winners, Jordana, Melissa and Joerg,
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Are you a fan of blues, folk, R&B, country or rock music? Chances are, you’re more familiar with the work of Ralph Peer than you might have known.  Barry Mazor’s new biography of the legendary music publisher and label A&R visionary takes a close look at just how influential and radically innovative Peer was, during a time in which music traditionally divided rather than united. Read a bit about Ralph Peer’s influence, and then enter for your chance to win your own copy of Mazor’s book, along with a $25 Gift Card, in the contest below! (Update: This contest has now closed. Congratulations to our winners, Jordana, Melissa and Joerg, and thank you so much to everyone who participated.)

When Ralph Peer first embarked on his musical career in 1910s and 20s, musical styles were deeply fractionalized based on geography, socioeconomics and even race. Prior to home record players, the preeminent music distribution method was sheet music. People would hear a song in concert, then purchase the sheet music from music publishers in order to enjoy the same tunes at home. However, with the dawning of home record players, Peer recognized, before anyone else did, that music could transcend the day’s class and color boundaries.

From the 1920s through the 1960s, Ralph Peer worked with such diverse artists as Mamie Smith (recording her ground-breaking, genre-making “Crazy Blues” in 1920), Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Hoagy Carmichael and Latin legends like Agustin Lara to make regionally popular ‘roots’ music available to the masses. He recognized the astonishing skill, soul and universally translatable emotion of their songs, not to mention their economic viability in the evolving music publishing industry. In fact, the music publishing firm Peer founded, peermusic, remains the world’s largest independent music publisher today!

Contest Time!

Enter to win your FREE copy of Peer’s biography, and we’ll even throw in a $25 Musicnotes E-Gift Card (good toward ANY sheet music at Musicnotes.com), now.

To win, match these 5 popular songs published by Ralph Peer with their artists. (Peer published an astonishing catalogue of songs over his career, we just chose 5 for our contest.) Leave your answer in comments section below. Three random correct answers will be chosen to receive a copy of ‘Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music’ (shipped from Barnes and Noble), as well as a $25 Musicnotes E-Gift Card (emailed to you via Musicnotes.com).*

Song Titles:

1. “You Are My Sunshine”

2. “Deep in the Heart of Texas”

3. “That’ll Be the Day”

4. “Bésame Mucho”

5. “Georgia On My Mind”

Artists:

Consuelo Velázquez

Jimmie Davis

Hoagy Carmichael

June Hershey & Don Swander

Buddy Holly, Norman Petty & Jerry Allison

*Submit your entry in the comments section below before 9 am CST on Friday, December 12, 2014. Three correct answers will be chosen at random to win, and notified via email in order to obtain shipping information. Thanks for playing, and happy reading!

Even if you choose not to participate in our contest to win a free copy of ‘Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music,’ we highly encourage you to check out the book. It’s a historically fascinating look into Peer’s life. You’ll come to realize just how revolutionary his ideas on what music could and should be popular were. It also makes an awesome gift for any music, history, or music history lover on your holiday list!

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Top 2014 Christmas Choral Music: Get a Jump on the Season http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/11/25/christmas-choral/ http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/11/25/christmas-choral/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 19:13:58 +0000 http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/?p=8299 Jonathan Miller, our Director of Choral Catalog, shares his top Christmas choral music picks for Christmas/Winter 2014 programs. We recently sent out our picks for the Musicnotes choral “Christmas Top 23,” to our choral email subscribers, and I thought I’d tell you a little about some of the pieces on the list. (Psst… If you’re not on our mailing list yet, be sure to sign up!) I’m especially excited to share the news that we have a Musicnotes exclusive: the red-hot Pentatonix a cappella version of “Mary, Did You Know?”, in a beautiful and faithful transcription/edition by renowned arranger Paul Langford If you’re young, young at heart, or a conductor
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Jonathan Miller, our Director of Choral Catalog, shares his top Christmas choral music picks for Christmas/Winter 2014 programs.

We recently sent out our picks for the Musicnotes choral “Christmas Top 23,” to our choral email subscribers, and I thought I’d tell you a little about some of the pieces on the list. (Psst… If you’re not on our mailing list yet, be sure to sign up!) I’m especially excited to share the news that we have a Musicnotes exclusive:

If you’re young, young at heart, or a conductor of an ensemble with young people, this is sure to enliven your holiday season!

For 2-part choirs, we are highlighting three pieces:

  • Winter Canon based on the famous canon by Thomas Tallis, including a sweet reference to Holst’s “In The Bleak Midwinter,” with lyrics and musical setting by Andy Beck;
  • For complete contrast, Beck’s heavy-swing, Eartha-Kitt-inspired Shoulda Been a North Pole Elf is cute and funny.
  • We also feature the traditional spiritual Mary Had A Baby,” in a skillful 2-part setting with piano, arranged by Franklin Kinsman. It’s a timeless setting that’s been popular for decades.

For treble ensemble (SSA, and SSAA), we are featuring songs from a variety of traditions:

Men’s choirs can have fun with these:

SATB choirs have a wide variety of choices that we’re featuring here. Or, click here to see all of the featured pieces.

Most of our Christmas Top 24 are available in multiple voicings at www.musicnotes.com, so take some time to look around. There’s much more to browse—get thyself to our site and shop away!

Don’t hesitate to be in touch with our awesome customer service department if you are looking for something you’re not finding or need any other assistance. We’re here to help.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and thanks for shopping at Musicnotes.

Warmest holiday wishes,

Jonathan Miller

Director of Choral Catalog

Jonathan’s Complete Top 23 Choral Sheet Music Picks for 2014’s Holiday Season:

1. Mary, Did You Know? by Pentatonix, arr. by Paul Langford, SATB A Cappella

2. Messiah, No. 4: And The Glory of the Lord, from Handel’s Messiah, SATB + Piano

3. Shoulda Been A North Pole Elf by Andy Beck, 2-Part Choir + Piano

4. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Mark Hayes, SATB + Piano

5. African Noel by André J. Thomas, SATB A Cappella

6. Hallelujah! from ‘Messiah: A Soulful Celebration,’ SATB + Piano

7. Grown-Up Christmas List by Mark Hayes, SATB + Piano

8. The First Noel / Pachelbel’s Canon by Michael Clawson, SATB + Piano

9. The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth by Jay Althouse, SATB + Piano

10. Who Will Go To Bethlehem? by Jay Rouse SATB + piano

11. Jingle Bells by Barbra Streisand, arr. by Mark Hayes, SATB + Piano

12. How Like A Winter by Ruth Morris Gray, SAB + Piano

13. Winter Canon by Andy Beck, 2-Part Choir + Piano

14. O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen, SATB A Cappella

15. Sweet Little Jesus Boy by Natalie Grant, arr. by Robert MacGimsey, SATB A Cappella

16. Here Comes Santa Claus by Gene Autry, arr. by Audrey Snyder, SSA + Piano

17. Not That Far from Bethlehem by Point of Grace, arr. by Audrey Snyder, SSA + Piano

18. It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas by Meredith Willson, arr. by Mac Huff, SATB + Piano

19. Mary Had a Baby, arr. by Franklin/Kinsman, SA + Piano

20. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Kirby Shaw, TTBB A Cappella

21. Go Tell It On the Mountain by Chicago Children’s Choir, arr. by Greg Jasperse, SATB + Piano

22. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) by Kirby Shaw, SSAA A Cappella

23. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on a n Open Fire) by The Blenders, TTTBBB A Cappella

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A Day in the Life: Meet Musicnotes’ Customer Support Specialists http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/11/20/meet-customer-support/ http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/11/20/meet-customer-support/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:08:30 +0000 http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/?p=8283 Have you ever wondered who’s answering your questions via email, live chat or over the phone? We asked our Customer Support Director Anna Fischer to share a behind-the-scenes look into the inner workings of Musicnotes Customer Support (we refer to our Specialists as ‘Superstars’ here at the office). Anna graciously agreed to take time out of her oh-so-busy holiday-season schedule and give us a look into a day in the life of your very own Musicnotes Superstars. As we head into the holiday (read: busy) season, we want to take the time to share a little more about the talented team of people who field your calls, emails and chat
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Have you ever wondered who’s answering your questions via email, live chat or over the phone? We asked our Customer Support Director Anna Fischer to share a behind-the-scenes look into the inner workings of Musicnotes Customer Support (we refer to our Specialists as ‘Superstars’ here at the office). Anna graciously agreed to take time out of her oh-so-busy holiday-season schedule and give us a look into a day in the life of your very own Musicnotes Superstars.

As we head into the holiday (read: busy) season, we want to take the time to share a little more about the talented team of people who field your calls, emails and chat requests every day. Our frontline staff are the only people you may ever talk to (personally) from Musicnotes, but besides helping you print, just what is it that makes a Musicnotes Customer Support Specialist?

Why “Support Specialists?” You have probably heard most similar positions called Customer Service agents/representatives, and while it might sound like we are tooting our own horns a little, we are much more than that.   Supporting and providing service to our customers is (clearly) the biggest part of our job, but we have a very specific-to-this-job set of skills and knowledge you may not realize.

The hardest, and greatest, part of our job is that there is no such thing as an “average” Musicnotes customer. This can be challenging, because we not only have to address customers’ questions and concerns, but do so in a way that is personalized to them.  Since music isn’t a “standard” product, we take great pride and care in knowing our responses and customer base aren’t standard either. While we do rely on “standard” answer suggestions and a Knowledge Base of possible information, no one ticket is ever exactly the same. After all, we have close to 5 million customers, worldwide.

Our Customer Support area (decorated for CS appreciation week).

Our Customer Support area (decorated for CS appreciation week).

We call ourselves specialists because we aren’t just agents. We know music theory, cross-platform technologies, how different browsers and operating systems work with our printing process, copyright laws, what your coupon code is, where to find your purchase history, how many arrangements of ‘Let it Go’ we have available on site (if you are keeping score at home, it’s 60 and counting), and what key you need it in if you play the flute (C Major). We can suggest an arrangement that is appropriate for the beginner you are buying for, or how to filter your search if you are a more advanced musician. All of this is pretty standard practice for us, but we know a lot of things, and are constantly learning more!

So next time you have a question, concern, problem, or compliment, know we are here to help and will do our best to give you the answers you need, the knowledge we have, and a great experience! (We promise, we are real people and not robots!) Please feel free to share your Customer Support Specialist stories in the comments below so we can share them with our staff. And, as always, thank you for contacting us, and for using Musicnotes.com!

Have you ever had to use Musicnotes Customer Support? Are there any questions that you’d like to see addressed by our Superstars in a blog post? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How to Count Music: Be Rhythm Ready with These Basic Tips http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/11/14/count-music/ http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/11/14/count-music/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/?p=8162 Are you a budding musician just starting to learn to read music? Maybe you have plenty of experience playing interpretively, but want to get a better handle on musical technique and hone your timing and synchronization. Either way, learning to properly count music is a skill that you’ll find helpful throughout your musical journey, not to mention absolutely essential if you’re planning to play with other people. The first thing you’ll need to learn in order to keep time is your basic note values. We explored note values in our “How to Read Sheet Music” blog post a while back. You can familiarize yourself with note values, as well as
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Are you a budding musician just starting to learn to read music? Maybe you have plenty of experience playing interpretively, but want to get a better handle on musical technique and hone your timing and synchronization. Either way, learning to properly count music is a skill that you’ll find helpful throughout your musical journey, not to mention absolutely essential if you’re planning to play with other people.

The first thing you’ll need to learn in order to keep time is your basic note values. We explored note values in our “How to Read Sheet Music” blog post a while back. You can familiarize yourself with note values, as well as meter (the beat), by reviewing that blog post. Below is a general refresher on note values.

Note Values

Learn to count musical notes

Next, you’ll need to understand time signatures. Again, you’ll find the basic overview in our “How to Read Sheet Music” post. The time signature’s top number tells you how many beats you’ll play in a measure, and the bottom number gives you the value of a single beat (the pulse your foot taps with or the tempo your metronome will tick with). Beginners should start by clapping or tapping along to the beat with song recordings, in order to establish a basic understanding of tempo and time.

Even for those of us who are experts at reading music, playing on beat can prove difficult to perfect. Often, while we’re playing, we perceive that we’re playing right on beat. However, if you listen back to a recording of your practice session, you’ll notice instances that are slightly off. And those very slight nuances can mean the difference of your next performance sounding muddled or cleanly finished like a pro.

We’ve put together a few of our favorite tips for practicing in (close to) perfect time.

Count Aloud

As you can see in the quarter-to-eighth-to-sixteenth note chart above, we count music aloud (“one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and”) to help identify the beat of a piece of music. This allows you to sub-divide the quarter notes (beats) in a simple, audible way.

There are many ways to count music aloud, including the popular use of numbers, “and,” and vowels. Each measure’s downbeats take the number, upbeats the “and,” and subdivisions in-between take vowels including “e” and “a.” Triplets can just be counted out by sounding out “trip-a-let,” using a number and the word “1-trip-let,” “2-trip-let,” or you could use any triple-syllabic word you fancy “chim-pan-zee” “pine-ap-ple” “mus-ic-notes” (ok, maybe the last one is a bit of a stretch). For dotted notes, you simply divide the beats-per-measure out.  For example, say you have a measure in 4/4 time with a half-note, dotted quarter and eighth note. You’d count “One…Two, Three-and-four, and.”

Counting

Other systems of vocalized subdivision include the “ta ti-ti” method of reading rhythms using syllables, with “ta” quarter notes, “ti-ti” eighth notes, “tiri-tiri” sixteenth notes and onward.

Once you become familiar with whatever vocalized method works best for you, it’ll help to count out any new piece of music prior to attempting to play it.

My Metronome, My Friend

Your metronome can be your best friend when it comes to keeping time while practicing a new-to-you piece. Your metronome will act as your tempo guide, and learning to play with the metronome will pay off when playing away from it as well.

Metronome

Your metronome signifies the pulse of your song by “ticking” or employing a visual motion with your beats per minute (BPM). Although we almost never play exactly aligned with our metronome, its controlled tempo can aid in consistency, you can use it slow down or speed up technical exercises, and sheet music commonly displays a BPM, marking the speed a piece is to be played at.

Metronome marking

A simple Amazon.com search for metronomes brings up hundreds of viable options, ranging from the standard ticking pendulum to digital tuner/metronome combos (with prices from around $15 up to more than $200).  You may also choose to download a metronome app, which we featured in our “Useful Apps for Musicians” post. In addition to the app featured in that post, we like Metronome Plus (iOS only, Free or $1.99 for add-on features) and Tempo (Android, $0.99).

Branch Out

If you only practice counting in 4/4 time, you’ll most likely run into problems when attempting to play in other time signatures. It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with and start practicing a variety of time signatures.

Listen and/or follow along to sheet music for well-known works in somewhat obscure meters like Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” in 5/4 time, “Money” by Pink Floyd in 7/4 time and “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, which uses 3/4 time (unusual for a pop song). Count aloud with the notes on the sheet music, until you begin to notice and feel patterns. And for even more obscure time signatures, like 7/8 time, try dividing each measure into more manageable parts (2 times 2 and 1 times 3), as this sheet music example of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” displays.

Have Fun

One of our more recent obsessions is the music rhythm game “Deemo,” an app that challenges you to tap with various melodies in order to complete the song and pass the next story level. It’s really an unusual combination, yet totally addictive to play.

Deemo game for iOS and Android

Speaking of apps, many of you have requested that we add a tempo-change functionality to our Musicnotes Android and our recently updated iOS Viewer and brand-new Player apps. Keep an eye out in coming months for that and more great updates, and please keep your suggestions coming. Your insights are what inspire us to continuously make our sheet music viewer and playback apps even better!

Do you have additional pointers that you use while counting music? Do you think it’s important to include rhythm study in your music education? Please share your thoughts, insights (and app suggestions!) in the comments section below.

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Should We Let It Be or Let It Go? http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/11/07/let-it-go-and-let-it-be/ http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/11/07/let-it-go-and-let-it-be/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 21:54:36 +0000 http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/?p=8236 Years before millions of Elsas-in-training were belting out “Let It Go,” Paul, George, Ringo and John were imploring us to ease up and “Let It Be.” Both songs have seen cross-genre success, dozens of notable artists have clamored to cover each, and the duo of “Let It” tunes appears on the Musicnotes all-time bestsellers list. We thought it’d be fun to dig a little deeper into each of these momentous anthems. There’s no doubt in our minds that each holds a very special place in musical history, and that they both are as fun and beautiful to play as they are to listen to. Authorship It’s been noted that both
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Years before millions of Elsas-in-training were belting out “Let It Go,” Paul, George, Ringo and John were imploring us to ease up and “Let It Be.” Both songs have seen cross-genre success, dozens of notable artists have clamored to cover each, and the duo of “Let It” tunes appears on the Musicnotes all-time bestsellers list.

We thought it’d be fun to dig a little deeper into each of these momentous anthems. There’s no doubt in our minds that each holds a very special place in musical history, and that they both are as fun and beautiful to play as they are to listen to.

Authorship

It’s been noted that both songs were written in a single day. “Let It Be” was recorded in January of 1969, with author Paul McCartney on lead vocals and piano, John Lennon on bass and backing vocals, George Harrison playing lead guitar and, of course, Ringo Starr on drums.

Let It Go” was written by married team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who started working on the ‘Frozen’ film’s score in November 2011. The full orchestration and Idina Menzel’s vocals for “Let It Go” were recorded mid-2013.

Interestingly, Paul McCartney’s wife Linda sang backup vocals on the single and album recordings of “Let It Be,” her only known collaboration with the group, making both songs husband-and-wife endeavors.

Sales Stats

Released on March 6, 1970, “Let It Be” debuted at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, then the highest single chart debut to-date, and it hit the top spot on April 11th of that year where it sat for two weeks. The subsequent album, titled after the single, also broke sales records with 3.7 million advanced orders. “Let It Be” was a featured track on the 2000 Beatles compilation album, ‘1,’ which has sold an estimated 31 million copies worldwide, placing ‘1’ as the 18th bestselling album of all time. “Let It Be” is a very popular choice amongst Musicnotes musicians as well. The song currently occupies our #25 spot of all-time sheet music bestsellers, with more than 35,000 downloads to-date.

By comparison, “Let It Go” sits at #2 on the Musicnotes all-time bestsellers list… now reaching well beyond 100,000 sheet music downloads less than a year after being published. The ‘Frozen’ soundtrack has topped the Billboard 200 list 13 times and has sold close to 3.5 million copies in the U.S. alone since its  November 25, 2013 release. Foreign language variations of “Let It Go” have topped charts around the world, including a South Korean version hitting #6 on the country’s pop music chart.

Awards

Most of us probably remember “Let It Go” winning the Academy Award for ‘Best Original Song’ earlier this year, but did you know “Let It Be” also has Oscar honors? It took the “Original Song Score” award in 1971 for its use in the Beatles documentary film of the same name. Additionally, “Let It Be” won the “Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture of a Television Special” Grammy for its use in the film, and the song placed at no. 20 on Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Songs’ list.

Next year’s Grammy Award nominees won’t be released until next month, but we’d bet “Let It Go” makes the list. It won’t be the first Grammy for songwriter Robert Lopez, however. Lopez is already a member of the very exclusive EGOT club, having won an Emmy for ‘The Wonder Pets,’ a Grammy for ‘The Book of Mormon‘ cast recording, and three Tony Awards, one for ‘Avenue Q‘ and two for ‘The Book for Mormon.’

Covers

Now, it could be argued that you haven’t really made it until you’ve been covered on the show ‘Glee.’ (We’re kind of kidding.) But, sure enough, both of these songs have been or will be coming to a TV near you. “Let It Be” was sung by the cast during season five’s Beatles tribute, and “Let It Go” is said to be performed by Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) in an episode airing next year.

Amongst the countless covers of both songs, we’ve chosen just a few of our very favorites..
“Let It Be” by Aretha Franklin

“Let It Be” by Ray Charles

“Let It Be” by Jennifer Hudson

“Let It Go” (with Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ from ‘The Four Seasons’) by The Piano Guys

“Let It Go” by Jun Sung Ahn

“Let It Go” by Alex Boyé feat. One Voice Children’s Choir

Both songs have moved us and inspired us to make music, and that’s what it’s all about, right? And, you can find a fantastic selection of arrangements for both songs, covering every instrument and skill level, at Musicnotes.com right now. We’d consider either a timeless addition to your sheet music library.

Shop all “Let It Be” sheet music

Shop all “Let It Go” sheet music

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Music Hits and Politics: It Was ‘All in the Game’ for One VP http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/10/31/music-hits-and-politics/ http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/10/31/music-hits-and-politics/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:00:16 +0000 http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/?p=8210 There’s certainly no lack of discussion about music’s role in politics. From Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3,” whose title “Bonaparte” was rescinded following Napoleon’s emperor declaration, to Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome” and the counterculture movements of the 1960s and 70s, music, as with other forms of art, has not shied from politically charged commentary. However, for next week’s Election Day, we at Musicnotes have been fascinated by the story of a politico’s non-partisan musical ties. Mr. Charles Dawes served as the 30th Vice President of the United States, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and the self-taught pianist wrote a signature tune that just happened to become a cross-generational music
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There’s certainly no lack of discussion about music’s role in politics. From Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3,” whose title “Bonaparte” was rescinded following Napoleon’s emperor declaration, to Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome” and the counterculture movements of the 1960s and 70s, music, as with other forms of art, has not shied from politically charged commentary.

However, for next week’s Election Day, we at Musicnotes have been fascinated by the story of a politico’s non-partisan musical ties. Mr. Charles Dawes served as the 30th Vice President of the United States, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and the self-taught pianist wrote a signature tune that just happened to become a cross-generational music hit.

An influential lawyer and businessman by trade, Charles Gates Dawes was an avid music lover who often would sit at the piano and compose for pleasure. It was at one of these impromptu sessions, in 1911, that Dawes wrote his “Melody,” a charismatic song that he took particular liking to. Later adding a violin solo to the piece, Dawes gifted “Melody” to violinist Mariettan Francis MacMillan, who then sold the work to a publisher. Thus, the newly titled “Melody in A Major” became an early 20th century music hit. But, the song’s story doesn’t come to close to stopping there.

Years after scoring his smashing musical success, Dawes became the inaugural director of the U.S. Bureau of the Budget, where he worked on a plan for Germany’s reparations following World War I. Dawes earned a Nobel Peace Price in 1925 for his plan, and he was selected, alongside presidential nominee Calvin Coolidge, as the vice presidential Republican candidate for the 1924 election. Dawes and Coolidge took office, and “Melody in A Major” became the unofficial anthem of Dawes’s statesmanship, tailing him in parades, opening casual speaking engagements and paying tribute at special events. He even admitted that he had grown tired of the tune prior to his death in 1951. Alas, the song would live on.

In fact, later that very year, “Melody in A Major” became a pop sensation yet again. Lyricist Carl Sigman, who had collaborated with the likes of Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington, adapted “Melody” into “It’s All in the Game,” an anthem of the capricious nature of love. (Some might say the same attributes could be argued about Dawes’s adopted profession of politics, but that’s another discussion.) “It’s All in the Game” was recorded by crooner Tommy Edwards first in 1951, and it became the R&B star’s biggest hit with a 1958 re-recording. Additional releases by Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Van Morrison and Merle Haggard solidified the song’s status as a pop music standard.

The rest, as they say, is music hit history. Thus, Charles Dawes is both the only Vice President and the only Nobel Prize winner with a verifiable music hit.

Click Here to shop all downloadable sheet music arrangements of Charles Dawes’ “Melody in A Major,” and click here to listen to Tommy Edwards’s recording of “It’s All in the Game.”

Do you have a favorite politics and music story? Is there a song you like to play on Election Day? Share in the comments below!

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The Art of Choral Music Programming http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/10/23/choral-music-programming/ http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/10/23/choral-music-programming/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 17:03:23 +0000 http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/?p=8185  Musicnotes is thrilled to announce the addition of renowned choral conductor, composer, arranger, artistic director and vocalist Jonathan Miller to the team.  Jonathan joins us while continuing his work with Chicago a cappella, an esteemed ensemble of professional singers he founded in 1993. In addition to overseeing the Musicnotes choral sheet music offerings, Jonathan graciously agreed to share his insights and expertise on choral arranging, vocal well-being, repertoire suggestions, choral music programming and more with all of us on the Musicnotes Blog. In fact, the latter topic he’s touching on today. The Art of Choral Music Programming: How to Captivate an Audience I am excited to be joining the Musicnotes
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Director of Choral Catalog, Jonathan Miller

Director of Choral Catalog, Jonathan Miller

 Musicnotes is thrilled to announce the addition of renowned choral conductor, composer, arranger, artistic director and vocalist Jonathan Miller to the team.
 Jonathan joins us while continuing his work with Chicago a cappella, an esteemed ensemble of professional singers he founded in 1993.
In addition to overseeing the Musicnotes choral sheet music offerings, Jonathan graciously agreed to share his insights and expertise on choral arranging, vocal well-being, repertoire suggestions, choral music programming and more with all of us on the Musicnotes Blog. In fact, the latter topic he’s touching on today.

The Art of Choral Music Programming: How to Captivate an Audience

I am excited to be joining the Musicnotes team. I think one of the reasons I was tapped for this position is that, for 21 years, I’ve been asking the question, “How can I create choral concerts that are so interesting that I myself would want to show up?” In the professional vocal ensemble that I lead, I can’t just assume that people will pay to hear us. We have to earn their trust (and ticket sales) with something of real quality. We have to offer something compelling enough to have people leave 500 channels on cable and YouTube videos and, instead, go hear a live performance.

A lot of what I do here at Musicnotes involves choosing repertoire—giving you and your ensembles great things to sing. For more than 35 years I have been active on the choral-music scene in Chicago. In 1993 I founded the virtuoso ensemble Chicago a cappella to provide something unique for Chicago audiences. I wanted to create the most compelling, interesting, and beautifully sung choral-music experiences possible.

I’ll be contributing guest blogs here from time to time. With this first column, I thought I’d outline some of the principles that guide me in programming, in the hope that some of them might be useful to you. These apply to all sorts of programs—solo and group recitals, band concerts, and so on.

The most important principle is this:

  • Only program music about which you are personally excited. Everything else follows from that.
    • High school and collegiate a cappella groups do this pretty much all the time. The rest of us can learn from their enthusiasm.

Other principles:

  • Mix it up.
    • How eclectic are your personal tastes? How can you use them?
  • Be committed to your musical choices. This is part of being a leader.
    • If you are personally committed to a piece, share your excitement with your singers. Sharing your own heart is the best way to get others excited about the music you pick.

Some more questions to ask yourself:

  • Who’s your audience?
    • If you’re directing a school choir and know that you’ll get lots of parents in your audience, what music do they like? Can you find arrangements of songs from their youthful years? That might get them on their feet.
  • Do you have a personal bucket list of repertoire?
    • Are you working down that list? A more extreme version: If you only had one concert left to program in your life, what would be on it? (And if you’re not sharing that music with your audiences, why not?)

I also would like to recommend a terrific, brand-new resource: Compelling Choral Concerts, written by my longtime colleague Linda Crabtree Powell and her collaborators. She demystifies the practice of creating great programs and provides many samples of successful concerts.

Watch this space for more tips and encouragement on the wonderful art of choral programming, and find an ever-expanding selection of downloadable choral sheet music at Musicnotes.com. If you’re having trouble finding particular repertoire, please contact us and let us know.

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Melodic Spooks and Spells: Solo Piano Halloween Sheet Music http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/10/14/halloween-sheet-music/ http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/10/14/halloween-sheet-music/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 16:30:55 +0000 http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/?p=8169 The cobwebs are all up, the jack-lanterns are lit and the spooky snacks are all set out for your guests… but still, the atmosphere for your Halloween party isn’t quite right. Yes, you’re missing the mood music – and, of course, there’s no better music than live music. The problem is, with the guests on their way, you don’t have time to figure out what to play … While Musicnotes has a great selection of Halloween Sheet Music for all instruments, in a social setting your best instrument will be the piano – so we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite spooky piano solos, perfect for your
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The cobwebs are all up, the jack-lanterns are lit and the spooky snacks are all set out for your guests… but still, the atmosphere for your Halloween party isn’t quite right. Yes, you’re missing the mood music – and, of course, there’s no better music than live music. The problem is, with the guests on their way, you don’t have time to figure out what to play …

While Musicnotes has a great selection of Halloween Sheet Music for all instruments, in a social setting your best instrument will be the piano – so we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite spooky piano solos, perfect for your Halloween party.

Classic Scary Themes

While not quite at the level of Christmas, the Halloween holiday does have its share of classic themes that have become associated with the season. If you’re looking for something to play that sets a frightening mood, but is also recognizable by your guests, try a few of these:

  • The Great Pumpkin Waltz: From the animated classic, ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,’ this jazzy halloween classic written by Vince Guaraldi is a staple of any social Halloween gathering.
  • Tubular Bells: For decades, The Exorcist has terrified moviegoers – meaning just about anyone who’s ever wanted to be in for a scare has heard this theme – and likely associates it with pure terror and dread.
  • ‘Halloween’ (Main Theme): John Carpenter’s main theme from the movie that started the “slasher film” genre. Simple to play, yet still scary as heck.
  • Funeral March of a Marionette: For those who remember it, this piece by Guonod may be best remembered as the theme from ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ – but even if you never saw the show, you likely know the theme. A little bouncy, but still creepy in a “there’s a clown hiding in your closet” kind of way.
  • Toccata and Fugue in D Minor: The quintessential classical theme for Halloween, this piece by Bach is only advised for those who are up for a serious challenge. But if you can play it, it’s the perfect showcase piece for any Halloween.

Fun Halloween Pieces

If you’d prefer to keep your Halloween party a little more light-hearted, or if it’s a party where you expect more children than adults, you may want to sway your selections toward the fun side of Halloween with these fun Halloween piano solos:

  • This Is Halloween: From Disney’s Halloween family favorite, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ – instantly recognizable by people of all ages (and you might get a few people singing along as well).
  • The Addams Family Theme: Your guests will snap along to this classic, which has graced television, movies and even Broadway!
  • Monster Mash: Costumed or not, guests are guaranteed to get up and dance when you start playing this Halloween bash classic.
  • Witch Doctor: Looking for a fun intermediate-level piece? The Witch Doctor has the cure for your creepy sheet music needs.
  • Purple People Eater: A #1 hit in 1958, the Purple People Eater is the perfect uptempo addition to any fun or frightful festivities.
  • The Simpsons Halloween Special Theme: The Simpsons unique take on their own theme, reimagined for their Halloween specials.
  • Ghost Story: This spooky original by composer Kim Williams is just simply a fun little piece to play – plus it’s easily accessible for pianists of all ages!
  • The Teddy Bears’ Picnic (Halloween Version): Musicnotes’s own “spookified” arrangement of this children’s classic takes the theme you know so well, and gives it a unique Halloween twist.

Spooky Thematic Mood Music
If you’re looking to simply set a spooky mood, we have several selections that can work well for the occasion. While they may not be instantly recognizable, these are perfect for setting the stage for your Halloween fun and frights.

  • Invaders of the Night: A jaunty little piece, easy enough for beginners but still complex enough to have some fun. A great selection for a more “fun” type of Halloween party.
  • Will O’ The Wisp: A bit more classical and airy in its theme, still with mysterious undertones – perfect for a more airy, yet nefarious, feel to your party.
  • Danse Macabre: A classical favorite for Halloween composed by Camille Saint-Saëns, requiring a bit more skill to perform, yet still not too difficult for most pianists. An absolute must-have for any gothic-themed party.
  • The Fog: This often-overlooked theme from John Carpenter’s (of ‘Halloween’ fame) 1979 movie of the same name may not be instantly recognizable, but its ominous tone is perfectly suited to just about anyone looking to set a scary mood (without being too obvious and cliche).
  • In the House – In a Heartbeat: Another ominous sounding soundtrack piece, this time from the Danny Boyle’s zombie classic ’28 Days Later’ is also often-overlooked, but remains one of our favorite for setting the mood on a dark and stormy night.
  • Helen’s Theme: This main theme from the movie ‘The Candyman’ is beautiful, yet still somehow frightening. But what else would you expect from a horror movie theme composed by Philip Glass?

Of course there are many, many more great themes for Halloween piano sheet music – but we hope our guide of some of our favorites helps you out. Is there any particular piece you love to play each Halloween?  If so, tell us in the comments – we’d love to hear what music you use to set a spooky mood.

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Photo via creative commons: https://flic.kr/p/my4iKg

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