Classical Composers & the Saxophone?

July 10, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Posted in Musical Instruments | 3 Comments
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Have you ever wondered what classical musicians would have thought of modern sounds and instruments? Although the saxophone has been around for over a century, it came after the time of many of the “masters” of classical music such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Saxophones are not generally a part of orchestras. Nor may they be found in most symphonies. The only time I’ve seen them being used with a full orchestra are when the orchestra is performing a “pop” piece of music.

Clarinetists, flautists, and other woodwind players frequently double on the saxophone. I know that’s how I started to play the instrument. Although I dearly love playing classical flute, let’s face it, there are not jobs begging for the style except for orchestras, weddings, and churches. So, in trying to make a living, it was suggested to me to double on sax. After I stopped laughing, I said I’d give it a try. It was a very different concept for me at first, but I have grown to love the instrument immensely!! Sax players are definitely more in demand for rock and jazz music.

I have found that classical and jazz musicians have a very different way of thinking of things ~ not just as far as music, but in many other aspects in thought and behavior. Although I practiced until I could play the right notes at the right time, I felt very awkward with a saxophone in my hands. I suppose I stuck out like a sore thumb trying to play jazz sax like a classical flautist! My comrades have taught me to “chill out a little” and to feel more free to experiment with my playing. That’s a good thing I suppose, but now when playing my classical gigs I have gotten into trouble improvising with a few blue notes in my classic solos. (I have to let you know that not all orchestra conductors have quite the same sense of humor as members in a band!)

Saxophone is one of the instruments that I teach in my music school. Since I have been working on creating resources for all my students to learn more about instruments, to hear a variety of examples, to find free and economical sheet music, and to join in instrument communities of musicians, my latest website is dedicated to my energetic saxophone students, and written to share with anyone who has an interest in the instrument. If you would like to read it, you may check it out at Saxophones are Sensational!

How about some of Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca” for Saxophone Quartet?

What do you think Mozart would have thought of the instrument? Or any other of the most famous composers? I have often wondered how their music may have been different if they had access to electric guitars, synthesizers, … and saxophones. Do you think they would have liked them and incorporated them into their music, or would they have gone off running and screaming?

**July 23, 2010 ** Addition **
A related article about the saxophone may be found at “Sweet Sounds of a Saxophone”. You will also find pictures and links to some saxophone designed gifts and clothing that I designed at my Cafe Press Shop, Joyful Inspiration Gallery!

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Strung on Strings!

April 29, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Music Education, Musical Instruments | 2 Comments
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Quick! How many string instruments can you name in 30 seconds?

(tick … tock … tick … tock … insert Jeopardy theme song here … tick … tock)

How did you do? Find a list of string instruments at the end of this blog! How about this question? If you tied together one set of strings from every type of string instrument, how many times would it fit around the Earth? … Well, now how should I know that! Many I suppose!

Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik ~ a beautiful classic piece for strings!

String instruments are fascinating! They are at the center of many styles of music from many cultures and times in history! Ancient civilizations such as Greece, Rome, Egypt, China, and India had various forms of string instruments. Evidence was preserved in numerous pieces of artwork in drawings and sculptures.

Isn’t the koto pretty sounding?

The string family may be used to play elegant music from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic style periods of music with orchestral strings. They may also be found in folk music via dulcimers, fiddles, and banjos. World music has some thrilling choices of instruments including the koto and sitar. And, of course, even good old rock ‘n’ roll masters the strings in bass, electric, and acoustic guitars!

How about some bluegrass fiddling!

Find out TONS of information about string instruments at my String Family Unit webpage ~ their construction, history, styles, orchestral, non-orchestral, string websites, videos, learning materials, experiments, activities, and fun games!

Building string instruments takes much knowledge, skill, and patience!

Some of the instruments in the string family: violin, viola, cello, string bass, harp, lyre, lute, sitar, koto, zither, autoharp, dulcimer, fiddle, ukulele, guitar, banjo, mandolin, … plus many more folk and world string instruments!! I hope you enjoyed listening to a variety of strings!

This string ensemble is called Stringfever!
Is it classical music? Modern music? Or, well, you decide!

The Brass Family of Instruments

March 29, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Posted in Music Education, Musical Instruments | Leave a comment
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Tuba

In the history of musical instruments, I can imagine how some instruments were created naturally.

Percussion ~ Well, that is an easy one. Just as the musical group Stomp can hear percussive music in everything (including the kitchen sink), one can hear tempo and patterns in simple things such as someone walking with a steady beat, a door closing, branches clicking together, or rain pattering on the ground.

Woodwinds ~ The wind sure makes plenty of interesting sounds and pitches as it flows through and around objects. Whistling through the reeds of different sizes and thicknesses.

Strings ~ Know this would take more thought at first. What do you suppose started string instruments? A bundle which someone tied up with cords taunt at various levels perhaps?

Brass ~ In this instrumental family, I have a harder time thinking of someone creating these through natural circumstances. Brass instruments had to come about in a much later historical time period than the other instruments simply because they couldn’t come about until metal technology was advanced enough. Think of the shaping, turning, and designing that went into those first models. Not to mention the know how to create valves and slides that could create tonal accuracy!

What a variety of sounds brass instruments can create ~ powerful majestic sounds to welcome royalty; strong, loud bugles to lead armies into battle; hunting horns to call the animals and hunting parties together; and so many more! It amazes me how brass instruments may play classical, chamber, jazz, blues, rock, and so many other styles of music proficiently. Bold and brassy like a tuba or flowing and sweet like a French Horn ~ many uses and styles to play!

Trumpet had been one of my first choices of an instrument to play when I was young. It didn’t work out for various reasons and so woodwinds quickly became my voice, but I have always loved the excitement that the instruments bring. When I did learn to play the trumpet in college, I was so excited to begin … that was until I realized that it was a good thing I was a flautist instead! My poor teacher – he tried to be patient, but I’m sure he had to stifle a few giggles at the “unique” sounds I was making. Anyway, I think it would be best if I just stick to my woodwinds, but I still love the sound of brass instruments! Enjoy listening to some sample of them!

If you would like to read more about brass instruments, listen to large variety of samples from the family, or find an entire unit on teaching about brass instruments for teachers and parents, please visit my Brass Family Lapbook Unit from the Orchestra Series of webpages I have created for students, teachers, homeschoolers, and anyone who wants to find out more about these cool instruments!

The Woodwind Family!

March 15, 2010 at 7:08 am | Posted in Music Education, Musical Instruments | Leave a comment
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Over the course of history, uncountable musical instruments have been created out of natural and man-made materials. They’ve changed and improved over the years, but there still seems to be the same classifying groups or families of instruments . The main groups are strings, brass, percussion, and woodwind. Some people also classify all ‘keyboard’ instruments together into a keyboard family, electronic instruments as a family, folk or world instruments as a family, and so on.

Clarinet and Flute on Sheet Music with Rose

Clarinet and Flute on Sheet Music with Rose
del Amo, Tomas
Buy at AllPosters.com

In the cultures of almost every country in the world, wood or reed instruments were one of the first to be used. Inspired by nature, no doubt, wind passing through various sizes of wood made a pleasing sound. Somewhere along the line, someone added holes to help create different pitches. If you would like to learn more about the history and development of this wonderful family of instruments, or simply listen to some of their delightful sounds, you will enjoy this page I created about The Woodwind Family!


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