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!


No Hidin’ from Haydn!

March 31, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Posted in Classical Composers | Leave a comment
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Ha – ha – ha – Haydn!! I love classical music of many kinds, but I know many people who think it’s old fashioned, dry, and boring. Perhaps they have not heard the music of Franz Joesph Haydn or learned about the stories behind the music. Haydn’s unique sense of humor may be heard in delicate, subtle ways throughout his music. At the least, he certainly knew how to bring a point across to people!

Happy 278th Birthday Mr. Haydn! (March 31, 1732)

For example, what would you do if your Princely employer had you composing dozens of symphonies and chamber music for the estate’s private orchestra (which, of course, you were expected to train, rehearse, and manage); entertaining the Prince’s guests with operas (again, a multi-task job – composing, rehearsing performers, training singers, staging, directing, and so forth); composing and leading all the music for mass; organizing and caring for the instruments and music library; and performing on numerous instruments at the Prince’s command? What if this same employer, the Prince of Esterhazy, expected perfection at a moment’s notice 24 /7 without any days off? What if the musicians under your management complained to you about having no vacation? How would you approach the boss to allow all the musicians to take a needed rest?

Wanting to please his orchestra but not upset the Prince, Haydn came up with a clever way to gently hint and persuade his employer. Haydn simply did what he did best ~ compose music! But this piece was a little different. He easily created three movements common to symphonic form, but, instead of using a fast movement, slow movement, and ending with another fast movement as expected, Haydn decided that the orchestra should demonstrate how tired they were near the end by slowing down for the Prince’s audience. As the piece progressed, a few musicians would blow out their candle, take their music and instrument, and depart from the stage as written in the music. A few minutes later another group of musicians would do the same until the end where only Herr Haydn was left. The Prince took the hint and allowed them to take leave and join their families. This 45th Symphony, better known as the “Farewell Symphony” or “Candle Symphony”, has become one of Haydn’s most famous displays of musical humor!

Symphony #45 ~ The “Farewell Symphony” ~ 3rd and 4th Movements

Another extremely popular piece by Haydn is his Symphony #94 or “Surprise Symphony”. Surprise? What’s the surprise? As you know, many classical pieces are fairly long (especially in comparison to the couple minute songs we are used to on the radio)! Apparently some members of his audiences would become relaxed during the performance, so relaxed, in fact, that listeners would nod off for a wee nap in the middle! (You wouldn’t fall asleep sitting still during a 20 minute slow movement, would you?) Wanting his audiences not to miss a note of his music, Haydn decided to help them stay more alert by issuing a few surprises along the way. Imagine Haydn’s distinguished guests in their best gowns and suits; their newly powdered wigs placed just right upon their heads as they sit to enjoy an afternoon of beautiful music. The string instruments begin the main motif of the piece ever so gently and quietly. On it continues as other instruments join them softly. Just as the guests feel their eyelids starting to droop at the pretty pianissimo (very soft), ha – ha – ha – Haydn issues the first surprise with a fortissimo (very loud) chord by the entire orchestra! I can just imagine the jumps and surprised looks on the faces of the listeners as they woke up abruptly! Haydn and the orchestra stayed cool as a cucumber as they continued at pianissimo as if nothing unusual had happened. Softly and sweetly the melody flowed until the audience became relaxed again when Haydn issued the second surprise!! LOL! I would think that his audiences paid much better attention at subsequent performances!

Symphony #94 ~ The “Surprise Symphony” ~ 2nd Movement

It must have been quite a bit of fun to play in Haydn’s orchestra! I’m not sure I could have kept a straight face for very long!

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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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!

“Spring” has arrived with Antonio Vivaldi!

March 27, 2010 at 5:30 am | Posted in Classical Composers, Music Education | 1 Comment
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The spring season has just begun here in the United States! After an extra snowy winter, the warm sun and fresh air has felt wonderful the past few days! The birds have started to sing their lovely chirping songs, tiny buds are appearing on the trees, spring flowers are peeking up from the ground, and foliage is gradually turning from brown to green.

Public Domain Photo Thanks to Wikipedia

Uhhm, that’s nice. What does that have to do with music? The sounds of music may be heard everywhere for those who listen carefully! As a particularly happy group of birds woke me up one morning last week, I could not help from smiling. 😀 Their joy was contagious ~ I just had to start whistling their tunes back to them. Later, my daughter and I decided to take a walk on a nearby trail. As it runs alongside a small river, we could hear the unusually high water from the melted snow gently rolling along the shore and playfully splashing on the rocks. The next day we had our first taste of a spring thunderstorm rumbling through, leaving its gentle pitter-patter of rain. What lovely sounds were all around us!

Public Domain Photo Thanks to Wikipedia

I’m obviously not the only person who ever heard musical sounds in nature. There have been plenty of musicians through history who have woven these beautiful sounds into their compositions. One such composer was Antonio Vivaldi from Italy in the eighteenth century. He wrote over 700 pieces of music of all sorts during his lifetime, but the ones that have become favorites have been from his collection of concertos entitled, The Four Seasons. Vivaldi tried to incorporate the sounds of nature around him during each of the seasons of the year. If you listen carefully you may hear the birds singing, the brooks bubbling, or thunder talking with the rain among other sounds of nature! Enjoy this recording of Itzhak Perlman & the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra play the incredible concerto, “La Primavera” or “Spring”. Let your imagination go free! Can you hear the sounds of spring in the music?

If you would like to read more about Antonio Vivaldi and his music, please visit my webpage about him, Antonio Vivaldi ~ Baroque Composer. You will read about his life from a summary list and biography, listen to numerous pieces that he composed, find free Vivaldi sheet music to you to play, locate other webpages about him, learn more about the composer with several materials and resources for both children and adults, and take an online quiz to test your knowledge of this brilliant man! Please leave a message here or there for me, and let me know what you think. My goal is to make music education thorough and fun, so, I highly appreciate your feedback as to how I may serve the music and education communities better. Thanks for visiting! 😀

Vivaldi's Signature Thanks to Wikipedia

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

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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