October 2010

Finding Time To Practice

October 28, 2010 11:53

 It is not always easy to fit in very much violin practice in a day, especially when you lead a busy life juggling work, school, the kids or anything else going on. For me, it is school. I'm in year 11 of high school which is the last year of my GCSE's. My work load, to be truthful, can be massive, and it seems that as soon as I cross one homework piece off my list, another 3 creep their way onto it. It is a constant growing mountain of Music, Science, Maths, English, French, Welsh, Religious Education, History and all the rest! 

So, gradually, I have come up with ways of making sure I can fit in my daily practice. Instead of rushing out of the door on some mornings to get to school, I get up half an hour earlier and do maybe 10 or 20 minutes of practice just to warm up. Then, I might take my violin to school with me and do half an hour at lunch time. After school on most days I do a small amount of practice before starting on any homework I have. Then, after doing some homework, I can get back to doing some violin. Usually this is enough to help me relax and get myself back into focus for any more work I have to do. 

It is about striking the right balance between work and play. Play to me is violin - it is something I enjoy doing, even though technically I do a lot of work on it. It relaxes me and I am then able to get back into focus for the rest of the day. Work is something I would rather not do at all, but it has to be done. 

So if you struggle to fit in practice, don't worry. There is more time on your hands than you may think. 10 minutes of violin practice every couple of hours might not seem much, but it adds up and can go a long way, especially when you're stressed. 

So do that little bit more and get up slightly earlier, try and fit in a bit at break and lunch times, do bits in the evening but don't feel like you just need to slave over work at your desk or even slave in front of the music stand. Take it in your stride and it will come to you. 

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Mix it up - Creating Fusion Music!

October 26, 2010 16:28

 It always strikes me that in modern society where a lot of teenagers and young adults follow the trend of what I call 'Overplayed rubbish' on the radio or TV in their daily music 'intake', violins, flutes, trumpets and many orchestral instruments are pushed to one side and replaced by electric guitars, drum kits and synthesisers. These things are the typical thing to listen to now and whenever I mention liking Mozart, Brahms or Tchaikovsky rather than Cheryl Cole, Dizzy Rascal or Ke$ha, I get laughed at. Unless I am talking to someone with those same preferences, I cannot be 'compatible' with anybody else unless I talk about their preferred styles of music. 

So, a few months ago, I started to experiment with different styles on all of my instruments and when I sing. Well, in fact, I'm telling a lie there - I'm not experimenting with complete different styles, I am more like combining styles to create fusion music. 

It was after I came across Adam DeGraff and Russell Fallstad's music through a youtube clip and facebook group that I became inspired enough to really start delving into new fusions. 

At first I started off by coming up with my own version of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy  to play on my violin to my friends in school. Usually if I started picking up my violin and playing, they would all yawn and lose interest, but this time they sat and watched and actually started listening and smiling. My first part of the experiment seemed to work - I had caught the interest of people who would usually not give a second glance and would say 'oh yeah, it's just the violin...' 

After that day, I was asked to do a recording in a studio which I wrote about here. The piece was essentially rap with a hip-hop sort of beat in the background. But as soon as the violin was overlayed, the two friends I did this with beamed with happiness as the piece had been given a whole new twist and dimension. 

This was then posted up on facebook for all to hear but I didn't realise the actual effects of this experience until I returned to school the following week. A boy who has previously picked on me for various reasons walked past me in the corridor, stopped and told me that the recording I had participated in was awesome. He has since asked me many times when I am going to be doing more recordings! 

It doesn't have to be that we have to change our style of music completely on the violin, but adapt it to different situations. Maybe combining Pachelbel's Cannon with Owl City's Fireflies would create a new stir amongst those in the young community! A lot of people my age automatically reach the conclusion that 'Classical music is boring,' and even though the people who play or enjoy classical music can really appreciate it, those other people cannot. 

Another friend of mine caught me singing John Rutter's For the Beauty of the Earth  not so long back and made a comment about singing 'that sort of music'. I replied with 'It is not that sort of music that is boring, it is the fact you can't appreciate it for what it is.' I took my iPod out of my bag and played her some short clips of Gabriel Faure's Requiem, to which she tuned her nose up at. So, I switched the music to Salva Me by Libera, which is all choral music in the same way with one difference - a beat and a few techno glam stuff. It made all the difference. 

I think music is meant to be kept alive in every way possible. There are going to be those people who do not enjoy classical, just as there are those who do not enjoy pop or rap. But all the same, it is music to be appreciated, isn't it? I also believe that instruments should not be limited to one area of music. Why not experiment a bit and jazz things up a bit? You never know where it will lead you!

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Kids Know Things Too!

October 14, 2010 09:23

 It is unfortunate to say that today I came across a music teacher's fundamental floor - thinking herself as way above the students. I was in school and like usual, on a Thursday, I have a music class for which I study at GCSE standard. There are just 15 in the class, which means it is a nice small group to be part of, and the two teachers who usually teach us manage to get around to everyone throughout the lesson.

But the past month or so, one of our teachers, Mrs Roberts, has been off due to illness, and is not likely to be back for quite some time. Our other teacher, Mr Jones, who usually does practical lessons with us has been teaching us on the Thursday as well as the Tuesday instead. But today, we had a supply teacher. 

Firstly, it took her a whole 40 minutes (out of an hour lesson) to get people settled and to get started on an exercise. 

"Today," she said in her very Welsh accent, "We will be doing a listening exercise. Open your books to page 30 and then we will begin." So, we did just that and she put the CD into the player and one of my favourite pieces - the 'Schindler's List Theme' tune came up, which I just so happen to enjoy playing on the violin myself. Straight away I was pleased and started ticking the boxes, saying it was in a Minor Key, that a violin plays the main melody, that a symphony orchestra accompanies etc. 

When it came to the end of the extract, she asked everyone if there were any points of interest they would like to point out. I put my hand up and got picked, and I explained how I had noticed that although the piece is minor, there was a lovely major chord from the orchestra at the end of the introduction, before the violin solo came in. 

And this, my friends, is what my ranting blog is about today. I then got a lecture from the supply teacher accusing me of being on my high-horse and thinking I know everything about music. There are only 4 in the class who can actually read music anyway, and me being one of them, knew exactly what to write down and say. But this teacher just ranted at me and my 3 other friends for knowing what we were doing. 

"The point of you being here is to help others who can't do what you can," she spat. 

This is where I felt saddened - so many teachers fall into the trap of putting down pupils who can work rather than building them up and helping them. The point of me being in that lesson was not to help those who cannot do the work as easily, but for me to progress and hopefully pass my GCSE with a good grade. I've come across it too many times. Several teachers I have encountered have completely demoralised those who are good at the subject, not helping the pupils. 

Pupils should be brought up and made to feel more confident in themselves. It just makes me realise why so many people (at least around this area), give up playing an instrument after just a term. Teachers out there, bring your pupils up, please! Everything would be so much easier!

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A Day in a Recording Studio - The Violin has its Place in 'Modern' Music!

October 3, 2010 14:09

 Today I spent 6 hours of my time in a recording studio with two of my good friends from school. I took my violin along to help one of them with their GCSE composition recordings, which is in a hip-hop/rap type style. I've never done recording in a studio before! I've done CD, radio and TV recordings but this was a totally new experience!

It was strange at first, because my violin had to be all mic-ed up, and I had to wear headphones which made the sound seem quite compressed in a way, but I soon got used to it. We had several practice run-throughs just trying to find a nice balance between all the sounds. I literally had to make up a violin part to go with the piece there and then, and it ended up all right thankfully! 

It took quite a few goes to practice, then more goes to record, and more to edit, and yet MORE to burn onto a disk and finalise, but it was worth the tedious effort! But I do have to say it took an awful lot of brain power as I was shattered by the end of it all! We were all really pleased with the end result and the violin definitely added a new dimension to the 'modern' style of music!! It seemed by the end of it that the violin became the star of the piece!!!

I'll be uploading the first version of the track onto youtube soon, so you can all have a listen! 

It was a very fun day today and I recommend having a go if you ever get the chance!

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