Posts Tagged ‘Sunderland Music Festival’

At the Sunderland Music Festival

Posted by Brian on 25th February 2012 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Journal, Performing

Last Tuesday, I had the privilege of playing at the Sunderland Lions’ Music Festival along with four of my guitar students. The tune that I chose to play this year was “Dune” by Bob Evans.

Last spring, on May 1st, I got to see Bob Evans play a concert at The Earl Pub in Stouffville. At the concert, he mentioned that there was a transcription of his song “Dune” available for free on his website. On May 2nd, I started to work on the tune. It took me three months to learn the tune, and another three months before I was able to try it out at an open mic. At long last, in approximately the same amount of time that it takes to make a baby, it was ready to be presented “for real” at the festival.

Below, is the video of me playing “Dune” in Sunderland. And while it is not my best performance of the tune, I’m pretty pleased with the results. At one point, I squeezed the neck too hard and produced an awful noise that was supposed to be a chord, and later on I had a minor brain cramp where I momentarily forgot where I was going, but overall, I was happy with the result. (And the adjudicator had nice things to say too!)

So, (with apologies for the quality of the audio and video) here I am playing “Dune” at the 2012 Sunderland Music Festival:

Emulation

Posted by Brian on 21st February 2012 in General Music, Musicianship, Practice, Technique

This past week, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to an adjudicator critiquing the performances of young piano players, including my own children. There has been lots of great advice that could apply equally to musicians of all ages and abilities. But one suggestion got me thinking.

As the adjudicator was dissecting performances of some baroque-era pieces, she talked about how piano pieces from that era were, in fact, written for the harpsichord – a keyboard instrument that resembles a small piano, but which sounds much brighter and doesn’t have the volume or sustain of a piano. She then went on to say that when playing such pieces, students should be trying, as much as possible, to emulate, or mimic, the sound and feel of the harpsichord in their piano playing. She then went on to talk about the importance of trying to emulate other instruments too.

This got me thinking about something that I had heard years ago – and I wish my memory was better, but I do remember hearing about a famous guitarist, whose name completely escapes me, who developed his style by trying to emulate the saxophone music of… Charlie Parker… maybe???

Anyways, the point that I am getting to is that, if we really want to hone our expressive chops, we guitarists should not only be trying to emulate other guitarists that we like, we should also be trying to emulate great players of other instruments too.

Adjudication

Posted by Brian on 13th February 2012 in Beginners, Musicianship, Performing

A regular theme of mine since starting this blog has been the importance of getting out and performing for people. Around the time I started this blog I committed to practicing what I preach and I’ve been a regular attendee at one local open mic and have put in a couple of appearances at a couple of others. Long time readers will know that I also entered the Sunderland Music Festival a year ago:

“The Sunderland Lions Music Festival is intended to promote higher standards of musical awareness and achievement in our community by providing young musicians with opportunities for public performance and professional assessment.” — Mission Statement

While “young musician” doesn’t quite describe me in terms of chronological age, it does describe me in terms of the potential for growth in my musicianship. And the experience of entering the festival last year was a great one. The festival is “adjudicated“. This means that a professional musician actively listens to your playing and critiques it. This is a very different experience from participating in an open mic, or singing around the campfire, or pretty much any other performance experience available to amateur performers. Most people after hearing you play will describe it in terms that are some variation on “good” or “bad”. An adjudicator will comment on your tempo, phrasing, dynamics, and other aspects of your playing. These are the things that make your playing “good” or “bad”, but most people are not musically literate enough (or energetic enough) to break down the elements of your playing and categorize the things that you do well – or not-so-well.

Last year the adjudicator praised my phrasing, but pointed out a lack of dynamics in my playing. So now, I pay more attention to my dynamics. I’ve discovered, both by playing and listening, that dynamics can really grab the attention of your audience and can really help to convey the emotion of a tune. I also found it very interesting listening to the critiques of other musicians, particularly those who played other instruments.

This year, I’ve signed up again and I’ve persuaded a number of my students to sign up as well. I’m really looking forward to hearing what the adjudicator will say about my playing this year. I’m also curious as to what he will say about my students’ playing. As a teacher I imagine that the experience of having someone analyzing my students’ playing will be very educational as well.

If you are interested in checking out an adjudicated performance, the Open Guitar Class of the Sunderland Music Festival will take place at 7 pm on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at the Sunderland United Church, 10 Church St., Sunderland.