100 Years of Jazz: Microphone Singers

Microphone Singers

by Louise Balkwill

Until the 1920′, singing was a very different art.

There were no microphones suitable for singing, so if you wanted to be a singer you had to be able to project your voice in a way that made it audible over a whole band.

This was not a problem for Opera singers, but as jazz music presented an opportunity for young people to establish their own music and culture, the operatic style of singing that had been popular before was no longer suitable.

Bessie Smith is a classic example of a jazz singer who had established herself in an age before vocal microphones.

Listen to her brash, wailing tone, which she kept well into the “microphone singer” age.

Between 1921 and 1923, Kellogg, RCA and Western Electric (three competitive American businesses) each developed carbon and condenser microphones to improve radio broadcasting.

By 1925, these had been introduced into recording studios and stage shows, which marked the end of an era of acoustic recording.

The invention of these microphones made way for a new style of singing, known as “microphone singing”.

Microphone singers performed and record their music using this new technology, and it stuck…

…you will struggle to find a pop singer in the modern day who would perform without amplification!

The new technology opened up a whole new world of opportunities for singers – they could perform with subtleties that would have gone completely amiss without amplification, and this has changed the way that singers approach technique and performance ever since.

They were now able to perform with larger ensembles, and were welcomed by the great instrumentalists to join them in their bands, thus beginning the reign of the jazz singer.

Listen to Billie Holiday, only two years before her tragic death, gently and emotively singing her blues “Fine and Mellow” with an ensemble of some of the world’s most renowned jazz musicians;

In the age before microphones, such a tender performance would have not been possible.

This is not to say that Billie didn’t have a powerful voice (she certainly did!), but the freedom to perform sensitively with such a large ensemble was a new luxury that has since become an expectation for great singers ever since.

Don’t miss the next 100 Years of Jazz Blog, in which we will be looking at the great Big Bands of the Golden Era of Swing!

Inspired?

Why not try your hand at jazz singing with one of our creative and inspirational tutors with our 4 lessons for £99 (London) and 4 lessons for £79 (Manchester) offer?

Send an email to louise@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk to enquire

What we offer at BDMA

by Becky

We want to take this opportunity to let you know what we offer alongside your practical music lessons, because actually, it’s quite a lot!

So, what else does BDMA offer?

Scholarship Audition Prep

We know a lot of our students want to use music to achieve scholarships when starting at new schools. We are happy to help with this preparation with extra lessons to cover the requirements for the audition and to go through good audition technique.

Aural and Musical Knowledge

When preparing for an exam, there are so many different aspects that make up the whole thing. It’s not just about knowing the pieces but the aural and musical knowledge that needs learning too. We offer extra lessons to cover these areas in more detail.

Theory

Similarly, understanding theory is really important, not just to progress to higher exams (you need to pass Grade 5 theory to move to a Grade 6 practical exam) but to have a broader musical knowledge. We have many tutors that are happy to teach your child theory alongside their practical lessons. Especially when moving into higher grades, we offer tuition to prepare for the Grade 5 theory exam.

GCSE/A Level Support Lessons

Sometimes moving up to GCSE or A Level music can feel like quite a big step. Suddenly students have to start studying music in more detail, begin composing and performing more difficult pieces. We can provide extra lessons that can support the work done in schools so students feel more confident with their progression.

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These lessons are at the standard rates for London and Manchester. All of the above lessons can be bought as one off lessons or in blocks of 5 lessons, invoiced separately to your regular standing order. We are also happy to teach in small groups, so you can team up with a friend!

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Band Coaching 

This is now offered in both London AND Manchester. All the details for this are on the band coaching section of our website. Click here for more details.

Songwriting Courses (Manchester only)

We have just launched a brand new Songwriting course in Manchester – write a song in just four lessons with one of our rock star tutors! We are running this as an offer of 4 lessons for £79. Contact Jess for more info: 07840 243 478

Helping your child with their practice

by Becky

Practice can be daunting for all of us…

…even us professionals! 

We are very aware that some children just don’t know where to start with their practice. It can be difficult even just making a move to set up your instrument never mind starting the practice session.

So we want to suggest helping your child by setting up for them.

My mum used to set up my cello for me; she would unpack the cello, get the chair in place, tighten the bow, set up the music stand, open the music books and get the cello stop positioned, and it really helped spur me on to start practising.

I know at first glance this might seem a bit indulgent, but I was only six at the time and what would take my mum 2 minutes to do would have taken me 5 – 10 mins of faffing and made practice time more of a drag. Once you’re more grown up, you learn how to do these things fast but we can help our little ones by expediting this process for them.

It might mean opening the piano lid for your child and turning to the music they’re working on. Or getting them a glass of water and clearing space in the room they play in.

Giving your child a friendly nudge in the right direction can really help eliminate some of the daunting feelings they might have when starting to practise.

It’s also helpful to remind your child how to structure their practice. It might seem really obvious to us but your child might need reminding.

  • Start with scales/exercises/warm-ups
  • Work on small sections within pieces, maybe just a bar or two
  • Work on linking sections
  • Move on to play the whole piece 

If you’re not sure your child is making the most of their practice sessions then have a chat with their tutor and see if they have any suggestions on what they should focus on.

Happy practising! 

Becky

Sing at the Royal Opera House

Do you love to sing?

Have you always wanted to sing as part of a big opera chorus?

Well here is your chance!

From October to December, the Royal Opera House have five opportunities for you to sing as part of an opera chorus.

The performances take place around the Royal Opera House itself (swanky!) and are open to all ages and abilities. Throughout the concerts, you will be performing some of the world’s biggest tunes in the home of one of the most famous opera companies in the world.

Tickets are £10 for each event and can be booked online here.

So get your friends and family together, warm up those vocal chords and have a good ol’ sing song!

The Rig, The Planets and Professor Brian Cox!

by Becky

Possibly one of the stranger blog titles we’ve had, but it will all make sense we assure you!

A little bit of Rig news for you…

As many of you know, I have been a part of The Rig for 6 years now and from September 2018 I’m going to be taking a step back from co-running The Rig and leaving it in Amy’s very capable and dexterous hands.

It turns out that despite me mainlining caffeine like its going out of fashion, there are in fact, only a finite number of hours in the day and definitely not enough to do all the madcap projects that I dream up!

Amy and I met 18 years ago at Trinity College of Music in London and I can honestly say every single one of those years knowing and working alongside her have been entertaining, and a fun-filled adventure! Amy is an incredibly hard-working and creative artist and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Whilst I’m sad to be taking a step back from the Rig, I will continue to be its biggest fan and supporter and I couldn’t wish to be leaving it in a safer pair of hands.

I will be spending more of my time with you lovely lot in the academy and my refugee and friends choir (Citizens of the World Choir) and I’m sure I’ll bump into The Riggers out there in a field with a teapot and spoons in the future!

The pictures are from the recent Chilled in a Field Festival which was our last gig together, all the more poignant as Chilled was where we very first started The Rig, six summers ago, awww, what a blast it’s been!!! Go Team Rig.

Now you’re thinking – what on earth is that title for?

Well, it is 100 years since Gustav Holst wrote the infamous Planets, and quite fittingly, The Rig have done a video about Mars from the Planets…. This was from one of our BBC Ten Pieces projects last year…

With the centenary celebration coming up on 29th September, there are lots of events happening to mark the occasion. We wanted to draw your attention to a particularly interesting one…

Since Holst wrote the Planets, we have learnt much more about our solar system. The Planets he based his music on have been understood much more and explored in greater detail, so now the music is not as representative as he once thought.

Cue Professor Brian Cox!

With the help of Brian Cox, the Planets will be reworked during an event at the Barbican on 29th September, so the music represents the Planets as we know them today.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/classical-music/planets-professor-brian-cox-give-holsts-masterpiece-scientific/ 

Sounds like a really interesting way of marking this iconic piece of music.

There are only a few tickets left, get yours here. 

Becky xxx

and the rest of the BDMA team

100 Years of Jazz: The Prohibition

The Prohibition

 by Louise Balkwill

As what we have come to know as “Traditional Jazz” grew in popularity and spread from New Orleans across the whole of America, new inventions and political changes also began to shape the music.

The Prohibition in the United States of America (a constitutional ban on all alcohol in America between 1920 and 1933) kick-started the “Jazz Age” and made way for a new secret night life culture, where people would find any way they could to smuggle, brew or distil their own alcoholic drinks.

Hoagy Carmichael, one of the great 20th century composers, said that the prohibition..

“came with a bang of bad booze, flappers with bare legs, jangled morals and wild weekends.”

According to novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, during prohibition…

“The parties were bigger…the pace was faster…and the morals were looser.”

Jazz music became the popular music of the day among the young and ‘hip’ crowds, many of whom were at the forefront of the rebellion.

They would meet in secret clubs, “speakeasies”, to eat, drink and dance all night long to the ever-growing variety of live jazz music that had become an important part of the youth culture of the day.

Because jazz music became associated with seedy illicit bars, alcohol culture and crime, and because racism was still so rife, the white middle class saw jazz as a dark, rebellious and uncouth genre.

This didn’t stop the musicians of the 1920’s!

They continued to compose and play music that has since become timeless, shaping all popular music to follow it.

Check out this 1927 recording of “Potato Head Blues” by the great Louis Armstrong’s “Hot Fives and Sevens”

Inspired?

Why not try your hand at jazz music with one of our creative and inspirational tutors with our 4 lessons for £99 (London) or 4 lessons for £79 (Manchester) offer?

Send an email to louise@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk to enquire

Noteworthy People: Claude Debussy

by Jess

The year 2018 marks 100 years since the death of one of the most prominent composers of Impressionist music – Claude Debussy.

A French composer, Debussy was in fact the first Impressionist composer, the musical style running alongside the art form Impressionism.

The art form started as the practice of painting out of doors and spontaneously ‘on the spot’, many of the paintings being of landscapes and scenes of the everyday. The paintings captured the “moments” of light and movement due to being painted there and then, rather than in a studio.

Claude Monet was one of the founders of this movement…

Looking at the art style and listening to the music simultaneously gives a much better understanding of the sort of music Debussy was writing.

Impressionist music is centred around creating atmosphere and exploring the emotions and moods created from a subject. Many of Debussy’s most famous works do exactly this, Clair de Lune being a perfect example, something that Becky has been learning herself recently for the BDMA concerts!

Another famous work for Debussy, one that kick started his career, is Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune – an orchestral work with a hauntingly beautiful (and infamous!) flute solo to open. Listen out for the harp in this piece, and the ebb and flow of tempo and dynamics, perfect for the tranquil mood. Personally though, it’s the clarinet solo in the middle of this piece that I love the most, but I am biased (being a clarinet player!)

Here is a version conducted by the infamous Leonard Bernstein…

The classical world has spent 2018 celebrating the life and achievements of Claude Debussy, marking the centenary with concerts and conferences to remember his most loved music.

So we thought we’d do our bit to mark the occasion and share some of his music with you!

Enjoy!

The Royal Wedding

By Becky

If like us you watched with delight at the Royal Wedding on Saturday, you might have noticed some rather fabulous bits of music. I was blown away their choices, encompassing classical and modern, representing their personal approach very well.

It was great to see so much representation of BAME and female musicians, whilst using the world class choir of St. George’s Chapel to sing the classical pieces of music (side note, my old classical music history teacher from Trinity sang in that choir for over 30 years before retiring last year. I used to love visiting him at Windsor castle, where he lived and seeing all the secret bits, it’s an amazing castle!).

The bride entered to a trumpet fanfare specially written for her and it was the first female trumpeter to play for a royal wedding.

This was then followed by a gorgeous piece by Handel, called Eternal Source of Light Divine. This has a special place for the Royal family as it was first written by Handel in 1713 for Queen Anne (Handel wrote a lot of the Royals, including one of his most famous pieces of work, Music for the Royal Fireworks). Princess Diana also used a piece by Handel to walk down the aisle of her wedding day, sung by Kiri Te Kanawa back in 1981. The piece on Saturday was beautifully sung by the female Welsh soprano Elin Manahan-Thomas and let me tell you, that is a HARD piece of music to sing, not only because 2 billion people are watching you, but because of how high it is in your register. She did an absolutely brilliant job.

And possibly one of the best reactions to the music was this pageboy’s face when the trumpet fanfare started…

Entrance of the Bride – Trumpet Fanfare and Handel – Eternal Source of Light Divine

 

We couldn’t talk about the wedding music without mentioning The Kingdom Choir, how brilliant was the choir that performed?! Here they are in all their glory, I just loved the Musical Director, what energy and passion she has!

Stand by Me’ performed by Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir – The Royal Wedding – BBC

 

Next up was the rather fabulous Sheku. I first heard of him when he won Young Musician of the Year back in 2016 (and became the first black musician to win this prestigious award). He comes from a large family, all of whom are excellent musicians and his touch and tone is a delight to listen to. In a wonderful side effect, he is currently No. 1 in the US pop charts with the first track from his album “Inspiration”  and even better, it’s with his recording of Shostakovich cello concerto! Who would have thought that Shostakovich would hit the charts? What a fantastic day for classical and popular music.

 

Royal Wedding Sheku Kanneh Mason Virtuoso Cello

 

The English born composer John Rutter has long been one of my favourite composers. He writes the most subliminal church music and many carols that we sing at Christmas are by Rutter, or arranged by him. He has contributed a vast amount to choral singing in his lifetime and I’m so glad he was recognised in this way. I also recommend listening to For The Beauty Of The Earth and All Things Bright And Beautiful (some of you may have heard this as it’s a Grade 5 voice piece).

The Royal Wedding Ceremony – Westminster Abbey Choir – This is the day (by John Rutter)

 

Last of all, it was rumoured that Idris Elba played the decks late into the night at the after party, sounds a perfect way to end of the day!

Here is the link to all the music used in the service if you would like to listen to it all http://www.classicfm.com/events/royal-wedding/music-played-royal-wedding/

Noteworthy People: Eddie Jefferson

by Jess

Noteworthy People: Eddie Jefferson

 

Renowned for his creation of the Vocalese, Eddie Jefferson was a prominent jazz vocalist and lyricist throughout the 50s and 60s until he died in May 1979 (a dancer he once hired, and then fired, shot him outside Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit.)

Vocalese is where lyrics are sung note-to-note with previously improvised solos. It differs from scat singing in that it uses lyrics rather than made up words. Scat singing is also often made up on the spot whereas Vocalese is based on a pre-existing solo.

Take “So What” as an example. Jefferson uses the lyrics of Christopher Acemandese Hall combined with the solo of Miles Davis the notorious jazz trumpet player. You can hear how the lyrics are often sung quite quickly to fit with the melody, and the lines are very typical of an instrumental solo rather than vocal. He even talks about Miles Davis and “his horn” within the Vocalese lyrics.

Check out this slower example in his famous “Moody’s Mood for Love” – the melody taken from James Moody’s saxophone solo on a recording of “I’m in the Mood for Love.” Again you can hear the instrumental style of solo behind the lyrics, making a very innovative and unusual style of singing.

Any jazz singers amongst you – why not ask your tutor about Vocalese next lesson?

Or maybe this has made you want to look into this genre of music – contact us about starting jazz singing lessons in London or Manchester: http://beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk/contact/ 

For Musicians From Musicians: Tutors, Mentors and why you need both

Tutors, Mentors and Why You Need Both

by the BDMA Tutors

TUTOR
noun
1. a person employed to instruct another in some branch or branches of learning, especially a private instructor.

MENTOR
noun
1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.

What is the difference between tutor and mentor, and why do we need both as musicians?

From the dictionary definitions, we see that tutors focus on the learning aspect whilst mentors go more towards the side of guidance.

Obviously, when learning an instrument it is a must that a tutor teaches you the ins and outs of what you are playing. They need to cover the technique and the theory, the repertoire and the rules.

Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to play.

But if you talk to the majority of professional musicians and get them to reminisce on their past tutors, yes some might say

“My second teacher really sorted out my technique”

…but what is more likely to stick with them is how a tutor supported them or inspired them.

This is the mentor aspect of music teaching. Mentors are there to guide through difficult decisions, push you to the next level and inspire your creativity.

The combination of tutor and mentor is what pushes students to be the best they can be. With this in mind, we’ve had our tutors share some of their experiences.

 

Jess Tomlinson:

We know that music is so much more than learning the notes. So your teaching experience should represent this – learning the theory is important, but understanding the depth of music, being innovative and creative and finding constant inspiration is when music lessons move to the next level. My favourite teachers have been the ones that have thoroughly taught me the technique of the instrument but spent an equal about of time guiding me as a musician. This might have been telling me anecdotes, giving me life advice or asking how the rest of my studies were going, generally taking an interest in my whole musical life, not just when I had a clarinet in my hands. I want to replicate this with my teaching – music should be an experience that goes past just simply playing and I strive for my students to understand the whole picture, and love it.

 

Bryony Purdue:

I have never been someone to express myself through anger or particularly through silent treatment/sadness. It has always been through music and my first singing teacher, Lesley, made the link between personal and musical inextricable. To be able to do what we do and sing or play in front of people, we have to be so sure of ourselves as people as well as performers, otherwise it is all too easy for nerves and fear to get the better of us. We are all human and having encouragement and FUN when learning and performing is so important (whether it be to family in your living room or in front of lots of people.) Mentors bring out the human in us and give us enough confidence and self-assurance and tutors teach us the skill of our instrument. You need both to be able to fully enjoy the process and reap the limitless benefits of music.

 

Louise Balkwill:

I’ve found throughout my musical journey that it has been invaluable to have both tutors and mentors. For me, my tutors have helped me to develop the foundations; good technique, a comprehensive repertoire, harmonic knowledge and so on. As you develop, you select your tutors based on a problem-and-solution basis. But a mentor is someone who really inspires you and takes you under their wing – a kind of Harry Potter and his wand type, special relationship!

My first mentor was an incredible musician called Liane Carroll; the woman who inspired me to start singing. I found myself at her gig by chance, and was in awe from the moment she opened her mouth – so I followed her EVERYWHERE for a good year before approaching her. I went on one of her summer schools and she took a personal interest in my singing and my musical journey. She has since let me join her on stage at gigs and we make an effort to hang out whenever she is in town and we are both free. The inspiration, advice and support that she has bestowed upon me has become an important part of who I am, and I am very lucky indeed to have her as a mentor and friend.

There is nothing to say that a tutor cannot become a mentor. For example, I developed a great learning relationship with my History of Jazz tutor, Malcolm Earle-Smith, whilst at Trinity Laban. When I reached my final year, I really struggled, both emotionally and creatively. Malcolm went out of his way to support me and gave me all the help that I needed to stay inspired, finding innovative and new ways to teach me things that I was struggling with and encouraging me along the way. He has become an invaluable mentor and dear friend.