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.

Introducing Our New Tutors!

Over the past few months as our academy has grown, we’ve been delighted to welcome seven wonderful new tutors to our happy team, six in London and one in Manchester. 

We can’t wait for you to meet them, so here’s a little online introduction… If this has whetted your appetite, do get in touch with us! 

Why not try a new instrument with our 4 lessons for £99 offer (in London)!

Contact louise@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk to enquire.

Bryony Purdue – BMus Hons – Singing and Piano, London.

Bryony has recently joined us as a singing and piano tutor. She has just graduated from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance with a first class degree in classical singing, but is wonderfully diverse and sings all styles of music, capturing the hearts of audiences everywhere! She is also particularly gifted when it comes to tutoring younger students, with her bubbly personality and love for teaching. She is a big believer in keeping the fun alive when learning music!

“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.)”

Check out her beautiful rendition of this Billie Holiday classic…

Fraser Bowles – BMus Hons, MMus – Cello and Piano, London.

Fraser has recently joined our London team as a cello and piano tutor. He has played with an impressive list of bands and ensembles…

“Although I love to play classical music, I’ve played with some pretty cool bands, too; Matt Emery, VLMV, Ben Laver, Taz Modi, Heather McClelland, and as a member of Parallax Orchesta; Eminem, Alter Bridge, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Bring Me The Horizon, Jennifer Ann, The Irrepressibles, dodie and Ardyn to name a few! I am also a founding member of the contemporary music group, Ret Frem. We are committed to the performance and promotion of music of exquisite craft by living composers – established, emerging or underrepresented.”

But hey, who needs a band when you can clone yourself and play four cellos at once!

Ian Sankey – BMus Hons – All Brass (Trumpet, Flugel, Trombone, Euphonium, French Horn, Tuba), London.

Ian is our newest member of the team, and has joined us with a rather incredible inventory of brass instruments, including a renaissance trombone called the sackbut!

“While at Guildhall I began playing the sackbut, which is the renaissance trombone, something I still enjoy to this day. Playing sackbut has taken me as far Toronto in Canada when a group of us joined forces with Girton College choir from Cambridge to record a CD of the music of Lassus out there.”

They’re very rare (and expensive!), but Ian has said that he’d be more than happy to let any of his new students have a go!

Have a listen to Ian playing Randy Newman’s “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story with Aeris Brass!

Joel Waters – Drums, London.

Meet Joel, our fabulous new drum tutor. He has already racked up an impressive teaching portfolio (he’s been teaching since the age of 15!) and has joined us recently to bring his drum expertise to your living rooms.

“Hi there! I’m Joel and I teach Drums. I have been teaching since I was fifteen and have been playing drums since I was five years old. Currently I am currently studying Jazz, at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. I love all styles of music from heavy metal to classical and have worked with various different bands and artists across the UK. In my spare time I love to play table tennis and go running. My favourite cake has to be a good old Victoria sponge (especially with fondant roll up icing – I could eat that by itself!).”

Joel is incredibly diverse and can play all styles of music (check him out in the last video in this newsletter playing with one of Louise’s students, Tilda Hardy) and is a ninja with brushes!

Megan Thompson – Violin, piano, theory and beginner singing, Manchester

Megan has recently joined our team up in Manchester, teaching violin, piano, theory and beginner singing…

“I have enjoyed many orchestral and chamber music opportunities, playing in projects with the Hallé orchestra and Manchester Camerata. I also enjoy playing chamber music and doing session work, performing with touring groups in venues across the country including, Manchester Palace Theatre, Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre and Kings Theatre in Glasgow.”

Rob Griffin – BMus Hons – Woodwind and Piano, London

Rob has just joined us as a woodwind and piano teacher after achieving the highest mark in his year at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance – He was awarded the Trinity Laban Jazz Achievement Award in 2016!

Despite being rather brilliant, Rob is a fun and friendly chap who loves to teach students of all ages and stages.

Twm Dylan – BMus Hons, MMus – Guitar, Electric Bass, Double Bass, Piano, Singing, London.

Twm has recently finished his Master’s Degree at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and is now an official double bass master. But that’s not all – he is a multifaceted multi instrumentalist too!

Although he has only begun teaching for the Becky Dell Music Academy recently, he’s been a friend of the family for a long time and plays with our other tutors, Louise Balkwill, Llinos Emanuel, Joel Waters and Rob Griffin regularly. He’s also making quite a splash on the UK jazz scene with widely renowned band Maisha.

Check out this video of Twm playing the Billie Holiday heart melter “It’s Like Reaching For The Moon” with one of Louise’s students, Tilda Hardy, alongside two of our other new tutors, Rob (sax) and Joel (drums)!

Give them all a big, warm BDMA welcome!

Fancy learning with one of our amazing new tutors?

Why not try a new instrument with our 4 lessons for £99 offer (in London)!

Contact louise@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk to enquire.

From Becky and the Team x

100 Years of Jazz: Traditional Jazz

Traditional Jazz

Blog by Louise Balkwill

If you have been following this blog series, you have read about ragtime music – a genre of piano-based music played from sheet music for high society. You will have also heard some blues – heavily improvised music, used primarily as a form of expression among black slaves and musicians and frowned upon by the upper class white folk.

Now picture this – a story of the origins of jazz that I was told a couple of weeks ago in the birthplace of jazz by a pianist at the New Orleans Jazz Museum;

“You’re a black musician. It’s 1900, or thereabouts. There’s a gig this evening at one of the hottest clubs in the quarter, but the trumpet player is ill, or has taken another gig, or, for some other reason can’t make it, and has asked you to step in and do the gig instead…

At the time, “rags” were popular and had become more complex, with various written parts for various instruments that the musicians were expected to play. However, if you were offered a gig but your part was missing, you couldn’t afford to turn down the gig – you’d just have to make up the part!

And thus began improvisation in a band setting, using preconceived chord patterns and melodies.”

As time went on, new compositions were written in a way that supported this new improvisational style. To begin with, songs still felt very “arranged” and could have all manner of forms that sounded “rag”-esque. There were written melodies, chord patterns and some harmony parts, but the nature of being a busy musician in this era had changed; You had to understand the role of your instrument and be able to improvise in a band setting.

Roles of Instruments in a Traditional Jazz Band

If you wanted to play in a band in early 1900’s America, you had to understand how your instrument worked in a collective sense. You also had to develop technique and a good understanding of musical harmony.

Voice: Most instrumentalists would double as singers. The vocal chorus would appear in the middle of a performance instead of being the main feature of a song.

Trumpet/Cornet: `Frontline (plays the melody and solos)

Clarinet: Frontline (plays an agile countermelody/obbligato that weaves in and out of the melody. Also plays improvised solos)

Trombone: Frontline (harmonises with higher brass and fills in with scoops and slides)

Piano: Frontline & Rhythm section (plays “stride” but can also solo and play countermelodies)

Banjo/Guitar: Rhythm section (plays on the beat every beat – “chg-chg-chg-chg”)

Bass/Sousaphone/Tuba: Rhythm section (plays generally roots and fifths on the 1st and 3rd beats of each bar

“Dixieland”

The first jazz recording dates back to 1917, and was recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band:

“Dixieland” is, however, a controversial term. It was used by white musicians to describe their generally sped-up, “cleaned-up” version of the slower, more blues influenced traditional jazz music that was being played by black musicians. This term is not well received to this day amidst New Orleans’ traditional musicians.

The “Invention of Jazz”

Jelly Roll Morton was said to be the self-proclaimed “inventor of jazz”, although his actual words were quite different. He wrote;

“All my fellow musicians were much faster in manipulations, I thought than I, and I did not feel as though I was in their class.”

So he would write songs to be played at a slower tempo, leaving more room for flexibility when it came to improvising.

When Jelly Roll Morton started recording his own compositions with his band, he could play to the strengths of his fine comrades. The music became faster (this was popular at the time as it was more fun to dance to) and more virtuosic.

This new style that he had suggested paved the way for a new generation of jazz musicians.

Check out this 1923 recording of “High Society” by King Oliver and his band – just listen to that clarinet go!

The reality is that the invention of jazz music cannot be accredited to any one musician. It is a genre that celebrates collective playing and improvisation and welcomes influences from a wide variety of backgrounds and influences.

A blog about this era is not complete without a glimpse of one of the world’s greatest musical heroes in the formative years of his musical journey. Here’s a treat for you – Louis Armstrong playing “Potato Head Blues” in 1927 with his Hot Seven!

Next time, we’ll be looking at how traditional jazz swung its way into popularity with the swing era – big bands, crooners, endless dancing and pioneers of the 21st century!

 

Inspired?

Why not try your hand at jazz music with one of our creative and inspirational tutors with our 4 lessons for £99 offer?

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

 

Noteworthy People – Jóhann Jóhannsson

by Jess

For this edition of Noteworthy People, we want to celebrate the beautiful compositions of Jóhann Jóhannsson who sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago.

Jóhann Jóhannsson was an Icelandic composer renowned for his music for screen.  If you don’t know the name behind the soundtracks, you’ll definitely recognise the films he wrote music for….

Most recent box office hits include “The Theory of Everything”, “Sicario” and “Arrival”.

His writing style is particularly recognisable.

Unlike the catchy melodies of John Williams or the driving rhythms of Hans Zimmer, Jóhannsson is extremely effective with his use of blending interesting orchestral textures with electronics. His music creates an atmosphere rather than being obviously thematic and he experiments hugely with harmony.

When he does use melodies, they are often long and sweeping

…featuring lots of indulgent string writing or emotional piano lines!

His most notable film partnership was with director Denis Villeneuve, beginning their work together in 2013 for the film “Prisoners”. Leading on from this were the soundtracks for “Sicario” and “Arrival”, both scores being nominated for BAFTAs, Arrival nominated for a Golden Globe and Sicario nominated for an Oscar.

Not bad going!

“The Theory of Everything” (2014) was also another success for Jóhannsson, nominated for an Oscar and BAFTA, and winning the Golden Globe in 2015.

Have a listen to this section of music from near the end of the film and enjoy his beautiful string writing. Notice how he uses small cells of music in his compositions, repeating the short snippet of music but using different harmonies in the background. Once these snippets are layered and the textures are built up, the long lyrical string and piano melodies I mentioned above come in.

Film music wasn’t his only claim to fame and Jóhannsson also released several solo albums. The underlying conection with his albums is the tying together of traditional orchestral set-ups with electronics, often working with electronic music producers. The albums vary from music inspired for theatre to ambient pieces for string orchestras.

To see him live in action, check out this performance for KEXP with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble. What is particularly great to see is that he performs the works with the group, playing piano and working some of the electronics.

Not many composers do that!

The interview also gives an insight into his composition process, with him talking about ideas he had or the briefs he got given.  My favourite piece of the set is called “The Drowned World” which is 30mins into the programme.

Finally, there is a lot to be said for the link between successful, high quality musicians and selflessness.

This anecdote from a fellow composer Olafur Arnalds really highlights this:

“My favorite Jóhann story is when he had spent a year writing the score for Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother” and at some point realised that the film was better with no music at all.

He proceeded to convince Darren to delete everything. It takes a real, selfless artist to do that. To realise the piece is better without you.
The most important part of creating art is the process, and Jóhann seemed to understand process. The score needed to be written first in order to realise that it was redundant. So in my view, Mother still has a score by Jóhann. The score is just silence… deafening, genius silence.”

Make your next coffee break or work commute ultra-relaxing with this Jóhann Jóhannsson playlist on Spotify. Enjoy.

https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX7JN1FkFRbX4?si=x-087M3gTWahV2-9kqFsQw

R.I.P. Jóhann Jóhannsson 1969-2018

Music Advice: For Musicians From Musicians

by Jess and the team

We’re a couple of weeks into 2018 and it’s around this point where people are wondering how realistic their new year’s resolutions are. Rather than challenge myself to a resolution, I’m a big advocate of bettering what I already have.

With this in mind, it got me thinking…

How can we help our music students? 

How can they build on what they’ve learnt previously and better it in 2018? 

Is there a way to get more enjoyment out of the music? 

My thoughts then moved to our tutors – the list is getting quite long now! With them all being professional musicians, they’ve got an encyclopaedic knowledge and advice that can be passed onto to our students.

So, I asked them…

What is the best piece of musical advice you have been given……?

Becky Dell:

One of the best bits of advice I was given, as a performer, was from Jools Holland’s Manager (ooh er) and that when describing your band genre, pick three words to identify it, such as “Bluegrass, close-harmonies, up-tempo” or “thrash metal, dramatic, all-women” etc. 

I think we can get caught up with not wanting to label ourselves into a specific genre, but those two examples above are different enough to show you the difficulties a Bookings Manager has if you don’t let them know roughly what genre you are. It’s been great to see so many bands developing within the Academy recently, make sure you know your genre when approaching venues for gigs!

Louise Balkwill:

The best piece of advice that I have ever been given as a musician came from my biggest living inspiration, Liane Carroll, a most wonderful singer with more soul than you could possibly imagine. Although it sounds counterintuitive, her performance advice to me was to “Stop thinking so much! Just be honest and enjoy it.”; At the time I didn’t fully understand, but now I repeat it to myself on a daily basis. Overthinking can tear the fun out of performing, and if you’re not enjoying yourself, how do you expect your audience to?

 

Sophie Simpson:

In terms of musical advice, being told not to worry about what other musicians are doing, and to stay true to myself and my musical ideas. This has been helpful in preparing for auditions, and also if/when I worry what other people might think about my playing.

 

 

Meg Brookes:

I was once told that your brain can’t process two opposite emotions at once and that it connects certain emotions to physical impulses e.g smiling. The science is far more complex, of course, but in layman terms this means that if you smile you can trick your brain into thinking you are happy and excited. When I am most nervous, I smile as much as possible and before I know it I think those butterflies are excitement. You have the power to be in control of yourself and your nerves and the more you practice shifting your perspective on those pesky butterflies the more in control you are of any performance anxiety you might be having. The power is in your hands (and eating a banana always helps too)!

Jess Tomlinson:

 

The superhero pose! The pose that inflicts the feeling of power and control. When someone told me to stand like that before going on stage I thought they were barmy. But actually once I tried it, I realised that simply putting your hands on your hips and your legs slightly apart, making yourself a bigger person, really gives you a positive boost. Now I stand like that before every audition and concert, and my quintet even goes as far as group superhero poses before our gigs.

 

Jess Thayer:

Someone once gave me a great quote about worrying (in particular, worrying about upcoming auditions, exams or performances). ‘Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.’  It really resonated with me. Then they said if you are fully prepared and have done everything you can, then you are ready! Preparation is the key! Coz when nerves kick in if you’re prepared then instinct, memory and all your hard work will prevail!

Glenda Allaway:

The best advice I’ve been given is to make beautiful memories.

It may seem like a strange one but music and life are intertwined and if your whole life becomes confined to the four walls of a practice room then your music will start to reflect that. Practice hard, yes. But never forget to live and infuse your music with your experiences!

Connor Roff:

Work and practice hard and don’t be afraid to take risks or make mistakes. In fact, make loads of mistakes, because the best way to learn is from our mistakes. Continue to go outside of your comfort zone because the moment you start to feel “comfortable” you’re probably not learning and therefore need to find a way to challenge yourself again.

 

Hayley Pope: 

A teacher of mine told me the best piece of advice:

“Always play for yourself, not for others”

 

 

 

Hopefully some of this advice resonates with you and can be used in your musical life. All the best for 2018.

The Double Bass: Big, Bold and Beautiful

By Louise Balkwill

In this blog post, I will be raving about one of the most important, versatile, best loved but least accredited instruments in western music’s modern (and not so modern) history – yes, that’s right, the Double Bass!

The Double Bass (also known as the contrabass, upright bass, standup bass, acoustic bass or just “the bass”) has been an important part of the foundations of the music that we know and love for centuries.

It its the largest, lowest-pitched bow-able string instrument around (apart from the super rare Octobasse – Click here to see what it sounds like!), and as the 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of many new genres of music, the double bass stuck around and proved itself to be one of the most versatile, too!

When many people think of the double bass, they think of it as a big, cumbersome instrument that plods along at the bottom of an orchestra; This could not be further from the truth! It can give the violin a run for its money as a virtuosic sensation.

If you don’t believe me, just watch Dominic Seldis go!

…Amazing, right?

Another great thing about the Double Bass is that if you love singing, you can do both at the same time!

Watch the fabulous Esperanza Spalding play the timeless jazz standard “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” (Girls, take heed – although it’s big, the double bass isn’t a “man’s instrument” as many people seem to think; all of my double bass pupils are actually female!)

If you watched both of these videos, you probably noticed that Dominic and Esperanza play the double bass in very different ways; Dominic sits down, Esperanza stands up, Dominic plays with a bow (this is what string players call “Arco”) and Esperanza plucks the strings (known to us as “pizzicato”)…

The instrument has been an important and inspiring facilitator of change and expression over the past two or more centuries, enabling different cultures and communities of musicians to develop their own styles and techniques of playing while still remaining a cornerstone of the music.

 

Unfortunately, the Double Bass has become an endangered instrument, meaning that there are very few people learning it…

That does, however, mean more gigs for those of us who do!

Inspired?

Give the Double Bass a go with our 4 lessons for £99 offer!

You can try double bass lessons with me (Louise), or if you’d rather try out the sideways version (the bass guitar), why not give lessons with the wonderful Twm or Ronald a spin?

(Email louise@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk to enquire)

Now, it wouldn’t be a blog about the Double Bass without sharing a tune from the revolutionary Charles Mingus…Enjoy!

Care for Country

We love getting our tutors to write blogs for us about their interests and expertise and so are very excited to share Connor’s thoughts on country music. Connor teaches piano, guitar, singing and songwriting at the London academies.

by Connor Roff

Country on the rise: Americana what?

I never liked Country.

I used to think it was cheesy, basic and all sounded the same.

Recently, after starting a new music project called Little Water with a friend of mine, I’ve been proven wrong. Somehow and completely accidentally, we created a sound with some dulcet country tones and I discovered Country is a broad genre with all sorts of cool complexities and little gems.

Country originated in the southern United States from folk and blues music in the early 1900’s. Working class Americans developed its beginnings and it moved from hillbilly music and barn dances to blue grass, country rock and country pop in the later 1980s.

Chris Carlisle (first generation country): 

Country music is on the rise, especially in the UK. This doesn’t just come down to the popularity of mainstream country style artists such as Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. There’s a lot of genre blending occurring now, hence why the popularity of “Country” is developing more and more traction.

You may have heard the word Americana tossed around a few times recently in the music world. According to americanamusic.org:

“Americana is contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw.”

In other words, a crossover of all sorts of genres, the first being country. Some classic examples of artists fitting into the Americana box include Neil Young, Jonny Cash and Tom Petty.

Some more current examples include Ryan Adams, The War on Drugs, Laura Marling, Ray LaMontagne, The Lumineers and so much more.

Here’s one of my new favourites called Chris Stapleton and his wife performing his song “Traveller” below. Go check out his two solo albums, they’re honest and cool: 

Meanwhile for some more traditional country sounds, check out rising UK duo The Shires and American acts Sam Hunt and Kacey Musgraves.

Kacey Musgraves has pushed conventional country norms talking about same sex relationships and smoking marijuana: 

If you’re like me and you want to start exploring this diverse world more, London has some fantastic events to promote and support country music within the UK coming up.

Grab your cowboy hat and boots and head down to Americana Music Festival in Hackney London from 31st Jan-1st Feb in Hackney London from 31st Jan-1st Feb and C2C (Country to Country) Music Festival at The O2 in March.

I’ll be there with a whiskey in hand.

For more information about Connor’s new band “Little Water” follow them on social media:

Facebook: @littlewatermusic

Instagram: littlewatermusic