While there are many ways you could potentially organize your sheet music for reference and performance, these methods are the two that I have found to be most useful personally. As I have figured out how to organize my sheet music, I have had better results finding the pieces of music that I need when I need them. Both of these methods are simple, easy-to-understand, and practical for the active musician.
Through my involvement in church music since I was a young teenager, I have learned quite a bit about getting a music group started in a church setting. I've been a singer, instrumentalist, and director of various groups, and I have loved the opportunities that I've had to share music with my fellow church musicians and ultimately with the entire congregation. There are a few things that I have noticed that have helped some church music ensembles to work together better. Here are a few basic tips for starting (or improving) a music group at your church.
Since the advent of microphones and electronic amplification, the art of singing has been modified to fit new styles that would not have been nearly as practical without the aid of amplification. However, going back to classical voice training is not a bad idea. It will help singers in any genre to maintain a healthy voice and get the best sound possible.
Since I have begun teaching voice students at our local arts center, I have found that there are three basic concepts that I want my students to grasp from the start. These are some of the fundamental concepts that other voice teachers may also want to communicate to their students.
Oftentimes modern music and culture does not take much time to think on things of the past. The common theme seems to be about the present, our current problems and successes, rather than reflecting on anything of a historical nature. But is there something missing when the past is forgotten?
As a musician, taking time to reflect on the past can give great insight into what is truly needed today. By studying how the great composers of past times created their great works, the modern composer can make a more meaningful contribution to today's world. One current composer that obviously does this kind of reflection is the choral composer John Rutter. In this video, Rutter explains how looking into a little history led to inspiration for his most recent recording, This is the Day: Music on Royal Occasions. By looking back even during the period of his lifetime, Rutter created a recording that told a story. See his explanation below:
For more insight from a great composer of our time, see more of John Rutter's commentary videos on his YouTube channel.
In what ways do you look back to the past in your music? Leave comments on this post and let us know.
Every once in a while you come across a unique product or service that you want to let others know about. Harmony Passion would like to present some "Product Spotlight" features to help musicians and music teachers find some great resources that will help them.
The product I want to mention today is a band method curriculum developed by Nick Kozar, band director and music educator on both the high school and college level. When I spoke with Mr. Kozar about his approach for developing these band instrument lesson books, he gave me some good insight.
One thing that he has found as a weakness in previous band method books that he used was the lack of rhythm training before students had to begin branching out and playing multiple notes. The Solid Foundation band method books teach students to begin with one note, but learning multiple rhythms, so that a proper rhythmic foundation is laid.
Another aspect of the books that I appreciate is that the melodies used are from traditional songs and hymns. The use of classic melody lines allows the student to be exposed to good music while at the same time learning to play.
Unless you know what you are looking for, these books are not so easy to find online. If you'd like to see the books and pricing, I have included the links below:
For more music education products by A Beka Book, click here.
by Andy Daughtry
Associate Pastor of Worship and Discipleship
First Baptist Church
To this day, she remains one of the finest church musicians I have ever known.
I remember vividly the moment I heard her play the organ for the first time. It was a thrilling, triumphant sound, played with a flawless power that made you want to sing. Soon, she allowed me to sit on the bench beside her as she played the postlude, or to turn pages for her in choir rehearsal. I literally learned how to accompany while watching and absorbing every movement of this special lady. For most of her nearly 90 years, Juanita Ragans has served her church and community as an accompanist for worship, weddings, funerals, and countless community events in the small North Florida town where I spent my boyhood.
I have since met and been inspired by many like her – some as recently as last month at Church Music Georgia. These persons are gifted musicians who take seriously their role as an accompanist; they strive for excellence and are constantly looking for new ways to be effective in their calling as worship leaders. As directors, we know how critical the accompanist is to our congregations, choirs and soloists. The accompanist every director needs goes beyond mere technical skill; it goes beyond simply occupying a place at the piano bench or organ console. It comes from a true heart for ministry – a heart for serving Christ through music. I believe there are three key areas to think about as accompanists when we seek to go “beyond the bench.”
First, be the accompanist every director needs in rehearsal. As accompanists, our rehearsal begins long before the first note of choir rehearsal or a session with a soloist or ensemble. Our adequate preparation is critical to the effective rehearsal. Many years ago, I made it a rough rule of thumb to work at least 2 hours in preparation for every hour of choir rehearsal or worship I was scheduled to accompany. I used this time for score review, learning vocal parts, and working out difficult passages that may be covered in the rehearsal. There is such a difference in accompanying versus solo performance. We must be sensitive to those we are accompanying; we need to give them what they need when they need it. We must anticipate what may be needed and provide adequate support. The better prepared we are musically, the more effective we can be in providing that sensitivity and support. This in turn makes for a better rehearsal and, ultimately, enhances the worship experience for choir and congregation. We are at our best as accompanists when we enable that choir, soloist, ensemble or even an entire congregation to be at their best. (I like to call it Andy’s Golden Rule of Accompanying: “Do no harm!”) Our calling – and our Savior – deserve no less than our very best, and that begins with passionate preparation.
Next, be the accompanist every director needs in worship. Once again, preparation is the key. I read many years ago the late Virgil Fox, the incredible organist at New York’s famed Riverside Church, always began his rehearsals for worship by practicing the hymns first. I agree! As accompanists in worship, we are working to help create an environment where the Holy Spirit can work. Practice those hymns and worship songs! Study the lyrics and look for ways to amplify the text; pray that God would use you to help lead His people in worship. Look for creative ways to engage the congregation musically through imaginative introductions and modulations, differing keyboard techniques, and fresh service music with an eye toward being sensitive to the mood and flow of worship. I believe one of the critical needs in worship today, regardless of worship style, is the active engagement of God’s people in the act of worship. As a director, I need an accompanist that shares my passion to do all they can to help God’s people worship!
Finally, be the accompanist every director needs in ministry. I firmly believe that true, God-honoring ministry begins in the heart. A director needs an accompanist that has a heart for ministry. As a director, I can teach and refine skill. I cannot teach heart. Take the initiative – be fully engaged. Keep the lines of communication open with your director and others with whom you serve. Learn how to handle conflict gracefully. I love Boyd Bailey’s wonderful principle of “public praise and private correction.” Use the word “we” a lot. Simply put, we must surrender our gifts and abilities to God to be used for His glory as we serve His people in love. Live and serve in a manner worthy of the Lord’s work. Develop a heart for ministry!
Additionally, we must be constantly looking for ways to grow personally, musically and spiritually. This is particularly true for the worship accompanist. So often, as we accompany worship, we don’t have a chance to truly worship ourselves. Opportunities for personal worship then become even more critical. We can’t help lead our congregations to a place we have not been!
As I think of being an accompanist that goes “beyond the bench,” I am reminded of those powerful words inscribed on the wall of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church: “Excellence in all things, and all things to God’s glory.” God will give us the grace, let’s all work together so He gets the glory!
Thanks to Elizabeth Thacker at Plum Grove Strings, I was made aware of this article in the LA Times:
The article outlines a study that was recently done which related music lessons to brain function. Much research has been done showing the link between music and mental health, but this study went one step further. Students that took lessons even years earlier showed better brain function than their peers.
Music lessons for children not only benefit them today, but will help them for years to come.
Another article in the LA Times discusses how actually participating in music (singing or playing an instrument) has much greater impact on the mind than passively listening. Instead of putting classical music on your child's ipod, try putting your child into music lessons.
These are a couple of articles that music teachers could reference when talking with parents or prospective students.
When I need a particular piece of sheet music or even a full book, one of the best ways to get the best price and find exactly what I'm looking for is to shop online. Here are some of the sites that I have found to very helpful in my search for sheet music.
1. J.W. Pepper
JWPepper.com has a great selection of music for orchestra, band, choir, and other settings. The website is fairly easy to navigate and includes pictures of the products that are listed. J.W. Pepper also attends many music events and maintains a list of all these events on the website. If you prefer to peruse music selections in person rather than online, you may wish to attend a live event. Also on the website is a music list feature on which you can share a particular list of music with students, peers, band members, or whomever you wish.
2. Sheet Music Plus
SheetMusicPlus.com boasts "the world's largest sheet music selection." With over 800,000 different products available, you can find almost anything you need on their site. The look and feel of the website reminds me of Amazon.com. Sheet Music Plus has over 143,000 digital sheet music downloads available as well.
Musicnotes.com has almost 250,000 digital sheet music download files available. The nice thing about digital sheet music is that it is instantly available, with no shipping delay or shipping cost. MusicNotes.com also has regular hard copy music books.
4. Public Domain Music Sites
If you love playing and performing music that is from the classics of years gone by, then you will love public domain music sites. Older music that has become free public domain material is available on several sites. A great one is the Choral Public Domain Library, which has many classic choral pieces available. Another is IMSLP.org, which contains works by over 7,800 composers and well over 200,000 music scores, absolutely free. You can find other sites that offer free public domain sheet music by searching on Google or other web search engines.
5. CD Sheet Music
Another tremendous resource that I and other music teachers that I know have used is CD Sheet Music. While this is not an "online" resource, I felt that it was appropriate to include in this post because it is accessed through the computer. The idea that CD Sheet Music has embraced is assembling great copies of music from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern eras, including works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, piano, strings, winds, voice, and chorus -- then making these works available in the convenience of a CD-ROM collection. You can print as many copies as you want, reproducing them for fellow performers or for students.
One site that you may not have thought about is ebay.com. As of the writing of this article there are over 199,000 items on ebay under the "Sheet Music & Song Books" category. You can find many scores that are out of print and not otherwise available without scouring antique stores or resale shops.
Much time and effort can be saved by finding sheet music online. These resources are just a few that may be beneficial to you in locating the sheet music that you need. If you know of other great resources that should be considered, please post a comment to this article (top right).
So, you've decided to enroll your child in music lessons, but just don't know where to look for a teacher. Or perhaps you want to take some adult beginner piano classes, but really can't find anything close enough. I'd like to give you a few ideas for finding a music teacher in your area.
If you are a music teacher yourself, make sure that you can be found. Connect to your community through some of the avenues outlined below. You may open up a whole new market for yourself.
1. Scan some local newspapers
Often, teachers may have a small ad in the "Services Offered" section of the classified ads, or have a small ad in the Business Directory. If you can't find any teachers advertising, see if you can find an ad for a local music store. They may be able to connect you with a teacher in the area.
2. Search online
All you may need is a simple Google search to find a music teacher's website. Searching for your specific area may help. An example would be "adult group piano class, Anytown, CA". Including your town name may narrow the search results to help you find a teacher who offers lessons in your community.
Also, you can check out some online teacher directories. Some of the sites I've seen that seem to have a good amount of teachers listed include MusicPeeps.com, MusicTeachersDirectory.org, or if you want a nationally certified teacher you can check out the MTNA's Certified Teacher Directory.
3. Talk to music educators
You don't want to forget about the music teachers at the schools in your area. They can be an extremely valuable asset in your search for local music resources. Some of them may teach private lessons in their non-school hours, or they may know some other local music professionals. Call up middle schools and high schools in your town and ask to speak to the band director and/or choral director. Talk to local college music department faculty as well. Most often they will be glad to help a fellow musician.
4. Check with an arts center
If you are fortunate enough to have an arts center in your community, that may be one of the best places to start. In our community, there is a music business that runs all kinds of lessons for vocal and instrumental music students in the local arts center.
5. Talk to church music directors
You may want to contact the music directors at local churches too. Some of them are long-time members of the local music community, and if they don't teach music themselves they may know others in their church or town that are music teachers.
Whatever you choose to do as you search for a music teacher, don't be afraid to reach out to all the local music people that you can. Music is something that is designed to be shared. The more you know your local music scene, the better equipped you will be when you need someone with particular skills or resources.
To follow up on my previous post, here are a few more thoughts on the benefits of getting voice lessons. Whether you want to be a professional musician or not, voice lessons can give you some great side benefits.
1. Bless others through your music
For those of us who love music, there is not much that can compare to a well presented performance of good music. Some thoughts and feelings can be much more fully expressed through the power of the emotional connection of music. But seeing a church or community musician who is ill-prepared or does not yet possess good technical skill can greatly detract from the message that is being communicated.
The hobbyist or “just for fun” musician can deliver a powerful musical presentation when properly trained and prepared. It takes the time and discipline of good practice and learning the basics of a good vocal approach to get to this point. A music teacher can help you prepare to perform at your best level. This way, the audience won't be distracted by “that place where she always goes a little flat” or “the strained sound when he hits those high notes” but will be able to experience the enjoyment of the message in the music you sing.
2. Learn new approaches to finding your best voice
When I first heard a professional music teacher giving a presentation on proper singing technique, I was a young man in high school. Up to that point, I thought that I was a pretty good singer – at least, that's what all the folks at church told me. What I didn't realize is how much there was to know about singing! I had previously thought that, for the most part, people were just born a good singer or they weren't. What I later learned is that anyone can take whatever ability they have and improve it greatly by the use of time-tested principles. Even the greatest singers in the world still have vocal coaches and trainers, and they continually seek to improve.
What I was limited by when I was that young, naïve high school student was a lack of knowledge of singing, including how my voice really worked. By getting instruction from various voice teachers and choir directors in college, I really discovered how my voice worked. I also found out how to practically apply that knowledge to increase my enjoyment of singing and the enjoyment that other people had in hearing me.
3. Connect with new people
Becoming knowledgeable in a particular subject causes you to become more likely to be able to carry on a good conversation with others who have the same passion in that subject. For example, my wife has developed some great skills in photography (to see her website click here) and loves to talk about that with other people, especially when they can relate to the challenges of creating good pictures and share her love for it. We're all that way – we relate best to those who are like us.
At the same token, when you develop your skills in music you are far more likely to be able to relate to and connect with other people who are pursuing the same skills. As you get farther down the path to excellence in your music, you will be able to give encouragement to others who are facing the same challenges and experiencing the same successes as you. And there will always be someone who has more skill and experience than you, who will be able to come alongside and encourage you too. I have developed many friends and acquaintances who have the common denominator of a love for music. You can do the same!
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