#Saxthem

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#Saxthem

It's the NFC Championship game on the 22nd Jan 2017 between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers. As traditional before a sporting event in the US, the national anthem was performed. This was a special one with saxophonist Mike Phillips stealing the show before the opening kickoff.

Hear how he uses the blues scale at 0:44 add a different 'flavour' to the anthem. He doesn't play the anthem in strict time but instead emphasises different parts of the melody (0:37 for example) by adding extra notes and using particular saxophone techniques. He builds the anthem at 1:06 and uses a technique called circular breathing to extended the note on the word 'free'. One of the reasons Mike Phillips' version is so special is because you can hear that this is his clear interpretation of it. He isn't trying to copy anyone else. He's played with the late great Prince,  Stevie Wonder and countless other superstars but always retains his unique sound and energy.
National anthems, hymns or other songs with deep meaning do not have to be played in a solemn or sombre way. By watching this video and others like it, children can begin to understand that any song can be interpreted by a performer in any way, and like Mike Phillips demonstrated, if you can do this well, people will remember it forever.

Go Falcons!!

Answer these questions with your child or student:

  • What is the American National anthem called?
  • What was your favourite part of this video?
  • Can you play your national anthem on your instrument?
  • What does your national anthem mean to you?
  • Watch this version of the national anthem. What are the differences?

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Pirates Of The Caribbean

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Pirates Of The Caribbean

Jarrod Radnich has carved out a niche online as a virtuosic pianist who covers popular songs and themes from movies. Not only is his speed impressive, but his use of dynamics and how he involves his whole body in the performance (especially at the end!).
Many children lack inspiration when they first learn an instrument. Maybe they rarely see professionals play the same instrument they do, or they never hear anyone play songs that they know and love. By playing children videos like this or 2Cellos playing Smooth Criminal, it may inspire them not only to quit, but to practise by themselves. Watch the influence that Jarrod had on this little boy:

Answer these questions with your child or student:

  • Do you recognise the Pirates Of The Caribbean themes in Jarrod's performance?
  • What key is this piece in?
  • What is the time signature of the piece?
  • How does Jarrod create drama in this performance?
  • What do you like about this performance?
  • What don't you like about his performance?

Click here to listen to Jarrod Radnich

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Adele ft... Classroom Instruments??!

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Adele ft... Classroom Instruments??!

With 1.8 billion views on YouTube, Adele’s Hello is currently the 9th most viewed video of all time. In this version, she is singing live with one of the most famous hiphop bands of all times: The Roots…playing classroom instruments?
Many of us think that instruments like glockenspiels, kazoos and banana shakers aren't able to make serious music. Professional musicians would never play on such basic instruments would they? Arn’t they just beginners instruments that children play on until they are ready to ‘progress’ to more reputable instruments like violins or clarinets? This video (along with others in this classroom instrument series) shows us what is possible with a bright idea and random classroom instruments. The playing isn’t perfect, there are a few mistakes here and there, but the fun they are having is infectious!
It’s important that children are able to broaden their horizons and realise what’s possible from as early an age as possible. Imagine the fun a class could have trying to play their favourite song with classroom instruments! 

Answer these questions with your child or student

  • What instruments are they using?
  • Can you play along with any classroom instruments you have?
  • What key is the song in?
  • What instruments are playing chords?
  • What would you change if you had to do this with your friends?
  • Listen to the original. What differences are there between original and this version?
  • What was your favourite part of the song?

Click here to listen to more of Adele's music
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Refugees Are People Too

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Refugees Are People Too

I'm sure most of us are aware of the current political situation in Syria. Living in in the West, we are constantly told about the loss of life in Syria and in the Middle East, almost on a daily basis. 21 dead due to an airstrike. A blast kills dozens. Car bombs. Then we hear about the immigration problem in mainstream media. People are fleeing the devastation in their country, coming to Europe, taking jobs, stealing and committing other crimes. When children are not given a wider perspective, prejudices can form from an early age, resulting in distrust, fear or racist attitudes as they grow older. By listening to the music of the people who's homes, families and ways of life are being destroyed, we can help children to see these musicians as people trying to live in difficult circumstances, not just as refugees or immigrants.
Sometimes learning about music does not need to involve an analysis of the music. The contexts, feelings and inspiration behind the music are just as important (sometimes even more important) as the time signature, key or structure. It is after watching videos like this that you realise the transcendent power of music to bring forward emotions, tell stories and help us to focus on the importance of life, family and happiness. 

Answer these questions with your child or student:

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The Beatboxer, the Flute and the Orchestra

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The Beatboxer, the Flute and the Orchestra

Many children grow up thinking that there are two ways to play an instrument: the right way and the wrong way. Greg Patillo is one of a number of musicians who prove that an instrument can be played in many different ways and combining many different skills. His most famous video is this one of him playing the Super Mario Theme tune and beatboxing on the flute which has been viewed over 25 million times. Why? Probably because it's fascinating to watch someone combine two different disciplines and play one of the most famous theme tunes of all time.
It's important for children to see musicians play their instruments in unconventional ways. It helps to broaden their horizons and realise what's possible, what other people like and that their own musical ideas have value. The fact that Greg is playing a popular song by The Weeknd can help children to see that you don't have to play classical music on the flute or the cello. Just have fun with others, play music you like and don't worry about trying new things!

  • What do you think is possible on your instrument?
  • How has Greg Patillo changed the melody from the original (if at all)? 
  • How do Greg and Eric make sure there's a solid rhythm throughout the song?
  • How many different sounds can you hear Greg make?
  • Watch this video of Kenny Muhammed beatboxing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra... Anything is possible!

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Take Us Away Hiromi!

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Take Us Away Hiromi!

How often are children exposed to contemporary female musicians? Many children in school study or play Bach, Beethoven, Gamelan music, Pop or Jazz, but rarely are female musicians (and not singers) highlighted. It is important especially for young girls, to see amazing female musicians performing, writing and producing their own music.
Although this was filmed at soundcheck, Hiromi Uehera plays her composition 'Take Me Away' with her trio with so much feeling and expression. Just like in my post about 2Cellos, playing with energy and expression not only adds the to sound, but to the visual too. Performances aren't just about how a musician sounds, but how a musician moves and interacts with the music, other performers and the crowd can have a big impact on how successful that performance was. Her facial expressions at 4:52 just show how happy and engrossed she is in the music.
Hiromi and her band create many different feels through their dynamics, time signatures and structure of the tune. She uses repetition a lot in her solo by repeating phrases that she clearly likes the rhythm or sound of. For example at 3:49 she repeats an A while she changes the chords in her left hand, creating tension that's finally released when she plays a D minor chord at 4:03. She finds a phrase that she likes at 4:42 and repeats it 4 times, even letting out a little noise of approval!

  • What are some of the things musicians do during soundcheck?
  • What surprised you about this piece?
  • Can you name 5 female musicians (non-singers)?
  • How does the piece fit with the title 'Take Me Away'?
  • What is the time signature from the beginning to 1:56?
  • Where is Hiromi from?
  • Even though she doesn't play it, why do you think she has a keyboard on top of the piano?

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I Got Rhythm

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I Got Rhythm

I Got Rhythm was written by the great American songwriter George Gershwin in 1930 and is being performed here by the Benny Goodman Quartet in 1959. In this video, the 'King Of Swing' Benny Goodman is playing the Clarinet, Gene Krupa on Drums, Lionel Hampton on Vibraphone and Jess Stacey on Piano. 
Like this post about the band 2Cellos, we see Benny Goodman playing a traditionally classical instrument in a different genre. By giving children the chance to see classical instrument being played in different ways, it can open their minds up to other possibilities. Most children only see vibraphones/glockenspiels/xylophones in school, play basic tunes on them and never regard them as serious instruments. See how fast and accurate Lionel Hampton plays at 0:46, not to mention the different scales and rhythms he uses.
It is also important to mention that Benny Goodman was one of the most famous white band leaders to perform with African American musicians in the then segregated USA. In 1935 he formed the Benny Goodman Trio with African American pianist Teddy Wilson, and added Lionel Hampton to the lineup a year later. It's shocking to realise that segregation in the USA was made illegal  in 1964, 5 years after this video was recorded.
See the laughter and smiles the musicians give each other. Performing should never be boring or stressful, especially when playing with others!

  • What does Quartet mean?
  • What is the note that Benny Goodman plays at 0:25?
  • Why do you think the audience start clapping at 3:21?
  • How do the other musicians change how they play when Benny Goodman is soloing? When Lionel Hampton solos? When Gene Krupa solos?
  • Do the musicians look like they are enjoying themselves?
  • What do you think the response was like when Benny Goodman started playing with African American musicians?

Click here to learn more about Benny Goodman

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RIP George Michael

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RIP George Michael

On the 25th December 2016 we lost an icon. The sudden death of George Michael shocked the world at the end of a year in which we lost so many musical giants. Even though he's gone, George Michael left us with some incredible music, none moreso than Careless Whisper which he wrote on a bus at the age of 17, and released in 1984.
British saxophonist Steve Gregory originally recorded this now infamous riff which is played in this video by fellow Brit David Baptiste. Listen to how David plays the introduction to the song. He deliberately builds anticipation but avoids playing the main riff for just over a minute.. you can hear how the tension releases when the crowd hear the first few notes of the infamous line. Even then, he doesn't play in tempo. He takes his time, emphasises certain phrases and adds a few extra notes towards the end of this introduction. 
Often when children learn a song, piece or riff, they can find it difficult to slow it down and bring their own emotion and interpretation to it. By listening to this and other live performances, children can slowly learn that even if a piece is written one way, there are infinite ways to play and express the same piece.

  • What technique does David use at 0:21?
  • What scale is David using at 0:35?
  • What other instruments can you hear?
  • Watch this video of George Michael singing Careless Whisper in 2008. What are the differences between these performances?
  • Can you play the riff on your instrument?
  • Can you make up your own introduction to the song?

    Happy Practising!

Click here to hear more by George Michael

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2Cellos Playing with Energy

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2Cellos Playing with Energy

We often assume that violinists only play classical music, saxophonists only play jazz or electric guitarists only play rock music. Wrong! You can play any genre on any instrument! In this video, 2 Croatian Cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser demonstrate this by playing one of Michael Jackson's most famous songs using only their classical instruments. Watch how much energy and passion Luka and Stjepan play with - they seem totally lost in the music but at the same time are aware and sensitive to each others dynamics. Listen to how Stjepan phrases Michael Jacksons vocal adlibs at 3:08. He makes his cello almost sound like a human voice and even appears to scream while playing a high E at 3:34. It makes you wonder if the song would sound as good with they were sitting and moving in way many cello players do!
Whether your child or student plays alone or with other people, encourage them to play with passion and energy. Not only by them playing music that they enjoy, but by understanding what the music is about learning it so well that they get totally lost while playing. It'll do wonders for their confidence when they see how others react to their performances!

Get your child/student to answer these questions:

  • What album is the song Smooth Criminal from?
  • What are cello bows made from?
  • Can you find Croatia on a map?
  • What key are they playing in?
  • What is your favourite part of this performance?
  • Can you hear the bassline from another famous Michael Jackson song?
  • Play the melody (or a tune that you currently play) on your instrument and try to make it sing like Stjepan does.

Click here to hear more music by 2Cellos

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