Wednesday, October 29, 2008

November 2008 Birthday Boys!!!

KSWS wishes the following members a Happy Birthday on their special day!!

08th November (SAT) - Tee Sze Hou (Percussion Section)
09th November (SUN) - Kenneth Wong Jun Jie (Trombone Section)
09th November (SUN) - Jerold Wong Jun Hoong (Trumpet Section)
10th November (MON) - Dustin Jee Kam Chin (Oboe Section)

Hope they have a wonderful time on their upcoming Birthday!! Have a lot of fun & all best wishes to you.

KSWS Concert 12 Poster Ranked No.3 in Poster Competition

Something to share with the band. Bernard took KSWS Concert 12 poster & entered in the American Design Award Competition & our poster won a 3rd placing under the "Poster Design" Category.

Here is the website:
Go & have a look.

Congratulation to Bernard for winning a 3rd placing in his hard work & effort for the poster!! Keep it up the good work!! We want MORE!!!!!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Musical Technique

We meet some musical patterns so often that it makes sense to learn them separately so that we don't have to scuffle with them every time they come up. This is one of the best reasons for practicing TECHNIQUE, the actual movements that you make with your body when you sing or play. When practicing technique we meet and experiment with our instrument or voice to forge strong bonds among mind, muscles, and the means of making sound.

As Kenneth Wollitz says, we "learn to play OURSELVES in the mode dictated by our instrument."

Technique is the one musical skill that EVERY musician requires.

Certain technical skills are common to all styles of music: these include scales, chromatic scales, chords and chord progressions, arpeggios, and "long tones" (long, sustained notes played to develop tone quality). Other technical skills are associated only with certain musical styles, such as Baroque embellishments or blues turnarounds. When learning these we acquire a special vocabulary for style of music that we like best - we learn the idioms, the cliches, the figures of speech that give the style its special flavour. There's also technique that is specific to each instrument - vibrato, register changes, flutter tonguing, double stopping, and chord barring, for example.

At the heart of technical development for most musicians are SCALES and TONE QUALITY. A knowledge of scales and their associated arpeggios and chord forms helps us approach music making with confidence. As scale playing becomes second nature, musical terrain seems less rugged and chaotic. We internalize what musicians sometimes call "key feeling." As our hands, lips, and ears assimilate the shape of various scales and their related key signatures, we develop a natural impulse to reach for either the right note or at least a logical note in any given passage.

The ability to control and vary our tone quality helps us approach music expressively. As our tone quality develops and matures, our music making can carry an ever-expanding scope of meaning and depth. Tone quality and intensity are close relatives. Good tonal technique means knowing the difference between VOLUME and INTENSITY. It means knowing how to make a big sound that is rich and full, and how to make a small sound that is also rich and full. That's intensity.

To acquire and maintain technique, many musicians like to use standard books of scale studies, technical exercises, and etudes. Most books of technical studies were written by 19th century performers who were considered great teachers. Most include a preface by the composer that is worth reading. Many etudes are actually lovely small pieces all by themselves, and if you play very many, you are likely to develop some favorites. The disadvantage of etudes is that some require more time and effort to learn than can really be justified in musical - or even technical! - returns. Very few musicians study "every etude in the book." An experienced player who has "done" the standard etude collections for your instrument can likely itemize the names and numbers of the really useful ones.

If you practice technique, it's worth experimenting to find the right time of day and the right time in your playing sessions to do it. Technique requires patience and forgiving attitude toward yourself, the ability to go slowly and to do only a little at a time.

Technical points that are specific to particular instruments and particular styles are too numerous to detail here, but these 7 general principles apply to everyone:

1. Practice technique with awareness.
Before you begin an exercise or an etude, ask yourself WHY you are playing it this time. It could be to learn the fingering, to check intonation, to experiment with hand positions, to improve control dynamics, to develop even notes. There are dozens of possible reasons, but if there is no reason, then there is no point in doing it.

2. Working in patterns and contexts.
Apply the principle of chunking. It is never worth stopping technical practice, or practice of any kind, to fix a single note. Every note lives in a musical context. Always practice musically meaningful groups of notes, including a preparation and a follow-through.

3. Avoid mindless repetition.
If you need to repeat a passage many times, introduce some variety so that you stay alert and involved. Small variations are sufficient - a bit softer this time, a bit slower the next, now smooth and connected, now short and detached, now listen to the center of the tone, now close your eyes.

4. Play with a very steady rhythm, even if it's slow.
Playing technical material in secure rhythm exposes weak spots very quickly. Some parts of scales, for example, are easier to play than others. If you habitually rush the easy parts and "given in" to difficulties, you will either fumble the same passage when you meet in a piece of music, or you will alternately rush and drag the tempo where it makes no musical sense to do so.

5. Emphasize efficiency and effortless rather than speed.
Apply the principle of release. The purpose of some technical practice is to get our speed up - to play runs, trills, and riffs at a musical tempo. Going for speed itself, though, usually gives less reliable results than going for efficiency. If speed is your goal, analyze the sequence of movements you're making. Find out where effort is really required and where effortlessness will do.

For example, holding a finger down on a violin or a flute requires less effort than lifting a finger up. Excess effort fed into "down" can turn into fatigue and diminished control, leaving the muscles poorly prepared for "up". In his book , David Pino offers advice that's valuable to all musicians:

"Very rarely, if ever, is the problem an inherent lack of speed. You MAY lack speed, but if you do, that lack comes from poor control and coordination. It is a mistake to SAY that you lack speed because that lack is only a symptom of some other and more basic lack. The real problem is usually in the areas of airflow, relaxation, rhythmic steadiness, or in the simple coordination of the fingers with the tongue.... Work for control, coordination, relaxation, but not for speed!"

6. Be fearless.
Vague, flimsy, unfocused playing will not disclose the problems that need attention, nor will it allow your strengths to shine.

7. Be musical.
Technique is drawn out of a musical context and must finally return there. It makes sense, then, to take up technique musically and not mechanically.

There is no arguing that techniques is plain hard work most of the time. It's like a steamroller - slow and steady, smoothing out everything it travels over. If we approach our work with curiosity and patience, and if we let go of our resistance and our judgments, then acquisition of technique will slowly but reliably strengthen all our musical abilities.

It is when we are PLAYING, not practicing, that technical work pays off and can be forgotten - not abandoned, but rather consigned to the subconscious to serve us from there, like a benevolent genie. Our technique becomes as secure, finally,as brushing our teeth. We no longer have to think how it's done. But just as we all get routine brushing and flossing reminders from our dentist, so even simplest technique can be brought to surface, re-examined, renewed, and deepened at any time. "Good technique" is a wonderful thing to have, but "wrong" or "bad" technique will not ruin you or keep you out of the midst of music. Don't put off music making or the acquisition of other skills because you fear your technique is insufficient. It is more important to PLAY MUSIC.

Rehearsing For A Performance

Rehearsing for a performance is practicing with a very special goal. As in any other practice, it is useless to go over and over your music, especially the troublesome bits, with no attempt to address problems. Especially if a part is giving someone a problem, nothing will be accomplished by repetition except to drive in more deeply the troubles that already exist.

An individual's rehearsal work and a group's work are similar in many ways except that the group's time is more closely bound. An individual can rehearse at will, but a group must work round every one's schedule and may be hard-pressed to find time beyond the normal rehearsals. A group usually depends not on adding extra practice time but on starting early enough to get the work done. Each group will discover the right number of rehearsals needed for a concert or performance. Too few means a sloppy, insecure, demoralizing performance, but too many makes for boredom, resentment, and a loss of enthusiasm.

To keep up morale and use time efficiently, ensembles may need to schedule sectionals so that small groups of players or vocalists can go over their work. It's common for orchestra to split up into strings, woodwinds, and brass for at least one rehearsal. A sectional can be led by an experienced player so that several sectionals can go on simultaneously without requiring the conductor or leader to be present. A lot can be accomplished in a good sectional in a very short time. It's valuable enough to deserve the first twenty minutes or so at the very beginning of a rehearsal. It's not usually a good idea to hold a sectional at the end of a rehearsal when attention is beginning to wane.

An unconducted ensemble or an individual working alone might consider using a coach at some point during performance rehearsals. A coach is ideally a very good teacher with a clear knowledge of the kind of music you're getting ready. It is not someone who instructs in basic technique but rather someone who will help you build dimension into your playing, to bring it off the stage and into the audience.

One good time to bring in a coach is fairly early in your preparation, after you've learned your parts and are ready to break the music down for detailed work. You can get some ideas about developing and doing your best work, getting over the hurdles with room to spare, and using your instrumental skills to best advantage. The other good time for a coach is when you are ready to put the pieces back together. The least productive time for coaching is at the very end, just days or hours before the show. At that point it can feel a bit too late to everyone, especially if the coach has very many basic suggestions to make.

You will naturally think about the acoustics of the performance space, but if you have a choice, think about the acoustics of your rehearsal space as well. Consider challenging yourself and rehearsing in a "dry" environment, one that lacks resonance, that is what musicians call "dead". A resonant space gives richness to your overall sound, but it also conceals your mistakes and makes you sound much better than you actually are. It can be downright dangerous to rehearse in a live hall and perform in a dead one.

October 2008 Birthday Gals & Boys!!!

KSWS wishes the following members a Happy Birthday on their special day!!

08th October (WED) - Ian Lam Yee Yenn (Clarinet Section)
16th October (THU) - Lok Jie Jun (Euphonium Section)
20th October (MON) - Tan Yong An (Euphonium Section)
30th October (THU) - Tan Yue Yuan (Clarinet Section)

Hope they have a wonderful time on their upcoming Birthday!! Have a lot of fun & all best wishes to you.

Lok Jie Jun's Birthday Celebration

Bid Farewell to Mr. Noormazreen Maswan (Saxophone Section) & Ms. Lee Xian Li (Saxophone Section)

Hi KSWSians,

Let's say thanks to Mr. Noormazreen Maswan (Member Since 1997) & Ms. Lee Xian Li (Member since 2004) as they have decided to withdraw their membership from KSWS due to their busy personal commitment & career. They will still be supporting the band & they like to wish the band all the best in her music making for many good years to come.

KSWS will also like to thanks them for their contribution & effort in their years of service. The band also like to wish them all well for their career & life. Thank you very much & friends forever.

With Best Regards,
Lawrence Chong
President of KSWS