I was judging a festival and can you imagine my joy, one of my favorite pieces was going to be performed. I was so excited not because I knew it well but I thoroughly enjoyed (anonymous piece). When my worst nightmare happened. The group ignored all of the musical elements of the piece. They had a complete disregard for tempos, dynamics, accelerando's, articulations, and rubato. They played a beautiful ballad without emotion. Nothing! No dynamics! What was I supposed to say?
The conductor was to blame and his students and my ears were the victims. Has anyone else ever noticed there is not a book to teach musicality? We talk about it. We demand it from our groups but it is one of those things we just have to learn in music. It is not talked about in any method books in a way that someone could learn it. We learn elements of it through years of experience and practice. I never understood it until I started seeing full scores and it still took time to understand. John Philip Sousa said, "There is only one way of judging music and that is either its beauty or its lack of beauty."
Sousa also said in the 1930's "I believe that the compositions of today are written by men who write them without inspiration and write entirely from their knowledge of harmonic structure and thus produce music that is lacking in the quality of inspiration." I feel the same way about all method books. I dislike all books especially books with sight-reading because they teach how to play music but they do not have musical lines for melodies they have a bunch of rhythms and notes but no music. How do we teach music without having music with emotion in it?
Beauty of Art
I have gained a great love for other art forms. I appreciate photography, a good museum, and other beautiful things. I appreciate a beautiful sunrise and sunset. A beautiful landscape. I do not have to criticize art and nature like my mind forces me to critique and analyze music. As I heard recently, "Music sounds different to the performer." I do not go to an Art Gallery to experience the large crowd or drink the coffee. I don't drive to a National Park to enjoy the traffic jam, pollution or trash. I do not go hiking to stand in line to see nature. Why do we present music without musicality? Why is there a lack of emotion and beauty through music? (personal opinion). We teach kids how to read rhythms and notes but we do not teach them beauty because no one ever taught us that when we were in school. We only learned technique and they talked about music but there is no method for musicality.
Where do we learn Musicality?
I was able to attend conducting workshop while doing my Master's Degree with the American Band College by Colonel Mike Bankhead. He said our score is the recipe and the ingredients are Rhythm, Tone, Pitch, Volume.
How we use our ingredients can make a huge difference to what our final product becomes. We teach rhythms from books and they are not musical. We teach scales, also not musical. (I have been told a million times to play them musically but sorry they are scales, there is a reason they are not actual melodies). We teach dynamics in beginning band books but really all we get are two volumes on and off. What are dynamics without emotion? We teach notes but do not spend enough time showing how those notes relate to chords and other things that are happening in the music.
Phrasing, our ingredients.
Our musical recipe has five ingredients. All of them together make beauty. We cannot just teach a melody and teach a student to phrase. Musicians need to know the bass line, the accompaniment line, the counter melody, harmony and the melody or many other combinations of those elements to make music. Without all the parts of the music being musical none of them are musical.
Sousa is the march king or if you are a french horn player "Satan". What if your entire band learned to play rhythm or chords like a french horn player. As the joke goes Marriage is like the French Horn it looks easy until you try it. Playing French horn rhythms and chord progressions is very difficult to do and even more difficult to make it fit within a musical line.
What if all of your musicians learned to play a bass line as good Sousa could write a bass line. Everyone would understand a chord progression and the way to follow and listen down for tuning, balance, and tone.
When should the Counter Melody play out when should it be softer, no one knows until you hear the melody. It is not musical without the melody.
Melody like an engine is the most important part. If it fails everything fails. To be useful a melody and engine need all the other parts to make it work. If you do not spend as much time preparing all of the musical elements of a performance as you do melody you failed. You have to teach all of your musicians every part of a piece for them to understand how their part works. Wait there are no methods books that teach this way. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. They teach elements of music but do not put them together. I do not like to compromise. I want my kids to learn everything.
Here is my answer to a very complex question. I have organized the music John Phillip Sousa in a progressive manner from easy to hard in a way that you can learn all parts of music. Melody, Counter Melody, Accompaniment, bass line and harmony. Order a free demo copy today. Stop compromising start teaching musicality.
Demo Copy Book 2 Progressive Musical Studies: Sousa Grade 3-5
Demo Copy - Book 2 Progressive Musical Studies: Sousa Grade 3-5
50 progressive selections from the music of John Philip Sousa.
This book starts from an easy grade 2 to grade 3. Each selection has a melody, counter melody, accompaniment, and bass line. Make it easier to teach style and musicality through marches by showing many different examples of the style, dynamics, articulation, note lengths, musical emphasis, trio's, break strains, intro's, in a progressive manner.
Each selection can be played in a small group of 5 or as an entire ensemble. Varied curriculum so Flute can play a bass line and tubas can learn to play a melody. Challenge everyone in your ensemble to learn how to play all parts of the music and understand how to make them work together.
Brian R. Thompson
Master of Music in Instrumental Conducting
Music Educator, Author, Clinician and Terrible Dancer
Experienced band teacher, author, clinician and musician. Brian has a Masters in conducting from Sam Houston Sate University through the American Band College. He was quarter Finalist for Grammy "Educator of the Year" 2018