Monday, December 31, 2012

30 Days of Music Theory - final update

There is much more to music theory than I was aware of 30 days ago. There were a few days when I didn't study music theory. I could blame this on the holidays but in retrospect, I should have had a better study plan in place before starting. A minimum amount of time to study each day would have helped me stay on track. Also, looking at random websites was probably not the best method as the information was not as detailed as I was looking for. I finished reading Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory which I consider an accomplishment given that I've had the book for over a year. 

I discovered that American and British English sometimes use different terminology for the same concept. For example, in American English, scales are made of of specific patterns or whole and half step. In British English, these are whole tones and semitones.  I also found a Society for Music Theory which did not seem to offer resources for those new to music theory. 

Even though the 30 days is now up, I will continue to learn music theory as it will be beneficial to my development as an organist. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Deciding to not give up on a piece - December 2012

A couple of weeks ago I had another lesson with Michael at his church. 

For over a year, I have been learning the Adagio movement from Widor's Symphony No. 5. I am still having technical issues with this piece as was evident when I played it at my lesson. I usually play the correct notes at home, but I was not as successful at my lesson. My usage of the expression pedal was not accurate enough - the expression pedal is used to create crescendos and decrescendos (increase or decrease the volume). As I was playing, Michael interrupted several times to point out issues and then I would attempt to correct and move on. I kept making mistakes. 

Michael proposed that I may be making more mistakes than usual because of all the interruptions which tend to increase my nervousness. So he had me play it all the way through from start to finish without stopping even if I made an error. I didn't play it perfectly but it did feel good to play the entire piece. My rendition is not performance ready. Then Michael asked a question: did I want to continue perfecting the piece or move on to another piece leaving this one unfinished? I heard this as: Do you want to give up?

Giving up would be easier but I would likely regret it later. I didn't want to give up! I decided to continue with it for at least one more lesson. It feels close to being complete and the finish line is in sight! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

30 Days of Music Theory - Half way update

On December 1, 2012 I announced my goal to study music theory every day for 30 days. I started off strong spending 30 minutes reading through lessons at On other days I read lessons in Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory. On days where I have been very busy, which has happened quite often in the past week, I squeezed in a few minutes here and there to use the Music Theory Pro app on my iPhone. I have missed a couple of days but given that I have my iPhone with me just about all the time, I feel like I have no excuse. 

I am beginning to understand more of the concepts. Also, different websites and books seem to present things just a little bit differently. I am finding myself pondering what I am learning and thinking about it how it all fits together when I am at work or doing other things. Sometimes, I want more information then what is given at the beginner level. For example, why are some intervals called perfect intervals! I finally found some information at but this is leading to even more questions!

I will continue learning for the next 15 days and then I will report my progress. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Organist's Christmas - Concert 12/7/12

Ted and I attended the concert entitled An Organist's Christmas on 12/07/2012 at the First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor., MI It was presented by the Ann Arbor Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the First Music and Art Series.  The church is large and beautiful with stone and woodwork and stained glass windows. The organ was initially installed by W. W. Kimball Co. in 1940. Additional stops and pipes were added in 1958 by the Reuter Organ Co. Reuter also provided a new console in 1988. This organ has 3 manuals and pedals and 44 ranks of pipes. The organ specifications in the program listed each stops and the number of pipes associated with them and indicated which pipes were Kimball pipes. The organ was recently renovated by the Renaissance Pipe Organ Company.  

Pipe Organ at First United Methodist Church - Ann Arbor, MI

The church had a big screen at the front of the church. This is likely used to display words to songs and sermon notes during services. During this concert it would serve a different purpose, showing close ups of the organist playing the organ! There were 3 or 4 different views. One zoomed in on the organists hands on the keyboards. Another view was at a wider angle where we could see the organist and their feet and hands. Then another view of just the pedals allowing the audience to see the fascinating footwork. The technical crew seemed to know just when to switch views!

There were 3 organists: David Hufford, Marcia Van Oyen, and Thomas Strode. The first piece played by David was played by memory! Marcia played an interesting piece called - "Variations sur un Noël" by Marcel Dupré . It consisted of about 10 variations each sounding unique. The finale was spectacular! Thomas played a chorale prelude along with violinist Kathryn Votapek and the Boy Choir of Ann Arbor.

Each organist played 3 or 4 pieces with the last being a hymn with singing by congregation and with the boy choir. Prior to playing the hymn, Thomas and David both played variations on the hymn they were about to play. David played "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and Thomas played "O Come, All Ye Faithful". It was very interesting hear the variations followed immediately by the traditional version one would expect to hear. Marcia's hymn was "Once in Royal David's City."  Hearing the voices of the congregation and the boy choir along with the organ was wonderful.

Overall the concert was very enjoyable and I encourage you to attend Christmas concerts that feature the pipe organ.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

30 day challenge - Music Theory

I recently discovered the TED talk of Matt Cutts encouraging people to try something new for 30 days. This video has over 3 million views and is only a few minutes long so watch it!

For my first 30 day challenge I will be tackling music theory. I have avoided learning music theory for most of the last 3 years even while knowing that understanding music theory will help me be a better musician. This is the kick in the pants that I needed!

What have you or will you try for 30 days?