Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Musical Work-spaces

I don't know if I am typical or atypical, but I find that I need four separate musical work-spaces:

  1. Guitar studio: this is just a corner in which I have my music stand, chair, footrest and nail-related paraphernalia. For practicing and teaching guitar.
  2. Piano studio: this is a desk at right angles to my computer desk where I have my keyboard (which is connected with a USB cable to my computer) and where I practice piano.
  3. Computer desk: this is where I create this blog, but mostly where I compose, directly into the music software.
  4. Study table: this is where I have a number of books stacked up that I am either reading or using for current reference. They include Rosen's on Classical Style, Caplin's on Classical Forms, Sibelius Studies, Peter Schubert's book on Modal Counterpoint and the scores to Haydn's quartets op 20 and 33. This is also where I sketch with pencil on manuscript paper.
Actually, I just realized I have five work-spaces, because I was forgetting my "listening station". I do most of my listening on a small sound system in another room. This is where all my CDs are.

As I say, I don't know if this is at all typical. Years ago, when I was teaching and performing full time I had three separate studios. One was at the university, where I had my own designated teaching studio. Another was at the conservatory where, as a department head, I had another designated teaching studio. By "designated" I just mean that these were for my use alone, not shared with other teachers. Then I had my main practice studio at home which is where I did all my real work. Musical scores tended to accumulate in all three places and sometimes I was puzzled to recall where a particular score had ended up!

So that's my experience. Anyone else want to share theirs?

Music to end with? How about some Scarlatti played by John Williams. Back in the 1970s he came out with one of my absolute favorite guitar albums with the Five Preludes of Villa-Lobos on one side and five sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti on the other. Perhaps the best Scarlatti ever recorded on guitar. Here he is playing the Sonata K. 175:


4 comments:

Rickard Dahl said...

Well, depending how you look at it I have either one or two musical workspaces. There's one room with my digital piano and a desk where I put my laptop (which I use mainly for inputting notes on Sibelius). In the drawer of the desk I have some sheet music, books and notebooks. My bedroom could be counted as another workspace but much less so. I have more music books there and this is also where do most of the listening and ear training.

Bryan Townsend said...

Teaching inevitably adds the need for more workspaces.

What ear-training do you do?

Rickard Dahl said...

Currently I'm working on transcribing video game music. There is much video game music that is hard to transcribe because the voices are more hidden and blend it more or are hard to discern. So unless I use "cheats" such as reducing the tempo or equalizing (which can be done with a program such as Audacity) it's often hard to notate all parts (even with "cheats" it can be a mess). But using "cheats" is a pretty useless thing if I want to practice ear training rather than transcribing for the sake of just transcribing. For instance, this piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNkEEAHp75M may appear simple at first (only two guitar voices) but later on it has four guitar voices. The bass and top melody are easier to discern but there are two middle voices where the lower middle voice is harder to discern unless you slow down the music and maybe boost those frequencies.

So, instead of transcribing something too hard (which turns out to be a mess, not to mention that I don't get much practice out of it), I focus on simplier pieces now. Currently I'm working with this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spHfO__INKo and as you can hear it's quite simple but that's a good thing as I'm able to discern all parts and will hopefully be able to transcribe all of it without much external help. Maybe this will be next: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdllDyGQwaE

Anyways, the most important ear training skill I need to focus on is being able to internalize the music and notate it from my head. So if I listen to lets say a melodic segment with 4 notes, I stop listening and instead rely on my internal hearing and figure out the intervals that way. So maybe I recall the first two notes and realize it's a major 3rd between them or so. I'm pretty bad at it and need to practice. It seems like such internalization skills are quite needed for writing down music without an instrument.

I recently realized that a nice way to save ideas from my head is to record the sound of me whistling the idea (I'm bad at singing and whistling is much easier for me to do accurately). So I pick up my cellphone and record the whistling. The recorded idea can then be figured out at the piano for instance. I also tend to improvise not only at piano but also through whistling and so recording it seems like a natural thing to do (ironically though it wasn't until recently I realized I could record it, I think it was your mentions of Esa-Pekka Salonen's app that got me thinking about it).

With that said, not to brag but I don't have much difficulty to come up with (good?) melodic ideas, what is difficult for me is going one step further and developing those ideas. It's difficult to organize the ideas structurally and into a coherent wholeness.

Bryan Townsend said...

Hmmmm,very interesting! Yes, it does sound a bit like you picked up on something from that Salonen video. The thought crossed my mind of using a bunch of sticky notes to organize the structure. But that would involve labeling every little idea: A1, B3, X14. So I went "Naahhh!"

Something to realize about structure: there are a million ways of structuring a piece of music and probably half of them haven't even been used. So just go for it.