Practising Music Away from Your Instrument

It should go without saying that as music students, a sizeable amount of the time we spend thinking about and, well, practising music will be done at or with our instruments. After all, we’re practicing to be able to play, and it seems counterintuitive to practice playing without the “playing” part of the equation. To that end, we’ll spend many hours of many days of many years generating sound with our instruments, ever intent on shaping it to our desired musical vision. This is as it should be; no musician has ever achieved mastery with their instrument by not playing … Read more

The Women of Classical Piano: A Brief History and Overview

As musicians, our preoccupations in study and performance trend towards the compositional side of notoriety. When we think of the ‘greatest’ musicians, the names we tend to utter first are the composers: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev… This is not unreasonable, as without these masters of compositional craft we would not have their music. However, in consistently leaning on these gargantuan names, we tend to overlook the vast and storied history of the practitioners who have so brilliantly brought the works of these master creators to life. To be sure, many of these composers were … Read more

Discovering Keys: From Then to Now

It’s easy to get caught up in the nuts and bolts of studying music. Intervals, scales, chords, key signatures, chord progressions…once we dive into the deep pool of musical fundamentals, it can take some effort to recall that our ultimate objective is to create and play music. Indeed, it’s important to remember that the study of music as a formal, institutional affair will always be a biased sort of learning—we may treat our scales and chords and other wonderful musical basics as gospel, but they are derived from a fairly specific musical tradition, and not every practitioner of music will … Read more

Discovering Keys: Minor Keys

We’ve already covered a lot of ground in this article series on keys, however there is one important area that we’ve largely avoided in our studies thus far: minor keys. Please note: if you haven’t had a chance to check out our previous articles in this series, particularly our article on scales (What are Keys?: Learning Scales) and Parts I and II of our Discovering Keys articles, now would be a good time to check them out. Much of the information in this article will assume some familiarity with the material from those articles, so now is a good time … Read more

Discovering Keys: Part 2

Applying Scales and Chords to the Study of Keys Part II In Part I of this article series, we illustrated how some of the most basic tools in our musical tool-box could be employed to achieve a functional, foundational understanding of the the concept of ‘keys’ in music. By reinforcing our knowledge of scales and chords and then distilling that knowledge for the purpose of understanding keys, we were able to able to reveal the infrastructure behind keys as a product of the common musical devices we know and use everyday. To further summarize: At the core of all keys … Read more

Discovering Keys: Part 1

Applying Scales and Chords to the Study of Keys From the beginning of this series, we set out to achieve a succinct but comprehensive understanding of what keys are and how they can help us in our musical pursuits. We started by presenting a common musical scenario heavily dependent on keys for its construction and learning potential (in this case, a snippet from Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545). We then highlighted some of the most basic infrastructural components we find in music (chords and scales) for the sake of reinforcing the knowledge base we’ll need to … Read more

What are Keys: Learning About Chords

What are Chords and How Can They Help Us Learn About Keys? It starts off by being just a thing you do, and why wouldn’t you? For piano or guitar—for pretty much any instrument on which you can easily play lots of notes at the same time, really. Whether you see it in the music you’re learning or try it out of pure curiosity, at some point you’re going to do it…. You’re going to play a chord. Chords have been a staple device in the music of the Western world for, well, a long time. Prior to the Baroque … Read more

What are Keys: Learning about Scales

What are Scales and How Can They Help Us Learn About Keys? Have you ever had conversation with someone about their bygone days of learning a musical instrument? Often the story goes: “You’re taking music lessons?” Nice. Yeah, I took some piano lessons when I was younger. I really liked it, but I really wasn’t any good. Think I learned Fur Elise and some Mozart and, you know, did scales and stuff…” It seems we’ve all heard of–or practiced–scales at some point. In terms of learning our instruments, practicing scales serves as an accessible method for improving our technique and … Read more

What are Keys and Why Should We Know About Them?

In the Key of… “In the key of…” — we rarely get far into our musical endeavors before we find ourselves faced with this phrase. Minuets in the key of G, Sonatas in the key of A, Nocturnes in the key of E minor, Fugues in the key of F#, and so on. But what does being “in the key of ” something really mean? As beginners, we learn that it in some way refers to the number of sharps or flats (generally referred to as accidentals) we encounter at the beginning of a piece. We learn that this key … Read more

Understanding Time Signatures and Meters: A Musical Guide

At the beginning of practically any score of music you have ever looked at and will ever look at, there are numbers and symbols which clarify how to interpret the music notation on the score in front of you. As a music learner, you’ve become familiar with these symbols and you know that the numbers tell you how to interpret the music’s rhythms, to count and keep track of the music in time, and that if you’re playing with other performers—the numbers help you stay together! Yet, there are so many numbers and so many ways for these numbers to … Read more