Thursday, March 29, 2012

Benefits of playing duets

Sometimes when my students come to lessons unprepared, or if they have just finished a competition and are waiting on new music to come in, I will pull out a duet book and we will read duets. It reminds me of all the fun times I have had playing duets with friends. Sometimes it may feel like you are just playing around and you get no benefit from playing duets. However, something does not have to be unpleasant to be beneficial. This is especially true of playing duets with a friend!

Fun. I love being able to read new music with a partner. I love how the music can sound funny sometimes and you just stop in the middle of the music and start laughing. I love how playing duets is just fun, and there is no pressure to perform. It reminds me of why I fell in love with music in the first place.

Tempo. Playing with another person, or playing in an ensemble requires you to be able to keep time with another person. Playing in a small group forces you to do it without the aid of a conductor. You must learn to keep tempo from within. When you play by yourself without a metronome, there is the possibility that you will slow down or speed up imperceptibly. When you play with someone else, you need to keep the same tempo or the music will fall apart. Also, playing with a live person helps you to learn how to make adjustments with what is going on in the moment. Music is alive! Playing with a metronome is so important to learn how to keep a steady tempo, but sometimes music has ebbs and flows and you can learn how to stay in time with another person, ebbs and flows included, by playing duets.

Intonation. You might be able to play 40 cents sharp by yourself and no one would know the difference unless you weren't in tune with yourself. In order for the music to sound beautiful, you need to play in tune with your partner. In large ensembles, it is very difficult to try to match 65 other players as closely as you can with just one other player. It's difficult to hear your own part sometimes. You know how when you are in rehearsal and the conductor asks to hear just your section, and all of a sudden, you can play in tune much better? It's because the extraneous noise was removed. When playing with just one other person, you have an opportunity to focus matching pitch without tons of other sounds going on.

Tone and balance. Not only do you need to match pitch, but you need to match tone. Having only one other person to listen to makes it much easier to sound like one flute. One person does not need to be louder than the other unless the dynamics call for it. The audience shouldn't be able to perceive one instrument more loudly than the other!

Sight reading. The only way to get better at sight reading is to read new music! The way to do it faster is to read with other musicians who are better sight readers than you! Have you ever noticed that you learn to run better and faster when you do it with other people? It's the same with music. You learn to sight read better with other musicians. It's not really feasible to practice sight reading as much as you'd like with an entire orchestra of people, but it is feasible to grab a friend and read duets together.

Money. What? Yes. Money. If you can form a chamber ensemble, which a duo counts as a chamber group, you have the opportunity to be hired by anyone who is looking for musicians. Most people who hire musicians to play at dinner parties, weddings or other events are looking for a small group of musicians rather than just one. Variety is the spice of life!

Do you feel you have benefited from playing duets? In what ways do you feel you have benefited from playing duets? What other benefits would you add to this list? 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A glimpse ahead

I know it has been several weeks since we have had lessons, but yes, there will are lessons tomorrow! Thank you all for your understanding and patience. It's been a hectic and sickness-filled past few weeks. We're thankfully all better now. I hope it lasts!

We have a lot to do in the next few months. Ensemble placement auditions, high school preparation for a few of you, UIL, scales, end of year exams, etc. Some of you have decided to do the Young Artist Competition hosted by the Houston Flute Club at the end of the year. On top of that, we will have a funny schedule due to all the fun stuff that is happening! Please stay tuned. We will sort of have to play it be ear each week.

Here is a glimpse as to the tentative schedule for the rest of the year. It is subject to change.

Thursday, March 22-lessons as regularly scheduled

Thursday, March 29-lessons as regularly scheduled

Thursday, April 5-lessons as regularly scheduled

Thursday, April 12-lessons as regularly scheduled

Thursday, April 19-lessons as regularly scheduled


Wednesday, May 2-make-up/extra lessons will be held from 6pm-8pm for those interested


Thursday, May 10-lessons as regularly scheduled (Last OFFICIAL day of lessons)

Thursday, May 17-make-up/extra lessons will be help from 6pm-8pm for those interested

Hang in there!!! I know it gets tough at the end of the year, but summer is right around the corner.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Houston Flute Fest

On Saturday, March 10th, I attended the Houston Flute Fest hosted by the Houston Flute Club. I spent most of my time in the Judges' Room making sure the judges for the Denise Jennings Solo & Ensemble contest were taken care of. I have volunteered as the judging coordinator for that event for the past two Flute Fests. It's been a neat experience, and I enjoy being able to spend time with Houston area flutists.

Jill Felber was the guest artist this year and it was wonderful to be able to hear her play. She played a few fusion pieces that I would really like to get my hands on. She seemed like a really cute lady, and hearing her play made me want to go home and practice again. It made me realize that I miss performing, and I started to fantasize about auditioning for my DMA at her school. I don't even know if her school offers the DMA degree, but I imagined what it would be like to study with her anyway. I was very inspired.

Because I had to return to the Judges' Room at a certain time, I had to leave the recital early. On my way back to the room, I passed my former flute teacher Aralee Dorough. It was so good to see her again, even if it was only for about thirty seconds. I really miss her!

I also snuck out for a little while to attend a short class on caring for your flute taught by Bobbi Prewitt. I really like her. She seems fun.

Once the contest was over and the winners were picked, I was able to return home to my baby girl. Once I saw her again, all those ideas of practicing three hours a day went out the window! There's something about becoming a mommy that has made me much rather play with her than practice my flute. Hopefully one day I will remember the love that I had for my flute and for performing, but for now, playing with babies definitely takes the cake.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

No Lessons this week

Dear Parents and Students,

Due to TMEA happening this week, the band hall will be closed on Thursday. This means we will be unable to have lessons. I have sent an email to everyone about possibly scheduling make-up lessons on Wednesdays starting next week. Available times are as follows:


Please let me know as soon as possible if you would like to schedule a make-up lesson.


Mrs. Keen

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sticker Earning Opportunity: Handel Flute Sonata

Answer the following questions, and then find the words in the word search I have created. Turn in the word search by the end of the semester to earn up to one sticker per word found. 

1. What was Handel's first name?

2. In what month was Handel born?

3. In what era did Handel compose his music. (Hint: eras are time periods such as the Renaissance period, the Classical period, etc.) 

4. What is the name of Handel's oratorio that is in English and takes it's text from the King James Version of the Bible. (Hint: one of his most famous pieces of music. Probably the first thing that pops into someone's head if you say Handel's name. Starts with an M and has 7 letters.)

5. What is the name of the keyboard instrument that is in the recording above?

6. Some say that Handel may not have composed this sonata. Before historians became doubtful as to who the true composer is, they thought that this sonata was composed by Handel when he was a boy living in a certain city. What is this city? (Hint: Another name of this piece is the _______ Sonata No. 1)

7. This sonata is in the key of A _______. (Fill in the blank)

8. What is the title of the first movement of this Sonata?

9. In what month did Handel die?

10. Handel is buried in ____________  ____________ in London.

DMS Honor Band flutists' solo for solo and ensemble

The honor band flutists will perform the Handel Sonata in a minor, movement IV. Listen to the solo in it's entirety in the two videos below. 

Movements I & II

Movements III & IV (Start at 1:58 to hear mvmt IV)

I have had several students listen to this performance and describe differences between his performance and theirs. Most replied, "His is faster!" Some eyes got really wide and they would ask, "Do we have to play it that fast?" to which I replied, "You do not need to play faster than you can play well."  Yes, we do want to pick the tempo up, but it doesn't do anyone any good if you miss notes all over the place. 

Some noticed that he played his notes shorter, cleaner, more sparkly, more energetic, that he did not crack notes, that he sounded happy in his playing. These are great qualities to try to emulate! 

I started to ask questions about the composer and about the piece in general and I got blank stares. You could just hear this:

Dear Students:

To avoid the awkward silences and to sound like we know what we are talking about a little bit, I have created a sticker earning opportunity for you! Click here. Good luck!