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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, February 12, 2007


The PMC Quick Note is a weekly service provided to all area directors.  It is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest.  The weekly Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


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Music Preparation Sequence by David Robinson
*Editor's note: This handout is intended to be used by students working on solos, ensembles, or ensemble music. It gives them a framework on where to start and what sequence to use when learning and perfecting a piece of music. For a printable handout of this article, please click here (Microsoft Word doc format).

EVERYTHING below must be done with good TONE QUALITY, POSTURE, POSITION, and ATTITUDE. Judges are only human and their IMPRESSION of you will effect their RATINGS of you. Know and understand how your particular instrument is “supposed” to SOUND. Each instrument should sound full, centered, under control, and rich with harmonics (a sound that PROJECTS easily). Feel free to ask your director about his listening library or a list of artists/groups you could find to listen to.

1. Rhythms/Speed - Everything must be correct and under control. Listen for notes to sound EXACTLY together with either the accompaniment, a metronome, or others in the ensemble. (VERTICAL PRECISION)

2. Notes - NO EXCUSES for wrong ones! Check with a friend, piano, or tuner if necessary.

3. Articulation - This can make or break the character/style of the piece.....articulations make notes and rhythms FEEL different. Marked articulations must be followed but can be altered if they fit the style and are remarked for the judge.

4. Dynamics - Play with VOLUME CHANGES, so that your performance is interesting! CONTRAST is the name of the game and necessary to produce musical lines. Without SENSITIVE dynamic contrasts you might end up sounding electronic.

5. Phrasing/Breathing - Make the audience feel comfortable with your delivery...TIMING is everything! Think in terms of COMPLETE THOUGHTS. This relates directly to dynamics also (including percussion). Too many breaths or concentration on note-by-note playing creates a “choppy” feel with no meaningful musical thoughts.

6. Style/Interpretation (correct “character”) - What EMOTIONAL IMPACT is called for? What is the time period? What is the feel?

7. Memorization (solo/marching band only) - If you've practiced to make everything above correct, this will be a PIECE OF CAKE. REPETITION is the mother of skill and memorization!!

8. Intonation (with piano or group members) - Strive for a “BEATLESS” or “NON-FIGHTING” sound. Sounds should FIT TOGETHER perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle or MATCH perfectly as if only one person was playing.

9. Balance/Blend (with piano or group members) - Players must listen during every performance to adjust WHAT and WHO is important (Balance). “Like” sounds should MATCH (Blend).

CONTRAST is the name of the game for the tension and release necessary for a MUSICAL PERFORMANCE. Contrasts can be achieved with tone, speed, articulation, dynamics, and phrasing. Be aware of all of these areas which are available to you to create the most emotional/musical performance possible.

Performers need as much comfort as possible in order to perform with CONFIDENCE and SECURITY!! SLOW DOWN the tempo of the music to get ANY of the above things to happen. If you can't perform a task slowly, your brain really isn't 100% comfortable with the skill(s) required...and your audience will also be uncomfortable! DO NOT WORRY about speed. It will evolve naturally with the comfort level of your skills. We perform quickly that which we know backwards and forwards without question.

Refer to sample adjudicator sheet on the reverse side. The most profound statement on the sheet is the sentence that reads, “Selections in each category below may not be cumulative to a final rating!!!!! Each individual judge can “weight” ANYTHING they desire as most important!!!!!!!!!

David Robinson is currently in his 24th year of teaching instrumental music for the Knob Noster Public Schools, having taught vocal and instrumental music in Windsor for one year prior. David graduated summa cum laude in 1982 (Bachelor of Music in Education-combined vocal and instrumental) from Central Missouri State University. He was also a Lovinger Scholar, earning his Master of Arts Degree with a 4.0 from the same institution a decade later. During his career, he has served as CTA/MSTA President for the KN Association of Teachers, and as Band Vice-President and President of the West Central Missouri Music Educator's Association. His current professional affiliations include Pi Kappa Lambda, Phi Beta Mu, Missouri Bandmaster's Association, Music Educator's National Conference, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Missouri Music Educator's Association, Missouri State Teacher's Association, and The International Trumpet Guild. David has been included in the Who's Who Among American Teachers through student nominations several times during his career.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center

Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


(417) 882-7000
Bob Hopkins and Mike Brown
Springfield North (417) 862-2700 Burl Williams
Columbia (573) 256-5555 Robert Pitts
Joplin (417) 781-3100 Wayne Blades
Liberty (816) 792-8301 Ken Crisp


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