The Sermon of Music

I went to church this week and received a blessing as the pastor talked about purity. Each week for the past three weeks he’s elaborated on one of the thoughts included in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from the 5th Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.

These sermons are thought provoking and channel my thoughts into areas that refresh the soul as I contemplate the life of Jesus that serves as a perfect model for you and me.

Purity is something we all admire and is also something that causes us to struggle from time to time. Our human weaknesses and hormonal imbalances along with the constant influences from the advertising on TV and magazines bombard us with ideas and concepts directly opposed to a humble Christian life of serving others.

As the sermon ended we were ushered into a song called “Whiter than snow” that focused our attention on the need to be cleansed and on the willingness of God to wash us with His righteousness.

The sermon and the closing hymn were a cleansing experience, and as the closing prayer was spoken by the pastor I realized how vulnerable I am to impure thoughts, and how delicate is my spiritual condition. I felt the need for more prayer to seek the power of God to be drawn higher and to live above this level of temptation that desensitizes the soul.

We then sat down for the postlude.

The music began with sounds appropriate for reflection as the guest organist moved from one set of keys to another creating an interplay of sounds of authority for a few measures followed by sounds of fragility. One moment my mind was directed to the unchangeable, majestic power of God and the next to my weak vacillating character that had just been cleansed. One moment to my clumsy attempts at life followed by the still, small voice of God.

The Music reinforced the sermon on purity as it clarified in my mind the need for God to be included in every dialogue. A need for God to have a say in each phrase of life.

And then began the Toccata and things changed.

The soft and delicate strains from flute, and clarinet pipes was replaced with horns, and 16 and 32 foot pipes as the organist’s hands morphed from elegant devices of peace, depressing the keys with such soft and light movement into monstrous tools of war intended to subdue the instrument of sound that resisted compliance.

The atmosphere changed as heavy fingers became objects of oppression, demanding more and more sound, forcing the organ to respond with note after note of power with increasing decibels. Additional pipes were brought into play as organ stops were opened. Intricate and balanced harmonies were left behind. Interplay between the various organ manuals was replaced by blasts of power as the king of instruments lived up to its reputation by delivering note upon note of authority as if I was standing before the judge of the universe and my sordid record was placed before me.

Benefits of Joining Dance Classes

Dancing is considered to be a talent, more than it being called as a hobby. There are some people who are gifted with this talent since their birth, while the others are the one who develop interest in this art from when they grow up. There are also a group of people who have a liking towards this art form but they require some trainer who can make them excel in dance. Professional training in this art form is a must for you to take in order to sharpen your dancing skills and make it even better.

Professional learning and polishing skills

If you get enrolled in any of the dance classes in your area, it can give you the assurance that you will be provided with proper professional training in this art form. There may be many classes in your locality providing you these dance lessons, but you need to choose the best one. You can select the school which you like the most and then learn a dance form about which you are really passionate about. All the schools have professional dancers or specialists who have the responsibility of teaching you to dance.

If you are gifted with this talent from your birth, these classes can help you to polish your skills. Your skills will get the limelight and be recognized. This can act as a platform for you to show your talent to the entire world and your opportunities are going to become bigger and bigger.

Mental and physical benefits

Dancing can be considered as one of the best ways to keep your mind occupied with good thoughts and to beat stress. The lively music and vigorous exercising can help you forget all the stress and will keep your mind refreshed. Along with these mental and emotional benefits of your mind from dancing, it also helps to maintain a proper physical health. When you are joining any of these dance classes, you are going to attend it almost regularly.

Attending a dance class in your locality will ensure you that your talent will be appreciated and recognized very well. While you are looking for any of these schools, make sure that you go to a well reputed one and the one that can teach you various dance forms. This will be really beneficial in your long run if you wish to learn multiple dances at some point of time.

How to Enjoy the Melody of Country Music

Have you ever tried to enjoy listening to Country Music? In fact, in this respect, John Denver stands out to be one of the best singers. To learn why I enjoy his songs till today, read on.

The fact that he could never be happy staying with his wife, yet he sang his songs with his wife in mind in a far away place from his home, struck me a lot. He really had a special calling for singing country songs and yet his tragic death in a plane crash is even more saddening.

My favorite songs of John Denver are “Annie’s Song” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” But there is also a special song he sang, whose repeating lyrics speak a lot to me. I will reveal more about it towards the end of this article.

Playing country music, especially like those of John Denver’s songs, before having an afternoon nap or before going to sleep at night can actually relax your mind to a great extent, letting you have a deep and uninterrupted sleep, about which you will really feel great after waking up and go about the rest of the day with renewed energy and vigor.

Playing his songs when your mood is low and need a kind of boost is just about the perfect solution. Singing the lyrics of the songs, when you are playing them, actually helps you go bouncing to great heights during the day. Even if you don’t have the spirit to play them, just start to sing your favorite lines of his songs and you will feel blessed. If you have never heard of John Denver’s songs, I would recommend you to buy his CD of songs and start listening right away.

It is actually the melody of his songs that touches your heart and soothes your mind and above all, the lyrics are lovely too. Start tapping the palm of your hand or better still with your foot along with the beats of the songs, and you will definitely and remarkably start feeling the mojo of your life. A little movement of your body goes a long way for your good only.

You can also play these songs while you are driving alone or with your family. Everybody will tune into the melody of these songs and start enjoying the ride even more and above all, feel good and spirited. If you are playing them while you are returning home from a night’s out get-together or elsewhere with your children, I bet your children will fall into good and heavy sleep, and you don’t have to bother about putting them to sleep when you reach home by telling them bedtime stories. Yes, country music deserves that many credits.

Learning How to Read Music – Introduction

Do you have a dream to play a musical instrument, sing or write songs? Learning how to read music is a critical skill set that you will need to be a successful musician. Some compare it to being literate. I would agree with that assessment.

Believe it or not learning how to read music can be surprisingly easy and fun. You just need to have a little motivation, a good plan and some encouragement as you learn.

For over forty years I have been involved in music, most of those years earning an income, though meager at times, as a musician. I have taught literally hundreds of students. Some who were very young students and, surprisingly, some who were quite elderly.

The Sad Story

Many years ago I became acquainted with a very talented saxophonist. He was quite young at the time and he could virtually play anything he heard without the aid of written music. At the time I remember thinking “What an awesome gift”! I still feel that way today.

You can imagine my surprise when I found out Tom (not his real name) had no clue how to read music.

Toms burning desire was to become a professional musician. He had all he needed to become a highly successful musician with the exception that he could not read any music.

All of his musical friends told him that being able to read music was a critical skill that he needed to develop in order to achieve his musical dream. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Tom didn’t think that advice was so reasonable and he totally rejected the ideal. That was many years ago and you have probably guessed the outcome. To date he cannot read music nor has he ever made any serious effort to learn. He has yet to achieve anything close to his dream and potential.

In Texas we have a saying that goes like this, “With that kind of attitude you could ruin an anvil”

Toms’ story is disappointing and sad. But the real tragedy was his attitude about learning. I later found out that he had great difficulty learning in traditional ways.

The Good News

As a teacher I have thought many times with the resources we now have available online for specialized learning, Tom could easily have been motivated to learn the musical skills necessary to achieve his musical dreams.

This article is an introduction to a series of articles I’ll be writing on “Learning how to read music”.

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Singer Songwriters

There have been many singers who did not write their own songs, over the last few decades. Some would be considered superstars or famous. There also have been songwriters who were not good singers. Some sang their own music they had written but they never became known as great singers.

Then there are singer/songwriters. They are not necessarily better or worse than “mere” singers or “mere” songwriters. They are, however, throwbacks to yesteryear, decades or centuries ago. Way back when, folk-ish singers had to write their own music and there were no computers, radios, or concerts within their reach from which they could learn or copy another’s music. They had an instrument, such as a guitar, lute, or other portable chord making thing and they played it as they sang.

To be clear, even though singing and songwriting are related, they are multiple skill sets. Most songwriters play keyboard and/or guitar well. They play well enough so as to be able to write chords and rhythm patterns which make stylistic sense. There are patterns on piano and there are strum or pick patterns on guitar. In addition, there may be fills and embellishments used by songwriters to enhance a song. Further steps would be orchestration and/or arranging which are still other skill sets.

The melody of the song and melody writing is another separate skill set. Writing melody and chords are sometimes learned or enhanced by having the knowledge of music theory. There have been many good or great songs written by people who only play by ear, know what they hear, know what they like and it doesn’t make the song suffer at all. What if… what if a person gets stuck in the process? A lack of knowledge can cause a person to get stuck because melody writing and harmonic technique will only be as good as experience plus knowledge in those areas.

Some songs have one chord or two and most have more, but there are tendencies of many progressions. A I-IV-V progression is found in thousands of songs but the interesting thing is none of the songs have the same melody lines at all. II-V7-I progressions are interesting and can completely change a song. So can II-V7-III-Vi. Then there are chords way beyond major and minor and these all can open up what feels like an entire universe of sound.

The more you know, the more you can do. How long does it take to learn chord formation? That would be a great first step. I once taught a non-musician all chords in every key in 3 hours. I could call out a chord and she would play it with little hesitation. Is it worth the time spent to be able to do this? What if it took 8 hours or a week? Is it worth spending the time to improve?

Songwriting Starting From The Ground Up

Your experience with songs may be that you have heard songs on radio, YouTube, iTunes, or other media. You have developed preferences in what you like. You may like one style more than others. You may like only one style. You may like all or most styles of music. Now, you want to write a song or songs and maybe you have already given it a try. Maybe your song didn’t turn out like how you wanted it to. Maybe it did, but you’re not sure where to go from here.

Without hearing your song or your song idea, there is no way to evaluate it, so let’s explore songwriting from the ground up. Somewhere in the process, we will hit your level and move up from there. Perhaps there are also some blanks to fill in along the way. If you knew everything there is to know about cars and driving, except for where the brake is and what the brake does, you will run into a “problem” eventually.

To listen to a song in its entirety can be overwhelming when you start to analyze it, if you haven’t done that before. There is a lot going on at once and throughout the song. There can be singing of lyrics and the accompaniment. The words and the music are two components, but those have many sub-parts, so to speak. If we back up from what we hear and get a broader view of the song, we’ll see some things we might not have noticed.

The title is repeated within the chorus, too. You might listen to the song and count how many times “killing me softly” is repeated. That part, the title and the line of that song is often referred to as the “hook”. It has the hypnotic effect of repetition to anchor itself in your mind after you have heard it a few times. It is common in popular, country, and jazz songs that there will be a hook. We’re not looking for a formula at this point in time.

There are styles. In Baroque style writing there are “rules” but they are part of what makes Baroque what it is. To go outside the rules would result in altering the style of Baroque music. It is not a bad thing to know or to learn just as ballet is not a bad thing for a hiphop or jazz dancer to know, however, one may not be essential as a prerequisite to the other. There are commonalities between ballet and other dance. There are also commonalities between Baroque music and modern music. We will investigate these soon.

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