On the Box: 8 Pieces on a Television Theme

On the Box for Flute and Piano by Lichfield-based composer, David BartonCatalogue Number: DBM1114
Flute & Piano
Publisher: David Barton Music
Difficulty Level: 2-5
Year of Publication: 2011
Duration: 9 minutes

Availability: Out of Print

Contact for more information.

Contents:
1. News Beat
2. Nature Walks
3. Comedy Captures
4. Tearjerker
5. Beat the Clock
6. Cottage Gardens
7. Toys on the Move
8. Daytime Viewing

These pieces arose from the composer’s interest in Library Music and music for television. News Beat  brings us the news with a sense of urgency, while Nature Walks takes us on a stroll in the countryside. Comedy Captures provides a sense of light relief, while romance doesn’t seem to be blossoming in Tearjerker. Time can run out too quickly if you can’t Beat the Clock, then daytime programmes continue with a trip to the potting shed in Cottage Gardens. Don’t forget that there’s fun for youngsters in Toys on the Move, which is followed by lifestyle, discussion, cookery and antiques in Daytime Viewing. A set of fun and varied pieces for the whole family’s entertainment.

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Teaching, Competition, Festival, Exam

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Sight-reading doesn’t have to be stressful…

Sight-reading doesn't have to be stressful…
Pupil playing pianoMention ‘sight-reading’, and many musicians can already be seen running for the nearest exit. Over the years, two distinct sorts of sight-reading appear to have emerged: firstly, there’s sight-reading (i.e. playing a piece you’ve never seen before) and sight-reading (i.e. a test in a music exam).

In the same way as the term ‘practice’ now conjures up negative images, so sight-reading has begun to suffer the same fate. We once had an ABRSM examiner who called it ‘fright-reading’. In general terms, the two sorts of sight-reading mentioned above are actually no different. It is fair to say that one probably happens under more stressful conditions, but the underlying principle is exactly the same. So, whatever form it takes, how can we make sight-reading less stressful?

Every time you learn a piece of music, you’re sight-reading. That’s right, every new piece that’s been put in front of you will have required some form of sight-reading. It’s something that many musicians do on a daily basis. My flute, piano and singing pupils who I teach here in Lichfield often tell me that sight-reading in exams is stressful because you haven’t got very long to look at the music. I’m sure they feel they have a valid point, but my experience is that when you give them something to sight-read which isn’t identified as a sight-reading ‘test’, they spend less time looking at it than they do with the 30 seconds allotted for an exam.

As soon as you come across a new piece (whether it’s for sight-reading or sight-reading), there are going to be some things which are worth looking at: key signature, time signature, tempo etc. Remember that game you might have played once where you had to look at things on a tray which were then covered up and you had to write down all the things you could remember? Have you tried it with a piece of music? Try looking at it for 30 seconds then cover it up – how many different things can you remember? I’m sure you’ll surprise yourself.

Let’s be clear: sight-reading a piece is very rarely going to produce a perfect rendition first time. Personally (and I’m sure examiners would too), I’d rather listen to a rendition which keeps going and gives me a general outline of what’s going on, rather than a painfully slow performance where the player tries to work out every single note and rhythm one at a time. After you’ve looked at the ‘basics’, have a quick skim through the rest of the music. Importantly, can you recognise any repetition or patterns? Learners are often surprised to discover that a good amount of sight-reading tests are made up almost entirely of both these. Can you see any scales, arpeggios, sequences etc.

This applies mainly to pianists, but it may apply to other instruments too, do remember to check what position your hands need to be in: you can play all the right fingering, but if your hands aren’t in the right place, then I’m afraid none of the notes will actually be right.

What’s the most important thing about sight-reading? For me, it is to keep going. I’m forever telling my pupils to keep going if they make a mistake; many hope that by going back and correcting their mistake, this somehow cancels it out: it doesn’t! For exam candidates, I’m pretty sure you lose more marks by stopping and correcting errors than you would for making the mistake in the first place!

It is true that in an exam situation, time is limited. Once you’ve checked the basics, try the beginning and the end; if there’s time, try any other tricky passages. If you’ve worked out there’s a pattern, try this too – there is plenty of time if you use it effectively. Examiners are now expected to not only tell you you’ve got 30 seconds or half a minute to look at the test, but also that you can try out any bits you want to. To me, this is a fundamental point, and I look at it like this: Candidate A looks at the test for 30 seconds but doesn’t play anything; when they come to perform it, it’s a disaster. Candidate B looks at the test for 30 seconds and tries some bits out; when they come to perform it, it’s also a disaster…which candidate will get the higher mark? So much of sight-reading is in the approach. Candidate B showed they approached the test in the right way: Candidate A chose not to. The higher of the marks seems obvious to me.

Next time you’re doing either sight-reading or sight-reading, think about the process you’re going through. As you progress, you’ll get to know your strengths and weaknesses and this will enable you to best use any preparation time. Above all, keep going (my pupils tell me they hear me saying this in their sleep!).

 

 

 

How to Choose a Music Teacher

How To Choose a Music Teacher
Piano lesson in progressOne of the questions which comes up so often, not just amongst parents but amongst adult pupils too, is how do you go about finding a teacher? Surprisingly, even as a flute, piano and singing teacher here in Lichfield, I’ve had to find teachers for myself at various intervals. Here are some suggestions to get you started…

Where do I look for a teacher?

The best way to find a music teacher for you or your child is through personal recommendation. Maybe you already know someone who’s learning, and if not, ask around friends and relatives. Around 50% of my enquiries come through this method. Failing this, try the internet. A simple Google search will often yield results, either because teachers have their own websites as I do, or because their details are given on listings sites. Occasionally, if you have a local music shop, they might keep a list (some are selective though, and not always for the right reasons!), and in the past libraries often did the same. When I’ve been looking for teachers, I like to be able to read a bit about them and their teaching – personally, and possibly quite wrongly, I tend to ignore the sort of one-line name and telephone number sort of adverts these days. On my own website, I try to give as much information as I can about me and my teaching: in the end though, you can’t please everyone!

How do I choose a teacher?

The first thing is to think about is what you want from your or your child’s teacher. For example, you may have particular time or location requirements; you might want to focus on a particular sort of music; you might want a teacher who offers performance opportunities; or you might want a teacher who is skilled with a particular group of learners. Make a list of these things: it’s a big commitment, and it’s worth doing as much research as possible. This will hopefully help narrow it down.

What is a ‘good’ teacher?

How long is a piece of string? A good teacher for one person is not a good teacher for another: learning an instrument or learning to sing is a very personal thing and not all personalities ‘gel’ in the same way. You can look for qualifications, but these are in no way a guarantee of success. You’ll need to think about each teacher individually: how to they present themselves? Do they have the skills and experience you’re looking for? Do they show an interest in and enthusiasm for music and teaching? What do past/current pupils/parents say about them? Do you like the sound of them (there’s a lot to be said for trusting instinct too)? What things matter to you about a teacher? I fear that no teacher is perfect, so at one time or another, you may have to make some compromises, at least when you’re searching, otherwise it’s easy to discount all of them!

How to make contact?

Making contact with a prospective teacher is often the hardest part of the whole process. When you contact them, make sure you have any questions to hand; think about the things you want/need to know and find out. Gather as much information as you can: I sometimes wish people would ask me more questions! It is useful if you have an idea of your or your child’s availability too; sometimes teachers just won’t be able to meet these and it’s best to establish this early on.

Girl playing the fluteWhere to go from there?

Some teachers offer an interview lesson, some offer a consultation lesson, and some offer a trial lesson. To my mind, these are all much the same thing. I offer a one-off consultation lesson which is an opportunity to have a chat, and for me to give the pupil a taster of what having flute, piano or singing lessons might be like – there is no obligation to continue after this, though most do. I think it’s important that pupils and parents have the opportunity to meet face-to-face: e-mail and telephone is one thing, but they are no substitute for meeting a prospective teacher in person. Again, have a think about what you’d like to know before you go. Not all teachers offer a consultation lesson and some will expect you to sign up there and then – I’m afraid that with these, despite all your research, there’s an element of chance. Personally, I think that taking lessons is often a big commitment both in time and money, so an initial meeting is important.

What if it doesn’t work out?

I’d like to say that if it doesn’t work out, there are plenty more fish in the sea, but this isn’t always the case. Have a think about what you didn’t like: what was wrong with them? Have a think about the things you liked too! If there are plenty of other teachers locally, then you might be able to work your way around until you find one that fits. This isn’t always the case, and as I said earlier, there may well be an element of compromise. Another thing to think about is that a pupil-teacher-parent-relationship is something which will build up over time; don’t expect everything to be spot-on first time!

Good luck with your search! And…if you’re in Lichfield, Tamworth, Rugeley, Shenstone, Sutton Coldfield, Four Oaks or any of the other surrounding places, I offer flute, piano and singing tuition for both adults and children – you can find some more information here.

Help! I’ve got an audition…

Help! I've got an audition…
Girl singing music theatre or classicalI quite often get enquiries from people who need help preparing for an audition; indeed, several of my own singing pupils have needed help along the way too. For some people, it can be an audition for a local amateur dramatic production, but for many, it’s an audition onto an acting or dance course.

Dancers and actors are often surprised to find that many universities and colleges require them to sing at their audition, but it is now reasonably common practice. The most important thing to remember about auditions is that you only have a very limited space of time to show as many skills as possible.

So, how can you get the most out of your audition?

Prepare early…

If you know you’re going to be auditioning for an acting or dance course, find out as soon as you can whether you’ll be expected to sing at your audition. Preferably, find out soon enough that if necessary, you can get some singing lessons in time. A year of lessons before your audition can make a world of difference to your confidence and success. If you’re not able to find out early on, as soon as the information arrives about your audition, check up what you’re going to need to do. If you’re not already having singing lessons, now is the time to book some; a lot can still be achieved in a short space of time.

Know what’s expected…

If you need to sing at your audition, find out as soon as possible what’s expected. What type of song do you need? What level does it need to be at? Is there a time restriction? What skills do you need to show? Who will accompany you?

Choosing a song…

Once you know what’s expected, you can make a better-informed choice about which song to sing. To my mind, there are really two things you need to balance when choosing a song: (1) Something which demonstrates the necessary skills you need to show, and (2) Something which you like and are confident singing. An audition is not necessarily the time to choose something complicated which is really beyond the level you’re at. A lot of people auditioning for dance and drama courses are not singers: it is best to stick to something relatively simple and do it well. You will almost certainly need to obtain the sheet music for your song (a full version, not a lead sheet or chord symbols). If you can get some singing lessons in early enough, your teacher will of couse be able to advise on which songs might be a good choice.

Should I choose a song no one else will do…

Ultimately, this is an impossible question to answer! Quite often people arrive for their few lessons before the audition with a song which has been given to them by someone who’s said “Do this one because no one else will”. To some extent, it is true that audition panels tend to hear the same few songs over and over again, but overall, stick with what you’re confident with. If you’ve got the time and ability to learn something which is outside the box, that’s great: if not, that’s not a problem – giving a confident and well-prepared performance is more important in my view.

Preparing your song…

A lot of people are used to singing along to backing tracks. They normally get a shock when they read their audition papers to find that the venue will provide a piano accompanist. If you’re used to backing tracks, singing to the piano can be a new experience! If you’re going to book some lessons with a singing teacher to prepare for your audition, it is highly preferable that they be able to accompany you on the piano so that you get a clear idea how it’s going to be on the day. Ask them to record your song too so that you can practise it at home.

What are they looking for…

On the whole, each place will be looking for something different, but generally, asking you to sing is a good way of ‘putting you on the spot’; it is a good test of your confidence under pressure, asking you to do something which you’re perhaps not as comfortable with as dancing or singing. Overall, they’re not looking for a ‘finished product’ (they’re not looking to ‘show you up’ either!). The ability to sing in tune and to hold your line against the piano accompaniment is probably expected; being able to show character (particularly if it’s an acting course) and variety is very important: remember, you have just a few minutes to show as many skills as you can. Overall, I think that panels are looking for committment. They’re looking for you to perform as well as possible under pressure; it is always clear on these occasions which performers have put the effort into their preparation and which haven’t: don’t be one of the latter because it shows and it will colour their judgement.

Whatever your audition, be prepared! Don’t leave things until the last minute and if at all possible, get some lessons with a teacher who can help you get the best out of the experience. I’ve worked with a lot of singers preparing for auditions and am quite happy to provide a one-off or short series of lessons here in Lichfield to help you prepare.

If you think you’d like to make a career in the performing arts, then start some singing lessons as soon as possible – they’re a good investment!

 

Fanfare and Recessional for St. Luke’s

Fanfare and Recessional for St Luke's for organ by David Barton of LichfieldCatalogue Number: AMP-63
Organ
Publisher: Adoro Music Publishing
Difficulty Level: 4-5
Year of Publication: 2011
Duration: 3 minutes
Availability: Out of Print

Please contact the composer for more information.

This festive piece is suitable for any celebratory service, such as Easter, services of dedication, and weddings.

Reviews

‘…it is quite conventional and gives the player no particular technical problems.  At a mere $3.00 it is good value. The composer is very much an English musician, with a wide performing experience in the USA, Ireland, and the UK.  Neither of these pieces needs a large instrument.’

Trevor Webb in RSCM Church Music Quarterly (December 2011)

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Competition, Festival, Exam, Worship, Church, Festival, Christmas, Wedding, Celebration

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Cantabile on ‘Noel Nouvelet’

The Fagus Book of Quiet Voluntaries for Easter which includes the Cantabile on 'Noel Nouvelet' for organ by David Barton of LichfieldOrgan
Publisher: Fagus Music
Difficulty Level: 4-5
Year of Publication: 2010
Duration: 3 minutes
Availability: In Print

In the Fagus Book of Quiet Voluntaries for Easter

Printed Copy: RRP £18.00
Order from Publisher

 

PDF Copy: RRP £13.50
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A short interlude on this traditional Easter carol, suitable for the quieter moments in the season. Also suitable for use at other times of year and would make a nice addition to a concert or recital.

Reviews

‘This collection of 27 pieces provides quieter pieces for use as opening  voluntaries during the Easter season, specifically composed so that the results  ‘should be capable of being played by players of modest ability, or quickly  prepared by those who are more skilled’. The book succeeds in these aims, with  a collection in a wide variety of styles. Chorale and hymn tunes form the  basis; Noël Nouvelet appears four  times, each with a very different approach. Some pieces are quite conventional  in their harmonic approach, others more adventurous, but the standard is  universally good. There is something for everyone, and the use of these pieces  need not be confined to the Easter period. The only non-contemporary composer  included is Pachelbel, represented by  a Partita on Salzburg and a chorale prelude on ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’. This is a  highly useful collection.’

Trevor Webb in RSCM Church Music Quarterly (March 2012)

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Church, Worship, Easter, Holy Week, Passiontide, Good Friday

Adagio

Adagio for Organ by David Barton of LichfieldCatalogue Number: LMPP1001
Organ
Publisher: Lighthouse Music Publications
Difficulty Level: 3-4
Year of Publication: 2010
Duration: 3 minutes
Availability: In Print

Printed Copy: RRP $6.50
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This short work for organ was originally intended for use during the distribution of Holy Communion. The two versions enable the organist to play either depending on the size of the congregation, and thus avoiding any unnecessary cuts in the performance. Of course, it will serve as a meditative prelude or reflective piece for general use.

Reviews

‘Best described as ‘quite innocuous’, the Adagio is given in two versions…It is nicely constructed and would happily fill a gap of a couple of minutes, or less if the shortened version is used.’

Trevor Webb in RSCM Church Music Quarterly (December 2011)

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Church, Worship, Communion, Eucharist

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Three Holiday Sketches

Three Holiday Sketches for Flute & Piano by David BartonCatalogue Number: PP629
ISMN: M570167616
Flute & Piano
Publisher: Phylloscopus Publications
Difficulty Level: 4-6
Year of Publication: 2007
Duration: 6 minutes
Availability: In Print

Printed Copy: RRP £6.95
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Contents:
1. Holiday Flight
2. Winter Sun
3. Hot Sunny Day

Whether you’re embarking on a winter holiday or a summer holiday, there’s something in these pieces to bring back those holiday memories.

Reviews

‘David Barton was born in 1983 and has already published a number of choral and instrumental pieces in the UK and America. The Three Holiday Sketches are short vignettes entitled ‘Holiday Flight’, ‘Winter Sun’ and ‘Hot Sunny Day’, the last one in particular containing some lively and imaginative ideas…The pieces are about Grade 5 or 6  overall, and these is some effective writing in the piano accompaniments.’

Alison Uren in Pan Magazine

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Teaching, Competition, Festival, Exam

Three Country Pictures

Three Country Pictures for Oboe and Piano by David BartonCatalogue Number: PP630
ISMN: M570167623
Oboe & Piano
Publisher: Phylloscopus Publications
Difficulty Level: 3-6
Year of Publication: 2007
Duration: 8 minutes
Availability: In Print

Printed Copy: RRP £6.95
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Contents:
1. Halcyon Lament
2. Woodland Glade
3. Harvest Time

Three pictures here of English country life from the peaceful woodland glades to the business of the harvest.

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Teaching, Competition, Festival, Exam

We Will Remember Them

We Will Remember Them for flute and piano by David Barton, LichfieldCatalogue Number: WWS291
Flute & Piano
Publisher: BRS Music Inc.
Difficulty Level: 4-6
Year of Publication: 2009
Duration: 6 minutes
Availability: In Print

Printed Copy: RRP $10.00
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Contents:
1. Elegy for a Lost Friend
2. Drifting Memories
3. Fading Recollections

Whilst making poignant concert solos, these three reflective pieces also make good instrumental interludes in worship. Whether we like it or not, our lives are continually shaped by memories; those which we remember fondly, and maybe those which we would rather forget. Whilst the title of this set of pieces comes from the well known poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon, they are not exclusively related to remembrance. These peaceful, occasionally sentimental and nostalgic, but overall evocative pieces are designed for reflection. The way in which we respond to them will be affected by our own experiences of the world around us. They are suitable for flautists of around Grades 4-6 standard, and will prove a useful addition to the somewhat less-virtuosic side of the repertoire.

Potential Uses

Concert, Recital, Teaching, Competition, Festival, Exam, Remembrance, Church, Worship

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