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Pick-up notes

A. What is a pick up note?

  • Pick up notes are the notes that precede the first full measure of the song.
  • Pick up notes serve to kick-start the music.
  • Pick up notes help establish tempo.
  • When there are an odd number of pick-up notes, we usually start with an Up Bow.
  • When there is an even number of pick-up notes, we usually start with a Down Bow.
  • Here is an example of pick-up notes:
B. Let’s learn about “When the Saints Go Marching In”

• So well known that it is often referred to merely as The Saints, this song is an American gospel hymn that has taken on certain aspects of folk music. It is more likely to be encountered in a jazz session than in church.
• Its most traditional use is as a funeral march. While accompanying the coffin to the cemetery, a band would play the tune as the Blues. On the way back from the interment, it would switch to the familiar upbeat Dixieland style.
• It is known as "The Monster" by some Jazz musicians, as it seems to be the only tune many people know to request when seeing a Dixieland band, and some musicians dread being asked to play it several times a 
night. The musicians at Preservation Hall in New Orleans got so tired of playing it that the sign announcing the fee schedule ran $1 for standard requests, $2 for unusual requests, and $5 for The Saints. 

C. Let’s play When the Saints Go Marching In
  • This song is in 4/4 and in the key of D major: 2 sharps, F# and C#
  • A motif featuring thee pick-up notes (“Oh When The”) occurs over and over again.
  • You must be sure to observe the first beat rest in these measures.
  • Have fun and make sure this tune swings.


A. What are hymns?
  • A hymn is a song specifically written as a song of praise, adoration or prayer, typically addressed to a god.
  • In Christian religions, hymns are usually directed toward God. 
  • Most Christian worship services have, since the earliest times, incorporated the singing of hymns, either by the congregation or by a selected choir, often accompanied by an organ.
  • Hymns have often been used to teach the tenets of faith.
B. Let’s learn about Amazing Grace

  • "Amazing Grace" is one of the most well known Christian hymns. John  Newton wrote the words; they form a part of the Olney Hymns that he worked on, with William Cowper and other hymnodists.
  • John Newton (1725–1807) was the captain of a slave ship. On 10 May 1748 returning home during a storm he experienced a "great deliverance". In his journal he wrote that the ship was in grave danger of sinking. He exclaimed "Lord have mercy upon us".
  • Newton's lyrics have become a favourite for Christians of all denominations, largely because the hymn vividly and briefly sums up the Christian doctrine of Divine grace. The lyrics are loosely based around the text of Ephesians 2:4-8.
  • It has also become known as a favorite with supporters of freedom and human rights, both Christian and non-Christian, as it is believed by many to be a song against slavery, as Newton was once a slave trader. 
  • He continued to be a slave trader for several years after his experience, but with more compassion. Later he became a clergyman. 
  • The hymn was quite popular among both sides in the American Civil War.
  • While on the trail of tears, the Cherokee were not always able to give their dead a full burial. Instead, the singing of Amazing Grace had to suffice. Since then, Amazing Grace is often considered the Cherokee National Anthem.
  • This is the famous first verse:
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

C. Let’s play Amazing Grace.

Click to enlarge image

American Folk Music

A. What is “folk music?”
  •  Folk music, in the original sense of the term, is music by and of the people.
  • Folk music arose, and best survives, in societies not yet affected by mass communication and the commercialization of culture. It normally was shared by the entire community (and its performance not strictly limited to a special class of expert performers), and was transmitted by word of mouth.
  • Folk music seems to reflect a universal impulse of humanity. No fieldwork expedition by cultural anthropologists has yet discovered a pre-industrial people that did not have its own folk music. It seems safe to infer that folk music was a property of all people starting from the dawn of the species.
  • Gene Shay, co-founder and host of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, defined folk music in an April 2003 interview by saying: “In the strictest sense, it's music that is rarely written for profit. It is music that has endured and been passed down by oral tradition. [...] And folk music is participatory—you don't have to be a great musician to be a folk singer. [...] And finally, it brings a sense of community. It's the people's music.”
B. What is “American folk music”?
  • American folk music, also known as Americana, is a broad category of music including country music, gospel, old time music, jug bands, Appalachian folk, blues, Tejano and Cajun and Native American music.
  • The music is considered "American" because it is either native to the United States or there varied enough from its origins that it struck musicologists as something distinctly new; it is considered "roots music" because it served as the basis of music later developed in the United States, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and jazz.
C. Let’s learn about Yankee Doodle

"Yankee Doodle" is a well-known American song, often sung patriotically today (although originally satirical). It is the state anthem of Connecticut.

The first verse and refrain, as most frequently sung today, run thus:

Yankee Doodle went to town,
Riding on a pony;
Stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy;
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy!
  • British military officers to sang this song to mock the disheveled, unorganized colonial “Yankees” with whom they served in the French and Indian War prior to the Revolutionary War.
  • At the time, the most common meaning of the word doodle was "simpleton" or "fool".
  • During the Revolutionary War, the Americans embraced the song and made it their own, turning it back on those who had used it to mock them.
  • The tune has become synonymous with the United States.
D. Let’s play Yankee Doodle.
  • This song is in 4/4 and is in the key of G major, meaning 1 sharp (F#).
  • This song should be played vigorously and with full, strong bows and a big sound.
  • You should practice slowly but then aim to speed this song up to a very quick tempo.
Click to enlarge image

Let’s meet Beethoven

A. Who was Beethoven?
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer of classical music, who lived predominantly in Vienna, Austria.
  • Beethoven is widely regarded as one of history's supreme composers.• He was one of the greatest figures in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in music. His reputation has inspired — and in many cases intimidated — composers, musicians, and audiences who were to come after him.
  • In the Early period of his career, he is seen as emulating his great predecessors Haydn and Mozart, at the same time exploring new directions and gradually expanding the scope and ambition of his work. Some important pieces from the Early period are the first and second symphonies, the first six string quartets, the first two piano concertos, and the first twenty piano sonatas, including the famous Pathétique and Moonlight.
  • The Middle period began shortly after Beethoven's personal crisis centering around deafness. The period is noted for large-scale works expressing heroism and struggle; these include many of the most 
  • famous works of classical music. Middle period works include six symphonies (Nos. 3–8), the last three piano concertos and his only violin concerto, five string quartets (Nos. 7–11), the next seven piano sonatas including the Waldstein, and Appassionata, and Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio.
  • Beethoven's Late period began around 1816 and lasted until Beethoven died in 1827. The Late works are greatly admired for and characterized by their intellectual depth, intense and highly personal  expression, and experimentation with forms (for example, the Quartet in C Sharp Minor has seven movements, while most famously his Ninth Symphony adds choral forces to the orchestra in the last movement). This period includes the Missa Solemnis, the last five string quartets and the last five piano sonatas.
  • Beethoven's personal life was troubled. Around age 28, he started to become deaf, which led him to contemplate suicide. He was attracted to unattainable (married or aristocratic) women, whom he idealized; he never married. Some scholars believe his period of low productivity from about 1812 to 1816 was caused by depression resulting from Beethoven's realization that he would never marry.
  • Beethoven argued, often bitterly, with his relatives and others (including a painful and public custody battle over his nephew Karl); he frequently treated other people badly. He moved often and had strange personal habits, such as wearing filthy clothing even as he washed compulsively. He often had financial troubles.

Here is a picture of Beethoven:

B. Let’s play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy
  • The key is D Major (F# and C#), and the time signature is 4/4.
  • This song comes from the last movement of Beethoven’s great Ninth Symphony- perhaps the greatest work for symphony orchestra of all time.
  • Play this song slowly at first and bask in its nobility.
  • Then speed it up a bit and be joyous.

Click to enlarge image

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Key Signatures

A. What is a key signature?

  • In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp symbols or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be played one semitone higher or lower unless otherwise noted with an accidental.
  • Key signatures are generally written immediately after the clef at the beginning of a line of musical notation, although they can appear in other parts of a score, usually after a double bar.
  • In music, sharp means higher in pitch. More specifically, in musical notation, sharp means "higher in pitch by a semitone," and has an associated symbol which looks somewhat like a "#" (number sign).
  • In music, flat means "lower in pitch." More specifically, in music notation, flat means "lower in pitch by a semitone," and has an associated symbol, which looks like a lowercase "b”
  • For example, here is what a B Major scale looks like written with accidentals:
  • Here is what the same scale looks like using the key signature:
B. Let’s play Old MacDonald Had A Farm

• This song is in G Major. It has one sharp: F #.
• This song is in 4/4 time.
• Make sure that you hold the dotted half notes and whole notes out for their entire value!

Pulling a straight bow

A. What does it mean to “pull a straight bow?”

  • Pulling a straight bow means that your bow travels parallel to the bridge as it moves from tip to frog
  • Pulling a straight bow means that your arm pulls out with the bow, and not back. You should have very little shoulder motion in your bow stroke.

B. Why does this matter?

  • Good question! Pulling a straight bow is a sure way to ensure the production of a beautiful tone.
  • Pulling a straight bow also helps you maintain a clear and consistent tone.
  • You will know that something about your bow stroke (usually a bow path that is not parallel with the bridge) is wrong when your sound becomes inconsistent or unpleasant to listen to.

C. How do I pull a straight bow?

  1.  Practice placing your bow on the string and checking to see that it is parallel with the bridge. Starting the bow stroke well is half the battle!
  2. Start and stop: use a few inches of the bow and then stop and recheck yourself. Are you still parallel to the bridge?
  3. Play half bows: go from the frog to the middle, and then stop. Recheck yourself again. Then from the middle to the tip. Are you still parallel? 
  4. Finally, practice with long, slow full bows, carefully watching the path of the bow.
  5. PRACTICE TIP: Practice in front of a mirror!!
D. Let’s play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • This song is in the key of D Major. That means there are 2 sharps in the key signature: F# and C#.
  • This song is in 4/4. You know what that means already.
  • Play this song with long smooth bows and check to make sure you’re pulling the straightest possible bow.
  • Focus on creating

Learn to play dynamics

A. What are dynamics?

• In music, dynamics refers to the volume or loudness of the sound or note, in particular to the range from soft (quiet) to loud.

• The term is also applied to the written or printed musical notation used to indicate dynamics.

• The two basic dynamic indications in music are:
o p or piano, meaning "softly" or "quietly"
o f or forte, meaning "loudly" or "strong".

• More subtle degrees of loudness or softness are indicated by:
o mp, standing for mezzo-piano, and meaning "half-quiet"
o mf, standing for mezzo-forte, and meaning "half loud”

• Beyond f and p, there is also:
o ff, standing for "fortissimo", and meaning "very loudly"
o pp, standing for "pianissimo", and meaning "very quietly"

• To indicate even more extreme degrees of intensity, more ps or fs are added as required. fff and ppp are found in music with surprising frequency. Though these dynamic markings are simply more extreme degrees of "fortissimo" and "pianissimo," we refer to them using neologisms "fortississimo" and "pianississimo." More than three fs or ps is unusual but seen on occasion. For instance, Tchaikovsky indicated pppppp and ffff in passages of his Pathétique symphony.

• It should be noted that dynamic indications are relative, not absolute. mp does not indicate an exact level of volume, it merely indicates that music in a passage so marked should be a little louder than p and a little quieter than mf.

B. Let’s play London Bridges

  • This song is in the key of D Major. This key signature has two sharps:
  • F# and C#.
  • The time signature is 4/4.
  • The challenge in this song is to follow the dynamics. In the first two measures, you should play forte, or loudly. In the second pair of measures, you should play piano, or softly.
  • Learning to recognize dynamics with your ears and with your eyes (as you look at your music) is vital to becoming a sensitive musician.

String Crossings

A. What are string crossings?
  1. String crossings occur when you must change from one string to another while playing a piece of music
  2. For instance, if you are playing a note on the A string and then must change to the D string to play the next note, you must cross strings.
  3. String crossings can complicate our ability to play the music we want to play.
  4. You must learn to identify string crossings in the music you play.
  5. In this song, string crossings occur in measures 1-2 and 5-6.

B. Let’s play Frere Jacques
  1. This song is in the key of G major. It has one sharp: F#.
  2. This song is in 4/4. That means that there are 4 beats in each measure and the quarter note receives the beat.
  3. This song can be played as a round. After you practice it by yourself, play it with the recording in a round! Enter when the music gets to the asterisk.
  4. Remember to identify your string crossings: In this song, string crossings occur in measures 1-2 and 5-6.
  5. PRACTICE TIP: the string crossings in measures 5-6 are especially challenging. You can maximize your practice time by practising these measures or even small parts of these measures by themselves. Start slowly and then build your speed up until you reach the ideal tempo. 
  6. Don’t get frustrated! You’re doing a great job!!