Stretch Yourself - Part 3
When I first started working with my producer, Peter Link, I had to literally learn a new musical language. He came from pop and theatrical music as well as the studio world of creating lyrics and recorded music first. The sheet music always came well after the singers had made the recording of the song or album at hand. Peter was accustomed to writing music, initially with his guitar, and later sitting at his computer keyboard and playing in melodies, chords, bass parts, -- orchestrating as he went along. So when the singer (me, for example) came along to learn a song to record and/or perform, sometimes, there would be simple lead sheets (melody only) but usually I was given a study track and lyrics. To this day, these are my starting tools whenever I do studio work with Peter and, most often, with other producers as well.
So, Peter comes from the school Composers who work with Ear Musicians -- singers and instrumentalists who listen and learn from the study tracks and lyric sheets.
I came from the very visual world of reading classical, art song and Broadway scores. In this world, we learn and interpret the notes that are -- more or less -- notated on the page.
To lose the visual component of reading the music as I learned a song was very disconcerting in the beginning. But as I became accustomed to this new way, I developed my own way to notate musical ideas and even indicate the melody right on my lyric sheet as I was learning. But most importantly, I was developing my ear on a whole new level. I became both an ear musician and a musician who reads music.
I will say that I have grown immeasurably as a musician and as an artist by being asked to learn music several different ways. In developing as an ear musician over the years, I have become much more attuned to hearing and producing pitch, melody and rhythm more precisely and specifically than I had gleaned from reading and learning songs visually.
The combination, however, of developing both sets of skills in listening and reading have given me the opportunity to continually expand my tools of study and preparation. In the case of learning contemporary music that is rhythmically challenging, it is amazing to be able to avail one's self of both aural and visual aids or tools (recorded tracks and sheet music).
I am really glad to be able to share some of my experience with these tools and how musicians of all kinds (I include myself) have successfully used them. This really is why I am writing about preparation of song material -- especially for church soloists who are constantly learning and preparing new pieces weekly, monthly, or even several times a year. Preparation is so important!
And so ... here is the final installment of this 3-part series from the "Stretch Yourself" info pdf that we at Watchfire Music have included with Peter Link's new 13-song collection, Solos For Sunday Morning -- available as individual sheet music downloads and also as the whole digital bundle of songs.
Stretch Yourself! – Part 3
An Exercise In Expanding Your Approach To Music
Invest In Your Performance
You may think that purchasing these extra tools for each piece that you sing or play is a big investment. Our answer is that all across the world most musicians work with coaches and rehearsal accompanists who charge anywhere from $20 to $200 per hour -- depending on who you are working with and where they are located -- just to rehearse the music!
Imagine downloading a Study Track and an Accompaniment Track to aid you in learning to sing a contemporary and rhythmically complex song for well under $10. Then imagine downloading those tools to also give to your accompanist.
Imagine if you needed to spend extra hours in rehearsal with the accompanist -- so instead of paying anywhere from $20 and upwards for that accompanist’s time, you pay less than $10 to aid you to learn and prepare yourself for rehearsal and performance with your live accompanist.
Take care of yourself as a working artist. Give yourself every possible way to become more proficient and fluid in the language of contemporary music. Try investing in these ear training tools to aid you and your accompanist in your next performance in church and beyond!
Using the Study Tools
Two Case Studies
A Church Soloist’s Story
When I first saw the sheet music for this new song, I panicked. I thought, how will I be able to get the nuances and the syncopations of the melody as notated on the page? It seemed so complicated!
But then, I downloaded the Study Track and I listened carefully to the melody with the accompaniment. I got it! I followed the sheet music while learning the piece by ear. I made notes on the sheet music as I listened. I found that the words and melodies fit together so gracefully that it was almost like speaking.
Then I decided to download the Accompaniment Track so that I could practice the song with a solid track. This was great because it allowed me to I rehearse my song all week!
That went so well that I then downloaded a copy of the tracks for my accompanist and emailed them to her. I wrote her a note to tell her how much these had helped me, and perhaps the Accompaniment and Study Tracks would help her to feel these new contemporary rhythms.
My accompanist wrote me back a few days later to tell me how much she appreciated receiving the tracks. They were a huge help to her as well. We both came to the rehearsal prepared and feeling confident that we could bring to life this beautiful song, its rhythms and meanings.
I have talked with my music committee and asked that a music budget be found for creating a library of recorded study tracks and accompaniments for the church musicians’ use. Our music committee went to the board and approved the idea.
This is a really great way to begin expanding our sacred music repertoire and to introduce music that has before been thought to be too difficult to prepare for performance.
While expanding our sacred song repertoire, we are expanding our skills and our musical sensibilities.
A Church Accompanist’s Story
When I first looked at this sheet music, I thought, ‘How will I ever get enough time to practice this so that I can play it like I play Debussy or Mozart?
But then, I realized that I could download both the study track and the accompaniment track at very little cost. I listened to both the vocal line as an instrumental with the keyboard accompaniment as I studied the keyboard/vocal score. Next, I listened to the accompaniment on my ipad and played along with the accompaniment track until I understood the syncopations and contemporary rhythms.
And now, because I had rehearsed with the study tools I felt confident and well-prepared to accompany the singer on these new songs. In fact, we had a very successful performance.
Our approach to new music for your church services has always been to expand the library without eliminating the heritage. As we expand this library, we are also here to help expand your preparation possibilities. Here we offer you the tools to bring contemporary music into your churches on a high level of inspiration and performance.
Our Promise to Musicians and Church Congregations
We promise to share with you high quality new musical settings of timeless texts with beautifully crafted adaptations from the Bible and beyond. We promise, with your help, to inspire your congregation to new views and insights.
Our Further Promise to Musicians
We promise to help you become the best contemporary musicians you can be by supplying you with wonderful and affordable study materials to aid you in your preparation.