Recordings to Inspire Amateur Players

Just recently, I was delighted to find that Cramer Music have launched a new publication of  “The Classic Experience”,  for flute, wiith 2 CDs. This book of popular classical pieces now comes with recorded performances and practice tempo piano accompaniments. I do hope that, in the very near future, they will do the same for the clarinet version.

There is such a dearth of recorded wind music that is suitable for less advanced players to tackle for themselves! Yes, I know that there are now CDs to accompany ABRSM graded exam repertoire and various method books but this is a far cry from an expressive soundworld that will inspire pupils to explore music and make it their own, without worrying about what grade it might be. I can tell pupils that professional performers put just as much love and thought into preparing a simple tune as they do with advanced sonatas and concertos but they’re not going to believe me unless they can hear the  for themselves the magic of simple music beautifully rendered. One such moment for me was hearing Nigel Kennedy play at , I think it was, the Brit Awards. We had been treated to some amazing virtuoso performances, when along came Kennedy to play “Danny Boy” – breathtaking!

Flute players are a little better served than other wind players and I attribute this to the inspiration of James Galway. He had the courage to bring the flute ‘to the masses’ and to perform music of all kinds. Even so, my regular scout round the instrumental section HMV, et al, usually results in disappointment, even as regards flute. For clarinettists, there are a few pieces recorded by Emma Johnson and that’s about it! I was thrilled, though, when I installed Windows 7 to find that one of the audio samples was of Richard Stoltzman playing Debussy’s “Maid with the Flaxen Hair”. I don’t know how Microsoft came to select that – perhaps, it’s well-known  ‘on the other side of the pond’. I hadn’t come across it before.

Do you folks out there know of collections of simple music beautifully played on flute or clarinet that should be better known to teachers and pupils? If so, please share!

Useful Machine for Teachers and Community Musicians

I recently purchased a Roland CD-2e recorder and it’s just the sort of kit I love – compact and versatile, it’s a real ‘instrumental teacher’s companion’.

 It’s primary function is as a portable 2-track (Stereo), direct-to-CD, recording device. There are two internal microphones, or external mics can be connected. It also has LINE input for keyboards, cassette-decks, etc.. You can record either to CD or to an SD card (up to 8GB). It comes with a 512MB card which will record up to 46 minutes of audio. The machine is powered by 6 x AA batteries or the supplied AC adaptor. Mains power is required for operation in CD mode.

For people, like me, who have fought a losing battle with microphones and soundcards to make recordings in lessons, it’s a real boon! Recording couldn’t be simpler and, while the purists can fiddle with placement of the unit or external microphones and settings, it produces excellent results when it’s simply plonked down near the players and Record and Play are pressed on the remote control. It automatically records in the next available slot. This will be great in a workshop situation, where I will be able to make recordings without interrupting the flow in order to fiddle with equipment. The Menu offers a number of “Convenient Functions for Recording”, including “Automatically Starting Recording When Audio Is Detected” and “Inserting a Count Before Recording Begins”.

In addition to accommodating transposing instruments, the option in much MIDI software to change the key of playback has proved a useful accessibilty tool in many other situations. Now, with the CD-2e, I can treat audio in the same way. In addition to changing key, pitch can be adjusted and the tempo slowed down. Other useful functions are a tuner and “Center Cancel”. The latter cancels the portion of the sound that is heard in the centre of the stereo image, such as the main vocal, making it less audible. In this way, the user can enjoy simple karaoke or practise singing or playing an instrument with a commercially-recorded backing.