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pateceramics

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pateceramics last won the day on June 12

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About pateceramics

  • Rank
    Seasoned Composer

Profile Information

  • Biography
    I'm 33, and just got into composing over the last year or so, although, I was always the kid who made up an extra harmony part when singing along to the radio. When I was a very shy teenager, I'd sing a little harmony part when we sang at summer camp, and other people picked the part up until, suddenly we had two parts. And then I'd make up another part, and other people would pick it up too, and then there were three parts. It made me unbelievably happy.

    Since I'm mainly a singer, I've been writing for a cappella choir, but when I feel a little more sure of myself I'd like to learn to write a decent piano part if nothing else.

    Over the years I've had 5 violin teachers, 2 banjo teachers, a brief fling with penny whistle lessons, 3 voice teachers, and sung with 2 a cappella groups, 7 choirs, and a wee bit of musical theater which got me out of taking gym in high school. Thanks for the warm welcome to this community and your continued feedback. Can't get better without feedback!
  • Gender
    Female
  • Location
    Malden, MA, USA
  • Occupation
    contralto, potter
  • Favorite Composers
    Vivaldi, Brahms, Lauridsen, Thompson, Gillian Welch
  • My Compositional Styles
    Eh, you tell me.
  • Notation Software/Sequencers
    MuseScore
  • Instruments Played
    alto, clawhammer banjo

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  1. pateceramics

    Complete Beginner. What to Practice?

    Either or both. If you want to share your music you'll need good recordings of yourself playing if you envision yourself as a singer/songwriter, writing music and performing it live in concert or selling the recordings, or you'll need professional looking scores that you can share with other people so they can learn and perform your music if you want to be the composer more than the performer. Some people are both. It just depends where you want to go with your music, and there's nothing wrong with starting out more in one direction, and then changing course if a good opportunity comes up. Nothing wrong with googling books. You could always put together a list of things that sound interesting and ask people here if there are any of them they have read and recommend. There is so much information in print that what you will find helpful really depends what you want to know specifically.
  2. pateceramics

    Complete Beginner. What to Practice?

    P.S. If you're floundering about where to start, try looking up an analysis of a piece of music you are playing for your piano lessons, reading it through carefully, and looking up any terms you don't understand. Assuming your piano teacher is giving you a good range of work, if you become an expert on the theory behind each piece you work on, you'll start to have a good grounding in a wide range of concepts with the added bonus that you'll remember the information well since you are practicing the pieces regularly, and each time you get to measure 45, you'll remember that this is the bit with the horn fifths and your brain will get a jog about what a horn fifth sounds like. You'll also be able to discuss anything you don't understand with your teacher and then use that vocabulary in your lessons going forward. The point of learning music theory is not to be able to write music, it's to be able to talk about what you and others have written.
  3. pateceramics

    Complete Beginner. What to Practice?

    1. Just start composing. Don't worry about whether it's "right" or "good," just start putting ideas on paper. If you wait until you know enough to start, you'll never start, because there is always more to know. 2. Start sharing what you write. The faster you start getting feedback, the faster you can grow from that feedback. If you wait until your work is good enough to share, you'll never start sharing. 3. Give other people feedback on what they compose. Beginner work follows patterns that make it less strong than it could be. I won't say they are "mistakes," because every art form is so subjective, it's hard to ever point at any one decision the creator made and say it was "wrong," but there are things all beginning composers seem to do that make the work less impactful than it could have been. Instead of highlighting your audience's enjoyment, they undercut it. It's hard to see the problems in your own work, because you're too close to it. It's hard to accept it when people point the problems out to you for the same reason. But if you look at enough beginner pieces by other composing students, you'll start to see the patterns for yourself and notice what beginner pieces all seem to have in common, and it becomes easier to appreciate the advice others give you and avoid or fix issues in your own work. 4. Start reading about theory and orchestration. Read musical analysis of famous works by famous composers and also the feedback given by and to other composing students here. There is a lifetime of material to learn, so there's probably no wrong place to start reading. Just start and let each question that comes up lead you down a rabbit hole to new reading. What you read will inform what you want to try with your latest composing project. (Hmmm... cadences... right, let's see what this sounds like if I end it with an authentic cadence...) And sometimes what you are composing will inform your reading. (This doesn't seem to be a major scale or a minor scale, but it certainly sounds like it is a something. Maybe I should do some reading about jazz scales and it will turn out to be one of them). 5. When you listen to music, or play something for your piano lessons, start thinking about what parts you like and why, what parts you don't like, and why, and how the piece is structured on a large scale, so you can apply those structures or those things you like to your own work. Welcome to the club! We are all here because we are learning too!
  4. pateceramics

    My Opera

    You might want to take a look at/listen to some Britten. His Noye's Fludde is for amateur musicians, mainly children, with a sprinkling of professional adults to hold it together. It's intended to be something that can be put on in a church or town hall easily. If you are comfortable writing for piano, voice, and a solo instrument or two, you could write a short opera for those parts plus one or two more to add to challenge yourself and learn from the process. I wouldn't try to tackle full orchestra at this point, but think about what you want to accomplish musically, what you want to learn, and add one or two instruments to the mix that will best serve your goals. Look at this as a learning exercise, rather than a formal work, and use the writing process to help direct the beginning of your study of orchestration. Keep in mind that the prospects of attracting any professional musicians to work on this project with you when you are still learning as a composer, are slim. Even if you pay them, they may not want to be professionally associated with a beginner effort. Professionals are in demand. You are unlikely to be the best offer they have to add to their resumes on any given date. But if you keep the number of players very limited, the piece short, and the parts very simple to learn, that gives you the option of calling on a handful of amateur friends to help you stage a performance for your own enjoyment so you can see what it all sounds like and learn from the experience. Who do you know who has free time and loves you dearly? Write a part with them in mind that they can learn in a few hours. Make sure the whole thing can be pulled together in as little rehearsal time as possible and friends will be more likely to think it would be a fun use of their weekend. Option two. The college I graduated from used to have a weekend of 24-hour plays. The theatre students, plus any friends and roommates who could be convinced that this would be fun, would divide up into teams, and each team would write, rehearse, and put together props and costumes for a short play. Day one was play writing and rehearsing day. Day two, all the plays were performed. Attendance was open to the whole campus, but each group was guaranteed that at least the other teams would want to watch. If you are a student, you could propose a similar music composing weekend, with everyone writing and performing each other's works. When it's a group effort, rather than just one person, (you), trying to recruit performers and an audience, the activity generates more enthusiasm and less cringing. It's easier to laugh off the bits that inevitably turn out boring or fall apart completely (since you are just starting to learn), when you have company. Here's the wikipedia bit about the forces required for Noye's Fludde: For the first time in any of his works involving amateurs, Britten envisaged a large complement of child performers among his orchestral forces, led by what Graham described as "the professional stiffening" of a piano duet, string quintet (two violins, viola, cello and bass), recorder and a timpanist. The young musicians play a variety of instruments, including a full string ensemble with each section led by a member of the professional string quintet. The violins are further divided into parts of different levels of difficulty, from the simplest (mostly playing open strings) to those able to play in third position. The recorders should be led by an accomplished soloist able to flutter-tongue; bugles, played in the original production by boys from a local school band, are played as the children representing animals march into the ark, and at the climax of the opera. The child percussionists, led by a professional timpanist, play various exotic and invented percussion instruments: the score itself specifies sandpaper ("two pieces of sandpaper attached to blocks of wood and rubbed together"), and "Slung Mugs", the latter used to represent the first drops of rain. Britten originally had the idea of striking teacups with a spoon, but having failed to make this work, he sought Imogen Holst's advice. She recalled that "by great good fortune I had once had to teach Women's Institute percussion groups during a wartime 'social half hour', so I was able to take him into my kitchen and show him how a row of china mugs hanging on a length of string could be hit with a large wooden spoon. Britten also added – relatively late in the process of scoring the work – an ensemble of handbell ringers. According to Imogen Holst, a member of the Aldeburgh Youth Club brought Britten's attention to a local group of bellringers; hearing them play, Britten was so enchanted by the sound that he gave the ensemble a major part to play as the rainbow unfolds towards the end of the opera. Several commentators, including Michael Kennedy, Christopher Palmer and Humphrey Carpenter, have noted the affinity between the sound of Britten's use of the handbells and the gamelan ensembles he had heard first-hand in Bali in 1956. The scarcity of handbells tuned at several of the pitches required by Britten in the opera was to become an issue when the score was being prepared for publication.
  5. pateceramics

    Piano light problems

    Plenty of musicians travel with their own personal favorite stands, chairs, and other equipment. I don't think many venues would be surprised to see you come with your own piano light, although you should probably mention it when scheduling work and you might want to keep a variety of black or brown extension cords and power strips in your car in case the cord won't reach the nearest outlet. You could also bring one of those clip-on battery operated book lights and find a way to clip it on somewhere useful. You might need to experiment with a big stiff piece of black poster board behind your music or a tall music portfolio to keep your music in that you could clip it to to get the light where you needed it and still be able to turn pages.
  6. pateceramics

    Help with technique (tension issues)?

    I had some friends who decided to both take up piano again as adults. They both ended up with carpal tunnel syndrome pretty much immediately. Their doctor found this very funny and said it happens a lot with adults who take up anything from knitting to tennis to guitar, because unlike kids, adults are diligent practicers. Children learning new skills are sporadic participants, at least at first, so they build the muscles and flexibility necessary for an activity slowly over time. Adults make a schedule and practice daily for a set amount of time, right from the start, so there is no soft ease-in period and they get tendonitis and other repetitive stress injuries. Have you increased your practice time lately, or had the chance to practice more regularly than usual because of other changes in your schedule? Can you break your sessions into shorter morning and evening chunks instead of one long run to safely build-up little supporting muscles? Can you get some extra mileage out of time listening to recordings, or marking up your score, that will help you take a little less time in front of the keys for the time being? Are you just crashing through a piece at full speed, beginning to end? Would less time running just the tricky spots, one bar at a time, slowly be more helpful? I expect it's going to be hard for people here to give you specific advice without seeing you play, but we can all benefit from practicing more efficiently, instead of just practicing more. Gently stretch before and after you play?
  7. pateceramics

    Advice on handling hygiene issue

    You've just learned why teachers and parents of small children are always sick. 5 and 6 year olds still need help with buttons and zippers, at least occasionally, and it's rare to meet an elementary schooler who has got their hygiene game together without constant intervention from an adult. Parents of middle schoolers complain that they still have to remind them to flush. Don't think you are going to fix this with an email to mom or an inspiring speech. Trust me, their parents and every other teacher is fighting the same battle alongside you, and it's going to be a long war, with many casualties. What you can do is keep a box of tissues and a trash can within kid arm length for all lessons and when there is sniffing, or wiping with sleeves or fingers, immediately pass them a tissue and then hold the trash can out for them. Don't take the time to comment, just establish this as the procedure and move on. You might want to keep cough drops on hand to pass out too, to be sure they aren't spraying you with germs. To keep from getting sick yourself, be sure to clean your hands after each student and never touch your own face. If the germs get on your hands, it doesn't matter as long as you don't rub your chin or eat. If you can, wipe down the piano, bench, pencils, and doorknobs regularly and open the door or window for a few minutes when you can to let the airborne virus stew out. Wash your hands really thoroughly with hot water and plenty of soap any time you use the bathroom since you are in there anyway. Children are little germ distribution machines. Good luck.
  8. pateceramics

    Do You Have A Style As A Composer?

    Interesting... It definitely does make sense to have a "sound." No sense attracting someone to follow your work with one piece, and sending them packing again with the next one. But it's possible to achieve the same commercial goal by specializing in music for a certain type of musical group, and still being able to play around musically with the sound from piece to piece. If you look at some of the big historic composers, they often carved out a stylistic niche based on the players who were consistently available to them. If you had trumpets and the cathedral in other important cathedral town didn't, by gum you were going to show off your trumpets as prominently as possible, and to balance that, you would make other stylistic choices. If the princess was studying harp, you would show a sudden interest in the instrument yourself, and that would lend itself to certain other decisions.
  9. pateceramics

    Do You Have A Style As A Composer?

    Could you elaborate on the "necessary artifact of commercialism" bit, Ken. I'm not quite sure what you mean, but it sounds interesting.
  10. pateceramics

    What are colleges looking for?

    Sounds like you're short on time, so just make a decision and throw your time into working on whatever it is you decide to do. I'd say your best bet, given the deadline, is to refine or complete something you've already started, rather than starting something new at this point. Be sure you meet all the criteria they ask for, and polish to the best of your ability in the time you have left. If what you can put together as a portfolio doesn't turn out to be good enough to get you in given the time before this deadline, don't panic. You can going off to school as a general student, as a performance major, or a music history major, and use your freshman year to keep developing your portfolio as you have time, and then transfer into the composition major program you really want to be in your sophomore year. You could even get a whole degree in music history or performance, and take a lot of theory and composition classes as your electives, and then go get your composition degree as a masters degree. If you know where you ultimately want to be, you can spend your first year in a different program but being sure you are already working toward the courses you will need in the long run. Plenty of students switch majors or even schools a few times. It's very common. If the music program you really want to be in is going to require some math courses, or some history courses, for example, you can usually take those at another institution and then transfer the credits, so that if you need to switch programs you aren't actually behind. But hopefully you'll get in on the first try, so go work on your portfolio while you still have time! Good luck!
  11. Theory is just the vocabulary you use to talk about what your ear already likes. I compose by ear, and then turn to theory to think of additional possibilities in an organized way if I get stuck, or to organize my harmonic language if it's a bit scattered. Theory saves you time, because once you understand it well, a single word can stand in for a lot of complex information in your thought process. And that lets you think on a deeper structural level, because it lets you hold more information in your head simultaneously. If you grow up speaking a language, you understand how to apply its grammar rules instinctively, but if you sit down and study grammar, you gain the tools to discuss use of language more deeply. It's not necessary for everyday speech, but for a poet, novelist, or newspaper editor it helps you talk about talking, so you can defend your ideas, refine the way you express them, or help someone else polish their own. The assignments you've done so far may be more like practicing scales for an instrument than like independent composing. They make sure you really get the theory concepts firmly established in your long term memory, so you can call them up at a moment's notice without having to pause for thought. If you want to loosen up, are you a hummer, a whistler, or a piano noodler? Record yourself on your phone for five or ten minutes whistling while you do laundry or walk in the woods, and then go back and see if any of it speaks to you. Take that bit and work it up. Separate the creative part of the process from the part where you write it all down, so your analytical brain doesn't get in the way of your creative flow. Sometimes it helps to distract yourself a little with a secondary task to get rid of your inhibitions. (Do the dishes, take a walk). The brain isn't capable of keeping up a steady stream of whistling, matching up socks, and worrying about whether the whistling is good all at the same time, so it gives up and just whistles and folds. It generally takes me a month or two to finish a 2-3 minute piece. I'm an adult person with adult work and home responsibilities including a lot of evening and weekend work hours, so that's composing here and there when I can snatch the time. If you're a student and composing is your "job" for one of your classes, you may have more time and be able to go faster. I've got a piece in the "incomplete" upload section here if you're curious to see what my process looks like. That's what I've started with, and the melody may get refined as I go, the chords and the chord voicing will definitely change as I see where I want to go next. Right now, I've got a 30 second sketch of melody, and a few chords stuck in there to start thinking about the harmonic language. Good luck! Keep writing!
  12. Thank you both for your help. If someone notes a reference to ... later, I'll just pretend it was intentional admirative quoting. 😄
  13. Absolutely no idea. Part of a choral work would make sense, since I spend so much time in choir land, but I can't place it. It just feels familiar.
  14. What/who does this intro sound like? If I can figure out what, I can change it enough to keep the flavor of the original, but still stand alone on its own two musical feet. Name that tune! Any guesses? Furtak-Psalm 24.mid
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