Time Signatures & Counting: Free Printable Theory Worksheets

Free Printable Music Theory Worksheets | The Music Blog

Alright, friends, it’s time to get the “Free Downloads” section growing around here!  I’ll be sharing 1-3 free, printable theory worksheets every day this week on The Music Blog for my fellow Music Teachers to use in lessons with your music students!  (Parents, these are great to use at home with your children, too!)

I’m excited about these, so let’s get to ’em…  Here are the first three downloads – all focused on strengthening a student’s ability to count, identify, and function within different basic time signatures.  Enjoy!

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[box style=”white” ]Download Directions:  Click “DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET” link.  When file loads, press ctrl+s [PC] or command+s [Mac] to save file to your computer.  Press ctrl+p [PC] or command+p [Mac] to print. [/box]

 1. COUNTING WORKSHEET

This worksheet is designed to help music students gain confidence and accuracy in counting.  Exercises drill basic note & rest values and are in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 meter.

Counting Free Theory Worksheet Printable  |  The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

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 2.  TIME SIGNATURES WORKSHEET

This worksheet will help students to determine correct time signatures and placement of bar lines.  Exercises include basic notes & rests and are in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 meter.

Time Signature Free Theory Worksheet Printable  |  The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

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3. TIME SIGNATURES & COUNTING WORKSHEET

This worksheet requires the student to identify & write in one missing note or rest for each measure.  Exercises include basic notes & rests and are in 2/4, 3/4, & 4/4 meter.

Time Signatures & Counting Free Theory Worksheet Printable  |  The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

 

 

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Please print them, use them, & share them freely with your friends!

And remember to check back tomorrow for more free theory worksheets!

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Choosing the Right Piece for the Right Student

Choosing the Right Piece for the Right Student | Tips for Music Teachers on The Music Blog

As recital season comes to a close, most of us find ourselves in the middle of one of the most exciting and challenging parts of teaching: choosing new repertoire for our students.

Choosing the right piece for the right student is one of the most crucial parts of productive, successful teaching. Getting this part right can be the difference in making our students average musicians or winners.

But it doesn’t have to be daunting, and it doesn’t have to be excessively time-consuming.   It can actually be really fun when you have an effective, organized way to approach it. Here are four practical steps that help me keep choosing repertoire simple and the approximate amount of time it takes me to get each step done.

 

1. Evaluate Your Student.  

Approx. 10-15 MINUTES

This is definitely the first step and may even be the most vital for choosing the right piece for your student!   Before you can even start to pick the right piece, you have to know the things that most important for your student to learn right now.  Here’s a good place to start:

♦  List the biggest technical weaknesses he needs to master.
♦  List the technical strengths you want to help him develop further.
♦  List the music styles/forms he has played most & the ones he’s not played at all.

Our goal is to develop our student into a well-rounded musician, and that means having the ability to play a variety of musical forms, styles [Romantic, Baroque, etc.], and techniques.  Students, and even teachers, naturally drift towards pieces that exhibit their musical strengths, so make sure you’re not consistently neglecting composers and styles that aren’t your student’s strengths.

Balance is key!

[box style=”white” ]TIMING TIP:  Recitals are the ideal times to give our students pieces that really showcase their musical and technical strengths.   Pieces that focus primarily on their weaknesses are best to work on in between recitals.[/box]

 

2. Gather 3-4 Potential Pieces. 

Time Varies*

There are countless wonderful compositions to choose from.  But most of them simply will not be beneficial for your student right now.  As teachers, our job is to eliminate all of the good pieces and find the right piece.

So, as you look through your repertoire books, only set aside pieces that emphasize the specific techniques and styles you listed earlier.  This will help you quickly narrow your options to three or four of the best potential pieces.

[box style=”white” ]KEEP in MIND…  You may find a variety of pieces that match the specifics on your list – for example, a Classical Sonatina, a Baroque Minuet, and a Romantic Waltz that are all in minor keys and full of trills.   That’s fine!   You don’t have to find three of the exact same kinds of pieces to find the musical elements you are looking for.  Many composers will teach the same techniques with their own unique flair, so look through a lot of repertoire books and try a variety of pieces.[/box]

*The timing on this one really varies depending on the level of your student.   I can usually find repertoire for beginner-intermediate students in about 20 minutes, but music for an advanced student may take me an hour or more…  Simply because it takes longer to play through Beethoven Sonatas than Bach Minuets.

 

3. Analyze the Potential Pieces.  

Goal: 20 MINUTES

ALWAYS play through the piece.

Finding a piece is a hands-on project, and flipping through the pages simply won’t get the job done.  Pieces are often harder (or easier!) than they look on paper and have a lot of hidden details tucked away that only your fingers can catch.  You need to be acquainted with the intricate details of the piece, including its difficult passages and musical nuances, and playing through the piece is the only way you will be able to evaluate it accurately.

A few things to consider when analyzing a piece:

♦  What new skills will this piece teach?  Our students need to be learning new physical skills and musical concepts constantly, so they will never have a moment when they’re not growing musically.  Shoot for each new piece to introduce 2-4 new techniques.  (More than 4 new skills at once will be overwhelming for most students.)

♦  What old skills will this piece reinforce?  This is vital.  If we don’t make sure our students are reviewing recently-acquired skills, they will lose them!  Always try to give your student pieces that are well-balanced between introducing new skills and reinforcing old ones.

♦  How does the difficulty of this piece compare with his last piece?  Is it too hard?  Too easy?  The difficulty of a piece is dependent on a lot more than just the amount of black on the page!  Here are some of the basic elements to took for when evaluating a piece’s difficulty:

      • New Rhythms
      • New Key Signatures / More Accidentals
      • New Articulations (staccatos, slurs, leggiero, pulling, etc.)
      • Complex Dynamics (crescendos, sforzandos, etc.)
      • Complex Musical Phrasings (multiple voices, LH melody, etc.)
      • Faster or More Interpretive Tempos (rubato, ritardandos, etc.)
      • Ornaments (trills, turns, grace notes, etc.)
      • Pedaling Techniques
      • Difficult Finger Passages
      • Bigger Stretches & Interval Jumps Between Notes
      • More Interaction Between Hands
      • Length of Piece
      • Estimated Time it Will Take to Learn the Piece

Choosing the Right Piece for the Right Student | Tips for Music Teachers on The Music Blog

4. Select the Best Piece

Goal: 10 MINUTES

As you’re analyzing those 3-4 pieces, one of them will probably match more of the qualifications on your list and stand out as the obvious choice above the others.   If so, you’re done!

But if more than one of the potential pieces will be equally beneficial to the student, don’t stress – have fun!  When this is the case, I usually play the remaining 2-3 options for my student and let him choose his favorite.  This can be a great way to involve your student in the process musically and emotionally without sacrificing his technique or quality.

The right pieces can work wonders in a child, because it’s through their pieces that students are stretched and developed into mature musicians.  So have fun!

[box style=”white” ]REMEMBER…  Once you settle on a piece, keep playing it!   Familiarize yourself with the phrases, develop the musical nuances, and work through fingerings, before you give the piece to your student.[/box]

 

Any tips you’d like to add on choosing pieces for students?  Leave them in the comments!

Masterpiece: 400 Years of Classical Music in 12 Minutes

If you’ve never heard The King’s Singers’ performance of “Masterpiece”, you’re in for a serious treat!

This vocal piece summarizes the development of western classical music over the last 400 years in 12 minutes.  It highlights some of the most influential composers and demonstrates their individual styles while singing the composer’s name or their most-used musical elements.  It’s a brilliant composition, and talk about a fun performance!  
(Note: the singing starts 30 seconds into the video.)

 –

Here’s a break-down of the composers featured in the piece:

0:30      Johann Sebastian Bach
1:29      J.S. Bach vs. His Sons
2:30      George Frederic Handel
3:30      W.A. Mozart
4:43      Ludwig van Beethoven
6:25      Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
7:05      Strauss Family
8:44      Claude Debussy (Impressionistic Composer)
10:01    Richard Wagner (Wagner was known for his drama; thus the outburst.)
10:15    Assorted Composers in Impressionistic Style
10:22    Back to Wagner
10:46    Assorted Composers in Impressionistic/20th Century Style
11:10    William Bird
11:23    John Cage (Ever heard his 4:33?)
11:27    Assorted Contemporary
11:35    George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blues)
11:44    Back to J.S. Bach

This is a fun resource for studying music history and composers’ styles.   So enjoy it and share it with your friends, family, and music students!  They’ll love it.

 

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26 Questions for Prospective Music Teachers

26_Questions_for_Prospective_Music_Teachers_The_Music_Blog

Getting To Know Them Before You Walk in the Door 

Finding a good music teacher can be a challenge.  Ideally, you’ve been able to get a recommendation from someone you trust, but sometimes that just isn’t possible and you have to head out on your own to find that teacher who will be a perfect fit.

Whether you are pursuing a teacher who has been recommended to you or one you found online, it’s wise to have a thorough list of questions to ask when you make that first phone call.   It’s an extra step, but it’s one that makes tremendous difference in the success of your relationship from the start.  You need to know if the teacher will be a fit for your family, and if the right questions are asked it can be the beginning of a relationship that flourishes into a life-long friendship for your child and yourself.

Here are a few to help you get started.

 

Teaching Logistics

  • How long are your lesson times?
  • What is your fee per lesson?
  • How do you like to be paid?   Some teachers prefer to be paid weekly; others require four weeks’ payment at the beginning of the month.  Some even work in terms of entire semesters with accompanying contracts.  This is important to ask so you know from the start if their payment plan is compatible with your budget.
  • Are there any other yearly fees associated with the studio?
  • What levels do you teach?   Many professional instructors do not accept beginner musicians or will only work with students older than age 12.  So, ask what ages the teacher prefers and what difficulty levels they are comfortable teaching.
  • How often will we be expected to purchase new books?   Some teachers have one book that they work from almost exclusively for each “level,” while other teachers have you purchase a new book for every new piece.  That can add up quickly, especially if the teacher only keeps your little one on a piece for 2-3 weeks (an additional $10-40 per month).  If this is the case, knowing ahead of time will allow you to determine if you can work this extra monthly cost into your budget.
  • What days and times do you teach?
  • Do you teach through the summer?
  • What does your holiday teaching schedule look like?
  • Do you have a studio policy you can send me?   This is really important.   Is payment required in every cancellation situation, or is a 24-hour notice accepted?  What about sickness?  For what reasons will the teacher cancel lessons?  All of the important business logistics will be addressed in the policy, and you need to know the answers before you make a commitment.
  • Do you prefer to schedule a meeting first or start lessons right away?

 

Teaching Experience*

[box style=”white” ]*These questions really only apply if you haven’t had a recommendation for the teacher and you suspect that he/she might be substantially inexperienced.[/box]

  • How long have you been teaching?  Keep in mind that a short teaching history doesn’t necessarily mean the teacher is “green”, just as a long teaching history doesn’t guarantee that the teacher is “seasoned!”  Keep asking questions, and their answers will show you if they are really experienced or not.
  • Have you worked with children ___ years old {insert child’s age}?  If the teacher is relatively new to teaching, you will want to find out if he/she has ever worked with students your child’s age before or if your child will be their first experience.  Again, it doesn’t mean you should rule them out if they have never taught a 6-year-old or 14-year-old, but it is something you will want to know so you can make an educated decision.

 

Teaching Method

  • What are some of your ultimate goals for your students?   If a teacher doesn’t have any long-term goals in mind for his students, you might want to call someone else.
  • How would you describe your approach?   Don’t just ask what the approach is; ask the teacher to describe it.  Here’s why.  A teacher who says, “I teach Suzuki,” might only mean that she uses the Suzuki repertoire books, not that she  follows the entire Suzuki approach.  In the same way, a teacher who says she follows a “traditional” approach might actually mean that she doesn’t… really… have… an approach, not that she follows the teaching models of Chopin or Liszt.  So ask what an average lesson look like, and get an idea of their approach in action.
  • What skills do you consider essential for your students to learn?  Ear training? Sight-reading? Performance? Memory? Improvisation? What are their priorities, and what will they focus on teaching? 
  • Do you teach music theory, and do you integrate it into the lessons?  This is a very important question.  Many teachers do not spend time on theory during the music lesson.  They either offer monthly group theory “classes” which are separate from weekly lessons, or worse, they don’t teach theory at all.  Music theory is vital, so make sure to include this question on your list!
  • What music genre(s) is your primary focus?   Classical, Pop, Folk, Etc.
  • Are you willing to teach other genres in addition to the main genre during lesson time?  Obviously, when you choose a music teacher, you do so because you are interested in the particular genre he specializes in.  However, if another genre is also important to you – hymns, for example, in addition to classical – ask if he would be willing to spend a portion of lesson time on that genre as well.  If he isn’t, that is something you will want to know when making your decision.
  • What repertoire & theory books do you use?
  • How much will you allow / expect me to be involved in the lessons?
  • Am I allowed to stay during the lessons, or am I required to drop my child off?   If you plan to bring other children with you, ask about them, too. 

Studio Opportunities / Participation

  • Do you have any other studio events? Master classes, socials, recitals, etc.
  • Do you have studio recitals?  How many recitals do you have a year? 

[box style=”white” ] Ask if the teacher has any upcoming recitals you can attend!  Studio recitals provide the perfect opportunity for you and your child to meet the prospective teacher, observe how well his students perform, and see his professionalism in action! [/box]

  • Do your students participate in competitions, festivals, etc.? 
  • Which of your studio activities are required?

 

You might scratch some of these questions from your personal list, and you might have several more to add, and that’s great!  As a parent, your list of questions will be unique from everyone elses’ – questions that reflect the priorities of your family, your child, and your situation.  What is important is that you take the time to think through your priorities before you call so you can make a thoughtful, educated decision that will be the very best for your family and your child’s musical experience.

In closing, here are three things to keep in mind when you talk with a prospective teacher:

1.  Only ask questions you really want to know.  Only you know what issues will really make a difference in your relationship with your music teacher, so prioritize your questions and only ask the ones that are important to you.  This will keep your conversation purposeful, productive, and efficient.

2.  Be sincere.   Professional teachers can tell if you really care or if you’re just reading down a list of questions for duty’s sake.  So be warm and open, and let the teacher see that you really want to know answers, not just drill him.  A genuine teacher will be excited to connect with a parent who is sincerely interested in knowing their goals and wants the best for their child.

3.  Be humble.   Professional teachers rarely want to work with a parent who is already trying to one-up them in the first conversation.  On the other hand, teachers are eager to work with parents who promote respectful interaction from the start.  Ask questions freely, but always ask them kindly.

[box style=”white” ]The way you speak to the teacher will lay the foundation for your relationship and set the tone for how the teacher responds to you.  Be sure your confidence is always balanced with respect.[/box]

The first conversation with a prospective teacher is a wonderful opportunity, so get comfortable and try to enjoy yourself!  This may be the beginning of an experience with an individual who will become a treasured part of you and your child’s life!

Do you have additional questions to add to the list?  
Share them in the comments!

Music At Your Fingertips: Review

 

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Title:         Music At Your Fingertips
Author:     Ruth Slenczynska
Pages:      162
Reading Level:  Adult
Audience:     Students & Teachers
Star Rating:  ★★★★★

 

I appreciate so much about the advice in this book, but I think it all boils down to these three things:  It’s experienced, practical, and to-the-point.

Ruth_Slenczynska_PianistExperienced

Ruth Slenczynska has spent the greater portion of her life at the piano.  She started studying at age three, made her debut performance in Berlin at age six, and performed in Paris with a full orchestra by age 11.  She spent her following years performing around the world and studying with renowned musicians, including the iconic pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff.  So when she writes about the piano, she isn’t writing dreamed-up ideas of an experienced-pianist wannabe.  She is a real expert, and her writing shows it.  She talks about tried-and-true exercises, and techniques that helped her to develop her strengths and master her weaknesses at the piano, and they work!

 

Practical

So practical.  The subtitle of the book is “Advice for the Artist and Amateur on Playing the Piano”, and it’s true.  Ruth Slenczynska is a concert artist, but these sixteen chapters are full of discussions that are every bit as valuable for student musicians as for world-touring professionals – principles and tips for practice, musicianship, memorization, developing finger control, preparing for performances, listening, teaching, mastering technique, selecting repertoire, and quite a bit more.

Consider this paragraph on mastering difficult passages:

[quote]There is no passage so difficult that it would not be possible to find a metronome speed slow enough to play it comfortably.  Technical problems are controlled by the mind.  We must train the mind before we train our hands… which we achieve by working at a slow tempo.  Forcing speed too soon is like forcing a child to walk before he is ready.  You make no progress, and you can jeopardize the equilibrium and control you may have acquired.  [/quote]

And these rules on developing a defined, expressive melody:

[quote]A melody without direction becomes purposeless.  Here are three basic rules:

  1. Concentrate for the full length of the musical line, with out interruption.
  2. Determine the mood to be expressed and make every detail point toward it.
  3. Find the focal point or climax of a phrase or section in order to give direction to your musical thought.[/quote]

And this tip on working towards a performance tempo:

[quote]…Always aim at a faster tempo than [you] will need.  In performance it should never be necessary to use your ability to the limits; there should always be a margin of reserve. [/quote]

This is advice that you can read, take to the piano, and immediately apply.  I love books like that.  And while it’s true that her instruction is addressed to pianists, the majority of the principles can be easily and effectively applied to other instruments as well.

 

To-The-Point

The author doesn’t waste time or space.  Most of the chapters are 8-12 pages – the perfect bite-size bits to chew on. No worrying about getting bogged down in the middle of a forty-page chapter!  The chapters are relatively disconnected from one another in subject, but each one addresses its topic with competence and perception.  She is concise, and her comprehensive approach to the piano is genuinely fun to experience.

[box style=”white” ]Important Note…  Most of the chapters address a broader arena than the title implies.  The chapters on building and preparing a solo concert program (#8-9), for instance, teach good methods for preparing for a performance of any kind, and the chapter on teaching at the college level (#15) gives teaching tips that are useful for much more than just the college classroom.  So spend a little time in each of the chapters, even if the title seems like it won’t apply to you.[/box]

 

In SummaryRuth_Slenczynska_Autograph

If you are a musician focused on improving your technique, you’ll enjoy the book.  It’s full of principles that will guide your progress and challenge you musically and physically!  You’ll also enjoy the new drills and historic trivia you learn along the way.

If you’re a music teacher, I encourage you to read the book!  Most of the principles for students apply to teaching students as well, and I gleaned so much from this book as a teacher.  It is, hands-down, the number one resource that has affected the way I teach.

Music at Your Fingertips is certainly not a glamorous book.  The cover design is outdated, the layout is basic, and the pictures are black and white and a little bit fuzzy.  But the content is exceptional!

 

You can see a preview / purchase the book  from Amazon HERE.  Have fun! 

Johann Strauss, II: Waltz King

 

Vienna---Painting-by-Bernardo-Bellotto-1758ecropped

Almost everyone has heard at least a line or two from one of Johann Strauss, Jr.’s famous waltzes, and all of us are familiar with the cheerful, lilting “oom-pa-pa, oom-pa-pa” rhythm that puts a bounce in our step.

But who exactly was this man – “The Waltz King?”  We know his name, but comparatively speaking, we know little of his story.

 

Strauss’ Early Life (1825-1844)Austria_Map

On October 25, 1825, near the glittering Vienna, Austria, a wee lad was born.  As the first son born to his parents, he was named Johann Strauss, Jr., after his father.

Like many composers, the young Johann suffered a difficult childhood, but tragically, the source of all his hardship was at hands of his ruthless father. Strauss, Sr. was a successful conductor and composer in Vienna, but he indulged most of his income on himself and his orchestra, leaving little to provide for his wife and children. He was a selfish, demanding, unfaithful tyrant, abandoning his poor family for months at a time and coming back home only to provide them with grief.

Strauss, Sr. adamantly refused to allow his children to receive any form of musical instruction, but despite the many trials little Johann endured at the hands of his musical father, he loved music and had already begun to write compositions in three-quarter time at age of six.1  Johann’s father demanded that he become a banker.  He did, but he also studied violin secretly with the first violinist of his father’s orchestra.  By the time he was a teenager, he was a proficient violinist and promising composer, as well as a banker.

When Johann was 17, his father abandoned the family for good.  Johann, with the complete support of his mother, was then able to pursue his love of music with nothing to hold him back.

 

Strauss’ Musical Career

Young_Johann_Strauss_Jr

Debut & Early Career (1844-1849) 

An enthusiastic Johann Strauss, Jr. set out to find someone who would help him launch his new career as a composer, but many entertainment establishments were reluctant to give the younger Strauss a contract, knowing it would sever their relationships with his father.  Finally, Deommayer’s accepted young Johann.  In October 1844, at 19 years of age, Johann gave his debut concert, conducting a host of popular pieces and including six compositions of his own.  It was a complete success!  The press and even his critics showered him with praise, but his enraged father withdrew his support from the company and refused to speak to Johann for two years.2

As a performing composer with his own orchestra, Johann now found himself in direct competition with his own father.  Hard times followed for Johann, despite his successful debut, and money was sometimes scarce.  He eventually accepted commissions to begin performing away from home, and this provided him with many wonderful music opportunities he could not yet find in Vienna.

In 1849, Strauss, Sr. died of Scarlet fever.  Johann immediately merged his father’s musicians with his own and began to tour with his newly strengthened orchestra.  That is when his fame and his career began to soar.

 

The Waltz King (1850-1899)

Young Strauss flourished as a composer, and Vienna embraced him with eager arms.  Johann enlisted the help of his younger brothers, Eduard and Josef, and they were soon directing additional orchestras under his oversight.  Some evenings found six Johann Strauss orchestras performing his lovely waltzes throughout Vienna, and Johann made appearances to conduct a few pieces at every performance they gave.

Waltz_Wilhelm_Gause_Hofball_in_Wien

Strauss’ admirers were many, and Strauss himself was most sought-after composer of dance music during his time.  His schedule overflowed.  He conducted performances during the day and composed his beautiful music in the quiet hours of the night.  The abundance of mental and physical demands began to affect his health, and eventually the stress won.  He had a nervous breakdown in 1853, and his doctors ordered him to take a vacation.  During his six-month absence, his brother, Josef, took charge of his orchestra.

Once Johann recovered, he returned to his music with vigor.   In 1867, Strauss debuted his masterpiece, The Blue Danube, in Vienna.  It was a flop!  Strauss wisely decided to try again.  While on a tour, he introduced The Blue Danube to Paris, and it was an overwhelming success.  It’s popularity spread wildly, and The Blue Danube soon became what is now undoubtedly Strauss’ most famous and well-loved piece of all time.

Johann_Strauss_and_Brahms_in_Vienna

Strauss was personal friends with Johann Brahms, and a fun story is often told of this famous composer:

Strauss’s wife Adele approached Brahms with a customary request that he autograph her fan. It was usual for the composer to inscribe a few measures of his best-known music, and then sign his name. Brahms, however, inscribed a few measures from the “Blue Danube”, and then wrote beneath it: “Unfortunately, NOT by Johannes Brahms.” 3 

Strauss continued to tour the world with his orchestra, and for twelve consecutive summers they travelled throughout Europe, visiting France, England, Austria, Poland, Germany, and – most often – in Russia.  His performance in England was acknowledged by Queen Victoria4,and his evenings of waltzes in Russia were even honored by the presence of the czars.  In 1872, Strauss was invited to Boston, where he was paid 100,000 U.S. dollars to conduct just one composition – The Blue Danube – 14 times during his tour. Thus, Strauss soon found himself and his music loved by admirers of all nationalities around the globe.

 

Strauss’ Family Life

Sadly, the history of Strauss’ married life is not a pleasant one.  Neither Strauss nor his spouses approached marriage with the respect and commitment that God requires of husband and wife, and Strauss experienced the consequences.  Strauss married three times, and all three of his marriages were tainted with unhappiness, indiscretion, and strife.  His last marriage, to Adele Deutsch in 1882, was the happiest of the three.

 

Johann_Strauss_JrStrauss’ Late Career & Death (June 1899)

Adele encouraged Johann’s creative outflow as a composer, and he was very productive during those years of his life.  At her encouragement, he handed his orchestra to his brother, Josef, so he could concentrate on composition.  He continued to write waltzes, polkas, and other forms of music, and also began work on his ballet, Aschenbrödel.

In the spring of 1899, Strauss contracted a respiratory illness that developed into pleural pneumonia.  On June 3rd of that year, Strauss died.  He was buried near the tombs of Brahms, Beethoven, and Schubert6, in the place where he had spent the majority of his life – his beloved Vienna.

 

Strauss’ Music

After Strauss’ death, his younger brother, Eduard – who had been jealous of Johann all his life – burned all of his unpublished music.7  His Cinderella ballet, although unfinished, somehow survived this unhappy ending, but we will never know how many of his waltzes, polkas, and other unheard compositions went up in flames.

Thankfully, we still have nearly 500 of Strauss’ finished works – lilting waltzes, cheerful polkas, marches, quadrilles8, galops9, operettas, and others – to learn from and enjoy.

The_Blue_Danube_Free_Score

Not all great composers are recognized in their lifetime, but this cannot be said of Johann Strauss, Jr.  Johann Brahms declared Strauss “a master”, and Richard Wagner remarked that he was the most musical head he had ever come across.  Strauss’ admirers said of him, “Strauss can only speak in German, but he smiles in all languages.”

The Strauss Family lived during the golden age of Vienna, and Johann, Jr.’s music embodies the ideals and spirit of that era.  His music is lighthearted, energetic, and sparkling with life.  The waltz – that elegant dance of German origin, meaning “to turn” – was his main form of composition and became the work that defined him.  Strauss’ music sings with a simplistic beauty, but it is written with the ingenuity that evidences a musical master.

Waltz_PhenakistoscopeRECOMMENDED LISTENING

When it comes to listening, it can be hard to figure out where to startBelow is a “recommended listening” list to help you become familiar with the pieces that have proven to be some of Strauss’ best-written and most-loved compositions.  Enjoy listening to these charming pieces!

  • Waltzes:   The Blue Danube,  Tales from the Vienna Woods,  Wiener Blut, Artist’s Life, Emperor, Roses from the South
  • Overtures:  Die Fledermaus (The Bat), Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron), Eine Nacht in Venedig (A Night in Venice)
  • Polkas:   Tritsch-Tratsch, Neue Pizzicato, Auf der Jagd, Explosionen, Unter Donner und Blitz
  • Marches:   The Egyptian

VIEW COMPLETE LIST OF STRAUSS’ WORKS

 

Strauss’ Legacy

Johann_Strauss_II

Spiritually, Johann Strauss was a man that none of us should imitate.  He made his own rules, lived for his own pleasure, and did not even acknowledge the Creator that gave him his exceptional gift of music.10

Musically, Strauss was an ingenuous architect. Many composers made use of the waltz before the Strauss family entered the stage, but Strauss, Jr. refined it in a way that no composer had done before him.  He developed, enriched, and perfected the waltz into an art form.

Johann Strauss, Jr. was devoted to his work.  He was creative, productive, and determined not to let the hardships of his early years define his entire life.  And now, over 150 years later, we are still enjoying the gift of his music.

Which ones of us will that be said of… 150 years from now?

 

RECOMMENDED for FURTHER STUDY:
The Gift of Music by Smith & Carlson, pp. 81-85 – “The Strauss Family”
Classical Music by Phil G. Goulding, pp. 508-514 – “Johann Strauss”

 

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Source: The Gift of Music, page 83
  2. Source: The Gift of Music, page 83
  3. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Strauss_II
  4. Source: The Gift of Music, page 83
  5. Source: Classical Music, pp. 508
  6. Source:  http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/straussj.php
  7. Source: Classics for Kids: Johann Strauss, Jr.
  8. The quadrille is a precursor to traditional square dancing.  
  9. The galop is a lively country dance.
  10. Strauss openly attributed Vienna with the entire credit for his creativity.

Welcome

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Welcome to The Music Blog!  I hope this will be a practical resource for teachers, musicians, and parents where we can exchange ideas and resources about teaching and learning music!

 

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What to Expect on The Music Blog

  • Articles
  • Tutorials & Educational Videos for Teachers & Students
  • Music Resource Reviews & Recommendations
  • FREE Downloadable Resources
  • Mini-Biographies on Composers, Hymn-Writers, & Others
  • Interviews with Musicians & Music Professionals
  • Music Videos
  • Studio News
  • Giveaways, Polls, & Other Fun Music Activities!

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We’ll Talk About

»  Practical Tips FOR MUSIC TEACHERS on…
– How to Teach Music Effectively
– The Logistics of Having a Private Music Studio
– Personal Development as a Musician & Teacher

The nitty-gritty details of how to teach music – from complex concepts and techniques to the most basic music fundamentals – plus the ins and outs setting goals for students, making the most of lesson time, planning studio recitals, maintaining a professional standard for yourself and your students, developing a well-rounded approach to music education, and other practical topics for teachers.

»  Effective Principles & Tips FOR MUSICIANS on…  
– Improvising, Sight-Reading, Performing, Memorizing, and other important skills
– AND Educational Posts on Music Theory & Music History.

»  Creative Ideas & Practical Guidance FOR PARENTS on…
– How to be Involved in Your Child’s Music Studies
– How to Help Them Pursue Productivity and Musical Excellence
– How to Nurturing a Love of Music in Your Little Ones.

»  Plus, FREE Printable Worksheets for teachers and parents to use in lessons and at home, including theory exercises, musical quizzes and games, music history activities, composer studies, and more.

 

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I hope these articles will be conversation starters, so please share your thoughts, questions, and ideas in the comments or through the contact page!  I’m looking forward to learning and sharing musical experiences with you.

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