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Mr. Mark’s Course Participants Harp the Blues, Mix ‘Amazing Grace’

During the month of August, some of the music school’s students met in “Learn to Play the Blues”: Aarnav, Carson, Elijah, Riya, and Sara, on the guitar, and Audrey and Hanna on the piano. Students improvised using the pentatonic minor scale in a new key each week and played 12- bar blues accompaniments. Mr. Mark led each student to successful integrate these techniques, by appropriately challenging their particular skill level and age.

Some students used their harmonicas to learn to play 12-bar blues for the key of their “harp”, and the few who owned a slide, learned how to play slide guitar in pentatonic minor. After a few weeks the group talked about the difference between harmonic minor and the blues scale, and how to add the “blue note”. A “blue note” is the “outside note” or a flattened or slightly lowered note in the scale, that can be glided into from above or below, or altered from its original pitch: in this case, it was the forth or fifth note that was changed and also acted as a passing tone. The use and application of the “blue note’ was first heard in African-American music.

In the last session, students observed how to use SoundTrap and tried recording their parts: more project time would have provided better results but the attempt was enjoyed by all and a few people even indicated that they were excited to continue recording on their own! With The Blues Class, students added something new to their repertoire and reviewed the basic music theory that applies to their classical studies, including I IV V chord progressions, spelling triads and dominant seventh chords, and major/minor keys. 

Since taking the Blues Class, playing the blues is now part of our weekly practice routine.  It was a hit with our family, adding another element of fun to our music toolkit.  We can’t wait for the next blues camp” – Parent Participant

In Mr. Mark’s Chamber Music and Recording Course, the violin, piano mandolin, ukulele, bass, and percussion instruments were represented, while again participants discussed the basic functions of recording and learned to collaborate with SoundTrap. They also practiced how to make arrangements “on the fly” using lead sheets, as one would do in a studio. The main project was to make an arrangement of Amazing Grace using different instruments at every verse reiteration. After recording the separate parts, students added effects, mixed and panned, transposed parts, changed tempos, and downloaded a completed mix as MP3 or WAV file to send to others to hear. In addition to the main project, students recorded some music from their regular repertoire and played around with adding parts and mixing their arrangements. Thanks to Mr. Mark! the faculty staff and parents, and especially to Lily, Audrey, Lochlan, and Manus – it was a lot of fun!

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