This year’s music has finally come to an end. In this reflection, I will address specifically at my learning progress of playing and music theory. I will start off with talking about my flute playing and then the theory knowledge.
Over the past month, we have completed 2 playing tests – a scales and jazz solo test. For scales, I chose C, D melodic and E, A, G harmonic minor scale, with a chromatic scale starting on G at the end. Unlike the November scales test, I was able to play all 6 of the scales with excellent note accuracy. This was because I was less nervous as compared to the first time, so I was more confident in playing the notes. I also practiced more frequently at home. The method that I found quite effective is by playing the scales frequently, so I can constantly remind my brain of the fingerings. Before the test, I would have my flute out on the table and every time I walk into my room, whether it be just coming back from the washroom, getting a snack or a cup of water, I would pick up the flute and run through all the scales once – this was how I practiced for the notes of the scales. Regarding articulation precision, this was done very well also because I chose to play the scales slurred. I only needed to play the scale in one breath, tonguing in the first note and hold the breath while letting my fingers do their work. The dynamics of the scales was not very prominent on the scales because it wasn’t a major factor in the performance. Therefore, it stayed constant the entire time. I can’t exactly say my tone quality was excellent, but I’ve been getting a thick, resonant tone when practicing, and I don’t think I did badly at all in this aspect during the scales test. Intonation wise, I tuned right before I went into the test room, so it was done nicely – perhaps here and there a little sharp or flat because of my embouchure caused by the nervousness, but it didn’t affect the performance notably. Lastly, I think the chosen tempo was appropriate which allowed me to connect the notes smoothly. It was a quarter note = 96, and I played it in one semi-quaver/note. As stated above, I played the scales attached, which I think contributed to the connection of the notes. I did not have any pauses in between the scales. However, one thing that I can improve on is the rhythm accuracy. I would start off at a quarter note = 96 but speed up while ascending and slow back down while descending. Although I am aware of this, it seems as if my fingers are out of my control. Hence, I will need to improve on making the finger movements more coordinated when practicing at home.
Moving on to the Stella by Starlight jazz test, I think I did quite well on it too. I received excellent for all of the strands from the performance, including note accuracy, rhythm accuracy, dynamics, tempo, swing feel, articulation precision, tone quality, intonation, connection, air and melodic shape. Overall, the beginning, middle and end were also excellent, as given by the teacher. One weakness that was stated in the comments was that the eighth notes at the beginning were a little jumpy – I tend to naturally play a staccato for eighth notes in jazz, which will be something that I need to work towards during practice. Disregarding the comments from the teacher, I personally thought that I could’ve done better during the triplets, specifically the second set, because it has a rhythm that was a little more complicated. However, I don’t think the rhythm was the main aspect that can be improved, I need to practice in tonguing low register notes without cracking it. In the test, because of keeping the tone quality, I chose to slur the first three notes of the triplets and then do tonguing for the last three notes. This is because by slurring the notes it decreases the chances of the notes cracking as it eliminates any “attacks” from the sudden air stream caused by tonguing. Thus, this will be another goal that I work towards during practice sections – to be able to tongue low register notes while keeping their tone quality. (The following is an observation that I made as a flute player of myself). After learning how to double-tongue, I’ve realized that I’m constantly ameliorating and utilizing this skill that I am starting to lose my single tonguing skills. The fastest single tongue I can do is semi-quaver at a quarter note = 70. Though, my double tongue can reach semi-quavers at a quarter note = 120. I’ve realized an imbalance in this situation so I am now spending more time at single tongue during my practices.
I will now proceed to comment on my knowledge of theory concepts. I have received a mark of 68/75 in the recent theory test, which equals to a 7 in the IB system. My strengths are drawing intervals, triads, identifying chords and cadences according to melody and NT/PTs, areas where I got full marks for. The trick to intervals is that I always used C major as a starting point. Since C major has no sharps or flats, I first think of the written interval according to C major, then I will count the semitones and apply it to the key of the question. For example, if I was given an augmented 5th, I will first look at C major. If C to G is a perfect 5th, then C to G# is an augmented 5th. C to G# is 8 semi-tones, so I will apply it to the given key – in this case, B major. If B was the tonic, then 8 semitones would be F double sharp. For triads, I used my own trick of memorizing a table of intervals between each note in the triad. For example, a major triad has a major 3rd, then a minor 3rd – Take C major as an example, C E G is a major triad. C to E is a major 3rd interval while E to G is a minor 3rd. A diminished triad would be 2 minor 3rds. C# diminished is C# E G because C# to E is a minor 3rd and E to G is another minor 3rd. This trick was very effective and it helped me 100% of the times while figuring out the triads. I found the labeling chords quite straightforward and easy. This was because I simply had to write down the notes of each chord once given the key and see which of chord’s notes were used most in the melody. If there was a mixture of chord and non-chord tones, I would see which notes were on the heavy beats – the down beats. Part of this question also included labeling cadences, which was easy to me as I have just recently completed an ABRSM exam two weeks ago which constituted of identifying the cadences in the aural component. I had a clear understanding of neighbor tones (NT) and passing tones (PT), which made the last section easy to me too. When I was deciding on the time signature, I was hesitating between 4/4, 6/8 or 12/8, these were the time signatures that popped into my head at the time. Since I had to include exactly 3 PT and NT, no more or less, I thought that 4/4 would mean that I have to split the quarter notes into eighth notes, which would complicate the situation ( I wanted to find a time signature where I didn’t have to sub-divide the notes). If I used 6/8, I would have 6 semi-quavers per bar, meaning that in total (2 bars) I would have 12 note. So this wouldn’t work too as some of the chord tones would need to overlap. Therefore, I chose 12/8, where there would be 24 notes in total. I wrote 2 PT and NT in the first bar, 1 PT and NT in the second bar and ended with a three semiquavers and a dotted crotchet, which worked perfectly without any sub-dividing.
For weaknesses, I have performed the same error that I made in the theory test at the beginning of the year – mistaking double flat for an x, which signifies a double sharp. However, this has caused me only mark. The other mistakes were actually mistakes that I actually was not aware of, meaning that they were not careless. I have now learned that when writing the key signatures of a tenor c clef, the first sharp – F sharp needs to be on the second line (from the bottom) instead of above the top line similar to the treble clef. Another thing that I have learned is that when descending in a scale, the leading tone is the second note, instead of the seventh note like an ascending scale. In addition, I learned that when a transposition question states to transpose a note from concert pitch to concert (an instrument), concert means the note that the audience hears, different from written, which means the note on the stave.
As a flute player, I wouldn’t say I’ve made an immense improvement throughout this year. The area that I saw myself improve the most is probably in playing scales, I can play all scales by heart now! Yet through another aspect – theory, I can say that I have learned much more in this year’s music course. Through being a reflective learner, I have taught myself to constantly look back on the past quizzes and tests to improve on future tests. One of my methods of revising for this time’s theory test was looking back at my first test and seeing the weaknesses. I was able to improve from a level 5 at the beginning of this year to a level 7 now. Overall, I would say that music this year has taught me a lot in the written aspects such as composing music ( Ternary composition & Stella by Starlight composition), music history (Theory epub & Jazz epub) and music theory. It gave me a chance in being more balanced, learning things that I would not be exposed to in typical piano/flute/violin lesson, which I am very grateful of. Although I will not be taking music as a subject next year, I will still be having weekly music lessons and I will ensure that my music knowledge stays with me forever.