Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Focus on Ensemble Sheet Music - Brass

Having just revamped a large part of my ensemble music section, I thought it would be worth talking about ensembles in a little more depth. I have two sections purely for brass instruments – brass band and brass ensembles – so what’s the difference?

In the UK the term brass band refers to a very defined formulation which includes all brass instruments except the trumpet and french horn (cornets take the place of the trumpet as the upper brass voice).  Brass bands have roots going back to the Victorian period and have evolved their own unique sound and repertoire, distinctly different from orchestral brass. It is normal, for example, for all players to read their music in treble clef, with the exception of the bass trombone.  While tubas may be present, it is more normal to have Eb and BBb basses which read treble clef.  The term “tuba” generally refers to the orchestral instrument which reads bass clef.  Some instruments specific to brass bands and absent from orchestral brass are the flugel horn, tenor (Eb) horn, euphonium, baritone, Eb bass and soprano cornet.  So a set of sheet music  for brass band would reflect this set up.

Brass ensembles, on the other hand, are a bespoke arrangement of brass instruments from a duet to a 10 piece ensemble and everything in between.  They often reflect orchestral brass so the cornet may be absent, along with the other instruments specific to brass bands.  As a result, and especially with music published outside the UK, the trombone and tuba parts are often in bass clef though publishers sometimes provide parts in both clefs in the UK.  There is a strong geographical divide in the clefs, with many players in the north of England playing in treble clef as a reflection of the brass band heritage, with more players in the south of the country where the brass band legacy is not as strong playing in bass clef.  Likewise tenor horn, flugel and euphonium/baritone players are more often to be found in the north.

Some brass ensemble music is written with flexible parts which allow a number of different instruments to take part, whereas other specify certain instruments and the arrangement is not flexible, so it is important to check the instrumentation before purchasing.  If in doubt, ask.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Transparency Among Retailers

Just spoke to a very nice lady who had questions about the ABRSM oboe exam recordings. Helped her out (no gain for me because she had already ordered music from ABRSM shop), but what really annoys me is that she thought she had spoken to ABRSM about this when in fact she had spoken to the third party who processes the orders from their shop. They weren't helpful, unsurprisingly, because the people on the phone know nothing.
But it really is misleading when big names such as ABRSM and Trinity trade on their brand, make you think that you are dealing with them when in fact you are not. Nowhere do they tell you who actually runs their retail business. I know who it is, as does every other independent retailer in the business, because we all lost sales when the exam boards started doing this a few years ago.
Recently I started another website - www.musicbeginners.co.uk - which is small and targeted at a specific market and with additional information to help customers which I simply could not fit onto my larger site. I am clear on the site and on the invoice as to who owns and runs it. Surely the big brands could be as transparent as me? Or am I being wildly unrealistic?

Monday, 21 April 2014

Summer is Icumen In

As the days are getting longer and warmer, here is the manuscript of the famous medieval song Summer is Icumen In.  Written in early music notation, it is a bit different to modern musical notation and practice.  There is still a lot of discussion about the origins of the notation but our modern way of writing combines Gregorian style notation such as this with Islamic influences from the medieval muslim empire in places such as Spain, which also gave us many of our modern instruments such as guitar and oboe.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Tiptree Sneeze

This is what happens when you need to sneeze during a concert and you're holding a trombone...

Friday, 28 February 2014

Miniature violin workshop

An 18th Century Violin workshop, recreated inside a violin
I love this - it is an 18th century violin makers workshop built inside a full size violin. It was on display in the Time Machine museum in Arizona and all the instruments and tools inside are fully functional, so clever!

On the violin theme, Ricordi have just published a new edition of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons for violin and piano, you can see it here: http://www.vsmusicsupplies.com/vivaldi-the-four-seasons-for-violin-and-piano-ricordi-19217-p.asp       Unlike some complete editions, this is very affordable at £18.90.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A Long Overdue Update!

A lot has been happening at VS Music Supplies, and it has been too long since I posted here.

Firstly, there is now a section for vintage and second-hand sheet music on the website.  This covers recent editions such as the one shown here, to early 20th century music.  Much more to be added over the days ahead!

Secondly, VS Music Supplies is now on Pinterest, where you can see pictures of new products, old sheet music and anything else that catches my eye!

Thirdly there has been a slight reorganisation of the website, not very radical but quite a major tweak, affecting sheet music for all instruments.  Another change to ensemble sheet music will follow later in the year.

I will keep posting new music here in due course, but the Pinterest board is more up to the minute than this blog.

In the meantime, I have come across this article about the merits of polishing a fiddle or other string instrument which I think is worth a read for all string players: http://www.allthingsstrings.com/Instruments/CARE-MAINTENANCE/Is-It-Really-a-Good-Idea-to-Polish-Your-Instrument