Bargain at the Music Shop

I was very disappointed to discover that the Billy Hyde music shop here in the CBD was closing down for good. I only found out when I dropped by their store last Friday to look at Recorder-related books and music sheets. That Friday was supposed to be the last day for their sale that we mentioned in an earlier blog. When we got there, we then realised the actual reason for the sale.

They were going to relocate to Blackburn and December 8 was their last day in the CBD. I’ll miss that shop. They’re the only music shop in the city that carried its more than fair share of recorder music books and sheets. The Allans music shop in the city didn’t carry as many recorder titles (unlike their branch in Kew). And so, I’ll sorely miss the Billy Hyde shop.

Anyway, the original deal was that the newer books were 25% off and the older books were 80% off. But that Friday being the last day, they slashed the price even further. The newer books were now 30% off. The older books, while still 80% off, could be taken for free with a purchase of a newer book.

I couldn’t believe it.

I was interested in two of the new books they have on sale: Enjoy the Recorder Descant Tutor book 2 by Brian Bonsor (because I already have the first book) and Recorder Excellence by Bruce Pearson and Wendy Barden (only because it comes with a CD and a DVD). To be absolutely clear that I understood their bargain deal, I went to the cashier with the two new books in tow as well as three old books.

“So, if I buy these two new books, I get these three old books for free?” I asked the cashier tentatively with one eyebrow raised.

“Yeah,” he answered cheerfully. “You can take the lot.”

Take the lot, huh?

I went to the bargain boxes and grabbed two more old books that interested me and soon returned to the cashier. Again, I asked the same question with a slight ammendment. “So, if I buy these two new books, I get these five books for free?”

With no hesitation, he agreed. I then quickly pushed the books toward him before he changed his mind and said, “I’ll take them!” Maybe a little too loudly, though.

In the end, I was able to take home seven books from the shop for the price of two books that were both discounted by 30%. It was a pretty good deal.

It was only later that I realised that maybe I should’ve also looked at the old books for other instruments as well like for the piano, guitar, violin and flute! D’oh! At the very least, I could’ve sold those free books at eBay for something. Ah well.

Published in: on December 12, 2006 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tooting Again

A year ago, I was very much into playing the recorder (a fipple flute) but after a couple of months at it, I stopped practicing. However, I’ve picked up practicing the recorder again just a few months ago and I’m pleased with my current progress.

However, I’ve put my learning on hold temporarily to concentrate on practicing some Christmas tunes. I hope that I would’ve already mastered the songs enough so that I can go through the tunes without making a mistake if I do play for my family over the Christmas season in the Philippines.

As it is, though, I don’t have a lot of time to practice because of the stuff I have to do when I get home from work. If I have time to spare, I might record (no pun intended) myself playing a couple of Christmas tunes and post it here.

Published in: on December 6, 2006 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who’ll Come a Waltzing Matilda with Me?

Today is Australia Day here in the lucky land down under. It’s a public holiday so we didn’t have to go to work. Instead of being able to participate in any of the events planned out for the occasion, we were driving around Melbourne picking up stuff we’ve won from eBay.

To mark this occassion though, I’ve made a little recording of Australia’s favourite folk song Waltzing Matilda. No, I didn’t sing it. Instead, I made a little arrangement of the song that I could play easily enough on my Yamaha 302B plastic alto recorder (a flute-like musical instrument if you didn’t know by now). Now, let me warn you that I’m still an amateur recorder player so please don’t expect too much out of the performance.

But at least, if you are not familiar with the song, you’ll at last hear how it plays. By the way, I’ve first heard of this tune as an ad jingle when I was back in the Philippines on a TV commercial by Sunraysia which was a fruit drink brand imported from Australia.

When I migrated to Australia and I heard this tune sung by Aussies, I thought they were singing the Sunraysia jingle. Of course I know better now.

So, to hear the tune, download the music here:
Waltzing Matilda (the popular version) [0:34 minutes, 128kbps, 531kb]

You can see the lyrics to the song and explanation to some of the slang used in Enigman’s Waltzing Matilda page.

For more info on the origins and history of Australia’s unofficial national anthem, here’s the National Library of Australia’s page on Waltzing Matilda.

Well, trying to come up with a decent performance of this song out of my recorder was my way of celebrating Australia day. And so now, you can come a waltzing Matilda with me.

Published in: on January 26, 2006 at 11:35 pm  Comments (6)  

New Alto Recorder

I’ve been craving for an alto recorder ever since I’ve tried tooting a few notes on an alto recorder displayed at Allans Music in the city. I found its notes much more mellow and relatively quieter than the soprano recorder. I should say it has a sweeter voice.

With all the tasks we had to do that involved the move to the new house, I had to set aside my recorder playing. That meant that my soprano recorder learning was placed on hold last week. And since I didn’t even had time to pursue my soprano studies, I knew I couldn’t possibly devote time to learn the alto which uses a different type of fingering technique than the smaller soprano.

Now that we’ve settled in our new home, I started doing research on the alto recorder again. Which brand is better? Do I really want an alto or do I want a tenor recorder instead? What are the available music sheets and method books for the alto at the nearby music shops? I at least found out from other recorder players that the Yamaha 300 series alto recorder is a strongly recommended plastic recorder. There were other brands and models but they weren’t available in the shops I go to anyway. So, I guess it is fortunate that the most recommended brand and model is available at Allans Music.

Then yesterday, Raquel surprised me when she pulled out of her bag a Yamaha YRA-302BII alto recorder. I was all giddy. For the past few days, I’ve been thinking of various ways to convince her to allow me to buy one and here she bought it for me. It was my Christmas present, actually. She would’ve rather given it to me near Christmas day itself but she was afraid that I would buy an alto recorder without telling her.

My two Yamaha series 300 plastic recorders: the YRA-302BII Alto/Treble and the YRS-302BII Soprano/Descant.

I quickly pulled it out of its case, assembled it and promptly played a few tunes using the fingering technique I learned from using the soprano recorder. The low soft mellow tones were indeed lovely. Of course, to properly play it, I will have to learn the F-fingering technique as the alto recorder is an F type instrument.

Today, I bought a method book (instruction book) specifically for the alto/treble recorder. I realised that it will take me a while to get used to the different fingering technique. I also have to get used to stretching my fingers more as the holes are now farther apart as compared to the soprano’s.

Anyway, as you can see, I’m quite excited with the new instrument. I can’t wait to learn it. Once I’ve learned most of the fingerings on the alto, I’m going to record (no pun intended) the two recorders playing the same tune and post the mp3 files on the site to give you an idea of what each one sounds like if you didn’t know.

Published in: on December 15, 2005 at 10:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Recorder Obsession

A while back, I have posted about being preoccupied with my recorder, which is a flute-like musical instrument for those of you who didn’t know. And just to make sure you know exactly what I’m talking about, you can click on the thumbnail at the left to see my Yamaha YRS-302BII Soprano/Descant Recorder.

Now, that’s all cleared up, I can continue with my actual post. My recorder playing has turned from being a mere preoccupation to a sort of obsession. I’ve been all over the Internet finding any form of music that used recorders. Most free music to be had were early Medieval or Renaissance music. I’m not complaining, really, as I actually love everything Medieval or Renaissance: languages, culture, history, art, architecture and, of course, music.

There were also classical music that used recorders mainly from the composers Georg Philipp Telemann and Antonio Vivaldi. Fortunately for me, the local libraries have Audio CDs of classical music which used recorders so I borrowed all of them that I could get my hands on.

The recorder music I’ve acquired further inspired me to become a better recorder player. And so, I’ve been practicing for an average of one hour almost everyday to advance my level of competence with the instrument. I’m so itching to become very good with the recorder that I couldn’t wait.

Unfortunately, my desire to fast track my skill advancement sometimes leads to frustration. Last week, I realised that even with a better quality instrument, not all the notes could easily be produced on the recorder. My main weakness is producing the low C note in which I have to press on all the holes. Sounds easy but when I blow on the recorder, I got a squeakish sound instead of a full C note. This annoyed me a lot.

No matter how much I tried to cover all the holes, I must have been doing something wrong because I keep getting squeaks instead of the C note. I then conceded that I may need additional assistance from a teacher. Or maybe I just needed a better method book (a book of instruction on how to play an instrument).

It’s fortunate that one of the biggest music instrument shops in Melbourne, Allans Music, had its “Biggest Ever Sale” last weekend. I usually go to their Melbourne store but last Saturday, I decided to try their store over at Kew (east of Melbourne).

It was great! They seem to have a larger collection of music sheets and method books for recorders there (or at least they were better organised). They also had lots more brands and models of plastic recorders there than the Melbourne branch. I was tempted to buy another recorder, maybe an Alto. But I decided that I must master the Soprano recorder first before undertaking another version of the instrument.

Since they were on sale, lots of their wares were about 20% off. I’ve had always wanted to buy a music stand (that thing where I can put my music sheets to read while playing) and that day, I was able to get one that was less than $20. What a steal. I also bought two music books plus an instruction book by Walter Van Hauwe: The Modern Recorder Player Volume 1.

When I got home, I quickly read Van Hauwe’s book and found out how to properly hold a recorder. After that, I was able to play the dreaded low C note properly! Well, not 100% of the time, but often enough that it motivated me to continue playing.

As of this writing, I’m almost done with Stephen Goodyear’s The New Recorder Tutor Book One. I know I’m still far from being a maestro recorder player but I will certainly strive to be one.

Before I end this post, I’d like to point out some reasons as to why I want to play the recorder (as opposed to another instrument):

  1. It’s portable. The soprano recorder (and even the alto) is small enough to carry everywhere I go. The soprano recorder is like a foot long and could usually be separated into two or three smaller parts. When I feel like playing, I can just pull it out and quickly play some tunes.
  2. It doesn’t need much maintenance (the plastic recorders, at least, don’t). I can play it for as long and as often as I like and all I have to do to clean it is to wash it in water.
  3. It was easy to learn the first basic notes. When I learned the basic notes, I could already play some popular tunes. It gave me a feeling of accomplishment and motivated me to go on learning the rest of the notes.
  4. It is a monophonic instrument. When I was learning the piano, I had to learn to read multiple notes and play them all at the same time. With the recorder, I only have to read an play one note at a time.

These are just a few of my reasons I’m into recorders right now. If you decide you want to take up the recorder, just pop by your nearest music instrument shop and buy a Yamaha YRS-302BII plastic recorder (like I did). It’s considered the best quality plastic recorder around (even better than some of the wooden recorders which is traditionally considered better than plastic). It’s only AU$38 so it’s not a big investment if you decide later that you don’t like it.

To end, here are some resources on the Web for the recorder:
The Recorder Home Page by Nicholas Lander
Free Recorder Lessons Online by Gene Casti
Courtly Music Unlimited – Advice for Beginning Recorder Players
Courtly Music Unlimited – Answers to Questions from Recorder Players
Antique Sound Workshop – FAQ and Guides for Recorders
Recorder Friends Yahoo Group
Recorder Yahoo Group

Published in: on November 28, 2005 at 10:45 pm  Comments (1)  

Me and the Recorder

I haven’t posted anything new in a while now. The reason being that I’m very preoccupied with something at the moment when I get home from work. That is, I’m self-teaching myself to play the recorder properly. By recorder, I meant that flute-like musical instrument that is almost usually mistaken by the uninitiated as a flute.

I actually picked up the recorder when I was still in Canberra and I needed something to do to help pass the time. I hadn’t touched my old cheap plastic recorder for quite some time but recently, something — I cannot remember what — triggered my desire to pick it up again. Only, this time, I’m going to learn it more properly. Well, as properly as I could without the benefit of a music teacher.

Although I was taught to play the piano when I was younger, I never really took to it. I was just overwhelmed by it. Later on, I self-taught myself to play the basic chords on a classical guitar. That was at least something I felt I could get into but I found carrying a guitar around to be rather cumbersome. So, one day in a music shop in Canberra, when I was thinking of picking up another musical instrument to study, I decided I wanted an instrument that is portable, low maintenance and monophonic (I don’t have time to master an instrument that could play multiple notes at the same time).

Then I saw a bunch of cheap unnamed-brand plastic recorders on the cashier’s counter. Hmm. It was selling for something like less than five dollars. I thought that if I didn’t like it, I could always go for another instrument. Another thing that influenced me to pick up the recorder was me remembering that my brother had a Yamaha recorder back in the Philippines. I thought, it must not be that difficult to learn if he played it.

I’m fairly sure my brother intended to play pop tunes on his recorder. I, on the other hand, intended to be fairly competent on the recorder enough to be able to play solo renaissance folk music or classical music with it (which I like, by the way). Sure, I also play pop tunes on my recorder now which I learned by ear but I think such an instrument is better suited for those old tunes of yore.

I discovered that some of the notes were difficult to play on my recorder. And some of the notes I could play didn’t sound as nice as I’d hope. Anyway, I didn’t devote much time to studying it when I was in Canberra and I completely forgot about it when I moved to Melbourne last year.

But this month, my interest in the recorder was renewed unexpectedly. Maybe I was inspired by the city musician buskers. Maybe it was a movie I watched recently. Maybe it was because I saw these recorder lesson books at the library by coincidence. Whatever the reason, I decided to continue teaching myself the recorder. I started from the beginning again and this time, I’m making sure I learn to read the notes and execute them properly.

So now, I try to devote an hour a day (at least) to practicing the musical instrument. And when I’m not doing that, I’m doing online research about the recorder: its history, free score sheets for it, mailing list for it, etc. From my research, I discovered that the recorder was used as an introduction to music in schools. Well, not in the Philippines, as far as I know. If that’s true, then I’m learning a musical instrument that is considered by many here or in the Western world as a kid’s toy. And that’s probably why the flute I bought in Canberra was selling for cheap.

After doing further research, I also discovered that although plastic recorders were considered by most serious recorder players to be inferior to wood-made recorders, there were branded plastic recorders that played quite well and is sometimes even better than the cheapest wooden recorder. The Yamaha brand was recommended by some so one day, I took a trip to Allans Music Store in the city to look for a Yamaha plastic recorder.

I was able to buy one for $38 which was slightly more expensive than my older recorder but still quite inexpensive. When I got home, I played the same tunes I played on the old recorder and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the notes sounded a lot better on the new recorder. Also, I found that some of the notes I had difficulty with on the old recorder to be easily playable on the new recorder.

Now, armed with a new plastic recorder, I intend to master it to a certain degree. I have no illusions of becoming a professional/master recorder player but I hope to be competent enough on the instrument that I could comfortably play it wherever I go and not get thrown at with eggs and tomatoes. When I’m skilled enough with the recorder, maybe I could perform in one of those renaissance fairs or even along one busy sidewalk in the city.

Published in: on November 16, 2005 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment