Author Archives: bvarela

About bvarela

Beth Varela (also known as Baseball Beth) is a musician living in Minneapolis, MN. Film Composer, piano teacher, drum teacher, composer.

The Finale Tool Pallet Order Should Influence Your Workflow

Have you ever noticed that the Finale tool pallet is actually set up in the order that Finale prefers you enter things?

Finale 2014 Tool Pallet

Finale 2014 Tool Pallet

The tools for adding instruments, adding measures, changing key signatures, and changing time signatures are first on the pallet. That means Finale wants you to create a canvas so that pitches and rhythms can be added properly.

The note entry tools are next. This is because Finale is ready for you to enter pitches and rhythms with whatever note entry tool you’re most comfortable in. If you’ve already added enough measures, and plotted your key signature and time signature changes, you should theoretically be able to go to town on your note entry task without changing tools.

Dynamics are next on the tool pallet. Once you have all your notes entered, Finale wants you to go through your score and put in dynamics. As you know, this assists in playback as well. Finale understands how loud or soft to play back your notes just like an instrumentalist: it reads the dynamic markings first.

Articulations are next. You see, Finale doesn’t expect you to worry about dynamics and articulations as you’re entering the notes. Although you’re welcome to do so, you’ll just have to switch tools or know your keyboard shortcuts. Still, Finale is cool with you slapping those in as an after thought.

This on is important: The page layout tool is near the bottom of the tool pallet. Finale doesn’t even want you to worry about the spacing of the staffs or the layout of the page until after your music is entered, with dynamics, articulations, chords, lyrics, and all the other junk you might need. Only then does Finale think you’re ready to start laying out the page for print. If you keep this in mind, you could save yourself a lot of time. Try to stay out of the habit of monkeying around with page layout before you have all the other markings you need entered.

If you like adding articulations and dynamics at the same time that you’re entering notes, Finale can accommodate you. Learn these keyboard shortcuts if you’re a Simple Entry Tool fan.

And of course, with the new Score Manager tool, found in the Windows menu, Finale makes it easier than ever to add and remove staffs as an afterthought.

Have a Finale workflow question? Leave me a comment!

I was introduced to a new cuban piano pattern this weekend while I was at a cuban pig roast. Leave it to me to disappear into a basement piano room with another pianist while the rest of the party is happening outside.

Cuban Piano PatternLearning new rhythms is a true labor of love for me. When we attempt something like a new rhythm, neurons in our white matter brain tissue send electrical signals to each other for the first time. This series of connections becomes the neural pathways that will carry the entire musical pattern through from our imaginations to our fingertips. Like sledding down a snowy hill – the path is difficult to create, and the result is slow moving at first, but the more we use the pathway, the slicker it becomes. When the sledding trail is super icy and slick, the fun really starts. After practicing slowly and deliberately for some time, the myelin in our brains creates suitable support for our new neural pathway, and our neuron signals can fly down that pathway like lightning – allowing our bodies to play cuban music lol…

If you’re a pianist who loves deliberate practice, and you’ve never tried playing anything like this before, I’d love for you to give it a try. You can download a .pdf of the Cuban Piano Pattern, or just check out the image provided in the post.

Here’s a video of me at 7:15 AM trying to practice this thing. This was a huge challenge for me, and I’m really proud of the progress I’m making. I hope this pattern brings you as much joy.

Have a groove you’re trying to work on? Share it with me in the comments section below! 

When is it a Copyright Violation?

When Is It Copyright Violation - Leading Notes Blog

Read the full article on the Leading Notes Blog: http://www.leadingnotes.org/2014/08/13/music-education-copyright-violation/

Have you ever asked yourself if you’re in violation of copyright as you create custom sheet music for your students using your music notation software?

As a music educator who also owns a music notation software program, it’s easy to forget when I should, and shouldn’t be making custom arrangements for students without obtaining permission from an existing copyright owner. I spend my time during regular business hours at MakeMusic Inc., where I have access to an entire team of music engravers (Finale co-workers) and licensing experts (SmartMusic co-workers), so it’s easy to just shout over my cube wall and get amazing clarification on such a topic.

The Leading Notes blog asked if I would share the love and provide a quick guideline for music educators who also use music notation software in their teaching practice. Read the full article here.

When Is It a Copyright Violation?

Hosted by Leading Notes – Music Education in Practice.

 

Your Teachers Warm-ups

Hannon

Have you ever asked your teacher or mentor about their warm-up routine?

There comes a time in a students career where they are ready to learn their teachers warm-ups. Perhaps not all at once, but certainly little-by-little. As an instructor, I do my best to assess the capabilities of each of my students based on the size of their hands, coordination, and focus. Because of varying levels of maturity/ability, some of my students are prescribed a warm-up routine that is not identical to mine. Just recently, a middle school aged student who has been studying with me for a few years now, showed me that she’s ready to work towards a new warm-up routine: my warm-up routine.

I noticed that Ellis has many strengths as a musician and pianist, but makes different fingering choices than I do at the piano. I also noticed that the size of her hands is now about the size of my hands, and decided it’s time to tone those suckers up and get them into even better shape.

I practice three instruments – and on all three, I have adopted a warm-up routine that incorporates a routine shared to me by a teacher or mentor that I admire.

Part of my warm-up on the drum set comes from a few pointers given to me by my good friend Jendeen Forberg. I love her calculated approach to systematically moving accents through mundane rhythms, and transferring them to all 4 limbs. Her warm-up tips are valuable for the drummer who wants to gain strength, quickness, and the ability to interpret rhythms beyond the barline.

My warm-up for piano is a mixture of suggestions from three instructors. I begin by doing Hannon exercises in all 12 keys, as recommended by my friend Nachito Herrera. This is a fraction of his two hour warm-up. I then move onto the scales required of a first semester piano principal at Berklee College of Music (which I was once). I finish with an improvisation game taught to me by my childhood teacher Sean Turner, who is now a professor at McNally Smith College of Music.

After a year or less of studying cello with Jacqueline Ultan, I asked her about her warm-up routine. Because I am a beginner, I suspect that she has shared only a fraction of it with me at this point, but already I feel stronger on the fingerboard based on the warm-ups she shared.

My middle-school-aged student Ellis is strong willed and quirky. She’s not always the easiest student to move into a new routine. However, I know that she is taking lessons with me because we have good rapport and she likes the way I play. I simply informed her that she was a big kid now, and will start to learn my personal warm-up routine because she can handle it. I explained that most of it would be first level scales from Berklee college of Music. She reminded me that she was not yet committed to being a music major in college. I responded: “You are a very bright girl who is good at many things. And one of the things you will be good at is scales… because I said so. No other reason. We make different choices, and have different strengths. I can give you my choices and I can give you my strengths, but you have to do my warm ups.”

For that statement, I received a big smile from Ellis. It’s the same proud smile I give when hold my head up high and say that my warm-up is Jacquelines warm-up. My warm up is Nachito’s warm-up. My warm-up is Jendeens warm-up. It’s not that Ellis has to play like me. It’s that choices are valuable. In order for her to play like herself, she should have as many choices at her disposal as possible. I wish for her to be able to choose a fingering I would probably choose, or make a choice to do something else. That, after all, is a part of why I believe she has chosen me to be her teacher.

If you are a player who looks up to someone, ask them to teach you at least parts of their warm-up. Gain their strengths, through focused hard work. Do your teachers warm-ups.

Favorite Baseball Story

paul_molitorTear down of the Metrodome Stadium in Minneapolis begins this week, and my favorite coaching position with the MN Twins is filled with a new leader. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share a story from when I was a kid. Here is my favorite baseball story:

My dad took two of my friends and me to a Twins baseball game at the Metrodome sometime in the mid 90s. I must have been in 6th grade or so. We had seats in the upper deck behind left field. We squinted to see the game, but often times people watching is more fun, and we had a good view of a rowdy bunch a few rows in front of us. My friend, Natalie, also noticed a player sitting on the side lines with the name Hector on his back. She decided he was cute, and since he wasn’t playing, we stole some closer seats to the edge of the balcony and tried to get his attention. He winked at us. Natalie was star stricken.

After we returned to our seats, a fly ball was hit and caught by the Twins left fielder. As the crowd cheered, the left fielder threw the ball into the stands, right at the rowdy group a few rows ahead of us. The group was drunk enough to flub the catch. The ball bounced back to our row, and Natalie got it. Her next plan would be to get Hector to sign the ball.

After the game, my dad took us to stand with other fans outside of the parking lot where the Twins players exited the stadium and went to their cars. Hector came out and the only fan screaming his name was Natalie, holding up her baseball. This player, who didn’t play at all during the game, and was probably only on the 40 man roster, ignored his fan, got into his slick car, and speed away. Before Natalie could sulk too much, my dad had good news for her.

“Wait, wait, hold your ball up for this guy! Get him over here!” my dad chirped, as another player came out of the stadium. My dad was in a hurry, thinking he’d miss this opportunity, but this player was slowly and carefully making his way down the line of fans, signing balls, and asking if he’d missed anyone. “Over here!” – my dad helped Natalie hold the ball in the air.

The player signed the ball with a warm smile and returned it to an unimpressed Natalie, who looked down at the signature and scoffed “Paul Molitor!?”

Today, I am excited that the Twins have selected Hall of Famer Paul Molitor to their coaching staff. He’ll be responsible for base running tactics, bunting, and infield defense – my three absolute favorite parts of Baseball. As a player, my personal strengths are smart base running, bunting, and infield defense (I’m a terrible power hitter). Congrats to Paul Molitor. If I wasn’t so in love with the music industry, I’d be very jealous of his career.

Where Off Road Biking and Cello Practice Intersect

mountain biking

Photograph: Jupiter images/Brand X/Alamy

As I continue to take cello lessons, I continue to find similarities in practicing the cello and practicing the drums set. As I work through the music for my upcoming concert, I am muddling through the correct notes and rhythms, but it’s taking a lot of concentration and I’m having trouble relaxing while playing. I’m also constantly worried that my bow is going to bump into the other cellist, and my paranoia is causing restrictions in my movement, creating a less than ideal sound on my cello. During my last lesson, my cello teacher gave me a short lecture, comparing off road biking and cello playing, which, I’ll bet, makes absolute sense for any instrument.

Some years ago she took up off road biking as a hobby. At first, she was trying to control every motion, grabbing the handlebars tightly, tensing her shoulders, etc. One day someone finally told her to loosen up and let the bike do the hard work. She describes that when she did so, she learned what an off road bike was built for. It had specialized parts that took care of much of the movement she was trying to control. She was suddenly able to bike over obstacles she never thought she’d be able to handle.

My cello teacher instructed me to loosen up, let go, as she did with her off road bike – let the cello do the hard work for me. She reminded me that there is weight to the blow, and that the cello sits underneath the bow to support it. She reminded me not to try and control the physics, but rather to notice and work with them as I play.

This is brilliantly similar to how drummers approach their technique. I observe many beginner students holding their drum sticks for the first time with their index finger stiffly out in front of their grip, trying to point the stick into the drum head. However, drum heads are built to bounce, and drum sticks are weighted and balanced to fit in the drummers hands. When a drummer pulls their index finger into the rest of their grip, they may feel a little out of control at first, but quickly, they should be able to notice the bounce of a drum stick coming back from the drum head. They’ll learn to work with the motion, and that’s when their real technique forms. Playing becomes much easier.

My lesson this week reminded me that cellos are specially made for cello playing, just as drums are made for drumming and off road bikes are made for off road biking. I should try to stay loose while playing through each passage, so that I can be aware of the cellos role, and fly with it over obstacles I thought were beyond my skill.

AlphaNotes in Finale

AlphaNotes in Finale
AlphaNotes in Finale

I am an ongoing guest author for the Alfred Legerlines blog, writing a series of articles for pianists with tips on using Finale music notation software. If you are a piano teacher, you may like part one of this series, which walks you through the steps for creating Alpha Notes in your own arrangements.

My beginning students typically learn through a method that fits their personality. I like teaching from Piano Adventures and American Popular Piano. However, I like to include home-made supplemental material, and for students who are learning to sight read, I sometimes like to include AlphaNotes in their scores. AlphaNotes is a font by Finale that puts the note name or solfedge abbreviation inside the notehead. Using AlphaNotes can even help my student’s parents, as I find that parents like helping with piano homework, and spend time writing in the note names under the note heads… which isn’t always correct if the parents can’t read music!

I don’t use AlphaNotes with students for long, because I don’t want them to be a crutch for the student. But they are certainly helpful at the beginning of the sight reading process. AlphaNotes are easy to make in Finale.

Read the full article on the Alfred Ledgerlines blog: http://alfredledgerlines.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/finale-music-notation-software-for-the-working-pianist-part-one-teaching-piano-lessons-with-finale/

The blog will also show you how to find piano repertoire for your students that comes with Finale.

I’m happy to answer your Finale questions anytime. Leave me a comment below.

Handbells in Finale

colored noteheads and handbellsIf you arrange music for handbells, you may like the two part blog series that I’ve written for the Finale blog: Handbells in Finale.

Part 1: Using the Handbells template, and creating a “Handbells Used” chart.  http://www.finalemusic.com/blog/handbells-in-finale-2014/

Part 2: Display colored noteheads to correspond with the colors of your educational handbells. http://www.finalemusic.com/blog/handbells-in-finale-2014-part-two/

I’m happy to answer your questions about Finale music notation software anytime. Leave me a comment below.