King Arthur is back: The Legend of the Sword

In a few weeks, the latest film about King Arthur will be released and it promises to be a huge success. This version is written by Joby Harold and directed by Guy Ritchie. At Great Scores we love good films but we love their soundtracks more. There is little information available at the moment save that the music will be by Daniel Pemberton and released by WaterTower Music.

You may not be familiar with Daniel Pemberton. He is an Ivor Novello winning and multi-BAFTA nominated composer and has score many Emmy and BAFTA award winning dramas and documentaries such as Complicit, Peep Show, Upstairs Downstairs, Desperate Romantics, Space Dive, Occupation and Hiroshima. He works with a wide range of musical mediums – from electronic to orchestral. He moved into film with the supernatural thriller The Awakening (2011). More recently he worked with Guy Ritchie on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015).

The title track audio has been released and can be heard here. It’s quite an earthy sound and we can expect a fair amount of that throughout the film.

An early soundtrack listing follows:

  • From Nothing Comes a King Sheet Music
  • King Arthur: The Legend Of The Sword
  • Growing Up Londinium
  • Jackseye’s Tale
  • Th Story Of Mordred
  • Vortigen And The Syrens
  • The Legend Of Excalibur
  • Seasoned Oak
  • The Vikings & The Barons
  • The Politics & The Life
  • Tower & Power
  • The Born King
  • Assassins Breathe
  • Run Londinium
  • Fireball
  • Journey To The Caves
  • The Wolf & The Hanged Men
  • Camelot In Flames
  • The Lady In The Lake
  • The Darklands
  • Revelation
  • King Arthur: Destiny Of The Sword
  • The Power Of Excalibur
  • Knights Of The Round Table
  • King Arthur: The Coronation
  • The Devil & The Huntsman

We will update our site as soon as we can source the sheet music.

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Brasil, Brasil

We’re in Brazil for the carnival and researching the Bossa Nova bars of Rio de Janeiro as well as the samba street parties of Savlador. It is, without doubt, great fun.

Our first stop in Rio was La Girota de Ipanema bar which was disappointing on a Monday evening – no live music. Across the road was the cosy Vinicius bar named for the amazing Vinicius de Moraes. We were privileged to see Thais Motte sing so delicately and strong with her nice dance moves.

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New in-browser viewer for our Scores

We’ve been pretty quiet whilst working on some sizeable projects. Sorry about that but we’re back with an important update – 90% of our scores can now be previewed, transposed and played using your browser. No more plug-ins! The Scorch plug-in was fantastic for many years, for which we are grateful, but as support was slowly dropped by browsers, for a lot of plug-in types, we had to find something different. So we have introduced the AVID sheet music player. You need to have a reasonably uptodate browser – Chrome v39+, Firefox v34+, Internet Explorer v10+ and they should all work on the Mac and Safari 8+ (requires OSX Yosemite) also works.

This also, of course, means you can view your entire scores once purchased and print them off. Note that this does not yet work from most mobile devices. Also this applies to new purchases only at this time.

So give it a go! Check out out Adele’s Chasing Pavements sheet music or one of own arrangements like some fun versions of https://www.greatscores.com/Three_Blind_Mice/sheet-music/1003775

Let us know how you get on!

Grahame

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In Memoriam: Bobby Womack

Hi

Bobby Womack, one of the most successful soul singer/songwriters, has died at the age of 70. In a career that lasted almost 60 years, it is fair to say that the man lived life to the full. Not only was he known as a singer in his own right, but he also penned many famous tunes for other people, as well as playing guitar as a session musician. His soundtrack for the film Across 100th Street (1972) showed serious longevity as it was later used by directors in other movies, notably Quentin Tarantino in Jackie Brown.

The legendary Sam Cooke brought Womack to the attention of the wider world when he signed him to his own label, and a song Womack had written for his own band (The Valentions), It’s All Over Now, was covered by the Rolling Stones, bringing them their first hit. Womack was a member of Cooke’s band until Cooke’s early death, as well as working for Ray Charles from 65-68 as a musician. He famously left Charles after he claimed that the blind musician had a tendency to want to pilot his own planes. Prodigious as a session musician, he played guitar for many illustrious stars, amongst them Elvis Presley. In the early 70’s solo releases saw him top the charts in his own right, though in the late 70’s his career stuttered. The early 80s saw another re-birth of his career, with two solo albums, The Poet I & II, being critical and commercial success.

His private life was colourful to say the least. After Sam Cooke had passed away at the early age of 33. Womack married Cooke’s widow a mere three months later. This caused serious ructions within the wider families, and he was even booed at gigs. Things did not settle down, however, as 6 years later his wife found him in bed with her then 18 year old daughter, Linda. It gets more complicated. Linda later married Bobby’s brother, Cecil Womack, and they formed the famous Womack & Womack. In 1976 he re-married, but his four month old son with his new wife sadly died at the age of just 4 months, reigniting a cocaine habit that had blight most of his adulthood. There were more releases in the 90’s, but in 2010 a feature on the fourth Gorillaz album once again brought him wider attention.

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Why am I struggling to learn the bass clef as a pianist?

Hi

Have you been playing the piano for a while? Maybe a month, or maybe 12 months? Are you finding that the bass clef, and therefore anything to do with the left hand is a drag? Well, you are in good company, as pretty much anyone who learns to play the piano struggles with this. The main reason for this is that on the piano you have to read two clefs at the same time, and that makes it rather difficult. Most other instruments (apart from the organ, or harp, for example) have just one clef, and you just have to read one note at a time. On piano we have to read several notes on the one clef (treble clef), and then the same again on a completely different clef, which is kinda similar, but everything is out compared to the treble clef. Jeez, enough to give anyone the heebie geebies. So it’s just not easy, and that part we just can’t change.

 

The other thing you may notice with the piano is that you never seem to have enough eyes to be able to look at:

1) Your fingers

2) The treble clef

3) The bass clef

Ideally you’d be a chameleon with 3 eyes that could train each eye on each section separately, but that sadly can’t happen. So what’s the trick? Well there is no trick, but several strategies you can use to make it work:

1) Learn the damned bass clef well. There is no way around it, you have got to know it. Practice just the left hand for maybe 10 min at the start of every practice session. Also, and this has worked wonders of many of my students, go to:

www.musictheory.net

… and go to Exercises and there you can set yourself exercise to read bass clef notes. Where this service is really handy is that you can specify the range you want to test yourself at – and this is where you can learn quickly. Start off with a really small range, say C below middle C up to G, no more, and no sharps or flats. Do that for a few days and you’ll know those 5 notes really well. Then just add in one more extra note, so expand the range from C to A. Do that for a few days, and so on. Gradually increase the range, and within a few weeks you’ll find that you can suddenly read the bass clef so much better.

2) Look ahead when playing. This is so important when you play the piano, as there is so much going on, you need to look ahead a bit to know what is coming, otherwise you can find yourself surprised by the number of notes in the next bar.

3) There is no rule of whether you should look at the music, or just your fingers. Anyone who tells you should look at the music all the time, or conversely look at your fingers all the time, is talking rubbish. Look at what you feel you need to look at at that point in time – your brain will tell you which needs most attention, and if you need to move your hands, your brain will tell you to look at them, so do that!

4) Part-memorise the left hand. There is usually less going on in the left hand, so it’s a good idea to part-memorise it, so what you pick up with your peripheral vision, or the odd glance onto the bass clef will suffice to be able to play the notes.

5) It’s ok to memorise everything. Yep, if you don’t need the music anymore, then don’t use it. Actors don’t go on stage with a script, do they?

6) Get someone to teach you the rudiments of functional harmony – that way you will actually understand what the music is doing, so rather than reading loads of dots, that actually have no meaning, you will understand why this chord is there, and what chord it is, and why it is followed by this other chord, and that the melody in the right hand is mostly just the chord tones you are playing in the left hand etc etc.

Follow some of the above, and piano playing might become a less stressful undertaking. After all, we want you to love playing the piano.

 

 

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Which is the best instrument to learn first: Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar or Bass Guitar?

Hi

I Am often asked which instrument is easiest to learn. There isn’t really a straight answer for that, as it always depends how far you want to take your playing. Bass guitar is fairly easy to get going on, but some people cannot develop enough strength in their hands to press down the rather fat strings. On top of that if, you want to play like jazz legend Jaco Pastorius, then playing bass guitar is very difficult. By contract playing the double bass is very hard right from the start, as there are no frets (so you have no gauge of where to place your fingers, and for a long time you will play out of tune), and the strings are even longer and harder to press down.

Amongst the woodwind family, the alto and tenor saxophones are the easiest. Though soprano and sopranino saxophones are quite tricky.

A common question is which out of acoustic guitar, electric guitar or bass guitar students should choose. Well the choice between bass guitar or guitar is basically down to what you want to play. If you feel like laying down low grooves, playing very repetitive lines and being the foundation of the piece, then bass guitar is for you. Always try one out first, to see if your hands are big and strong enough to fret the notes. Your fingers will hurt for quite a few months when you first start practicing, but this does ease after a while as you build up pads/callouses under the skin of your fingers.

One of the fun things about playing bass guitar is that you can play along with your favourite pop/rock recordings quite quickly, and it can be rather good fun. As a random example, the bass parts for any U2 songs are really easy to learn. One thing you have to consider if you buy a bass is that you will also need an amplifier if you want any kind of volume. It is perfectly possible to practice on your own however without plugging into an amp.

If however, you would rather play guitar riffs, or strum chords andsing along, then bass guitar is not for you.
So it is then a question of whether to get an electric guitar, a steel string acoustic or nylon string acoustic. If your thing is rock or metal, then electric is the obvious choice, if you are more indie, then either, but for folk and ballads you’d want an acoustic. With an acoustic you are also free and easy, as you don’t need an amp to carry around. You can learn several easy open chord shapes on the guitar quite quickly and then strum along to quite a number of tunes. To learn all major and minor chords on the guitars is, however, not so easy as some chord shapes are quite painful to execute. Having said that, even some of the best know pop/rock guitarists don’t know all chord shapes (jazz, flamenco and classical players would, however), and that hasn’t stopped them from making great music. BB King, the legenrday Blues guitarist, famously asked the band members of U2 if anyone can play chords, as “I’m no good with chords”.

You can of course use and electric guitar, plug it into and amp, add no distortion (so have a clean sound) and strum chords and sing along – but it does not have the same sound as an acoustic.

So if you go for an acoustic guitar it’s a question of whether you want a nylon string or a steel string. Steel string guitars have that country sound to them, and can also (if they have an output) be plugged into an amp. Nylon strings have a softer, more flamenco/classcial guitar like sound. Out of the two nylon string guitars are easier to play, as the strings are less abrasive, and chord shapes easier to hold.

If however, you want to play rock guitar or metal riffs, then you will need to get an electric. Out of the 3 guitar types, electric is by far the most forgiving guitar to play, as the strings can be thinner, and there is less problem with not fretting notes 100% correctly and therefore getting irritating buzzing. So if you want the easiest guitar to ply, choose an electric, which in theory also gives you the most options.

Once you have decided on your guitar type, there is then the small issue of which model to buy. Let the fun begin!

 

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Piano Buying Guide

Hi

 

Buying your first piano or keyboard can be a daunting task. You want to buy a decent instrument, but not pay to much. You also probably don’t know if you (or your child) are really going to like playing, so investing in an expensive instrument could be potentially costly. So here are a few tips to hopefully make the process easier.

1.) You could start on a keyboard first. There are pretty decent keyboards to be had for the £ 200-300 mark. Now these won’t have weighted keys, but they are all touch-sensitive these days, so it gives you a certain feel of realism. Weighted keys are electronic keyboard keys that include a mechanism inside the keyboard that makes it feel more like a real piano. When you hit a key on an upright piano, wood, metal felt and springs all start moving, and that gives it a certain touch, which you don’t get from a keyboard that has no weighted keys.

2.) Yamaha instruments are a safe bet. And that is true for any instrument. Yamaha pianos are ubiquitous. After the 2nd World War, as more and more French, Germand and English piano makers closed down, or had been destroyed during the war, Yamaha started cornering the market in student instruments in a big way. This means that 2nd hand they are also a good bet. The downside with Yamaha pianos is that on the whole they are very bright (not something I personally like), though there are some examples out there that aren’t. Their grand pianos don’t suffer from this exaggerated brightness.

3.) Calvinovas (By Yamana) are also a safe bet. As with upright panos, the digital keyboard market is dominated by Yamaha, and they are genuinely good instruments. On the whole they have weighted keys.

4.) If you have  bit more money to spend, buy a Roland keyboard. If Yamaha are the VW’s of digital pianos (keyboards), then Roland are the BMW’s. They are just a few notches up in quality. But you obviously pay more as well.

5.) As with cars, be careful if buying 2nd hand (piano). It is hard to know what to look for when buying 2nd hand, and I’ve seen some reconditioned pianos sold at dealer’s shops that I wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole. On the whole large dealers can be trusted, but the mark-up can be huge. With pianos if there is a crack in the sound-board, you can still play it , but repairs are costly, as the whole piano has to be taken apart. The analogy in car terms I guess would be a head gasket going. The thing is it is hard for a layman to spot a piano for a cracked sound-baord. Best thing is the find a piano teacher in your area, ask him for advice/pay him to come along to look at the instrument  you are interested in.

6.) Keyboards are easier to buy 2nd hand. As it is easier to work out if something doesn’t work!

7.) Having said all that it makes a lot more sense to buy a piano 2nd hand. As new ones are way more expensive.

8.) Rent to buy schemes can be very useful. Many music-shops offer so called rent to buy schemes. With these you rent the instrument for a set period, say 6 months, and if you decide you don’t want to continue, you hand it back to the shop. If however, you decide you like the instrument, the previous 6 months rental are taken as the first payment. This scheme works well for both customers and retailers.

9.) A good piano will hold its value. So even if you decide not to keep it, you will lose little if you sell (assuming you bought 2nd hand)

10.) At the very least you have to spend £2,000 for a half-decent 2nd hand piano. Ouch.

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Don’t Give Up – Peter Gabriel duets with Dolly Parton

Hi

 

I recently watched an excellent documentary about the making of Peter Gabriel’s 1986 album “So” on the BBC iPlayer, rich with interesting facts and curious anecdotes, some of which I wanted to share.

“So” was a bit of a departure for Gabriel. Up to that point in his career he had been hugely successful, but probably admired more for his artistry, song-wrtiting craft and musicianship, but not known for his chart-topping prowess. That and occasional oddness. In fairness, he probably never aimed for chart topping hits, not even with “So”, but the album broadened his appeal hugely. The track listing is as follows:

“Red Rain”
“Sledgehammer”
“Don’t Give Up” (featuring Kate Bush)
“That Voice Again”
“In Your Eyes” (featuring Youssou N’Dour)
“Mercy Street”
“Big Time”
“We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)”
“This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)” (featuring Laurie Anderson)

 

Of those Red Rain, Sledghammer, Don’t Give Up, In Your Eyes, Mercy Street and Big Time can all be regarded as hits or classic tracks that have stood the test of time. Whilst Mercy Street and In Your Eyes could be considered to be more like the usual finely crated songs expected from Gabriel, Big Time and Sledgehammer in particular gained Gabriel a new audience. Sledgehammer came with a then groundbreaking video, shot in stop motion, which involved days of gruelling shoots, where Gabriel had to remain incredibly still in front of the camera, whilst floating clouds where painted on his face and all kinds of bits of plasticine smashed into or went through his head whilst he mouthed the lyrics to the song. I believe the video is still the most played ever video on MTV. It also came at a time when MTV was riding a wave, drawing a new audience of young kids and teens – I myself can remember watching Sledgehammer and being fascinated. By today’s standards the animation looks somewhat clumsy, but at the time it was ground-breaking.

For me, one of the most curious facts about “So”, is that Gabriel originally wanted Dolly Parton to sing the duet in “Don’t Give Up”. He contacted her management, but they never got back to him – it is assumed that they didn’t know who he was, which is slightly astounding. I guess these days a quick internet search could have dispelled any notion that this guy from Great Britain was an amateur. It is however really hard for me to imagine Parton singing on the song – I’m very glad her management never got back to him.

A testament to the longevity of “So” is that it comes in at 14 in the Rolling Stone 100 Best Albums of The Eighties list.

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Music Slowed Down

Hi

Ever wondered what it would sound like if you slowed down a song massively? Those of you who grew up with record players will already know the answer, as on the good ol’ turntables you could play around with the speed the record played back at. Some record players only let you play at 33 or 45 rpm, for long playing records and singles respectively, bu my dad had a Lenco which had a temposlider that you could set to pretty much any speed. So it was really good fun to make Bing Crosby sound like Mickey Mouse, by playing White Christmas much faster than it should be. Or indeed to slow the Glenn Miller Orchestra down to sound like they were playing too low, from a long way down in a cave (when slowed down).

And therein lies the problem – of you slow down a recording the pitch drops. If you speed it up, the pitch goes up and singers, even the very best, just sound like Mickey Mouse.

Three years ago someone called Paul posted a video of Justin Bieber’s U Smile slowed down by 800%. The effect is a rather mesmerising and ethereal. Like angels singing (and I am not Bieber fan).

What was different here is that the pitch stayed the same, but without any strange graininess coming into the audio file – the usual problem when you slow down audio in a daw (digital audio workstation, like Cubase or Logic).

The software is actually freely available:

http://hypermammut.sourceforge.net/paulstretch/

There is also a similar product available, which lets you freeze, at the pouch of a button, any audio that is playing back. It is rather aptly called Time Freezer.

Here is a video of it in action:

Good fun!

 

 

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How often should I have my piano tuned?

Hello

I often get asked by my piano students how often they should have their piano tuned.

There is a very easy answer to that: twice a year, ideally when the seasons change (from warm to cold and vice versa). The reason being that when winter comes, the central heating comes on. This means that your house will usually have a much drier air to it, which will affect the piano. At the end of winter, once the heating comes off, the windows are opened, the central heating is switched off, sunlight might hit the piano and slightly moister air might surround the piano – and the wood will absorb this moisture.

Pianos are mostly made of wood, metal and felt, and the wood in particular will absorb and release moisture with changes in humidity and temperature. This will affect the tuning of the piano, and these changes mostly occur as the seasons change. So as a rule of thumb, October/November and then again around May are usually good times to call your tuner. He will normally offer to call you every 6 months to arrange an appointment anyway.

If you don’t have your piano tuned at these intervals the tuning of the piano will start dropping. This can create real problems if it is left too long, as the tuner can then not immediately tune it up to what is called concert pitch, as the added extra tension would make the piano frame crack. Unlike a guitar or violin or double bass, there is a huge amount of pressure on piano strings, something like 20 tons on the whole (iron) frame. This means that tuning up all strings would increase the overall pressure on the frame by too much, and the frame would break. Violins, guitars, bass guitars, etc are not made of metal, so cannot have such high string tension, and you can easily detune a guitar and tune it back up again without any worries, but this cannot be done with a piano.

I have also seen it happen that a piano has been left untuned for too many years, and the tuner simply cannot get it back up to concert pitch, as it has been left too long.

Unlike with the aforementioned violins or guitars, you cannot tune a piano yourself. You need specialist wrenches and other equipment (and piano strings aren’t freely available in shops), but more importantly it is quite a skilled and difficult job to tune a piano, and this takes several years of training.

If you play your piano a lot, and hit the keys hard, you may need to have the piano tuned more often, and if you are recording it, you will need to have the piano tuned just before the recording. In recording studios and concert halls pianos are tuned before every performance/recording, and I have seen it happen that during a jazz festival the tuner came on stage between acts to tweak the piano a little. Not a lot of fun to listen to.

 

 

 

 

 

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