Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Instrument that was in Demand before it Existed

What do the Serpent, Ophicleide, Bass Horn, Russian Bassoon, Helicon, Bass Saxhorn and the Sousaphone all have in common?  Give up?  They are all forms of what we now call the tuba.

The tuba is the largest and lowest sounding member of the brass family as well as being the youngest brass instrument.  The tuba itself was in demand long before it was actually invented.  Many inventors and instrument makers attempted to satisfy the need of composers, bandmasters and orchestra conductors for a brass instrument that could supply the bottom end of the music along with the bassoon and the string bass.

During the 1820s, various instrument manufacturers produced the ophicleide, a precursor to the tuba. It was a type of keyed-bugle instrument that could reportedly produce a pitch as low as F. However, these instruments were difficult to play. In 1835, the first bass tuba was patented by Johann Gottfried Moritz (an instrument maker) and Wilheim Wieprecht (a bandmaster). It was completely distinct from the keyed ophicleide in that it was equipped with a new type of short piston valve called the Berliner-Pumpe.

In 1849, the Helicon Bass was introduced.  It was a circular coiled instrument that was meant to rest on the player’s shoulder.  It has been said that, John Philip Sousa, the famous American bandleader, commissioned C. G. Conn to manufacture his redesigned ophicleide which eventually became known as the sousaphone.  One opposing piece of information states that it was actually J. W. Pepper that suggested the design to Sousa and manufactured the instrument 5 years before C. G. Conn.

The tuba can be found in many kinds of ensembles ranging from the symphony orchestra to Dixieland Jazz bands.  The tuba is capable of being more than a bass instrument that supports the other string and woodwind bass instruments in an ensemble.  Concertos have been written for the tuba using it as the featured performer.

FYI:  The first Friday in May is International Tuba Day which celebrates tubists around the world!

If you are interested in owning a piece of tuba history, stop in at the Instrumental Music Company, 2908 Ontario Rd., Green Bay, WI 54301.  We have an William Frank Helicon Bass made around 1915 on display and it is for sale!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Time to dance, Trish, it’s the Clarinet Polka!

Author: Pat Scasny- IMC Representative, Retired Green Bay Public School Instrumental Music Teacher

While I was growing up, many Saturday nights were spent at a relative’s wedding reception.  The highlight of the reception was the dance that followed the usual chicken and ham dinner.  Unlike many of the wedding dances today, they always featured a live band.  Since I am of Czechoslovakian heritage, the bands were always polka bands.  There was one piece that I always looked forward to hearing, usually featuring a man with a black, tube-like instrument.  I marveled at how rapidly his fingers flew over the silver keys producing a multitude of sounds ranging from low, dark tones to the high shrill tones.  It was a fun piece to listen and dance to.  I can still hear my dad saying, “Time to dance, Trish, it’s the Clarinet Polka!”

The clarinet is a woodwind instrument played with a single reed.  The modern clarinet developed from a Baroque instrument called the chalumeau.  This instrument was similar to a recorder but with a single-reed mouthpiece and a cylindrical bore.  It had a limited range of only one and a half octaves.  German instrument maker, Johann Chrisoph Denner, is credited with modifying the chalumeau by adding a register key, thus increasing the playing range of the instrument. This instrument played well in the middle register producing a loud shrill sound.  It was for this reason that it was given the name clarinetto, meaning little trumpet.

The clarinet family is the largest woodwind family with more than a dozen types.  The most common is the Bb soprano clarinet which is the primary beginning instrument.   The other more common members of the clarinet family found in orchestras, bands and other ensembles are the Eb Soprano, the smallest and highest, A soprano, Eb Alto, Bb Bass and the very low and more rare, Contra-Alto and Contra-Bass clarinets
Here are just a few interesting bits of trivia concerning the clarinet:

  • Excluding the saxophone, the clarinet is the most recent addition to the woodwind family and was the last woodwind to be included in the symphony orchestra.
  • Julia Roberts played the clarinet in bands when she was in school.
  • Steven Spielberg can be seen playing the clarinet in an orchestra early on in his movie “Jaws.”
  • One of the most popular symphonic clarinet solos is the one in George Gershwin’s  “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Whether you are interested in playing the “Clarinet Polka,” some New Orleans Jazz or a Mozart Clarinet Concerto, you can find an instrument that will fit your style at the Instrumental Music Company, 2908 Ontario Rd. Green Bay, WI, 54311.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Meet Erich

Meet Erich Rusch- Co-Owner, Repair Technician, Rental 

Manager, Road Representative and IT Manager

Q. Where did you go to school? 
A. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where I graduated with a B.A. in Music and a Psychology minor. I then attended Southeast Technical College in Red Wing, MN for Band Instrument Repair, graduating in 2001.   After graduation, I found my way to Green Bay where I started my career in the music industry. I have been working in the music business for the past 12 years.

Q. What is your favorite instrument?
A. The tuba is my favorite instrument.  The tuba is the foundation and the meat and bones of the brass section, it can be found in several different groups.  Such as Orchestra, Concert Band, Polka and many other different ensembles.  The tuba is one of a kind and an unique instrument, just like myself!

Q. What do you love about working at Instrumental Music Company?
A. I love just about everything with working at Instrumental Music Company!  I like being able to take on many different projects in the store and to help oversee all different aspects of it as well.  It is a great family orientated place to work with a very fun atmosphere.  Our customers are great to deal with and I enjoy helping them with their musical needs!  It’s always great to either find an accessory that helps improve their musical experience or to do a repair that helps improve their instrument.  I love working with all my fellow co-workers, the comradely is great between all of us and it’s like having a second family!  It’s a very relaxed environment to work in!

Q. Do you do anything with music outside of Instrumental Music Company?
A. Currently I do not have the time to play in any groups outside of Instrumental Music Company.  In the past I have played with the Pulaski Community Band, Manitowoc Marine Band and Topless Brass (a group just featuring euphoniums and tubas).  I do attend a fair amount of music concerts of all genres outside of work!

Q. What is your advice for beginning musicians?
A. To find an instrument that you really enjoy and that fits you and your personality well!  To keep practicing and to keep challenging yourself!  When first beginning a new instrument it can be very hard and frustrating at times.  If you can get through those times the rest will be easy and fun for you.  Once you learn an instrument it will stay with you for life!

Is That a Violin? No, It's the Viola!

Author: Pat Scasny- IMC Representative, Retired Green Bay Public School Instrumental Music Teacher

If you have attended orchestra concerts, you may have noticed that the violins are usually seated to the left of the conductor’s podium, the cello section is seated to the right of the conductor with the string bass section standing behind them.  Seated somewhere between the violin and the cello sections is an instrument that looks very much like a violin. This instrument is held and played just like a violin. It is the viola, the second highest sounding instrument in the string family.

The viola was developed in Italy and was used to describe any bowed stringed instrument. Today, the name is used for the alto member of the violin family. The viola is an almost exact replica of the violin, though slightly larger and with thicker strings, its pitch is a fifth lower (and one octave above the cello).  The viola has a rich, deep, beautiful sound. The strings are tuned to C G D A and the alto clef, also known as the C clef or viola clef, is used except in the upper register when the treble clef is used. This is done in order to avoid ledger lines.

There is no standard size for violas.  A viola should fit the player.  The size makes a difference in the distance a musician must reach to the fingerboard of the instrument as well as the distance between the fingerings on the fingerboard.  Violas range in size from 12”-14” for an intermediate size viola and 15”-16 ½” for a full-sized instrument. 

The viola is an integral part of the orchestra and the string quartet.  Originally, many composers didn’t know what to write for the viola, so the viola was given only the harmony part.  Into the 20th century, the viola was given a more prominent role and is sometimes featured as a solo instrument.

Here are a few interesting viola facts.  Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were accomplished violists who actually preferred the viola to the violin.  The American rock band, Velvet Underground, used the viola in most of their songs and Jimi Hendrix played the viola when he was young!

Stop in at the Instrumental Music Company, 2908 Ontario Rd, Green Bay, WI 54311 and check out our selection of string instruments.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Double Your Rebate This Saturday!

Music, Food, Fun and Savings

Double Your Rebate- One Day Only!!

SATURDAY December 7, 10am - 4pm

If you or your child are ready to move up to a step-up or professional band instrument, NOW is the time to do so. Instrumental Music Company is offering their lowest prices of the year on all band instruments.  Additionally, Yamaha is offering $50 - $100 mail-in rebates on most models during the current Step Up To Yamaha promotion.  These rebates will be DOUBLED for sales transacted on Dec. 7, 2013.  On this day IMC will be extending an additional 10% discount off our already low discounted prices on most everything in the store. 12 month and 18 month deferred interest financing is available to qualified buyers.

Great savings for musicians on:

  • Band Instruments and accessories
  • Orchestral String Instruments and accessories
  • Guitars, Basses, Ukuleles, Banjos and accessories
  • Amps
  • Pro Audio
  • Drum Sets
  • Drum accessories (Sticks, Drumheads, Cymbals, Stands, pedals, etc.)
  • Keyboards
  • Mic stands
  • Cables
  • Music stands
  • Print Music

IMC will have live holiday music performances throughout the day including:

  • 10:00-10:45  IMC guitar instructor, Frankie Salerno
  • 11:00-12:15 IMC Employee Sax Quartet
  • 12:30-2:00  Sam Stranz Jazz Combo
  • 2:15 – 3:30 Bill Dennee Brass Quintet

FREE grilled food and sodas courtesy of Chef Randy

REGISTER to WIN (no purchase necessary)
Grand Prize: Winner’s choice of a Yamaha Digital Recorder or Yamaha Gigmaker Acoustic Guitar Package
2nd prize : $50 IMC Gift Certificate
3rd prize : $25 IMC Gift Certificate
Drawing to be held on 12/7/13 at 3:45PM. Winners need not be present.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Meet Annette

Meet Annette-  Customer Service Specialist/Road Representative

Q. Where did you go to school? 
A. I have a Bachelor of Music from St. Norbert College and a  Master of Music from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Q. What is your favorite instrument?
A. My favorite instrument is the French Horn. I love the versatility of the horn. Not only does one play with other brass players in a brass quintet, but the horn also is a member of the woodwind quintet. You will also see the horn in both the concert band and symphony orchestra settings. I also love the timbre of the horn. From the warm and mellow to the bright and brassy!

Q. What do you love about working at Instrumental Music Company?
A. Instrumental Music Company cares about its employees. They are flexible with working with me on being able to go to my rehearsals and concerts in the evenings, being able to leave work a bit early so that I can get there safe.

Q. Do you do anything with music outside of Instrumental Music Company?
A. Yes, I do plenty outside of Instrumental Music Company. I play my French Horn all over. I am principal horn for the Sheboygan Symphony. I also perform with the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, Manitowoc Symphony Orchestra, Silver Lake Wind Ensemble, Chalumeau Winds Woodwind Quintet, Manitowoc Marine Band and various other groups. I am also a member of the 132nd Army National Guard Band. And, from time to time, teach lessons in what spare time I have!

Q. What is your advice for beginning musicians?
A. My advice for the beginning musician is to keep on trying! Learning an instrument for the first time can be very difficult. Your facial muscles and finger muscles are doing something for the first time that they are not use to doing! Practicing helps to build up your muscle strength and memorization, along with air control and support. Remember, it’s not a breeze instrument…it’s a WIND instrument!

The Instrument with the Funny Name

Author: Pat Scasny- IMC Representative, Retired Green Bay Public School Instrumental Music Teacher

My first encounter with the instruments of the string family came when I was in the fifth grade.  The music teacher at my school said she had just received a brand new cello and it was just my size!  I was intrigued with its “funny” name and yes, it was my size, standing about as tall as I was.  It was a beautiful instrument with its reddish brown color and curved features.  I was told to sit down and the teacher placed the instrument and me in the proper playing position.   I gently plucked the lowest string and immediately heard this deep resonating sound that I could actually feel.  I knew at that moment, my journey into the string world was about to begin.

The cello is the second largest instrument in the string family.  Upon first glance, the cello looks like a big violin.  Since it is larger than the violin, the cello sounds much lower and is played while seated, with the performer’s legs on either side of the instrument.  The cello has an endpin which rests on the floor supporting the instrument.

The cello is made of wood, typically spruce for the top and maple for the back, sides and neck.  In less expensive instruments, the top and back are made of laminated wood.  Ebony, a hard black wood is usually used for the fingerboard, nut and tuning pegs, though other hardwoods such as rosewood or boxwood can be used.  The top and back of the cello has an inlay border called purfling.  While decorative, it is also functional.  If the instrument is struck, it can prevent cracking of the wood.

The cello can be played pizzicato, meaning to pluck the string or with a bow.  The bow is generally made of pernambuco or brazilwood.  The bow hair is traditionally horsehair but synthetic hair can also be used.

My journey with the cello ended after eighth grade sadly, because our high school did not have a string program.  I did take another instrument in high school which I eventually majored in while pursuing my music degree.  I always dreamed of getting a cello at some point in my life, so after I retired, I purchased my very own cello from the instrumental Music Company.
Stop in at the Instrumental Music Company, 2908 Ontario Rd, Green Bay, WI, 54311 and maybe your dream may come true too!