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It’s Science! Basic Acoustics for Musicians and Music Lovers
By West Music Company
8/18/2017 4:13:00 PM  

It’s Science! Basic Acoustics for Musicians and Music Lovers

Part 1: Amplitude and Volume

Playing and listening to music raises all sorts of fascinating questions about how sound works: How can six cellos match the volume of 20 violins? Why is it that when a band is playing at the far end of the park, all I can hear are the bass and drums? Why does a trumpet sound so much different from a saxophone? Questions like these open the door to the wondrous science of acoustics.


Waves and MusicMusicians Do the Wave! How Sound Travels from an Instrument to Your Ears

When the surface of a lake, river, or ocean is disturbed—by wind, by the pull of the tides, or just by someone skipping a stone—waves form and travel across the water. Similarly, when air is disturbed by a vibration, a wave travels through the air. Of course, we can’t see the wave because we can’t see air, but when the wave reaches our eardrums, we hear it as sound.

There are two main ways that instruments create sound waves. For wind instruments, air is forced into a column or pipe, causing the air to vibrate as it moves through the instrument. For many other instruments, including guitar, violin, and piano, it is the vibration of a plucked, bowed, or struck string that disturbs the surrounding air and sets a sound wave into motion.

What is amazing is that with these two simple ideas—forcing air into a column and disturbing the air by vibrating a string—an entire symphony of musical sounds can be created!


fender guitar and ampHow Sound Gets Loud: Amplitude

Anyone who has ever watched a snowboarding or skateboarding competition has heard the announcers use the word “amplitude” to describe how “big” each competitor’s tricks are. The announcers are actually using a proper scientific term: amplitude is the mathematical measurement of the size of a wave. For water waves, greater amplitude means a rougher ride for boats and a bigger splash when waves reach the shore. For sound waves, greater amplitude means a louder sound.

Naturally, instruments with bigger strings or larger air columns tend to produce waves of greater amplitude than smaller instruments. That explains why it is easier to produce very loud notes on a cello than on a violin. Acoustics can get complicated, though—the size of an instrument does not always indicate the amplitude of the sound waves it creates. A fife (the small, flute-like instrument often used in military bands) is significantly louder than a French horn because its air column is specifically designed to create very intense disturbances of the air.

What do musicians do if their instruments are not naturally loud enough to be heard throughout a room? They send the sound through an amplifier, which—you guessed it—is a device that increases the amplitude of a wave!


There Is More to a Wave than Just How Big It Is

Amplitude of sound waves is what separates a window-rattling boom from a gentle whisper, but of course there is much more to a sound than just how loud it is. When you watch waves rolling onto a beach, you see more than just how high the waves are. You might also notice how rapidly each crash of a wave follows the last one, or how far apart each wave crest is from the next one. These questions relate to frequency and wavelength, and those are the characteristics of a wave that separate a violin from a string bass, a trumpet from a French horn.


The Science of Art and the Art of Science

We tend to think of art and science as separate from each other, even opposites of each other. Thanks to the mysteries of acoustics, music is both an art and a science. No wonder students who study music do better than non-musicians in math and science classes!

Tags: music education, STEAM
Categories: Music Education
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Walenta Elected Chair of National Association of Music Merchants
By West Music Company
7/30/2017 10:20:00 AM  

Walenta Elected Chair of National Association of Music Merchants

Coralville, IA – July 25, 2017 – West Music President & CEO, Robin Walenta, has been named Chair of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Executive Committee. Walenta’s appointment was confirmed by unanimous vote at the industry’s annual mid-year gathering, the Summer NAMM Show in Nashville, Tennessee (July 13-15).

In assuming this role, Walenta becomes the first female Chair in the organization's 117-year history. Prior to her election as Chair, Walenta served as Vice Chair of the NAMM Executive Committee. She has also served as a board member of the National Association of School Music Dealers, treasurer for the Iowa Alliance for Art Education, and is a member of the SupportMusic Coalition, an advocacy group supporting music education in our schools.

"On behalf of our member companies and the NAMM Board of Directors, I am excited to welcome Robin as NAMM Executive Chair," said Joe Lamond, NAMM President and CEO upon the appointment. "Her vast industry experience will help guide our industry in addressing the challenges we face today, and to be ready for the opportunities of tomorrow. We thank her for her commitment to service on behalf of all members."

"It is an honor to represent the National Association of Music Merchants and its 10,300 member companies across 104 countries in this role," said Robin Walenta, West Music President & CEO. "The mission of NAMM is to strengthen the music products industry. To do so we must continue to create life-long music makers by eliminating all barriers for participation, assuring every student has access to a quality, sequential music education. In my role as NAMM Chair, I will continue to be a champion and advocate for music education. Through my career-long involvement with NAMM, I have learned that educational opportunities provide vital catalysts for new and ongoing musical ventures; and that in today’s world, music advocacy is more important than ever. As the first woman to lead our industry, I am excited to be at the forefront of continuing diversification and broadening inclusivity in both our members and the products and services we represent."
2017 NAMM BoardClick on image to enlarge.

From left to right - Tom Sumner, Senior Vice President, Yamaha Corporation of America; Joel Menchey, President, Menchey Music Services; Robin Walenta, President & CEO, West Music; Chris Martin, CEO, C.F. Martin Co.; Joe Lamond, President & CEO, NAMM

About NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry and promote the pleasures and benefits of making music. NAMM's activities and programs are designed to promote music making to people of all ages. NAMM is comprised of approximately10,300 Member companies located in more than 104 countries. For more information about NAMM or the proven benefits of making music, interested parties can visit www.namm.org, call 800-767-NAMM (6266) or follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

About West Music

West Music is a third generation locally owned and family operated business. For over 75 years, West Music has been the area’s leading partner in music education, specializing in pianos, guitars, drums and percussion, band and orchestra instruments, and print music as well as offering music instruction, repair, and music therapy services. With seven retail locations in Iowa and Illinois as well as award-winning ecommerce websites dedicated to servicing music education and percussion communities, West Music strives to encourage people of all ages and abilities to play now and play for life. For more information, visit westmusic.com or call 1-800-373-2000.

Tags: press release, announcement, leadership, namm, robin walenta
Categories: Press Releases
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Music on the March: The Joy of Sousa
By West Music Company
7/14/2017 10:35:00 AM  

Music on the March: The Joy of Sousa

John Philip Sousa
As the fireworks subside and summer gives way to marching band camps, we pause to pay homage to the classic march. Fireworks may bring forth all the "oohs" and "ahs", but Fourth of July celebrations wouldn’t be the same without the heart-pounding rhythms of marching bands and the soul-stirring renditions of "Stars and Stripes Forever" echoing over the hills at pops concerts all across the country. Centuries after it was first brought to Europe by the armies of the Ottoman Empire, marching bands remain one of the surest ways to bring any crowd to its feet! America is fortunate to claim one of the greatest march composers in history, John Philip Sousa, as a native son.

History: From Calls to Battle to Peacetime Crowd Pleasers

fife and drumOttoman Empire battalions used marching music with bright melodies and thundering percussion to coordinate troop movements and intimidate their foes. Upon encountering this powerful, heart-stopping music, Europeans of the West were impressed. Many countries soon developed their own forms of drum-driven music that roused troops to battle.

With typical American efficiency, North American colonists created a stripped-down version of this marching music, to be played on a fife (a relative of the piccolo) and drums. The style and instrumentation, which required as few as two or three players, were ideal for the small, loosely organized militias that made up the American Continental Army. Fife-and-drum marches became the music of the American Revolution, later immortalized in such popular songs as "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Composers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean came to recognize that marching music, with its dramatic drum and cymbal flourishes and exciting crescendos, had potential far beyond the battlefield. In the United States, John Philip Sousa came to be known as "The King of Marches" for his innovations that brought military marching music to concert halls and town festivals across the country.

John Philip Sousa: America’s Kind of Marches

Early military marches were kept simple so that a small ensemble could play them on the move. Sousa, who served multiple stints in the U.S. Marines, eventually conducting the U.S. Marine Band, understood this tradition well. However, he also saw the rich musical potential of marching music, and composed marches with an eye toward both military and peacetime performances. Drawing on the wide range of sounds offered by a full concert band, Sousa wrote marches with intricate counterpoint and harmonies. He contributed greatly to the standardization of the march form, with its multiple sections (often called "strains"), especially the memorable "trio" passage, during which the band’s percussion section often goes dramatically quiet. The unforgettable melody that most people associate with Sousa’s immortal "Stars and Stripes Forever" makes its first appearance in the trio strain of the piece.

Thunderous Power Meets Joyful Whimsy

sousaphones in marching bandSousa went even further in cementing marches as a centerpiece of American life by giving the world an instrument as functional as it is whimsical: the sousaphone. A coiled, gigantic brass instrument that looks almost like a cartoon cobra, the sousaphone was Sousa’s marching band replacement for the concert tuba, which is notoriously awkward to carry while playing. Today, the sousaphone is the very symbol of the uplifting energy of a marching band. Possibly the most delightful tidbit of Sousa history, however, is that one of his marches, simply titled "The Liberty Bell"—the very symbol of American independence from England—came to be used as the theme song for the zany British sketch comedy show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Evidently, even irony cannot stop the bouncing, irrepressible momentum of a great march!

Helping the Young Musicians in Your Home to Join the Celebration

If you recently attended a parade or pops performance with your family, odds are that your children just could not keep still when the band struck up a march. The exuberance of marches, especially Sousa’s masterpieces, remains to this day one of the greatest sources of inspiration for children considering entering the world of music! West Music’s wide selection of instruments and instruction will help them begin a journey that may one day culminate in a triumphant Independence Day march down Main Street.

Tags: marching band, sousa, summer, music history
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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Cedar Falls July 2017 Teacher Feature: Maryann "Mary Mo" Hinman
By West Music Company
7/1/2017 1:01:00 AM  
maryann mary mo hinman
Maryann "Mary Mo" Hinman started teaching at a young age in high school. “We had a "band buddy" system at Independence High where talented high school students would teach the elementary and middle school students private lessons. At one point I had 16 students! After high school, I taught at the Independence Conservatory for a few years. I've never stopped teaching since. In my later college years I also had the opportunity to teach college freshman trumpet majors once a week and loved that. I love teaching all ages; it will be something I always do on the side no matter what.”
Maryann started in 4th grade playing the cornet and soon switched to a trumpet. It wasn't until her 7th grade year, though that her talent blossomed and she grew in love with music. 
She grew up in Independence, IA and earned her high school diploma. She went to UNI as a music scholarship student studying jazz and classical music performance. Her expected graduation will be in 2018. She is also a guest relations manager at the BlackHawk Hotel in Cedar Falls. 
Maryann’s main band is called "Free Range Medicine" which is mostly a rock band where she plays trumpet and sings. She’s been in several groups in the Cedar Valley and has toured with other groups as well. 
On her days off the hotel and not teaching, she loves to play her horn and the piano. She loves writing and transcribing music. Maryann loves just "fooling around" on the piano as well. Outside of music, she loves making jewelry, playing darts and being on the water whether it's on a boat, pontoon, kayak or canoe. Last, but not least, she loves spending time with friends and family. 
Mary Mo says her favorite thing about teaching is when a student gets excited about music on their own. 
An interesting musical experience she’s had was to play alongside of some very talented musicians throughout the years. “Famous or not, I've been lucky to stand beside many, many of them and share together what we love best. I've had thousands of gigs, and some great stories; Clark Terry kissed me on the cheek, Mike Dillon played a duo with me on his vibraphone with a guitar pedal, I sang "Why can't we be friends?" with Matt Wilson and I've marched  with my trumpet at a festival with WookieFoot. I've taken lessons with famous trumpet teachers and I've met my favorite trumpet player of all time, Wynton Marsalis.”

Tags: maryann hinman, trumpet, horn, brass, teacher, lesson
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Cedar Falls
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Des Moines July 2017 Musician of the Month: Channing Rooda
By West Music Company
7/1/2017 1:01:00 AM  
Channing RoodaChanning Rooda has been a piano student of Scott Smith for 18 months. She is a junior and homeschooled. Channing also plays the French horn, trumpet, and guitar. Channing loves playing music because “it never really goes the same way twice, so it’s always a challenge. It’s kind of like a puzzle; it’s very satisfying when you figure it out. Also, it’s a great stress reliever, and a skill that never really leaves you. Plus, it can really open doors for you.”

Channing participates in church music and the North Mahaska Jazz Band. They were state champions this year in class 1A. She also gives piano lessons to 12 students. Her advice to other musicians is to practice a lot, don’t get frustrated, and when you want to quit… DON’T.

When not practicing the piano, Channing participates in showing American Quarter Horses nationwide, and she has shown American Kennel Club dog agility, putting a title on her dog. During her free time, Channing reads and writes. English is one of her favorite subjects, taking after her mom who is an English teacher. She even named her horse Wilbur after the pig in “Charlotte’s Web”.

Channing loves classical music, especially Beethoven and Schubert, but she’s recently been listening to jazz musicians like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Scott Smith selected Channing for Musician of the Month because she picks up on new music quickly, and is dedicated to practicing and advancing as a musician. One surprising fact about Channing is that she is a second generation American. Her grandfather emigrated from Holland during WWII.

Congrats, Channing!!

Tags: piano, lessons, student, teacher, Scott Smith
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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Cedar Rapids July 2017 Muisician of the Month: Christine Newlin
By West Music Company
7/1/2017 1:01:00 AM  
adult piano student
Christine Newlin is an adult piano student of Sara Miller at West Music Cedar Rapids. She was nominated for Musician of the Month because she has finished book 1 for piano and has been studying piano with Sara Miller for only 4 months!
Christine works at Aegon Assessment in Cedar Rapids. Her musical goal is to learn a song she can play with her husband, her eight year old daughter Kate, and her six year old son Owen. Some advice Christine would like to impart to others wanting to learn an instrument is, “It is never too late to start. It is very relaxing and uses parts of the brain that you don’t normally use.”
Her interests include reading, traveling, hiking and yoga. Something that might surprise someone to learn about Christina is that she sang in the Afro-American choral ensemble at Indiana University when she was in college.
Congratulations, Christine!

Tags: piano, lesson, student, teacher, instructor, Sara Miller
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Cedar Rapids/Marion
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Cedar Rapids July 2017 Musician of the Month: Sophia Spinner
By West Music Company
7/1/2017 1:01:00 AM  
sophia spinner flute student
Sophia Spinner has been taking flute lessons from Alice Lindsey for about 6 months. She has just finished 6th grade and is going into 7th.  She was nominated for musician of the month because she plays several different instruments including violin and piano and plays all three really well in a short amount of time.

Some advice Sophia would like to give other aspiring musicians is to practice every day and never give up. She loves the fact that she can inspire other people to play an instrument even though they may not know how. Sophia play flute and percussion in a home school band for one year and violin in orchestra for four years.

She loves to listen to K-Pops bands from Korea. BTS is her favorite. She is interested in martial arts: tae kwon do and hapkido. She also likes practicing with martial arts weapons. Her favorite performer is BTS, Got7 and NCT. She also listens to Lindsey Sterling on violin and August D.

What someone might be surprised to find out about Sophia is that in her senior year of high school she will be moving to Korea.

Congratulations, Sophia! Great job!

Tags: Alice Lindsey, lessons, student, teacher, flute, woodwind
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Cedar Rapids/Marion
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Coralville July 2017 Musician of the Month: Jayce Norpel
By West Music Company
7/1/2017 1:01:00 AM  
jayce norpel piano student
Jayce is going into the 4th grade, and has been studying piano with Sarah Beckelheimer in the West Music Lessons program for 2 years. His teacher has this to say about his lessons:

“Jayce comes with a positive attitude regularly. He consistently practices and challenges himself.  He is a joy to teach!”

He loves having a teacher to work with him on his musical goals! He also hopes to add guitar and ukulele to his instrument list. His favorite music is Kids Bop (Greatest Hits). When asked for advice to other musicians, Jayce wisely suggests that you “practice at least 20 minutes per day.”  

Jayce also enjoys basketball and Legos. He does not like soup.

Congratulations, Jayce! Great job!

Tags: Sarah Beckelheimer, coralville, piano, lessons, student
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Coralville
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Des Moines July 2017 Teacher Feature: Mark Willie
By West Music Company
7/1/2017 1:01:00 AM  
mark willie guitar lesson
Mark began playing guitar in 1997 and took private lessons for five years before being accepted into Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. While at Berklee he continued to take private lessons for another four years from instructors Chris Buono, Joe Stump, and Shawn Michaud.  He graduated Cum Laude with his Bachelor's Degree in Music Business with special emphasis on Management. While at Berklee he studied a variety of music areas including: Harmony, Ear-training/Solfege, Counterpoint, Traditional Harmony & Composition, Conducting, as well as a multitude of courses in Business and Music-Business. He also took elective courses specializing in the music of Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schonberg.

While at Berklee he played guitar in the "Dream Theater ensemble" (an ensemble focusing on the music of Dream Theater) and took both the "Shred lab I" and "Shred lab II" taught by Joe Stump.

After graduating from Berklee he moved to Huntington Beach, CA to complete his internship at Prosthetic Records (All That Remains, Lamb of God, Animals As Leaders).  Shortly after that he became tour manager for Cattle Decapitation (Metal Blade Records) for two summer tours. 

NEW: In 2010 he played guitar and toured for Serpents (Artery Management).  He left Serpents to join Systems and helped write the 2012 EP Terrasomnium along with Chaney Crabb of Entheos (Artery Recordings).

Mark's band Sequoyah just released their debut album, Perception, in November 2016 and is available on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and Bandcamp and the music is available for streaming through Spotify and Pandora.

Mark has been teaching guitar and music theory for the past seven years and covers a variety of styles- (Blues, Jazz, Classical, Rock, and Metal) as well as a variety of techniques such as tapping, string-skipping, legato, sweep-picking, etc. and a wide variety of music theory topics ranging from beginner to advanced.

Tags: mark willie, des moines, urbandale, guitar, lesson, teacher, electric
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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Des Moines July 2017 Teacher Feature: Esther Lim
By West Music Company
7/1/2017 1:01:00 AM  
Esther Lim piano teacherEsther Lim is a graduate from Drake University with a Bachelor's degree of Music in Piano Performance. Though she began playing the piano at age 6 with a former instructor, her talent became recognized at 14 years of age, studying with Yamaha artist and Drake Professor of Piano, Dr. Nicholas Roth. 

Originally from Des Moines, she appeared as a collaborative pianist from the age of 10 with instrumentalists and vocalists from different institutions and schools throughout the capital city. She has performed as a soloist in Drake Meets HOROWITZ! in 2013, the Keys to Excellence Series, Drake Honors Recital, and master classes for internationally acclaimed artists for Asaf Zohar (Buchmann-Mehta School of Music and Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance), Alan Chow (Eastman School of Music), Lori Sims (Western Michigan), and Daniel Shapiro (Cleveland Institute of Music), among others. As an active pianist in the Classical Music Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria, Lim performed in the Esterházy Palace Empiresaal (Empire Hall) and the Haydn Konservatorium Konzertsaal (Haydn Conservatory Concert Hall). In 2016, Lim has also performed in Beijing, China at Minzu University and the following year, she has appeared as a performer for the American Liszt Society.

Following her one-year hiatus after graduation, she hopes to move forward and pursue graduate studies in Piano Performance. Esther accepts students age 5+ at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.

Tags: esther lim, des moines, urbandale, piano, lesson
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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