Have you ever wondered why people have different tastes in music? Some prefer slower, quieter music, yet some love their music fast and loud. Is it random? Are some of us predestined to like certain chord progressions over others? Does our DNA dictate our preferences between complex rhythms over simplicity? Are we born with a certain musical connection, pushing us towards certain styles of music? (more…)
What do you think of on Valentine’s Day? Your significant other? Cinnamon hearts? Roses that suddenly cost a lot more compared to any other time of the year? At Academy of Music, we’d like to take this opportunity to remember some of the greatest love songs ever written. It was impossible for us to mention all of them, and we could only scrape the surface, but here are our Top 10 Love Songs, to commemorate Valentine’s Day! (more…)
The age-old question of when to start music lessons is a good one!
History is full of child prodigies in the world of music, from Beethoven to Stevie Wonder. Whether in school or church, almost everyone knows of someone in their own family, or another, that has a tremendous gift for a musical instrument. This often allows parents to feel pressured to enroll their child into music lessons at a young age. Could this young exposure to music be one of the secrets to success? There are studies that have shown this to definitely be a helping factor! (more…)
Happy New Year! Not only is it a new year, but it’s also a new decade! They say hindsight is 20/20, but we need to keep looking forward 🙂
New Year’s resolutions are made every year, and one that we can really get behind is wanting to get out and see more live music. Winnipeg winters are newsworthy around the world, but they are also a great time to get out and be entertained in one of most musical cities in the world.
Here are the top 10 places in Winnipeg to see live music (in no particular order):
1) King’s Head Pub
Located at 120 King Street, in the heart of the Exchange District, the building was constructed in 1896 and in August of 1987, the Kings Head Pub first opened its doors to Winnipeg as the first pub in the city.
Every weekend, The King’s Head hosts a variety of bands, playing both original and cover songs. It’s also right across the street from The Cube in The Exchange District, which during the warmer months always has something entertaining going on. A pint, a patio, and entertainment oh my!
You can visit their website here
Academy of Music offers both in-home and online music lessons, in order to serve our students better. If you’re located in the Winnipeg, Manitoba area, our music instructors can come directly to you for in-home music lessons, and our online Skype music lessons work perfectly for anyone in the world!
In-home lesson benefits:
- More accountability: When a student takes music lessons in a class setting, they have the ability to “hide” which allows them to get away with not performing their best, and to also put less effort into practicing since they might feel the other students will help musically carry them. With in-home lessons, it’s just you and the teacher – either you practiced or you didn’t, and if you’re not trying your best, it will be noticeable and there is no one else to blame. This type of engagement helps to build strong discipline and work ethic, which every adult knows are necessary skills to have in life.
- One-on-one lesson format: If a student is in a class setting, and they have trouble grasping a concept, it’s easy for the class to keep moving forward before the student truly understands. With a private teacher, the student can get the attention they deserve, and the teaching style can be molded to the student’s learning ability and speed, which helps foster growth and confidence.
- Learn what interests them: In a class setting, the teacher has to teach based on a pre-defined curriculum. Everyone will usually learn the same piece of music, whether or not they find it interesting. With private in-home music lessons, the student has the opportunity to learn songs that appeal to their musical tastes, which helps keep them motivated and the lessons fun!
- Lessons to fit learning style: Every person, from children to adults, learns in a different way. Some people learn best from listening, some are more visual based, and some are hands-on. In a class setting, not all of these different learning styles can be met, which is the unfortunate truth. With in-home lessons, the instructor can tailor the teaching style to fit the needs of the student in how they learn, effectively helping them grasp the musical concepts faster, which achieves the greatest success in the shortest amount of time.
- Not slowed down by the rest of the class: If a child is naturally gifted, they tend to get bored and frustrated with the speed of the class. When taking private one-on-one lessons, they can progress as fast as need be, keeping the pace in line with their abilities.
More accountability, individualized one-on-one instruction and attention, greater motivation, and the best opportunity for success – private in-home music lessons are hands down the best choice for your child’s musical education!
Online music lesson benefits:
As the internet has progressed over the last decade, online music lessons have become an excellent alternative to in-person lessons. Our instructors can only travel so far to do in-home lessons, but using the magic of Skype, you can have tailored face-to-face musical instruction from the comfort of your home, anywhere in the world!
- Convenience: All you need is a computer with an internet connection and your instrument, and you’re
good to go! All you need to do is arrange a time with your instructor that suits both of you, log into your
Skype account (which is super easy), and start your lesson. With online music lessons, you don’t need to
travel anywhere, you don’t even have to change out of your pajamas – it’s all about you and what works
- Freedom to choose your teacher: When you sign up for online music lessons, you get the right teacher
for the job – the one that specializes in exactly what you want to learn. Your teacher will plan your
lessons around your goals and skill level, so that each Skype lesson will be an activity to look forward to
each and every time.
- Online resources: The internet is full of musical resources that can help outside of the lesson as well.
Your teacher can help you find what you need, like tutorials that can help you work on specific skills for
your instrument, or more information about the history of music and your instrument. The sky is the
- Cost effective: Online music lessons also help you save money. Chances are you already own a computer
that has internet, plus online music teachers don’t have travel costs associated with in-home music
lessons. In addition, the instrument doesn’t have to leave the house, and you don’t have to travel
anywhere to buy expensive learning materials.
What are you waiting for? Sign up today!
The greatest mysteries in life are often the things that we take for granted. As a child, you learn about colour; you learn which colours are which at first, a simple game of identification. As you grow older, you learn that you can mix colours together to make different colours. As you get older still, you learn that the property of colour is derived from reflected light. Later still, you might begin to wonder whether or not others see what you call “purple” as purple in the same way that you do; colour as a gateway to questioning subjective experience in and of itself.
You might have had a similar trajectory when learning music. You start with your “Do-Re-Mis”, very much in the vein of The Sound of Music. Later, you might realize that very few people actually use Do-Re-Mi as a system to define notes (no one I know has ever used “Do Sharp”). You might then realize that “Do” can either be “C Natural” (Fixed Do) or the start of a scale (Movable Do). You might realize later still that Western scales aren’t the be all and end all of music, and that a staggering number of microtones exist between the naturals and sharps.
The system of Do-Re-Mi is known as a solfège. Solfège is, simply put, a teaching method where syllables are attached to notes to make them easier to remember. You could, ostensibly, develop a chromatic solfège that includes 12 notes, Do-sharps and all, but going past this into microtones seems to obviate the point of the solfège in the first place (easy memorization). The problems that we see with interpreting the infinite space of microtones, however, doesn’t prevent us from trying the same thing with rhythm.
Rhythmic solfège, then, is the “Do-Re-Mi” of rhythm, and like Do-Re-Mi, you’ve probably heard it before. When you count quarter notes “1, 2, 3, 4”, you’re using rhythmic solfège; assigning memorable syllables to a rhythm. In a similar vein, you can count eighth notes as “1 and 2 and 3 and 4”, and triplets as “1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4”. Let’s say you need a chord to be played on the 3rd note of the first triplet; you can say “The chord comes in at 1 a” to make it easier to remember.
Of course, we can get a little bit more wild with our rhythmic solfège than just counting; after all, this is a tool we want to use to count almost any rhythm imaginable – and not just to count it, but to really feel it, too. You can, for example, use rhythmic solfège to help you count in difficult time signatures. Let’s say you have 4/4 time; you could count it by saying “Brandon Brandon”. There are two syllables in Brandon, so saying it two times gives you 4 syllables, matching with your four quarter notes. Let’s say you throw a Winnipeg into the mix: “Brandon Winnipeg”; now you’re counting in 5/4 times! “Brandon Brandon Winnipeg” gives you 7/4, and so on. This type of rhythmic solfege is particularly useful for keeping time during odd time signatures.
The solfège I just used, as you might have guessed, was one I came up with on the spot. That’s what I want you to get from this post – it’s not about a specific system, but about modes of thinking. You don’t have to know the most used solfèges to feel rhythms; you can create your own in order to wrap your head around a piece you’re trying to play. Use what you already know to learn something new.
Solving all of life’s great mysteries is impossible, but making sense of them by delving in – with a keen, curious mind, a willingness to learn and grow, and a bit of creative flair – that’s something we can all get behind. You might start by diving into our violin lessons; they’re taught at home, in order to give you the feeling of security that’s needed to delve head first into the unknown. From there, you might learn a lot about the hidden rhythms and notes that surround us at all times. You might learn to hear things a bit more musically. You might make your own solfège. You might uncover things you never knew about yourself. You never know.
Imagine you’re in Jamaica, circa sometime in the ‘60s and ‘70s. You want to make some cash, maybe selling wares and food, get a little bit of a party going. You need to attract customers to your spot, so how are you going to do it? Well, one way you might is by getting a sound system going – some speakers on a flatbed truck, for example. You need to play some music, so you might get yourself a turntable with a DJ, and play the hottest records around. Now that you have all that set up, you go to a nice sunny spot, and you start to play. A crowd starts to show up, and you can sell a bit of merch; things are going well, until just down the way, someone else shows up with the same kind of truck and starts playing – but louder. They’re drowning out the sound of your music, so you up your volume to win the crowd back. More trucks start showing up, and the crowd is moving from place to place, and the music is getting louder and louder. You try to keep up, but your sound starts clipping at the highest volumes, and eventually – BANG! Your speakers blow out. You just got killed by sound in a Jamaican sound clash.
The clipping sound you heard right before you blew your system? That’s distortion, and it’s been around since the first electric guitar amplifiers. When you try to play sounds louder than your system’s power supply can allow for, the tops and bottoms of the sine waves that the vibrations from your music make get cut off, leading to that dirty, crunchy, warm sound. Distortion is one of those beautiful things that sound like a mistake at first, but can actually add a lot of colour to the music you make. Early blues guitarists experienced distortion because their amps didn’t have very large power supplies; amplifying the music would result in distortion even if they didn’t want it. Later on, musicians started experimenting with distortion intentionally, with guitarists like Link Wray intentionally poking holes into their amplifiers in order to mess with their sounds.
Today, distortion and rock music are so intertwined it would be almost impossible to find a band that hasn’t used it in some way or another. We’re no longer so prone to jabbing our amplifiers full of holes or intentionally blowing them out; in fact, there’s a whole industry dedicated to not having to do that. Many effects pedals produce distortion in some manner or another; the techniques that they use to do this can be pretty varied, and the sounds you can create are as disparate as the techniques used. You can have distortion on your low notes, distortion on your high notes, fuzz effects; you name it, there’s probably a pedal that can produce it. All of this from something that was considered dissonant, unwanted and problematic.
There’s an important lesson to be learned from the history of distortion: you need to keep an open mind when making music. When you’re writing or improvising, and you make a note that sounds off, see if you can incorporate that note into the overall structure of the song. Repeat it. Riff off of it. Play with it. When you make a noise that doesn’t sound like music, think about distortion; that didn’t sound musical to many, at first. Producers would shy away from the noise. Link Wray’s “Rumble” got banned from radio play because the distortion was so scary; can you imagine? One of the keys to unlocking new and exciting music is to be willing to use sounds no one has thought of as musical; incorporate the dissonant, the surprising, and the surreal into your compositions.
Music lessons shouldn’t just be about teaching you to play music – they should be about teaching you to appreciate music. Training your brain to hear music everywhere is like training your brain to think in a different language; it allows you to perceive the world in a new way. When everything is music to you, the world takes on a lighter, more playful tone. Every sound you hear becomes more beautiful. The buzzing of the city becomes an orchestra. You can hear the sum of the parts, the greater whole they form, the unity of it all, from distortion to crystal clear sounds.
Those of you who haven’t been living under a metaphorical musical rock recently have probably noticed the substantial uptick in a little genre called “trap”. The genre originated in the 1990s in Atlanta; at its origin, the term “trap rap” referred to the lyrics of trap music. Rappers would tell tales of the hardships of drug dealing and poverty, the word trap a reflection of how difficult it was to leave that lifestyle. The word “trap” also referred to the place where drug deals were made. Today, the word trap refers to the music that derives from those origins, even if the lyrics are much less commonly about drug dealing. As of the writing of this article, in fact, the top song on the Billboard charts is a “country trap” song called “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, a far cry from the genre’s origins (debate continues as to whether or not it’s country) If the lyrical themes are no longer the hallmark of the genre, how do we know what is and isn’t trap?
The answer lies in the instrumentals and flows, the new signifiers of trap. Instrumentally, trap music focuses on a sound I would describe as pretty dark and a bit jittery; deep 808 kick drums, clattering hi-hats and crisp snares. While the genre has become more experimental in recent years, with psychedelic efforts like Travis Scott’s “Astroworld” playing with a wide array of sounds and instruments, the rhythmic palette remain mostly unchanged. Flow can vary pretty wildly between artist to artist, but almost all of them employ, at one point or another, the flow we’re going to talk about today: the triplet flow.
The triplet flow is pretty intuitive to grasp if you understand a bit of music theory. In essence, a triplet is any series of three notes that is played in the same time that it would normally take to play two of those notes. That means an eighth note triplet is three notes played in the same amount of time it would take to play two eighth notes. A way of grokking this if you’re not so well versed on music theory is to take a two syllable word, then say a three syllable word in the same time it would take you to say the two syllable word. To experiment with this, let’s take an iconic fashion brand like “Dolce and Gabbana”; say Dolce 5 times, then say Gabbana 5 times in the amount of time you said Dolce 5 times. Congratulations; your Gabbanas were in a triplet flow!
I’ll admit that choosing a fashion brand for that demonstration was a bit cheeky on my part; the reason I did so is that the triplet flow was popularized largely by the song “Versace” by Migos, the chorus of which is the word “Versace” repeated several times in a triplet flow. The effect of the flow is pretty exceptional. It’s fast and disorienting to the point of being almost dizzying; it’s often rapped in an extremely staccato style, so every syllable of every word is stressed. While Migos may have popularized the style, it goes back a long way; some of the grandfathers of trap rap, like the group Three 6 Mafia, rapped with triplet flows way back in the 1990s.
The effect of the triplet flow, juxtaposed with the beat, will often create complex rhythms that ramp up the intensity of a song. For this reason, triplet flows don’t only see use in rap; you can sing in triplets, too. Pop singers like Ariana Grande and Charli XCX have both used the triplet flow on their songs. That’s a tricky proposition; a lot of singers find it difficult to sing rapidfire while still retaining the quality and tone of their notes. There’s a reason that the two of them are near the peak of the pop pantheon right now.
Whether you’re trying to learn to rap triplet flows or sing them, there are music lessons that can get you stage ready. You can learn everything from the deeper music theory and history of the flow, to the best vocal warm-ups to get you ready to perform. The lessons take place in your home, so you don’t have to worry if you stutter over your first few attempts; stay at it, and you’ll be able to rap any fashion brand’s name astonishingly fast.
Humans crave simplicity. We crave complexity too, but under very different circumstances. The beauty of simplicity is that it’s easy to understand, and understanding things easily is important to our survival. Simplicity is especially useful in language, because tight definitions allow us to convey information in fewer words. I once had a friend ask me what the “shape that was like a square but two sides were longer and the other two were shorter” was; he meant, of course, a rectangle. Reducing complex ideas to a single term helps us better understand each other; not all concepts can be so easily reduced, though.
Consonance and dissonance are not things that can be easily described with one definition; their meanings are relative to each other, and relative to culture, upbringing, sense of aesthetics and more. A discussion of consonance and dissonance must also be a discussion of complexity. Instead of offering you an easy answer for what they mean, we’re going to analyze them through a variety of different lenses, to see if we can create a deeper understanding of the terms.
The first lens we’ll employ is purely mathematical. Two notes might be said to be consonant if the ratio between them is simple; our desire for simplicity, back at it again. A perfect fifth is highly consonant; it has a ratio of 3:2, meaning that the upper note makes three vibrations in the same amount of time it takes for the lower note to make two. The major seventh, conversely, has a ratio of 15:8; quite an odd ratio, and quite dissonant to the ears. Without knowing these ratios, you could probably still tell which interval was consonant, and which was dissonant. Things get really strange with the perfect fourth, though. It has a ratio of 4:3, which is quite simple, and to listen to it without context, it sounds quite consonant. In practice, however, the perfect fourth is often considered dissonant. Why?
Put simply, it’s because more often than not, a perfect fourth feels like it needs resolution. It feels inchoate and unstable; we expect it to resolve to a more stable note. You can try this yourself; play an A, then a D, and you’ll almost certainly feel the desire to resolve the two to a third note, something like a C. This shows that simple mathematical ratios aren’t sufficient to explain consonance and dissonance; what else, then, explains it?
The answer to this isn’t simple, though we might very much like for it to be. We can look at cultural understanding to get some idea. When most of the music you’ve listened to for most of your life has treated certain intervals as “tension” and other intervals as “resolution”, you’re likely to interpret perfect fourths or other dissonant intervals as tense, even if you didn’t even understand the concept before reading this. Things that we might find “dissonant” can be seen as desirable in other cultures. For example, if you play two notes whose wavelengths are ever so slightly different, the ear can’t readily distinguish between the notes, but the respective waveforms will construct and destroy each other when overlapped, creating a “beating” or “tremolo” effect. Western musicians strive to eliminate beating, while in Indonesian gamelan music, the beat effect is sought for its added texture.
Here’s where things get really complex: what is music? When we make music, what are we trying to do? There’s no easy answer to this question, but what we are doing, in most cases, is trying to use sounds to invoke an emotional response. We can analyze consonance and dissonance from a variety of different angles, but in the end, it all comes down to how you feel. You can feel dissonance because you want resolution; you can feel consonance because it feels like home, like you’ve arrived. Without dissonance, the music might not be very good, because there’s no real journey to embark on; you never leave home. Without consonance, the music feels listless, unpredictable, not fully formed, because you have no sense of where you’re trying to get to. This means that consonance and dissonance will change constantly over time, as we gain new conceptions of what home is, and what the journey to home feels like. As you learn more about music, through piano lessons, music theory classes, even just listening to new songs, you’ll begin to appreciate how deep the concepts of consonance and dissonance truly are.
Manitoba is a province dedicated to culture and music; Winnipeg is known as a city of festivals. Here at Academy Music, we don’t just strive to be a Winnipeg music school; we strive to support music in our province in as many ways as possible. We know that musicians are music lovers, first, and that inspiration will often strike when listening to gorgeous music played by someone else. Put all of this together, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t create a list of some of Manitoba’s most exciting music festivals.
The Big Ones
CountryFest – Dauphin, MB (June 27-30, 2019): One of Manitoba’s most well-known music festivals, CountryFest is a celebration of all things country. This festival features A-list international acts as well as independant and local acts, all of whom celebrate country music in its many forms. From bluegrass and outlaw to gospel and pop country, this legendary event has something for country fans of all stripes. There’s camping passes, too, so you can spend the whole weekend in the midst of other country lovers; it can get pretty rowdy, so the campsite probably isn’t the place for kids, but all in all it’s an extraordinarily good time.
Folk Fest – Bird’s Hill Park, MB (July 11-14, 2019): From it’s humble origins as a celebration of Winnipeg’s Centennial, Folk Fest has gone on to become one of Manitoba’s biggest celebrations of music. While the focus is still folk, recent years have seen an influx of groups from all genres – indie rock, electronic, rap, and more can all be found. There are a myriad of stages and shows playing all weekend long, workshops where you can learn to play music, and collaborative jams – the environment is a music lover’s paradise. There’s weekend camping, too, which is divided into two campgrounds – Festival and Quiet. The Festival Campground can get pretty extreme, so it’s probably not best for children; the campground experience is pretty surreal (you’ll know what I mean when you go).
JazzFest – Winnipeg, MB (June 18-23, 2019): Those who said that jazz is dead tolled the bell far too early; jazz is alive and breathing, and the 30th anniversary of JazzFest is shaping up to be one of the best yet. The best part of JazzFest? Even if you don’t have any money, you can catch incredible live acts at The Cube in the Exchange District; there are also paid shows you can go to in venues around the city. There’s a lot of energy that went into this year’s festival, from a special venue set up by the folks who do RAW: Almond, to shows in our very own Museum for Human Rights. As usual, JazzFest will feature internationally acclaimed acts, as well as independant and local jazz musicians who are ready to break onto the scene.
MEME – Winnipeg, MB (TBA, 2019): Memes mean many things, to many people, but this MEME is the Manitoba Electronic Music Expo. The event usually takes place in August, and it focuses on electronic music of all kinds, from techno to trip-hop. They offer a lot of free shows at the Cube in the Exchange, so if you feel like dancing the night away you’ll be in good company; there are also shows you can pay for at a variety of different venues. Well-known acts from around the world, local producers with a fresh beat – an eclectic and exciting array of electronic musicians show up every year for the MEME experience.
Rainbow Trout Music Festival – St. Malo, MB (August 16-18, 2019): Started by a few friends who wanted to see if a power generator could elevate their camping experiences near a watering hole at an abandoned quarry, the RTMF is entirely volunteer run, and dedicated to showcasing local musicians. The festival is focused on inclusivity, creating a welcoming environment for anyone who loves swimming, camping, music, and people. Their focus on local artists means you’ll hear music of all genres at the festival, much of which will be cutting edge. As with all campground experiences, you may not want to bring your young kids; things tend to go pretty late!
Real Love Summer Fest – Teulon, MB (July 26-28, 2019): Real Love are a local concert promoter focused on accessibility and compassion – they even offer free tickets to shows for those who can’t afford them! Their Summer Fest in Teulon showcases independent artists of all stripes, from Manitoba and abroad. There’s camping, there’s local vendors providing food for people with all types of diets, there’s music you probably haven’t heard and are sure to love in an environment that fosters community.
Harvest Sun Music Fest – Kelwood, MB (August 16-18, 2019): Their tagline “Family. Community. Sustainability.” tells you much of what you want to know about this beautiful festival in Kelwood. Local musicians, local merchants, and locally-sourced and grown food; this festival is all about reaping the wonderful harvest of Manitoba’s vibrant music and agricultural scene. The festival has camping, and it’s great for kids and parents alike.
Harvest Moon Festival – Clearwater, MB (TBA, 2019): When there’s a festival for the Sun, there’s gotta be one for the Moon, too! This festival focuses on uniting the rural and urban populations of Manitoba, showcasing local farmers, growers and makers, as well as local musicians! The Festival generally takes place in September, and camping is available – this is one of the last outdoor festivals of the year, so take advantage of the nice fall weather and enjoy good food, good music and good people!
With so many incredible music festivals in Manitoba, it’s almost to know about all of them. Have a music festival you want us to add to the list? Get in touch with us, and we’ll make sure it appears here; we want everyone to be able to enjoy the incredible sounds of our city and province.