When It’s Not Nice to Share
May 31, 2013

It’s the night before your big audition/talent show/school presentation, and you finally came up with the PERFECT song, composed by this hot up-and-coming composer - the one song that’s sure to land you the part/make you a star/earn you an A+.  The only thing in your way is that you don’t actually have a copy of the sheet music in your collection.  Not a problem… you’re sure to find a free version online that you can download and print off.  There are tons of music-sharing sites on the internet, and that’s what they’re there for – to supply you with music you don’t yet own, right?  Except there’s one hitch.  There’s no “sharing” involved.  Not really.  It’s copying.  A digital replication is made from originals, and that’s what you download.

So what’s the hitch, you ask?  It’s a moral one.  The song you’re about to download for free is protected by copyright laws, and is an illegal copy.   That hot up-and-coming composer that you love so much created the work with his own genius, and is not willing to just give it away.  It’s what he does for part of his living, and he’s expecting to be compensated for his work, just as you expect to walk away from your work with a paycheck every week.  In fact, not only is the composer expecting to be compensated from the sale of his music, but there’s a whole team of people who expect compensation from that sheet music sale:  the lyricist, the publisher, the copyist, the arranger and the distributor to name a few.

Jason Robert Brown

Jason Robert Brown is a very popular broadway composer (The Last Five Years; Songs for a New World; 13; Parade) who, in 2010, tackled the issue of illegal music-sharing head on.  (Read more…)

John Cage turns 100!
November 14, 2012

Here at The Leading Note, we are proud to celebrate the life and work of John Cage, one of the most influential figures in music of the twentieth century.  This year marks 100 years since his birth.

Happy Birthday, John Cage

(Read more…)

Learning to Improvise
September 8, 2012

While learning to improvise has long been a requisite technique for both jazz musicians and organists, renewed interest for the art in the classical tradition has resulted in some interesting new publications lately. The study of improvisation in a jazz style is well covered in the literature and we have numerous books that deal with this specific topic and jazz theory in general that are well worth a look, but we also have a few other books with unique approaches especially tailored to classical musicians. Here are a few examples.

Pattern Play

Akiko & Forrest Kinney’s Pattern Play Series is a progressive improvisation method for pianists published by Frederick Harris, the Toronto company that publishes the books of the Royal Conservatory of Music. In Pattern Play, short musical fragments called “patterns” are provided as a foundation on which the student can begin to improvise. For beginner students, the teacher can play the pattern; more advanced students can play the pattern in one hand while improvising with the other. Each “pattern” is complemented by a “vacation” (or several) that provides a musical alternative from the pattern to create more variety. Suggested variations on the pattern and vacation are also included. Students are instructed to use particular scales for their melodic improvisations. (Read more…)

Fun Friday: Emotional function in music
December 9, 2011

Common-Practice Harmonic Analysis through emotional response.

More Thunder!
October 25, 2011

Forget the cowbell.  In 19th-century France, new organs featured special effects to help improvisers imitate the sounds of storms.  These included special “Pedale de tonnerre”, or Thunder Pedal, that simultaneously sounded some of the lowest pedal tones.  On organs not so fortunately equipped, the organist would have to depress several pedals manually or use the arm:


Lefebure-Wely was the undisputed master of organ storms.  His Scene pastorale appears in Dover’s intriguing collection Organ Music for the Christmas Season.  Pick up your copy today!

On the Beauty of Printed Music
October 14, 2011

Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu recently posted about the importance of printed music on his excellent blog.  Lintu reflects on different criteria that make up a musical edition, including purely musical matters as well as the physical and practical construction of the book.

Narrating the journey of discovery, known well to all music students, that leads musicians away from the most base editions to quality products by world-renowned publishers, Lintu explains how the Urtext designation signifies an important step in musicological study but also erases the history of musical insights that can be gleaned from the editors pen.

Although the online purchasing of printed music is becoming more common, Lintu explains how important it is for musicians to put their hands on printed music and thumb through the pages before purchasing.  A musical edition is made up not only of musical content, after all; it is also a physical product.  The quality of paper, the clarity of engraving, attention to details like page turns, and especially the strength of binding all important criteria of a musical score:

“I myself find that, more and more often, my choice of edition is dictated by practical considerations. I seem to be guided more by extra-musical criteria: the quality of the paper, the binding, and especially the font. The fact that I can, in a fit of frustration, hurl the score at the wall without the binding falling apart is sometimes more important than whether the staccatos are marked with dots or wedges.”

Lintu’s post warms our hearts here at The Leading Note.  We have long shared his enthusiasm for the variety of details that make up a quality edition.  Our staff put a lot of effort into choosing the best editions to stock on our shelves and we are aware that the tastes of musicians are as varied as editions themselves.  A quality edition will bring a lifetime of use and joy.

Come round to our store sometime and thumb through a few pages.  You’ll know what we mean!