The Drum Duel: Acoustic vs Electric kits

Everything, it seems, has gone digital these days: music, games, keyboards – even how we pay for our morning coffee. While everything is evolving into the digital era, can electronic versions truly make the original product better? Looking at this from the perspective of a percussion student, performer or teacher, we ask: Do electronic drum kits really measure up to its acoustic predecessors?

yamaha-drums

One of Yamaha’s electric kits.

Electronic drum kits have come a long way since their introduction to the music industry in 1976. In recent years, newer drum kits have addressed many of the shortcomings of early electronic drums. Basic entry-level units aside, the more professional kits, built from brands like Yamaha and Roland, have been geared toward creating a sound and playing experience that is nearly indistinguishable from the traditional acoustic kit. With focus on high quality digital sounds (these kits can simulate effects like muffling, microphone position and ambient acoustic), multiple triggers, realistic hi-hats and multiple outputs, these features go a long way in making these sets more enjoyable to play.

So what are the advantages of playing and learning on an electronic kit?

  • Little noise, if desired – the drummer can adjust the volume to fit their surroundings, or use headphones for nearly silent practice. No more need for pads or mesh heads to dull the sound of acoustic drums.
  • More compact design which makes these kits an ideal solution for small rooms and not a nightmare to move once assembled.
  • Most electronic kits have the ability to simulate the sound of different kits, like a vintage jazz, powerful rock or spunky Latin.
  • They create easy wirings for performances and gigs, by using a line-out or MIDI connection. No complicated microphone set ups required! Same benefit applies for recording sessions as well.
  • Most include a built-in metronome and practice tracks, which is great for students.
  • For band rehearsals, electronic drums can be lowered to a volume to match the rest of the group, which helps a great deal in cramped practice spaces or small groups.
  • No risk of electronic drums becoming scratched or warped in if treated badly or left somewhere damp.
  • No need to tune an electronic kit!

Next, we’ll take a look at the electronic kit’s disadvantages:

  • Most drummers will agree that electronic kits lack the authentic feel or sound the same as an acoustic one. While technology continues to improve on this, it’s difficult to replicate the sound and feel of real drums, cymbals and hi-hats, even with a top-of-the-line electronic kit.
  • Some electric drum kits (though usually basic models) do not include pedals, but supplied with trigger pads which are hard to play at fast tempos and insensitive to the light touch.
  • Electronic kits do require external amplification from a specialized drum amplifier/monitor, which is an added cost.
  • Some electric drum kits have very limited positioning options, making it difficult for all ages and sizes to play comfortably.

In the end, which is better? The answer likely lies in your situation and ultimate goal as a percussionist. For students learning the ropes, an electronic kit provides all the necessary staples to get started, and parents won’t have the headache of constant noise during practice hours. Professional musicians may favor acoustic kits because of their sound, feel and visual appeal, especially if this is what they are used to!

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‘We need to be strong for each other’

Ottawa Citizen – September 21, 2013

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Families came out to the vigil held at the Fallowfield Transitway station following the fatal bus/train collision which took place earlier on Wednesday, September 18, 2013.
Photograph by: James Park, Ottawa CitizenRe: Candles, prayers on offer, Sept. 19.

I extend my deepest condolences to those families who lost loved ones in the tragic bustrain accident that shook our city this week. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering they now endure, and the hole in their hearts that will forever remain unfilled.

I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the first responders, emergency personnel, paramedics, police officers, doctors and nursing staff for quickly taking care of our city during those hours of need. We rely so heavily on these individuals when these terrible things happen, and I’m grateful for their bravery and professionalism in the wake of such a tragedy. A heartfelt thank you to Mayor Jim Watson for his staunch leadership, councillors Jan Harder and Steve Desroches for their dedication and communication, Premier Kathleen Wynne for providing support all the way from Queen’s Park, and all our local MPs and MPPs for stepping in and being there for constituents.

I’ve lived in Barrhaven for nearly 27 years; it is the only home I’ve ever known. I was born here, raised here and have now built a life of my own here, including co-owning and operating a local business, which allows my staff and I the opportunity to serve our amazing community. In the aftermath of Wednesday’s collision, the first thing clients asked upon arrival was, “Are you and your family okay?” I was almost taken aback by the outpouring of support, not only for those directly affected by what happened, but towards everyone. This tragedy has affected us all, as Barrhavenites, as Ottawans, as neighbours and as friends.

I travel aboard OC Transpo, towards our downtown core every morning. I was, thankfully and luckily, not on that 76 Express bus that collided with the Via Rail train. But its impact has been felt by the entire city. As I returned to Barrhaven that night, I couldn’t help but think of those families who wouldn’t have their loved ones return home, as they used to do every day.

There were 14 people – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children – at my bus stop on Thursday morning. The mood was unmistakably sombre, and an air of hesitation hung over us as the doubledecker bus rolled up and the automatic doors swung open before our eyes. We all climbed in, one by one, and took our seats. Fears aside, we all knew, silently, that we need to be strong for each other, for those families who mourn, and for our beloved Barrhaven.

Ashley Martyn, Owner
Barrhaven Music Academy

Grownups love music lessons as much as the kids do

BMA was featured as a business profile in the Barrhaven Independent on May 17, 2013. Read the wonderfully written article by reporter Bev Mcrae below, or pick up a copy at the UPS Store in Barrhaven (900 Greenbank Rd) or Ross’ Independent Grocer (Greenbank Dr & Strandherd Ave).

Barrhaven Music Academy opened its doors in July, 2012 and already is as popular with parents as it is with kids. Left to right, Tashi Bernard (voice), Kendra Mathers (piano), Nadia Zaid (voice and piano), Ashley Martyn (acoustic, electric and bass guitar), Corey Taylor (guitar, voice) and Ria Aikat (piano) love teaching music to all ages - from preschoolers to adults.

Barrhaven Music Academy opened its doors in July, 2012 and already is as popular with parents as it is with kids. Left to right, Tashi Bernard (voice), Kendra Mathers (piano), Nadia Zaid (voice and piano), Ashley Martyn (acoustic, electric and bass guitar), Corey Taylor (guitar, voice) and Ria Aikat (piano) love teaching music to all ages – from preschoolers to adults.

Grownups love music lessons as much as the kids do

By Bev McRae

On any given evening you will see adults sitting in the waiting room at Barrhaven Music Academy in the Mulligan Centre on Woodroffe Ave. at Longfields Dr. The thing is, they’re not all waiting for their kids. They may be waiting with their kids.

“We have tons of adult students,” said Ashley Martyn, co-owner of the music school. “We have many in piano, guitar and voice who just love it. In a lot of our families, the mom or the dad will take a lesson while the kid is taking a lesson. It’s really fun. The adults enjoy it as much, if not more than the kids.”

Martyn and her friend Nadia Zaid, who both grew up in Old Barrhaven, opened Barrhaven Music Academy in July 2012, and now, along with seven other music teachers, offer lessons in piano, guitar, bass guitar, voice, violin and drums for students of all ages, even preschoolers.

“The Tuneful Tots program is a music education program designed for three to five year olds, that age where parents may not be sure they want to jump them right into private lessons,” said Martyn. “The students don’t specialize in any one instrument in Tuneful Tots, they get used to rhythms and beats, learning lyrics, learning songs – just getting them excited about music.”

Tuneful Tots is taught by Kendra Mathers, one 45-minute lesson a week of singing, clapping, ear training, making music and moving to it. “We have a box of instruments with maracas, tambourines, shakers, rain sticks,” said Martyn. “Everyone takes an instrument and they create simple rhythm first and then it gets more complex and they learn how to keep a beat together and how the different instruments sound like when they’re played all together. It’s a lot of fun, just hilarious. It’s like playtime for them, but they’re having the love of music instilled in them while they’re playing the song.”

At what age are children ready for private lessons on their favorite instrument is a question Martyn often has to answer. “It really depends on the student,” she said. “If they’re super-motivated and willing to understand the practice that it takes to progress at a steady pace; I’ve had students as young as four.”

And of course, whatever instrument the little one plays has to fit. “There are half size guitars, three-quarter size and full size,” Martyn explained. “A little four year old would play a half size guitar. As long as their fingers can reach the four frets, they can play it.”

Other instruments are too big for little beginners, which is why many parents choose to enrol their children in piano lessons.

“With the piano, you just have to be able to press down a key and that doesn’t take much physical effort, so a lot of our students start on the piano because it’s easier and you can get the sound out right away,” Martyn said.

Piano is the most popular class at Barrhaven Music Academy, and the school has teachers available for all levels from beginner to advanced. The average time for a lesson in one of the school’s five classrooms is 30 minutes for a flat fee of $22. Adults or more advanced students may prefer a 45-minute or one hour session.

The music school also has a Youth Choir for singers age seven to 12, led by I.iz Wardhaugh that rehearses one hour a week on Thursday nights, at a cost of $15 per session.

“Most of the members are our students who are taking voice lessons, but we do have some outside kids who have joined just that program,” Martyn said. “It started in January and their debut performance will be at our summer concert in June. Eventually we’ll get them into competitions like the Kiwanis Music Festival.”

Barrhaven Music Academy presents two concerts a year, one in June, another in December, but last September students and teachers also held a special fundraiser for a young Barrhaven woman, Brynn Mclennan, who needs stem cell treatment for her muscular dystrophy.

“It was an outdoor show in the parking lot where the school is, then we had our big holiday concert in December so we’ve had two shows already,” said Martyn. “It was a lot of fun. The students love it. Performing in a concert inspire them, gives them motivation – and they love to see their teachers on stage.”

Getting a child to practice a music lesson and to enjoy music isn’t as difficult as many parents fear, said Martyn. It’s a combined effort on the part of the teachers and the parents.

“We’ve designed the program for every instrument to keep it fresh, keep it interesting, to make sure they’re not always playing the same kind of piece from the same book,” said Martyn. “We like to change it up, maybe throw in not just practical stuff, but some theory, ear training or games just to liven it up and keep their minds going.”

It’s important for parents to understand that a rigorous, hourly marathon of scales every day is not mandatory, a good five minutes is plenty for a beginner. “When they start, that’s all they really need. Just to get into the routine of doing it,” said Martyn.

“It’s quality over quantity when it comes to practicing. A good quality five or ten minutes every day is better than forcing them to practice for two hours on a Saturday when they really want to be playing outside.”

Both owners of the Barrhaven Music Academy have loved music since they were little, growing up in Old Barrhaven and attending John McCrae Secondary School, although Nadia is three years older than Ashley.

“I think I pretty much stole the guitar my mother had lying around the house,” laughed Ashley. “We always had music going on in our house. I did piano when I was growing up and I did trumpet in middle school so I always had music going on in my life. It was never very far out of reach.” Martyn has studied a world of genres and styles, including rock, pop, blues, jazz & classical, most notably under the Canadian guitar guru Anders Drerup.

Zaid has a Bachelor of Music degree from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Education from Ottawa University. Martyn has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Music with honours (2008) from University of Ottawa. Zaid has been teaching for ten years, Martyn for seven, both privately and at another music school. Both love music, and love teaching.

“We actually met working at another music school,” said Martyn, “but we wanted to teach music differently, to put our own stamp on it. In some schools it’s all about exam marks or how fast they can get through a method book. We want the students to really love music. We really want them to succeed so they will love music.”

The Barrhaven Music Academy is located in the Mulligan Centre at 2900 Woodroffe Ave. in Barrhaven The school is open Monday to Friday from 3 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Phone (613) 459-6027, e-mail info@barrhavenmusicacademy.com or visit the website at www.barrhavenmusicacademy.com for more information.

Great job Keeley!

One of our students, Keeley Baizana, 11, had the opportunity this week to sing the national anthem at a City of Ottawa council meeting. 

Watch the clip here:  http://app05.ottawa.ca/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=2474&doctype=AGENDA

Keeley’s performance also received some rave reviews on Twitter that morning:

Harder introduces the anthem singer, an exceptionally adorable moppet from Barrhaven. She’s excellent.” – David Reevely (@ReevelyLive)

“@BaizanaIns @BarrhavenJan @AlisonBaizana Great job! Keeley is a star!” – City Councillor Steve Desroches (@SteveDesroches)

“She was awesome!…” – City Councillor Jan Harder (@BarrhavenJan)

Way to go, Keeley!

Congrats to the 2013 Greely Idol winners!

9 year old Anna West, first place winner for the Junior Division in this year’s Greely Idol vocal competition.

A very special shout out to two wonderful young singers, Anna West and Gillian Fenwick, for each capturing a win at Greely Idol 2013!

The vocal competition, which was held January 26-27, 2013, was a chance for young singers across the city to come showcase their stuff in front of a live audience and panel of judges, including Stephanie LaRochelle, the runner-up from CBC’s Over The Rainbow.

Gillian Fenwick was crowned the winner of the Senior Division after her acoustic rendition of David Guetta’s “Titanium”. At just 13 years old, Gillian was the youngest participant in her catergory.

Anna West, 9, was given first place honours after tying for the top spot in the Junior Division for her cover of Adele “One & Only”, along with vocalist Jake Hamilton.

Anna’s been studying voice for a few years now, and Gillian started in lessons this past September. Both currenly study with vocal teacher Tashi Bernard at Barrhaven Music Academy in Ottawa.

Congrats again girls on a job well done!

Catch their winning performances here:

‘Tis the season for holiday recitals: A preparation checklist for students

 

Make sure you're ready for your holiday recital this year!

Make sure you’re ready for your holiday recital this year!

Recital prep 101! Helpful pointers for students working towards a performance this holiday season

Annual or biannual recitals are often a chief component of music schools’ curriculum no matter where you go. And, as a music teacher, I agree that student recitals and concerts are a great way to showcase students’ hard work and give them an extra little push to excel at their instrument.

Regardless of all the benefits of performing, students will get nervous when it comes time to play in front of a crowd. Some don’t worry too much, or they use their anxiety as a way to adrenalize themselves when on stage. For others, their nerves can get the best them, sometimes with catastrophic consequences to their self-esteem once the show is over and curtain is drawn.

The best advice for these nerve-wracked students? Be prepared! Here are a few things to remember in the weeks leading up to your big performance:

Do mock concerts: Have as many little “mock” or mini-concerts in front of a small group of family and friends as you can. It’s often said that it’s easier to be in front of a room full of people you don’t know, than in front of a handful of those you do. If you can get through your piece fluidly in front of your parents, siblings, fellow students or friends, it’s a good indication you’ll be fine playing for a bigger, more anonymous group!

Record yourself: Playing while recording is a good simulation of what it feels like to play for an audience. Additionally, the benefit of hearing yourself played back allows you to correct the mistakes you never may have realized you often make, and add some polish – a touch of rhythm here or sprinkle of dynamics there – to create an even better sounding piece.

Practice mentally: Not all preparation involves playing over and over again! (Though this is never discouraged…) It often helps to mentally prepare as well. Close your eyes and visualize your hands on your instrument as you play, or how you would  breathe and say lyrics as you sing. Visualize the music in front of you, line by line; see what the notes look like and hear what they sound like. Mental preparation is more effective than students think, and will make you more confident in what you’re getting ready to play.

Know the notes: Make sure you know your song, inside and out. Notes, rhythms and finger patterns or positioning should be close to second nature in the week leading up to your performance.

Practice daily: Even if just for 10 or 15 minutes, it is essential for students to practice their piece(s) every day when preparing for an upcoming recital.  Daily repetition will help in memorizing and becoming completely comfortable with the song. For vocalists, it will help to memorize lyrics. Ideally, singers will want to be able to recite their lyrics out loud, just by speaking them as if reading a poem, without any melody.

So you’ve practiced your song for weeks now. You’re ready to go! With the big performance day finally here, what’s left to do? Some tricks to settling any day-of anxieties when you take centre stage:

  • Don’t think you have to start playing right away! Take your time, get comfortable. Adjust your seat, get your music ready, take a deep breath and then begin.
  • If you make a mistake, keep going! A few wrong notes or chords here and there will not be obvious to your audience; if you stop playing completely to starting over, however, it will be noticeable.
  • Try to keep a steady pace. We tend to rush through things when we’re nervous, which increases the chance of making a mistake.
  • Remember you’re up there to showcase your hard work, and your teacher, parents and friends are proud of you! Try to turn your nerves into excitement.
  • Smile, enjoy your time up there, and have fun! Chances are you’ll think it went by too fast when it’s all over.

With these tricks in hand, I hope students will make the most of their recital days. It truly is a fun experience once the nerves are gone and encouragement is there!

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Those in the Ottawa area are welcome to join Barrhaven Music Academy’s annual Holiday Concert, coming up on Saturday, December 22, starting at 12:00pm, at 30 Clearly Ave. Admission is free, but donations of non-perishable items will be gladly accepted for the Ottawa Food Bank. For more information, visit www.barrhavenmusicacademy.com.

 

Want to de-stress, strengthen your lungs and improve musically? Join a choir

With the success of television shows like Glee, it’s not surprising that students young and old are starting to appreciate how much fun singing can be. But did you know how beneficial it can be, both physiologically and psychologically? A few studies have shown that the benefits of singing, while great in a one-on-one environment, can be multiplied when in the right group or choir setting.

20121121-120917.jpgSo, prospective and current vocalists, have you through about joining a choir or singing group? Here’s a few reasons why you should consider it:

Exercise major muscle groups in the upper body

Singing exercises all the major muscle groups in the upper body; your abdominals, diaphragm, shoulders and back all get a workout each time you belt out a tune. Singing is an aerobic activity that improves the efficiency of your cardiovascular system and encourages you to take more oxygen into your body, leading to increased alertness.

Additionally, with the help of stronger back and shoulder muscles, singing helps improve posture, especially with performing groups. In a choir, it is very vital to sit and, more often than not, stand properly and gracefully.

Develop healthier lungs

Any vocal student or teacher will tell you a fundamental key to proper singing technique and endurance is correct breathing. In a choir or group setting, singers often will learn to negotiate very long passages in one controlled breath, which is very, very good for the lungs. Inhaling deeper fills every inch of our lungs’ capacity and enhances the way we use them, making them more efficient and stronger over time.

It’s been observed that singers breathe remarkably slower than the non-singers. Research suggests breathing slowly, whether regularly or by practice for a few minutes a day, is enough to help some people nudge down bad blood pressure. Meditation, yoga and similar relaxation techniques that incorporate slow, deep breathing have long been thought to aid blood pressure, by relaxing and dilating blood vessels temporarily.

Build confidence and musicality

Students who sing together will increase their self-confidence and also build and understanding of teamwork as the unit works together towards a common goal. In other words, it gets the group physically and mentally active in a new way, and gives them the chance to learn and grow from the other singers in their group.

No to mention the fact that it lets students be creative! Singing groups provide a great artistic outlet for students to express themselves and gain personal satisfaction, improving their overall sense of musicality and appreciation.

Become a better singer

As rehearsals pass and time goes by, choir members will notice development in their singing proficiency, even if minute or gradual. Individuals who’ve had no prior vocal training, those that would see themselves stumble over the harder pieces at first, will slowly increase their repertoire and musical stamina. And, in a group setting, it’s possible this progress will be even faster thanks to encouragement from not only a choir director, but from your fellow singing peers.

Even seasoned vocalists who’ve had, or continue to have, vocal training will see their development increase as their choir experience expands their repertoire and adds to their weekly practice routine.

Eventually, the team of singers (both novice and advanced), will have been exposed to varying speeds of songs, reading new music and memorizing lyrics, which builds up stamina. As a choir matures they will develop a kind of group ‘cohesiveness’, ultimately bringing them more commanding voices and polished techniques as they go.

Get rid of stress

If you’re one that regularly spends their week in front of a computer monitor, scanning heaps of prescribed school reading, or sits through hours of traffic on the way to school or work, a change of scenery and pace is always a good thing. While stress adds up in our daily lives thanks to work or family struggles, being part of a choir or singing group will allow you ‘de-stress’ on a consistent, proactive basis. Think of singing as a way to let off steam in a healthy and positive way. Furthermore, music has a way of igniting our emotions; singing, in turn, is one of the few activities that allow you emotionally peak and delve into an elevated mental sphere, to find release and resist burnout.

Choirs are often seen as the perfect complement to any singer’s regular practice routine. Just like playing in a band would benefit a guitarist or drummer, performing in a choir or singing group will help all singers improve, whether it’s a weekly practice or monthly get together. Ultimately, choir rehearsals won’t even feel like practice – just another opportunity to sing your heart out.

And, as Ella Fitzgerald once said, “The only thing better than singing is more singing.”