Teaching Observation for Vibraphone Masterclass

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In his vibraphone masterclass, David Newcomb discussed ten principles that he uses while writing music pieces for the vibraphone. The masterclass was organized in several parts. During the first introductory part, Newcomb focused on his key principles. The performer stated that the technique in playing the vibraphone could be viewed as similar to the piano technique because of the use of keyboards. However, the performer should pay attention to the fact that such comparisons are not relevant for developing the specific technique of playing the vibraphone because of a lot of differences in the instruments’ designs.

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At this stage, Newcomb focused on discussing the effective approaches to developing the right four-mallet vibraphone style and hand movements to achieve the desired effects (Beck 22). He discussed how to handle soft mallets and what positions for hands to choose to achieve the desired mellow tone, or high intensity in a sound, or the specific modulation and pulsation (Rossing 58). Speaking about the production of sound effects, Newcomb pointed at the necessity to use the perfectly flat surface and the most convenient mallets. Newcomb also compared the techniques in playing the vibraphone with the approaches to playing marimba and xylophone (Shepherd and Horn 67).

During the second part, the musician chose to illustrate his words with the performance of six movements from his Short Loops, Vol. 2 composed for the solo vibraphone in 2013. After playing the movements, Newcomb continued reviewing the basic principles that he uses in the process of writing and performing the music. The musician stated that those vibraphonists who choose writing music should focus on the idiophonic character of the instrument (Smith 48). It is also important to choose different styles and manners while performing to find the most attractive sound and rhythm. Moreover, the musicians can also refer to those passages written for marimba and xylophone to receive more experiences.

Having discussed more principles, Newcomb illustrated his words with the other movements from Short Loops, Vol. 2. After finishing playing, the performer explained the approaches he used to achieve the jazz sound effects and rhythms and focused on the process of producing the desired phrases while playing the vibraphone (Dunscomb and Hill 39). Newcomb drew the audience’s attention to the fact that jazz rhythms and patterns can be effectively used by vibraphonists to develop their techniques using those passages that they feel most of all. Having discussed the harmonic possibilities of the instruments, the practice of combining sounds, and the use of hard beating, the performer presented the last three principles that he discusses as the main ones in the process of creating the music (Gioia 32). These principles are the focus on the quality rather than on the technical difficulty in composing and performing, the focus on breaking rules, and the focus on the actual writing of music to practice and learn more.

During his masterclass, Newcomb used many pedagogical tools to build awareness of vibraphone playing and the process of composing the music for this instrument. Thus, the performer provided the theoretical principles that guided his practice, illustrated the discussions with the help of musical patterns and passages, discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the traditional approaches to teaching the vibraphone such as the imitation of the piano or xylophone techniques, and provided the practical hints for the audience to learn the manner of using four mallets and following the jazz rhythms.

Works Cited

Beck, John. Encyclopedia of Percussion. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

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Dunscomb, Richard, and Willie Hill. Jazz Pedagogy: The Jazz Educator’s Handbook and Resource Guide. New York: Alfred Music Publishing, 2002. Print.

Gioia, Ted. The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.

Rossing, Thomas. Science of Percussion Instruments. New York: World Scientific, 2000. Print.

Shepherd, John, and David Horn. Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 8, Genres: North America. New York: A&C Black, 2012. Print.

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Smith, Joshua. Extended Performance Techniques and Compositional Style in the Solo Concert Vibraphone Music of Christopher Deane. Denton: The University of North Texas, 2008. Print.

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ChalkyPapers. (2022, February 12). Teaching Observation for Vibraphone Masterclass. Retrieved from https://chalkypapers.com/teaching-observation-for-vibraphone-masterclass/

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ChalkyPapers. 2022. "Teaching Observation for Vibraphone Masterclass." February 12, 2022. https://chalkypapers.com/teaching-observation-for-vibraphone-masterclass/.

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