I’m a big fan of the Book Depository. Their prices are cheap, they have a good selection and there’s free shipping to New Zealand. That being said, there have been two instances where there has been a problem with the order. The first was when an ABRSM Grade 5 clarinet book was missing the piano part insert. The most recent problem was the Lord of the Rings book for clarinet was actually the saxophone book but with a clarinet cover and clarinet backing CD. Whoops. The big giveaway was the saxophone figuring chart on the back page. To their credit, the Book Depository staff reply to emails very promptly and in both instances the books were given to me for free.
The downside being that I have to wait another 2-3 weeks for a replacement order to be delivered.
But with a dodgy LoTR book came the opportunity for learning about transposition, something that I rarely go over with my students and especially not with an 8 year old. My 8 year old student is a huge LoTR fan and he’d worked out some of the melodies/themes by ear; a great achievement. What I wanted to do was get him to associate what he hears by ear and what would be written down to represent that.
There is barely ever a one to one mapping between ear and paper though, especially for film music that will often have a multitude of different variations of a theme. Would my student keep trying to do a variation despite a much simpler thematic theme being written down? We gave it a go.
The written pitch for a Bb clarinet is a 5th lower than the written pitch of an alto saxophone in order for both instruments to sound the same, so when the alto sax plays a G, the clarinet is playing a C. It was overkill to rewrite the entire In Dreams music (that’s that Hobbit theme that plays over and over again) to manuscript so after explaining transposition to my student, I started writing out the note head for the 5th-lower-note on the photocopied music.
What followed was a quick quiz with a series of “…and what is this note going to be?” in reference to what clarinet note we’d play for the given sax note. This was a good exercise.
I asked my student to fill in some of the notes himself but his handwriting was a little wayward so I hurried through most of the piece, quizzing him on the notes.
I used to transpose from C music to Bb (i.e. piano to clarinet) a lot as kid. I think I started doing it as a 9 year old because our primary school ‘band’ teacher would just have C music and not realise that you can’t have all instruments play the same written music and expect the same sounds to come out. My two fellow clarinet class mates were impressed that I could do something like that in real time but flute/piano to clarinet transposition is easy: up a note and add a couple of sharps to the key signature. Alto sax to clarinet is a little bit for difficult (down 5 notes and take away a sharp (or add a flat)).
So it was great to hear my young student using a mix of what was in his head, what he’d memorised with his fingers and what we’d dotted down on the page beneath the alto sax note, in order to play In Dreams. He wants to play complicated rhythms that aren’t written (but are in his head) but we’ll work through that. The rhythms get more complex later in the piece anyway; thankfully this book is not a dumbed down LoTR arrangement.