Tag Archives: resource

Springs for Percussion Quartet

Springs for Percussion Quartet

Springs for Percussion QuartetSprings for Percussion is a fascinating piece that demonstrates the ability of percussion to work up kinetic energy through pattern repetition and then “spring” into action. Each of four percussionists uses two drums and a set of three chosen percussive “instruments”—woods for one, metals for another, glass for the third, and plates or flowerpots for the fourth. The instruments should create “relatively harmonious cacophony.” Repeated rhythmic passages grow in intensity before springing into new patterns, and this is repeated throughout.

Springs for Percussion, by Paul Lansky, Carl Fischer Chamber Music,

Traveling by Air? Know the Rules and Your Rights

After years of negotiating and lobbying, the AFM saw the implementation of standard rules regarding musical instruments as carry-on and checked baggage. As of March 2015, musicians are allowed to bring certain musical instruments in-cabin on US carriers. Here are some airline travel tips for musicians.

Your Reservation

Tell the airline that you will be transporting a musical instrument. Air carriers are required to adequately inform passengers about limitations and restrictions to travel with instruments.

Book priority seating, requesting or purchasing early boarding.

On-board stowage rules  apply to any instruments that meet FAA carry-on size requirements.

Packing Your Gear

Remove any sharp tools and all liquids that do not comply with TSA’s three-ounce regulation.

Have a proper travel case, in the event that your instrument is not allowed in the cabin.

Board early. Overhead stowage is on a first come, first served basis.

Once an instrument is stowed in-cabin it cannot be removed or replaced by other bags.

Deal Calmly with Problems

If you are stopped by a flight attendant, calmly and quickly explain the precautions you have taken to prepare your instrument to safely travel in-cabin.

Do not block the way of other boarding passengers.

If necessary, ask to deplane so that you can resolve the matter with airline supervisors. Remember, you have approximately 15 minutes before the plane backs away from the gate.

Be prepared for the possibility that you may not be able to travel with your instrument in the cabin. It is important to have a backup plan.

Bring Along Links to Helpful Resources

Keep a link to the Department of Transportation Traveling with a Musical Instrument web link (www.dot.gov/airconsumer/air-travel-musical-instruments).

The AFM has developed comprehensive manuals: A Guide to Traveling with Musical Instruments (34-page guidebook) and A Guide to Flying with Musical Instruments (eight-page pocket guide). To find these resources, log into afm.org and go to “Document Library” and open the “Legislative Office” folder.

For a more in-depth story on the AFM’s efforts to ease air travel for musicians please visit: internationalmusician.org/musical-instrument-airline-carriage-rule/



North-StarRadial Engineering’s North-Star combination overdrive and power booster was designed with rock-oriented country guitarists in mind, but its adjustable sonic characteristics and versatile overdrive circuitry make it suitable for any playing style. And no matter where the drive control is set, you will still be able to articulate every note. North-Star is equipped with a separate boost circuit that provides up to 24dB of clean gain to the signal. Players can connect other pedals for easy transitions from rhythm to lead tones. A true-bypass pedal, the effects loop can also be used to remove noisy, tone-sucking pedals from the signal chain. Powered by a standard 9V power supply, it’s built in a tough, pedalboard-friendly, 14-gauge steel chassis.


Trigger Points: A Pain in the Neck

by Dr. Marc Brodsky and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal

Trigger Points, or knots, in the neck and shoulder muscles from repetitive use are common in musicians. In addition, chronic muscle-related pain of the head and neck may be exacerbated, or caused, by other conditions such as whiplash, migraine and tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, fibromyalgia, and even cancer. This article explores how integrative medicine can be used to ease neck and upper back pain.

Case Study

A guitarist in his 40s continued to have neck and upper back pain following a car accident two years prior where he was rear-ended at a stop. An MRI revealed a herniated disc in his neck. He described the pain as a splinter that was permanently in his body, irritating him every day. His pain intensified while moving around stage playing his guitar, as well as during travel for touring. The pain persisted despite steroid injections and pills, physical therapy, and a trial of self-medication with alcohol. The guitar player finally found relief with a self-care program that included acupressure—pressing strategic points to release muscle knots in his neck and upper back. He also ate an anti-inflammatory diet and exercised with an arm bike and did push-ups. He specially designed a guitar case to take off some of the load from moving gear.

Highlights of Integrative Medicine Approach

If you are experiencing neck and upper back pain, a hands-on physical exam may find neck and upper back pressure points. They are most commonly found in two muscles: the trapezius (below, left) and splenius capitis (below, right):

A medical professional may use trigger point injections (TPI) to treat painful areas of muscles that contain muscle knots. In the TPI procedure, a small needle is inserted into the trigger point. The injection contains a local anesthetic or saline, which inactivates the trigger point to alleviate pain. Several sites may be injected in one visit. A brief course of treatment often results in sustained relief. Acupuncture and massage by licensed professionals may relieve muscle knot pain as well.

You may take an active role in relieving your own neck and upper back pain by pressing the acupressure points on your arms, neck, and upper back. Try these three techniques: 

1) Press on a point two inches down from the crease of the elbow.

2) Interlock the fingers and press the thumbs into the tender points below the base of the skull.

3) Place two tennis balls in a stocking and press them against a wall with your back using the weight of the body to access the pressure points below.

The recommended self-care routine for muscle knots in the neck and upper back is to press each of the acupressure points for the duration of three relaxing breaths (about 15 seconds) one to three times each day. This is a natural muscle relaxant and stress reliever.

For persistent neck and upper back pain always seek treatment from a medical professional.

Marc Brodsky, MD, is a 2017 member in good standing of the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA). Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal is a solo artist and producer. Images courtesy of Katrina Franzen, Junghwa Choe, and World Health Organization.

Polka Heartland

Polka Heartland: Why the Midwest Loves to Polka

Polka HeartlandPolka radio host and music historian Richard March unveils the fascinating history of polka in mid-America, from polka’s origins as a European fad to the modern polka scene, he explores the heart of Midwestern polka culture. The book’s descriptions and photos take you into Wisconsin wedding receptions, crowded festival dance tents, and off-the-grid Mexican dances. You will learn about the music, instruments, and musicians who have been pivotal to the genre’s popularity.

Polka Heartland: Why the Midwest Loves to Polka, by Dick Blau, Wisconsin Historical Society, www.wisconsinhistory.org.

Prisma Guitars

Prisma Guitars

Inspired by his love of skateboarding and music, Nick Pourfard founded Prisma Guitars in 2015 to build guitars with one-of-a-kind style using real skateboards. Musicians can customize every feature of these unique instruments 100% handcrafted in the US from the wood of recycled skateboards. There are six body shapes and various neck types to choose from, either entirely built from skateboards or built with a skateboard top and mahogany or alder back, or hollow body. Prisma will even build a guitar from a customer’s own skateboard at no additional charge. They come with hand-wound McNelly or David Allen Pickups exclusively built with Emerson Custom electronics. Bass guitars and left-handed guitars are also available. Each custom guitar takes eight to 12 weeks to ct-prisma-skateboard-guitar006-frontbuild. Pricing starts at $2,500, including a travel-ready MONO bag.


avoid strain

Play Fit: Tips to Avoid Strain

In a normal work environment, sitting and standing for long periods of time can result in a number of neuro-musculoskeletal problems. Add to this repetitive motion, rotation, even heavy lifting, and the risks are compounded.

For musicians, strain and stiffness can be minor at first, but over time problems escalate and become debilitating—neural compression, reduced blood flow, joint stiffness, and damage to connective tissue. Tendons must bear all the weight of the attached muscle and can tear if overstretched. Inflammation of the tendon, or tendinitis, often occurs at the shoulder, biceps, and elbow. The small sac that cushions and reduces friction in the joint is called bursa. Inflammation of this sac is called bursitis.   

Overworking some tissues and underworking others can lead to less flexibility, loss of strength, and misalignment of joints—arguably, collateral damage for professional musicians. In some cases, musicians must learn to use completely different muscle groups for playing their instruments or play in different positions.

Pianists, for instance, can get relief if they use more wrist action and less finger motion. Musicians who play guitar, mandolin, and other fretted instruments have high tendonitis potential. Too tight a grip on the pick can strain the thumb muscles, resulting in tendonitis in the right thumb. If you feel your wrist or arm start to tighten while playing, back off and try to find a way to keep playing with the muscles relaxed.

Play with Good Posture and Breathe

For playing ability and overall health, good posture is the first line of defense. Slouching causes restricted and shallow breathing and over-restriction of muscles and tendons. Over time, poor posture can actually shorten muscles and tendons and weaken abdominal muscles. Learn to develop internal coordination and posture, from the inside out. Strengthening core muscles is important to spine alignment and to the strength and control of the rest of the body.

Proper breathing restores everything, from alternating mechanics of dynamic movement and posture and gait to the ability to handle sensory input. Most people tend to take shallow breaths so the ribcage is lifted and flared, which compromises diaphragm function, requiring chest, neck, and upper back to do more work.

When inhaling, the ribcage and chest should expand without any lift from neck and shoulder muscles. The most substantial movement, during inhalation, should occur in the lower ribs as they externally rotate (open out) and expand out to the sides. When exhaling, lower ribs should internally rotate (close in), creating the necessary space for your diaphragm to dome inside the ribcage.

Following are some general tips to follow to help avoid strain and injury:

  • Exercise and strengthen your core muscles, including abdominal muscles, back muscles, and muscles around the pelvis. (Consider doing yoga or Pilates.)
  • Before rehearsal or a performance, stretch arms, wrists, hands, and back. 
  • Determine the size, weight, or shape of instrument that is right for you, and whether there may be an accessory that makes playing more comfortable.
  • Evaluate your technique. Find ways to reduce force, keep your joints in their middle range of motion, and try to avoid fixed, tensed positions.
  • When practicing, take frequent breaks to stretch and relax. Take a long break every hour or so, and short breaks every few minutes to allow the body to recover.
  • Always seek medical help if you experience chronic pain or numbness and tingling in your fingers.
Be Part of the Music

Be Part of the Music: A New Free Resource for School Music Teachers

Be Part of the MusicMusic education advocate Scott Lang has launched a new music advocacy group called Be Part of the Music (www.BePartoftheMusic.com) to provide free resources to school music teachers, administrators, students, and parents. The stated goal of the organization is to recruit one million new students to American public school music programs. The free, customizable recruitment and retention materials, which currently include 45 documents and 27 videos are designed to help the community better understand the different ensembles and instruments that are available, along with the positive impact that music can play in the life of a child and the school community. Currently available materials are focused on elementary students, but future items will focus on retaining student interest throughout their teenage years.

This new offering to also grow involvement in public school orchestra and chorus programs, is based on the successful Be Part of the Band program, which has increased enrollment in public school band programs by 20% across the nation.

“Music is the silver bullet that makes the school experience better,” says Lang. “Many studies prove that students involved in music programs have higher test scores, higher academic performance, and lower drug and alcohol abuse levels, just to name a few benefits. Our goal of attracting one million new music students is lofty, but we can reach it by adding just 10 students in each and every one of the country’s 100,000-plus elementary schools.”

Be Part of the Music sponsors include Yamaha Corporation of America, Jupiter Instruments, Fred J. Miller, French Woods Fine Arts Camp, NAMM, Music for All, American String Teachers Association, and the National Association for Music Education.

an approach to comping

An Approach to Comping: the Essentials, a Guide to Jazz Accompanying

an approach to compingComping is a term used to describe how a pianist (or other chordal instrumentalist) plays chords in a rhythm that propels and supports a soloist. Author and pianist Jeb Patton of Local 802 (New York City) says that this is the type of book he searched for when he first started playing jazz. It is meant as an aid to aspiring jazz musicians, uncovering some of the mysteries behind comping. It reveals what happens in the background—the groove, the backdrop, the rhythmic conversation, and the colors behind the soloist—and underscores the piano player’s role in comping. Two included CDs provide demonstration and comp-along tracks to help you learn techniques by playing along.

An Approach to Comping: the Essentials, a Guide to Jazz Accompanying, by Jeb Patton, www.shermusic.com.