Category Archives: Musicianship

The Evolution of Funk Chamber Group

In my ASU Art of Teaching Advanced Instrumentalists course we had to form a chamber group and make either an arrangement or a composition that we would prepare for performance. This was my group and we made a mash-up arrangement of Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars and Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry. I decided to play bass as a secondary instrument to get more familiar with the bass.

There were three parts to this project. The first part was the rehearsal/performance aspect, which the video of our performance depicts below. Additionally our group was to come up with a model form of assessment for this project. Our group chose to make a summative verbal reflection which is below the video. Finally, under that is the reflection on the process of this project that I completed individually for this class.

Our Group’s Summative Verbal Reflection

We decided to make a verbal in-class reflection. This is an example of a summative process-based assessment. The way this would work is that the class would all reflect about their experience in the chamber group project and everyone would have to participate. Some ideas for how to facilitate this sort of assessment in our classrooms could be to either have the class sit in a circle and go around in the circle and reflect, or have them only speak if they have a certain designated item to let them talk, like a ball or something of that nature. Here are some ideas for reflection that we would put up on the board. We could have everyone answer all of them or, for time’s sake, we could have everyone just choose two or three to reflect on.

-Reflect on your group’s process.
-Reflect on your personal process.
-How do you think your group did overall?
-What would you do differently next time?
-Reflect on your group’s dynamic and how you feel you meshed … or not.
-Did you notate your music in any way? Why or why not?
-Share a comment about what you liked about another group’s process or performance.
-Ask one question to another group.
-Any other thoughts…

Chamber Music Project Reflection

How did your group choose a melody to arrange?:
We discussed a few different options of music choices to arrange and we began looking up a few different songs on the internet to get ideas going. We were also discussing different songs to see what everyone in the group was familiar with so that we could all have a pretty thorough background knowledge of the music we were working with. As it turned out, three of us were fairly familiar with pop music while one person was not. We had decided that we wanted to do some sort of arrangement of a pop tune, but we wanted to pick something that everyone knew at least a little bit about. Part of our group was involved with the ASU marching band, so they spoke about some of the pop tune arrangements that they played with the band. In speaking about this we found that we were all familiar with the song Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. We decided to do an arrangement of this song. After we started working with this piece we decided we wanted to do a mash up of two songs, and we decided to have a unifying factor of the word “funk” in the name. There are not many different songs with funk in the name, so we quickly narrowed it to Play That Funky Music for the other piece.

Describe your general rehearsal process over all the rehearsals.:
In the first rehearsal we decided on the music that we were going to arrange and how we were going to go about doing so. We also discussed instrumentation and decided on the instruments we would all play for this project. We did make one change with one instrument at the next rehearsal, but aside from that we kept all of the instrumentation the same throughout the process. Throughout the next couple rehearsals we had our instruments and began listening to recordings of the two pieces we were working with. As we did this we picked apart different layers and parts of the pieces and began determining who would play what. We figured out the different parts people would play and when they would do so. Within the last few rehearsals we had a solid plan for our piece and we mainly rehearsed the music we were doing to get familiar with the form and with performing it. We made any final changes as needed and decided on making solo parts for every individual throughout to spotlight every member of the group. On in the last rehearsal we just rehearsed it a few times over so we would be ready for the performance and ironed out any issues as needed.

Description of the Overall Process:
*Did your group seem to have one main leader, or did the leadership rotate?:
We did not have any designated leader in any given rehearsal. Our group collaborated very         well as colleagues and we all equally shared leadership within the group.

*How did your group decide what to work on during rehearsals?:
Our group would assess how far we had gotten on the material we needed to get done and see what more we had to do. If we had not completed the arrangement we decided to work on adding on another section to the piece. If we were finished then we decided to rehearse it and discuss ways in which we could improve our work.

*Did your group work entirely aurally, or did you notate your music in some way? How did your group’s process work for you?:
As a group we discussed how we wanted to go about notating the arrangement or not and we decided that we would not notate the piece, but that we would do a basic notation of the form so we would know the structure of the piece and when which person would play what.

*How did your group decide which ideas to keep in your arrangement and which to change or discard?:
As we played through our arrangement we would listen for anything the did not quite work or sound right and then we would discuss this and see how we could go about changing something to make it work better. There were times that some people felt things needed to be changed but others did not key into that idea so we would play it again as it was and then try something different and see how we liked it better. From there we would decide as a group if we should change it or leave it.

*How did your group decide among different ideas? How did you handle disagreements?:
Our group really got along quite well. We were good about discussing different ideas and see what the group as a whole liked better. We would try out various ideas and we would very much work toward compromises as needed so that everyone’s input was put to good use and highly valued.

*Do you feel that you needed more class time to work with your group?:
Actually no. I felt that this time frame for this project worked very well for a group with our skills and background knowledge and experience.

*Describe how and/or what each member contributed to the group.:
We really did work quite well as a group and so we all would discuss the project and give input and ideas on how to improve the arrangement. We all put very equal input into the project on all of the decisions we made. Musically the breakdown consisted of me on the double bass with the bass line of Uptown Funk, another group member on the piano with accompaniment and the bass line to Play That Funky Music, another on the trumpet with the melody of Uptown Funk, and the last member on trombone with the melody to Play That Funky Music.

Describe in musical terms what you were most proud of or excited about musically in your arrangement? What worked well? Based on the informal performance, is there anything musically you would change or improve?:
I would have to say that musically my favorite aspect of this project was that we made sure to have strongly independent parts for all the instruments and how we highlighted all of the instruments by scoring a solo for everyone individually. The only thing I cold really think about changing musically would be to make a smoother transition between the Play That Funky Music section and the return to the Uptown Funk. We had played with several different possibilities for this transition, but none of them seemed to quite fix this issue. I think that the one we chose was definitely the best option we had come up with, but it was still a bit awkward of a transition.

What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite part? What was the biggest challenge?:
I think that my favorite part of this project was making the mash up and figuring out who was going to play what parts of the piece. I very much enjoy making mash ups and figuring out how to fit two different songs together to make one. I was very happy with this project, so I don’t really know that I had a least favorite part in particular with this project. I would have to say that the biggest challenge was trying to figure out the transitions between pieces in the mash up. That is always a hard part of mash ups, but it is, nonetheless, part of the fun too.

What did you learn from doing this project? In your opinion, was it worthwhile for our class to do this project?:
I think that it was worthwhile for us to do this project. I learned different ways to look at and listen to music and how to pick apart different parts and layers and transfer those to the instruments into an arrangement. I also learned different ways how students could improvise and compose without having to follow strict and rigid traditional rules in doing so.

Following your informal performance, was the feedback from the class helpful? Why or why not?:
I thought it was helpful. I always find feedback from our peers helpful. I think that getting feedback from all of these highly trained musical peers is very useful in our musical development. I also think that it is helpful for us to give as much feedback as we can, being that we will have to do that often as teachers. Not only can we take musical ideas from our peers from their assessments they give us, but we can also take ideas of how to state our assessments based on the assessments they give us.

What suggestions do you have for doing this project another time? How might you adapt this project for junior high or high school students?:
One suggestion I could have for doing this project another time could be to have certain “limitations” such as a style of music we would have had to follow, like taking a classical song and arranging it into a pop song, or arranging a pop song into a classical tune just to challenge us in some sort of way and to make some variation on the project. If I were to use this project for a high school or middle school I would make several variations. For one thing, I would definitely have several other projects building up to a project of this nature getting the students used to composing and arranging and with projects with such little solid instruction. I would also probably have some more set instructions than we were given because we do have a higher skill level and maturity level than most high school students would. I would also make sure to, as the teacher, check in on the students throughout the process to make sure they are on task and that rehearsals are going overall smoothly.