Learning Lots of Music in a Short Period of Time

Krantz.Linda-Bells Final (85 of 96) smallI never seem to have enough time to learn all the music I have to learn.  This is especially true when I’m attending events such as Bay View or Distinctly Bronze.  These are high level ringing events with difficult music, generally 13 pieces of it.  I’m lucky to have 2 to 3 weeks in which to learn these pieces, so I’ve devised a system that works for me.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my process!


Rehearsal Strategies for Learning Lots of Music in a Little Time

    1. Once the music is received, make all score markings.
      1. Red boxes for ritards,
      2. Written in crescendos where only words appear and
      3. Any other score markings that might be helpful (such as highlighting repeat bars).
    2. Input Problem Solvers received from director as they relate to position being played.
    3. Sight-read through all the music, no stopping, with recordings if available, to see what you are up against.
      1. Prioritize music by difficulty for your position.
    4. A second reading through (no recordings), this time meticulously identifying measures that will require serious work (fast triplets, different rhythms in each hand, fast bell changes).
      1. Write these down (make a list).
      2. Make markings in music where necessary (i.e., bell changes)
      3. Communicate with standmates where help is needed
      4. This assumes that the rest of the music is easily played, which is often the case, but sometimes the entire piece is difficult and needs work in its entirety.
    5. The key to my process is this step – there is great value in spending serious time working parts of music at a very slow tempo. Practice that is perfect (i.e., slow and accurate) will translate to solid muscle memory, and will speed up the ability to gain tempo quickly.
      1. Work all the measures (and only the measures) that have been identified, slowly with metronome until well in muscle memory. Start as slowly as you need to in order to maintain accuracy (this may mean at less than half the marked tempo).
      2. Do not attempt any practice with recordings until these areas are at least to the slowest recording you have available. (See footnote)
      3. Do not play entire pieces.
      4. Once the measure(s) is mastered, work transition in and out.
      5. Plan to spend the bulk of time in this phase.
    6. Once those measures are mastered (or close to it), begin practicing the entire piece with slowest recording, working your way up to 85% of tempo.
      1. Work music from highest priority (most difficult) to lowest.
    7. Five days before leaving for event (Bay View/DB), rehearse with tempo recordings. If you have done the above work, ability to play at tempo will happen quickly and effortlessly (hopefully!).
      1. Make notes of measures that still require work, and
      2. Practice those with metronome between practices with recording.
    8. Practice each piece (or at least the ones with most difficulty) with recording at tempo at least once every day.


    Footnote – At Bay View we are lucky to have someone who provides a variety of recordings at various tempos for our use. Also, I keep every single demo CD I’ve ever received (yes, they are cataloged!), so I have at-tempo recordings of lots and lots of music. Buy or download as much of the music as you can. Buy the DB rehearsal CD if you are rehearsing DB music. And then download Amazing Slow Downer, an app that will slow the music down for you! http://www.ronimusic.com/amsldox.htm



The Space Between the Notes

Quarter-Rest copyI’ve been listening to one of my all-time favorite pieces – Nimrod (or “August 9 Adagio) from the Enigma variations by Elgar, conducted by Daniel Barenboim (see video here).   Barenboim takes the tempo slow, producing the most brilliant rendition I’ve ever heard.  It is lush, sweeping, and the moment it begins, the hair on my arms raise and I have goose bumps, and then I begin to weep.  Why does music do that?

I have learned over the years that what you do with the space between the notes is as important as what you do with the notes themselves.  That “push and pull” creates tension, movement and anticipation, which makes the music itself compelling.  I have found it an extraordinary difficult lesson to learn, using that “space.”  I tend to rush the tempo, so I have to work extra hard to allow myself to fall into that space and use it wisely to make my music compelling.  It is in that space that my audience will have an opportunity to respond to that emotion.

I’ve been thinking about this concept for a few weeks now and how it relates to my current journey.  It’s sort of where I’m at in my recovery – that “space between” where one just lets oneself HEAL.  My surgery is over, the cast is off, I’m in a splint and I can actually take a shower on my own.  But it is still a difficult spot to be.  I am impatient, and sometimes angry, and most of the time pretending that I am quite well, thank you very much.  But I am reminded again and again how important it is to just LET MYSELF HEAL.  It’s being in that “space between the notes,” the space that provides tension and anticipation.  That it is a good thing to just “be.”

Because I have some previous experience with this, I know that there is a reason to be here, now.  It is my time to rest, to catch up with myself, to let people help me.  I know that it will renew my compassion and provide some freedom in my otherwise rush rush world.

So I’m living in this space.  Full of anticipation and hope that once physical therapy begins, I will actually be a full participant in my recovery, not just an observer.   And that this too, shall pass.

Happy New Year

NYFacing a new year often provides excitement with a little trepidation of what the new year may bring.   I always look forward to this time of year, anticipating the new joys and sorrows of living another year.  This year I find myself in an “unplanned” place – recovering from surgery and unable to play my handbells.  It has been a difficult spot for me to occupy.  Making music breathes new life into my soul.  Even when I am learning new music, which is often stressful and tedious, the music making nourishes me.  I miss that nourishment.  I am uncomfortable in my cast.  I am tired.   I can’t drive.  Heck, I can’t even tie my own shoes!  (we won’t talk about all the other things I can’t do at the moment!).  And I miss the bells.  I am trying hard to “rest” in this place.  Remember how I mentioned the importance of “rests” in music in my last blog?  I’m finding it quite difficult.  I don’t know how to “rest.”  I live my life at a hectic pace, and I’ve been slowed to a near stop with this injury.   So how does one go from 90 mph to a slow, leisurely pace?  I am working hard at being in the moment.  I’m enjoying the extra  time I have with my husband.  I’m sitting outside and enjoying our beautiful weather.  And I’m thinking about the music I will be able to play when I have recovered. I am preparing myself for the hard work I know is ahead of me when all the hardware is removed from my thumb.  It will be worth it.  I will be ready.  I want my music back.

I wish all of you a happy and safe New Year!

A Fork in the Road

benchI’ve been benched.  Completely and utterly down for the count.   I fell last week and injured my hand.  It will require surgical repair, which is happening tomorrow.  In the midst of my busy music-making season, I have had to cancel engagements, something I’ve never had to do before.  And I won’t be making music for a few months, as I heal and rehabilitate my hand.  So for the next little while my writings will focus more on the rests that occur in music-making, both figuratively and literally.  I’ve been reminded again and again that the rests in a piece of music are as important as the notes, perhaps more so.  Those rests give the room a chance to breathe, the ear a chance to rest, the heart a moment to anticipate what is coming next.  And so it is with me tonight, as I prepare for surgery tomorrow.  I’m giving the room a chance to breathe, my head a chance to rest and my heart  a moment to anticipate what awaits for me around the corner.

Why handbells?

Krantz.Linda-Bells Final (85 of 96) smallWhy do I love handbells? Oh, there are so many reasons. Handbells, by their very nature, form a community when played by a full choir of musicians. They help build the team, by the very necessity of each and every ringer who plays their position. They are accessible to people who might not ever play another instrument, giving them the gift of music making. They are versatile, allowing for not only a full choir, but smaller ensembles and soloists alike. And when I hear them played, they sound like heaven to me.


Welcome to my website!  My name is Linda Krantz, and I am a Solo Handbell Artist, and just so there is no confusion, I love, love, love handbells!  I will never forget the first time I saw a handbell – it was in the middle of a huge processional of a church I was visiting, rung by a teenage girl with the most glorious look on her face.  That image has never left me, even though it was many more years before I figured out what that instrument was and had an opportunity to put a hand on one.  And even though I have played the piano and sung for many years, the moment I played my first handbell I knew this was my “gift.”

I hope to share with you my passion, love and inspiration of this instrument, the places it has taken me, and how they touch the people in my audiences.

Thank you for visiting, and come back often to hear my stories!

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