I recently supervised a Sounds of Music Event and I want to provide some feedback to the students. First, I’m going to start with the biggest issue I saw.
When measuring the pitch I tried to abide by the rule as close as possible to what it says…
It says: "10/11/18 (Division C) 3.Part II.f.ii should read, edits in bold: Participants will play one pitch at a time, holding it for a duration of 5 seconds as indicated by signals from the event supervisor. For devices with a quick decay time, multiple attacks on the pitch are allowed (for example, striking a bar multiple times with a mallet or plucking a string). The pitch measurement will be the average value during the 5 seconds. Participants will wait until the supervisor records the measured pitch frequency and indicates that they may proceed before playing the next note in the sequence. (average replaces best)"
It clearly states that the participants need to HOLD each note for 5 seconds and that multiple attacks are allowed for quick decaying devices.
It also clearly states that the pitch measurement will be the AVERAGE value during the 5 seconds. So I had to do an average during those 5 seconds. I had each team play each note for about 5.5 to 6 seconds to allow a good continuous 5 seconds in there.
The problem then is that if a student plays a perfect pitch for note A4 at 440 Hz for only 1 second of the 5 seconds because he didn't want to do multiple attacks then for the next 4 seconds the pitch is zero, and the average value will be 1/5th of that 440Hz which will give a score of ZERO for that pitch because the average during the full 5 seconds will be way off from the target of 440Hz. If the student keeps doing that will all 8 notes, then the full pitch score will be ZERO. All that effort building your device to then get zero for the full pitch score! Sometimes I went as low as getting an average of 4 seconds to take away errors or zeros at the beginning or end of the note, but I couldn’t go lower than a 4 second range for the average. If they only held a note for one second they got zero. This might seem very unfair, but I wanted to go by the rules as written. So my advice to the students is to build the instrument to the rules and play it according to the rules.
I witnessed this with several teams even though I REMINDED them that multiple attacks are allowed and that they need to hold each note for a full 5 seconds. So they got zero points on the pitch. But even if the team did multiple attacks, they were erratic and all over the place. If the multiple attacks are not done properly, then the frequencies will have a lot of louder overtones; or zeros that also mess up the average frequency during the 5 seconds. This means that if students need to do multiple attacks they need to do them well so that NO higher frequencies show up as dominant or short pauses exist during their performance. If they are hitting a pipe, they probably need two rubber mallets and hit on the instrument softly at a nice steady rhythm in such a way that the next hit comes before any decay happens and still keep the fundamental note as the loudest even if that requires going down in volume. This may require up to 20 or 30 small hits during the 5 seconds. It is NOT impossible to do. There was one team with a tubulum type PVC organ that was able to achieve a more steady pitch even with multiple attacks from the sandal that they used. With that tubulum, there were no harmonics or zero pitch during each continuous holding of the note. There was also a team with a beautiful cello that was able to achieve a steady pitch by moving the bow back and forth in a steady way (with some minor dominant overtones, though). If it is a guitar or a harp, they need to get good at vibrating their fingers back and forth on that string to not let it decay or use a credit card as a pick in a more efficient manner, or use multiple fingers. As for wind instruments, well that's a little easier to maintain the pitch but they need to have enough air from the lungs during those 5 seconds and make sure not to go any harmonics or overtones louder than the fundamental and not pause to breathe air during those 5 seconds of play.
WHICH NOTE TO START…
The teams are required to tell me which note of the scale they are going to start and if they will be ascending or descending. The problem is that sometimes when I asked for the starting note they say something like "F"... ..and I immediately follow with "F-what? F2? F3? F4?" and they would reply with "I don't know. It’s note F" I can't be telling them on which octave they will start. It is THEIR instrument. So these students had to just pick a starting note and stick with it even if ALL of the notes are bad. So if they say F4, ascending but the instrument was really starting on F3, they also got ZERO no matter how perfect they were to the target frequencies of F3 to F4. So the students NEED TO KNOW THEIR NOTES and their scales!!!
NOTES OUT OF RANGE…
The rules say that all 8 notes need to be between F2 and F5 (including F2 and F5). I had teams that told me that their starting note is G5 or A5 ascending... That means that ALL of their notes fall out of the competition range and they also get a ZERO. I had these students who made really cool xylophone with wrenches but all notes were way higher than the competition range! So they also get a ZERO. I let them play, and I record everything, but the spreadsheet will still give them a zero. Actually the spreadsheet won't even allow me to put notes higher than a certain frequency. There was a team who did a nice flute and her average pitch was somewhat consistent but she started on Ab4 which meant that the last two notes of the scale: G5 and Ab5 where larger than F5 so the last two notes got a zero point automatically in the spreadsheet losing the points for those two notes. So make sure ALL of your notes fall within F2 and F5 inclusive.
The log!!! The teams are required to submit a log that lists materials, has pictures, data points, and other requirements. (see Rules). The log is worth a total of 10 points. The team that achieved a 3rd place did nice on the average pitches and did REALLY good on the exam. But he DIDN'T bring the log. So he got zero out of ten points for that. Had he brought a perfect log, he would have taken over the first place. I asked EVERY team for the log. And some of them said: "What log?" including the 3rd place. The log is an easy 10 points! Neatness is not in the score. Some teams brought me logs that were hand written in a piece of paper. As long as it has the required info in a proper way, I awarded them the points. BRING THE LOG!! Don’t leave out those easy 10 points.
INSTRUMENT FIT AND FINISH
I saw a handful of beautifully made instruments. BUT craftsmanship; robust construction; beauty etc.. is NOWHERE in the score. So how beautiful they are is irrelevant. They just need to have the best average pitch to the note. I praised the teams that brought beautiful instruments but no extra points for that.
ONE INSTRUMENT NOT 8 INSTRUMENTS
If your instrument has multiple parts, make sure you can put them all together as one. If not, they would in theory count as multiple instruments. If you are bringing wine glasses, for example, make something to put them on. Whether it is a small table (that fits into the 60x60x100) as part of the instrument, or even a cardboard where you put all of the glasses on top of it and just secure the bases of the wine glasses with duct tape to the cardboard or to the small table. Whatever it takes to make it into “one instrument” and not 8 instruments. While I wasn’t too harsh on this and let them have 8 separate wine glasses without a construction violation, other event supervisors might not be as easy with the construction violations as I was. So make sure it is ONE INSTRUMENT even if it is held with duct tape.