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“Playing With Friends”

by John Kuzmich, Jr., Ph.D.

“Playing With Friends”

by John Kuzmich, Jr., Ph.D.
March 28, 2016

There are lots of innovative publications in today’s music education market that make learning fun and relatable. One area that always captures attention is audio play-along recordings. They’ve been lighting up practice studios since 1950, thanks to Music Minus One Corporation; and they have evolved to meet every player’s needs with impressive libraries. It is my pleasure to introduce cutting-edge instruction materials in this new Band Director.Com column with quality play-alongs that can motivate and energize students.


            For those of us fortunate to have enough bassoon players in our music programs, Festival and Contests Solos is a fine play-along to consider. Virtuoso bassoonist, David M. Pierce with Naki Sung Kripfgans on piano, provide an excellent partnership with tasteful bassoon repertoire. This album of 12 solos includes printed solo parts and two CDs, complete performance reference and piano audio accompaniments without the soloist. The clean easy-to-read manuscript includes articulation phrasing nuances, dynamics, trills and cadenzas. Key signatures are reasonable ranging from 3 flats to 2 sharps and notation is in bass clef with some tenor and treble clefs. The repertoire spans from Baroque and Classical through the Romantic era literature covering a broad spectrum of musical styles and tempos. Composers represented in this album include Wissenborn. David, Elgar, Leonardo, Gounod, Mozart among and others, and a booklet contain program notes with both historical and musical comments.

The recordings are stellar for their musicianship and motivation for aspiring bassoonists, providing a representative preview of outstanding bassoon solos for students and teachers to incorporate in their private lessons. Its grade IV difficulty level provides bassoon players with excellent material for solo & ensemble festivals and college auditions.

Considering the cost of an individual solo, this 12-solo album plus play-along CD is a bargain I am proud to recommend.             Festival and Contest Solos featuring David M. Pierce on Bassoon and Naki Sung Kripfgans on piano. Published by Music Minus One, album #4608. URL is



Perhaps the most celebrated clarinet concerto for advanced high school students is the Clarinet Concerto in A major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The three movements are each delightful, offering unique musical adventures for aspiring clarinetist to perform at solo and ensemble festivals or college honor band and college auditions. This selection includes printed solo parts in the original key for both B-flat and A clarinets and 2 CDs featuring complete and accompaniment versions published for both A and B flat clarinets. The beauty of this recording is the symphony orchestra accompaniment rather than a piano. A nice feature is the lengthy movements are broken down into several subdivided individual tracks. This noteworthy separation allows students to concentrate on particular sections in each movement.

It could ease the challenges of mastering this concerto if the student could perform the play-along recording using a specialized CD player that allows variable speed adjustments while maintaining the pitch. This feature turns a play-along recording into a customized, interactive learning experience and let’s students start slow ‘n steady gradually speeding up as they meet the solo’s technical demands. Superscope makes an excellent variable speed CD recorder/player for this purpose. The play-along of this solo is a must for all clarinet private teachers with students at the high school level and above.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart featuring Denita Lavchieva on clarinet, and the Tempi Concertati Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Nayden Todorov. Published by Music Minus One Corporation, album #3238. URL:

Music Minus One Clarinet is published by the Music Minus One Corporation with album #3204 features two stellar clarinet compositions featuring Keith Dwyer on clarinet, the Stuttgart Festival Orchestra with conductor Emil Kahn and Richard Mattson on cello and Robert Conway on piano. URL:

Concertino by Karl Maria von Weber composition is a classic play-along among aspiring clarinetists for college-level auditions, solo & ensemble festivals and honor band’s. This theme and variation concerto is a great venue of dexterity and virtuosity and performance along with a full orchestra is an impressive experience. An additional bonus is the delightful theme-and-seven-variations of the Beethoven Clarinet Trio, op. 11 for clarinet, cello and piano which is included in this album. Carl Fischer also published this concerto elsewhere with band accompaniment; excellent preparation for a performance with the high school band.



            Traditional and Contemporary Oboe Solos is an interesting play-along featuring Baroque to Contemporary solo repertoire. Exceptional program notes give detailed performance suggestions. Of all these college jury worthy solos, my favorite is the Six Metamorphoses after Ovid by Benjamin Britten in six movements. The two CDs feature complete performances and accompaniments with and without the soloist.

Soloist, John Winstead, performs particularly attractive, lyrical melodies with beautiful tone colors and imaginative interpretations. The performances are well conceived to artistically challenge the young oboist with unique tone color voicings on the oboe and musical emotion. Listening to the CD is entertaining.

Music Minus One offers no less than sixteen other play-along oboe albums covering a repertoire from Renaissance to Baroque including Telemann, Handel, Vivaldi, Bach, Pepusch, and Quantz plus contemporary music by other prominent composers.

Traditional and Contemporary Oboe Solos features John Winstead on oboe. Published by Music Minus One Corporation, album #3414. URL:


Looking for play-along flute duets? The Gary Schocker Flute Duets with Piano is a very attractive publication that includes four CD’s plus slower tempo practice versions. These grade level IV land V compositions are musical adventures 12 contrasting movements. Each up-tempo duet tracks also has a separate track slowed 20%. This allows performers to learn the fast-tempo sections at a comfortable, reduced speed for better technique mastery. An helpful feature is the set of taps before the music begins to help the performers enter at the right tempo. For more efficient practice, there are strategic chapter breaks on each CD conveniently located throughout the piece, and cross-referenced in the score. These visually appealing practice options are noted below in the table of contents.

The concept of duet play-alongs is novel giving one or two flutists more creative experience. The second part is not necessarily easier and offers twice the study for an aspiring performer. These delightful duets works are motivating and enjoyable to study and perform.

Gary Schocker Flute Duets with Piano featuring Gary Schocker on 1st flute and Keith Underwood on 2nd flute and Hugh Sung on piano. Published by Music Minus One Corporation, album # 8391. URL: