Now available! Here’s what the first few pages look like.

My son Jimmy (B.M., James Madison University, 2020) and I collaborated on this book of etudes, an educational resource adaptable for any learning environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re able to bring students together in small or large groups or limited to an entirely virtual situation, these books are a valuable resource for teaching musicianship, fostering creativity, and encouraging personal expression.

Books are available for the following instruments:

  • Flute or Piccolo
  • Oboe or Mallet Percussion
  • Bassoon
  • Clarinet or Bass Clarinet in B-flat
  • Alto or Baritone Saxophone in E-flat
  • Tenor or Soprano Saxophone in B-flat
  • Trumpet or Euphonium treble clef
  • Horn in F
  • Trombone or Euphonium bass clef
  • Tuba
  • …and a Teachers Edition with a score of all books

Each book has 51 etudes, ranging between about 12 and 40 measures each, that deliberately omit tempos, dynamics, articulations, phrase markings, and other expressive elements. All of those are left up to the individual player. The last seven are rounds and, with some creativity and collaboration, may be adapted for performances. All etudes are written in the same concert key, so any one of them may played with any other instrument. (Some etudes have octave displacements to accommodate instrument ranges.)

Here is a sample page from the rounds.

Difficulty level for this first volume is for high school-level, maybe some quite advanced middle schoolers. We received positive feedback on our idea from the Creative Repertoire Initiative, so we expect to write a second volume focused on beginning to intermediate musicians.

Our intent is to give players as much freedom as possible to interpret our melodies. Many of these pieces imply traditional harmonic progressions and phrasing, or tend to favor slow or fast tempos. Others are much more open to wide interpretation. In any case, we highly encourage students to take the “bare bones” we provide and make the music their own!

Why we think these will be helpful:

  • They keep students musically engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are usable even if you can’t bring small groups together.
  • They encourage thoughtful and expressive music making that can be developed and shared under less-than-ideal circumstances.
  • They’re easily adaptable for traditional or hybrid learning environments.
  • They encourage peer-review exercises and collaboration. They invite students to offer constructive criticism in encouraging ways and require them to defend their artistic decisions. Teachers may then assess both performers and reviewers.
  • They are a mix of improvisation and composition.
  • For students who find composing a piece from scratch too daunting, Creatudes provide a melodic headstart but give students maximum freedom to manipulate the other expressive elements of music. We hope students who enjoy molding the Creatudes into their own creations will dive deeper and compose their own musical lines.
  • They encourage students to have fun making music!

Suggestions for use:

  • Students may choose etudes that they find interesting and want to tinker with.
  • Students may sightread etudes with complete freedom, performing the music in an improvisatory way. Alternatively, they may take hours or days to thoughtfully and methodically work through them.
  • Feel free to mark up the music with dynamics, articulations, tempo markings, etc.
  • Ensure students do not “compare notes” with others who have selected the same etude to prevent them from influencing someone else’s musical decisions. Only after some time alone with an etude should students share with each other. It’s our hope that students will be surprised at how differently another musician might interpret a piece. Those differences should provide the spark for new ideas and creative solutions.
  • Challenge students to prepare and play an etude in a completely different way. For example, if the musician takes a slow tempo, see if it works at a faster one. If a student writes a crescendo, challenge them to try a diminuendo. Such changes might have second-order effects for students to work through.
  • Encourage students to take risks. Don’t accept a moderate tempo at a medium dynamic for everything. Find opportunities to go for extreme dynamics or bold articulations if they seem appropriate. There are no wrong answers!
  • After encouraging risk taking, challenge students to defend their choices. If a passage is repeated and the student plays it the same way both times, ask them to consider changing something the second time around to keep things interesting.
  • Students may choose to play a passage a certain way because of expressive reasons, but they might also make decisions based on their technical capabilities. Take advantage of these moments to encourage your students to “woodshed” in the practice room and overcome those limitations. Don’t let a little thing like finger-tongue coordination get in the way of how a piece should really be played!

Since these virtual books are different than any other pieces offered, we will handle the prices and copy permissions a little differently.

  • One book (sent via PDF with an authorization for one hardcopy): $10
  • Two books (one hardcopy authorized for each): $18
  • Three books: $25
  • Full band set (PDFs of each book plus the Teachers Edition score book and authorization to make unlimited hardcopies for a school; that’s 359 pages of PDFs with permission to make more for your group! We must be insane to offer this price!): $100

If you begin with purchasing one or more individual books and later decide to buy more, we’ll credit you what you’ve already purchased. So if you buy a sax book for $10 and think “Yes! My flautist could use this, too!” then we’ll charge you only $8 for the second book. And if you say “I want the whole set for my band” then we’ll give you credit for the $18 you already spent and charge only $82. With any purchase of any combination of Creatudes books, we will send PDFs stamped with notices that say “for the exclusive use of” the purchaser’s or school’s name. Each book is 29 pages, the Teachers Edition is 69 pages.

If interested, please contact me.

We sincerely hope that teachers and students will find this music helpful during this difficult time.