Classical crossover music is new territory for a lot of classical players. But it can be a great way to spice up your playing and teaching.
Whether you listen to pop music a lot or want to diversify your playing, give it a try. Read on to learn more about the genre.
Overview of Classical Crossover Music
Classical crossover music is exactly what it sounds like. It mixes elements of classical music with elements of modern genres, such as pop music.
The goal of crossover music is to attract audience who may only listen to one genre or the other. So a classical pop crossover artist may produce songs that classical music fans and pop music fans would love.
Playing Classical Crossover Music on the Flute
As a classically-trained flute player, I can understand why you might hesitate to play pop music. A lot of young students grow up playing Mozart, Bach, and other classical composers.
However, playing pop music can be a great way for some people to connect with the instrument. I actually didn’t play much classical music on the flute until I got to college because my high school had a rock band.
Also, even now, I find myself listening to pop much more often than classical music. If you also listen to pop, why not play it on your flute? And if you have students who prefer the genre, let them give it a try too.
How to Play Classical Crossover Music on Flute
If you want to give pop music a try, here’s how you can get started.
Learn Pop Song Melodies
One of the best ways to get started with classical crossover music is to learn the melodies to your favorite pop songs. Of course, you can buy the sheet music to get the notes and rhythms.
If you want to learn a lot of pop music, consider using MuseScore PRO+. You pay an annual fee for access to tons of official scores to pop songs. Then, you can learn as many songs as you want, and you can teach them to your students.
However, they won’t have every song on there. Because of that, I’d recommend working on your aural skills to learn by ear. Then, you can learn almost any song you want.
Choose Your Favorite Songs
Another tip I have is to choose the right songs to learn. Specifically, start with your favorite pop songs or at least songs you know well. If you’ve listened to a song over and over, it will be much easier to learn the music by ear.
You can also choose a song you don’t know that well and listen to it. A lot. After you get the melody in your head, break out your flute and try to play along.
Even if you decide to buy the sheet music, learning songs you know well will be a lot easier. You can focus less on the rhythms and play based on the feel of the beat and the melody.
Improv Over Pop Songs
You can also get more creative when playing classical crossover music. Instead of playing the given melody, try to improv along with the song. You can make up your own countermelody to the song.
Of course, improvisation can also be uncomfortable at first. But you can practice and get better at it. Then, you can improv over any song that you want.
If you don’t know where to start with improv, play scales. So if you have a song that’s in G major, start with a G major scale. You can change up the rhythm to match the rhythm of the melody, for example.
Like any new skill, you need to practice playing classical crossover music. I’d recommend playing for at least a few minutes per day. You could choose one song to learn per day or week.
Over time, playing pop music on the classical flute will get easier. Then, you may be able to pick up your flute and play along to any song, even without the sheet music.
I used MuseScore PRO+ for a while to hone my skills. Since then, I’ve learned a handful of pop melodies by ear. I still use sheet music for trickier songs, but I like having that extra skill.
Ways to Incorporate Pop Music Into Your Classical Playing
If you want to start playing classical pop crossover or simply pop music, here are a few ways you can get started.
One of my favorite ways to use pop music is as tone warmups. I especially love the chorus to the Selena Gomez song “A Sweeter Place” since it’s almost a regular downward scale.
Another great option is the vocalise section near the end of the Descendants 3 song “Night Falls.” These melodies are great for working on your tone and intonation, and you can transpose them to play higher or lower.
But really any slow song with a beautiful melody can work well. Choose songs and artists you already like. As I said before, that will make it easier to learn the music and to motivate you to play the songs.
When I was in grad school, we had a flute karaoke night as part of the Whole Musician residency. They had a book of sheet music for some pop songs with a coordinating CD.
So each of us would go up to the front and play from the book along to the instrumental accompaniment. This is a great activity, especially for a studio or another group.
But you can also have your own flute karaoke night at home. Choose some songs to play for yourself or your family. Don’t worry about mistakes; just have fun with it.
Play Pop-Inspired Works
Another great way to get started is to play “classical” music that takes some of its inspiration from popular music. For example, the Dorman Piccolo Concerto’s first movement was inspired by rock.
If you can’t find any existing works that you like, you can commission a composer or arranger to create a song for you. Then, you can incorporate the style of pop music but stay within a more comfortable classical setting.
Of course, you can also flex your creative muscles and compose or arrange your own music. Then, you can make it fit your needs, and you can play it on your next concert.
Classical crossover is becoming a more popular genre every year. While standard classical music is great, it never hurts to explore, especially if you haven’t had a chance to before.
I love pop music, and I’ve enjoyed incorporating it into my own playing recently. If you want to learn pop music, commission an arrangement, or set up a recording, let’s work together!