Saturday, March 19, 2016
As we get in older in years, it is natural for the body to change. But the body is not the only thing that changes. We have experienced more of life and those experiences alone can cause huge changes or subtle changes that affect us, the person. Greater knowledge puts us in a very different situation than before we came into that knowledge. Experiences mold us, and what we want as a life goal governs us deeply. This video 8, "Making Music Where It Is," is primarily for older brass musicians (but certainly for the open minded younger person too) and gives valuable tips on how to handle that which inevitably will come.
There is nothing wrong with getting older, even though our culture does not really embrace it and does everything under the sun to make it that if you are 65 you should still be like you're 25. Well, that denies the incredible gift that getting older is. Therefore, youth is just not physical; it is a state of mind. Plus there are many things we can do to keep ourselves physically and mentally fit well into our senior years. I believe that making music where it is, meaning to be open to adapt and find new ways, will promote the music that needs to come out of us now. Perhaps the music we need to hear that we don't' know we need to hear. The video gets into this quite deeply.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
How we think about anything shows up in our actions, in one form or another. If our attitude is, "This is a boring unimportant part," then it certainly will contain that frequency when it is played. Imagine if the majority of an orchestra thought that about pieces they'd played a lot…. Those pieces would result in uninspired performances, at the very least! In reality, there is no such thing as an unimportant part! Every note, and corresponding attitude of the musician, contributes to the whole of the musical atmosphere and vibrancy -- or lack of vibrancy for that rehearsal or concert.
The title of this video was inspired by my brass orchestral rep class. I love working with them because this example points out how our music-making is directly related to our feelings, thoughts and attitudes.
Sunday, March 6, 2016
Boy, has this topic been the 'buzz' around the trombone world for the past several months! For someone to say mouthpiece playing is bad for you, or not useful, shows they have a lopsided view of the subject and have not come to the realization that different people have different needs. It is that simple. If it works for you, great. If not, then don't do it or discover times where and when it might be useful for you. The dynamic (loud, soft, etc.), in which you play the mouthpiece, can make a big difference in your results. Mouthpiece placement is in interesting topic in itself, and some of that is talked about in the video. This video is meant to encourage people to find out what they need. It is not a 'one size fits all' situation. It is an option, not a question to be answered in a 'yes' or 'no' way. It is a tool for our physical trombone playing development. HAPPY DISCOVERING!
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Nuance and vibrato are very personal. Listening to many artists, whether vocal or instrumental, proves that right away. Now, if someone comes from a school of vibrato, you will most likely be able to hear that in those who are staunch supporters of that particular school.
In this video, I demonstrate a few different kinds of vibrato. Since the name of the video is "Nuance & Vibrato," I am trying to highlight vibrato as a kind of nuance. More to come on this topic!
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
In this video, "that little guy in the corner"(me), talks about an aspect of creative practice, the kind of practice that often times gets missed and has so much to offer. When one gets bored in their practice sessions, it means that they have lost sight of the reason and purpose for practicing. The title of this video 4, "Nuggets of Finesse," gives a simple but profound example of making the most out of our time using the basics of playing to practice finesse. It seems we all would like more and more control over what we do, but have we ever thought about approaching it from the perspective of finesse? For how can one have finesse without having the control to make the finesse happen? This is a very different mind-set process for practicing control. It flows and utilizes more of our 'human instrument."
Friday, February 19, 2016
Warming-up is not for sissies. Years ago, I was about to try some new-on-the-market trombones with a well-known brass player listening to me trying them out. I mentioned to him that I needed to warm-up for a bit before I tried out the horns and he said, "What's this warming-up stuff?" Well, that is what some people think for a number of reasons. Maybe they have a physiology that perhaps does not need to warm-up too much. That must be nice! Or they never hurt themselves playing and don't have to make sure things are in place and settled in their embouchure before they play to prevent awakening their past injury. Whatever the case may be, I need to warm-up! Period. If someone doesn't like it, who cares? I certainly don't because it is my life and this is important to me for the good working order of my trombone playing.
One time, I asked a very fine and well-known trombonist about warming-up and they said they really didn't need to. But, in the end, they said when they do warm-up, they play better. My mind thought, "Isn't that also a good reason to warm-up?" My mind also started to wonder: would this person, or others like this, not want to be in touch with the horn before playing, for example, "Bolero" or a Brahms Symphony or how about Berg "Three Pieces" or Mahler 3rd? A former student of mine, Jarred Vermett, who has been Principal Trombone of the Hong Kong Philharmonic for quite a few years now, said he played the Martin "Ballade" with the orchestra and his first notes of the day were the first notes of the solo in the concert! He said that is how he felt the freshest. My mind couldn't even imagine doing that! This is the point, know thyself. What works for one does not work for another, necessarily.
That is why I feel strongly about people who want to teach and only have one way they do things and demand that the student just do that one way, as well. The teacher is in a powerful position. Depending on how famous they are, or how known they are in their own local area, students who don't really have a grasp on themselves will seriously listen to and try to do what is 'right' by that teacher. It brings up some great questions about the student-teacher relationship. The student does need to trust and respect the teacher. The teacher also needs to have humanity and be very sensitive to when something is not working. Of course, this is after the student has given something a genuine concerted effort over a period of time. This is also a tricky point: what is a practical length of time to give something a try? Again, this responsibility might need to fall on the teacher's assessment. Sometimes, a week is enough; sometimes 6 months is not long enough. This depends on what the territory is the person is working on developing and the teacher's experience, based on their work with past pupils, and their own knowledge on the nature of the work itself.
More will be written soon! Happy contemplations!
NOTE: Video 3 is located in the previous blog post.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Warming-up is a custom job. It has to fit the individual and be altered from time to time as we change. Warming-up is not just a trombone thing. Dancers warm-up, athletes warm-up. Even people meeting each other have to warm-up to each other and not take for granted, by being too familiar and assuming they already know where the other person is at or feeling that day. Warming-up is a respectful and considerate attitude and practice and demonstrates a care to our body-mind-soul that we want to take care of it and are thankful for the service it has given us.
More companion notes will be coming for this video.