Wednesday, August 12, 2015

FBSMC7, Video 5, Approaching Truth

This video is to further help open up the blog post from August 11th, 2015 titled Special for Teachers, "Truth and Approaches To It." This is not an easy subject and as teachers we need to deal with it, or we should be dealing with it. The point of the post and video is to bring up the importance of the approach  in telling someone the truth about their playing with having some sensitivity about it. The bigger thought behind all of this is "what is truth and do we want it?"

Video 5 Approaching Truth

Monday, August 10, 2015


When we take a lesson with someone we want them to tell us the 'truth' about our playing and what we need to work on to improve. The problem can come when the teacher is harsh or not sensitive in who they are dealing with. It has been my experience over 47 years of working in the private lesson situation that people by majority respond better when the area they need improvement on is put across with care and humanity. Is this 'sugar coating' the truth? Not to me it isn't, especially if you are considering the age of the person and the intensity of their declared pursuit.

Working with people who are not totally committed in wanting to pursue music for their career do not need to have it said to them "you sound awful." The teacher, if wanting to have a relationship with the student in a musical way, should attempt to find a 'doorway' in the person that can lead them to inspiration and insight. The student, for example, might love sports. In this case you can make lots of references and find connections to their playing with sports analogies that can help them make the link to music and playing their instrument. This approach can also help with students who are very serious in wanting to make a career in music too. Instead of necessarily saying "you sound awful" (which in a lot of circumstances is a short- cut statement and does not get to the root of the problem), the teacher could ask "what were you thinking about when you played that?" Or, "how were you feeling when you played that?" That will reveal much more and cut to the chase much quicker. If it is a case where a student  repeatedly over several lessons is not sounding well and if it is clear the cause is lack of enough practicing, this needs to be addressed directly. Some teachers might just kick someone out of the room for wasting their time. For me, I will usually sit the student down and ask, "what's going on, are you alright? I have noticed a trend over the last few weeks."

Truth is a HUGE subject and not everyone sees it the same. What is a nice sound to one person could be too heavy and 'dark' to another. So how can we help someone find their 'true' sound? Is there such a thing? Perhaps the question in this case should be: does it sound natural? Now here is a truth for me: I have discovered that we all have biases and this can get in the way of accepting variety or variations in sound style, articulation or musicianship and yes, even in pitch and rhythm.

Let's look at this in this format:

Obvious Truth                  Not So Obvious Truth

All need air to play          The usage of it is not the same for all

All need energy to play    The origin of the energy is not the same for all    
All have a reason to play    The reason is not the same for all

One can certainly add to this list if one would like to. It is a good exercise because it will get a teacher more in tune with the importance of looking for deeper truths and reasons which will aid in finding an approach that will work for a particular student. It will also make the interested teacher aware of his or her biases and how they affect their teaching.

Once you find the reason why someone plays, it can change your whole approach to them.

Here is a ponder:
There are major truths and minor truths. Causes and symptoms. Both are truths but one is more major and is the cause of the other. Go for the root cause. But be mindful in your approach. Most people cannot accept the whole truth at once. Truth is a powerful sword and can cause damage if not approached with care, patience and understanding. Humanity is the key.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

FBSMC7, Video 4, Contemplation on Integrated Life Art

This video is part of getting into the deep end of things. I suggest, if you are interested, to listen to it 'lightly' without at first trying too hard to 'get it'. Let it come in gently. Something might catch you and you might want to listen again. The writing that precedes it can be approached the same way. At first it might not seem to make sense but it is there and the more you connect the dots, which most likely will not happen overnight, it will hopefully open up some interesting and revealing truths about music as a living thing. Go with the flow…..

Contemplation on Integrated Life Art

In thinking about old, new and current, the word current sticks out to me. Current in the context of old and new can mean, what is presently the case or state of affairs now. 
current (present)-now

What is the now? Is there any influence of the past in the now? Most likely that would be easier to trace than any influence of the future in the now. Can we detect future? Well, we can look at trends and see where things could be headed right? People can make a lot of money by being good at sizing up the economic trends and making decisions about their investments. Well, do we as humans (and musicians of course), see the trends and try to make decisions about our lives and/or careers based on what seems to be a trend? I think so! You can see the cases in history where people made very important life-saving decisions based on trends and predicting where these trends were going. This is happening in various ways as musicians feel the 'winds of change' in certain ways with what were 'traditional' musical careers in an orchestra, freelancing, and teaching. Many schools have programs to help musicians have a chance at creating their own career in music. It is important to note that people have been doing this for a long time but it is getting more now, especially with the numbers of people taking auditions and/or being at an advanced level of playing so the competition is greater now for certain jobs. 

The state of now is actually not stagnant. It is a current that moves with the multi-inter-connected-rhythms of everything within everything, with different forces having greater power and others forces being in the background whilst others are latent but not totally inactive and still having an influence and other forces being inactive waiting to be  activated if conditions were to change making it more favorable for them to activate. 

It is also held that the the past would be known and the present would be known even though there is an element of the known unknown, the future being unknown mostly but also made up of known unknown aspects as well. (For example, we know tomorrow (future) will come (known) but we do not totally know how it will unfold, (known unknown).  

All of this can be seen in a musical example. If we are playing a familiar piece (known), we can't always predict how it will go (known unknown). If we are playing a piece, isn't that a great example of past, present, future all happening as one? Because as soon as you start to play, present  becomes past, then present quickly becomes future leaving a trail of the past! Hold out a long tone and focus on the now. If you are playing this long tone to a metronome, then it will be really easy to measure past, present, future and the beginning, middle and end of the note but the metronome is clicking beats that move from current to future leaving them all in the past! This is life. It is happening all of the time. Maybe there is a lot of significance to the phrase, go with the flow. Or better said, Go with the flow when connected to the essence

Do we need to know all that? No of course not. But the marvel of the universe, life itself, is in everything that we do. When we are really connected to the music we are playing there is a oneness where we feel the beginning, middle and end or past, present and future as one thing. We are in it, unaware of small scale time, but at the same time we are in the movement of the spirit of the piece where we ourselves are a player. This happens when the connection is strong enough to get our ego be out of the way. Then we and the music are one. No divisions really exist at that point. It is a current, a flowing continuum of oneness.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

FBSMC7, Video 3, "What is Musical?"

Here is video 3 for FBSMC7. This could be one of several very deep videos for those who truly want to explore what is music and what is music making. It is a living process that goes far beyond set systems of making a nice 'architectural' phrase. So I encourage those who are interested in finding out what music is to them and how they can have a fuller and deeper relationship with it to listen with an open mind and take down some notes only after you listen to it. Then listen to it again at some point and take down another set of notes. Ready, set, listen…

What is Musical?

Friday, July 17, 2015

FBSMC7, Summertime Practice Extra

Hopefully the Summertime Practice videos are offering some ideas of ways to approach not just Summertime practice but practice time when you don't have a lot of other commitments. When we are on vacation or are freer from lots of playing in our schedule, we can experiment more because we don't have to worry if our lip is in the best shape for a particular event. This gives us some room to dive into things in our own timing. Most playing careers can have a rigorous schedule of rehearsals and concerts which condition us a certain way to be at the ready for the task at hand. This is an excellent training in itself but it doesn't always offer the space to really 'stir' things up or for example try new equipment or refine or reshape aspects of our embouchure. Another good example is endurance practice. This area needs us to be economical with the use of our time. It is vital in professional, audition and recital situations.

Here is an interesting story of a trombonist at one of the schools I teach at. He emailed me and told me of a situation he was having with a note he was having trouble with staying stable. This talented player does not study with me but has had me as a coach and conductor for several years. When everything else he tried was not working to get this note where he wanted it, he asked himself "What would Mr. Bolter do?"   I was very touched when I heard that because I used to ask myself similar questions when I was younger about great teachers and players I knew of and worked with. That question would connect me to some aspect of them and things would get better if I kept at it. This person knew enough about some of my approaches that he discovered something after being in a real discovery process with the question and he kept fine tuning his efforts and it paid off. The Summertime seemed to offer an opening for him to take that time and trust the process enough to keep going with it for as long as it took to get the results he wanted.

So! Enjoy your time! There is much truth in the phrase "make hay while the sun shines."

Monday, July 13, 2015

FBSMC7, Summertime practice!

Welcome to Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 7! Posted here are the first two videos. The first is called Summertime Practice and the other one is called More Summertime Practice. Hope it offers some food for your thoughts and practice time!  

Summertime Practice

More Summertime Practice