Friday, October 31, 2008

...New Route!

Practicing is a musician's time to make what they have been taught their own--to build a relationship with a technique, method or piece of music.

One of the essential ingredients in practicing is repetition. Where too much repetition becomes a problem is at the point of repeating something without assessing it, and finding and putting into play the necessary components to improve it. Without this kind of reflective approach, the repetition becomes redundant and soon can turn into a rut, which is not a useful kind of repetition, often referred to as "spinning your wheels."


To get out of a rut, find a new route.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thought for the Day

Accuracy in certain realms...

... cannot be measured with a ruler.
... cannot be measured by missed notes.
... cannot be measured with a tuner.
... cannot be measured with a metronome.
... cannot be measured in two dimensions.

Monday, October 13, 2008

No Dead Notes!

When you are really involved in the music, of any piece you are playing, there is no room for "dead notes." Dead notes are ones that are not musically connected.

When, for example, a conductor says, "Get out of the way; that part is not important," the player, in my mind, needs to be careful about fostering an attitude that says, "Lay back and just stay out of the way." This is not a musical approach!

A visual example of what I'm saying might be: If you are in a car or on a train trip and there, in the background, are some beautiful mountains. The are not part of the main road or train tracks, or even part of the close up scenery, but the mountains, in all their glory, are still a part of the scene--they are just in the distance. Imagine if someone took a grey blanket and thew it over them, or, someone Photoshopped them "out of the way."

That approach ignores that the mountains are a valid, and living, part of the scene. But they are; they are still mountains, even at a distance! They are still 'ALIVE'!

When there is a part in your music (let's say in an orchestral piece) that, obviously, is not the main theme, it still can be played with significance, because it is part of the living fabric of the sonic texture and musical atmosphere and environment. Can you imagine a fine chamber music group not treating each note with importance and contextual support?

Whatever part you have, make sure you play it with connection to the music and be at full with it, no matter what it is. It does make a difference!

In My Opinion...
Master Class Etiquette, At Home and Abroad

When giving a master class or private lesson to people who are not your regular students, I feel it is very important to not do or say anything that might come across as disrespectful to those students' teachers and/or their work with those students.

Also, I have heard many stories from students going to workshops and seminars in other countries outside their own country. This may seem farther afield, but I think the principle still applies. In this case, I still feel it is important to have a sense of respect for the other various ways and styles of playing other than one's own.

For example, if I am giving a master class in a place where the teaching style and the equipment used are different to my own, I don't suggest that someone should get a new horn or say to them, "Get rid of that instrument because it is junk and the the tone is terrible!" like I have heard some people say in their master classes.

There is not one way to play nor one instrument to play. This, I think, is the kind of attitude that breeds a frozen, one-dimensinal viewpoint that does not breathe or let in new light. Why can we not embrace the differences as all a part of the marvelous spectrum that life and art is? If we were all meant to be exactly the same, then why weren't we all born in the same country, all with exactly the same genetics?

I also do not think it is right, in most cases, to change someone's embouchure at a summer festival if you are not, as a teacher, going to be around to see it through. It is one thing to make suggestions but to insist on a dramatic physical or style change, in a short period of time, actually could be very harmful for some people.

To give some advice and offer some ideas, in the musical or playing realms, that add to the person's musical development is one thing. To degrade and insist that there is only one instrument and one way to play and/or only one interpretation of a piece of music and to attempt to impose significant changes on a student with whom you do not regularly work, is insensitive, arrogant and unrealistic--in my opinion.