Sunday, February 28, 2016

"From That Little Guy in the Corner", Video 5:
Nuance & Vibrato

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

"From That Little Guy in the Corner," video 4
Nuggets of Finesse

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

"From That Little Guy in the Corner"
Companion Post for Video 3

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

"From That Little Guy in the Corner,"
Video 3: Warming-up

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. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Companion post for "From That
Little Guy in the Corner," Video 2

When you go to a country side, a shoreline, a mountain range, a forest or your own backyard, one can see and feel there is a difference in that which is man-made and that which is not. Now, a human being can create marvelous things, things that have a purpose. Nature does not make anything without a purpose. when you are out in the woods or the ocean beaches, or other parts of the natural worlds, can you hear-feel their music? There is pitch, rhythm and timbres flowing continuously. And the melodies and harmonies they create outside and inside ourselves...

Think of how the birds sing. Their singing is for a reason and expresses the land in which they live on. Different birds have different songs just like the composers who don't write all the same music. In various parts of the world the birds, trees, animal life, soil, insects were born on that land and function according to the nature of that geography and climate. So the music that comes from all over the world has variety and flavors reflecting and expressing the land and culture of the people at any particular time.

So! What about these particular times? Are they fashions or periods of time that have their own uniqueness locally and globally? We have named periods of time haven't we? Renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic etc. are some examples people have named as distinct periods not only for music but for architecture, painting and fashion too. So we have all these eras of time and change. Time is change but what are the things that don't change? 
For sonic music, you will always need rhythm, pitch and timbre in one form or another. For anything in art, architecture and fashion you will need a medium to work through. It would be interesting to see if the song of the bluejay has changed in the past 200 hundred years as much as the various periods in music have. I doubt it, but I'm sure there could be some change because of how the environment has changed. 

In the context of human art, the human is instrument and what comes out of the human in terms of music, poetry, dance, painting, architecture, fashion and so on, reflects and expresses the times we live in. But the question is, WHAT CAUSES THE MOVEMENT OF CHANGING TIMES? Is it just man made? Perhaps it is the movement of creation expressing itself through humans as best as it can given the development of the human at any given point in time? As a great mentor of mine said to me, "what is the music the human needs to hear, that it doesn't know it needs to hear?"

NOTE: Video 2 is located in the pervious post

Monday, February 15, 2016

New Video Series:
"From That Little Guy in the Corner"

Welcome to my new video series "From That Little Guy in the Corner." I hope those who are interested will enjoy and be moved deeper in their art -- whether you are practicing, teaching or on a stage performing.

Posted here are the first two videos. The first video is an introduction to the series and the second tells the story about how the name of the series came about, and from there it went everywhere!