Monday, July 30, 2018

FBSMC10, The Art of the Student, Video 5 and companion notes

I was just thinking that a serious student is always looking to get better. Improvement is quite an amazing thing to be a part of and when one starts getting into it for real, they start to see and appreciate their improvement which acts as its own encouragement.

Easy to see improvements for a student is when our range gets bigger, our tonguing gets faster or our endurance lasts longer. There are so many areas to gauge improvement aren't there? The physical is easier to see and work for in certain ways. But what about the music making? How our we assessing that progress?

I talk a lot about vibrato in this video 5 and my journey with it. is vibrato needed to make music? Well, I guess it depends what style we are talking about. As it says in the video, I use about 5 different kinds on a regular basis. The "u"vibrato is created by the tongue and sounds almost like the early electronic stringed instrument called the theremin. You can hear it in the old science fiction movies, high pitched with a lot of fast vibrato. However if you go on YouTube, you will be amazed at how beautiful it can sound playing some of the great classics. For me, the theremin, perhaps because of my association with the old movies, has a very eerie and unearthly sound. So for me, vibrato would express some character of the essence of the music. 

This a big subject because many musicians have strong views about vibrato in terms of what too much is and how wide or narrow it is. The same is true for legato. There are many opinions on what is good legato but in general it seems people like smooth fast slide action between notes without any gliss. To me, this kind of legato sounds like an incredibly smooth tenuto articulation. So we then could say that lyrical does not mean a certain kind of legato or vibrato. Music is beyond those 'techniques.' They are expressive nuances that emote from that which is being expressed. 

Th personal journey is vital. The student, at any point in their development, can start to feel their own lives making their way through the music that comes out of their instrument.

Video 5 link:

Friday, July 20, 2018

FBSMC10, The Art of the Student, Video 4 with companion notes

Attention Teachers! :-) In my view, you have such an important function into human life. And with this comes a lot of responsibility. You are engaging at close range, sometimes for many years with another human being, another life that is living on this planet and looks to you for guidance. And let's face it, as teachers we are learning an absolute ton from the students we teach. So in a sense, we are at another level of student. It's just that the student isn't always aware of how much we are being student to them in the exchanges we have in our lessons. 

In this video, the infamous 'box' came up. The 'box' from the standpoint of a student was brought but what about the 'box' of the teacher? Does the teacher have the ability to draw out the deeper arts of the student? This depends on what the teacher's 'box' is made out of. For example, does this 'box' have a window? Does the teacher's automatic system, (habit of teaching with fixed ways and means), let them actually see the student-person? not just the potential as a trombone student, even though that of course is part of it. Like the student, the teacher has aptitudes and really can't be expected to act as a parent, therapist, fountainhead of inspiration, wise-person and so on at all times, let alone having the qualifications to do so. Teachers have a combination of roles that are at play in a private lesson. This is a very involved subject and it depends on the reason the teacher teaches. What is the principle motive behind the teaching? Very important to contemplate this. 

Drawing the art out of the student might not be every teachers' forte. But the great teachers I know and have worked with had a way of doing so, at least for me. Not all teachers work for all students and the other way around of course. But let me give a preliminary list of some ways and means that might help in regards to a teacher being able to draw more of the student's art out of them.

1. Acknowledge the absolute fact (as obvious as this sounds), that this is a human life you are dealing with and all that means.
2. Instead of always just showing how it 'should' be done, listen to what the student is doing and assess it from, 
a) the physical level 
b) level of determination and potency of desire
 c) is there a feeling in it and what kind or kinds of feelings? 
d) experiment with the student and work together in a process of discovery.

So much more could be said! Perhaps the other videos will touch more on this but this leads us to the teachers 'box.' This is for each teacher to look at. It can start with making a list of what you think are your best aspects as a teacher. You can even assess it using the basics of the Overlay System. Here is an example:
1st Overlay: How are you at addressing physical aspects of playing? (some people might be good with air others with embouchure or articulation.. ).
2nd Overlay: How are you at assessing the decision capabilities of a student? How much do you take into account and what is your level of patience in this process? Do you come at them with a 'club' if you get impatient with them or understanding? Do you teach everyone the same????
3rd Overlay: Can you get a sense of their purpose and if so can you adjust to an individual's need and purpose if it is different than your own?

Again this is just to get you started if you are interested. I'm sure  many of you experienced teachers have thought of this before in your own language and terminology. Hope some of this is a way to get the ball rolling. As teachers we also have to be honest with what we can and cannot do and to at least be aware of our own 'box' and the potential biases and limitations that can cloud our perceptions and abilities.

Link to video 4

FBSMC10, The Art of the Student, Video 3 and companion notes

This video has a lot of my personal journey as a student and what my methods were. Now, if some of these methods, attitudes and sentiments inspire you, try them out to discover your own. In the beginning of student life or young player life, 'watch and do' is so important and natural isn't it? This is something that can be with us our whole playing career but it obviously will change as we develop our own relationship with the instrument and music. 

As a student develops, their automatic systems (first overlay or habit life) get printed or hardwired. Certain things become more automatic leaving room for other concepts and techniques to come into play. It's like a juggler who starts with one object to juggle then two, three, four and so on. This brings up the importance of practicing things gradually. Working on different aspects of playing gradually will encourage better playing habits (first overlay), and to grow with less stress physically (first overlay), and mentally (second overlay).* 

Remember everyone has aptitudes that are more developed or less developed all existing at one time! Certain things a student will catch on to easier than others things. This is natural  and is the case for EVERYBODY. The fact of this should help the myths that can grow in students' mind, for example: "That person is a natural." That might be true, but they might not be a 'natural' in all areas of playing and music. Even the naturals still need to practice. 

Link to Video 3.

* The Overlay System has been brought up many times throughout the entire FBSMC series. There are 3 basic overlays in the Overlay System and they are:
First Overlay: Automatic Robotic Systems (physical machine life, vehicle)
Second Overlay: Skill and Choice (mental life, the driver)
Third Overlay: Integration and Art (purpose life, the destination)

This is the first basic understanding of the Overlay System. It goes very deep into the whole of human life.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

FBSMC10, The Art of the Student, Video 2, video link and companion notes

One of the Arts of the student is to take responsibility for your own development. This in fact is done with the serious student. What does it mean to be serious?  Taking responsibility for your own development. From this viewpoint and attitude, it is easy to see the importance of immediate application. 

If one is regular in practice and applies what the teacher assigns and suggests, it sets the stage for natural comparison. In this natural comparison, there starts to form a clarity when something is further away from what we are going for or getting closer to our desired goal. 

Here is the link to video 2 from The Art of the Student. Take your time with it!