Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Alessi Seminar Notes, Day 3 (part 2) ... Attack and Response

Please note:

These entries from the Alessi Seminar are not a literal transcript. I took written notes and then typed them up. I have made every effort to be accurate but, as you might expect, each blog entry is a meager substitute for actually being there.

Remember that many of the things Mr. Alessi says in these masterclasses are in the context of addressing the needs of a particular student and should not be seen as universal mandates to be mindlessly followed.

If you are serious about pursuing musical excellence on the trombone, there is no substitute for actually attending one of Mr. Alessi's seminars. You'll be glad you did.


Tuesday evening was another masterclass. The performers:

Nathan Dishman - Stojowski Fantasie

Sam Schlosser - Tomasi Concerto

me - Arrows of Time, Mvt 1 (and the beginning of mvt. 2)

Quartet (Sprott, Perrier, Rodriguez, Lantzy) - Ewazen Myths and Legends

Orchestra Section - Strauss Alpine Symphony and Bruckner 8


Since this was my turn to perform, I missed Sam's Tomasi.

Here are some comments:

  • You have to maintain a core to your sound as you decrescendo.
  • It is good to buzz in front of a mirror with a visualizer rim.

During one of the participant's sessions, Joe went into some very detailed embouchure analysis. I think it best not to include comments here because they were specific to the needs of this individual

These next comments were concerning my performance of Arrows. He had some nice things to say but, of course, his best gift to me was to dive right into some of my bad habits and point them out. This was great for me because I had been unaware of the some of these habits.

Here were some of his comments (as best I can remember them)

  • Point straight out into the hall. You don't need to make eye contact with the pianist. They can see you and will follow you.
  • In trying to be musical, don't flare individual notes. Think of the bigger phrase, the larger "architecture of the phrase."
  • The pedal D at the end of the first movement might not be such a great idea. It' better to just play the trigger D in the written octave.
  • If you're playing with a great sound, stay within that sound. Don't get outside of that good sound.
  • "You're like Popeye, you don't know your own strength" Don't play like a bull in a china shop.
  • Even at the peak of the phrase, always keep a singing sound. Don't let it get too intense.

He also had some very nice things to say but I don't think it's appropriate to go repeating that stuff here.

Moving on...

  • He observed that the trombone quartet can be a vehicle to help your playing because you have to listen.
  • He has mentioned many times throughout the seminar how much he loves playing in trombone quartet...one of his favorite things. He strongly emphasized the importance of getting your students to play in quartets.
  • In tuning the orchestra section, he advocates this procedure :

Tuba with bass trombone

Tuba with second trombone

Tuba with first trombone

(or similar if there are four bones in the section)

  • When playing slow chorales, clearly subdivide in your mind.
  • If you go to an audition and you're asked to lead the section, don't over-conduct.
  • "When you play soft, try to relax. The worst thing you can do is to tense up."
  • To improve rhythm, he is a big fan of a technique known as "attack and response"
  • He told a story about how, during juries, Warren Deck's tuba students always played with such impeccable rhythm. He asked Warren how they did this and Warren described this technique.
    Basically, he demonstrated by singing different passages and, during any sustained notes, snapping his fingers exactly in the time of the subdivision.
    He described those sustained notes as "dead spots" during which rhythmic accuracy can falter. By snapping the fingers, you maintain a clear sense of pulse and subdivision.


That's all for now.

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