Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Two Types of People

Here's a favorite saying. I use it often...

There are two types of people..

Those who pursue success
Those who avoid failure.

Monday, August 28, 2006


After a summer of being able to blissfully ignore my "to-do" list, classes have begun and the maelstrom of details and deadlines has started.

Alas, we have come to rely on our electronic.computer.software.helpers to accomplish our deeds.

Lately it seems some of my helpers are out to get me...

  • I'm about to post my syllabus on the website when Adobe Acrobat (which has worked faithfully for years) suddenly locks up my computer.
  • iCal dropped a bunch of of recital hall reservations creating double bookings
  • MS Word crashes about once each work session (I've learned to hit Ctrl-S after about every sentence)
  • I get 20 - 30 spams a day (Boy, no matter how many times I give them my my social security number they still say my credit union account needs updating).
  • Just as I'm about to really get something done on the computer, Windows announces everything must stop for an update, (or McAfee).
  • When I plug in my iPod for an update it takes about 5 minutes for iTunes to open and begin the update
  • Even my login to blogger.com got messed up for a while.
It amazes me how much time is spent just trying to help our "helpers" to help us.

And thus, I have a new term:

Unproductive Because Of Technology

(a.k.a. "Where did that last hour go???")

I do have some "star" programs that have chugged away reliably and thus deserve credit:

The PBOT list:
  • Finale 2006. Just got it and love it. Never crashes.
  • Dreamweaver MX. I use it for BoneZone. Fantastic. So good I can't see why I need to ever update the software.
  • Eudora. Trusty, simple, it does the gig although I don't venture into spam filtering (yet).
  • Palm Desktop. Synchs beautifully with the Palm Pilot. The desktop app. is missing some features I'd love to see but, hey, it works day in day out. However, thumbs down to the "Documents to Go" app that synchs MS Word docs with the PDA.
  • CGoban (from Java). My addiction is playing the game of GO online. The applet from the Kiseido Go Server is a faithful friend. http://kgs.kiseido.com/
Hmm, look at that list. Anything from Microsoft? Nope.

Not really a trombone posting but, regardless of our specialty, we all increasingly rely on these machines to achieve our goals.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

And Away WE Go!

Happy New Year!

No, it's not January but in the academic world everything is beginning so this may as well be the new year.

I've caught grief from some of my students for not keeping active with this blog over the summer. Sorry. Summer is a time not only to recharge my batteries a bit but to work on those projects that end up gobbling up a lot of time.

The two big projects: continuing to transcribe and edit my own collection of selected etudes ( currently 200 - 300 pages of material), and working on another book, Pattern Building, to accompany my book of Lip Slurs.

Ultimately I plan for these books to be a 3-part (or possibly 4-part) collection of books. Here's the plan:

Underlying everything are the fundamentals (Bone Basics): warm-up patterns, simple tunes, basic articulation exercises, maybe some specialized exercises (like building the high register).
These are exercises which are not progressive. They will be basic "bread and butter" stuff. Many sketches for this book are already done.

The Lip Slurs are pretty much self-explanatory. I'm mostly happy with the book and other people seem to like them. If you're curious, here's a link.

Pattern Building is the latest (and hopefully the final) incarnation in my search for a way to teach scales and arpeggios (Ouch, so many previous tries that just haven't worked). Yes, I know a lot these kinds books are already available but I haven't seen anything that really does what I'm looking for. This book is basically the mixture of scale/arp patterns and rhythm patterns. Any given section of the book, for example, presents a melodic pattern (scale or arp based) to be played from memory in all keys and a collection of related rhythms (almost like flashcards). What follows are 24 "mini etudes," most 8-12 measures long , which are connected to the given melodic and rhythmic patterns.

Why do we learn scales? Not only to develop general technique but to develop instincts that let us rapidly read/learn music. Thus, a complete scale/arp plan needs to have both memory work and reading work. Rhythm patterns aren't really different, the goal is a kind of "instant recognition" ... see the rhythm and instinctively know what it is supposed to sound like.

All this is very similar to learning to read words. One starts sounding out words and eventually moves on to instant recognition.

If the book succeeds, I hope my students will develop much stronger reading skills.

We'll see how it goes.