Friday, November 30, 2007

Why is this so hard?

Here's a simple little tuning exercise that's not as easy as it looks...

Some players, once they own that trigger, begin to believe that all positions beyond 4th are alien territory. Thus a simple gliss to 6th seems to give trouble.

After finding 6th, you would think it a simple matter to gliss back to 5th accurately. Nope!

I think there are several reasons for this..
1. When we do our beloved Remington long tones, we are always measuring out from 1st position. Accurately "measuring out" is something we do a lot, but "measuring in" is something we don't practice. Maybe we should do that famous Remington pattern inverted.

2. (disclaimer, this is pretty speculative, I may have it wrong)
Beyond 4th position, the elbow begins to have to extend beyond a right angle and seems to be less accurate.

Anyway, try those glisses out with a tuner (look first, then listen), see what you think.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

U.S. Senator left trombone to get chicks

Here's a segment from a recent article posted on the Washington Post website...

Even Julia Roberts Didn't Love Him Like That

By Dana Milbank

Wednesday, November 14, 2007; Page A02

Fresh from his appearance Monday night at the Birchmere, Lyle Lovett had a gig at the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday -- and the stage proved uncomfortably crowded with performers.

The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, movie actor and ex-husband of Julia Roberts had come to testify about music copyrights. But the lawmakers, in the presence of a captive celebrity audience, turned the hearing room into an amateur talent show. "My parents forced upon me trombone lessons," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) informed the country music star. "I learned how to play the guitar," he added, because "the opposite sex was not attracted to trombone."


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Letting Bruckner Bark

Here's an entry from today's trombone master class.

We did an orchestral excerpt class focusing on the finale to Bruckner's 8th symphony.
Here's that opening passage:

Everybody starts fortissimo on an F-sharp out there in that treacherous 5th position.

Perhaps you've heard that, if it is in tune, a note will sound louder.

Why? How?

Sound waves can either reinforce each other or cancel each other out..

Here's a picture of two waves that are slightly out-of-sync.
Of course, if they were out of tune, you would see the peaks of one wave closer together than the other so this picture isn't perfect but hopefully you get the idea.

Here's the thing: when out of phase, the waves partially cancel each other out. Here's a great link explaining this concept.

In fact, I once saw a dog wearing collar that used active noise cancellation to cancel out the bark.
Something like this:

So, if I understand it, the collar has a microphone that records the bark and a speaker that plays it back out of phase, canceling the original sound.

Of course, we don't want to use noise cancellation in Bruckner!

Play it in tune and it will not only sound louder, it actually will be louder.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

13 Good Minutes

On my website you can find drone tone files.
12 files, each 65 seconds, droning on pure perfect fifths

(3:2 ratio, top note raised 2 cents, all that jazz)

Played back to back, the files last 13 minutes.

Put them on your ipod and spend those 13 minutes playing along with the drones, making things up as you go. Long tones, melodies, lip slurs. Just play beautifully and listen carefully.

Here's a link to the drones..

Here's a link to a summary of pitch adjustments needed for certain intervals.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The E-flat "Re-education camp" (Gulag)?

Oh that pesky E-flat.

sharp, sharp, sharp.

Play it sharp often enough and it starts to sound right.

How could that tuner be right? It sounds so wrong!

Maybe we should spend some time playing it flat on purpose.

Actually, I've heard of a trumpet teacher who made his freshman play F (on a B-flat trumpet) using it 1st and 3rd valves. This would be like playing the E-flat in regular 6th position...nice and flat.

After a semester of this, perhaps the ear is retrained?

Maybe trombonists need to spend a similar period of time in an E-flat "gulag," or "re-education camp" playing the note flat to retrain the ear.

Perhaps as the camp commandant reviews the trombone prisoners during their "re-education" they could play the "Ruffles and Flourishes" fanfare with the E-flats getting lower and lower.

Like this


Friday, October 26, 2007

Flaming Tuba video

Not something you see everyday.

Video of a flaming tuba.

(insert pun here)

Played by the director of the Simpsons no less.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Music Ed. majors...*Don't* beware the shadow!

Have you heard that term "job shadowing?"

If you are a music ed. major reading this, I suggest that you not wait until your student teaching semester to find out what it's like in the real world.

Look this should be simple: figure out which band programs are successful. Contact the band director and ask if you can come out for a day to observe. Promise you won't get underfoot. Be willing to help if they want you to.

In other words...

if you're planning to do something for a living, go out and watch somebody who is good at it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A question of angle

Here's one from the "crazy idea" department.

For posture: stand tall and bring the horn to you.

For most people, this will result in the horn angling down a bit.

Ahhh, marching band season when so many are told to angle 10 degrees above horizontal (or something like that).

How to resolve this problem?

No perfect solution but I guess bending at the waist is the least bad.

This raises a question that seemed dumb at first but......

Why is the bell angled the way it is? What if the bell angled up a bit.

I'm not talking a "Dizzy Gillespie" angle..

But still, what if the bell angled up a bit? How dumb is this idea?

For that matter, what if the slide angled slightly to the right? Wouldn't that make the longer positions easier to reach?

Worth considering, I think.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Spooky Post: Avoid the Black Holes

Help me! Help me! I'm being sucked innnnnnnn........

Why do so many people tend to rush something like this?

I think it's all those rests.
Especially at a slower tempo, it's almost painful to wait through those rests and not rush on to the next note.

Those rests are like little black holes, trying to suck in the notes around them,

distorting the entire space time continuum!!!

Well, at least causing players to rush ..

(which is almost as bad)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Concerts Coming up in Columbia

Earlier than usual this year.
Here's a link to the program.

Thanks to one of my students, who made a nice poster!

Also, two recital coming up the next two Sundays..
Ryan Tinker, Senior Recital
Oct. 21st, 3pm
Alex Manley, trombone
Winifred Goodwin, piano
David Lowry, organ
Three Songs... Johannes Brahms
Es Rauschet Das Wasser, Op. 28 (1833-1897)
Weg Der Liebe, Op. 20
So Lass uns Wandern, Op. 75
The Patriot ... Arthur Pryor
Domine, Dona Nobis Pacem... Frigyes Hidas

Jazz Miniatures... Dick Goodwin

Russ Zokaites, Senior Recital (bass trombone)
Oct. 28th, 3pm
Alyssa Burnette, piano
The Climax Brass Quintet
Brass Band conducted by Emily Jones
Sonata Breve...Walter Hartley
from Sonata for Bass Trombone David Gillingham
II. Lento mysterioso
Rainy Day in Rio...Geoff Richards
Variations on Barnacle Bill the Sailor... Steven Frank, Arr. By Garrett Mendez

Also, the Carolina Trombone Collective will be performing at Lake Murray Pres. on Oct 28th.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spooky Post:: Beware the Sawtooth Progression Chart

No, this is not a reference to any of the charming "Saw" movies, none of which I have seen or plan to see.

This is referring to a scary phenomenon I have seen in teaching...
(cue happy music)

In the "happy" lessons we make good progress so that, at the end, the student is playing better than when they walked in.
OK, that part's obvious
Then they head on out for a week in the practice room and, sometimes, return the next week with the old habits back in place.
(cue scary music, knife slasher stuff, you know)

It's almost as if that last lesson never happened!

Their "progress chart" might end up looking like this:

Beware the Sawtooth Progression Chart!

(mu ha ha ha ha ?)

You know, I used to have this great "dripping blood" font...oh well

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pointing in Time

Here's a quote attributed to Marcus Aurelius,
"All we have is now"

In other words, live in the moment. All we really have is "5 ahead and 5 behind"....
5 seconds into the future and 5 into the past.

Not only is this good advice for life, it is good for rhythm.

I sometimes believe undisciplined eyes are a culprit with rhythm. As we look at music, the eyes don't get a "rhythmic lock" on the rhythms.

Try this: using a sharp pointer (a mechanical pencil with the point retracted is good for this), lightly tap the music exactly in time with the beat. Each tap should land exactly over the point in the music where the beat falls.

Once you can do this, point rhythmically with the pencil while saying or singing the rhythm.

I think this technique helps to discipline the eyes to not wander about the measure in an un-rhythmic fashion.

Try it out. It might help.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Big and Friendly

Here's an interesting YouTube link:

I googled BFJO and arrived at the Big Friendly Jazz Orchestra. Appears to be an arts high school. The translated web page provides both information and unintentional humor. For example, check out the translation of the Oct. 14th date from their concert schedule:

(Every time when you talk east Harima charm it is, the tea time of ~ cute afternoon)

Friday, September 28, 2007

What, another post???


Oh...sorry. Apparently I haven't been bothering to post.

OK a few quick items:

Guest Trombone Recital

This Monday, Oct 1st we have a guest artist: Joshua Hauser from Tennessee Tech. He'll be performing:
Dances of Greeting - Bolter
Piece in E-flat minor - Ropartz
Dozeandeeze - Jim Self
Slide Ride - Greg Danner


Trombone Rage - Turk Murphy
Trombonology - Tommy Dorsey
It's All Right - Cole Porter
Mission Red - Michael Davis
Trombone Tales, mvts. V and VI, Henry Wolking

Thanks for our own Craig Butterfield for playing bass on the Wolking

My Recitals

I just gave two recitals for anybody who's interested (great timing on the announcement!).

Sep. 22nd North Carolina School for the Arts
Winter Ballad - Freidlin
Blue Wolf - me
Arrows of Time - Peaslee


Four Impromptus - me
Three Lieder - Brahms
T. Rex - Phillips

Sep 24th University of South Carolina
Two Emily Dickenson Songs for Horn, Trombone and Piano - Micheal Hennagin
Winter Ballad - Freidlin
Arrows of Time - Peaslee


Impulsions for trombone and marimba - Clarence Barber
Elizabethan Songbook for trumpet, trombone and piano - Ewazen

Thanks to: Martha Edwards, horn; Winifred Goodwin, piano; Scott Herring, marimba and James Ackley, trumpet

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Atlanta Symphony Season: a few concerts you may want to check out

I checked out the Atlanta Symphony website and picked a few concerts that may be of interest.

Saint-Saens Organ Symphony

Saint-Saƫns' inspired "Organ" Symphony is the spirited and optimistic star of this evening of French masterpieces. The celebrated violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman brings us a rising-star violinist in Ms. Hagner ("resourceful technique. deeply affecting" - New York Times).

10.11.07 - 8:00PM

10.12.07 - 8:00PM

10.13.07 - 8:00PM

Pictures At An Exhibition

Transcendent! Russian Orthodox chants and ringing cathedral bells color the orchestral sounds of Rimsky-Korsakov's ode to Easter. Equally colorful is Ravel's masterful orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures. ASO Concertmaster Cecylia Arzewski will shine in Khachaturian's only violin concerto, imbued with the spirit of the dances and folksongs of his native Armenia.

02.28.08 - 8:00PM

02.29.08 - 8:00PM

Shostakovich Symphony No. 5

Emmanuel Krivine returns to lead Shostakovich’s sweeping work of struggle from tragedy to triumph. Equally gripping are Schumann’s Manfred Overture and virtuosic piano concerto, which is a fine showcase for the gifted American pianist Nicholas Angelich, making his ASO debut.

03.20.08 - 8:00PM

03.21.08 - 8:00PM

03.22.08 - 8:00PM

more info

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4

Tchaikovsky's deepest emotions fuel a wondrous, searing, and tumultuous symphony. ASO Principal Cellist Christopher Rex performs American giant Samuel Barber's eloquent cello concerto. And Osvaldo Golijov's musical associate Gonzalo Grau debuts an ASO commission.

03.06.08 - 8:00PM

03.07.08 - 8:00PM

03.08.08 - 8:00PM

Berlioz Requiem

Hector Berlioz’s legendary Requiem is filled with multiple trumpet calls that echo amidst the thunder and doom as grace descends with choral beauty. A showpiece for the acclaimed Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus that sold out when last performed at Symphony Hall.

05.01.08 - 8:00PM

05.02.08 - 8:00PM

05.03.08 - 8:00PM

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Daily Routines...What's on the Menu?

I have made big revisions to the Daily Routine portion of my website.

You can find 13 new pages of materials available for free download (.pdf files).

Here's the basic idea:
The Daily Routine "Menu" is like a restaurant menu with an appetizer, three courses and dessert. Pick and choose from each course according to your needs.

You don't need to get through the whole menu in a single practice session. Material in the later courses, for example, might be better served later in your practice day.

Bon appetite

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sousaphone Hero...

Our poor bass-clef brethren....

Warning: The Onion is not averse to foul language at times. I didn't see anything in this particular article but please use discretion concerning the rest of the site.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Alessi Seminar Notes, Day 9, ...the Last Day

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.

On this final day of the Alessi seminar, we had the usual morning warm-up (it was my turn to do the warm-up for the participants), the last masterclass and, in the evening, a great party at an area restaurant.

I should note that I have been describing the schedule for the participants. Each afternoon the auditors had masterclasses running, I believe, from 2:30-5:00. These classes were run by Pete Ellefson
Although I didn't attend any of Pete's classes (hey, I need to practice sometime!) I spoke to a number of auditors and they said he did a great job!

This morning's schedule was:
Adam Johnson - Jongen Aria and Polonaise (2nd half)
Daniel Brady - excerpts
An auditor - Mahler's 3rd
An auditor - Rota Concerto
A final chat with Mr. Alessi

Here are my notes:
  • When you perform, don't put the stand in front of you. "The audience wants to see you, not the stand."
  • For a rapid dotted-eighth, sixteenth rhythms, he again suggested pulling the tongue further back in the mouth.
  • He talked about the importance of focusing your practice both on the technical side and the musical side. "You have to pay homage to each one and then they become one." He doesn't believe that, if you only focus on musicality, the technique will come.
  • "I think that air flow and relaxation comes from good musical decisions."
  • He talked about the need to perform more than just the orchestral repertoire. "Where do we get to express ourselves in the literature? Maybe once every three years."
  • He talked about trombonists being "a little bit lazy" in not getting together often enough to work with pianists. It really bothers him to hear any trombonist play out of tune with the piano.
  • He reminded the student to always keep things interesting, dynamically.
The Creation
  • After the student's momentary false start, he said "Once you commit yourself to that first note, it has to come out." (no matter what it sounds like)
  • At one point, he asked the student, "Would you vote for that?" (in an audition) Later, after the student had made a few adjustments he commented that he would have voted for that last performance in a professional audition.
  • Don't ever play tentative. Just go for it.
  • If you get nervous and start to hear those voices in your head, "replace the voices with musical things." Start thinking about the tune and then just start playing. He demonstrated by singing a passage then breathing and playing in time.
  • For the rests in this excerpt, he advised the student to breathe through the whole rest, not just at the very end.
Fountains of Rome
  • Be sure to start your breath early enough so you are ready to fire on time.
  • He used the phrase "always three to one" to describe beat groupings:

  • He suggested that, in this excerpt, perhaps the breathing should not be symmetrical and predictable.
  • To improve intonation consistency, he suggested playing this excerpt (and others) very slowly at least once a day to "sweep the area for pitch."
  • He cited a quote from virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman, "The slower you practice, the faster you progress. The faster you practice, the slower you progress."
  • Concerning how many breaths to take in these sostenuto passages he advised, "You have to be a magician and figure what you need and what you don't need."
  • Don't lose time on the half notes in an effort to "make them as big as a house."
  • All these details, (especially rhythm and intonation) separate the 2% from the other 98%.
  • Concerning an early breath taken in the passage shown above, he said, "When you get to the main event, why would you want to breathe after that first note?" He pointed out this was the time to show off your stuff.
  • Regarding your sheet music, he advised us to save everything we ever play. Then, in the future, you can take the music back out and restart where you left off.
  • Don't be late after taking breaths. The time has to be solid when you come up to breathe.
  • Concerning the process of fixing an out-of-tune passage by identifying a problem note he said, "What's the main culprit? Find it."
  • Concerning keeping the low brass section rhythmically tight in one section he advised placing the sixteenth note directly on the downbeat:

  • Get an ipod and make a collection of the orchestral repertoire. Get three of four versions of the same piece. "It's kind of a monumental task but start with one piece and build from there."
  • He noted that a lot of bass trombonists don't bother to learn the score. They just know the excerpt passage.

Mahler 3
  • He noted that this is a tricky solo to play. "With this solo, you have to go for it but not go out of control."
  • Make sure the air doesn't get too fast. He recommended, "A nice big sound, nothing more than that." He also advised, "Don't blow yourself out of the pocket."
  • Building on this idea further he advised us to retain our good sound. He pointed out, "There's a slot where every note goes. Are you in that slot?"
  • He talked about remaining calm even though the music can become very intense, even threatening. He advised us to separate ourselves from the music somewhat so we don't become too involved and lose control.
  • As a demonstration of relaxed air, he held up the student's hand and blew warm air against it.
  • In describing the ideal attack, he raised the analogy of a stereo system already playing music with the speakers turned off. You flick the speaker switch on and you get "immediate sound."
  • He also advised that the notes should "sound like bricks" and not become distorted.
  • He doesn't feel that alternate positions have much value here. "Go for the best possible sound, not convenience."
  • In playing loud, he said, "Less, sometimes, is more." He gave an analogy of great golfers and their effortless approach.
  • He also suggested that one might practice this excerpt in the manner of a Bordogni etude noting that, "we forget that these things are melodies."
  • For younger players, he suggested not starting out trying to play too loudly and then add volume over time rather than trying to hammer away at it.
  • He demonstrated the excerpt, observing, "You see, I'm using a lot less energy than you but it's twice as big."
  • He broke one passage down into its component intervals stressing the importance of correctly hearing these intervals.
  • He noted that a lot of young players tend to play sharp. He cited two possible causes: blowing too fast and measuring off the bell with the finger.
  • For younger players, he said that now is your chance to get the notes in tune. Then it will sound bigger later.
  • When going to the low A, you're not supposed to increase your air speed. Decrease it.
  • In trying to get the student not to move the bell around so much he suggested, "try to make your amplifier more consistent."
  • "Things sound better when it feels easier. There's a direct correlation."
  • In not crossing that fine line between exciting and out-of-control, he suggested the "2% solution." I believe he meant playing a loud passage 2% softer. Just back off a bit.
  • When you see the music get exciting, don't lose control. He used the phrase, "fortissimo with some intelligence."
  • Peter Ellefson observed from the audience that, as he watched the waveform of the audio software recording the masterclass, it was possible to actually see the difference in tone between Mr. Alessi's tone and the student's. Pete also noted that more effort doesn't necessarily translate into more sound.
  • Joe advised that student to "take a snapshot and ask yourself, 'Is this best sound I can play with?' "
(end of Mahler coaching)

  • Concerning tongue placement in the high range, he noted that, the higher you go in the scale, the more tongue placement is important.
  • He pointed out that, as a general rule, when you play louder, use less tongue. The opposite is true for playing softer.
At the end Mr. Alessi came out to sit in the audience and field more questions. He had many more stories to tell and wonderful pieces of advice but I opted not to take notes at this point.

I guess you just had to be there.

This is the end of my written notes for the Alessi seminar.

A Final Comment:

I would like to thank Mr. Alessi for conducting this seminar. I was consistently impressed not only by his spectacular playing but his consistent work ethic and clear commitment to helping each student.

I had heard stories of Mr. Alessi's intensity and was quite nervous about playing for him for the first time. As one former student put it, "He sets the same expectations for you that he sets for himself." Throughout the week, I found him not only intense but very positive. When a student played well, he was quick to praise them. On many occasions, he would say something like, "That was perfect," or "Very nice playing." You knew that this wasn't hollow praise of the "atta- boy" variety. If he praised you, you had earned it.

If something wasn't up to standard, he wasn't going to let it slide. But I never found any of his criticisms throughout the week to be anything less than fair and professional. If his own playing wasn't up to his personal standards he would try again and sometimes apologized to the audience if he didn't feel he was playing well enough. (I should have such bad days!)

Mr. Alessi was consistently hard-working, polite, highly focused and completely sincere in his efforts to help everyone who attended this seminar. This set a tone of mutual respect and professionalism that made the seminar a very positive learning experience for everyone involved.

As Pete Ellefson put it at the beginning, some students say they can't afford to attend this seminar. He added that, if you are serious about making it as professional musician on the trombone, you can't afford not to.

I agree.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Alessi Seminar Notes, Day 8.."Jaw Droppers"

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.

Today began with the usual warm-up sessions (ours was led by Paul Compton) followed by trombone choir rehearsals. After lunch, we boarded buses and traveled to St. Paul's Lutheran Church for our second concert which consisted of soloists, chamber groups and both trombone choirs.

In the evening, Joe gave another masterclass. The performers were:

me - a maestoso etude followed by Mahler's 3rd
Casey Thomas - Castereded Fantasie Concertante
Miguel Rivera - Morales Fantasy for Trombone and Piano
Josh Bynum - excerpts

Once again, I don't have notes to share from my own coaching. Here the notes I wrote down from the remainder:
  • Joe discussed the problem of excessive tension in slide technique. He suggested that, sometimes, you need to just let go. Just play it.
  • He noted that many times he tells his students to do something and they tend to overdo it, going too far with a suggestion.
  • He gave the analogy of great athletes and how they stay so loose.
  • He referred again to the idea of a "dead man's float" (floating in pool, completely relaxed) as he discussed staying relaxed in a performance.
  • He suggested, "Try to wean yourself from the music." Don't be so dependent on the music as you perform. For a demonstration, he moved the music stand farther and farther from the student. "I think that's a good test as you learn a piece. Do you have to be so dependent on the music?"
  • In faster passages, relax the slide more. Don't try to stop the slide in each position. "It becomes more of a glide." He demonstrated, playing a repeating chromatic scale at faster and faster tempos to show how the slide action becomes smoother as you speed up.
  • To free yourself up while tonguing rapidly, let the tongue come back. Don't try to spit out every note. "Start thinking 'dah' "
  • When killing time with colleagues from the NYPO, they chat about everything and sometimes talk shop. His colleague Phil Smith (Principal Trumpet) likes to use the term "the gully" to describe that spot on the roof of the mouth where one should place the tongue when tonguing rapidly.
  • Some passages you should know so well that you can wake up in the middle of the night and play them. While the student was playing a challenging, fast passage, he also suggested that one should make phrases out of the notes.
  • He demonstrated a scale exercise he likes to do, suggesting that we do this every day with the metronome:

  • When a student played a rhythm that wasn't accurate, he said, "You cannot lie about rhythm." He gave the analogy of someone who cheats on their golf score.
  • He praised the UNM Wind Ensemble Conductor, Eric Rombach Kendell, because he makes his students sing their parts. He then gave a short demonstration singing and conducting in strict time.
  • He talked about playing a Bordogni vocalises in 5 ways:
  1. As is
  2. Tenor Clef
  3. An Octave Down
  4. An Octave Up
  5. In Tenor Clef Down Two Octaves
  • He began one vocalise and expected the student to be able to play along with him from memory.
  • He pointed out that, in particular, there were two Bordogni etudes that everyone should have memorized and be be able to play in those five ways without using the music. This, I believe was the one, he was playing with the student:

In a humorous moment, after playing the first etude with the student, he asked audience to sing the other Bordogni every trombone player should know. Sure enough, we all started singing:

  • In talking about high range he said, "The higher you go, the sweeter you play. That's my motto."
  • He suggested that a good way to develop the high range was to get a fake book and start learning some of the standard jazz ballads. Be able to play them in the high range.
  • He observed that, when he goes into the high range, it's easier if he eases off a bit. "Let the note go up there by itself." He also said, "I almost try less."

Although I have been trying not to interject my own opinions into this blog, I do want to point out that, as he was making these comments, he was demonstrating some of the most beautiful, effortless high playing I have ever heard. I think it's fair to say that a lot of jaws were dropping.

  • Concerning long practice sessions, he said, "You can play ten hours a day but I don't think it's going to do you any good." He went on to note that he doesn't get his endurance from playing ten hours a day.
  • As you descend into the low register, be sure to maintain an embouchure. There should be no air escaping.
  • If you rely on single tonguing for too long, the tongue is going to get tired. He sometimes will alternate between single and double tonguing.
  • He gave another demonstration of tonguing while accenting the KAH syllable (tah-KAH). He pointed out that if you really want to develop strong double tonguing, you need to practice it very slowly. He also pointed that you can practice it while walking down the street.
  • He pointed out that, at faster tempos, the syllables "da-da-ga" worked better (than "ta-ta-ka")

Mozart Requiem

  • In the opening figure, he talked about 'air management' suggesting that one option was to go a little faster.
  • Many people have the problem of using a different tempo for half notes and the quarter notes.
  • Concerning intonation, he said that you have to microtune. Every partial is in a different place.
  • On the legato arpeggios (beginning on low B-flat) he advised the student to let the last note of each arpeggio relax a bit. I believe he meant to not clip those notes off.
  • He advised the fourth position D as passing tone in the legato lines to avoid 'sawing.' He demonstrated repeatedly jumping back and forth between first and third positions as a sawing motion.
  • At one point, Joe and the student played through the excerpt together for pitch. This was a common practice with many of the excerpts presented at the seminar. With other students, he would sometimes play along playing from one of the section parts from memory.
  • With this excerpt, the pitch has to be right on. You just have to listen more.

Hungarian March

  • On the ascending quarter notes, he suggested starting with the trigger B instead of 7th position for better intonation.
  • To help with timing, he had the audience sing the opening tuba arpeggio right before the big run. After we did it, he joked, "You guys are late."
  • Since he had already worked on this excerpt with the student in a private lesson, he had the student recall some of the concepts presented in the lesson:
  • Joe had suggested "symmetrical breathing," meaning taking breaths in the same places rhythmically.
  • In the ending of the excerpt, he had suggested using the D in the alternate 4th position.
  • On the opening scale, Joe had noted that most people tend to use too much tongue and not enough air.

The Ride

  • He praised the student for playing the excerpts from memory.
  • He noted that, when playing this excerpt, he hears rhythms from the piece in his head. He sang the rhythm pattern of the accompaniment and one of the singer's lines.
  • He suggested these slide position choices for the opening of the ride (the minor version):

Someone asked if, in a live hall, would he bring down the pitch of the last A-sharp (given that it is effectively the third of a major chord). He said that he would bring it down a bit.

He suggested a sequence for working out this excerpt with respect to intonation.

First, play the long notes (beat 2 and 3 of each measure):

Next, practice the excerpt without the dotted rhythm, using straight eighth notes:

Or, if this is giving you trouble, you could practice it this way:

He suggested also practicing the excerpts using subdivisions:

As a demonstration, he had the student play the original excerpt while he played the subdivided version.

Another practice technique was to isolate portions beginning at each 16th note.

Concerning breathing, he suggested two-bar phrases.

That's all for now.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Alessi Seminar Notes, Day 7...Be True to the Music

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.

These notes are from the morning masterclass, Saturday Aug. 7th. In the evening we heard the first participant recital.

This morning's performers were:
Louise Bremer - Bach Sarabande, and excerpts
Sam Schlosser - Tomasi Concerto, Mvt 2 and 3
Paul Compton - Life Pictures by David Schipps
Weston Sprott - Crespo Improvisation No. 1
Stephen Lange - excerpts

Incidentally, before I begin writing up my notes, let me point out that these musical selections were the choice of the participants themselves, not assignments given by Mr. Alessi

Bach Sarabande
  • Joe noted that they asked for this solo in every round of the NYPO bass trombone audition because it showed a great deal about the players.
  • He noted that there is a difference between somebody who just plays the notes and an artist.
  • Be careful how you release the notes. As an analogy, he gave a demonstration where he shook the student's hand and then abruptly turned away.
  • In the context of good note endings, he compared it to polishing something and then finishing it so you have nice sheen.
  • "If you're going to take a breath, then the note before the breath needs to relax." In this instance, he was referring to quick breaths taken between phrases (as happens frequently in the Bach).
  • He observed that one of the things he loves about music, especially with the breath, is figuring out a way to make it work, musically.
  • If you really need to come up for air, why hold on to the preceding note for so long? Perhaps you can release it a bit sooner "then it becomes a less stressful event."
  • The release of a note "shouldn't be like a karate chop."
  • This piece has to be totally pure. The notes all have to be polished.
  • Concerning the repeats, if an audition committee requires you to take the repeats, don't breathe in the same places on the repeat. Variety is good.
Schumann Rhenish Symphony
  • As you play this slow chorale, think of the back beat to keep the time steady. "Concentrate always on the back beat."
  • If you run out of air on the long note, keep up with the rhythm. Don't make the bar shorter.
  • He did not feel that the bass trombone should crescendo to help the principal part as it ascends.
  • He iterated the idea that he would rather hear somebody play the chorale very soft, possibly missing a note, than play it safe with a middle dynamic.
  • In response to a question about whether one should use alto trombone when playing this excerpt in an audition, he advised against using alto. He cited the added problems of having to bring a second instrument to the audition and the difficulty of switching horns in the middle of a round.

Haydn Creation
  • On hearing one note which flared just a bit, he reminded the student to "polish the note."
(end of creation notes, sorry I didn't write down more)

  • The opening of the Tomasi Concerto (mvt 2) should be like a nocturne...not too loud, very peaceful, even on the high notes.
  • Regarding the 'blues' section he said, "You don't want to make this sound like American jazz." he advised the student to keep it subtle and not add too many glisses.
  • For the opening of movement three, he reminded the student to "keep it joyful."
  • He talked about "launching" a new section with an energetic note (in other words, the last note of the trombone phrase which 'launches' the next passage for the orchestra/piano. He credited Sam Pilafian with this term.
  • There's a lot of people with very powerful chops but sometimes they tend to lean on those chops too much.
  • He repeated the oft-heard phrase, "Blow slower, aim lower."
  • As a demonstration, he had the student purposely aim high on the first note and then repeat, aiming lower. He then demonstrated some pitch bending, trying to find the spot "where the room resonates." Later, he added that when you tend to blow things on the high side, "they tend to become a little diffused."
  • Even in music that begins fast, still take a slow breath, if possible. Don't use a quick, tense breath.
  • "Let that note sit down to where it resonates."
  • Although I have avoided most embouchure comments in this blog, I will note that he advised several students during the seminar to say the 'M' when forming the embouchure.
  • While doing some imitation work with the student towards the goal of a resonant tone, he said, "Try to get that sound out in the hall."
  • Be careful not to ride on top of the notes with a fast air stream. Joe demonstrated by playing the solo from Rimsky Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture to show an easy, resonant sound.
  • You need to spend a lot of time thinking about the ends of notes, not just the beginnings.
  • In some lyrical pieces, composers will write many small slur groupings. Often it is better to play a long slurred phrase instead of trying to bring out the groupings.
  • For soft attacks, he said, "Introduce the air very slowly into the instrument."
  • For soft playing, he suggested practicing with no tongue. He loves when he is able to play really soft breath attacks.
  • You don't want to use this 'no-tongue' approach in performance, just for practice.
  • You've got to develop that suppleness and sensitivity that soft playing requires.
  • Often, when presented with a forte-piano figure, it sounds better not to drop too quickly to the piano dynamic.
  • In coaching, he often uses the phrase "be true to the music."

Health and Exercise
In a short question-and-answer session he was asked about physical exercise. When he can find a good pool, he likes to swim. At one point, he was swimming over a mile before he would go to rehearsals. He also likes jogging and cycling. Sometimes he bikes into New York City from his home. In college he did some weight-training and found that this made it much easier to hold the instrument.

He observed, "If you take care of your body, it's easier to play." He also noted that losing weight helps the breathing because there's less weight to lift when you're breathing in.
He commented that he would love to do one of these seminars when he was 70 years old but also stressed that he wouldn't keep performing recitals if he felt the quality of his playing was slipping. He also spoke about the importance of healthy diet.

Mental Focus
In talking about the mental focus required for auditions, he referred to Olympic athletes training four years for a single event. He advised that it's not a good practice to go into an audition while having to deal with a lot of distractions. "Focus on the task at hand." He also advised, "One day at a time."

At the audition, he suggested that you should try to find a place to just be by yourself for a moment. "Hear the piece in your head before you perform." "Be in the moment."

He observed, "Playing a performance is like taking a journey." It may be a bit scary at first but you just move from point A to point B.
"Prepare and execute."
He noted that, in a performance something is always going to go wrong. That's normal. Just stay the course.

St. Sean Sym. No. 3
  • He discussed the option of performing this excerpt without alternate positions as something worth considering. He recently performed this piece without using alternates.
  • He reminded the student that it has to be exactly in tune. "You want maximum resonance on every note."
  • Before you choose to play alternate positions, try it first with the main positions and make sure it is in tune before you add in the alternates.
  • For this excerpt, it is best not to use vibrato or, at the very most, minimal vibrato.
  • He asked the audience, "How many of you intimately know Schubert's Unfinished Symphony?" (only a few people raised their hands). He said this response made him sad since it is such a great piece. He raised this question in the context of praising the principal clarinetist of the National Symphony in a recording of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.
  • There are a lot of pieces that are overly marked and might benefit from a simpler approach.

Also Sprach Zarathustra
(the fugue subject excerpt)
  • Be very careful on the pitch of the notes following the opening D-A-D.
  • It is not a weakness to put arrows in your part (for tuning)
  • Rhythmically, this can be a problem in auditions. He demonstrated an interpretation which lingered too much on the half notes.
  • He described Glenn Dodson (former principal trombonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra) as the "the most exciting playing I have heard in my life. Period."
  • At one point he was teaching himself to relax and play no matter what came out.
  • The student, a member of the St. Louis Symphony, described using 'little reminders' to help himself relax. He works to hear the orchestra sound in his head before he starts and likes to sometimes practice the excerpts with the recording.
  • Joe noted that there are too many excerpt jocks out there who only know the excerpt and not the whole piece.

(the excerpt with the leap to high D)
  • Remember that this appears in both the first and second trombone parts.
  • It is best to slur to the high D if you can.

  • If you do Bolero too many times without listening to the accompaniment, you don't really get it.
  • He noted that the one thing he hates about the job is all the waiting the trombonists must do before coming in for an important passage. He compared this to a "field goal kicker waiting on the sidelines."
  • One of Joe's favorite recordings of Bolero is Glenn Dodson's performance. The tempo was very slow, 58 1/2 (don't choose that tempo in an audition!). Joe was sitting next to Dodson during the recording session.
Til Eulenspiegel
  • Concerning the accented notes in the run, be sure to accent them equally, "6 on, 6 off." Be sure to really bring these notes out.
  • In working with Dave Finlayson on this run, they decided that it wasn't necessary to use the same slide positions.
  • Joe used to get together with a friend to play excerpts. He used the phrase "duets on the excerpts."
  • He related a story in which Norman Bolter and his brother used to go out and face each other, standing at opposite sides of a field. In playing out, "have a target" that you practice at.
That's all for now.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Alessi Seminar Notes, Day 6...Beat Boxing

You might be asking, "What happened to day 5?" Well, that was a day off for everyone.

On to Day 6 (which, by the way, was Friday, Aug. 3rd)

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.

This morning's performers were:

Joseph Rodriguez - orchestral excerpts
Nathan Dishman - Stojowski Fantasy
Nicole Abissi - orchestral excerpts
Jared Lantzy - Schnyder Concerto mvts. 2 & 3
Ben Perrier - Arrows of Time, mvt. 3

Here are comments from my notes:

Mozart Requiem:
  • Concerning the opening arpeggio, Mr Alessi noted that it was fine to take a breath, if needed, in that passage as long as it was done in time. At one point he demonstrated, snapping the subdivisions and suggested that one should "breathe after the last snap," meaning after the last upbeat before the long B-flat. Later in the coaching, he sang the excerpt, demonstrating a very quick breath before the long B-flat.
  • He spoke about the importance of a smooth legato, commenting that, 30 years ago, the legato that was going around "was very caveman." He warned against getting the "wah-wah" in legato, describing this note-shape as being "like footballs."
  • "When you tense up to play soft, you have two choices: don't tense up or don't play so soft."
  • He described that requiem solo in this way, "It's a beautiful little melody. There's not much we have to add."
  • Someone asked if vibrato should be used in this excerpt. He replied that it wasn't really necessary. If you do use vibrato, don't use it too much..."just a little sprinkle here and there."
  • Concerning excerpts, he said that the hardest thing is to be out there and get scrutinized during an audition.
  • He reminded us to "hit those excerpts constantly." (in the context of someone who is serious about winning an orchestral audition).

Hungarian March

  • He observed that the level of reverberation in Avery Fisher tends to expose bad attacks.
  • In reference to the ascending quarter notes before the big run, he commented, "That scale tells a lot." He reminded the student to get the slide to the next position ahead of the note.
  • He used the phrase, "no-man's land" for the gaps between the separated articulations.
  • As for the big run, he spent time demonstrating triads built from the longer notes in the run: C-A-F, A-F-D, C-E-G. These notes have to be very stable.
  • Of the run he pointed out, "You have to keep reminding yourself what is simple about this."
  • When you do any exercise related to an excerpt, be certain to play the exercise with perfect rhythm.
  • Be sure not to "telegraph" the next note by moving the slide early, causing a small gliss.
  • He sang the run while snapping three big beats:

  • Be certain not to slow down at the end of the excerpt. Stay on top of the beat.

(end of Hungarian March comments)

  • Concerning any changes to the embouchure, he commented, "You have to be like a policeman to yourself." In other words, you will need to be constantly vigilant.
  • He went into a demonstration in which the student lay on his back (keeping the feet relaxed) with one hand laying on the belt buckle. He had the student first fill up the lower part of the lung (closer to the belly), followed by the chest. He then had the student place the finger vertically on the embouchure while breathing in. He suggested that we try this relaxed breathing exercise at any time of the day if we felt we weren't breathing well. Upon returning to the standing position, the breath should just as simple and natural.
  • Concerning the placement of the feet while playing, he suggested that we try lining up the feet as if centered on two perpendicular lines on the floor (like a helicopter landing pad). By lining the feet along these line, the feet are aligned and you are facing directly forward.
  • He suggested that we might try videotaping ourselves to check posture.
  • He recommended that we practice posture and breathing first without the instrument. Then, when the instrument is introduced, be certain that we don't revert to a different posture.
  • He reminded us that, as we extend the slide past 3rd position, to be certain the fingers don't reach out for the bell. This causes many trombonists to play sharp.
  • For descending into the low register with a rich sound, he called to mind the rich warm quality of Bing Crosby singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas"
  • He pointed out that, when the pitch is exactly right, the tone will sound more rich.

Mahler 3

  • When playing the opening notes, count 1-2-3-4 (the quarters) rather than 1-2-3 (the half notes). Later he added that he likes to let the sound bleed a little into the next beat.
  • When you get to the low A's, think 'dah.' "Let the air do more work than the tongue."
  • As you descend into the low range, make the air go slower.
  • When articulating in the low range, watch out for a chewing motion in the jaw.
  • At the end of the first excerpt he suggested that we should "try not to smash these notes. Play them in a singing manner."
  • He reminded us that many other musical elements have to be in place along with a big sound.
Ein Heldenleben
  • He observed that this is one of the hardest excerpts to play, rhythmically.
  • With respect to the occasional out-of-tune notes, he pointed out, "Those few notes start to add up in an audition."
  • He observed that, in practicing, he's happy to just focus in on a single measure and really polish it (to apply what has been learned)
  • As you play, be careful not to look so "student-like." (meaning with a frantic, tense expression in the face, eyes wide-open)
  • It is important to memorize those excerpts that are important to you.
  • Concerning the long low F he said, "If you have to take a breath, that's not the end of the world."
  • He built on this idea be describing the notion of gaining and losing "points" in an audition. If you play something really well, you gain points and this gives you some license. Of auditions he said, "I want to give these players points." (as they begin their audition). He went to note that some players play with a poor tone or faulty rhythm and they don't get those points.
  • If you memorize something and you're able to play well from memory, that means you really know it.
  • Concerning tempo choices in excerpts: choose tempos that are "good averages." Don't choose an odd tempo just because one recording goes at that speed.
  • For any excerpt, you should know the piece as whole well enough to be able to sing some of the themes. Thinking of these themes can relax you. "You have to put yourself in the piece."
(end of the Heldenleben comments)

  • It is important to be able to tape yourself at half speed, especially to study legato and attacks. In discussing the various technologies available to accomplish this, a member of the audience mentioned a website called The Amazing Slow Downer
  • He went into a demonstration of correct hand position when holding the slide. He stressed the important of keeping the thumb straight (like holding car keys as you're about the unlock the door) for better control.
"Beat Box" Demo

Mr. Alessi invited Anthony Barfield to the stage. Anthony composed one of the pieces Joe performed on his recital earlier in the week. Using a microphone, Anthony put on a very impressive display which he referred to as "beat boxing." If you closed your eyes, you would swear you were listening to a drum synthesizer. Joe told us this was a great example of internal rhythm. Joe then got up on stage and played Hungarian March while Anthony provided a "beat box" accompaniment. Everybody loved it! Joe pointed out how it is so much easier to play when you have a beat like this.

Moving on...
  • If we are trying out an adjustment in technique, it might feel strange. In this context, he observed, "Alien doesn't mean bad." In other words, just because a new way of doing things feels strange doesn't mean it's wrong. He recommended that sometimes it is good to explore new things, even if they are alien.
  • While the student was playing a fast, technical passage, Joe suggested that he pretend he was just playing a nice F (the note, note the dynamic)
  • As you descend into the lower register, don't allow that embouchure to collapse.
  • If you are playing a fast, technical passage filled with awkward intervals and tricky rhythms, be careful you aren't "slicing up your air like mincemeat." He also referred to this kind of playing as "hacking and slashing."
  • When you see a difficult passage, don't freak out. When approaching such a passage, Joe observed, "I'm just pretending I'm playing a chorale."
Mini-Lecture on Slide Technique
  • Joe observed that people have to have more "respect for the slide."
  • He placed two water bottles on the stage, each bottle representing (I believe) the exact point in time when a new note begins. He asked us to consider the question, "When should you move your slide in legato?"
  • He used the phrase "within the technique, stay relaxed in your own environment" for the avoidance of tension.
  • He demonstrated a passage of slow, widely-spaced staccato notes with a quick slide motion in between so that the slide was well-placed before each new note.
(end of lecture)
  • When you practice double-tonguing, try emphasizing the "kah" syllable...
  • When multiple tonguing a fast passage, be sure to maintain the right pitches. Later he reminded us to practice technical passages slowly enough to maintain a good tone.
  • You have to respect a difficult passage and take enough time to learn it at a slow speed
  • If a highly technical passage in a solo is marked 'forte' consider not trying to play it so loudly. Don't try to "muscle it out," especially if you are playing alone at the point in the solo.
  • With respect to demeanor during auditions, he recalled a recent audition in which Lisa Albrecht was given the one-year position to replace Jim Markey. He observed that is was amazing to see the difference in demeanor of someone who has been there before.
  • In terms of playing difficult material, he wants his approach to be "like taking a stroll in the park."
  • He demonstrated transposing a difficult passage into the middle range to work on tone quality.
  • He observed that, in a lot of the lessons he teaches, they simply devote time to getting the first note of something.
That's all for now...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Alessi Seminar Notes, Day 4 (part 2) ... Singing in the Fast Lane

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.

The evening master class featured the following:

Adam Johnson - Jongen Aria and Polonaise
Daniel Brady - Vaughn Williams Tuba Concerto
Quartet (me, Josh Bynum, Sam Schlosser, Casey Thomas) - Apon, First Quartet
Orchestra Section - (Lange, Abissi, Rodriquez, Bremer and tuba, of course) -
Nielsen Great Symphony, Smetena The Moldau, Respighi Fountains of Rome

A lecture and Q&A session with Mr. Alessi.

Here are some observations. As before, I wasn't able to hear Danial Brady's performance and couldn't take notes when our quartet was playing.

  • When you have a repetitive figure, do something different on each repetition.
  • When sitting, place the stand so the slide isn't under the stand.
  • Joe held the student's fingers as if he were holding a trombone slide and then moved his hand to demonstrate a smoother slide action.
  • He described jaw vibrato as looking like a fish. Later he humorously that perhaps you could go out and buy a fish to help with jaw vibrato.
  • How to practice vibrato. I'm not completely sure I got this right but I think he said: practice undulating your jaw with a clear rhythmic pulse. (he demonstrates starting with quarters and then eighths and so on). Do a "mini-crescendo" on the quarters and eighths. When he gets to triplets, he starts undulating the jaw. By the time he gets to 16ths, it's just the jaw.
  • The most out-of-tune notes are the F and A-flat partials. (I believe he means the 6th and 7th partials. He would refer to partials by note name rather than number.
  • On syncopated passages he warned against the beat counting getting into the sound. He demonstrated, swelling the sound on each downbeat.
  • "We carry around this bag of silly stuff" In other words, we all have these bad habits that tend to stick around.
  • He again warned against "flaring" on the trombone. (A flare, is a sudden swelling in volume as a note is sustained, often as one is about to lead to another note. )
  • "If you want to show beauty, let it resound through the hall. Don't rush."
  • "Try to play in a simpler way."

Mr. Alessi finished the masterclass with a lecture and a question and answer session.

He began by reminding us that "Rhythm controls everything."

He told a great story about his early career and auditioning. What follows is a paraphrase, not a verbatim quote. I'll try to be as accurate as I can. Any other people who heard the lecture can correct me if I got something wrong:

He spoke about the time he began to get serious about winning auditions. After early success with the San Francisco Ballet while he was in high school (once he even asked the personnel manager if he could be excused to attend his prom) he described himself as "spoiled," believing that it would be easy to win the next audition.

He took a number of auditions in which he was not successful. In New Orleans, 120 people showed up. They had everyone warm-up in this big room. "The sound was like a nightmare, like a B-52." He went on to list a number of other auditions which were not successful.

Then he decided to get serious about winning an audition. He started recording myself. "That's when I discovered about rhythm and pitch." He observed that, if you go to a disco, you'll hear a strong beat (he demonstrate thumping a rhythm on the stage). He pointed out that you need that kind of strong internal rhythm. He demonstrates singing "Stars and Stripes" with perfect rhythm. He recalled that his father drilled that into him, tapping a pencil on the stand. He suggested that we all need to connect to something familiar (in other words, familiar music that has a clear pulse).

"At Juilliard, I make my students sing in lessons." He asked if you can't sing convincingly, how can you play convincingly. He recommended that we should conduct and sing. He feels that this kind of practice, without the instrument, is not done enough.

"For the brief time I was in Montreal (preparing for the New York Philharmonic audition), every day I would go down to the hall with my tape recorder and work on my rhythm."

He pointed out that preparation is the most important. Absolutely be prepared for anything you're going to audition, a recital, whatever.

Concerning pitch:

He began by reminding us that, first, we have to understand the pitfalls, to understand the pitch tendencies of our instruments. He observed that, all around the world, he has to tell people the same notes are out of tune. He asks the audience, "Do you know why?" After a number of failed attempts at an answer, he provided the answer, "Finger on the bell."

He shared that another problem with pitch is that there's not enough singing that goes on. We don't sing enough. "I grew up in a house where everyone was singing."

He also suggested playing duets with yourself. Tape one part and then play with it.

He described the ideal pitch as being like "a train going down the track."

I raised my hand and got a chance to ask one of my "deep questions:" "When you play alone, should you temper notes like you do when you are playing chords in a section.

He thought for a moment and then replied that this question ran the danger of becoming paralysis by analysis. He pointed out that when he's playing, he just wants to sing and make it in tune. He doesn't want to analyze it that much.

He went on to point out that, if you have one note in a passage, like a D, that keeps coming back again and again, you need to return to the same note. Sometimes, he draws brackets in his music connecting pitches so he can make them in tune.

Going on...

He reminded us that if you're in high school or college, now is the best time to practice. When you get out, you're going to have to make living and that will cut into your practice time.

He recommended that, every day, you should visit the standard books: Arban, Schlossberg, Remington. In other words, visit the fundamentals every day.

"There's no point in practicing when you're not focused." 45 minutes is a good amount of time. While resting, he used to practice the piano. After visiting the studies, he recommended that we practice etudes. He mentioned playing Bordogni vocalises in 4 registers and Blazhevich etudes. He suggested we might follow etudes with work on solos and excerpts.

He recalled that the most fun he had listening to repertoire was when he was very young, maybe 13. His father had albums he would listen to. He got the Chicago Symphony excerpt record and would dream of doing that. He observed how now Jay Friedman calls him and wants to get together to play golf. "I never imagined when I was looking at those record covers that that would happen someday. It's like a dream come true."

He stressed the importance of learning the repertoire. The best way to do that now is iTunes. "Put all your favorite things on an ipod and listen all the time. "

When he was in San Francisco and Philadelphia, he would go to orchestra concerts every single week. "We were enthusiastic." After the concert was over, he would always go backstage and congratulate the section.

About jazz:

"I'm listening more and more and finding out what jazz players do rhythmically." Recently Robin Eubanks called him and wanted to get together to play. "That's the great thing about New York, there are all these great players." He told a story of how he and Robin Eubanks got together and played along with the Aebersold accompaniments. He quoted Eubanks, "Jazz is like a language. You have to learn the language." For Christmas he received the Columbia JJ Johnson collection and keeps it in his car. "I love JJ Johnson. That is pure jazz." He observed that he would like to start transcribing solos.

He feels that practicing jazz does help his playing, especially in the brass quintet. On a recent NYPO brass quintet tour, they played a number of pop tunes. He shared with us that Phil Smith loved playing the Johnson Rag. When he got back, he couldn't get it out of his head.

With respect to recital programming, he said the he looks for a great opener. He also shared that you don't want a recital to be too long, especially a trombone recital. He recommend an optimal length of 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

About finding time to practice in a busy schedule:
Every year, he takes time to clean up his studio. During the year, rushing to and from gigs, he doesn't have time to put his music away. So once a year, he resets, puts everything away and gets organized.
Every piece he's doing, he puts into a blue bound folder which he carries with him. He noted tht sometimes he is carrying around several of these blue folders in his case. This way he has the music available to practice whenever there is time. "Being organized with your music is important." He pointed out that orchestra tours are a great time to practice because there's so much downtime. He pointed that sometimes they all are fighting over good spaces in which to practice while on the road.
He ended with a great quote (I hope I got it right)

"It's just sing, sing, sing, sing, sing. That's life in the fast lane."