Tuesday, March 25, 2008

ETW on the web

Here's a link to some of the ETW 2007 events in case you're interested...

ETW 2007

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thoughts from the "Analysis-Paralysis" Department

Warning: I'm mostly an "Inner Game" guy.
I consider analysis of mechanics to be something of a Pandora's Box.


Item #1: Bounce Backs
Here's one I see often: As a student plays a downward leap I watch their embouchure. Often I see an adjustment, especially for leaps to low notes. Not, in itself, a bad thing (depending on what kind of adjustment we're talking about).
However: I often see the embouchure make too big an adjustment and then "bounce back." Basically, I think the "less is more" or "quiet down the embouchure" approaches are good here. Try the following leaps...

Look in a mirror as you do this. You may notice that your embouchure over-adjusts for the leap and then has to bounce back to a more centered position. In your sound, you may hear this as a scoop up from below the pitch.

Item #2 Pull Aways
I observed something odd in a lesson today. I have often buzzed a note on my mouthpiece and then, while continuing to buzz, gently placed the mouthpiece into the horn.
Try this buzzing an F-sharp and put in the mouthpiece while the horn is in first position. You'll end up with a very pinched F.

But ...
I've never done the opposite. Play the note on my trombone and then, while sustaining the buzz, pull the mouthpiece out of the horn.

When I did this on a low B-flat, big surprise, the buzz magically floated up to roughly a D-flat.
What caused this? Am I aiming too high?
It was easy to make a small adjustment to retain the B-flat pitch, by the way.

You might logically conclude that I could buzz a D-flat and return the mouthpiece to get the same sounding B-flat. Nope, just a really foul, uncentered something.

Incidentally, this effect doesn't seem to happen on higher notes.

Maybe it could just be the act of pulling out the mouthpiece and disengaging from the nodes of the standing wave in the horn.

I'm not too worried about it and don't plan to change anything. Still, I find it interesting. Oh and by the way, if I pull the horn off my face while attempting to continue the sound, the buzz simply stops. I know there are different opinions on this but I'm siding with the camp that says the buzz should stop.

If you try this experiment, I'd be curious to hear about your results in the comments section.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Accepting Dissonance to Find Consonance

Here's an idea that came up in a lesson a while back...

A student was playing along with the drone, working on locking in pitch. He was close but not right on the money. He seemed reluctant to make larger adjustments (I see this a lot).

I got him to purposely bend farther out of tune and just listen to the beats. Once he had "permission" to play the note out of tune, he seemed to relax and hear the pitch in a more non-judgmental way. In other words, he was simply hearing his intonation without any extra moral connotations.

Sure enough, he quickly "locked in" the tuning.

That's when I noted,

"Maybe you have to accept dissonance in order to find consonance."

Maybe that could a be life lesson as well.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BoneWeek Fanfare 5

Better late than never!

I've finished and posted BoneWeek Fanfare 5 for trombone octet.

I've made it a bit easier than previous fanfares.

It's all available free from my website...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Atlanta Audition thoughts

When you don't see any posts, it means either it is summer and my brain has gone soft or it has been a crazy busy time and I need my sleep.

So, after 10 years, I finally went and took a real professional audition...Atlanta Symphony.
This was a good experience for me although the quality of my preparation left a lot to be desired. Still, all this got me to thinking about the whole audition thing.

Some random thoughts for those of you who fancy winning one of these things:

  • Build that collection of recordings. Know the whole piece, not just the excerpt.
  • As you play the excerpt, can you "hear" the orchestra around you?
  • Can you sing the excerpt in tune?
  • Are you taping yourself regularly? Before you buy a plane ticket, can you play a "recorder audition" well enough to advance?
  • An audition tests two skills: your playing skills, and your pressure-handling skills. If you work on one and not the other, you'd better get pretty lucky on audition day.
  • Can you write out the excerpt from memory? Did you get all the details right?
  • On section excerpts, can you play the other parts? From memory?
  • Have you looked at the score for the piece? Can you translate all the terms? Do you know what instruments outside the trombone section come into play?
  • When you practice the excerpt, are you forcing yourself to play it with only shot? The third try may sound great but you won't get three takes on stage (although they gave me two on Mozart Requiem).
  • What are your dynamic extremes? Try the loudest and softest excerpts at their extremes and then be able to gauge where you want to place things, dynamically.
  • Are you absolutely, completely and totally sure you are playing things in tune? How do you know?
  • Are you totally, completely and absolutely sure you are playing things exactly in time? How do you know?
  • Tone, time and tuning are the stage. You need a solid stage but you also need to put something musically interesting on that stage.
I suppose there's lots more but that's enough for now.

Oh yes, about the BoneWeek Fanfare. Well, I started one and ran into a wall. It doesn't help that I've been so busy. I'll try to either finish this week or let them know that I'll have to skip this year.

Ahh, spring break.