Friday, March 27, 2009

Talking Mouthpieces..Buy One Get One Free!!

Another story from a recent lesson:

A student is struggling to play with good technique and also doesn't really perform a convincing phrase. At first we try various tricks to help with tone and clean slide technique (with varying results).

Then I switch gears and address that whole phrasing thing. We try singing it but the tricky intervals get in the way. So I try a trick which I've thought of before but haven't really used:

Talking Mouthpieces

Basically, I ask him to buzz it but not worry about even coming close to the right pitches. What's important is to get a speech-like inflection (like the voice) using the rhythm alone. From that, we went on to play the passage on one note with a nice musical inflection.

By the way, while browsing I once ran across some very nice teaching pages from Carl Lenthe in which, among other things, he uses the phrase "Johnny One Note" and demonstrates inflection for the Barat Allegro using this technique. Give a listen to the sound files. On one of them, he sings rhythms with a nice inflection. What I was doing with this student was essentially the same thing but using this "talking mouthpiece" idea.

Then we moved on to one of my favorite tricks: he played the "one-note" version while I played the phrase. Then we swapped with him playing the phrase and me playing the "one-note" version.

The end result? His phrasing definitely had more feel to it and he reported to me that his mind wasn't so focused on a laundry list of technical things he was supposed to be doing.

And here's the cool part: during all this time he was so focused on the phrasing, his technique was greatly improved!!! By focusing on a convincing musical phrase, it was almost as if the technique was thrown in for free.

(I love it when this happens)