Saturday, November 28, 2009

Boomerangs for Pitch

Here's a trick I like to use in teaching.

When a student is struggling to lock in the right pitch, I sometimes have them purposely start out of tune with a given note (such as a tuning drone) and then slowly gliss towards the right pitch.

Sometimes, as they approach the right spot, they aren't sure if they've quite gone quite far enough. I tell them, "Keep going until you know you've gone too far, then turn around and go back to the pitch. Like a boomerang."

Somehow, going beyond and coming back seems to help a great deal.

This drawing represents a boomerang from below the pitch...
Of course, you can also do boomerangs from above.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Explosion at the Rochut Factory!

(AP: 11.24.2009) A recent explosion and fire at the Rochut factory has temporarily halted etude production. Although company management officials issued a quick press release

"We regret the unfortunate accident at our factory this morning. We want to assure the public that no employees were injured in the blast. The source of the blast seems to have to have been the slur press when a cognitive dissonance valve malfunctioned. We are confident that we will be back in production with minimal delay."

In the meantime, Dolce Bel Canto Inc., distributors for the etudes is announcing a fire sale on the beloved etudes. The works are complete except, of course, for missing slur marks.

Said one industry analyst:
"Perhaps this is a good thing. We all know the phrasing controversies concerning some of these etudes. Perhaps the appearance of these etudes without marked slurs will force students to decide logical note groupings. Perhaps that will be the silver lining to this dark cloud. Only time will tell."

Rochut's stock (NYSE code RCHT) dropped 27% in heavy trading early in the day but experienced a partial recovery as profit takers moved in, ending the day down 12 points.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Nice Online Music Dictionay

Here's a nice free service from Virginia Tech...

An online music dictionary which includes pronunciations of the terms and, for some examples, sound samples (although I never could get the sound sample page to download...maybe I'm too impatient).

Here's the Link.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Record - Work it Out - *then* listen back

Here's a new sequence I've tried in a few lessons.

  1. The student plays while I record.
  2. Before we listen to the recording, I point out the detail I wish to focus on and I get them to notice and improve.
  3. Then, we listen to the recording.

The change is that steps 2 and 3 are a swap from the old way which was: Record-Listen-Work it Out.

Why do I like this new approach? As we work out the detail in question, the student's ear becomes more focused.

One example might be the tendency to "twah" during a moving legato line. They're doing it, but at first they don't hear it.

I focus in on a small section and "take out the magnifying glass" to help them hear that elusive "twah" habit. Once their ear is sensitized to it (and they're playing it better), I play back the recording and they can really hear the problem clearly.

Anyway, for you teachers out there, it's a sequence that may seem counter-intuitive but I've seen some nice results.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Out with the old and in with the new...The Basic 4 Warm-Up

I've pulled down my old warm-up materials from the website and replaced them with this.

What went down?

Daily Routine Menu

Daily Building Block Routine


Well, the routine menu is going to overlap too much with the book I will be writing this Spring. The idea still works but I need to revise material and put it into a more cohesive form.

The Building Block Routine was reasonably thorough but it was just too long. In lessons, we never got past a few of the exercises. Also, as with the routine menu, it will overlap awkwardly with that new book.


I wanted something short and sweet. (yes, I was tempted to write "short and suite")

Something to get you (and me) off the ground a little more quickly (like, 12 minutes)

What are the "Basic 4"?

  • Wind/Sound
  • Flow
  • Lip Slurs
  • Scales

Here's a link.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The gurgle of truth...

In many lessons, I often find myself urging my students to use more air. Here's an interesting detail I've noticed...

They start to notice that water gurgling in their spit valves. When they empty the valve, I'm sometimes stunned to see how much water comes out. I wonder to myself, "How did that much water build up without bugging that student."

Could it be that, during practicing, they were using ...


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Weston Sprott on an iPhone app

I just learned of a new iPhone app from a company called Music in Reach. They have playing info focused on a variety of instruments.

Weston Sprott, second trombonist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra has collaborated on the trombone version of the app.

Here's an example video of Weston talking about hand position. You can find other videos like this as well as an ad for the app here on YouTube.

My first impression: it's nice to see that the first people to come out with such a product have done a good job. (of course, maybe they weren't the first..who knows)

Still, a very nice service for only $1.99.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Beware the Creeping Triplets

It's not too hard to play this rhythm correctly...

But watch out when you try to play this...

( cue spooky music)
You start out with the best of intentions. You merrily stroll through all those dotted rhythms. Suddenly you feel yourself weakening.

It seems as if some force is taking over your mind, causing those upright triplets to melt into..
(creepy music gets louder here)


You must escape those slimy creeping triplets..