Wednesday, March 16, 2011

BoneWeek 7

After a few false starts and dead ends, I managed to knock out another BoneWeek Fanfare. I started writing these in celebration of International Trombone Week. You can find the previous fanfares both on my website and the ITA website.

A few notes about this one.
  • There are no "quotes" of well-known trombone pieces
  • I tried to avoid falling back into any clich├ęs (not easy sometimes)
  • I wanted it to have some rhythmic energy and no obvious presentation of a melody (see above)
With any of these fanfares, I use an odd test: would I want to play it. When I'm at a convention (like the Eastern Trombone Workshop which I'm missing...sigh) and looking through music I might purchase, I often look at the score and say, "Yuck, I wouldn't to play that part." The most common cardinal sin of composers and arrangers:
  • putting all the interest into the first part and thus generating boring parts for everyone else
  • making the first part so tiring that it becomes difficult to program such a chop-buster
These goals aren't difficult, so why do so many arrangements fail these tests. Lazy arrangers?

Anyway, here's the fanfare from my website. If you put it on a program, please let me know. It's always nice to get a concert program for my files.

You may ask, "How many of these things are you going to write?"

I have no idea.

Here's the link: BoneWeek Fanfare #7

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Free Duets!

My computer hard drive sometimes feels like a museum of old ideas. I don't get rid of much (and, yes, I use redundant back-ups), so there's a lot of old stuff sitting around in there.
I'm hard at work on my latest series of books and, as I looked through this digital museum, I came across these duets. I'm not sure why I wrote them...probably just to have some nice lyrical stuff to play in lessons.
I don't think they've ever been printed out or played.
So, have at 'em. I don't make claims to great music but they probably won't cause damage ...

Now, if you're racked with guilt about downloading free music, I *do* have a PayPal account....
(hey, you never know, there might be some eccentric millionaire out there!)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

I'm not a big fan of breathing exercises. Breathing, I like. Exercises, not so much.

I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because time is always limited. Maybe because I'm not patient enough. The buzzing exercises I start with usually require some pretty deep breathing so maybe my cause isn't totally hopeless.

Last Fall, I tried this little exercise in a few lessons and, from time to time, I've used it in my practicing.

Take three really deep breaths and, each time, blow out like crazy.

I blow out mostly (but not completely) through my horn. I let some air escape around the sides of the mouthpiece.

I think of this quick exercise as a "lethargy buster." When I (or my students) get a little sluggish, this is a quick way to wake up and get going.

I remember trying it in three lessons in a row last Fall. Not at the beginning but somewhere in the middle when my "sluggish radar" began beeping. Each time, I was surprised and please with the improvement in their sound.
(I did warn them not emulate that wild, almost psycho manner of blowing out when they actually played.)

This is not my invention. From the Alessi Seminar, I remember Weston Sprott doing similar crazy breaths from time to time. In fact, checking a handout on his website, I see that he refers to it as the "vigorous breath."

Somehow, "big bad wolf" just seems more memorable...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Most Significant Development in Music Education

I was thinking about this the other day.
There is a new development in the field of music education. The more I think about it, the more I realize how profound it is.

That development: YouTube

OK, it's now time for my "you young whippersnappers" moment...
When I was in college and had to learn a new piece or be inspired by a new player, what did I do?
  • How many professional trombone recordings were available?
  • Who was performing within driving distance?
  • Could I afford the time and money needed to see them perform?
Imitation is enormously powerful. Young players need to see and hear top players in order to set the bar.

YouTube does that.

Yes, there can be laughably bad videos. That guy trying to explain triplets was a screamer.
But (I hope) everyone saw through that.

I type "mozart tuba mirum" into the search box and I get 519 results instantly.

I'm a trombone professor and yet, in one morning, any of my students can gather more information about performances of this excerpt than I could in all of my studies throughout the pre-YouTube era.

For instance, if one of my students said, "You know, Solti once had the trombone player stand for the Mozart Requiem solo." I would probably reply with, "No way. Where did you hear that nonsense?"

How about this search: "joseph alessi trombone"
291 results

"arthur pryor trombone"
103 results

"ravel bolero orchestra"
652 results

Of course, youtube also gives us...
"justin bieber"

Stop and reflect for a moment on just how profoundly this is changing the world of teaching and learning music

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Before or After?

A colleague of mine mentioned an experimental approach he was planning to try this semester.

Basically, he would devote the lesson to coaching a student on new pieces before the student had time to practice them. You might call this doing "intro work."

I think the most common teaching/learning sequence goes like this..
  1. teacher assigns it
  2. student works on it
  3. student plays it in a lesson and teacher works on it
This new model (if I understood correctly) would be..
  1. teacher coaches student on it in a lesson
  2. student works on it
  3. in the next lesson, teacher coaches student on new pieces
Now, I know what you're thinking: where's the accountability? Well, I believe that comes in the form of playing tests a few times each semester in which the student must be able to play the pieces for a grade.
Bear in mind that these are college students I'm talking about. I realize that presenting a piece to a middle school band with regular rehearsals is a completely different animal.
It is an interesting idea. After all, it is harder to re-learn something after having learned it incorrectly. Why not get students off to a good start?
Of course, in some ideal world, we would have unlimited time for lessons and could devote quality time to both ends of the equation.
But usually, the clock is the enemy and another student will be waiting outside your door in one hour.
No big conclusions here because there is no one right way to always do it.

Still, I think it's something worth thinking about...

How much time do we, as teachers,
devote to the "before" side of teaching and how much to the "after" side?