Monday, November 25, 2013

Sight-Reading Lucy

When sight-reading, I always stress to my students: don't stop and restart!

It's as if you are playing with an invisible band. They won't stop for you so you must learn to keep the beat going.  If you stumble, pick things back up as if the beat never stopped (which it doesn't!).

This reminds  me of that classic sketch from the comedy, I Love Lucy, when Lucy and Ethel get a job wrapping candies as they come off the conveyer belt.  All those little candies might being to feel like notes in a tricky sight-reading passage.

The belt never stops...keep going!

Friday, November 15, 2013

JND Bends

Over a tuning drone, try bending the pitch just the smallest amount.

For that matter, try it during your long tones.  The goal: sensitize your ears!

Play a little tune and purposely play a note just a hair sharp or flat.  Can you hear it?  Play around with it.

Don't get wrapped up in right or wrong....just listen.  Zoom in with your ears.  Hear the smallest things.

In psychology I think we would be dealing with Weber's Law which states:

The Difference Threshold (or "Just Noticeable Difference") is the minimum amount by which stimulus intensity must be changed in order to produce a noticeable variation in sensory experience.
Someone can correct me on this but I think the above formula explains why a frequency change of a music half step smaller on lower notes.
For example:
From C1 to C#1: 34.65 - 32.70 = 1.95
From C4 to C#4: 277.18 - 261.63 = 15.55

Our ears hear the change of 1.95 and 15.55 as a half step because the frequency is higher.  The ratio stays the same.

OK, that's a little too much math for a trombone player.  What does this boil down to? Sometimes our worries about being out of tune actually get in the way of clarity.  By playing around with the pitch in a non-judgmental way, we gently allow our ears to become more sensitive.

I call these "JND Bends."  Try them out.  See how small a pitch change your ears can notice.  You might be surprised.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Batting Practice

Some notes just need reps.

Behind all that beautiful phrasing and artistry, some notes just need enough reps (repetitions) to become automatic...and comfortable.

This idea, so simple, reminds me of a recent post, "There are no pass-offs."

There's just something about patient repetition that can't be beat.  Especially when that repetition involves good awareness of posture and hearing the note in your mind before it comes out of the bell.

This reminds me of batting practice where that little machine just keeps firing those balls your way as you train your reflexes.

In fact, little groups of notes sometimes need that individual love and attention until the act of playing becomes second nature.  Something like this:
Or this:
Once again, it's about building those layers of myelin.

Batter up!