Thursday, November 28, 2013
Stand #1 is your etude stand. No other rep allowed. Pull up your chair, set your timer, and go. Goal: technique-building, sight-reading, accuracy, and endurance. Don't get carried away. You have four more stands to go! Take a break.
Stand #2 is your solo stand. It holds only rep for future recitals. Don't perform each piece every day, just plug away methodically. Prepare the hardest passages slowly so that you avoid panic on the week of the recital performance. Pause.
Stand #3 is your excerpt stand. This is NOT your most important stand. For great playing, you need all stands in operation. Thorough excerpt prep over time equips you for that audition that comes up suddenly. Cover a lot of excerpts regularly, rather than burning out on one or two. Coffee.
Stand #4 is your pic stand. Small trumpet rep only. Work wisely and don't neglect this one. Learn to be comfortable up there. This shouldn't be your last stand. There must be life after high notes. Take a walk.
Stand #5 is your flugelhorn stand. This should be "Sunday practice", chill time playing, ballads, favorite melodic material, hymns, or anything but etudes and excerpts. Your flugel practice segment should be totally stress-free, expressive, and enjoyment-oriented. This stand offers you therapy from the mental and physical bruising of the week.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
|Entrance Awareness Month|
Tired of always trying to redeem yourself after a faulty start? Why not determine to be impressive from the get go? Capture attention immediately. Think clarity of note fronts, pinpoint attacks, a dart, a surgeon's knife, a snake's tongue, or whatever picture helps you to get a grip on your entrance.
Fearless confidence is the required mindset. Armando Ghitalla used to say that "the first trumpet must come bustin' in!" William Vacchiano simply gestured, "the notes must speak just like that!" as he snapped his fingers. In short, "you must be there, on time, with a great sound." Doug Lindsay observed that the "tongue should release the note rather than attacking it." Bernard Adelstein, that wonderful great-note machine, never missed and never appeared to worry. When the baton came down, his first note was always right there. Mel Broiles possessed a command of every note as if he were holding each one tightly in his grasp. There was almost a vicious aggressiveness about his approach. Loved it! Myron Bloom proudly stated, "I'm not afraid to make a mistake!" Practice that kind of confidence with every entrance!
Arnold Jacobs had the classic answer for all who hesitate. He was more concerned about what the phrase said than the mechanics of how it started. The focus should be more about the singing quality of the phrase than it is about the first note. It should be less about the start, and more about the start of something great. Think wind and song, not tongue and sputter. Entering with a message gives freedom to the messenger.
Saturday, November 09, 2013
We've heard endless sermons on air flow, embouchure efficiency, breathing concepts, sound quality, and of course proper equipment. So how about paying some serious attention to those three undisciplined fingers which are before our eyes every day?
Here are the problems with our fingers. They tend to be sluggish and uncoordinated, making people think we are total klutzes. Often they fly way too high over the valve caps, or don't even press the valves all the way down. What's worse, under pressure their desperate grip causes the valves to stick. Don't you hate that? By the end of the day we are foiled by our own fickle fingers just when we needed them the most!
Are you tired of being flummoxed and discouraged by your horrible precision? Acquaint your fingers with your tongue and urge them to be the best of friends. Imagine a connecting nerve between the four of them. Insist on perfect sync on all scales, major, minor, chromatic, whole tone, whatever. Just as the piano key is struck, so must be the sounding of the note. When the baton comes down, the air, the tongue, and the finger tips join in perfect accord. It's simple. Just be there.
Note: Don't penalize your embouchure for the laziness of your fingers! Save your chops by working the fingers and tongue apart from playing.
Monday, October 28, 2013
What is your strategy for the day of the big performance? Are you already anticipating playing it safe and second-guessing yourself? Don't plan to fail. Prepare to perform.
Assuming all of your detail work has been thorough, you are now in a very enviable place! A great percentage of your playing was detailed and analytical. Now you have earned the right to totally perform. Don't drag the practice room onto the stage, and don't be listening to yourself. Just play!
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
As I was preparing for an important audition years ago, a good friend challenged me to sing each excerpt, and give it everything I had. The game was to pretend that the committee was going to award the job to the singer who best represented everything the composer intended. I scoffed and insisted that no gimmicks were needed. My playing was good enough as it was. He persisted however, and I was surprised to see and hear the results of our little drama class.
After some awkward moments of my pitiful croaking, we noticed that expression drastically improved. Phrasing and subtleties were noticeably better. Rhythm was steadier, and the music was less cautious and much more interesting. He snapped, "Don't just crank it out, play it!" Now it was game on!
More of his butt-whipping: "Project the music to the back of the hall. Wake the committee up. Instantly capture the drama of every excerpt." Concerning auditions, it was the great Arnold Jacobs who summed it up, "At the audition, you must simply play better than everybody else."
Summary: Obey everything on the page. Sing it perfectly, and then begin to copy that with the trumpet. Either we will follow the trumpet, or it will be made to follow us!
Sunday, September 29, 2013
By the way, a great sound is a nice flub-eraser at auditions. If the audition committee likes the way you play, they are likely to excuse a clip or two. A great tone just might cancel some inaccuracies if they had to choose one over the other. So you might as well keep a good sharp focus on your tone in daily practice. Prepare to be noticed and remembered for your sound.
A great sound is not enough however. It must be accompanied by great musicianship and style. These compliment each other. A great sound with no direction or purpose is boring. Our goal is to project the appropriate style with a distinctive and captivating sound. Opera singers plunge into their roles with an abundance of drama. Why not be that opera singer every time you play? Command the attention of a large audience. Sound quality and extraordinary musicianship matter.
Note: Great tone does not just equal high decibels. A great sound should happen in all dynamics. The bullets for today are TONE and MESSAGE.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Maneuverability in pp is the goal. It is vital for the music and the health of the embouchure. Our lips get tired, or "tard" as some of our Cincinnati colleagues used to complain. What's a brass player to do after an orchestral pummeling? The macho in us says, "tough it out, man! Meet fahr with fahr, (fire)!" The truth is that wise, soft, practice of basics for sensitivity is the best way to recover and to prepare for the next blastathon. Regular low decibel practice will help guarantee confidence and security in performance.
Explore the soft range. Learn to control both screaming loud and super soft. Just because the part indicates quiet dynamics doesn't mean you play with no tone or style. PP does not mean pitifully puny! It stands for Powerfully Persuasive!
Note: As the finalists for his job were awaiting the verdict from the BSO trumpet audition committee, the great Roger Voisin himself strode confidently into the locker room. "Hi, boys, he said. Just wanted to see who was going to get my locker key." He then opened his locker, pulled out a muted C trumpet and played for us a very tasty, spiffy-clean Bozza-like soft and agile fanfare. He grinned, hung up his horn and left. He could have won his own job back! Soft was VERY COOL and the lesson was very persuasively imparted!