Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Your mind can try to make you play in perfect time, but your inner rhythmic instincts can do a much better job. To put it crudely, music from the mind reaches the mind, while music from the gut reaches the gut.
Think of the metronome as no more than a strict school master. It is not a drama coach. It's the angry drill sergeant, but not the sensitive maestro. It's better to train and rely upon your God-given inner rhythm, than to depend solely upon your ability to place every note in its proper position.
Are metronomes superior to musicians? Nope. A stoic metronome is not capable of phrasing, nuance, or expression, only millions of lifeless clicks. Its only function is obnoxious clicking. Certainly a living person should be superior to a machine! We have breath, energy, and purpose. A metronome has none of that. It has no brain, musicality, expression or soul! Don't live only by the boring pulse of a machine.
Great time-keeping is the foundation upon which energy, phrasing, and expression are built. Always be building artistry on top of great rhythm. Don't neglect your inner rhythm, and don't be boring. You are much better than a metronome!
Friday, September 02, 2016
1. My first notes of the day will be pure quality.
2. I will play slow enough to be accurate and clean.
3. I'm going to play perfectly for 5 seconds. Then 10, 15.
4. I'll be paid for only good notes.
5. I'll play my solo very slowly, resting every 4 measures.
6. It will never be said that my playing is boring.
7. Every phrase will be stunningly musical.
8. I'm going to be able to impress my friends with how softly I can play without loss of tone.
9. I'm going to amaze my friends with how loudly I can dominate without loss of tone.
10. My future employer is listening just outside my practice room door! . . . . "You're hired!"
Freedom in playing comes when junk has been dealt with. No one wants a flawed product. Goal: eliminate wasted notes and wasted time. Put the practice room on stage. Eliminate junk playing.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Step one: THINK SLOW. Give yourself enough time to find the center (the sweet spot) of each note. Don't proceed until all of your notes are usable. (During one of my lessons with Mel Broiles, he accused me of "spraying the air with thousands of notes of highly questionable value!" He used a slightly different wording, but I got the point.)
Step two: THINK MONEY. Imagine that every top quality note you produce instantly deposits dollars into your checking account. Likewise consider that any stuffy, unfocused notes will painfully charge your account big bucks! It's your choice: severe fines or rich rewards.
Step three: THINK CONDUCTOR. You live for the conductor's favor, not his displeasure. When you play, you want to see his uplifted hand and expression of approval, not an annoyed grimace as he frantically shushes your strained efforts.
Step four: THINK AUDIENCE. They're why we do what we do! It's not about us. We simply deliver beautiful phrases to a music-hungry audience one good note at a time. That's the goal even in the practice room. Always insist on high quality and drama. Think APPLAUSE, STANDING OVATIONS, BOWS! Quality is guaranteed!
Thursday, June 09, 2016
That bear however is very tamable! Two things will not only keep his rage at bay, but can also turn him into a friendly pet (more or less). Those weapons are preparation and communication.
It's been said, "You don't have to play perfectly but you do have to play accurately." The goal of perfection puts great pressure and extra fear of failure on the performer. Whereas accuracy (of styles, tempos, dynamics, drama and overall musicianship) communicates better, and rescues the performer from himself. Perfection is about the performer; communication is about the audience.
Prepare daily to defeat the audition monster with accuracy and dramatic communication. Poor preparation is followed by fear of the bear. So slave wisely over the details, but slay the bear with your practiced noticeable dramatic skills as well. Be sure to practice the message at least as much as the mechanics.
At the next audition the bear may threaten, but you have assured his defeat with your mighty weapons: singing, expression, rhythmic precision, dynamic contrasts, beautiful phrasing, excellent quality of sound, drama, and game-changing standout musicianship!
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
So what is this boy doing that so many neglect? Answer: he doesn't know, he's just catching the ball. Similarly, we should think music, not muscles; message, not mechanics. Catch the ball, hit the ball. No time to analyze. Instincts matter. Training them to work for you on very short notice is a fun project. Focus quickly, play great. Don't give yourself time to get nervous.
Suggestions on a quicker response.
- Sing it.
- Valve it.
- Sing it and valve it precisely together.
- Eliminate extraneous prep time. Pick up the horn and make your statement without hesitation.
- The way you react when someone suddenly tosses something at you is your model.
- Think: catch and shoot!
- Play your absolute best at the drop of a hat.
- Q Q (Quick Quality)
Friday, April 22, 2016
We are actors of a thousand emotions and expressions, made up and outfitted with beautifully detailed costumes. Colorful decorations matter. This is the entertainment conceived by composers, encouraged by conductors, and delivered by the musicians. What a thrill, what an honor to play a part!
The richness of the music, the colors of the instrument groups, and the passions of the players all contribute to make concertizing an art. More than a job, it's a mission, a commission. We get to translate all those little black dots on the printed page into sound, magically bringing them to life, and then singing out that message to the people.
What room is there for fear or pride? This "business" is far greater than the performer. We are just the somewhat lowly messengers of the music. This is exhilarating yet humbling. It is also a tremendous antidote for stage fright. We are consumed by the beauty of the product we deliver. Honing that product is our life's work, our passion, our frustration, and our satisfaction, however imperfectly we may do it. We don't shoot for perfection, we shoot for excellence in communication.
The great Mel Broiles had his blunt way of getting his students fired up about practicing. "You're not going to deliver any pizzazz in the show if you haven't ever done it in the practice room."
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Are your notes all shriveled up and your air stream restricted? Is a superhuman effort required to force anything through the horn and into the audience? If the answer is yes, you may have a serious case of the dreaded constrictivitis. You need to call NOTO-ROOTER.
Students will clean the horn, but ignore the notes. Even your shortest notes must be slices of your top quality whole note. The Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition puts our focus on tone and freedom of delivery. Likewise all notes must be "Pictures" notes. The beauty of the whole depends upon the beauty of all the parts.
Try putting a fermata on at least one note per measure to check for quality. Learn to listen for and expect a great sound on every note, even in difficult technical passages.
To remind you of your cleaning mission, NOTO-ROOTER will include a free ball cap with a beautifully stitched toilet plunger on the front when you call 1-800-MAX-TONE today!