Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Driving somewhere this summer? Or maybe just vegging out on your deck, or lingering way too long at Starbucks? Here's a way to ease your guilt for getting less accomplished on your horn than you'd planned. You can actually make some progress without ever lifting a mouthpiece. All you need is your steering wheel if driving, or your knuckles if vegging, and your three valve fingers.

Some of you can remember when car steering wheels had grooves for a nice sure grip. (Those were also the days when drivers grasped the wheel with both hands at about 10 and 2 o'clock and adjusted the wheel every few seconds, but I digress.) The steering grips may have since disappeared, but fortunately knuckles have not, so we are without excuse.

We always get graded on tone, style, and endurance, but we rarely get points for amazing finger technique. It's a pity. Fingers should get more respect. Let's make August National Fingering Month. Actually, they need more time than that. What do you say to the International Year of Fingers! We had better also be training the fourth finger to avoid being crippled on pic repertoire.

So we are out to nail and pound with amazing skill. Right hand fingers should fit perfectly into left hand knuckles causing an audible slapping sound. Likewise, secure, loud strikes on steering wheel is the goal. If you're greatly annoying the family, you're getting somewhere. Remember that your fingers must have an attitude too! Fingers matter.

Now, what to thump? You'll need all twelve major scales, two octaves up and down, in thirds and fourths with varying rhythms. Don't avoid the minor scales with all three forms, natural, harmonic and melodic. Next, all arpeggios - major, minor, augmented, and diminished with the 7th. Be polishing all of your chromatics daily. Can you do them in seconds, that is, up a whole step, down a half step? Octave work is fun. Rushing is permissible, and speeding is encouraged.

Once your fingers are well warmed up, you may begin testing a movement of a solo. With all of this activity you'll notice the tongue wanting to get involved. Fine. Just make sure it is perfectly in sync with finger tips. You are welcome to sing along.

Drive safely.

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