Monday, October 04, 2010

Sweep it!

Sweep it! Not your room, but your notes. One word is often better than a lecture. Make your progress simple and fast. How many one-word instructions can you recall that trigger immediate playing improvements, both for yourself and for your teaching? Studio flash cards, anyone?

The word "sweep" works nicely, not as into the trash, but into the audience. A good conductor's sweeping gestures are effective in drawing out broad expansive phrases from the orchestra. No conductor to look at? Visualize a yard full of dry leaves being cleared away by a power blower. Jump start that thing, and let it do what it's designed for. Our playing needs to be wind-swept, avoiding pokes and jabs. Just breathe and blow.

Our goal is fluid air no matter how angular the phrase. Nasty clusters of awkward gnarly notes can easily cause your air to get stuck somewhere behind the mouthpiece. Keeping a forward direction with a steady supply of free-flowing air always brings improvement. Tone opens up and embouchure tension is reduced.

Inhale, then release without holding back. The phrase must start before it is played. Intake and outgo must be free and in time. Your product must be musical, but your air must be dumb. Jerks, hiccups, and bumps will happen in the music, but not in the air stream.

Remember: Air rules.

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