Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things You Love To Hear

What would you like audition committee members to be jotting down as they listen to you play? We want to keep their job easy. No need to make them write a lot, only a few superlative adjectives and you're hired. How quickly can you impress them?

Let's start at the end. Picture the mob of players on the infield at the end of the World Series, or the massive celebrating at the finish of the Super Bowl. How about those trophies proudly held high? Whatever plasters an inspiring picture in your mind, go for that every day.

For us music geeks, motivation could be as simple as anticipating that instant foot shuffling of orchestra colleagues after you finish an impressive solo. Or a bunch of "nice job, man!" comments after the concert. Or, getting that solo bow that is a must after Mahler. You want to hear more than just "Wow, you got all of the notes! Good job!"

Anyway, back to audition prep. Can you control what they will write about your playing? How about earning comments something like:

  • nice playing!
  • great sound
  • perfect rhythm
  • awesome energy and style
  • amazing control!!
  • very accurate
  • really clean articulation
  • fearless!
  • no problem with soft stuff
  • endurance will not be a problem with this person
  • YES!
Grab a few passersby and invite them to listen to you. Ask that they write down a few adjectives describing your work.

How well did you do? Do you like what you heard?

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.