Saturday, September 15, 2012


For those of you with very cautious instincts who would never offend by over-blowing, this blog is for you.

Bullheadedness must be tempered by discretion and artistic sensitivities.  And so we have been taught.  But with that truth said, there still remains the need to bust out of the bag and do some serious paint-peeling.  There is a time for soothing strokes, and there is a time for blistering belligerence.  Those who fail to achieve the right balance will certainly hear "thank you, next." So who's ready for the not so delicate task of skillful paint-peeling?

During one orchestra rehearsal some years ago several small portions of the plaster ceiling decor suddenly fell to the stage and shattered in pieces.  Bored brass players instantly scampered around the floor claiming their priceless souvenirs, me being one of them.  Maybe it really happened that our belted brass bravura brought down the house, literally!  I still have my proud remembrance. 

You know the need for this mindset.  Every major brass work calls for this tendency - Zarathustra, Heldenleben, Mahler 8, Pines, you name it.  What makes paint-peeling an art is that it must take place from long range.  Anyone can fire at a target only a few inches away.  Powerful blasters must be able to do damage and penetrate the entire concert hall and reach a target way back behind the audience.  The big obstacle is not the distance however, but the embouchure. Resistance must be minimal. 

Let's be including some daily wise practice of long range firing.  This high bar should teach us to keep the embouchure as tension-free as possible.  A lot of streaming notes must be able to pass unhampered into the hall.  Flushing out the horn with blasts of unrestrained air can be just the therapy for that tense embouchure.  Try it regularly in moderation.

Remember, we want to flood the hall with inspiring blasts of quality, not mindless shootings of questionable value.  Goal:  to share the best quality playing we can muster with the audience, and that includes all of those in the last row.  Fire away! 

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