Saturday, February 04, 2023
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
The good news is that a beautiful tone is not required for this skill. Neither is stunning dynamic control, perfect intonation, or sensitive phrasing. In fact, you don't even need your trumpet! You just need to develop the unshakable skill of rock-solid timing.
When under pressure, this is often one of the first strikes against us. While concentrating on accuracy, we quickly forget about timing. Or while focusing on tone, we rush and slow down unintentionally.
One dreaded comment from the audition committee: "We would have advanced you were it not for your poor rhythm." Superior tone, phrasing, intonation, and articulation are useless without a steady pulse.
Since our instrument is not needed to develop this skill, we can work on this anywhere. This should be a fun game. We learn to quickly nail every tempo, maintaining rhythmic consistency under the steady hand of our professor, the metronome.
Again, we don't need to be in the practice room to perfect this skill. When our rhythm is solid, it is ready for music-making. Rhythmic security should be automatic.
Don't let the trumpet rob you of being able to demonstrate great rhythm.
Friday, October 14, 2022
Analysis, instructions, and detailed strategies are fine, but the best learning happens when we just listen. Sit down with your music, listen, and pay close attention to what you are hearing. Then copy that!
A trumpet colleague of mine in the CSO used to have the three-choir Gabrielli recording playing as his students arrived for their lessons. He simply said, "now play like that!"
Don't sound like a student! How well we play is a reflection of how carefully we listen.
Friday, September 02, 2022
Instead of mentally adjusting the notes and trying desperately to please the next guy, just place the notes exactly where they belong. Use your musical gut, not your questioning mind. Your sense of pitch should be developed so that you can depend on your instincts to play in tune.
Don't follow, lead! Find the core of each note and drill it down the center. This should fix your intonation problems.
Our one-sentence lesson: Don't chase the notes, place them!
Saturday, August 27, 2022
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
That was the response after my valiant attempt at the difficult slow passage near the end of Strauss's Death and Transfiguration. It's supposed to be smooth, lyrical and flowing even though the melody line jumps all over the place and demands some very long sustained high notes. But no. My most critical listener, my wife Sandy, had the correct assessment. "That sounds like it's really hard to play!"
Yes, it should look easy, but much more importantly it must sound beautiful and effortless. It should look like we are playing a single long tone, but it must sound smooth, singing, and expressive.
Clarinet players always have this skill on display with every lyric line. Take their solo in Pines of Rome, the one accompanied by the chirping birds. No matter how wide the intervals, they dazzle the audience with seamless legato technique. That's the goal: no bumps, no fluffs, no questionable intonation, and no strain!
So, that was my most recent one-sentence lesson. Don't let others know that it's difficult. Instead, we want to hear, that's fantastic, and it sounds easy!
Wednesday, July 20, 2022
I remember him for the three P's, passion, power and pizzazz. Endurance, transposition, and volume were the goals at every lesson. A well-bruised embouchure came to be the mark of honor for all of his students. Nothing was to be played with tentative shyness. He exuded a confidence that was off the charts. I left those lessons loaded for bear and ready to unleash electrifying heroics for the neighbors!
So, to hear this one-sentence lesson from him some years later was a stunner. I wish he had stressed the soft end of playing as much as he did the aggressive dynamics. As we all eventually learn, the soft stuff can kill us easier than the blasting. Good quiet playing will actually help the loud playing.
A few notes on practicing the soft stuff:
- Increase your amount of quiet practice.
- Don't lose expression when playing pianissimo. Increase it.
- Go from loud to soft constantly.
- Practice fortissimo passages in pianissimo.
- Pretend you're practicing so as not to awaken the baby.
- Rest more. Take a day off.