Friday, December 12, 2008

Fire-Starting Methods

Christmas Eve will find you . . . kneeling down to fan the flames of that yuletide fire, but you quickly realize that you are working way too hard because not much flame-flickering is happening! Furthermore you are getting faint fast and your holiday company is growing impatient and not at all impressed with your fireside manner. The smoke seems to be winning the blowing contest as it poofs right back into your face which grows paler by the puff. What a wimp!

Holiday lesson: Sorry to say that this scenario is highlighting your severe embouchure and breathing problems! Your approach also reveals a serious character flaw which is totally unacceptable for a brass player. It appears that you are trying to start that fire like a woodwind player!! (Actually they have fake fires, or else they have someone start it for them.)

Let us observe three ways how not to get a fire started this Christmas. First is the oboe player's Tight Squeeze Method, subtitled A Fire in a Pinch! No Chicago fire will ever get started with such an embouchure. Windy City? Not. While they're aiming at the floor, more air actually escapes from their ears than ever reaches the smoldering wood. It takes oboes a very long time to get a little fire going, and this is definitely not the way to impress your holiday company. The fire cracklings seem to be laughing at this over-stressed effort.

Next mistaken approach: the Classic Flute Puff Method, which attempts to ignite flames without stirring any dust or soot whatsoever. You can faintly hear only slight puffings and twitterings from the would be blower as he never inhales more than a reed cup full of air. The pitiful air stream does have a nice quivery vibrato however. This method is somewhat popular because there is so little resistance.

Then there is the irritating Bottle Hoot Method. This is especially popular with bass clarinet players. Alto flute types also invariably latch onto this technique. The flute family often uses this method to suit their fast tonguing needs by using "hootalee-hootalee-hootalee's". This may help them with Bolero, but is not the greatest for fire-starting. The positive side is that The Bottle Method does provide a real hoot for observers.

Christmas break assignment: carefully observe your fire-starting technique and don't be using any of those woodwind methods. Brass players need to be studying The Three Little Pigs Method. You must huff, and you must puff, but you must blow the house down! In fact, the more dust, soot, and smoke, the better! When your flames are blazin', then you're cookin'!


Unknown said...

Great analogies!

Sophia Lush and Mum said...

Hi Phil - could I please use your "child blowing a dandelion" image?

Sophia Lush and Mum said...

Hi Phil - could I please use your "child blowing a dandelion" image?