Wednesday, February 23, 2022



The conductor looked annoyed and kept tugging at his ear as he glared at the trumpets. Finally, he stopped the rehearsal and said: "One of the trumpets is sharp!" My colleagues knew who it was, but wisely refused to look at me. Gulp. I received a painful but effective lesson that day!  

So, how do we fix our faulty, bone-jarring lack of correct intonation?

First, acknowledge that the problem may actually by our own, not the other guy's. 

Next, determine to examine each note with the honest help of a tuner. 

Then, correct the pitch without losing the rich core of the sound.

Play musically but play in tune. Playing musically but out of tune is not playing musically. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that must be relearned daily. 

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

The Problem with the Trumpet!

The problem with the trumpet! It is unmusical, it has no sound, rhythm or brains. It's dumb! It just lies there lifelessly in its case, smugly defying its owner to conquer it. It seems to enjoy frustrating and stifling inspiration. What's worse, it never practices!

The good news is that it can be brought to life and made obedient! Consider Frankenstein's monster, springing up after a few powerful jolts of electricity. Pinocchio similarly became a real boy when controlled by his inspired and caring master. Frosty also began to bounce around jovially once all the kids expected that he would. Simple examples but think about it: a few powerful jolts from a caring owner who believed his lifeless puppet could come to life!

So, what's the magic potion? It is an enormous musical stockpile, continuously infusing greatness into a lifeless instrument. A huge reservoir overflowing the banks of the dry land. A musical fortress that can be strengthened to withstand all challenges. 

The instrument will always be lifeless, but the player has the joy of providing all that's needed to bring it to life!


Saturday, February 05, 2022


I once asked a veteran oboe player in the Cleveland Orchestra how often he felt good about his playing. I expected a response like, "every time, man!" I was stunned to hear him say, "I feel great only about 10% of the time." 

It sure didn't sound that way! His playing was always musical and flawless. I wish I had asked him how he did it, but I suppose the answer is obvious. It's why he had that job. 

So, what's the takeaway? 
  • Be encouraged that you can learn to sound great even if your heart isn't in it. 
  • Fool your listeners. Act the part.
  • Always bring your performance face.
  • Don't depend on feeling great.
  • Turn boring into "bravo!"
  • We all have our 10%. Learn to be convincing on the 90%.  

Saturday, January 29, 2022


"Greatness is the perfect mixture of technique and artistry." 

Related thoughts:

  • Guarantee purity!
  • Secure your technique for the purpose of flawless expression. 
  • Faulty technique will not contribute to great artistry.
  • Artistry requires technical control.
  • The purpose of great technique is compelling drama.
  • When artistry rules, mechanics can obey. 
  • When mechanics obey, artistry can emerge.
  • Passionate drama is well-organized. 
  • Emotions must be skillfully controlled.
  • Accuracy needs artistry. Artistry needs accuracy.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Only 1 Lesson!

Sometimes it only takes one lesson to make a lasting impact. 

In 1974 John Ware played a two-octave scale up and down for me. That was all I needed to hear. But it was the way he did it, starting pianissimo with a crescendo to fortissimo, and returning to pianissimo. Or it can be done with the reverse dynamics with a variety of articulations. Really quiet and really loud, without forcing or pinching. Always with a fabulous tone! 

The rest of that lesson was inspirational for sure, but the details have been forgotten. What I remember today however, is the ease and finesse with which he released a superior sound!

Lesson 2 was watching him play first on the Planets in the Philharmonic. It was the same thing: power and finesse all in one player! Articulations exploded out the bell. We heard exciting dominating trumpet playing from a rather small, mild-mannered gentleman. 

Of course, who cannot be amazed at the beauty of his Posthorn Solo in Mahler 3! His gorgeous playing still rings in my mind every time that excerpt comes up. He said very little that day, but his playing said everything I needed to hear!  

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Overcoming the Nerve Monster

Great news! The NERVE MONSTER is not invincible! The dreaded adversary can be overcome or rendered ineffective and no longer a dangerous opponent.  How great would that be!

To be able to resist the onslaught of nerves requires a strengthening of your message. There should be no enslavement to crippling bouts of fright every time you take the stage! 

For this to happen, something more powerful than fear must take control. When it does, a successful performance or audition could actually happen. How great would that be!  

A public speaker who was known for his effective speaking before large crowds once admitted that were it not for one thing, he would be a nervous wreck every time he approached the podium. Nervousness was an admitted obstacle until he remembered why he was there!  

So, what turns hesitancy into confidence, fear into boldness? Answer: a total focus on your message! 

When there's much to share, there's no room for self-consciousness. An effective performer concentrates on his music, not on himself. Confidence comes from a sustained passion to deliver a great product. The audience pays to hear the music, not your attempt at an error-free zone. Plunge into the drama and avoid the trauma. How great will that be!



Wednesday, January 12, 2022


Stop! Hold on! Slow down and listen! You need to play the Floating Fermata Game!

Imagine a fermata hovering over each line of your music as you play. It dances freely until it stops suddenly over one of your notes that needs your attention. It says, "There, hear that? Now fix it!" 

There's no point in ignoring the floating fermata. It's very sensitive and easily provoked. Any of the following will set it off:

  • Intonation violations
  • Quality malfunctions
  • Legato offenses 
  • Final-note sloppiness
  • Blundered entrances, etc.
The floating fermata is your best teacher!