Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Swing Through

In theory, once the ball leaves the club head, the club should have no further effect on the ball.

And yet ...

we all understand intuitively that, if you don't swing through the ball, you won't hit it very well.  If you just "chop at" the ball, stopping the club head at the point of contact, you probably won't hit it very far or well.

This reminds of me of students who "poke at" notes instead of blowing through them.  All the attention seems focused on the beginnings of the note with no thought to blowing that air all the way through the note.  So much resonance/musicality happens after the note has begun!

This reminds me of that golf swing for some reason.  Just as you would stroke through the entire swing, you should blow THROUGH the note to send it "sailing" away with full tone.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sight-Reading Lucy

When sight-reading, I always stress to my students: don't stop and restart!

It's as if you are playing with an invisible band. They won't stop for you so you must learn to keep the beat going.  If you stumble, pick things back up as if the beat never stopped (which it doesn't!).

This reminds  me of that classic sketch from the comedy, I Love Lucy, when Lucy and Ethel get a job wrapping candies as they come off the conveyer belt.  All those little candies might being to feel like notes in a tricky sight-reading passage.

The belt never stops...keep going!

Friday, November 15, 2013

JND Bends

Over a tuning drone, try bending the pitch just the smallest amount.

For that matter, try it during your long tones.  The goal: sensitize your ears!

Play a little tune and purposely play a note just a hair sharp or flat.  Can you hear it?  Play around with it.

Don't get wrapped up in right or wrong....just listen.  Zoom in with your ears.  Hear the smallest things.

In psychology I think we would be dealing with Weber's Law which states:

The Difference Threshold (or "Just Noticeable Difference") is the minimum amount by which stimulus intensity must be changed in order to produce a noticeable variation in sensory experience.
Someone can correct me on this but I think the above formula explains why a frequency change of a music half step smaller on lower notes.
For example:
From C1 to C#1: 34.65 - 32.70 = 1.95
From C4 to C#4: 277.18 - 261.63 = 15.55

Our ears hear the change of 1.95 and 15.55 as a half step because the frequency is higher.  The ratio stays the same.

OK, that's a little too much math for a trombone player.  What does this boil down to? Sometimes our worries about being out of tune actually get in the way of clarity.  By playing around with the pitch in a non-judgmental way, we gently allow our ears to become more sensitive.

I call these "JND Bends."  Try them out.  See how small a pitch change your ears can notice.  You might be surprised.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Batting Practice

Some notes just need reps.

Behind all that beautiful phrasing and artistry, some notes just need enough reps (repetitions) to become automatic...and comfortable.

This idea, so simple, reminds me of a recent post, "There are no pass-offs."

There's just something about patient repetition that can't be beat.  Especially when that repetition involves good awareness of posture and hearing the note in your mind before it comes out of the bell.

This reminds me of batting practice where that little machine just keeps firing those balls your way as you train your reflexes.

In fact, little groups of notes sometimes need that individual love and attention until the act of playing becomes second nature.  Something like this:
Or this:
Once again, it's about building those layers of myelin.

Batter up!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Embracing Skeletons!

There's this phrase: Skeletons in the Closet. (or 'Skeleton in the Cupboard' elsewhere).

As I understand it, it refers to something you'd rather keep secret.

In our playing, we all have things we do better or worse.  The natural human tendency is to avoid pain and, in music, this often means avoiding those things we don't do very well.

For trombonists, this often means avoiding such unpleasantries as extreme soft playing, singing, or awkward intervals.  For some, it means avoiding lip slurs or long tones.

Those little weaknesses don't usually get better through avoidance.
Often they begin to loom large in our minds!

Embrace them!  Make them the centerpiece of your practicing.
In other words:
Don't just practice what you can already do well.  
Practice what you don't do well.

Embrace those skeletons!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ghostly gestures

I haven't thought of it this way before but the typical ghostly sound is actually quite musical.
Maybe that's why they hang around moaning and howling.
They simply want us to play 
with more direction 
in our phrases!!

For example, listen to this ghostly apparition...

Pretty scary, huh?

Actually, the ghost is merely trying to help out with the 3rd movement of the Grondahl Concerto!

Who knew?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Ghost Metronome

I'll continue with my "Halloween theme."

Of course we should all be playing with the metronome...probably more than we already do!

If you are playing something straightforward, like scales, with the metronome and you get really, really in sync with it, your notes start to "cover up" the click.

It's almost as if the metronome disappears!!

Listen carefully; try to make it vanish.

Your time will get so good it'll be spoooooky!