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Showing posts from February, 2018

A is for Abs

I've had five different concerts in a row this past four weeks, and for three of them I was not playing principal.  Which meant that I got to sit back and enjoy watching someone else sweat the tuning notes.

Maybe everyone doesn't find the tuning A as stressful as I do - certainly no one I've played with seems anxious about it or sounds bad in any way.

But I've struggled to find a consistent approach.  It's not the pitch itself - I know what A 440 feels like in my body and on my instrument and I can produce it on demand.  No, it's the attack.

What an ugly word, attack.  But that's sometimes what it feels like.  The concertmaster stands up, and suddenly NOW, NOW is the moment and I have to make the sound instantly.

I know how to gently start a note.  I know how to support into the center of the pitch and I know how to stabilize it with my air and not my embouchure so it sounds full and unshakeable and confident.  But somehow when on the spot I can get MOUTHY …

Doing Less

This was supposed to be a terrible week. I was going to have five late nights and 6 early mornings all in a row, and I had 17 students on my books and on three of these nights I was going to have to teach right up until the instant of my departure time, book out of the house or college, and drive like a maniac to be on time for my rehearsal.  Obviously, I also had to make and mail a hundred or so reeds over the course of the week, because that's always true.

I've lived this week before, plenty of times.  It's just the thing that happens when a particular kind of gig schedule bumps up against my daughter being in elementary school, and both coincide with the completely regular teaching that I have - and enjoy - and rely on financially for the off weeks.  I know very well both how frazzled and frantic I feel as the week is going on, and what a zombie I am by the end of it, running on insufficient sleep night after night.  I know how it feels to drag myself through the weeken…

Memorizing SLOWLY

I had a breakthrough with one of my younger students last week, and it reminded me of one of my favorite practicing tricks - one that I had forgotten as I threw myself frantically into my Mendelssohn tasks last week. 

I could tell that he'd been focussing obsessively on the rhythm and tempo of a particular section.  It had a FIVE-tuplet, and a SIX-tuplet as well.  First Tuplets of his life - this was worth obsessing over. Unfortunately, he was now in that weird short-circuity brain place where he couldn't put all of the notes in the pattern at the speed that was the only speed he knew to go, and the more we tried to slow it down the goofier his fingers got, because all he could think about was the transition from 4 to 5 and from 5 to 6 that he'd been working on.

So we used my favorite trick.  Play it slowly, I said - so slowly that you cannot make a mistake.  I don't care about the rhythm, I don't care about the tempo - just one note after another, as slowly as nec…

Five Minute Reedmaker: Tools: The Mandrel

In my new mini-series on tools, I guess I'm working my way through the relatively straightforward ones first - while I build up my courage to tackle knives and shapers, which EVERYONE has strong opinions about.

In this episode I tackle the truism that all of your tubes must fit your mandrel (MUST? Really?  REALLY?), I show the distinctions between a few different styles of mandrel, and I offer a cheat so English horn reedmakers can save themselves a little $$.



Here's the YouTube playlist with all of my other Five Minute Reedmaker videos.  You could subscribe right there if you wanted to - I'm dropping a video each week until the end of the year.
Here's my website, where you can order reeds or cane or ask me questions.  Questions will keep these videos flowing! 

Here's how you can send me your own reeds to analyze and improve on video for your learning pleasure!