The inner-thought of playing

Ξ August 28th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Musician, Pedagogy |

Much to my dismay, one of the hornists in this off-campus orchestra only has maybe a year of experience.  In the middle of the rehearsal he asked me for tips, because he has a good grasp on the very, very basic fundamentals of brass playing but was still struggling.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to answer any horn-specific questions about playing beyond fingerings or embouchure or air.  One of his biggest problems was stability, so I came up with a few more advanced points for him:

  1. Focus.
    Every musician has their belt of tools to use when it comes to playing music.  If you just take out the hammer and start swinging wildly, things aren’t going to sound very nice.  Focus helps keep us in tune, gives notes clarity and stability, and helps you project.  The best way to picture this is to picture a snow-cone.  The wide end is in the back near the throat and the tip of the cone is toward where the mouth opens.  The wide end is the energy, your air, or fuel (whatever you’d like to call it), and the tip of the cone is the focus where the energy goes into the horn.  Otherwise it’d be hard to fit the ball-end of that snow-cone into the horn, huh?   Haha.  Pushing to achieve this shape and keeping it in mind while playing will immensely help stability issues with the horn.
  2. Energy Flow.
    It’s important to be constantly aware of the energy flow while playing (or air, but I like this broader term since it’s really more than air, its also the mental awareness of where you’re going with the music and much more, but it’s hard to explain all of it).  Know where the energy is going, what you want to do with it, and where it should go.  Energy flow should be constant.  One of my professors used to compare constant energy flow to a speedboat gliding across a lake.  It’s the driving force behind a horn player’s sound, and if its wobbly, the sound will be wobbly too.  If there’s a fast, technical line, the energy is going to be fast and constant.  If there’s a slower, more melodic line, the energy will reflect that as well (but still be constant and firm).  Riding the energy flow helps get you through those things with more ease.  Another example is my (simplified) approach to energy flow between octaves.  Higher notes push the energy down, while lower notes push the energy up.  Imagine a seesaw.  When one end goes low, the other end must come up, and when one end goes high, the other end must come down.  For me, this helps a lot with managing the whopping 4 octaves the horn stretches to.  It takes a lot of time exploring energy flow on a personal basis to start understanding, being aware of, and letting go with it.
  3. The tonal “sweet-spot”.
    Many brass teachers commonly believe that the sweet spot is in the center of the note.  Perhaps it may be true for other parts of the brass family, but for the horn this isn’t the case.  It’s a common mistake and the main problem for a lot of horn players stability of trying to find the “center” of the note.  For the horn, the sweet spot of the note is always going to be toward the top.  This is where things are most secure, and some might be worried about this pushing notes sharp, but don’t be.  Picture a balloon gently pushing up against a ceiling.  It’s not forced, its just gently sitting there, secure and in place.  This is the best approach to take for notes on the horn.  Let the notes settle at the top, don’t push them or they will go sharp (and in the balloon’s case it will pop!).

There’s so much more to touch on these subjects (and tons more on the subject of focus), but the big parts covered here should help any hornist, or any musician for that matter, in their playing.

Original post by Sufjan

 

I really did listen to my teacher…

Ξ August 28th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ special |

One of the hornists in this orchestra only has maybe a year of experience.  In the middle of the rehearsal he asked me for tips, because he was struggling.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to (or had confidence to) answer any horn-specific questions about playing beyond fingerings or embouchure or air.  One of his biggest problems was stability, so I came up with a few more advanced points for him:

  1. Focus.
    Every musician has their belt of tools to use when it comes to playing music.  If you just take out the hammer and start swinging wildly, things aren’t going to sound very nice.  Focus helps keep us in tune, gives notes clarity and stability, and helps you project.  The best way to picture this is to picture a snow-cone.  The wide end is in the back near the throat and the tip of the cone is toward where the mouth opens.  The wide end is the energy, your air, or fuel (whatever you’d like to call it), and the tip of the cone is the focus where the energy goes into the horn.  Otherwise it’d be hard to fit the ball-end of that snow-cone into the horn, huh?   Haha.  Pushing to achieve this shape and keeping it in mind while playing will immensely help stability issues with the horn.
  2. Energy Flow.
    It’s important to be constantly aware of the energy flow while playing (or air, but I like this broader term since it’s really more than air, its also the mental awareness of where you’re going with the music and much more, but it’s hard to explain all of it).  Know where the energy is going, what you want to do with it, and where it should go.  Energy flow should be constant.  One of my professors used to compare constant energy flow to a speedboat gliding across a lake.  It’s the driving force behind a horn player’s sound, and if its wobbly, the sound will be wobbly too.  If there’s a fast, technical line, the energy is going to be fast and constant.  If there’s a slower, more melodic line, the energy will reflect that as well (but still be constant and firm).  Riding the energy flow helps get you through those things with more ease.  Another example is my (simplified) approach to energy flow between octaves.  Higher notes push the energy down, while lower notes push the energy up.  Think of a seesaw.  When one end goes low, the other end must come up, and when one end goes high, the other end must come down.  For me, this helps a lot with managing the whopping 4 octaves the horn stretches to.  It takes a lot of time exploring energy flow on a personal basis to start understanding, being aware of, and letting go with it.
  3. The tonal “sweet-spot”.
    Many brass teachers commonly believe that the sweet spot is in the center of the note.  Perhaps it may be true for other parts of the brass family, but for the horn this isn’t the case.  It’s a common mistake and the main problem for a lot of horn players stability of trying to find the “center” of the note.  For the horn, the sweet spot of the note is always going to be toward the top.  This is where things are most secure, and some might be worried about this pushing notes sharp, but don’t be.  Picture a balloon gently pushing up against a ceiling.  It’s not forced, its just gently sitting there, secure and in place.  This is the best approach to take for notes on the horn.  Let the notes settle at the top, don’t push them or they will go sharp (and in the balloon’s case it will pop!).

Blar, there’s so much more to touch on just in these subjects…but, you know.  I’m lazy.

Original post by Sufjan

 

Hornist…LFG

Ξ August 25th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Musician |

At school, the horn seats in the orchestra were always heated with competition.  It was everyone’s first pick for a large performance ensemble not only because of the repertoire, but because of the atmosphere that differentiates it from band.  There’s always a more significant feeling roaring through a Mahler Symphony rather than pecking the off-beats of a Sousa march (okay, that may be a bit drastic of a comparison, but still).  Overall it just has a more serious atmosphere.  Being that I was always free during the band rehearsal time and not during the orchestra rehearsal time, every semester I got stuck in band.  Terrible, I know.  Not that there isn’t good band literature out there, I’m just tired of saxophones (unless you throw some Prokofiev my way). :p

So, this semester I’m going to be playing in an orchestra off-campus.  It’s scary, because who knows who awesome (or painful) it will be.  It could be full of a lot of skilled players, but there’s equal chance of a majority of the players being….casual, I guess you could say.  Flashbacks of community orchestra with Brandy and Rhys make me shiver; there’s nothing more disappointing than being one of the strongest players in a group.  On the flip-side, it can also be seen as an opportunity to help others on their musical path…but if you know me, you know my glass is half-empty, hehe.

:)

We’ll see this Wednesday, it’ll be an adventure!

Original post by Sufjan

 

Job promotion.

Ξ August 24th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Family |

Its true, i got a job promotion. yay! i will be leaving my job as a help desk team lead to go work on the unix deployment team. This was not an easy decision, as i love the job i currently have. It seemed like my current boss wouldn't talk to me for a few days after accepting the job, which is sad because i love working with him. DD, if you ever want to torment the help desk people… i'm game, sign me up!

I'm excited to learn at my new post though (granted its in the room next door). I will be doing Mac deployment for the most part, with some server and AIX thrown in the mix. Good times, except for the part when they said my i-phone is getting taken back :s boo!

Original post by Extreme

 

Vote for My First Threadless T-Shirt, Ski!

Ξ August 11th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Graphic Design, Doodles, Illustration |

Last week I submitted one of my doodles to Threadless for a t-shirt concept. This morning I got an email from them saying that they’d approved it, and have opened it up to accept votes. If I get enough votes, the t-shirt gets printed! So, if you have a second, please vote on my very first Threadless t-shirt, Ski!

Ski! - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

Original post by melktart

 

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