Let’s do the time warp again!

Ξ January 25th, 2010 | → 0 Comments | ∇ School, Pedagogy, Design, Development |

I’m taking a beginning web development class for my degree. I already expected to be extremely bored in this class, especially since it focuses on Dreamweaver and not having any knowledge of code. Dreamweaver can be handy, mostly the code view since it’s color coded and lets me see syntax much easier. So this class should be easy, right? Just ignore the stuff about using the design view and build the assignments by hand in the code view (because to me that’s easier). Then I looked through the course schedule and found something interesting. It was almost offensive, yet comical at the same time.

It reads, “Assignment #9 – Abstract = Design: Nesting Tables.”

My first reaction was “LOL”. Really? Did we time warp back to 2004 when people were using tables for layout purposes? I actually asked someone what year it was and checked to see if Bush was in office. Honestly, teaching this seems like a huge disservice to the students considering it’s an extremely outdated technique.

Let me go over the reasons why this is terrible:

  • It’s semantically incorrect markup.
  • It’s terrible for screen readers. We’re supposed to be learning about accessibility, and this contradicts that.
  • Tables are more bytes per markup than other options.
  • We have CSS. Using a table locks you in the table for good. If you use Divs and CSS, then you have much more flexibility with your layout. Should you ever choose to change some part of it, it’s much easier, not to mention that building the page in the first place would be easier without using tables.
  • Last but not least… TABLES ARE FOR TABULAR DATA ONLY!

To be fair, using tons of divs, ids, and classes just for styling is also semantically incorrect markup. But that’s the best we’ve got for design until HTML5. I’d rather use the better of the two options.

Fortunately, the professor teaching the first half of the class doesn’t seem to be teaching this, which is awesome, because I like her a lot. But come on, why is that junk part of the curriculum anyway? I still haven’t decided if I should quietly do the assignment or challenge the teacher on the terrible way she’s teaching us how to make a layout. At least she’s not teaching us to use framesets.

Original post by Sufjan


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


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