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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Category: Master Class

Warren Deck Master Class Quotes (Part 2 of 2)

Andrew Hitz

Here is part two of my quotes from a master class by former Principal Tuba of the New York Philharmonic, Warren Deck. These quotes are from his class at the 2015 Northeast Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference at Ithaca College.

It was a phenomenal class. The quotes below about the window especially blew my mind. Really opened my eyes to exactly what I am trying to play and teach.

You can find part one here.

  • I like to play a game with myself when I listen to music. It's called 'how much can I hear? How much can I notice? That's why I like to listen in community. I like to listen with 3 or 4 people. 
  • The higher the quality of your musical mind, the higher the quality of what's going to come out of your instrument. 
  • Keep the instrument full of air. 
  • I'm going to urge you to listen to records and try to dig one level deeper. What can you hear? Every day try to hear something you haven't heard before. 
  • Listen to the great players. Listen to how they make the magic. 
  • The air only knows one thing: the shape of my phrase. 
  • I want to hear the music as if I never have to breath ever. 
  • I'm going to throw in an extra breath to see whether I can do it without changing the shape of the phrase. 
  • The way air misses notes is dynamically. Air can miss notes. But oftentimes we missed it with our embouchure. 
  • The bow doesn't need to know about changing the pitch. 
  • Teach your embouchure to sing that tune accurately. 
  • Separate the art from the craft. Our art is how well we can conceive of it. Our craft is how well we can play it. 
  • The art is a scene and the craft is the window. If we show someone our scene, how much dirt is on the window? 
  • The reason we clean the window is because we have an exact idea of how we want to sound. 
  • Ronnie Romm said that flying a plane was the most musical thing he ever did. 
  • I'm driving a car and my listener is my passenger. What kind of ride am I giving them?

 

Warren Deck Master Class Quotes (Part 1 of 2)

Andrew Hitz

Back in April of 2015 I was honored to do a music business presentation at the Northeast Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference at Ithaca College hosted by Aaron Tindall. The lineup was better than some of the national conferences I've attended and it was an honor to be a part of it.

One of the real treats of that week was getting to attend a master class by former New York Philharmonic tuba player Warren Deck. I had a lesson with him in his New Jersey basement back in 1992 but hadn't been exposed to his teaching since then.

Warren is one of the all-time great tuba players and teachers. He is that rare combination of superb player and phenomenal teacher. I love these quotes and glad that I remembered that I was sitting on them!

You can find part two here.

  • A great writer has a really huge vocabulary and by using that they can evoke a wide range of emotions by their choice of words.
  • Musicians manipulate audiences emotions. They willingly pay to be taken on a journey.
  • I advocate that people commune with the page. Ask 'what is this composer trying to tell me through this archaic notation system?'
  • How many different ways can you say the word hi?
  • How can we change little things to find just the right inflection when we play?
  • Think of different interpretations as saying the same things with different accents.
  • The same person might play things completely differently depending on the acoustical settings.
  • An actor acting to the back of a hall would look ridiculous doing the same thing for a camera right in their face.
  • I was always chasing the tuba in my head.
  • Can I articulate a note any way I want at any dynamic?
  • I found that the louder I played the harder I tended to tongue. I needed dynamics and articulations to function separately.
  • The difference between ta and da is compression.
  • I took (the relationship between dynamics and articulation) and was able to practice an Arban's exercise much more mindfully.
  • I want to be able to change octaves where my air thinks it's one note.
  • The older I get the more I admire Gil Johnson for his ability to phrase and soar.
  • I just heard a person who has had a good deal of success with auditions say that they learned how to play their instrument before they learned excerpts.

Jens Lindemann Master Class Quotes from George Mason University (Part 3 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the final installment of Jens Lindemann quotes from his master class at George Mason last semester for our brass ensemble.  It was a pleasure to have him.  He left the students inspired and in the practice room!

  • "When I get to the bottom I think of adding volume of air, not volume of sound.  Keep things set and then apply air."
     
  • "When I hear people say 'I'm not really a high note player.  I'm more of a second player and focus on this octave and a half.' I call bullshit."
     
  • "We are taught to play low to high from day one.  That's a terrible idea."
     
  • "High notes are faster vibrations.  They're not high."
     
  • "The faster you think of everything on a horizontal plane including air-wise, the beter off you'll be.  Horizontally away from you, not up."
     
  • "By the time you get to college you're not so much learning new things but unlearning old things."
     
  • "The instrument is right here (his lips.) (The trumpet) is just an amplifier."
     
  • "We're far too dependent when we're young on the tongue to start notes."
     
  • "The way to practice using the mid-section of our bodies is breath attacks."
     
  • "There's no mystery as to what we're doing here.  It's just plumbing."
     
  • "The instrument is not profound.  The body is profound."
     
  • "Playing an octave is no big deal.  Then you add a slur and every body freaks out.  That stupid line makes everybody freak out."
     
  • "There's no such thing as a slur on a trumpet.  It simply means play from one note to the next without a tongue."
     
  • "You can mask a slur by crescendoing slightly on the bottom note."
     
  • "I'm a lot more relaxed about mouthpieces now than when I was coming up."
     
  • "I'm not a believer in finding the biggest mouthpiece that you can get for your instrument.  And that includes the professionals who are hoisting that upon you.  They are wrong."
     
  • "It's important for you to know that you can get things done on mid-sized equipment."

Jens Lindemann Master Class Quotes from George Mason University (Part 2 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the second installment of quotes from the wonderful clinic that Jens Lindemann gave at George Mason last semester.  So much good stuff in here! Thank you, Jens!

  • "There are a handful of musicians in our business that are untouchable.  Like Wynton Marsalis.  He's not a trumpet player.  He's an icon."
     
  • "It begins with what I call the Musical Circle of Life.  Top of the circle is Day 1.  6 o'clock is brass purgatory: people who talk about mouthpieces and recordings.  The goal is to get back to the top of the circle.  But you can never get back to Day 1."
     
  • "The responsibility is getting enlightened.  And that responsibility is on you, not on me."
     
  • "You get me for one hour a week.  When you leave the room, do you think I think about you for one minute afterwards? I serisouly don't.  I have a wife, and a life, and a career.  But you don't think about me either."
     
  • "You're the ones who have to be responsible for saying 'I've got to figure this out.'"
     
  • "You've got to think outside the box.  You can't just go through a list of books and solos.  That's a meathead approach."
     
  • "Playing a brass instrument is ultimately about getting your whole body involved.  To make it as free and easy as possible."
     
  • "You know the best players where it just seems so natural? That's because it is."
     
  • "Find a way to be in your chair and engaged."
     
  • "First thing I would suggest is to strongly discourage sitting on the back of your chair.  When I sit on the front of the chair everything is unlocked.  I'm engaging my entire body."
     
  • "Rule #1: View your whole body as a part of the instrument."
     
  • "Practice rolling a ball under your foot while you play."
     
  • "Keep your mind engaged."
     
  • "Technology is one of the great advantages of today."
     
  • "The only problem with a problem is potentially realizing it's not a problem."
     
  • "You must be inquisitive."
     
  • "When I set up an embouchure I try to keep things as set as possible."

Jens Lindemann Master Class Quotes from George Mason University (Part 1 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Trumpet virtuoso Jens Lindemann is one of the great players and pedagogues of any instrument in the world today.  He is truly gifted musician and educator and we were honored to have him come to George Mason to give a master class last semester.

Here are some quotes from his class with the brass ensemble.  There were so many good ones I had to split this up into three posts.

Enjoy!

  • "The relationships you're forging now are the ones you will have in 15-20 years.  Remember, as you gain in status so do those who are now around you."
     
  • "Tchaik 4 with the NY Phil and Zubin Mehta was like opening a cage and tossing raw meat into it."
     
  • "This is where your research will help your performance.  If you know the composer is a cinematic composer, you will play it in a cinematic way."
     
  • "There's not a trumpet player in the world that I don't have on speed dial.  I'm super famous."
     
  • "The greatest of the great players are the ones that say they're going to take this to the next level no matter what it takes."
     
  • "You don't have to be superstar players to make a great performance."
     
  • "The big thing about chamber music is that you shouldn't play it like you're sitting in the back of the orchestra.  It's harder to play soloisticly in that scenario."
     
  • "Traditionally you think about fitting in and keeping the machine going when you win a job."
     
  • "They all looked at me and told me 'No no. Don't play it like Freddy played it.  Play it like you play it.'"
     
  • "When you obviously have a moving line, like 8th notes in a ballad, move it along."
     
  • "Rhythm is a musical term for cooperation."
     
  • "The third note of a quarter note triplet is not important.  What's important is the first note and where it's going."
     
  • "Are you going to let the trumpets steal your solo line or are you going to Marty-ize it?"
     
  • "Not everything has to line up vertically in music.  I used to think it did."
     
  • "I used to hear Gene (Watts) talk about 1960's Mozart.  About how the bass and drums didn't line up, about how it was out of tune.  'But it was so right.'"
     
  • "The day you start sounding perfect, like a computer, is the day you completely lose what this is about: emotional rub."
     
  • "It's not just how you play the downbeat.  It's having direction in the notes leading up to the downbeat."
     
  • "There are a handful of musicians in our business that are untouchable.  Like Wynton Marsalis.  He's not a trumpet player.  He's an icon."

David Zerkel Master Class Quotes (Part 3 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the final installment of quotes from David Zerkel's recent master class for my students at George Mason University.  His wisdom immediately permeated my teaching and practicing.  Good stuff!

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

Enjoy!
 

  • "Breathing is like investing money. In order to make money, you have to invest money. You have to invest lots of air."
     
  • "When we're presenting our interpretation, I believe that articulation is one of the most negotiable."
     
  • "The practice room is the ideal place to try things out."
     
  • "Can you give me a little more pitch on the double tongue stuff?"
     
  • "I really recommend doing offline practicing when you're practicing double tonguing."
     
  • "The lip trill fairy can visit you in a short amount of time if you do a little bit of work. If you practice the Arban's exercise (quarters->eights->16ths->etc) religiously for two weeks, the lip trill fairy will pay you a visit."
     
  • "As you're working on your double tongue always aim for the 5th note."
     
  • "As you play music that is less melodically oriented, rhythm becomes more important.  You need to make the rhythmic aspect of this melody important."
     
  • "What you're selling melodically here is time."
     
  • "One of the main problems with the tuba as an instrument is clarity. Musical clarity, articulation clarity, pitch clarity."
     
  • "You sound like a bird singing in a cage that is covered with a blanket."
     
  • "I need you to be a more active and windy participant so you can play clearer."
     
  • "We have to work three times as hard as any other brass instrument to play as cleanly as they play. -Dave Bragunier"
     
  • "You can't evaluate your playing at the bell. You have to evaluate what it sounds like in the hall."
     
  • "Your best sound is not always the right sound.  You listen to Youngblood Brass Band. If you played in a lesson with the sound that Nat plays with you'd get punched in the throat and told to never come back."
     
  • "I want you to offend me with how short you play. I want you to make me puke."
     
  • "The place that you want to get with your playing is to where you are uncomfortable with how far you've gone."
     
  • "You never know how much is loving someone too much until you've done it. In life, you never know where the edge is until you've stepped off of it."
     
  • "You need to be closer to the line."
     
  • "The beginning of Strauss 1 is Belushi jumping into a room."
     
  • "In the upper register, work on your spin being a little faster, a little more tightly wound.  Move more air with a quicker spin."
     
  • "The higher you get on the tuba, the darker and less distinct it gets. I call it the Woo Register because it sounds like someone is wooing (with their hands cupped over their mouth.)"
     
  • "Make sure you can maintain a sense of rhythmic urgency without a metronome going."
     
  • "Sound is everything. If you don't sound good, nothing else matters."
     
  • "If it sounds good, it is good. -Duke Ellington"
     
  • "One of the most compelling things we can do is sell people on rhythm."


 

David Zerkel Master Class Quotes (Part 2 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the second installment of quotes from the wonderful class that University of Georgia Professor David Zerkel gave at George Mason University in September.

In case you missed it, click here for Part 1.

Enjoy!
 

  • "When you start an excerpt, don't just hit the button on a treadmill and then go flying. I turn on the treadmill for at least a full measure before I get on so I'm ready to start."
     
  • "I can't tell you how many times I have been at an audition and literally said to myself 'Why am I playing? You aren't ready to play yet.'"
     
  • "We all have this idea in our head that it takes perfect playing to win an audition. It does not. It takes playing that is informed and stylish and that the person who is going to sit next to them for the rest of their careers knows the context of the music. They're hiring a musician, not a tuba player."
     
  • "I want you to think less about playing perfectly and more about playing communicatively."
     
  • "For me, music is performed in words, and sentences, and paragraphs, and chapters."
     
  • "Think less syllabically and think longer."
     
  • "Our job as performers in whatever we do, as performers, conductors, or people selling widgets, is to keep people with us, to not let them off the hook.  It can't be 'I'm going to play something nice for you and I hope you enjoy it.' You need to say 'You're coming with me. Get in the car. And here's what we're going to do.'"
     
  • "Keep moving your bow on long notes."
     
  • "People have short attention spans, Google Generation.  On the long notes I'm going to insist that you keep us with you."
     
  • "Always motion."
     
  • "You can look at the trees in the wind. They are moving. Wind demands motion. Motion happens because of wind. I'm asking your playing to be more windy. I'm asking for you to show me the reaction to the wind."
     
  • "When watching a conductor, the information you're getting is the motion between the beats. That's what you have to show."
     
  • "There are a lot of times when you get to the end of your phrase and you get an involuntary sound. We need to dictate it and not let the instrument tell us how it is going to be."
     
  • "Be sure you are maximizing your expansion when you're playing."
     
  • "If you need more air, for God's sake go get it."
     
  • "What's going to make people notice that my lung capacity is small? By playing with an involuntary sound at the end of phrases."
     
  • "I have a decision to make: am I going to let my sound suffer or am I going to breath in more places?"
     
  • "Can we all agree that when we are playing any wind instrument that one of our goals is to play with a resonant sound?"
     
  • "Sound is vibration. Resonance is an abundance of vibration. In order for us to play with an abundance of vibrations we must use an abundance of air."
     
  • "Jacobs asked me "how do you breath?" I gave a complicated answer and he said 'No, you suck air into your body.'"
     
  • "Jacobs talked to me about blowing way, way, way, way WAY beyond your lips.  He then played using air to his lips, then to his valve cluster, then to his bottom bow, then to his bell."
     
  • "Think of blowing your air two feet beyond your bell."
     
  • "Project everything forward. When you're singing properly your mask (face) vibrates."
     
  • "Someone says your sound is huge, that's a compliment. When they tell you you play loud, they may hate you."
     
  • "In the upper register the air stream is pencil-sized. In the middle register it is corndog sized."

David Zerkel Master Class Quotes (Part 1 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

In September, we were honored to welcome world-renowned tuba player and pedagogue David Zerkel to George Mason University.  David is currently the tuba and euphonium professor at the University of Georgia, where his students regularly win auditions of all kinds.  He is also a former member of the US Army Band here in Washington, DC.

The master class he presented was so good that I took down almost 90 quotes! He is a master teacher and communicator and he left my studio energized and inspired.  Because there were so many quotes, I am breaking them up into three posts.  Here is the first installment!

(Click here for Part 2 and Part 3)
 

  • "When you played the theme you had a very tentative approach to making music. It was like you were tiptoeing through the melody."
     
  • "You would have 15 different versions of breathing and blowing if you were to ask every wind professor at this school."
     
  • "Breath control can be distilled down into four words: blow until you stop."
     
  • "Your breath should be the same every single time you pick up the instrument."
     
  • "Your brain is brilliant. Your lungs are stupid lungs."
     
  • "If you spend half of your time having your brilliant brain sending your stupid lungs instructions you won't have the ability to make music."
     
  • "Blow to a spot that's right here at the top of your bell. Keep your tone a dial tone."
     
  • "Can we get a better connection between the C and the D? When you're shifting it's an automatic transmission. You don't have to put the clutch down to shift notes."
     
  • "Whether you're playing one note in one breath or 32 notes in one breath, your exhale is going to be exactly the same."
     
  • "I always want to make my tuba playing like singing, because singing is the most natural instrument."
     
  • "A 4-year-old at a birthday party sings perfect phrases. It's great."
     
  • "Singing is a really simple exhale. That's what singing is."
     
  • "Go for your best sound right at the beginning of every note."
     
  • "Blow until you stop. Once you initiate don't stop."
     
  • "16th notes and 32nd notes are not fast, they are melodic."
     
  • "If you do the blow until you stop, the 16th note won't sound different than the long note."
     
  • "Play a repugnantly bright B-flat or C when you're 'topping out' on the horn."
     
  • "Feel free to use a lot of air."
     
  • "For every octave you go up, you double your mph. (Pedal C is 15 mph. Low C is 30 mph. Middle C is 60 mph. C above the staff is 120 mph. Screech C is 240 mph.)"
     
  • "Tuba has two primary functions: foundation and time."
     
  • "When you're playing an audition, make it really easy for a committee to sing their part, because I promise you that's what they're doing. That's how they can tell if you're good at context."
     
  • "Take the Fountains of Ramp vamp up a minor third and then bring it down chromatically."
     
  • "I always start with what I can do because starting with what I can't do sucks."
     
  • "This time try and make the low E less involuntary when you finish it."
     
  • "One of the things that's hard for tuba players, actually it's hard for everyone, is that you need to sell the concept of time when you are playing long notes. It's hard."

Joe Alessi Master Class Quotes from 2008 ABA Convention (2 of 2)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the second installment of quotes from Joe Alessi, Principal Trombone of the New York Philharmonic, from his master class at the 2008 American Bandmasters Association Convention.  Click here for the first installment.

 

  • After a less than stellar first attempt by a student playing in the master class: "Let's hit the reset button and try again."
     
  • "In my lessons at Juilliard, you have to play one with a great sound or the lesson doesn't start.  It's like putting on your seatbelt in the car."
     
  • "When you take a breath don't lean into it."
     
  • "Really think about the sound you want to play with on the first note of every passage."
     
  • He had the student "mime" the passage by breathing with the slide: "Get everything timed."
     
  • "Mime a fast lick very short and slow.  Like getting the timing right on your engine."
     
  • "Stay in a good stage presence between sections."
     
  • "Don't think of a note being suspended in the air and you are playing up to it.  Think that you are suspended and the note is below you."
     
  • "Brass players blow too fast when nervous and our air columns become narrower."
     
  • "Listen to yourself at half speed."
     
  • On jaw vibrato: "Move your jaw, not your muscles."
     
  • "Remove vibrato at the end of a note to produce a beautiful taper."
     
  • "Louder equals more tongue.  Softer equals less tongue."
     
  • "Air and tongue can be adjusted like the oil/as ratio in a mower."
     
  • "Forte is 90% air and 10% tongue."
     
  • "You should practice with no tongue."
     
  • "Practice playing really softly without any tongue."
     
  • "Practice diminuendoing notes down to niente.  It will help with the attacks."
     
  • "ppp is the essence of your tone right in your face."