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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: @JacobsQuotes

You Can't Break a Bad Habit

Andrew Hitz

This is precisely why it is so important to not rush through things and learn them the wrong way when practicing. The key word in the last sentence of the above Arnold Jacobs quote is gradually.

Once you have established a habit, the only way to replace it with a new one is gradually over time. Translation: it's a lot of work.

I was also always taught that the brain does not respond well to the word don't. If you write something like "Don't Drag" in your music then your brain first comprehends "Drag" which is not exactly ideal. I always have my students write the positive version of whatever they're working on so "Don't Drag" becomes "Groove" or "Steady Tempo".

Ideally, we don't ever learn something wrong in the first place because the extra time we take to learn something with slow and deliberate practice will be more than saved by not having to relearn it the right way. But if we do, rather than focusing on not doing it wrong, we need to replace it with the correct version and then have the patience to see the entire process through which will take a while no matter what we do.

Staying in the Middle Third

Andrew Hitz

This observation by Arnold Jacobs is why I find breathing exercises out of The Breathing Gym so beneficial for students. Getting them to experience the sensation of taking in a large amount of air without having the horn in their hands is invaluable and gives them something concrete to model when they do pick up the instrument.

Doing exercises with long inhales like 6-7-8-9-10 or any variation of In for 8 > Hold for 8 > Out for 8 (also 8>16>8, 12>12>12 or even 16>32>16) are great for feeling the sensation of moving a lot of air.

And as always, Mr. Jacobs was dead on with this observation. So often, mediocre brass players never get close to full and never get close to empty. Getting them to experience this is a great way to encourage them to eventually do it on their own.

Using Vibrato as a Crutch

Andrew Hitz

"Be able to play a love song with and without vibrato." -Arnold Jacobs (via @JacobsQuotes)

Vibrato is one of the best tools we have at our disposal as musical storytellers, but it can frequently be either overused or predictable.  As Mr. Jacobs stated above, it is very important to be able to play something like a love song without any vibrato at all.

A great exercise is to record a love song or melody with the vibrato, then without.  If you have the ability to make the second version just as convincing as the first, you will have gone a long way towards conveying a clear story to your audience once you add it back into the equation.

Be sure to use vibrato as an enhancement, not as a music crutch.

(A fantastic performance a year ago by Harry Watters inspired me to write this blog post with lots of thoughts on vibrato.)

Izabella Guarding the House and Tuba © 2014 Andrew Hitz