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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Warren Deck

Louder Shouldn't Automatically Mean More Tongue

Andrew Hitz

So many of us brass players automatically tongue a lot harder when we play louder and we don't even realize it. These two things must be separated. In fact, the best professionals are able to separate all aspects of their playing and adjust them independently of each other.

When a conductor asks the low brass to play louder, they have not also asked for it to be heavier, slower, sharp and with a bad sound. We just frequently throw all of those in as a bonus!

I once heard Joe Alessi say that air and tongue can be adjusted like the oil to gas ratio in a mower. He went on to say that playing forte is 90% air and only 10% tongue which I agree with.

I think most of us, from the very beginning, use way more than 10% tongue when we are playing forte. This has to be reprogrammed which takes a lot of intentional practicing over a prolonged period of time.

The proof of course lies in recording yourself. If you hear too much tongue, adjust it. In fact, keep adjusting it until you have gone too far. You have now framed the problem and know that the perfect solution lies somewhere in between where you started and where you ended up. Always let the recorder be the ultimate arbiter.

It's also worth noting that this kind of self-awareness is universal in players who are able to reach the world-class levels that Warren Deck, former Principal Tuba of the New York Philharmonic, reached during his playing career. He wouldn't have gotten to the root of his over-tonguing problem by simply tonguing less on a case-by-case basis. He figured out that he was doing this every time he played louder and so was able to address it on a much more fundamental level (which I'm sure led to a permanent fix with just the occasional exception.)


The above tweet from Warren Deck was the first weekly brass quote we are posting on the Brass Junkies Twitter feed. Every Monday we will be posting a quote using the hashtag #BrassQuote.

If you happen to know of any sources for quotes from brass players, please send them along. I'm particularly looking for quotes from women of all brass instruments as well as euphonium and horn quotes. Shoot me an email with any good references and I'd be awfully grateful!

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.

Warren Deck on the Little Things

Andrew Hitz

Yes one thousand times over! The difference between someone who advances at an audition and someone who doesn't is almost never missed notes or missed rhythms.  It is 100 little things that make the music simply sound "right."

Excruciating attention to detail is the key to success in the music business.