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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: baritone

Quotes from Jim Thompson Master Class from the 2011 NTC

Andrew Hitz

On the Friday morning of this year's National Trumpet Competition at George Mason University, former principal trumpet of the Montreal Symphony Jim Thompson gave a master class on buzzing.  Jim literally wrote the book on buzzing.  I had the privilege of serving on the faculty of a brass festival in Mexico with Jim a few years ago and I was immediately taken aback at the efficiency of his playing.  A lot of that efficiency is a direct result of his buzzing. He spoke a lot about buzzing in the class but also ventured into some other topics related to brass playing in general.  It was as good a presentation as I've seen on the physical side of playing a brass instrument.  Below are a collection of quotes from his class.  I hope you find them as helpful as I have!


  • "The brass instrument family is the closest to the human voice.  We use human tissue to vibrate on the air column."
  • "If you can buzz in-tune and expressively, you can pretty much put that down the pipe."
  • "I just love it when somebody makes a mistake and looks at their horn as if 'you betrayed me.'"
  • "The lips should be reactive to the air - not proactive to the air."
  • "The ability to make glissandi is very important."
  • "Part of these exercises is to buzz in and out of all of the registers with very little change."
  • "Isometrics is the absolute enemy of good physical performance."
  • "The air pressure wants to spread your lips apart."
  • "Less head movement (between ranges) means better endurance and more flexibility and technique."
  • "(Buzzing on) the mouthpiece requires you to use a lot of air.  When you do that, you take a lot of stress off the lips."
  • "I can not emphasize enough starting (your day) as softly as you can play."
  • "Strength is not the answer.  I guarantee you that everyone in this room has the strength to play a high G."
  • "Lip pressure and air pressure must increase together as you go higher.  Don't lead with the lip."
  • "I like to think rather than going up into the high register I like to bring it down to me."
  • "Support (in the high register) isn't about playing louder.  It's about maintaining the balance of the lip and the air."
  • "Allen Vizzutti can change his air pressure almost as fast as a violinist can change their bow."
  • "Volume is overrated.  Volume is increasing and decreasing the overtones.  The fundamental basically stays the same."
  • "Please don't fall into the trap of dark and bright.  Your sound is either resonant and clear or not.  And resonant means overtones."
  • "When a conductor says you are too bright, check your attacks."
  • "Just because you can doesn't mean you should.  Trumpet playing is not an indoor sport.  It is a musical endeavor."
  • "Do you realize that in a brass quintet you actually have to play softer and louder than in an orchestra? And more sustained."
  • "The tongue is highly overrated in terms of attacks."

Joe Alessi Master Class Quotes (Part 1 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Last week the principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic, Joe Alessi, gave a fantastic master class at Towson University.  He is easily one of the best musicians I have ever had the privilege of working with and I learn something every time I hear him either perform or speak about music.

Check out this Joe Alessi interview I did with Lance LaDuke for The Brass Junkies.

I knew that I was going to get a lot of great material from a two and a half hour master class but the amount of information that I left with exceeded my very high expectations.  Joe is a rare person who is so highly accomplished on both the playing and teaching sides of our industry.

A special thank you to Craig Mulcahy for giving me the heads up about the class the day of and to the two students at George Mason who rescheduled their lessons so that I could make the trip up to Maryland.  I am very happy that I made it!

I was able to get so many great quotes from this class that I will post them in three parts over the course of the week.  I attempted to write them down verbatim but did not record the class so there unintentionally might be some slight variations to his wordings.  If there are any discrepancies it is his own fault because he kept making great points! I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

Be sure to also check out Part 2 and Part 3.

  • "I'm always trying to find new ways to do something."

  • "Sometimes you revisit old concepts and change them slightly."

  • "To play a brass instrument well is a very simple process.  To play one badly is very complicated."

  • "Try to find a good model breath that has nothing to do with playing and instrument, like a sigh."

  • "Take a breathing event that relaxes you and model your playing after that."

  • "People often ask me for a quick fix on how to get better.  Here's one: anytime you pick up your instrument during the day, which should hopefully be 7 or 8 times a day, play one note that's the most beautiful note you can.  And not just a quarter note but three or four beats.  Then just clone it over and over."

  • "The first 10 minutes you play in a day is how you play the rest of the day."

  • "The more I play the more quickly I have discoveries about my playing."

  • "A lot of practicing can be done away from the instrument."

  • "You gotta be able to sing it and conduct it.  When you know how something is supposed to go, when you pick up your instrument, you can make that happen."

  • "In high school I was a practice nut about fundamentals."

  • "If something is simple and slow, I try to find something interesting about it."

  • "When listening to entrance exams at Juilliard and the New York Phil I look for even playing and consist tone.  Consistent pitch and consistent rhythm."

  • "Consistency is what you practice when you are in the practice room."

  • "When playing orchestrally there is a certain way you have to play and that's to have an immediate attack."

  • "An accent looks like a small diminuendo.  What you're playing is a reverse diminuendo."

  • "You need to record everything you do."

  • "You need to document everything you do and you need to listen to it.  I don't care if it's three notes.  Record it.  No, I'm serious."

  • "If you play a jury, record it.  If you take an audition, ask the people if you can record it."

3 Great Master Classes Quotes I've Heard Recently

Andrew Hitz

Every time I attend a master class I always have my laptop with me to take notes. I find that note taking is by far the best way for me to retain the information and retention is the first step in implementing it into my playing and teaching. I also attend as many master classes as I possibly can.  As with all of the people who I idolize in the music business, I try to never stop learning.  Hearing another professional's perspective on how they approach both the physical and mental aspects of music for an hour gives me a surge in productivity every single time without fail.

It also seems that every time I attend a class there is always one quote that sticks out above the rest a few months later.  That is the quote that has done the best job of daily working its way into my playing and teaching.  Here are three such quotes that I literally think about on a daily basis:

Joe Alessi: "You have to worry about the right sides of the notes just as much as the left sides."

The next time you hear Joe play, either live or on a recording, check out the care with which he ends every single note.  Then proceed to pick your jaw up off of the floor.

Carol Jantsch: "When slurring up to a note focus on the end of the first note rather than the second note."

Try this yourself.  I always found it intuitive to focus on having a clean start to the note I was slurring up to.  Now that I have taken Carol's approach instead my slurring improved immediately.  As in immediately.  It's a great trick.  This is one of the many things she does to make her playing sound so effortless.

Marty Hackleman: "Even if you can play your ass off, try to make it easier."

If you watch Marty play the horn, there is no wasted energy of any kind.  It is pure efficiency.  This is why he has the endurance of horn gladiator even though he is approaching 60.

Hopefully you will find these quotes as helpful as I have.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about all three of them in my teaching and playing.  Is there a great quote that you've heard in a master class recently? Help us all out and leave it in the comments.

Marty Hackleman Quotes from 2011 Master Class at George Mason University

Andrew Hitz

Last night, Professor Marty Hackleman gave an amazing master class at George Mason University.  Marty is the principal horn of the National Symphony and a former member of both the Empire Brass and the Canadian Brass.  In my opinion, he is one of the premier teachers and performers that the brass world has ever known. I have put a few of the quotes that really spoke loudly to me in bold.  What quotes jump out at you? Please comment with your favorite quote and how it relates to your playing.

Here are the highlights from the class:

  • "It's not that you work, it's how you work."

  • "How simple can you make the problem?  How simple can you make the solution?"

  • "We don't see the causes.  We see the symptoms."

  • "All that you want to do is make it slightly better than yesterday but not as good as tomorrow.  And you enjoy the chase."

  • "When you do a daily routine, don't sit in front of the TV wasting your time."

  • "Think of your routine as a physical brass mediation.  Enjoy the time alone."

  • "The routine is a question of how you play and not what you play."

  • "A lot of times when you have a problem with your playing and you think you know the solution try the exact opposite.  85% of the time it will work.  And that comes from personal experience."

  • "I only breathe as much as I need when I'm warming up and I focus on quality over quantity.  But if you're playing a different instrument, like the tuba, it may be different."

  • "It is more important to practice efficiently than a lot of inefficient practicing.  If you don't feel like it, stop.  Get a cup of coffee and then come back.  Then suck it up and make yourself feel like it for even 15 minutes."

  • "Even if you can play your ass off, try to make it easier."

  • "Make it as simple, natural and easy as you can."

  • "Don't save the high notes until the end of your routine.  They shouldn't be that precious.  They should be a natural extension of everything else."

  • "I failed first.  Everybody failed first.  But do you stop at failure?"

  • "You'll be surprised that if you ask yourself to do something regularly, you'll find a solution."

  • "If tension is creeping into your playing, your routine is where you find that out, not in rehearsal or in performance."

  • "Support isn't caused by air.  They are separate things."

  • "You want to use your routine to make yourself better, not just make yourself functional."

  • "I know (my routine) works because at almost 60 years old I believe I can play better than I've ever played in my life.  And it's not luck.  I promise you."

  • "First thing is you have to make sure that your horn sounds like what's in your head."

  • "You have to be more responsible about being a musician and not just a horn player."

  • "We make crescendos and we don't come all the way back.  If you come all the way back you have somewhere to go again."

Thank you Marty for such an insightful class! Everyone is welcome to attend his next class, free of charge, on Monday April 4th at 7:30pm at George Mason University.