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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: brass

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."

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."

Joe Alessi Master Class Quotes from 2008 ABA Convention (1 of 2)

Andrew Hitz

In an effort to clean up my office I just stumbled upon a small notebook with notes from a number of master classes.  One of those classes was by trombone virtuoso and master teacher Joe Alessi, Principal Trombone of the New York Philharmonic.

This class is from March 5, 2008 at the University of Miami and was a part of the American Bandmasters Association Convention being hosted there.  There are some great quotes in here for all musicians, not just trombone players or brass players.  There were enough that I have broken them up into two blog posts.

Enjoy!
 

 

  • "A low sound like Darth Vader when breathing means there's friction.  I like low-friction breaths."
     
  • "Auditions are all about time and when you reset your embouchure you will come in late a lot."
     
  • "Practicing without the instrument, like singing while conducting, is very important.  I sing and conduct through a piece with a new accompanist."
     
  • "You must have a pulse to conduct and you must sing the right pitches."
     
  • "I feel like you're reading the music, not playing the piece."
     
  • "It's a whole different part of our brain if we're not just reading the music."
     
  • After having the student play from memory to the back wall: "Look at the music but only refer to the music, like a big band.  Bell's up, music down low."
     
  • "Sometimes we have a good sound and we just don't use it."
     
  • "Your back should be convex with a slight arch forward when standing."
     
  • "If you stand healthy you will probably play healthy."
     
  • "You can tell (in an audition) how someone will play by how they walk into a room and sound."
     
  • "The breath is like a pitcher's wind-up.  You don't have a wind-up right now."
     
  • "Get set up earlier with the face (before an entrance.)"
     
  • "I like to watch the belt area when people are playing to see if they are supporting."
     
  • "You have a really nice sound but you're not always ready to use it."

New York Philharmonic in North Korea: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

I just stumbled onto this video of the New York Philharmonic's historic trip to North Korea.  This is a video of George Gershwin's "An American In Paris" from their concert at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre on February 26, 2008 conducted by Lorin Maazel. Not only is this one of the most famous orchestral concerts from the last half century, but the orchestra sounds phenomenal.  Especially the brass! Joe Alessi, Alan Baer, Phil Smith and Philip Myers as well as the entire rest of the brass sections just sound fantastic.  Alan's tuba solo from this version of "An American In Paris" is spot on.

Enjoy!


 

 

Chicago Symphony with Leonard Bernstein/Shostakovich 7: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This is my absolute favorite orchestral recording of all time.  Leonard Bernstein was known as a virtuosic interpreter of a number of composers and Shostakovich was one of them.  This recording of Shostakovich 7 is as fine an example of the great brass tradition of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as exists. There is something about this piece, this orchestra, this conductor. It's just perfect.

This YouTube clip actually has the score of the symphony scrolling by in real time with the music.  If you've never heard this before, I would encourage you to get a pair of headphones, ignore the score, close your eyes, and prepare to be taken on a journey.

I'm pretty sure Bernstein is smiling somewhere every time someone hears this recording for the first time and does a fist pump.

Enjoy!


Mnozil Brass Featuring Wilfried Brandstötter: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Wilfried Brandstötter is one of the best tuba players in the world and Mnozil Brass are not only some of the best players, but some of the best entertainers this world has ever seen.  This tuba solo is just silly good, both musically and conceptually from a staging standpoint. One of the highlights of my 14 years with Boston Brass was a brass festival in Austria where we shared the bill with Mnozil Brass in 2012.  It was an honor getting to see them play and getting to know them.  Wilfried is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet in the music business.  And what a monster player, as this clip displays.

Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4Rul-qYAGQ

Brass Recording Project Outtake: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This moment from the recently completed Brass Recording Project session is just too funny not to share. (Check back here soon for a full rundown of four of the most fun days of any of our careers.)

One of the tunes we recorded for the premiere Brass Recording Project album was Henry Fillmore's "Circus Bee" march.  After we got it in the can, Lance LaDuke (trombone, euphonium, all-around jackass) lost his mind and started doing a one man band version of the march.  I've already said too much.

Enjoy! And follow the Brass Recording Project on Facebook.  Cheers!