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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Category: Pedagogy

The Proper Way for a Student to Hold a Mouthpiece When Buzzing

Andrew Hitz

There really is no wrong way to hold a mouthpiece when buzzing, but there is a way to hold it that can eliminate a common mistake made by students.

Many students figure out pretty quickly that it is easier to "hit the notes" on a mouthpiece when you jam the mouthpiece into your face. This especially goes for higher notes.

Of course this is something that needs to be discouraged since it leads to both fatigue and a terrible sound. I have finally noticed a correlation between mouthpiece pressure and how it is being held (especially for the low brass instruments.)

When holding a mouthpiece with the entire hand, it is difficult not to apply pressure when buzzing.

But when holding a mouthpiece with only two or three fingers, it is difficult to apply pressure when buzzing.

By simply having students hold the larger mouthpieces with only three fingers at most you can avoid the issue of excess mouthpiece pressure without evening saying the words.

Use Their Words

Andrew Hitz

"It sounds mushy. I want French fries and you're giving me mashed potatoes."
—Tiffany Hitz (Band Director at Carson Middle School in Fairfax County, Virginia)

I heard my wife tell her jazz band this a couple of weeks ago and I thought it was great.

It reminded me of the importance of using the same words (and imagery) that your audience use. This goes for being a band director or a marketer.

Every single kid in that band immediately knew what she meant by french fries. In fact, it was probably the least number of words she possibly could have used to get that point across that clearly.

The Radio Test

Andrew Hitz

I recently sat in on a wonderful master class by Lance LaDuke on practicing and goal setting. He had one suggestion for the students at the University of Georgia that I thought I would pass along. It works for any age or ability level.

Turn on the radio to any song you know well and sing along. (Note: If you can't sing it, you can't play it!) Then turn the volume all the way down and keep singing. When you turn the volume back up check the following:

  1. Were you able to hold the pitch?
  2. Were you able to follow the correct form of the song?
  3. Did you keep good time?

This is a great and simple exercise that tests a whole lot of things. And the best part is that it's away from the horn so no part of the brain will be occupied by "horn operating."

Thanks, Lance!

Three Tuba Legends Talk About the Influence, Playing & Teaching of Arnold Jacobs

Andrew Hitz

This is awesome!

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has assembled a number of clips of three tuba legends, Rex Martin, Gene Pokorny, and Floyd Cooley, speaking about their mentor, Arnold Jacobs.

The three of them speak about a wide range of topics including:

  • Teaching
  • Vibrato
  • Sound
  • Legacy
  • The CSO Brass Sound

There are a total of 19 short clips about Arnold Jacobs. These are absolutely priceless. A huge thank you to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for publishing these!

You can here them all here.

Sam Pilafian on the Importance of Pushing Limits in the Practice Room

Andrew Hitz

"If we over-train via the literature like method and etude books, we're going to know more than we need to know in order to be able to cover the parts that are put in front of us."
-Sam Pilafian

The above quote was taken from Sam's fantastic interview in A Band Director's Guide to Everything Tuba: A Collection of Interviews with the Experts.  It is a good reminder to us all that we have to encounter everything we'd ever need to do on stage (and then some!) in the practice room in order to be truly prepared.

The best bands perform full run throughs of pieces and entire programs when they are mentally and physically exhausted, yet hold themselves to the same high standards.  The people most prepared to win an audition have played the excerpts during their preparations in every possible order including the worst ones for their chops.

Anyone who makes performing look easy has a secret.  It is easy compared to what they made themselves do in the practice room.

A Practice Tip for Students by Chris Castellanos

Andrew Hitz

In Boston Brass master classes I used to hear Chris Castellanos mention a really great tip to get kids to practice more and more frequently.  When he was a student, he was taught to keep his horn out of its case on his bed each day.

He shares that there was only so many times he could walk past his horn lying there, ready to play, without picking it up and at least playing a few notes on it.  He found that he played a lot more if it was staring him in the face than if it was in its case in the corner of his room.  He also has found that it works for his students too.

So leave that horn out where it is very hard to ignore it!

Weeding Out the Unnecessary

Andrew Hitz

This is a good thing for me to remember in the new year.  It is hard to weed out what is unnecessary or distracting for a student when I am using a lot of words.

One of my New Year's resolutions is to say more with fewer words when I'm teaching.

Links That Make Me Think - Practicing Edition

Andrew Hitz

Before the summer I was posting a large collection of links each month.  I've decided to post less links more frequently now.  Here are a few from around the internet that I find interesting.  And please send anything along that you'd like to share!

 

1. "5 Incredibly Effective Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder" 

This article has absolutely nothing to do with music or practicing and is a must read for any musician, performer or educator.

 

"Measure your results, not your time. The whole idea of working smarter rather than harder stems from the fact that many of us put in more and more hours only to find we don't get more done. That's why we want to find methods to be more productive in less time.

One way to do this is to adjust the way you measure productivity. If you evaluate yourself by what you actually get done rather than the time it takes to get something done, you'll start to notice a difference in how you work."

 

The rest of Jeff Haden's points are great as well.

 

2. "12(+) Ways to Practice a Technical Passage"

Bret Pimentel hits the nail on the head with this blog post on how to approach the practicing of a technical passage.  Really well done.

 

"What is crucial is that you are keeping your brain engaged by varying the material."
 

Amen.

 

3. "The Power of a Practice Schedule"

As usual, Gerald Klickstein of The Musician's Way is right on the money with this short and to the point post:

 

"Consistent, deep practice is the rocket fuel of musical development.  When we live by regular practice schedules we reap countless benefits."
 

He then lists six benefits of a regular practice schedule which are all fantastic.

 

4. Get a Free Copy of Lance LaDuke's "Music Practice Coach" for a limited time!

As I explain in that post, this is the best book on practicing I've ever read and all of my students are required to own it.  Grab it before he changes his mind!