Success begets more success.
Keep success intact as you practice your upper register. Missing the notes or barely getting the notes because of fatigue or force will only come back to haunt you as nervous tightness later on. In the words of Sam Pilafian, “Tension Kills Sound!” You body remembers failure, which will make you feel tight even when you are fresh. Meanwhile, we both know that the defining characteristic of upper register should be ease. Always quit upper register practice while you are ahead. This might mean that you will practice only 5 minutes of upper register songs at a time, or half a Bordogni in tenor clef to start - THATS OK. Better to do that 2-3 times a day than 1 long stretch where you’re on teeth for the majority of the session. PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT so bad articulation, and forced muscular tone will only come back as the aggregate of your playing in a performance.
2. Keep the feeling of fullness - Breath support is key.
Take your breaths out of tempo to start with as much time as you need to get completely full between each phrase. You can shorten the interval of the breath over time and eventually end up with consistent rhythm, but you must rest your upper register on this feeling of fullness rather than the muscles in your face.
3. Play equipment that gets the notes.
People try to use only one trombone and one mouthpiece to do everything, but sound, music, and overall accuracy should guide your decisions here. Changing equipment to serve the rep shouldn’t be such a big deal - the more you do it, the less it’s an issue at all. If you need to switch to a 6.5 or even a 12c for your upper register practice, that’s okay - something so small is likely not a permanent solution anyway. Eventually you might gravitate to larger equipment but you will carry your past successes with you as consistency will lead to confidence that will create easy execution under pressure.
Day 1, I was jet lagged and needed to take a photo. I remembered that I did bring my tripod on this trip so made a project of a boudoir shot as I was too lazy to get out of bed.....
Day 2 began our rehearsals and performances at the Proms, Royal Albert Hall. This is a gigantic oval arena that seats 6,000 people. The main floor resembles a circus arena in shape and patrons gathered there to stand, shoulder to shoulder, for the complete duration of the performances. The acoustic is enigmatic - you play a note and the sound doesn’t come back so adjusting balance and rhythm to what I hear was a big difference than what I’m used to. My strategy was to play with a warm tone a bit more sustained than usual and it seemed to work out alright.
I found it interesting that each performance began with an unamplified announcement from what sounded like 20 gentleman speaking in unition that heralded in British accents a welcome, plea for donations for music education, and how much the organization had garnered so far.
I love traditions like this!
Today the available members of the Boston Pops all posed with their mouthpieces at rehearsal. What’s your favorite mouthpiece for heavy Pops programming?Read More
We are in a career field of “Doers” where knowing the answer is never as valuable as the ability to do it "on demand". I know how to run a marathon, but that knowledge has very little value unless I put in the workouts. Many students and professionals know exactly what goes into being a great musician, but only a few people put the work in.Read More
Apart from our short flight leg from Tokyo to Nagoya, most all our travel in and around Japan has been via Bullet Train, although our first concert was at NTK Forst Hall in Nagoya which only required the orchestra to travel on tour buses to the concert venue.
It was a bit of high drama that day because our instrument trunk arrivals were somehow delayed. Rather than a morning rehearsal with the afternoon off, we ended up waiting at the hall most of the day instead. Fortunately everything arrived with time for a short rehearsal/soundcheck and we played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham and Mahler, No. 1 to a concert hall with aesthetics most similar in shape to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
The next day we traveled on the bullet train to Osaka, a beautiful city that took us less than an hour on the afternoon train. I caught a couple of shots of the orchestra waiting on the platform and was greeted with a very photogenic bunch. The attitude in the orchestra is jovial and positive but not without work and focus. Amidst friendly smiles of charisma is a work ethic and a grit that has people practicing and studying whenever they can catch a free moment.
It truly is amazing how everything and everyone is able to move like clockwork for these concerts. So many people, so many items, from instruments to wardrobes, warm-ups to applause. What a great time to be in the BSO.
The Boston Symphony traveled to Nagoya for the first leg of our Japan tour. The city is beautifully modern yet full of history and the people are absolutely wonderful! Most of us were quite jet-lagged on the first free morning after our evening arrival however, we took the first opportunity to warm up in the room provided by the Hotel on the top floor.
The top floor of the hotel had gorgeous views of the city that helped us all get a lay of the land for walking off the jetlag throughout our first day. The city has quite a few historic landmarks, the most exciting of which is the Castle Nagoya, built in the 16th century as well as beautiful parks, greenery, and waterways lightly salted throughout the town.
Around the hotel, things are familiar things but all in Japanese characters. English is often spoken at the hotel, but for the most part is hard to come by after we leave. But like most places in the world, smiles and gestures are a way to navigate social and service conversations without too much trouble.
Oddly enough, there is a 3 story YAMAHA music store near the hotel and that was stop number 1 for Associate Principal Horn, Gus Sebring and me. Whenever we get together, I always seem to be daring him to buy a new instrument. Today I prevailed as he did purchase a Melodica which sounds utterly fantastic!! This shot is of him jamming with a few improvised riffs in his hotel room shortly after the purchase!
On the brink of our Japan trip, the BSO quickly packed up our trunks with instruments and tuxedos after the Berlioz - “Damnation of Faust” concert on Saturday with Charles Dutoit.
We have respective trunks for our instruments and additional wardrobe trunks for our concert attire. All were loaded on a semi truck late Saturday night that will go to an airport and then on a plane or series of planes to meet us when we arreive Nagoya, Japan on Wednesday evening, November 1st.
Because I love my trombone (and practicing it) so much, it is not in my instrument trunk - which instead has my back up trombone along with mutes and accessories. I will instead be carrying my Edwards over my shoulder along with my trusty Nikon D800e to capture any candids along the way.
We had such a great experience the last time the BSO was invited to perform in Japan and I am really excited to go again!! This November tour will take us from Nagoya to Osaka, Kawasaki and then a long stay for concerts in Tokyo. I’ll be updating here regularly so let me know if there’s anything you would like me to take pictures of along the way in the comments below.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra set out for the tour to Carnegie and Canada (Montreal & Toronto) yesterday with a concert of Shostakovich, No. 7 and premier of Russian-born composer, Sofia Gubaidulina's Triple Concerto.Read More
Last week marked a first, I was a part of an all concerto concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra that featured several members of the orchestra in a solo role. It isn't often that the trombone gets to be at the front of any orchestra, let alone the BSO. When I was asked to participate in this concerto concert I did submit several suggestions and artistic management settled on the Nino Rota Trombone Concerto as best suited for the program.Read More
..... So you want to win an audition, or plan a great concerto performance? Maybe you just want to knock your next recital out of the park. I want you to consider one thing: THE BETTER YOU GET, THE LESS OFTEN YOU PERFORM FOR JUST TROMBONISTS.Read More
Answer one simple question: What do you want to sound like?
I am at Edwards Instruments this week working on equipment with the man himself - Christan Griego.
Choosing equipment starts the same for all of us by answering one simple question: what do you want to sound like? But for those of us who've become more professionally relentless, the matter is more specifically: I want to build a setup that will allow me to sound like I want to sound on my worst day.
I am so grateful for Christan's help over the years. We talk often of my first visits to Edwards when I was at IU and Northwestern in the late 90's. My M.O. hasn't changed much, I have a clear idea in my head for what I want to sound like and I have a recording device with me (Zoom Q8 in this case) to verify how close I'm getting as I try various tweaks like different bells, slides, lead pipes and now mouthpieces.
Two things most students don't do is use their own ears both in research and when choosing equipment. How much are you listening each day to great recordings of what you want to emulate? Is it only trombone? When choosing equipment do you listen more to the expertise of people helping you choose a setup or is it yourself? Although Christan is a total rockstar for ears and expertise, any person in his position won't be there when you perform or practice so it is extremely important that you can hear what you're looking for.
Most importantly, the upgrade you're looking for must be a sound product available on your worst day. Too often people choose equipment that is much to large that only sounds good on their best day. This is a lot like shoe shopping with my dad when I was 8 years old and we'd buy shoes sized 1 and 1/2 size too large so I'd have room to grow into them. I was eight and the most I was doing was chasing girls or running from bullies on the play ground, so it was cool if my shoes had room to grow. You're buying a trombone to do very specific things under tremendous professional pressure even as a student, so a perfect fit is imperative. Christan had a great analogy: Don't make the mistake of buying Nike Air Jordan's the exact size of Michael Jordan's foot and expect to move around the court or even shoot like him.
Trombone players get pressure from other trombone players to play loud as if that is the peak of artistic greatness and this drives them to play enormous equipment. They don't trust their ears or their body and go too large hoping they'll grow into it. Unfortunately they then struggle to play with clear articulation or in the upper register and sound like moo cows in the back row. I'll admit I've fallen down the big equipment rabbit hole more than once and I always conclude the same thing - I don't want to be Michael Jordan, I want to be Bruce Lee.
....Think of your body like a balloon. Allow a linear expansion on the inhale so there must be relaxed slack to expand. When you want to get the air out of a balloon you can squeeze it (tension kills sound!) out or simply stretch the balloon long. ..Read More
Open to anyone I know personally - I hope you can make it to the Toby Challenge. 1.5 miles around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir at 10:30am on 11/8/15.Read More
RSVP via FaceBook message or contact me through my website.
There were a few musicians not as argumentative as myself, one of them actually crying, when I boarded the plane because they were all forced to check their precious instruments. I contemplated the entire flight, "What could I or any other musician have done if I had been traveling alone?"Read More
Music is an art form of perception. Use a recording to check in with the three "T's" - Time, Tune, Tone. Is your rhythm convincing? Are you playing in tune with yourself? Are you playing with a good tone throughout? Now, take it a step further - what are your phrase goals, and are you effectively demonstrating them? Can you hear a real difference between pianissimo and fortissimo? Is your crescendo all at once or over the two bars indicated by the composer and, more importantly, is the pitch consistent throughout your dynamic shift? Is the rhythm perceptible through your accelerando or rallentando? Let's face it, we work in sales and we are trying to sell people on a musically good quality product one phrase at a time. It's not about being right as much as it is to be convincing with our music. Evaluate your recordings with this in mind and you will go far.Read More
I love Top 5 lists for the simple reason that it generates conversation where everyone is entitled to their opinion and it is happily assumed that people would disagree........Read More
Let's be honest, musicians are generally not the most outgoing social animals at the zoo.......Read More
. . . lewd upward glissandos that portrayed an old man with feeble seductive skills.Read More
Maestro Nelsons never stops with a sort of boyish glee on the podium. As a member of the orchestra it is at least infectious and exciting to look up and see such a smile that never quits.....Read More