Wilktone

Jazz, brass, composition, and other things music related.

Wilktone - Jazz, brass, composition, and other things music related.

Asheville Jazz Orchestra plays Our World Festival August 1, 2015

AJO-Logo-Transparent copyFor anyone down in the Greenville, SC area I’ll be performing a free set with the Asheville Jazz Orchestra at the Our World Festival on August 1, 2015. There is a lineup of a number of jazz bands and world music throughout the day. You can hear the AJO play at 3:40-4:40 at the main stage tent (1272 Pendleton Street, The Village of West Greenville). If you are able to come check it out please be sure to say hello to me afterwards while I’m listening to the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band right after we play.

Air Pressure, Pitch Range, and Dynamics

A recent discussion over at the Trumpet Herald forum got me thinking a bit more about the relationship between the pitch and dynamic being played by a brass player and how the breathing functions. Many brass players and teachers talk about using “faster air” for high notes, “blow harder” for loud notes, or “hot, wet, breath” for getting a rich, dark sound. These sorts of descriptions are fairly common, although many variations exist and not everyone feels similarly about their effectiveness in playing and teaching.

It is, of course, necessary to consider that playing sensations are a pretty unreliable way of talking about what exactly is happening in the player’s physiology or in the acoustics of the instrument. What to one player might feel like “blowing harder” might seem more like “faster air.” Furthermore, what works for a brass student and one stage of his or her development may become counterproductive later. This is why it’s important to have a good teacher who can watch you play and make corrections as needed. Teasing out those corrections often will take the form of analogies such as the ones I described, but we have to fall back on trial and error.

All that said, I find the science behind playing mechanics and instrument acoustics fascinating. Regardless of how you feel like you play, there may be some insights we can glean as players and teachers into breathing by taking the time to learn more. This can be a controversial topic, as reading through the Trumpet Herald topic can show. It’s even been a topic I’ve blogged about here that inspired some heated debate in the comments. In part this is due to differences in opinion about whether knowing this can be helpful or is a waste of time. My thought here is that trying to learn more about the way things work is never a waste of time, provided you are aware of the risks of going down the wrong path for a bit and recognize that you might just need to backtrack. Better still is to learn from those who have already done the research and had something to say about it.

One group of researchers, Jonathan Kruger, James McClean, and Mark Kruger, replicated a famous informal experiment that Arnold Jacobs supposedly did measuring the air pressure of brass players on different instruments and comparing how much blowing pressure and airflow were used for pitches. Jacobs noted that as the blowing pressure increased as the player ascended in range while the airflow decreased. He also claimed that players of different instruments would use a similar intra-oral pressure for the same pitch, so that a trombonist playing a “high Bb” would be blowing with about the same amount of pressure as a trumpet player playing the “middle C” (both pitches would be Bb4). Kruger, et al, found some of this to be true, but some of it to be different.

Intra-oral compression does increase as pitch increases and airflow decreases as pitch increases in each of the four members of the brass family. Both measures are also sensi- tive to changes in loudness (dynamic). Figure 2 shows changes in airflow and internal air pressure for a trumpet performer ascending the open pitches from the G below middle C upward while playing as close as possible to 85 decibels. As Jacobs observed, the larger bore instruments require less intra-oral compression and produce more air- flow when playing in their normal ranges than the higher instruments. Contrary to Jacob’s assertion about the simi- larity of instruments playing the same pitch, we observed measurable differences.

Other researchers have done similar experiments and found similar results. Kenneth Berger’s article in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Respiratory and articulatory factors in wind instrument performance (full article behind a paywall, abstract only), notes that the trumpet requires more intraoral pressure that other wind instruments studied.

A third paper published by 10éme Congres Fancaise d’Acoustique is thankfully written in English here. Freour, Causse, and Cosette noted similar results. In their article, Simultaneous Measurement of Pressure, Flow and Sound during Trumpet Playing, they wrote, “…it appears that pressure increases with both pitch and loudness, that flow increases with pitch and tends to decrease with dynamic.” They also note that the results of their study open up new questions that can now be addressed, such as the influence of air compressibility and even blood distribution in the respiratory system while playing.

So what are the implications for teaching and practicing brass instruments? At the very least I think we understand that blowing pressure and air volume do depend on the pitch range and dynamic being played. Knowing this, we might want to practice and teach being more aware of how we’re blowing while playing and changing those factors. Through this awareness we can learn our personal playing sensations in such a way as to memorize the feeling of when things are sounding and feeling good as well as better troubleshoot for those times when they are not.

An Introduction to the Pedagogy of Donald S. Reinhardt

The following article is a rewrite of an earlier one originally published in 2003 on the Online Trombone Journal, entitled An Introduction to Donald S. Reinhardt’s Pivot System. Because the OTJ is currently not being updated and the code used to publish everything is so old the original article is currently unaccessible on the OTJ. I decided that this would be a good time to revisit the article and make it more accessible to folks wanting an introduction to Reinhardt’s teaching without overwhelming them with details that may not be relevant to their teaching or playing. If you wish to read the original article I have posted it here.


Doc_reclinedDonald S. Reinhardt (1908 – 1989), was an American trombonist and music teacher. As a young man he was frustrated with his lack of technical progress on the instrument, in spite of practicing very hard and studying with many experienced music teachers. One day an accident damaged the tuning slide on his trombone and when it was returned from the repair shop the counter weight was inadvertently left off. When Reinhardt went to play again the loss of the counter weight led to a much lower horn angle than he usually played, however the results were markedly better for him. Because the different embouchure that resulted was so unusual compared to the other brass player’s Reinhardt knew he became interested in studying how other musicians played. Over time, he analyzed and categorized thousands of players’ embouchures, tonguing, breathing, and other mechanical aspects of brass technique.

In 1939 the theater orchestra where Reinhardt performed was fired and so he took some time off to travel across the United States with his wife. While on this trip he met a young trombone student in Kansas, whom he gave a short lesson to. Helping this student led to Reinhardt’s interest in teaching brass musicians how to better achieve technical mastery of their instruments. Over the next couple of years he gave brass lessons for free in order to test out his ideas. In 1954 he established a teaching studio in Philadelphia.

Reinhardt called his approach to teaching brass the “Pivot System,” a name he would eventually regret. The term “pivot” led to the impression that he taught brass players to tilt their horn around while playing, while the term “system” implied that there was a universal approach that all brass students were to follow. Instead, the goal of his pedagogy was to find the physical and mental procedures that allowed each student to progress according to their anatomical and psychological makeup. He wrote:

The PIVOT SYSTEM (sic) is a scientific, practical, proven method of producing the utmost in range, power, endurance and flexibility on the trumpet, trombone and all other cupped-mouthpiece brass instruments. It was originated not only through forty years of research and experimentation in practical playing, teaching, writing and lecturing to many thousands of professionals, semi-professionals, supervisors, teachers, students, etc., but also through designing and producing personalized mouthpieces and being consultant of instrument design for several leading manufacturers of brass instruments.

This system, working on tried and tested principles, first of all analyzes and diagnoses the physical equipment of the player and then presents a specific, concrete set of rules and procedures which enable the individual to utilize, with the greatest possible efficiency, the lips, teeth, gums, jaws, and general anatomy with which he is naturally endowed.

– Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973 page XI

Because of the personalized nature of Reinhardt’s teaching it is very difficult to provide a summary of his pedagogy. He would break down his discussion of playing mechanics into three primary playing factors, breathing, tonguing, and embouchure. Depending on the needs of the student Reinhardt would emphasize one playing factor over another and developed individualized routines to help students improve.

Breathing

Reinhardt’s ideas on teaching breathing mirror what many other brass teachers and players have advocated over the years. He felt that the foundation of good breath control began with good posture, whether seated or standing. Two areas where Reinhardt approached breathing somewhat differently from many other brass teachers were his suggestions on “timed breathing” and mouth corner inhalations.

Reinhardt believed that rather than always taking a full breath to play that brass players should aim to take in enough air to play the phrase comfortably and no more. He felt that over breathing, particularly for the upper register, caused problems, including dizziness and strain. Under breathing would lead to a thin tone and lack of coordination with the tonguing and embouchure. He asked his students to practice breathing in slowly when possible, rather than trying to inhale enough air to make the phrase as quickly as possible.

More unusual than Reinhardt’s recommendation for timed breathing were his advice on mouth corner inhalations. Reinhardt felt that many playing issues were caused by brass musicians pulling their lips away or out of position from the mouthpiece to breath. In order to combat this tendency he instructed his students to keep the mouthpiece in place on the lips while breathing through the mouth corners. He likened the mouth center to an “outtake valve” while the mouth corners functioned as an “intake valve.” When the inhalation was complete the student was to snap the mouth corners forward into playing position immediately and without hesitation begin the blowing.

Tonguing

Reinhardt’s instructions on tonguing could be very detailed and different for students, depending on factors such as the size of the student’s oral cavity, length of the tongue, relationship of the lower lip to the lower teeth, and other anatomical and stylistic considerations. However, he broke down the mechanics of tonguing on a brass instrument into the following.

The tongue as used in the PIVOT SYSTEM has three principal duties: one, the level of the tongue-arch is one of the factors for the control of range; two, the length of the tongue backstroke is one of the determining factors for volume and speed; and three, the tongue-level directs and governs the size of the cone-like air column so that it may strike the back of the compressed embouchure formation to produce the lip-vibrations for the particular tone to be played.

– Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, page 82.

He discouraged almost all his students to avoid attacking pitches with the tongue striking the lips. He wrote:

“Whenever a performer permits his tongue to penetrate between his teeth and lips, he is actually opening them to allow the tip of his tongue to penetrate between them. In so doing, he is subconsciously depending upon the timing of his reflexes to bring his lips together again for the purpose of vibrating. Some players get by in this manner for years but as they advance in age and their reflexes slow down, the real playing difficulties commence.”

– Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, pp. 100-101.

For more information about Reinhardt’s tongue types please visit this page about that topic.

 Embouchure

Arguably it is in the area of embouchure where Reinhardt’s teaching can contribute the most to brass pedagogy. He was perhaps the first brass author to make note of different embouchure types and make them an important part of his teaching. While these ideas remain somewhat controversial still today, the embouchure characteristics he describe have been independently discovered by later authors and researchers and make for a powerful pedagogical tool for brass teachers willing to make the effort to learn more about them.

In order to understand Reinhardt’s embouchure types it is first necessary to understand two basic characteristics that all brass players’ embouchures have, whether or not the player is aware of them, air stream direction and an embouchure motion that Reinhardt originally called a “pivot.”

Downstream Embouchure

Downstream Embouchure

While many brass players consider air stream direction to be the result of the player’s horn angle, use of a transparent mouthpiece shows that the main determining factor of the embouchure air stream direction is the ration of upper to lower lip placed inside the mouthpiece. When a brass player places the mouthpiece so that there is more upper than lower lip inside the mouthpiece cup the upper lip predominates and the air stream can be seen to pass the vibrating lips at a downward angle. When the a downstream brass musician plays in the upper register the angle of the air stream is directed even more so in a downward direction. Conversely, when a downstream embouchure player plays in the low register the air stream angle is closer towards blowing straight into the mouthpiece shank.

Upstream Embouchure

Upstream Embouchure

Upstream embouchure players are exactly opposite. These player set the mouthpiece upon the lips so that the lower lip predominates inside the cup and the air stream gets blown past the lips at an upward angle. When these musicians play in the upper register the angle the air stream passes the lips is even more upstream while in the lower register the air stream angle appears to get blown closer to straight out.

To learn more about brass embouchures and air stream direction please visit this page devoted to the topic.

The other main embouchure characteristic that is used to categorize a brass musician’s embouchure according to Reinhardt was the phenomenon he called a “pivot.” Reinhardt adjusted his definition of this term over time, and would later regret using it as a label for his pedagogy. Early in his teaching career he defined a pivot as:

Pivoting is the transfer of what little pressure there is used in playing from one lip to another. . . The instrument is slightly tilted to get the tone at its most open point.

-Reinhardt, Pivot System Manual for Trombone, 1942, p. 23.

This definition implies that the tilting of the instrument is the important consideration with the pivot, leading many to erroneously assume that Reinhardt advocated tilting the horn up and down in order to change registers. His later definition of the brass pivot is a more accurate description of the phenomenon.

The PIVOT is controlled by pulling down or pushing up the lips on the teeth with the rim of the mouthpiece. The outer embouchure…and the mouthpiece move vertically (some with slight deviations to one side or the other) as one combined unit on the invisible vertical track of the inner embouchure …; however, the position of the mouthpiece on the outer embouchure must not be altered in any way.

– Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, p. 194.

Where some players would ascend by pushing the mouthpiece and lips together as a unit upward towards the nose to ascend, other players pulled the mouthpiece and lips together down towards the chin to ascend. Many players will also perform best with the track of this motion at an angle, rather than straight up or down. Horn angle may be correctly altered at the same time, but the amount of change and direction the horn angle may change is personal to the player. To learn more about the embouchure motion Reinhardt called a pivot please visit this page devoted to the topic.

Using the player’s air stream direction, direction of pivot, as well as the position of the jaw while both at rest and while playing Reinhardt would classify four main embouchure types with five subtypes, resulting in nine different embouchure types. Because some of these types function the same while playing, most former students of Reinhardt’s tend to only classify students into three or four brass embouchure types.

Before learning about Reinhardt’s embouchure types it’s important to note that he felt that a player’s embouchure type was determined by the student’s anatomical features and isn’t a choice that a student or teacher can make. Reinhardt felt that long term progress and playing success was best done with adopting the one embouchure type that best fit the student’s physical characteristics rather than switching between types or adopting a type that wasn’t most efficient for the player’s anatomy. Each embouchure type has some general characteristics and may respond to exercises and routines in very different ways. Over decades of careful experimentation, Reinhardt developed practice routines and exercises that were designed to help players of different embouchure types progress successfully.

Embouchure Type I and Type IA

Type I Teeth Structure

Type I Teeth Structure

The Type I and Type IA embouchures are rarer than most of the other types. These player’s upper and lower teeth meet when the jaw is in its natural position. Oddly enough, this teeth and jaw structure appears to inhibit anything other than a very high mouthpiece placement (downstream Type I) or very low (upstream Type IA) mouthpiece placement from working efficiently. Other than the position of the teeth, these types are virtually identical to other embouchure types while the musician is playing. Type I embouchures are identical while playing to either the Type IIIA or Type IIIB embouchures and the Type IA embouchure is identical to the Type IV embouchure while playing. Because of this fact, the Type I and Type IA embouchures will not be covered in detail here (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, p. 205).

Embouchure Type II and Type IIA

The Type II and Type IIA embouchures are similar to the Type I embouchures in that they are distinguished by the natural position of the upper and lower teeth. Players belonging to this rarer type have lower teeth that protrude in front of the upper teeth when the jaw is in its resting position. Because of this teeth and jaw position these individuals will almost always play with an upstream embouchure, necessitating a mouthpiece placement with more lower lip. Other than the position of the player’s teeth while the jaw is in its resting position, the Type II embouchure is virtually identical to the Type IV embouchure. The Type IIA embouchure are very similar to the Type IVA embouchure while playing. Because of these similarities the Type II and Type IA embouchures will not be covered here in detail (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, pp. 206-207).

Embouchure Type III

The Types III, IIIA, and IIIB are much more common than the Types I, IA, II, and IIA. These player’s lower teeth naturally recede behind the upper teeth when the jaw is in its resting position. Players belonging to these types rarely protrude their lower jaw past the point where the upper and lower teeth are even and all three types place the mouthpiece with more upper lip inside the mouthpiece cup.

Reinhardt’s Type III embouchure, often called the “Jelly Roll Type,” plays with a mouthpiece placement with usually only slightly more upper lip inside the mouthpiece cup. Because there is more upper lip than lower lip inside the mouthpiece the air stream is directed at a downward angle inside the mouthpiece cup. The jaw is typically receded beneath the upper and because of this the horn angle is typically tilted lower, often quite extremely. In addition to the receded lower jaw, one of the main distinguishing features of this embouchure type is that the player’s lower lip membrane is positioned in and slightly over the lower teeth. As this type player ascends the lower lip roll becomes more pronounced.

The Type III embouchure motion is usually to pulling down towards the chin to ascend and pushing up towards the nose to descend. In rarer cases Type III embouchure players will do the reverse pivot and push up to the nose to ascend while pulling down to descend.

In many cases a Type III player will have difficulties with the extreme upper register, changing types as he or she plays from around a concert F above high B flat or higher. This is particularly common with trumpet players, due to the smaller mouthpiece size and increased demand on faster lip vibrations. In these situations Reinhardt would reclassify this player as a Type IIIA or IIIB, according to their embouchure in the extreme upper register. True Type III players have a jaw that cannot protrude far enough to make a playing on a Type IIIA or Type IIIB possible. (Sheetz, PivoTalk Newsletter, Vol. 2, #3, p. 3).

One common difficulty Type III players have is their necessity of playing with the bell directed towards the floor because of a receded lower jaw. Players with this trouble need to be careful to not put their head too far back and place undue strain on their neck, restricting the throat (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

The Type IIIA embouchure tends to play with the mouthpiece placed quite high, often just under the nose with trombonists. These players also typically protrude the jaw more than the standard Type III players, but never to the point of thrusting the lower teeth beyond the upper teeth. With the jaw in a more protruded position the horn angle tends to be almost horizontal, and sometimes even higher. Because the upper lip predominates inside the mouthpiece cup this type also is classified as a downstream type.

Type IIIA performers always utilize Pivot Classification One, pushing up towards the nose to ascend and pulling down towards the chin to descend. When a student found that Pivot Classification Two worked more efficiently Reinhardt would classify the player as a Type IIIB (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, pp. 208-209).

Brass players belonging to Reinhardt’s Type IIIA embouchure often have a tendency to raise their horn angle while inhaling. When they bring the mouthpiece back down to play they crash the mouthpiece rim against the lips, causing swelling and inhibiting endurance. Type IIIA players of larger mouthpieces, such as trombonists, may find that their nose gets in the way of their ascending pivot, necessitating practice increasing their lip pucker instead of relying exclusively on their pivot to ascend (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

IIIA

IIIA Embouchure Type

The Type IIIA embouchure tends to play with the mouthpiece placed quite high, often just under the nose with trombonists. These players also typically protrude the jaw more than the standard Type III players, but never to the point of thrusting the lower teeth beyond the upper teeth. With the jaw in a more protruded position the horn angle tends to be almost horizontal, and sometimes even higher. Because the upper lip predominates inside the mouthpiece cup this type also is classified as a downstream type.

Type IIIA performers always utilize Pivot Classification One, pushing up towards the nose to ascend and pulling down towards the chin to descend. When a student found that Pivot Classification Two worked more efficiently Reinhardt would classify the player as a Type IIIB (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, pp. 208-209).

Brass players belonging to Reinhardt’s Type IIIA embouchure often have a tendency to raise their horn angle while inhaling. When they bring the mouthpiece back down to play they may crash the mouthpiece rim against the lips, causing swelling and inhibiting endurance. Type IIIA players of larger mouthpieces, such as trombonists, may find that their nose gets in the way of their ascending pivot, necessitating practice increasing their lip pucker instead of relying exclusively on their pivot to ascend (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

Embouchure Type IIIB

IIIB

IIIB Embouchure Type

The Type IIIB embouchure is perhaps the most common one, especially among symphonic brass players, and is therefore most frequently described in method books by brass pedagogues who recommend a single embouchure for all students. These players typically don’t place the mouthpiece as high as a Type IIIA embouchure or as low as a Type III. The upper lip still predominates inside the mouthpiece cup and this embouchure is therefore classified as a downstream embouchure. The lower teeth of a Type IIIB player is receded beneath the upper teeth on these players and the horn angle is usually slightly lower than a IIIA.

Type IIIB players always utilize Pivot Classification Two, pulling down towards the chin to ascend and pushing up to descend. When a Type IIIB student finds that Pivot Classification One is more efficient this player should be reclassified as a Type IIIA (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, p. 209).

Type IIIB embouchure players tend to have great flexibility and an easier time playing with a darker tone quality, but also have a tendency to become so concerned with a fat sounding lower and middle register that they play with too open an aperture. This results in difficulties playing above a concert D flat above high B flat. Because this type utilizes Pivot Classification Two it is also common for these players to dig the mouthpiece rim into their upper lip, causing swelling and trouble with endurance (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

Embouchure Type IV and IVA

Embouchure Types IV and IVA players have lower teeth which recede beneath the upper teeth while their jaw is in their resting position, but since these types place the mouthpiece with more lower lip inside the cup than upper lip the air stream is directed at an upward angle, regardless of the position of the jaw while playing or horn angle.

IV

IV Embouchure Type

In addition to placing the mouthpiece lower on the lips, Reinhardt’s Type IV embouchure plays with the lower jaw quite protruded beyond the upper, in spite of the jaw’s natural position. While playing this embouchure type is identical to Reinhardt’s Type II embouchure. Due to the protruded position of the lower jaw the horn angle of this embouchure type is very high, sometimes higher than horizontal.

Type IV players almost always utilize Pivot Classification Two, pulling down to ascend and pushing up to descend. There are exceptions, however. In those exceptions Reinhardt often found that the mouthpiece placement was too low for this player’s embouchure and the player should adopt a different embouchure type (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, p. 210).

It is common for Type IV players to change their horn angle while inhaling and crash the mouthpiece against the lips for initial attacks, similar to the Type IIIB embouchure (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

IVA

IVA Embouchure Type

Type IVA embouchures are identical to Type IV embouchures with a couple of exceptions. Like the Type IV, these players place the mouthpiece with more lower lip inside the mouthpiece and the air stream is directed in an upward direction. Unlike the Type IV embouchure, Type IVA players keep their jaw in a somewhat receded position so that the lower jaw is beneath the upper while playing, resulting in a downward horn angle.

The Type IVA embouchure typically utilizes Pivot Classification Two, pulling down to ascend and pushing up to descend, but there are some deviations to this principle (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, pp. 210-211).

The type IVA embouchure can be a very delicate embouchure type in the player’s early stages, which may be one reason why so many brass method books actively discourage utilizing this embouchure. When the Type IVA placement is a little wrong the whole embouchure system can often break down completely. Similar to the Type IIIB embouchure, Type IVA players often dig into their upper lip while pivoting down to ascend, causing excessive swelling (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

Further Exploration

The best way to learn more about the pedagogy of Donald S. Reinhardt is to study from one of his former students, particularly the few who attended his teacher clinics. Most of the students that Reinhardt taught focused exclusively on their personal correctional procedures and may not be as qualified as others to correctly classify a student’s embouchure type or design a good routine. Today there are more “second generation” students who learned about Reinhardt’s pedagogy from one of his former students and who have gone on to make it part of their own teaching.

Baring lessons with a qualified teacher, the most detailed book about Reinhardt’s teaching is The Encyclopedia of the Pivot System. Reinhardt’s intention with this large text was to help students who were taking lessons with him. It is organized in a frequently asked questions format by topic, but little effort was made to arrange the materials in a linear manner. The writing style can be very technical at times and this book may not be the best introduction to Reinhardt’s pedagogy, although serious students of the Pivot System will want to read this book. Pivot System for Trumpet/Trombone, A Complete Manual With Studies is a much older book and much of the writing in this book is considered out of date compared to the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System. It does, however, contain many exercises that Reinhardt developed to help players with breathing, tonguing, articulations, embouchure development, range, dynamics, and more. Like the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, these books are best explored under the guidance of a teacher experienced with Reinhardt’s pedagogy who can help the student design a routine that fits the individual’s particular embouchure and tonguing types.

Selected Bibliography

Elliott, D. (1998). Ten questions with Doug Elliott, The Online Trombone Journal [Online]

Everett, T. (1974). An Interview with Dr. Donald S. Reinhardt, The Brass World, Vol. 9, No. 2, 93-97.

Reinhardt, D. S. (1973). The Encyclopedia of the Pivot System of the pivot system for all cupped mouthpiece brass instruments, a scientific text. New York: Charles Colin.

Reinhardt, D. S. (1942). Pivot System for Trombone, A Complete Manual With Studies. Bryn Mawr, PA: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.

Reinhardt, D. S. (1942). Pivot System for Trumpet, A Complete Manual With Studies. Bryn Mawr, PA: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.

Sheetz, David H. Gone But Still Important, PivoTalk on the Web [Online] Unavailable

Sheetz, David H. Quirks of the Type, PivoTalk on the Web [Online] Unavailable

Wilken, D. (2000). The correlation between Doug Elliott’s embouchure types and playing and selected physical characteristics among trombonists. D.A. diss., Ball State University.


Additional Resources

Trumpet Herald Donald S. Reinhardt Forum
An online forum devoted to discussing Reinhardt’s teaching and the Pivot System. Discussion here is actively moderated to restrict content to things written or spoken by Reinhardt exclusively.

Donald Reinhardt Facebook Discussion Group
A Facebook group for discussing the pedagogy and life of Donald Reinhardt.

Donald S. Reinhardt Foundation Official Website
The official web site of the Donald S. Reinhardt Foundation, a not for profit organization devoted to preserving the teachings of Reinhardt. At this time this web site has not been updated since 2011.

The Reinhardt Foundation Facebook Page
The Facebook page of the Donald S. Reinhardt Foundation.

Low-Down Sires at The Process – July 18, 2015

Low-Down Sires LogoIf you’re around Richmond, VA this weekend, I’ll be performing at The Process, a lindy hop event held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. The Low-Down Sires will be performing at the dance there from 9 PM to midnight on  Saturday, July 18, 2015.

I won’t have a lot of down time while we’re there, but if anyone is interested in meeting up for a lesson or just to hangout over coffee or other beverages drop me a line and let’s see if we can get our schedules to align. If you happen to be into swing dancing come on out to the dance and be sure to say hello to me during one of our set breaks.

Guess the Embouchure Type – Brad Edwards

Brad Edwards, who teaches trombone at the University of South Carolina, has started up at the Trombone Embouchure Video Project where he is challenging many trombonists to video record their embouchures and post them so that others may make use of them. Here is Brad’s chops. Take a look and see if you can guess his embouchure type. I’ll hide my guess after the break.

Continue reading

Weekend Picks

Here are a handful of random music-related links for your browsing this weekend.

Can you shatter a wine glass with your voice?

A human voice can shatter a glass. Every object has a resonant frequency – the natural frequency at which something vibrates. Wine glasses, because of their hollow shape, are particularly resonant. If you run a damp finger along the rim of a glass, you might hear a faint, ghostly hum – the resonant frequency of the glass. Or you can simply tap the glass and hear the same frequency. To shatter the glass, a singer’s voice has to match that frequency, or pitch, and the glass must have microscopic defects.

Mirror DuetThe Mirror Duet is usually attributed to Mozart, although there is some question about that. If you’re not familiar, it’s a duet where the two players stand facing each other, reading the same page of sheet music. And it works.

 

CsárdásI have no idea who Helen Amvroseva and George Shakhnin are/were, and no way to embed this video of them performing Csárdás on trumpet, trombone, and piano. It’s both impressive and funny.

 

Reinhardt Forum Restrictions

The Trumpet Herald sub-forum dedicated to discussing Donald Reinhardt has gotten more restrictive recently. This appears to be a response from a post from former Reinhardt student, Doug Elliott, who stated that he feels Reinhardt’s tongue-types are largely unnecessary. Forum moderator, Rich Willey, deleted the ensuing discussion and apparently Doug is now banned from posting there. Rich posted Our stated purpose on the Reinhardt Forum.

This is not an open forum where you can just post anything you please.

If it’s not a question about what Reinhardt taught, or if it’s not a direct statement of something that Reinhardt wrote or taught you, or maybe a short report how something Reinhardt taught made a big difference in your playing, then it serves no useful purpose here if we’re sticking to the mission of our stated purpose.

I understand Rich’s basic concern here. He wants the forum to be on topic, and it’s his prerogative to run the forum this way. It is, however, a very narrow restriction. This is a good way to design a library site or FAQ, but not very encouraging for vibrant discussion.

Reinhardt’s writings and opinions did, in fact, change, but we are left with a large body of work exactly the way Reinhardt left it, not as we interpret it all these years later.

Rich acknowledges that Reinhardt was open to changing his ideas, and from what I’ve heard from other former students he continued to do so as long as he was teaching. I prefer to honor Reinhardt’s legacy by following his model, rather than pin down what he said into something static.

I have had many requests through the years to keep on doing the job of “keeping this forum pure Reinhardt,” and some people have gone away with their feelings hurt. Some of the most notable posters on this forum have called (or PM’ed) and thanked me for doing the dirty work of cleaning out the “riff raff” or those who are not interested in the stated purpose of this forum.

The disgruntled few who are no longer with us are usually not missed, and those who continue to look to this forum for real answers that Reinhardt discovered all those years ago ought to be greeted with answers à la Reinhardt, not the way we think his teaching might have evolved all these years later.

I do believe that there are some who feel similarly to Rich about how to restrict discussion there. My guess is that there are some others who tolerate it because they are genuinely interested in learning about Reinhardt. I’m not certain that the “disgruntled few” are so few and aren’t missed, but maybe I’m projecting my own bias here.

Thank you for understanding and helping to keep this forum “Pure” Reinhardt.

I don’t have the time or inclination to create and moderate a public forum these days, but Facebook makes it easy to start a discussion group. If folks want a another place to discuss Donald Reinhardt’s pedagogy and how we can better teach it ourselves go here and send me a request to join.

Developing Perfect Pitch (or not)

Tuning ForkA very small part of the population has what is commonly called “perfect pitch.” More properly known as “absolute pitch,” individuals who possess it inherently know what pitch is being played and can sing any give pitch without a point of reference at any time. It offers an advantage to musicians, however our current understanding strongly suggests that this is a skill that needs to be developed before the age of 9 and can’t be learned as an adult.

That hasn’t stopped a lot of folks from trying to train adults to acquire perfect pitch. A lot of these are probably scams, although some may be good ways to teach ear training. One common approach is to train your sense of pitch memory so that you always have a point of pitch reference.

A recent study investigated this by training subjects to their working memory for pitch recognition. After going through a training program that offered corrections and reinforcements, subjects scored significantly better on tests where they were asked to recreate and label pitches. Lead researcher Howard Nusbaum said:

This is the first significant demonstration that the ability to identify notes by hearing them may well be something that individuals can be trained to do. It’s an ability that is teachable, and it appears to depend on a general cognitive ability of holding sounds in one’s mind.

I agree with what Richard Moss wrote in the same article. There is a pretty vast difference between the perfect pitch abilities of someone who acquired it in childhood compared with those of individuals who have developed it in adulthood. Nusbaum, et al, seemed to acknowledge this in their article abstract, noting that “the performance typically achieved by this population [acquired at adulthood] is below the performance of a ‘true’ AP possessor.”

Take a look at the following graph, from Absolute pitch: perception, coding, and controversies, by Daniel J. Leviton and Susan E. Rogers.

Age of first music training

It would also appear that developing true absolute pitch as an adult is extremely rare, in spite of all the courses and effort folks often take in developing it. That’s not to say that working on your pitch memory is bad, any ear training is good for your musicianship. I would recommend, however, that you focus your ear training practice on skills that are practical for what you want to do. I would argue that it’s more important to focus your effort on pitch relationships, that is to say, relative pitch. Even folks with perfect pitch have to practice this and spend time on it, and this skill is much more critical than being able to recognize a pitch without a point of reference.

Upcoming Gigs, Independence Day Weekend 2015

18461977735_51e17e6dfd_zI’ve got some public performances this weekend, if you’re in western North Carolina and looking for some live music.

Tomorrow night (Friday, July 3, 2015) the Asheville Jazz Orchestra will present a patriotic concert. We’ll be performing big band arrangements of American patriotic music, as well as some music from the WWII era of big bands. The performance is at Trinity United Methodist Church, in Asheville, NC and starts at 7 PM. We’ll be collecting donations for the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministries (ABCCM) and the Asheville Jazz Council’s jazz education fund.

On Independence Day I have two shows. The first will be riding around on the Lazoom Bus tour with the Low-Down Sires, playing early jazz for the riders. I’ve taken one of their comedy tours with visiting family recently, so it will be interesting to be playing on the bus this time.

Afterwards I will be conducting the Land of the Sky Symphonic Band in our Independence Day concert at the White Horse Black Mountain. As you can imagine, we’ll be playing a very American focused program, although we will be performing one piece by a Russian, excerpts from 1812 Overture.

If you make it out to one of my shows, please come up and say hello during one of my breaks or after the performance. Every once in a while someone introduces themselves to me at a gig and mentions this blog. It’s neat to meet my readers in person, when it’s possible.

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