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.

 

Weekend Picks

Happy Friday. I hope that some of you might come catch me at one of my gigs tonight or Sunday. If you prefer to spend your weekend home surfing the net, here are some random music-related links from around the web.

I feel all music teachers should practice the craft of teaching, as well as the craft of making music. Dr. Brad Hanson discusses some Strategies for Teaching Aural Recognition.

The way we conceptualize knowledge in the general sense informs our understanding of musical knowledge and how it comes into play during listening and performance. If musical knowledge goes beyond the ability to recite facts and extends into the ability to operate on musical information through performance, the charge to music educators is to teach students to think critically in addition to developing basic musical skills. It is possible to structure learning experiences in lessons and rehearsals through which students identify problems, critically evaluate them, and work together to solve them. If ensemble players are expected to blindly follow the conductor, there is no room for decision-making or independent thought. In skill-based music curricula students memorize information, but are not challenged to use that information to solve or pose problems. Any curriculum that focuses on performance without the integration of history and theory, or without providing opportunities for students to pose or to solve problems is limited in its effectiveness.

Using electronic musician Scott Hansen (AKA Tycho) as an example, David Holmes writes up on How To Make It In the New Music Industry. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the genre of music Hansen mainly covers in his article, I think there’s some good food for thought for musicians of every kind in there.

…Hansen regularly plays to sold out crowds around the world and sells or streams enough of his music to make a decent living. This runs counter to the narrative that unless you’re one of the hallowed few who write disposable pop hits that play well to Middle American Clear Channel listeners, music is no way to pay the bills. His career arc is not the story of a man who profited by sacrificing his art to the trends of the day. It’s the story of how an artist, with enough time, pressure, patience, and business acumen, can build a sustainable career while staying true to a vision. It’s still almost impossibly difficult to accomplish and requires a massive amount of serendipity. Then again, you could say the same thing about building a successful startup.

In Bb is an interesting idea reminiscent of John Cage’s music.

In Bb 2.0 is a collaborative music and spoken word project conceived by Darren Solomon and developed with contributions from users.

And lastly, trombonist David Finlayson gives us a slide’s eye view of a Rochut Melodious Etude.

Weekend Picks – 5 Years of Blogging At Wilktone

It’s Friday and it’s been a couple of months since I posted a regular Weekend Picks. In lieu of writing about some fun and interesting links around the web for this one, I wanted to point out that this month, January 2015, marks the fifth year of Wilktone. To celebrate (or rather blow my own horn), I thought I’d post the most popular posts here, the posts that have generated the most comments, and list a few of my personal favorites that I’d like to see get more views.

A few stats first, for the curious. At the time that I write this post there have been 467,466 views (not all that many in the grand scheme of things) and 585 comments (some of those include links to other posts here). The number of views tends to fluctuate, but over the past five years has steadily grown. January 2015’s average so far is 392 views per day. Again, not a whole lot when compared to popular web sites as a whole, but maybe not too bad for a blog that is somewhat specialized in what it covers.

Over in the right hand side bar you can see a section for popular posts. These posts have been fairly consistent for a while, but the software that measures it weighs more recent views more than hits from a while ago. Over the past five years here are the posts that have gotten the most views.

1. A Brief History of Brass Instruments (21,999 views) – I actually wrote this short article sometime in 2000 or 2001. If I recall correctly, I was teaching a brass pedagogy class that semester and had put together a short lecture on the history of brass instruments. I had researched more information that I wanted to include in the class, so I wrote this article to explore this topic in more detail. In retrospect I wish I had saved the references I used, but I mainly just wanted to get some original content up on the web page I had at the time.

This article has been popular enough that it was plagiarized at scribd.com. The powers-that-be over there were very quick to take it down when I contacted them about that, by the way.

2. The Tongue Controlled Embouchure (15,705 views) – In retrospect I find it curious that my post about this topic has been so popular. I speculate in part that it’s because the tongue controlled embouchure has enough buzz on the internet that brass players are exposed enough to the idea that they want to learn more about it. Since there’s not a whole lot of info available about it, this post shows up on a lot of web searches.

My review of the technique there is not positive (I haven’t changed my mind at this point), but I think it’s neat how many advocates have left their thoughts in the comments there. Even though the discussion has been heated at times, I like how everyone has been civil.

3. Tips for the New Jazz Ensemble Director (13,570 views) – Someone posted a link to this page on the Jazz Education Network’s Facebook page in September, 2104 and in a couple of days hits to Wilktone more than tripled. It’s died down since then, but daily views since then have been slightly up from prior to that month. Either some of the folks who read it have come back to check out more or maybe it just helped boost my search engine presence. At any rate, I liked how this post came out and am happy that so many people find it helpful and interesting.

4. A Stylistic Analysis of Jazz Trombone Through Transcribed Solos (12,171 views) – This is another article that existed before this blog did. As I mentioned there, it is a web based presentation of a lecture recital I gave at Ball State University as part of my doctoral requirements. The lecture recital had a bit less historical and theoretical information than the article includes because I performed each transcription.

5. Brass Embouchures and Air Stream Direction (11,753 views) – I had created my YouTube video on this topic a couple of years before creating Wilktone. This post was my first ever here. Regular readers know the topic of brass embouchures is my favorite to write about.

The most commented pages up to this date are the following posts. So far I have yet to delete any comment (on purpose), other than the spam that sneaks past. Many of these highly commented posts have discussions that debate some of the points I tried to make.

1. The Tongue Controlled Embouchure (71 comments) – As I mentioned above, I have enjoyed the ensuing discussion.

2. Brass Embouchures: Playing On the Red Is Fine (as long as it fits your anatomy) (32 comments) – Since posting on this topic I have put together what I feel are better treatments of this subject, but this was the first post I had that was completely devoted to whether or not placing the mouthpiece rim contacting the red of your lips is OK or not. One of the authors I quoted in my blog post, Frank Gabriel Campos, even stopped by to leave his rebuttal.

3. On Metronome Practice and Logic Based Teaching Methods (21 comments) and Practicing With a Metronome (18 comments) – I’m including these two posts together since the topics and comments are outgrowths of each other. Practicing With a Metronome was a summary of my thoughts about Mike Longo’s post arguing that metronome practice would mess up your jazz playing. In the process I was inspired to explore how a lot of what gets passed on as good music teaching isn’t based on evidence, but personal beliefs or expectations.

4. The Balanced Embouchure: A Review (20 comments) – Not my best written post, to be honest, but as of today I still stand by my opinion of Jeff Smiley’s somewhat controversial book. The ensuing discussion got heated at times, but I always like to carefully consider what supporters have to say about this book.

5. The Pencil Trick Exercise (18 comments) – This post is about Donald Reinhardt’s away-from-the-horn strength building exercise. A lot of people think it’s a waste of time, but not many people really follow Reinhardt’s instructions well enough to do it the way he intended. It’s sort of hard to pick it up through reading a description.

Lastly, here are some posts I’ve written that are some of my personal favorites and not already mentioned above.

1. How To Transcribe: Some Advice for the Beginning Jazz Improviser – This post is another that existed on a previous personal web site that got moved over. In it I describe the process that I personally used to get started transcribing jazz solos. Many of my students have found it a helpful way to get started too.

2. Embouchure Dysfunction: An examination of brass embouchure troubleshooting – This is another post that is mainly about the YouTube video I put together. While my personal research in brass embouchures has been about how they function, over the course of study I became familiar with a lot of the ways in which brass embouchures malfunction. In this video and post I describe 5 different cases (of various degrees of difficulty) and discuss some of the ways in which making corrections to embouchure function can help players who are having these difficulties. One of my main goals in this post was to raise some awareness in the field of brass teachers and players as a whole about the physical results of brass embouchure dysfunction, instead of addressing problems through breathing, psychology, or working to make the embouchure work better with the technique that is potentially causing the issue.

3. Donald Reinhardt and the Pivot System – A Criticism – I wish I had the chance to take lessons from Reinhardt before he died, but one possible advantage to learning his teachings through lessons with a former student of his and his writings is that I don’t feel the emotional attachment that many of his students do. Many of the ones I know are quite vocal that passing on his ideas require a strict adherence to using the same language and terminology that Reinhardt happened to use (or more accurately, how he happened to be describing it at whatever time the student was with him). In this post I discuss the confusion that results when we try to communicate an already complicated topic using terms and descriptions that are unnecessarily inconsistent to most other brass players.

4. Arnold Jacobs on Embouchure: A Criticism – Like my criticism of the Pivot System, this post is about another brass pedagogue that has been very influential in my playing and teaching. Jacobs made a lot of very important contributions to brass pedagogy, but he also made a few statements about embouchure that I find demonstrably inaccurate.

5. An Examination of the Anatomical and Technical Arguments Against Placing the Mouthpiece on the Vermillion – I mentioned above that since writing the Playing on the Red Is Fine post I have done a better analysis and writeup of this topic. This is what I was referring to. The post itself is just an abstract of the formal academic paper. To my knowledge, no one else has done as extensive a review of the musical and medical review to attempt to settle this debate. It also includes a discussion of a pilot study designed to help answer the question of whether someone can tell through sound alone that a brass player places the mouthpiece rim on the red of the lips (my results strongly suggested that you can’t).

Do you have a favorite topic or discussion here that got left out? Any disagreements with the inclusion of the ones above? Please leave your thoughts in the comments here.

Weekend Picks

I’m a little late today posting my weekend picks. I’ll make it up to you by posting one more than usual today.

VictrolaHave you ever wondered Why Nerdy White Guys Who Love the Blues Are Obsessed With a Wisconsin Chair Factory?

Paramount is this incredible label that was born from a company called the Wisconsin Chair Company, which was making chairs, obviously. The company had started building phonograph cabinets to contain turntables, which they also were licensing. And they developed, like many furniture companies, an arm that was a record label so that they could make records to sell with the cabinets. This was before a time in which record stores existed. People bought their records at the furniture store, because they were things you needed to make your furniture work.

Transcribing music is one of the best things you can do for all around musicianship. It helps train your ear, writing it down improves your sight reading, you develop expressive nuances in your own playing, and it helps you develop a vocabulary for improvisation.

Kathy Jensen’s signature laugh with transcription. She has endless licks and can laugh in any key. She’s also a killer sax player.

Her laughter is infectious. You can check out more about Kathy Jensen at www.hornheads.com.

If you’re a jazz musician or a fan of jazz jam sessions you’ll recognize what Bill Anschell has to say about jam sessions. Consider, for example, the vocalists you run into at jam sessions.

Vocalists are whimsical creations of the all-powerful jazz gods. They are placed in sessions to test musicians’ capacity for suffering. They are not of the jazz world, but enter it surrepticiously. Example: A young woman is playing minor roles in college musical theater. One day, a misguided campus newspaper critic describes her singing as …”jazzy.” Voila! A star is born! Quickly she learns “My Funny Valentine,” “Summertime,” and “Route 66.” Her training complete, she embarks on a campaign of session terrorism. Musicians flee from the bandstand as she approaches. Those who must remain feel the full fury of the jazz universe (see “The Vocalist” below). IH: The vocalist will try to seduce you—and the rest of the audience—by making eye contact, acknowledging your presence, even talking to you between tunes. DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP! Look away, your distaste obvious. Otherwise the musicians will avoid you during their breaks. Incidentally, if you talk to a vocalist during a break, she will introduce you to her “manager.”

Read a whole lot more at Bill Anschell’s Jazz Jam Sessions: A First-Timer’s Guide.

On a more serious note, I found Bob Gillis’s discussion on trumpet embouchures to be fascinating. I have some minor quibbles with a couple of his points, but those are based on the perspective of an upstream embouchure player. I’m guessing that Bob must be a downstream embouchure type (not a wild guess, the majority of brass players are). Here’s a sample.

By then stopping the incoming mouthpiece weight when it first contacts this ideal preset of the embouchure, the player will have taken all of the steps to create the best possible seal before involving any action of the embouchure musculature. This extremely close proximity of the mouthpiece serves as a great reference…meaning it will clearly reveal what specific gaps still remain, and what exact shape the embouchure must assume to complete its interface with the mouthpiece. This embouchure “sandwich” (like the filling of the Oreo cookie) between the mouthpiece rim and teeth (with their irregularities) must fulfill much more than a role of a seal or gasket though, for it also functions as the instrument’s reed and facing (the top and bottom lips, respectively). That means the act of sealing the interface between mouthpiece and teeth formation must be done in a way that does not disrupt the vibration of the top lip, but that instead increases the efficiency of its vibration. This efficiency is achieved by also simultaneously focusing the size and shape of the lip aperture, all the while making sure the top lip is as relaxed as possible.

Read more on his post, The Landing: The Final Focus and Seal. It looks like he has a lot more interesting stuff there which I will need to look through more carefully later.

And lastly, the Mnozil Brass will be touring not too far from me in February. If you’re not familiar with them, they are incredible musicians and also very entertaining performers. Here is their performance of Lonely Boy.

Weekend Picks

It’s Friday again, which means it’s time for me to give you some music related links to check out.

Do you know about the process called MPEG Audio Layer III? You’re almost certainly familiar with the resulting file, called an MP3. This ubiquitous file type got it’s start all the way back in 1982. Learn more about The MP3: A History of Innovation and Betrayal.

Do you play chess? Have you ever noticed that algebraic chess notation could also refer to scientific pitch notation? Jonathan W. Stokes did and created musical compositions based on famous chess games.

Etude 6Here’s an excerpt from an etude for you to practice this weekend. To see more of it, and others, look here.

And lastly, we’re fortunate today in our MusicWorks! Asheville program that Little Anthony (from Little Anthony and the Imperials) will be visiting our elementary school students. Our students will perform some for Little Anthony and then he will sing some for them. Here is a video of Little Anthony and the Imperials performing an medley of some of their best known hits.

Weekend Picks

If you enjoyed Lloyd Leno’s film, Lip Vibration of Trombone Embouchures, you might like watching a cymbal filmed at 1,000 frames per second.

Here’s a neat project.

We put a Carnegie Hall orchestra in the middle of New York City and placed an empty podium in front of the musicians with a sign that read, “Conduct Us.” Random New Yorkers who accepted the challenge were given the opportunity to conduct this world-class orchestra. The orchestra responded to the conductors, altering their tempo and performance accordingly.

While the title is 7 Surprising Qualities of the World’s Best Improvisers, I don’t think any of them are really all that surprising. Still, it’s a great read and worth a look.

And finally, I was just talking with fellow trombonist Alan about this video of Tommy Pederson performing Flight of the Bumblebee.

Weekend Picks

I just began working on a new project that is taking up much of my free time just now. It’s not ready for a public announcement, but it will be of particular interest to student jazz composers and involve the Asheville Jazz Orchestra. Details on the AJO web site and here when it’s ready to go live.

AJO at Woody's and Becky's PartySpeaking of the AJO, we played a private event for one of our trumpet players, Woody, and his wife, Becky. Their sons threw them a 40th anniversary party. Since it wasn’t a formal performance for us and there were a lot of musicians in the crowd to sit in, I got to go out front and listen for a change. I even moved around and took a bunch of photos. Too bad I didn’t think to bring a better camera.

At any rate, here are some music related links for you to surf this weekend. There’s a bit of a theme this weekend. Everything here is something I take with a grain of salt.

Well it’s about time. Science declares Universal Property of Music Discovered.

Researchers have discovered a universal property of scales. Until now it was assumed that the only thing scales throughout the world have in common is the octave. The many hundreds of scales, however, seem to possess a deeper commonality: if their tones are compared in a two- or three-dimensional way by means of a coordinate system, they form convex or star-convex structures. Convex structures are patterns without indentations or holes, such as a circle, square or oval.

Do you buy it? Assuming the math is sound, it’s probably just an interesting quirk. At least that’s my guess.

There’s definitely some good advice and food for thought, but the headline is just click bait, The End of the Symphony and How Today’s Music Students Should Adapt. I’ve been hearing about the end of symphony orchestras for decades and they’re still around.

Speaking of the end, here is Frank Zappa explaining the decline of the music business. An interesting perspective from someone who experienced a changing music industry, but the business has changed quite a bit more since Zappa recorded this.

And finally, here is “Hans Groiner” discussing the music of Thelonious Monk. The comments on YouTube are hilarious.

AJO Tonight and Weekend Picks

AJO-Logo-Transparent copyI’m directing and performing with the Asheville Jazz Orchestra again tonight (Friday, August 8, 2014) at the White Horse in Black Mountain, NC. The show starts at 8 PM and we’ll play two sets of big band jazz. If you’re in the area looking for live music, please consider coming on out.

Here are some music related links for you to check out this weekend.

Low-Down Sires Busk
Low-Down Sires Busk

The first time I ever performed on the street (AKA “busking”) I had just graduated high school. A sax player heard me play and we talked for a while about a band he was playing in. A month later I went off to college and coincidentally I met another member of that band, eventually leading into me recording and playing some gigs with them. Recently I started busking again with some friends I play trad jazz with. We’ve found it to be a fun way to practice new material, essentially becoming a way to make a bit of money to rehearse. Sometimes if we’ve got some down time on an out of town tour we will go out and play on the street to not only pick up a few more bucks but also plug our gigs later. If you’re interested in trying out performing on the street, check out this advice on How to Busk.

One piece of advice I often give to my composition/arranging students is that they should show their parts to players that perform the instruments they are writing for. Even instruments in the same family will differ in terms of playability. For example, I sometimes get parts written by trumpet players that lay horribly for trombone because they took what they wrote for a trumpet and simply transposed it down an octave. Horn is a particularly challenging instrument for me to write well for because it has some idiosyncrasies that don’t translate from the other brass instruments. Fortunately, John Ericson has given us 9 Ways We Can Tell a Composer or Arranger Doesn’t Know How to Write for the Horn.

Did your metronome battery die? Or maybe it’s just too quiet and you need to blast a metronome through your computer speakers. Here’s a handy (and amusing) online metronome that simulates a pendulum style metronome.

And lastly, since school is about to start up after our summer break, here is a list of Ten Things You Should Never Say to Your Music Teacher. The tone may be tongue-in-cheek, but the advice is golden!

Upcoming Gigs and Weekend Picks

I’ve got a couple of upcoming public gigs coming up in the next three days. Tomorrow, (July 19, 2014) I’m playing traditional jazz with the Low-Down Sires at a lindy hop dance called The Process in Richmond, VA. I’m afraid I don’t know more of the details about the dance, but if you’re a swing dancer in the area or just a fan of trad jazz you can probably get in touch with someone through that Facebook link above. Next Monday, (July 21, 2014) I’ll be sitting in again with the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band. We’re playing at Grille 33 in Greenville, SC. If you get to come out to either, please be sure to say hello to me.

If you’re too far away to come hear me play, here are some of my music related links for your weekend surfing.

Nikolaj Lund is a photographer who takes photos of classical musicians and puts them into a unique perspective. Take a look at some of them on his web site.

Hal Crook is a fantastic trombonist, composer, and the author of some of my favorite books on jazz improvisation. The Berkley College of Music, where Crook is on the faculty, has posted a downloadable library of play-a-long tracks Crook put together for improvisation practice.

An old manifesto from 1992, Dennis Báthory-Kitsz urges musical organizations that It’s Time to Bury the Dead. Here’s a quote to whet your appetite.

Is there anything new on the menu of the Vermont Mozart Festival or the Killington Music Festival? Does either the professional or amateur musical community of our state and beyond show any commitment at all to the music of their own age? Indeed, does the listening public have any clue what a wealth of music is consciously and maliciously being denied them? No, no, no and no. Of course not! Pleasant advisory committees, cheerful compromises, and polite accommodations are doomed because such efforts attempt to deal with a special, entrenched group of diseased minds called necrosones, those who make their living by exhuming, stuffing and mounting the music of dead composers –composers who demand neither royalties nor attention to the artistic thought behind what they once did. Necrosones will never change because they cannot, because they are not artists nor are they sympathetic to art. They are vampires.

To finish things off today, here’s Oleg Berg’s treatment of the classic Beatles recording Hey Jude, but tweaked to put it into a minor key. One of the things I love about great music is that it is often still strong when it gets twisted around like this.

Weekend Picks

Yes, I’ve been slacking off on keeping up on posts lately. I haven’t, however, run out of random music related links to recommend for your weekend surfing.

I wasn’t familiar with Geraldine Evers before. She plays bass trombone with Orchestra Victoria and is the woman to hold a permanent trombone position with a major Australian orchestra.

Even if you’re not a fan of the prog-rock band Queen, you’re probably familiar with their tune Bohemian Rhapsody. Learn about it’s story, compiled and discussed here.

Here’s a good dictionary of Musical Terms and Definitions. Here’s an example.

Schmalzando

A sudden burst of music from the Guy Lombardo band

Dave with Guy LombardoHere’s a photo of me doing my best to play schmalzando. I’m the trombonist on the far right here.

Do you have a tune that you just can’t get enough of? If you want to listen to an infinite, yet still ever changing version of that track you can upload it to The Infinite Jukebox. For fun I tried it with a 10 piece trombone choir composition I wrote. Not sure if this link will work, but you can always try out your own. It probably lends itself to certain styles. While the full results aren’t really all that exciting, some of those random moments are pretty interesting and could make for a composition exercise or method to come up with ideas.

Lastly, Mick sent me a video of Weird Al Yankovic’s tribute to Frank Zappa, Genius in France.