Misconceptions About the Diaphragm and Another Look at Wedge Breathing

I’ve blogged a bit about some of David Vining‘s writing before.  If you’re not familiar with Vining, he’s a fantastic trombonist and at one point in his career suffered from focal task specific dystonia in his embouchure.  He eventually persevered and was able to make a full recovery and return to playing.  Vining is an advocate of an approach where the goal is to better understand how your body moves and functions when playing so that your analogies don’t get in the way of you’re technique.

Here’s a link to a short, but excellent article Vining wrote on breathing.  Specifically, he discusses how some current pedagogical practices rely on descriptions of breathing that are anatomically inaccurate and how they can lead to breathing in a way that hinders a musician’s playing.  He first illustrates by linking to an excellent video that shows exactly where the diaphragm is and how it functions.

Having recently been experimenting with “wedge breathing,” I found a couple of things Vining mentions interesting, as they mirror some of the drawbacks I noticed while practicing wedge breathing. Continue reading Misconceptions About the Diaphragm and Another Look at Wedge Breathing

Western Carolina University Jazz Ensemble November 29th

I’ll be sitting in on some tunes with the WCU Jazz Ensemble tomorrow, November 29th, 2011.  We’re playing in the Coulter Recital Hall at 7:30.  One of the Music Department’s other faculty members, Steve Wohlrab, will be also soloing on guitar.  The band will be playing charts by Duke Ellington, Bob Mintzer, Count Basie, and even a couple of my own compositions (A Kneezy Waltz and Horsin’ Around).

We had a rehearsal last week and both Steve and the band sounded fantastic.  If you’re around Cullowhee, NC this Tuesday consider coming to hear a great student band and a great guitar soloist (plus me).

Asheville Jazz Orchestra November 26 at the White Horse

The Asheville Jazz Orchestra is going to be busy for the next month, so if you’re around western North Carolina you’ll get plenty of chances to come out and hear us play.  Tomorrow, Saturday November 26, 2011, the AJO is back out at the White Horse Black Mountain for two sets of big band jazz.  The show starts at 8 PM.

We should have a special guest sitting in with us, trombonist Adam Dotson.  Adam is best known for his work with a rock band called Rubblebucket.  His father, Woody Dotson, plays trumpet with the AJO.  There are a couple of charts in our book with 5 trombones that I can use to keep everyone up on the stand, but I’m looking forward to letting someone else play for me for a bit.  Then I can step out front and listen to how the band sounds from the audience and maybe fix some balance issue.  I’ll also be able to sit with my fiance for a bit.  She comes to a lot of my shows by herself, so it will be nice for her to have some company on a couple of tunes this time.

If you’re in Black Mountain, NC tomorrow night please stop on by and check out the AJO.  Be sure to say hello while you’re there.

Haim Avitsur – Name That Tune

Israeli trombonist Haim Avitsur has a “name that tune” contest for trombonists (or anyone who knows a lot of trombone literature).  Here’s a YouTube video of him performing excerpts from 25 different pieces for solo trombone and piano in 33 different cleverly edited clips.  Take a listen and see how many you can recognize.

Haim writes about this contest: Continue reading Haim Avitsur – Name That Tune

Land of the Sky Symphonic Band at Diana Wortham

Yes, I’m plugging yet another gig.  If you’re in western North Carolina this weekend you can not only hear me perform with the Appalachian Orchestra’s fundraiser concert on Saturday, but can also come to hear me conduct the Land of the Sky Symphonic Band.  The concert is at 7 PM on Sunday, November 20, 2011 at the Diana Wortham Theater in Asheville, NC.

We’ll be performing a variety of works for concert band and wind ensemble, so there should be a little something for any classical music fan.  For example, we’ll be playing some transcriptions of the William Tell Overture and Mars from the Planets.  There are also some traditional concert band pieces like the William Byrd Suite and Irish Tune from County Derry, but also some newer pieces like Scootin’ on Hard Rock and Cartoon.

Reinhardt/Elliott Embouchure Type Conversion Chart

Reinhardt Types III and IV
Reinhardt Types III and IV

Donald Reinhardt was probably the first brass pedagogy author to make note of different brass embouchure types and made them an important part of his teaching.  He wrote about his approach in his book, the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System (click here for a lengthy summary of what he wrote in it).  In a lesson I took from Doug Elliott, a former student of Reinhardt’s, I learned a more simplified version of Reinhardt’s embouchure types.  Because Reinhardt’s types are so detailed and in some cases redundant, Elliott has simplified this approach into three basic types that even a band director without a brass background can understand.  I brought a copy of the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System to Doug one lesson and he pointed out to me how Reinhardt’s embouchure types can be seen as variations of the simplified three basic types.  Here is a handy “conversion chart” for those of you who may be interested in learning more about Reinhardt’s pedagogy, but find it confusing to follow. Continue reading Reinhardt/Elliott Embouchure Type Conversion Chart

Free Music Notation Software

As a composer I use the notation software, Finale, for pretty much all my notation.  I’ve been using Finale for almost 20 years, so at this point I’m very familiar with the program and I’m really not interested in changing to something different.

However, one of the drawbacks to Finale (and other similar programs) is that the software can be expensive, particularly to music students who don’t have a lot of expendable income.  Since I sometimes assign students to use notation software to complete projects, I’ve been looking into other cheaper alternatives that I can recommend for my students who prefer to work on their own computer rather than hanging out in the campus music lab.  Here are three programs I’ve recently learned about that are free to use. Continue reading Free Music Notation Software

A Transparent Tuba

I’ve forgotten who sent this link to me, so I apologize for not giving credit.  I’ve posted lots of videos and photos of brass players using transparent mouthpieces, here’s Brian Kane playing a transparent tuba.

He’s also playing a transparent mouthpiece, but the camera doesn’t focus on it to see his air stream direction.  Probably downstream, but that’s always a probable guess simply because most players are statistically more likely to be downstream.

Kane’s comments on the diameter of the tubing and how it affects the upper register of that instrument is interesting.  Building a brass instrument to play well in all registers is a complicated thing.