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.

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