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 Guess the Embouchure Type – Brad Edwards

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.

Christian Lindberg On Mouthpiece Buzzing

This excerpt from a Christian Lindberg video master class where he discusses why he doesn’t practice mouthpiece buzzing. It’s caused quit a “buzz” online, since he goes against what is traditionally taught.

The gist of Lindberg’s argument is that getting a resonant buzz on the mouthpiece and a resonant tone on the trombone really require different things and when you practice a good mouthpiece buzz you’re actually practicing a poor trombone sound. Now I’m skeptical of Lindberg’s demonstration, since how we think we are playing doesn’t always reflect what we’re actually doing. That said, I think the point he makes is valid.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that mouthpiece buzzing, done a certain way and with appropriate moderation, doesn’t help. I generally don’t practice mouthpiece buzzing a whole lot anymore myself, but find myself going to it while teaching lessons frequently. I will usually have my student play a passage on the instrument, then take out the mouthpiece and buzz the same passage. When buzzing, I instruct the student to only tongue the initial attacks after a breath and let the air and embouchure change all other pitches. Repeated notes, say four quarter notes of the same pitch, will be buzzed as one long note, one whole note in my example. Following the mouthpiece buzzing I ask the student to immediately put the mouthpiece back into the instrument and play again.

The results are usually instantaneous. It seems to help players move more air and also focus the embouchure more precisely on pitch. It also doesn’t usually last for very long, so I tend to use this more as a quick “pick up” technique to get the student focused on more positive results. There are, in my opinion, other things which are more beneficial in the long term to practice, but are harder to describe because they depend on each individual student’s embouchure and stage of development.

What do you think? Does Lindberg have a point or is he off base? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Upcoming Gigs

I have a string of public performances coming up in the next few days, all of them jazz gigs. Tomorrow night, Thursday May 14, 2105, I will be playing with the Wilson/Gamble Orchestra at Club Eleven on Grove in downtown Asheville, NC for the weekly swing dance. The live music starts at 9 PM and goes up through 11 PM. They usually have swing dance classes starting at 8 PM if you don’t know how to dance or want to get some pointers.

On Friday night, May 15, 2015, I will be directing the Asheville Jazz Orchestra at a concert at Trinity United Methodist Church in west Asheville, NC, starting at 7 PM. This concert is free, but we will be collecting donations during the performance for both the Asheville Jazz Council and MusicWorks! Asheville. MusicWorks! is an after-school elementary music program I teach with that targets at-risk children, teaching them important life skills through music education. Our MusicWorks! students will be performing just before the AJO and will also join the big band on a couple of numbers too.

Saturday night, May 16, 2015, I will be playing traditional jazz with the Low-Down Sires at Highland Brewery in east Asheville. This event, which starts at 6 PM, is the Appalachian Shakedown show, featuring not only the Sires but also the bluegrass inspired band Circus Mutt and funk band Supatight. The music goes until 10 PM.

Then finally on Sunday, May 17, 2015, I’m playing music from the Harlem Renaissance with Russ Wilson’s Nouveau Passe Orchestra. We’ll be playing at the Isis Restaurant and Music Hall in west Asheville beginning at 8 PM.

If you’ll be around western North Carolina this weekend and are looking for live jazz to listen and dance to, come on out to one (or all!) of these shows. If you do make it out, please be sure to say hello to me during a set break or after the performance.

Weekend Picks

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

A lengthy and interesting master class by jazz pianist Kenny Werner on improvisation, from 2005. Early on, he says:

You have to learn to play what is within your control.

Check out the context and more here.

Geared mainly for orchestral string players, there are some good nuggets of advice for any musician who rehearses and performs in 39 Orchestral Etiquette Tips Every Musician Ought To Know.

Here’s a nice resource for music theory students about a variety of topics, including Backcycling, Chord Basics, Scales, and Transposing.

Lastly, if you’re like me and both a Weird Al Yankovich and a Frank Zappa fan you’ll enjoy Yankovic’s tribute to Zappa, Genius In France. Unlike a lot of Yankovic’s popular music, this isn’t a direct parody of a Zappa tune, but rather written in the style of Zappa.