Sometimes long notes wobble a bit. The tone gets a little quiver.
There is a simple mental trick I use that helps with this. I imagine my sustained note as moving forward from my bell through the space in front of me.
It’s almost as if my sound is a column of light moving forward from the bell. In fact, I sometimes like to visualize an entire phrase as a single, unbroken column of light that changes color for the different notes of the phrase.
In lessons, I sometimes use a hand motion where I begin with my hand close to the bell and then, as the student sustains the note, I move my hand slowly away from the bell, giving them a visual image of forward motion to the sound. This often helps.
Playing any note without a sense of forward motion is often a source of trouble. Not only is the note less musically satisfying, the tone is often less resonant as well.
In that way, you can almost imagine a little, nearly imperceptible crescendo as you sustain the note.
When buzzing, it is nice to get visual feedback of the air-in-motion. A pinwheel is good for this. So is a piece of tissue paper suspended in front of the mouthpiece.
Think of this analogy: If you were to drink from a stream, it is better to drink from flowing water…
..than it is to drink from stagnant water!
Just as you wouldn’t drink from stagnant water, don’t subject your audience to stagnant notes.
So often, I see students decide that a passage is difficult. Once they have placed that label on the music, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy!
We see that batch of notes, we think, “Oh man, that’s difficult.” and we tense up accordingly.
This reminds me of that famous experiment with Pavlov and the dogs.
The bell is the stimulus, the salivation is the response.
Do we have similar learned responses?
As you listened to that music, perhaps you envisioned yourself getting ready to play the solo. Did it evoke a learned response?
Students studying for psychology tests will sometimes encapsulate this Pavlovian experiment as the “ding-slurp” theory. Thus, the name of our monster!
So, if we have developed a learned response that hinders us, we’ll have to learn a new response to replace the old one.
Here’s one simple example. When a younger student is struggling to play higher notes, they often label a note as ‘really high’ and proceed to freak out. Stepping away from the music, I simply play a gliss from 6th to 1st and back down, asking them to imitate me. Back and forth we go, moving to higher partials. When they hit the partial on which they can’t gliss to 1st position, I suggest that they just gliss to 3rd instead. In each case, I play and ask them to imitate.
Usually, they end up playing higher than they thought they could! Then, I tell them what high note they just reached and even write it down on the page.
Sometimes, their eyes grow wide with the thought, “Whoa, I just played *that* note?”
Now they are looking at the printed note (stimulus) and realizing that they just played with far more ease than they thought possible (new learned response).
It’s a good beginning.
Pause to consider what monsters you create as you practice your music.
I ask my students to write lesson notes and practice reflections. I love seeing their comments in writing…
Working on making a beautiful sound in softer dynamics, air support, articulation
During run through ask yourself “Am I doing this the easiest way possible”
Let your body freely bridge the passage between your imagination and your lips
Working on phrasing and bringing character to everything I play; pinwheel concept for breathing; focusing on having no breaks in my sound
I think I need a clone… so I can multi-task more efficiently
Still trying to accomplish basic principles we have discussed, and with overall practice, it has seen progress; although, I am still trying to divide my time to initiate better management of what I need to accomplish.
Easier to play lip slur melodies and tbone craft etudes if I remind myself to look ahead. I think I am forgetting to do this sometimes.
Getting the lips to be proactive vs reactive
I found it easier to work on my material due to using this rotation method for practicing
It’s been an excellent practice week. The idea of simplifying and focusing only on listening, while I’ve heard it before, seems to have helped me considerably this time.
I think I learned to never underestimate how helpful mouthpiece buzzing can be. I always had an issue when slurring down to the lower register, I never liked the tone and the pitch was unsteady. I made the simple discovery that I was not buzzing the right pitch, I was always too high or too low.
I managed to translate the last song in my Brahms cycle, and have also spent tons of time singing. Both the translation and the singing practice have been really helpful for developing my interpretation, and I’m hoping to continue that progress.