One Liners For Any Situation In Ensemble Judging

Another one I found going through some old papers.  This one isn’t as profound.  I give you: One Liners For Any Situation In Ensemble Judging.

  • Wow!  That was some playing.
  • I had forgotten just how you play.
  • This was really a consistent performance.
  • I can not speak too highly of your performance.
  • Of all the bands I have heard, this is certainly one of them.
  • Boy!  You really got after it today.
  • That first selection was really something.
  • This was indeed some performance.
  • I’ve never heard a performance like this before.
  • Those inner parts were really in there.
  • Fine spirited group.  Real commers.
  • Your type of accuracy is amazing.
  • I’d like to have a recording of this band.
  • An incredible performance.
  • Unbelievable!
  • Your pitch control was really something.
  • Your concept of this number is unbelievable.
  • Your presentation gave me chills!
  • A person would have to hear this band to believe it.
  • A real clever performance!
  • I’d like my brother-in-law to hear this band.
  • You really don’t hold back when you perform.
  • Your technical accuracy is truly amazing.
  • Where did you learn to play this way?
  • This band is a true reflection of its conductor.
  • Everyone is going to hear about this performance.
  • I’m sure your parents are proud of you.
  • With your sound, the oboe parts were not even missed.

Conducting Thoughts From Dr. Joe Scagnoli

I was doing some office cleaning and came across a notebook for a conducting class I took from Dr. Joe Scagnoli, at Ball State.   I don’t recall the context of the following, but I think this may be something he put together for our class.  Here are “Conducting Thoughts, Some Simple-Some Profound” from ‘Doc.’

  • The music is in the sound, not in the printing.
  • Music moves ever forward.
  • Teach your students to play with professional ear.
  • We are either sensitizing our players or desensitizing them.
  • Every ensemble is capable of its own independent pulse.
  • The music, not the meter, should drive the gesture.
  • The left hand is the adjective hand – descriptive.
  • When conducting soft passages with small gestures the facial energy must increase tremendously.
  • Releases are reverse preparations.
  • Always be aware of who in the ensemble has the pulse.
  • People care more about how you feel about the music than how much you know.
  • The music starts before the first beat is given.  Set up the mood of the music.

It’s obvious from reading it that he’s specifically talking about conducting, but there are gems in there for jazz or chamber ensemble directors, and even just musicians in general.

Dennis Brain and the Upstream Horn Embouchure

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at James Boldin’s Horn World Blog on Dennis Brain’s embouchure.  If you’re a horn player you are no doubt already a Dennis Brain fan.  Whether or not you’re a horn player, if you’re a brass musician you should get to know his recordings of the Mozart horn concerti.  Brain is still enormously influential to horn players, in spite of him having such a short career and living a relatively long time ago (1921-1957, he was killed in a car accident).

One reason why I’m interested in Brain’s playing is he appears to have been a Low Placement (upstream) embouchure type.  Watch this video and look closely at Brain’s embouchure.

Update 9/24/22 – While going through my blog to fix broken images and links I noticed that the original video I posted was no longer available. I’ve posted a different video of Brain performing. I *think* it has the same video I was commenting on below, but none of the time s

Brain’s mouthpiece placement is quite low, even lower than most upstream players usually are.  Boldin’s blog article has some still photos, I think from this video.  I would like to point out in particular the moment from 2:39-2:46 in the video.  You can not only see the placement looking like it’s right on the red of his upper lip, but also see his embouchure motion (down to ascend, up to descend, for Very Low Placement embouchure types).

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New Donald Reinhardt Oriented Blog

Donald Reinhardt is less known than some of his brass pedagogue contemporaries like Phillip Farkas and Arnold Jacobs.  His approach to teaching brass instruments, which he dubbed the Pivot System, is often misunderstood due to confusion about his terminology and its complexity.

Long time student and friend of Reinhardt, Dave Sheetz, has just started up a blog called FixYourBrass where he will be discussing different aspects of brass pedagogy and practice that he learned from Reinhardt (and presumably some of his own take on it).  If you’re curious to learn more about Donald Reinhardt go over to Dave’s new blog and post some questions for him.

Good luck on your new blog, Dave!

The Modes Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the modern modes and explained how to work out the pitches for any given mode by finding the parent major scale.  For example, a D dorian is the same thing as a C major scale beginning on D, but it’s also like a D major scale with a lowered 3rd and 7th.  If this stuff is new to you you’ll want to go back and read through that article before you read this one.

Today I’m going to show the relationship between the modes and certain chords.  For this post I’ll use the modes in the key of B flat major.

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The Modes Part 1

In preparing for any business, trade or science, we generally need a great deal of preparation and study.  In painting, literature and music, we also need to learn the tools of our trade.  The artist needs paints to express himself, while the jazz musician uses tonal resources.

The above quote is how George Russell starts his book, The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization for Improvisation.  I’m currently rereading it and plan to post on a few of the concepts he describes.  Before one can follow Russell’s book, though, you need to have a good grasp of the modes.  Many jazz musicians are familiar with modes and use them to derive note choices for particular chords.  They are useful tools for not just coming up with good note choices, but they also can help demonstrate harmonic concepts as well.

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Matt Otto Music Blog

Matt Otto is a saxophonist currently based in Kansas City, but who has spent time in Japan, New York, and Los Angeles.  He also has a blog with some really nice online lessons dealing with different aspects of playing jazz.  Here is his latest, where he discusses a phrase from J.S. Bach’s Two-Part Invention #15 and learning to play it in all 12 keys.

Matt talks about not just learning the keys and intervalic relationships, but also emphasizes singing and ear training.  Be sure to go to his page on this lesson to download the pdf file of the Bach melody he’s working with.

Now to get my metronome out and start practicing in all 12 keys…

The U.S. Creativity Crisis

I don’t know that I would call it exactly a “crisis” myself, at least not as described in Po Bronson’s and Ashley Merriman’s Newsweek article, The Creativity Crisis.  New research looking at American’s creativity quotient (like IQ, except it measures an individual’s ability to create something original and useful) shows that CQ scores in the U.S. had been rising steadily up until 1990, when they began to consistently drop.

It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.

I would argue that TV and video games are a lot more complex than the authors give credit.  Many of today’s TV shows require fans to follow very complex plots that arc over years of episodes with characters and events influencing shows seasons later.  Video games today are equally complicated and not like traditional games, where the rules are established and learned from the beginning.  In a video game you learn what to do by probing and figuring out what you’re supposed to do to play the game.  You have to learn to think creatively in order to probe the game and work out how to play it.

As far as creativity development in schools, there are some interesting points raised in the Newsweek article.

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Just Jazz – All Trombone Special

One of my favorite jazz journalists, Bob Bernotas, will be interviewing one of my favorite new jazz trombonists, Michael Dease, on his radio show tonight (July 25, 2010).  You can listen in online between 10 PM and 3 AM Eastern Time at

I first heard Mike’s playing when he sent his album, The Takeover, to the Online Trombone Journal to be reviewed.  As the Reviews Editor at the time, I would listen to the CD and select a reviewer who had a background in that musical style to write the article.  After hearing Dease’s playing and writing I decided to write the review myself so I could keep the CD.

Dease has a new album out, called Grace.  I’m sure it will be worth picking up, but listen in to Bob’s radio show to hear for yourself.

A Euphonium Embouchure

YouTube user “Suiram1” has uploaded a video of his embouchure.

Suiram1 asked if I had any comments for him.  It’s a pretty short video, and it’s very difficult to diagnose or suggest anything without being there in person, but I thought I’d point out some things I notice.

First, his embouchure is definitely one of the downstream types.  If you look closely at the lips when he’s playing in the transparent mouthpiece you can see this.  There’s more upper lip inside so that lip predominates and the air strikes the bottom of the cup.  This is more common than the upstream embouchure type.  

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