Notes from the Past – Part 2
09 Tuesday Oct 2012
Below are further transcriptions from that notebook from long ago. Keep in mind that each paragraph may not necessarily have anything to do with the one before it, that it may have been added days or weeks or months after the last entry.
Dealing with the unenlightened…. There are those, who, because of their own insecurity about themselves and their playing, will attempt to undermine your confidence about yourself and your playing. The easiest to deal with are those who are blunt about it; but most often, these people like to couch cutting remarks in words of pseudo-praise. The defense is to be unconcerned with anything they say – once you let your spirits be at the mercy of praise and criticism, you are completely in these people’s power. They aim to manipulate your feelings and it is your choice to let them or not. e.g.: auditions.
Think of high notes not as being ‘hard’ but only as having different requirements – air, muscle tension, attack, mouthpiece pressure, etc. If you attach the judgment of ‘hard’ to it, then this sends a signal of ‘Danger -flight or fight!” to the body, dumps adrenalin, muscles tighten, fighting each other, breathing hindered, Panic, can’t think straight, clam city!
Dealing with the audience: an audience is just people sitting there listening. If they are making any judgments, that is their affair and has nothing to do with you, the performer. Don’t let them affect you; don’t train the body to react in this way. Don’t think of trying to show them anything or impress them. Just play.
The biggest enemy is impatience, which is the left brain demanding change! More change! Boredom is the brain shuffling its feet on the brainpan – not enough change.
You can use this itchiness of the mind to advantage by making it search for the repeated phrase for ever-finer details of precision.
The problem: to stay on one small part until it is mastered:
Beginnings and endings should always be practiced much more than middles. Each mvt but especially the very beginning of a piece. Many many times.
Trying to play a concert or audition without the necessary number of repetitions behind it is like trying to eat a fruit that is not yet ripe.
It is impossible to ‘calculate’ all the factors that go into picking out a high note. You can only have a general idea of what is required and then you must experience what it feels like to do it right. Prereq: strong lip.
For lip building and fun: improvisation
If you want to be successful and rich, get a good left brain education; if you want to be healthy and happy, get a good right brain education.; Physical exercise, music, dance, drama – experience
What one needs in practice to achieve the same feeling as performance is situations where one has to play it right – and this means repetitive practice where only the 5th or 10th or 20th or 30th time through counts – otherwise, begin again to get to the one that counts and observe your feelings: are you calm when you get to it?
The first thing a teacher must teach a young student is the ‘scientific’ (logical?) breakdown (analysis) of a piece into practicable components, and then the building up through repetitive practice until he can play the whole. The teacher must check on this as time goes on, but later less and less. Once the student learns the analysis/build up process for himself, the teacher can address all his efforts toward helping the student create an artistic whole – with flow; the student will learn no technique in a lesson, but he can get models, enthusiasm and feeling for music – art – whole – from the teacher.
The criterion for a good teacher is one who can lead his students into experiences for themselves what it is to play horn correctly and musically. His own degrees are at best hints as to this ability, but are essentially meaningless themselves. The student teaches himself.
When practicing high tones for accuracy (e.g.), it is essential to have a metronome in order to learn or practice becoming part of the flow of time toward the note event. Notes practice alone will then seem completely different in the ensemble when the flow is suddenly present.
The main cause of unhappiness or lack of ability to enjoy playing the horn is using the left brain standards and measurements where they do not apply, i.e. if Hermann Baumann is ‘good’ and I do not play like him, then, I must be bad (and probably a bad person). Rather than expecting and recognizing that everyone is different and is a different levels and developing at different rates. There is no good/bad meaning is such ratings.
Rating and comparing can be useful only to help you improve by bringing out your potential (e.g. try for one higher MM marking today!). It is easier to work (even exciting) you have little goals to shoot for. But the goals themselves are important only in giving direction to your everyday efforts. What is fun and important in your movement toward this goal – once you reach it, the fun is over. If you make the goal, the only important thing, then you will be unhappy throughout your longer journey to the goal and then be happy only for an instant when you achieve it – because as soon as any goal is reached, one sees other higher goals in the distance and the just-reached goal is then seen only as a beginning. I once climbed a small mountain like this: I kept thinking I had come to the top, but as soon as I reached it, I could see a new peak above me. This went on and on.
Don’t let playing the horn become like sports has become in America – only winning is good, only comparisons good.
In metronome/repetition practice (moving up a notch for each 5 to 10 consecutive correct repetitions) – don’t start the count until you get a comfortable feeling inside.
Missed notes may be a symptom of the disease, but are not the disease itself. It is possible to ‘cure’ them and not get at the real sickness.
Keep repeating until it gets comfortable – so you can see each detail. Time slows down. It is boring at first – but it gets more interesting.
Often the comparing syndrome really gets out of hand e.g. when a player hears or plays a new piece, he says, ah, I prefer 4 horns to 2 horns or I heard a piece once that I like better than what we’re doing now.” Everything becomes either/or, mutually exclusive, and they have lost the ability to experience a piece in its own right, for what it is, without all the instant comparisons and judgments. The Greek heritage has made Western man (including musicians) uncomfortable if he cannot immediately assign a number, a measurement, or make a judgment or comparison on all experience (“was that kiss better than the other? Or would you rather ride a bicycle?”) – even when making such judgment or comparison serves no purpose or worse spoils all fun and enjoyment of the experiencing – i.e. even when this left brain practice has no business to do so, which is most of the time, in most areas of life.