Monday, September 12, 2016

No, It Isn't Going to Sound Like the Recording....and That's FINE!

I'm about four weeks out from a's about to get real!

   One of the pieces on my recital is a 'bucket list' piece for me; The Dahl Saxophone Concerto. I first heard the Dahl when I was 18. The recording is a fabulous one with Don Sinta performing with the U. Michigan Wind Ensemble. It is a classic saxophone recording and needs to be re-released. I say this with no hyperbole....I have probably listened to the recording 500 times or more in my life. It's had an impact as I hear a lot of my interpretations mimicking those done by 'The Don'. However, such familiarity with that recording has caused me some problems. I will play a phrase and think 'Crap, the recording sounded much better'. Well, of course it did!

   I need to keep two things in mind (and those of you who go through this do as well). One, Donald J. Sinta is one of the greatest saxophonists ever to pick up the instrument; regardless of genre. The man is a straight up virtuoso. Second, I have no idea how many takes were needed to put this recording together, how many times they spliced in phrases to make them cleaner, and how the recording was put together. There are no perfect performances and had I ever heard him play the thing live I bet he would have had a small gaffe or two. He's great, not perfect.
   I once heard of a famous trumpet player who put out a CD with an equally famous conductor conducting an equally famous wind ensemble. I'm not listing the name because I've never confirmed what I heard to be true. According to what I heard, the recording (which is FLAWLESS) was recorded as little as two measures at a time. Perfection comes much easier when it only needs to be perfect for two measures....just saying...

  What's the moral here? Use recordings for inspiration, interpretive ideas, and getting wonderful sounds in your ear. They shouldn't be, however, the reference for how your live performance should sound. If you treat them as such, you will ALWAYS fall short and never be happy with a great but imperfect performance. Remember that the audience doesn't have a score in front of them. Give performances that make up for imperfection with passion and inspiration. Great doesn't mean perfect.

Ok, back to practicing.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ye Olde Music Major and the Self Fulfilling Prophecy

That's kinda sounds Harry Potterish...

   Greetings from college where I'm preparing a senior recital. Two of the pieces, the Ingolf Dahl Concerto and Youshimatsu's Fuzzy Bird Sonata both have very rapid, heavily articulated passages and the Youshimastu has slap tonging as well. This has made me cringe a bit all summer because I'm not very skilled at slap tonging and rapid articulation is an area where I could use some improvement. More on this in a minute (I had another one of my self reflective moments in my lesson this morning).

   I gave a lesson yesterday to a ninth grade student named Abigail. Abigail is one of my favorites because she has a great attitude and a rare work ethic. She works HARD. I decided that since she was going to see Ferling etudes for the next four years of our all region band auditions, I might as well get her started on the etudes. She's ready. She'll learn and grow from working on them. As I opened the book for the first time I watch her eyes get very large. I said "What's wrong?" to which she replied "So many 16th notes!". I asked her what was so bad about 16th notes and she said what most young students would say- "They're FAST!!".
   I explained to Abigail that the 16th note is a measurement of rhythm, not time. She didn't get it at first until I had her play the first two measures of Ferling #2 at 35 beats per minute. I asked her if they were still fast and she said 'well, no.'. At that tempo she (of course) had little difficulty making it through the first few systems of the etude.
   You see, there's a self fulfilling prophecy here. If we begin work on a passage thinking "Oh man, this is going to be HARD!", we'll be right....100% of the time. If we say 'Ok, let's begin slowly and work this out.', it might take a bit of time but it's so much easier than banging our heads against the proverbial wall because we believed something was hard going in.
    Back to my articulation issues- you see, it isn't just younger students who go through this. In my situation, I simply have to remind myself that there are just techniques that I haven't mastered....yet. Slow, diligent, and consistent work will correct that.

Go in to the practice room with the confidence that if you start slowly, practice in a matter that is smart and consistent and be content with the fact that progress takes time....then NOTHING is impossible.

Be Smart.
Be Confident.
Get it done.