on motivation

So, the AWCB hasn't had rehearsal for the past two weeks, thanks to "SNOMAGGEDON", or the large snowstorm that blanketed our area with -- gasp! -- two feet of snow!* Our city shut down -- my university was closed for three days, and I don't think the area's elementary and high schools have been back to normal since. Lawn chairs have appeared all over, and vigilante parking authorities have been ruling our streets. I didn't even get my car dug out of its parking spot on my street until... um... this past Wednesday.

I can hear you readers asking -- what does this have to do with trombonery? Absolutely nothing, except that it has killed my motivation. I seem to periodically forget how important it is to me to have a regular event where I have to go and prove that I'm not a terrible trombone player -- and thus, when that regular event gets, well, irregular, my need to not be a terrible trombone player somehow disappears.

It's an interesting study of my own motivations as a musician. Some of us practice to get personally better, and to have the satisfaction of finally nailing that tough lick. For me, however, my own motivation comes from playing with others, which is why playing in ensembles is so important to me. I practice so that when rehearsal comes, I can be a little bit better, and the people sitting around me won't think to themselves "What the hell is this scrub doing here?"

So when we don't have rehearsal for weeks, I think "Eh, I don't have to play for anybody this week, what's the use?" And then my carefully maintained schedule of practicing every day when I get home from school -- no matter what time it is -- goes out the window. And then it's really freaking hard to get back into the routine.

Now... I'm going to go practice.

*Note: Where I come from, two feet of snow isn't really a lot; however, it has been so long since I've seen so much snow that it kind of took me by surprise!


youtube o' the week!

Once again, found while looking for something completely different. This kind of playing makes me want to either practice my face off or lay the horn down and never touch it again, and I can never figure out which is the more appropriate response. Not the best recording quality, but holy cow.


on playing loud

Something I have always struggled with is playing loud. Yes, I could say "playing loudly", but there seems to be a whole different mindset, even a culture, that goes along with playing at high volumes. So in my mind, it's not just a modifier of one's playing (i.e. the adverb "loudly"), but a modifier of the type of music being played and the style.

Anyway, that's a completely different topic than I want to talk about today. The point is that I came across a very nice handout by Alastair Kay from a Yamaha clinic in 2002. On this handout are a couple of exercises for playing both loud and soft, as well as some excellent pointers about the shape of the lips in each dynamic. I've been trying to find that "burn" in my sound for a few days now (much to the chagrin of my neighbors), and although it cracks around the edges especially when articulating, I am already starting to think more about how I play loud rather than just expelling as much air as possible through the horn.

Excellent, excellent resource.


Trombonastical youtube o' the week!

I just found this while looking for something else. It's a bit untimely, since the Magnum Mysterium is a Christmas song, but hey. The Lauridsen is my favorite setting, and one of my favorite pieces of music, and it's a trombone choir. Does anybody know anything about Columbus State?


January report

It's the first week of February and I do have certain resolutions to uphold, so I figure I should report.

25 hours of practice -- January is a success!

25 hours per month, I said. Each line going across a square represents a half hour, so when there's an X, it means I practiced one full hour. You'll see some days, like the 18th, when I practiced two hours. (Okay, let's be fair, I actually counted band rehearsals into my time this month because of stamina issues -- I didn't think I could survive a 2-hour rehearsal after practicing for an hour earlier that day. So I'm counting rehearsals as half time, for now at least.)

I am particularly disappointed about the 19th, 20th, and 21st, where I did not practice at all. Those three days totally kicked my ass, trombone-wise -- I picked up my horn on the 22nd and sounded like ass. I still haven't recovered. I had a shaky but present F5 the week before, and after those three days off, my F5 totally disappeared and now I'm back to only squeaking out the Eb5. 

So -- goals for February. This is a shorter month, so if I practice one hour per day, I only have three potential days off. I do not want to take off any consecutive days -- even if I just play for a half hour, it's better than going backwards. I want that F5 back, damnit! 

Tune in next month for the next installment.


The old crumb catcher

So. I decided to grow a beard. Because I can, more or less. It's kind of thin on the sides, but I've got a pretty decent goatee going, and the sideburns aren't too bad. I don't look quite like a 14-year-old trying to look mature. I know, I have one of those in the house!

But there are a couple of things that could be dealbreakers, and make me shave immediately. One is simply if it's annoying, and sometimes it is, but most of the time it's ok. A friend at work told me I needed to give it at least two weeks, and that turns out to be true: it became much less scratchy and irritating after about two weeks.

Another, the part that makes it relevant to this blog, would be that I would have to shave if having the beard somehow adversely affected my trombone playing. And well, it did at first, but I have found some ways around it. And last night I got some opinions from the other men in the AWCB, whose experiences mostly match mine!

The first thing I noticed as the soup strainer was growing in was that during that annoying period between a week and two weeks, playing was really uncomfortable. After that, it got back to downright tolerable, no better or worse than just plain playing. After a little while, though, I noticed that if the hair on my lip got too long, basically to the point that it would hang below my lip when I had a mouthpiece in playing position, it would mess with my attacks to the point that I couldn't play. Keeping it trimmed to somewhere between two and three weeks worth of length seems to be keeping that manageable. This is the first point of agreement with the men of the AWCB: with one exception, anybody who has had a mustache agrees that it must be carefully trimmed to make playing possible.

The second problem I had was that my low range all but vanished from Eb T2 on down: no trigger range, and no pedals at all. This seemed to be a function of keeping the corners of my mouth shaved, and the area just below my lower lip trimmed. Again, this seems to be a common complaint from trombonists around me, although it was a dealbreaker for at least one of them. He couldn't work around it, and gave up and shaved from frustration. I've noticed that with some more concentrated practice, I'm starting to get the lower range back; hopefully it will all be there with a little more work.

At the bottom line, it appears to be completely possible to continue to play at a reasonable level with some appropriately trimmed facial hair!