Final “Stiff Chops” Post………. (for now.)

DoyleThe problem with stiff embouchures is common with trumpet and horn players possibly due to the fact that such a small amount of embouchure is actually in the cup of the mouthpiece when compared to that of a trombone or tuba mouthpiece. Coping with and/or solving this condition can be done in many ways but today I will cover two of the most common- “before and after repair”.

A very good friend and super trumpet player and I visited for some time sharing ideas which have proven helpful for each of us when faced with stiff chops. Mr. Doyle Miller has been performing in Branson for some time and his employment includes the bands of Les Brown, Bobby Vinton, the Rat Pack, Silver Dollar City, Less Elgart as well as musicals and recording sessions in town. Mr. Miller recently completed a series of 45 shows, performing three shows a day and for that reason, I thought it would be a good time to interview him on the subject of stiff chops. The following material was collected from the interview.

Question- When playing as many shows as you have recently, do you every experience stiff chops?

Answer- “Yes, every day”.

How do you work through this condition?

“I had three shows a day to play this past month and my routine was to get up in the morning and play whole notes in the middle register (third space C on down) for about fifteen minutes. Then, as my embouchure loosened, I started expanding my notes from the C going up and down. As soon as I felt that my chops were ready, I would take a break until the first show”.

What do you expect your chops to feel like when you play your three shows each day?

“I work through the first show and by the time the second show rolls around, I feel good and the third as well”.

Do you implement any kind of a cool down after your last show?

“No, perhaps I should but when I finish the last show, I want to go home and start over again the next day”.

How would you describe stiff chops?

“In the morning my lips fell puffy. I’m not sure they actually feel stiff. Puffy lips don’t feel responsive as they do when I’m warmed up”

Have you ever done a cool down in the past?

“Yes, and maybe I should do a cool down but when I finish the show, I don’t feel like doing any more playing”.

Doyle’s preference to putting the horn in the case and picking up his check is more common with the majority of professional players and this alone may be the way you want to solve stiff chops. Another approach to solving the stiff chop problem is to warm up before a gig, but after playing, also implement some sort of a cool down before putting your horn away. This is also true for strenuous daily practice sessions. I have a strong feeling that this works best for me.

While working with Bobby Vinton years ago, my routine was to warm-up on my mouthpiece in the car as I drove to the theater. By the time I reached the theater, I was ready to play. After finishing the show I also would put my horn in the case and start for home. On the way home I would pull out my mouthpiece again and buzz low tones all the way home. After making the trip and buzzing for fifteen minutes, my chops were very flexible and ready for the next day’s playing. If, on the other hand, I had a long day of practicing, before I packed up for the day, I would go through about twenty minutes of pedal tones which super charge my lip with oxygen and the recovery time was started much sooner.

Recently, I have been warming up in the morning and in place of a cool down, I have replaced that exercise with about a half hour of trombone playing. I have seen a big difference in my trumpet playing and I can only attribute the improvement to the lower, slower lip vibrations as well as more meat vibrating within the mouthpiece cup. To be honest, I stopped actual practicing my trumpet for my technical ability on the trumpet exceeds my playing requirements and the trombone practicing helps to loosen my lips at the end of each day.

I have discussed two different approaches to the stiff chop problem and as stated, each works for Doyle’s and my needs. Every person is different but if you are experiencing an inflexible embouchure, the solution might be a longer warm up before the gig or a cool down after you have played.

I hope this will give you some insight into the thinking and beliefs of at least two players.

Here is additional information about Mr. Miller:

Doyle Miller is a native of Russell, Kansas and holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Education from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. Throughout his career, Doyle has performed with musical groups such as Les Brown and the Band of Renown; Tommy Dorsey Orchestra; Harry James Orchestra; Les Elgart Orchestra; Sammy Kaye Orchestra; Russ Morgan Orchestra and Bobby Vinton with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Doyle currently lives in Branson, Missouri where he has played in many theaters and shows including: The Rat Pack – A Tribute to Frank, Dean & Sammy; Les Brown and The Band Of Renown; Branson Jubilee; The Magnificent Seven and Swing, Swing, Swing. He has also worked or recorded with celebrities such as Bob Hope; Andy Williams; The Lettermen; The Osmond Family;Mannheim Steamroller; Little Anthony and The Imperials and The Lennon Sisters. Prior to moving to Branson, Doyle worked for Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line playing lead trumpet in their show bands touring around the world.

How to Combat “Stiff Chops”

From time to time we all have gone through the sensation that our trumpet playing lips are too stiff and feel uncomfortably ridged. Each time you put the mouthpiece to your lip you seem to have the same reaction, “Oh no, here we go again”. When this condition develops, there are several ways to address this problem-

  • What is wrong with my lip?
  • How did I get this way?
  • How can I get relief?
  • What do I need to do to prevent this condition from coming back?

What’s wrong with my lip?

A stiff or inflexible embouchure is usually caused from one of two actions (1) Practicing the wrong material or (2) Playing too long at one time. Some of the symptoms which go along with the overly stiff embouchure are- difficulty playing soft passages, uncertainty when starting notes, and an airy sound to your tone. If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, you might be suffering from an overly stiff embouchure.

How did I get this way?

Practicing the wrong material– Trumpet playing is very similar to any other athletic event. Both disciplines require a regular and balanced conditioning routine which should include the following-

Warm-up period- The purpose of this practice is to gradually warm the muscles involved with your discipline. An athlete will gradually begin a session by stretching, which gradually warms and stretches the muscles involved with the up coming actions. Without a warm up, both athletes would run the risk of injury to their bodies. Trumpet players usually have their own method of warming up and this will eventually be decided upon through careful evaluations on your part. Some player feel that softly played long tones is the best method. Some regularly buzz without the mouthpiece for five to ten minutes. Some players feel that ten minutes of buzzing on the mouthpiece is best. I remember one of my former teachers felt that he needed to buzz on a trombone mouthpiece for ten minutes before he was ready to start his trumpet practicing. Which method you decide upon will be your first step towards better lip conditioning.

Correct practice material- There are two extremes when trying to build your embouchure. The first is flexibility and the second is strength. Each is reached through different means. Flexibility is what you will need to perform rapid changes in the different ranges. It is also this ability which will affect your ease with which you move from one note to the next. Flexibility will also determine the openness and fullness of your tone quality. To achieve flexibility, every player should spend time during his practice period  doing flexibility exercises. One of the best books I have used to achieve this goal is Twenty-Seven Groups of Exercises by Dr. Earl Irons. This book will guide you through many interesting exercises which will not only increase your flexibility but will also increase your upper range. Be sure to follow the written material as well as the written exercises. It is very important that you follow the suggestions for dynamics. Consistently playing too loud will negate the benefits of these exercises.

Practicing too many flexibility exercises can begin to create another problem which is; developing too much flexibility and not enough strength. Building strength usually requires the playing of long tone exercises. Effective exercises for increasing strength can be found on pages 11 and 12 of the Arban Complete Method. Playing these very simple exercises at a slow tempo, beginning soft and gradually increasing the volume and finally returning to a soft dynamic will help you increase your strength as well as improve your tone quality.

What can I do to get relief?

If you are now experiencing a “too stiff” embouchure, there are several techniques which will improve your condition.

  • Soft playing
  • Buzzing on only your mouthpiece
  • Buzzing without your horn or mouthpiece
  • Flapping your lips
  • Warm compresses
  • Brush your teeth
  • Lip ointments

Soft playing

If loud, sustained playing tends to stiffen your embouchure, it seems only logical that soft playing in short intervals will lessen the stiffness

Buzzing on only your mouthpiece

Buzzing on your mouthpiece tends to loosen the muscles within the cup. Remember to keep the volume down and concentrate of the fullest, richest sound you can create.

Buzzing without your horn or mouthpiece

The vibrations created with this method will increase the area which will be affected. The embouchure area will now include more of the lip and consequently will begin to loosen more of your embouchure.

Flapping your lips

This exercise will start to relax all of your facial muscles. To get the proper results, you will have to create the sound of a horse flapping its lips. The lower the pitch, the more benefit you will achieve. Gradually you will begin to feel a tingling sensation in your facial muscles. At that point, you have gained the benefit from this exercise and you should be fully relaxed and ready to put your instrument away for the day. One thing to be aware of is the fact that if you have completely relaxed your facial muscles, you should not start playing again for several hours. If you immediately begin to play after a complete relaxation exercise as you have just done, your lip might be too relaxed and could be susceptible to damage if forced to play too strenuously.

Warm compresses

In an extreme case of lip stiffness, a warm wash cloth placed over the embouchure can sometimes help. This would only be necessary in extreme cases. The warmth will increase blood flow and eventually flush waste products from the effected areas.

Brush your teeth

I am a firm believer that the practice of brushing your teeth immediately after playing will speed up the recovery process tremendously. I brush after every segment of my daily practice routine. I start my practice for the day with a warm up which takes about ten to fifteen minutes and then I brush. My next session will last about an hour and then I brush. If I can get a third session in that day I will play again for about an hour and then brush. The action of the bristles on the inside of the lips and the minty element of the tooth paste seem to hasten the circulation in the lip muscles and it tends to ward off stiffness as well as helping to keep your instrument clean and your teeth white.

Lip ointment

Many of my brass playing friends use ointments on their lips after playing to keep them in good condition. I need to warn you that trying new medications on your lip can be hazardous and for that reason I will share with you one of the most difficult days in my playing career. Our faculty brass quintet was to perform at another college in Iowa one Sunday afternoon. The day before our concert I participated in a hunting dog field trial with my German Short Hair Pointer. When we left the music building to travel to the afternoon concert, I mentioned that my chops were dry and one of my colleagues offered a new lip ointment. I put some on and found the product very stimulating. By the time we reached the concert hall, my lips had begun to swell and as I started to warm up, I realized my mistake. I was allergic to the lip cream. By the time we mounted the stage, I was in stark terror. Before we had played half of the first number, I could not get a note out of my horn. The concert was cancelled and we returned home not playing the concert and not getting paid for our afternoon. Take my advice, “If you are going to try something new, don’t do it before a performance!”

I have used several products which I have on hand for lip conditioning. ChapStick® original is helpful when you’ve out in the wind. Another product is Blistex, but I have found that there is material in this product which relieves pain and in doing so will tend to numb your lip. The danger in this is that any area which is numbed can run the risk of excessive mouthpiece pressure. If you can’t feel your lip, you might begin to apply more mouthpiece pressure than you are accustomed to. You won’t realize this mistake until the medicine has dissipated. A friend recommended L-Lysine for lip conditioning and I have a jar at home for tired lips. I would like to repeat that “these conditioners should only be used in extreme cases. If you are practicing properly they may be helpful in adverse weather conditions. Anything more than ChapStick® for exposure to wind should not be needed.

Today We Face One Of The Most Difficult Threats In Our History

Some say it is the beginning of “The End Times”.

Some say we are in constant threat of attack by an enemy we have no experience facing.

Many wonder if Christianity is in the path of this dark movement and as we view innocent people being executed before our very eyes each day, all we as citizens can do is wonder if our government is up for this monumental challenge.

Some say our leaders in government are naive and ill prepared for this task placed before them and some may wonder if the last chapter in our Bible is close to completion.

With all these questions and concerns being broadcast in the media each day, many have begun to question our future as a nation and our position in our world.

I wish I had the answers but as you know, only God has the answers to these questions and each event we will be facing has already been planned by Him. If it is His will to complete our history, who is great enough to question His wisdom?

There is one fact of which I am certain……

“If given the opportunity to stand against our enemies, the men and women of our armed forces are not only capable of protecting us but are ready to begin the task of eliminating the threats we face”.

To those who have served and to those currently serving our great country, please accept this small effort to thank you for your dedication to the Unites States of America.

Motivation- Where Does It Come From and How Can I Get Some? Part 2

I have found it interesting working with many musical groups each year and as I observe each ensemble I have mentally noted the results of motivated directors as well as less motivated directors. Each ensemble seems to reflect the influences of their director. The most proficient and musical ensembles will always have an energetic and inspired director on the podium. The bands which exhibit respect and professionalism in their performance will invariably have directors who reflect these same characteristics. The only exceptions were the bands who had recently replaced less than adequate directors with improved models. It will take a couple of years to undo damages done by bad band directors. Did I say BAD DIRECTORS? Trust me, they are out there.

Motivation is infectious and the attitude of the director is most often seen in the students in their bands. The first indication that the band will perform well is the respect and control exhibited by their director. Most band members are respectful and polite. Some members are rude and unruly and in most cases, their poor playing is a result of this fault. After meeting their director, I usually see the same faults as are in the students. It is obvious the influence every band director has on his/her students.

As an example of this influence, I worked with a group which was the most difficult to handle. The students were constantly talking and playing their instruments as I addressed them in my clinic. It was obvious that they were not used to being respectful or even under control in their rehearsals. During their rehearsal, little was accomplished and at one point, I thought there was going to be all out fight between the director and one of his/her students. The director accused the student of playing the wrong note and the student responded with “no I didn’t, that was a figment of your imagination”. As the rehearsal continued, tensions increased and I was caught in the middle. Needles to say, the band did not perform well.

Another example of how the director’s attitude can motivate his/her students happened this year also. As the band mounted the stage, each performer was quiet, polite and focused on what was expected of him/her. During the rehearsal, their director spoke softly with constructive comments and as each comment was made, the ensemble continued to improve. Was the difference between the two directors a result of their education? Was the difference because of an age differences? The reason was obvious. One director was motivated in his/her position as an educator the other hated every minute of his/her job. If the director enjoys working with students, the students will feel it and work harder to please him/her.

These two examples were used to describe the effect a director can and does have on their ensemble but there is also a level of motivation which I have recently observed. While working with another band, one student in the percussion section caught my eye. Everything this student did was thought out and for a reason. During their rehearsal, I made a mental note of his actions and later in the afternoon I called the director to the side to question him/her about this student. The director told me that this young man was the most involved student in the band. Later, I pulled him aside to visit and was very impressed with his decisions for his future. He wanted to be a musician and had been looking into schools for his post high school days. Visiting with him was like visiting with a very intelligent adult for his motivation to become a great musician was evident. His director was of the same mind set for the director ran his/her band with purpose and confidence, unlike the previous example.

I was reminded of a Jazz festival I judged many years ago in Iowa. At that time we were expected to make our comments on audio cassettes (remember those?) and as the first band mounted the stage, my eye again was caught by a young bass player. As she prepared for their presentation, I knew that she was a player. Even before this young lady played a note on her bass, I mentioned on the tape that there was something special about this musician and at the end of the contest, we presented her with the “outstanding musician” award for the day. Before she played a note, I knew she was motivated. If I remember correctly, the band was also outstanding.

In closing, I would like to share my observations on how to motivate students. Band directors and teachers in general who love their job and enjoy working with students will instill motivation in their students to a tremendous degree. Teachers who moan and complain all the time will drive our good students out of music. Even if the student is not interested in music as a career, a bad teacher will negatively influence that student’s general appreciation of music and thus lessen many more people’s appreciation of our art form.

Motivation- Where Does It Come From and How Can I Get Some?

Motivate-verb

1. inspire, drive, stimulate, provoke, lead, move, cause, prompt, stir, trigger, set off, induce, arouse, prod, get going, instigate, impel, actuate, give incentive to, inspirit His hard work was motivated by a need to achieve.

2. stimulate, drive, inspire, stir, arouse, get going, galvanize, incentive How do you motivate people to work hard and efficiently?

Most teachers are familiar with this term and are striving daily to prompt this action in their students. Everyone’s life is effected by the amount of motivation they posses. If you are on the low side of this characteristic, you are said to be lazy. If your actions indicate that you are more to the top of this scale you are accused of being an “over achiever”. It is not my intent in this post to make any distinctions as to where a person should be on this measurement for that is up to each individual. My reason for today’s material is to address the more important issue- How are people motivated and how can we as teachers do a better job at inspiring our students. A second benefit from this material may be helpful to understand what motivates us as individuals.

Before we can start to understand how to improve motivation in our students and ourselves, we must first understand the causes for motivation in our lives.

Is motivation instinctual?

No! The act of over eating may be an environmental or a habitual problem but the action of choosing to loose weight is caused from a deep motivational decision. Some may argue that animals instinctively hunt for food to which I would argue, animals are motivated to hunt because of hunger.

What are the reasons we are motivated?

• Fear/ embarrassment
• Financial needs
• Self gratification/ improvement
• Pride
• Lack of self respect and confidence
• The desire to please others
• Ego
• Competitive attitude
• Guilt

Before we address the student in this discussion, we need to first look at ourselves. Most people who know me would agree that I am a very self motivated person. While writing this post, I became more aware of the reasons for my limited focus and drive. I have enjoyed many activities in my life and for that reason; I have worked extremely hard to achieve my goals in each area. As a young boy, I became interested in archery. Eventually I placed 2nd in my division in the Illinois State Field Archery Tournament. Later, I became interested in wood carving and most particularly carving birds out of wood. I soon became, as stated in the The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s Birds In Art Catalogue, “One of the premier bird artists of the Western World”. My interests in trumpet playing eventually took me twice to the stage at the International Trumpet Guild’s festival of trumpets and my interest in teaching students the art of Dixieland music ended in Chicago when my student Dixieland band, “the UNI Bearcats” were one of three university Dixieland bands to compete for “the best college Dixieland band” in the nation. Everything I have seriously undertaken, I have done well in. Even this blog illustrates what motivation can do if directed in the right direction. I began this and another blog approximately four years ago and from then on, I have dedicated between eight to fourteen hours everyday to their success. I am not sharing this information because of my ego for in every area that I have done well, I still feel that I never really reached the top. The real question at this time would be what motivated me to work so hard in these several areas in my life and I have to admit I was influenced by every item listed above.

How does this relate to instilling motivation in students?

For a student to become motivated, they must have the following attributes-

• Interest- Without interest, there will not be motivation.
• Talent- Without talent, motivation will be difficult.
• Inspiration- Each student must have a role model to look up to and respect.
• Instruction and direction- Enter the band director.
• Time and energy- Both are required to reach the goal.
• Support from close friends- This would include fellow students as well as family.
• Determination- This is almost synonymous with dedication.

For music teachers to be able to motivate his/her students they must have the following attributes-

• Interest- You must let your students know that you really enjoy working with them.
• Talent- Know everything you can learn about your craft.
• Inspiration- Be an example of what a musician and teacher should be.
• Instruction and direction- Enter your classroom each day with a definite goal to achieve and achieve it.
• Time and energy- Use your time wisely and make every minute count.
• Support from close friends- Communicate with other teachers on more effective ways to teach.
• Determination- You are under paid! You do put in long hours! You aren’t given the respect you deserve! If these things are more important to you than your students, GET OUT OF MUSIC!

Update on Stand Lights

main_stand_closeupWhen a new product comes on the market, I usually approach it with abounding skepticism for it seems everyone has the best product and the best deal for every unsuspecting customer. But, when I was shown the Aria music stand light a few weeks ago, I knew I had to have one.

My expectations for the perfect stand light are these-

• An abundance of light covering the entire stand area
• Convenient and secure attachment to the stand
• No light distractions for the audience
• Constructed to last
• Long lasting bulbs
• Even white light with no hot spots
• No conflict with fast page turns

After viewing and using Aria Brio stand light, I realized this model not only reached my expectations, it surpassed all my requirements.

When using the Aria Brio stand light your first realization is the amount of light transferred to the page. This light is evenly distributed across the stand with an even and eye comforting illumination. The notes actually seem to stand out more than when using a conventional stand light.
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Aria Music Stand Lights come in three forms for different requirements. The least expensive model (Aria Solo) is comparable to the most popular stand now available and lists for $69.95 which is about in the middle price range of most of the higher end stand light. The next model is the Aria Diva model and lists for $89.95. This model increases the illumination considerably more than the Aria Solo and is very similar to the top model (Aria Brio which sells for $169.95. You may wonder why the Brio is nearly twice the cost of the Diva and that is what makes this an interesting comparison.

The top of the line Brio runs on an electrical cord or its own rechargeable battery. In addition to the slick feature, you can adjust the amount of light for every situation by adjusting a rheostat. No longer are we subjected to poor manuscript hidden from view on our music stand. The Diva and Brio lights will fill your stand with light and improve your ability to read your music.

If you are concerned with the life span of these lights, the manufacturer advertises the expected life of these bulbs (6 per strip) to be 100,000 hours i.e. using the light 8 hours per day, 365 days a year would be 34 years of constantly bright light.
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Now……is the additional expense for a rechargeable battery and an adjustment rheostat worth it? You will have to answer that question yourself. The transmission of light seems to be the same between both models so the battery is the issue. For me, it’s a no brainer. If you have spent any time playing on stage or in a pit, you already know the problems when trying to plug into a wall outlet or an extension cord. And what happens when the power goes out during a show? “The show must go on” but it’s much better if the musicians can see their music.

Don Smith- One Of The Greats


Don Smith passed away February 13, 2010 after an extended battle with cancer. Don was born July 15, 1934 in Los Angeles, California. To the younger trumpet players, the name Don Smith may not register, but to the veteran musicians, the name is spoken with great reverence for this was one of the greats who played with such big bands as Les Brown and Harry James, and backed celebrities such as Ann-Margret. He also performed with the Air Force “Airmen of Note” and the N.B.C. staff to name but a few.

I first met Don shortly after he moved to Branson to perform with the Les Brown Orchestra. Don’s history with the band dates back to the Les Brown Sr. days which means that Don has been playing “Leap Frog” (the orchestra’s theme song) for over 50 years, and even up to his final performance, Don made sure that frog was still leaping strong.

I recently visited with Betty Smith, Don’s wife of 49 years and enjoyed many stories and gained more insight into what she and Don had experienced in their lives together. Don was a dedicated husband and father of four providing for his family through what he did best and as Betty shared, “My husband got to do what he wanted to do his whole life and took care of his family”.

I asked Betty what Don’s first trumpet job was and she told me with her charming manner, “Don was ten years old and played bugle for the local Boy Scouts”. It reminded me of the beginning of another great trumpet player, Louis Armstrong who also began on a bugle. She laughed when she remembered when Don was performing in a Latin band. She was pregnant with their first child (Brian) and throughout the evening the “soon to be born” kept kicking to the beat of the band.

A good friend of mine who played with Don while performing in Branson shared that Don had performed in nearly every chair in the trumpet section of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show Band. Don was best known for his rock solid lead playing and from a section player’s point of view this is the best kind of lead player and Don was one of the best. When you played in Don’s section, you were never in doubt as to how it was to be played. He always played it the same way and he always played it right.

He also had a dry since of humor as I remember from a rehearsal we played together. We were in the middle of the rehearsal when suddenly he picked up his lead part and tossed it onto my stand. I looked at him puzzled and he shot back at me “here kid, it’ll be good for you”. That sounded strange for he and I were not that many years apart in age. But when you think of his achievements and mine, I guess I would be considered a kid, comparatively speaking.

Watch and listen as Don performs “Nutcracker Suite”

Don is gone but will never be forgotten in the world of music.

What Is The Difference Between New Orleans and Chicago Dixieland Jazz?


What Is The Difference Between New Orleans and Chicago Dixieland Jazz?

The quickest answer to that question would be 930 miles.

From a musical standpoint it is much more complicated and for that reason I will try to simplify it for you.

Traditional New Orleans style of Dixieland usually include these characteristics

• Strong marching band history
• Instrumentation which is more mobile (banjo, brass instruments, woodwinds, marching percussion (bass drum player, snare player, etc.)
• Strong emphasis on all four beats
• Generally a more ensemble approach to performance
• Use of solo performances is limited
• Literature generally derived from well known marches

Traditional Chicago style of Dixieland usually include these characteristics

• Smaller number of players (5-8)
• Instrumentation includes piano, drum set and many times acoustic bass
• Accents are placed on beats 1 and 3 (hence the term two beat)
• Ensemble playing is less important than individual solos
• Literature is derived from all forms of popular music including tin pan alley
• Individual players enjoy more attention than the band

The above lists are only part of many characteristics contrasting the two styles but with the information above, you should be able to recognize the unique styles from each other.

Notice that I have listed these as traditional characteristics for what was typical at the beginning of each, has now been mixed to the point that many Chicago style bands play in a traditional New Orleans style and New Orleans bands incorporate elements of a Chicago style. Even the word Traditional has it own meaning. When speaking of a traditional Dixieland band, we are generally referring to one with a New Orleans characteristic. The term “new” or “modern Dixieland” will refer to a Chicago style.

To illustrate a traditional or New Orleans style of Dixieland, please view this video

Notice at the beginning the attempt of the band to simulate a marching ensemble. Each instrument was easily carried to the stage by its performer. Even the drummer marched in with his drum and the cymbals were played by the trombone player. Please take note that the drummer and the banjo player are both giving equal accents to all four beats in each measure as Traditional or New Orleans bands are known to do. Another important feature of this band is the absence of a piano player. The banjo in this band is functioning as, what will be in Chicago, the piano player’s responsibility. The spoken information shared on this video is also important.

A Chicago style of Dixieland is shown in this video

This video of “When You’re Smiling” is typical of a Chicago rendition. Notice that the band opened with a vocal feature followed by individual players taking solos. Also present is a piano player as well as a banjo player. More time is spent featuring solos than we had in the previous recording. Notice also the “two beat” feel which is accenting beats one and three, differing from the even four beats in the first example.

While searching for examples of both New Orleans and Chicago Dixieland, I came across a video of one of the best known Chicago style bands and that would be the Dukes of Dixieland. This is a very interesting performance for it not only features the Dukes of Dixieland but also performing the same number is the Woody Herman band. As you watch the two group’s trade back and forth on the same number, notice the more aggressive solo playing of the Dukes compared to the structured and well rehearsed performance of the Thundering Herd.

Now enjoy the Dukes of Dixieland video