Preparing for a Show Chapter 4 (preparing your work area)

Stand area
I must admit, I am much more deliberate in my preparations for a show than the average musician. The reason for this is two-fold;

1. I detest making mistakes

2. I am not the quickest learner in the section

Because of these shortcomings, I tend to do much more preparation before a performance than any of my colleagues.

My current work area consists of a traditional music stand which was popular during the 1940’s which is the time frame the show is set. Atop the music stand was a small goose necked LED light, not typical of that time frame. In addition to and substituted for this simple yet traditional setup, I have added the following helpful features-

1. An Aria Brio, rechargeable, LED music stand light. (Not shown in photo)

Being able to see clearly the notes you are to play is very important and after changing to this wonderful source of illumination, my work was substantially made easier. Not only does the Aria gain its source of power from a large rechargeable battery, it also has a convenient dimmer control so that I can adjust my light from subtle to “set fire to the stand” illumination.

One of the issues we were having with the conventional goose necked lights was that with fresh batteries on the overture we were fine but by the time we got to the bows at the end, the lights had dimmed substantially.

An additional problem came when the stage lights ran a pink gel and our music disappeared. That was exciting!

2. A Music Riser

Most of you will not recognize this product for I designed and made it myself. After many years of propping up my music on the stand with a mute to make it easier to read, I designed and built a handy little device which positioned my music exactly where I wanted it to be. Not only does it make reading the music easier, it also has a feature to hold a pencil for quick and easy marking of the music.

3. Effective Mute Holder

This show has more quick mute changes than any other show I have played and for that reason; I had to devise a more efficient mute holder which would place my assortment of mutes in a more accessible location. After about thirty minutes in my workshop I had the solution to my quick mute changes. As you can see from the photo, I now have only a distance of about three inches to pick up and insert my mutes. Problem solved!

4. Trumpet Stand

A stable trumpet stand is invaluable in this setting especially when you have one of those long, long 10 second breaks from playing!

5. Reading Glass

As one gets older, the music tends to get smaller and fainter and for that reason the older crowd relies on eyeglasses which will improve the player’s chances of getting the correct notes. I have a pair of glasses made especially for the computer screen distance and although the music stand is just a tad further, the added amount of light thrown from the Aria Music Light extends my depth of field just enough to get by.

No matter if your employment is for cutting down trees, repairing leaky plumbing or playing a show, you have to have the right tools to make your work easier.

Preparing for a Show Chapter 3 (marking your music)

Heading 001The Importance of Marking Your Music.

Now that you understand the music and checked for any calls for mutes, the next step is to start rehearsals. Most of the time the director is reasonable and understanding during the first couple scheduled rehearsals and everyone learns their responsibilities for the show. In this particular situation our director not only wrote the arrangements but he also produced the show and is the leading entertainer in the production. This is unusual and has turned out to be a wonderful experience for all of us. What will they think of next! The director is an accomplished musician as well as a leader. LIFE IS GOOD!

During the two weeks of rehearsals we ran through the arrangements and mark our music so we knew what goes where and at what tempo. Marking your music is very important and marking it correctly is even more important.

How to mark your music

1. Only mark in pencil

2. Make sure that when the show completes its run, you will be able to erase every mark completely.

3. Drawing a circle around a measure or group of measures means to leave that measure or group of measures out.
4. Drawing a pair of spectacles (eye glasses) on the music means to watch out for something coming up.

5. Mark important vocal or spoken lines before an entrance.

6. Difficult rhythms should be marked with beat subdivisions.

7. Hidden repeat signs may be enhanced for easier viewing.

8. Quick page turns need to be indicated.

9. Mute changes for the following page should be indicated before the page turn.

10. Important releases need to be marked.

11. Instructions for mute changes should be indicated.

12. Simplifying page turns by adding a copying a duplicate loose page can save you time.

13. Indication a major rest area such as “Bridge” when counting many rest will keep you informed as to where you should be.

14. Write in accidentals you might miss.

15. Write in a reminder if the next section is counted in “2” or “4”.

These are just a few of the markings I have in my part for this current show. I have prepared examples of these marking as illustrations of what markings are appropriate in your music.

Marking music 1 001Marking music 2 001

Preparing for a Show Chapter 2 (setting up your practice routine)

imagesBecause of the short notice to play this show, my usual routine had to be changed. Usually I will check over the music to find what challenges it might have such as range, endurance, solos, unusual keys, etc. In this case it was and is a straight forward vocal/skit/comedy show with one band feature at the end. The range runs from below the staff to about 58 high C’s and D’s with only one Eb which for a capable second chair player is within my comfort zone. Only one featured solo and the changes are very common.

One issue in the part which looked interesting is the constant mute changes which are common in musicals such as this. Some changes have to be performed very, very quickly and because of that, I designed and constructed a special mute holder which would place all of my mutes close to my bell for quick changes. This, as I found out was one big benefit when it came time for the show. You can get more information on this mute holder at the following… Free Mute Holder

Once I had an understanding of the book, the next step was to learn the material while at the same time building my chops for regular shows.

Most shows now include a rehearsal CD along with the music which makes the learning curve much easier and faster to learn. The most efficient way I have found to combine practicing the score and at the same time building my chops is to use my rest as much as you play system. I have found this to be most productive, for you are not limited in how long you can run over the music. If you rest as much as you play, you are able to prolong your practice periods considerably.

This is how I practiced the new material the first two days-

1. Warmup- approximately 10 to 15 minutes
2. Start the Rehearsal CD.
3. Play the first line and rest the second line. Continue the “play/rest” routine until you start to get tired. After the second day that took about two hours.
5. Do a good “cool down”. That consisted of playing my trombone for an hour or so.

This is how I practiced the new material for the rest of the week-

1. Warmup- approximately 10 to 15 minutes
2. Start the Rehearsal CD.
3. Play the first line and rest the second line and continue the “play/rest” routine until I had played the show through completely two times in a row.
5. Then the last thing I did was play through the whole show one more time, playing every line from top to bottom on trombone.

Some may ask why I played the trombone at the end of the day. That is a very good question. The reason I play trombone at the end of the day is to let my chops relax, and the wider, slower vibrations of the lip tissue is wonderful for oxygenating the lip muscles before putting your lips away for the night. Too many players work their lips hard in a practice session and then close the case, thinking they had accomplished a great amount for that day. Putting the horn in the case with tired lips is the same as having a race horse work out and then storing it in a stable for the night. We take better care of horses than we do ourselves! Since I began ending my playing for the day on a trombone, I have not been faced with stiff and unpredictable chops the next morning. Every morning I start with a comfortable and predictable feeling in my lips….. every day!

So much for learning your music and at the same time building your chops.

Preparing for a Show- Chapter 1 (short notice)

imagesMost often a musician is called to perform in a show in Branson at least a month before the first rehearsal, but recently the norm had changed. A new show is in Branson, “which you should go to if you enjoy New York level performers, excellent music and a trip back in history to what was going on in our country in 1942”.

Because of a reaction to a medication prescribed by his doctor, a good friend of mine was unable to make the rehearsals and it was questionable if, because of this reaction would be able to play the show. So, I was asked to step in a week before the first rehearsal. Many things go through your mind in situations like this and because of this most recent change in my schedule, I thought it beneficial to document what was needed to prepare for this wonderful show.

In our next post I will introduce you to Mr. Madaras and he will give you some insight into his career and the show we will be performing this season in Branson.

It is not my intent to promote the show in this blog but more to relate the conditions and requirements expected of a trumpet player sitting in the lead chair of a very professional orchestra.

I hope you check back to this site often for I have scheduled several related posts which will better inform the younger players, as well as some of the pros, to what level I, as an over achieving, self-conscious, insecure, striving (yet unsuccessful perfectionist) go through.

Some of the topics I will be addressing will include the following-

• Getting into shape and learning the music
• Preparing your work area
• How and what to practice on days off
• Marking your music
• Using the microphones to your advantage
• Knowing what is expected from your conductor
• How to control nervousness
• How to react to “clams”

As you can see, there are many areas which need to be addressed if we are to cover everything in playing a live show. I hope this series will be helpful and informative to you and if you already know everything there is to know about playing a show, please contact me for I would enjoy learning more myself.

Don’s Dictionary of Delirious Dictum

download24/7: The time signature of the national anthem of India.

Agent: A character how resents performers getting 90% of his salary.

Ballet: An art form for people with eating disorders.

Bandstand: The area furthest away from an outlet.

Big Band: Currently referring to an aggregation of two musicians.

Cabaret: A venue where singers do songs from shows that closed out of town.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: God’s way of telling you that you’ve practiced too much.

Classical Composer: A Man ahead of his time and behind in rent.

Cruise Ship: A place where a musician has two reasons to throw up.

D.J.: The guy your son would rather have play for his Bar Mitzvah.

Downbeat: The magazine that would have you believe that all jazz musicians are working.

Electric Piano: The instrument that enables its player to pay for the hernia he sustained lifting it.

Jazz: The only true American art form beloved by Europeans.

New Year’s Eve: The only night of the year when contractors are forced to hire musicians they despise.

Orchestrator: The musician who enhances a composer’s music, only to be chastised for it.

Perfect Pitch: The ability to pinpoint any note and still play out of tune.

Pianist: An archaic term for a keyboard player.

Sideman: An appellation for a musician that indicates he will never be rich.

Staff Musician: Harder to locate than a cavity among the Osmond family.

Steady Engagement: Look up in Webster’s Dictionary under the word “obsolete”.

Union Rep: A guy who thinks big bands are coming back.

Verse: The part of a tune that’s disposable, except to its composer.

Wurlitzer: The Ford Pinto of pianos.

Brass Articulation- Triple Tonguing

From the material you have practiced in the preceding post (Double Tonguing) you should have an understanding of the use of multiple articulations. The next level will be using the Tah and Dah attack along with an additional Tah attack. This Tah Tah Kah articulation is called triple tonguing and will serve you well.

The basic pattern for triple tonguing is, as I stated before, Tah Tah Kah, Tah Tah Kah, Tah Tah Kah. Repeat this pattern over and over until you feel comfortable with it. Amazing speed can be achieved with this articulation as illustrated by this video of William Rimmer.

One problem you may have when articulation the T T K pattern is that the first of every triplet will have a natural tendency to be heavily accented. This will give your triplet the sound of LOUD, softer, softest, with the K being the softest. One solution to this problem would be to substitute the K attack on the first note of the triplet and use the T attacks on the last two notes. This will even the accents but will also causes another problem. Beginning the first note with K is more difficult than starting it with a T attack. “Life’s tough and then we die”. Which ever pattern you use, be sure to keep the three notes as even as possible.

Possible tonguing patterns in triplets-

TTK TTK TTK (Most common pattern)

TKT TKT TKT (Possible but rearticulating two Ts on three and one is awkward)

KTT KTT KTT (Most even)

TKT KTK TKT (This is double tonguing in a triplet patter and is by far the fastest)

Each of these patterns could be used in any given situation to make the passage easier. Do not limit yourself to the same pattern every time.

Here are some exercises similar to the double tonguing patterns we used in the earlier post.

Triple Tonguing Exercises

Practice these exercises with the recordings as before. The click track has been removed in level two so that let you may more easily check the evenness of your notes.

Triple Tonguing Exercises Level 1

Level #2

Level #2 faster

Level #2 fastest

Level #3

Level #3 faster

Level #3 fastest

Level 4

Level 4 faster

Level 4 fastest

Brass Articulation- Double Tonguing

Double tonguing was developed to increase the speed at which a player could re-articulate a series of notes. From the time of Arban to the performances of Herbert L. Clark the technique was practiced and improved to the point where these musicians were able to accomplish fantastic performances of extremely difficult solos. The level at which they entertained their audiences was amazing. Many of these techniques have been lost or at least ignored and few modern players spend the required time developing these techniques. There are exceptions to this statement as illustrated by this video of Rafael Mendez performing Arban’s exercises #19-20 on pg28.

This is a very good example of how smoothly and evenly double tonguing can be implemented into your playing. The sixteenth notes are too fast to be played with the conventional single tonguing technique and the practice of double tonguing is required. When you begin to develop this technique, keep in mind the evenness with which Mendez has illustrated his double tonguing ability. The fantastic playing of this gifted player is the reason I have included his picture on all of these posts related to multiple tonguing.

How do you double tongue?

Double tonguing makes use of the tongue area in the front of your mouth as well as the tongue area in the back of your throat. This back and forth action is what gives the player more speed when tonguing rapid notes. When I say the front and the back, I am speaking of the areas and not a back and forth direction. The front and back of the tonguing move up and down, not forward and backward. You can think of the action of your tongue as you visualize a teeter totter going up and down. The action of the tongue moves the same way.

In the previous post we discussed which syllables are most effective when starting notes and for simplicity sake, I will use the syllable Tah as our preferred articulation. The syllable Tah will begin our first note on G, second line in the staff for trumpet players. Start and repeat the G using your Tah articulation. As you play these notes, try to visualize what is happening inside your mouth. The tip of your tongue first rests on the ridge just behind your upper teeth. As you increase air pressure and then drop the tip downward, the force of the expelled air passes between your lips and starts them buzzing. That is how we single tongue. When we start our next note in double tonguing, we release the air with the back of the tongue as we pronounce the syllable Kah. Notice that the tip of your tongue is low in the front of your mouth as the Kah is sounded.  Tah starts with the tip of your tongue and Kah begins with the release of air in the back of your throat. Repeat these two syllables a few times to get the feel of where the air is released.

I have included in this post a series of exercises which will get you started in double tonguing. If you have already been using double tonguing, feel free to skip to some of the later levels. You will also find included recordings of the exercises so that you will have something to guide you.

How do I get started playing the printed examples?

First download the four levels of exercises and have them in front of you when you practice. Double Tonguing Exercises

Next, click on the link to each exercise and play along with the recording.

Double Tonguing Exercise Level 1

Double Tonguing Exercise Level 2

Double Tonguing Exercise Level 3

Double Tonguing Exercise Level 3 faster

Double Tonguing Exercise Level 3 fastest

Double Tonguing Exercise Level 4

Double Tonguing Exercise Level 4 faster

Double Tonguing Exercise Level 4 fastest

Levels 3 and 4 are done in the same manner as level 1 and 2 with one exception. I have included three recordings of level 3 and 4 which increase in tempo. Find the speed which works best for you and continue at that level until you have mastered it. Once you feel comfortable at that level, advance to the next tempo. Once you have accomplished all four levels at the fastest tempo, you should be able to perform well in the middle range and the next step would be to extend your ability upward. High register double tonguing becomes very challenging for there will be a tendency to arch the tongue too much which will gradually cut off the air stream. You will need to consciously try to keep the tongue as low in the mouth as possible in order to correct this tendency.

Best of luck to you.

Brass Articulation- The Many Positions of Tah and Dah

To most brass players, the use of Tah and Dah is enough to comprehend but when you have nothing to do at this time of the morning, you need something more than coffee to keep you going and this next material may be beneficial to you.

The many syllables based on the basic Tah and Dah articulation.

How many variations of Tah and Dah can we come up with?

  • Tah, Dah
  • Ta, Da (long A sound)
  • Tee, Dee
  • Tie, Die
  • Toe, Doe
  • Too, Doo

Notice that we have included all of the vowels including a long A and a soft A. Each of these variations is produced in different location in our mouth. I will list them from the rear to the front- Tah (most open), Toe ,  Tie, Ta (long A sound), Too, Tee (most restricted).

Each of these syllables is used as we ascend in our playing range. At this point, I will have some grumbling going on for there are many who will disagree with me on this assumption. Many knowledgeable teachers and performers believe that the tongue does not and should not change positions as we play higher. I respect their opinion but from my experience and from the teachings of my trumpet teachers, I believe that the tongue does arch as we ascend and because of my belief in this matter, I will continue.

In the low register, we utilize the open oral cavity, for more air at a slower speed is required. In the upper register, we need less air and additional speed. This is why the syllable Tah is effective in the low register and the high arch of the tongue is helpful in the upper register through the use of the syllable Tee. It all boils down to air velocity through the use of tongue position. I have purposely omitted the issue of more air support in the upper register for this will be covered at a later date in another posting. We do not consciously reposition our tongue on every note for it is a smooth transition through the range of the instrument.

At this point, in our journey through the wondrous world of brass articulation, we have explained which letters are best to use and which syllables can be used to more easily play in the different registers. My next posting will cover these choices when applied to multiple tonguing.

Brass Articulation- Why We Use Tah and Dah

It is now 4:26 AM in the morning of Saturday, January 8, 2011 and you are probable asleep in your bed. You may ask, “Why am I sitting at my computer writing this post”? Moments ago, while laying in bed a question flashed through my head “why do we use the syllable tah when we articulate a note on a brass instrument. I hope to explain this practice by the time we finish this post.

What are letters, what are syllables and what are words?

In order to establish an understandable vocabulary for this discussion, we will have to agree on the common use of simple terms. Letters are these- a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j,k,l,m,n,o,p,q,r,s,t,u,v,w,x,y and z. Syllables are these- a (a-bout), b (be-fore), c (see-ing), d (de-bark). Words are these- a (a), b (bee), c (see, sea, si- yes in Spanish). When I refer to a letter, I will mean a letter and when I refer to a syllable, I will mean a syllable. Please keep this in mind as you read this material for I will clearly state what I mean and you will have to follow what I say in order to understand my logic on this topic.

There are three areas which affect the pronunciation of letters.

Tongue- c, d, g, h, j, k, l, n, q, s, t, u, w, x, z

Jaw- f, h, j

Lip- b, f, h, m, p, v, w, y

Which areas will best serve articulations for brass players?

Tongue- This would be the best area for it does not interfere in the vibration of the lip or the anchoring of the mouthpiece on the lip.

Jaw- Opening and closing the area between the teeth will have a detrimental effect on the position of the mouthpiece.

Lip- Any letter or syllable used will hinder the lip’s vibration.

Which letters produced with the tongue are best to start a note on a brass instrument?

These are workable letters- d, k, q, t.

These are unusable letters because of the lack of enough air pressure to start a note- c, g, h, j, l, n, q, s, u, w, x, z.

Which of these workable letters are best for brass articulations?

D- best because it is begun in the front of the mouth which is easier to control.

T- best because it is begun in the front of the mouth which is easier to control.

K- Not usable for it is produced too back in the throat.

Q- Not usable for it is also produced farther back in the throat.

Conclussion; The letters T and D simulate the best location for the tongue when starting notes on a brass instrument.

What are the advantages between the use of T and the use of D when starting a note on a brass instrument?

Slowly repeat the letter T and listen to the sound. Now do the same to the letter D. How do the two differ in sound?. Repeat this pattern a few times to get the feel of what is happening- TTTTTTTT DDDDDDDD TTTTTTTT DDDDDDDD. Which letter has more of an explosion to its sound? Which letter has a softer sound? You should be able to hear and feel the difference. The letter T is more explosive and the letter D is a little softer. Why do you think this happens?

Why is the T a harder attack than the D?

When we pronounce the letter T, we create more back pressure of air behind the tongue than when we pronounce the letter D. This difference in back pressure is the reason we use a T attack on our stronger notes and use a D attack on our more legato articulation.

And these are the reasons we use the syllables Tah and Dah when we articulate notes on brass instruments.

Free Mute Holder!

2016-03-06 15.51.34

After checking every mute holder on the market today, I decided I could do better than what was available on line and in the stores.

If you need your mutes available in a short amount of time, you may be interested in my solution.

I got the music for a new musical in town just a few days ago and after looking through the material, I realized that the number of quick mute changes was going to be a problem. No matter how close you get your mutes, it always puts pressure on these quick changes and I don’t enjoy the uncertainty… I rummaged through my garage and came up with this solution.

Materials required-
1. One dry wall spatula.
2. One gluing clamp.
3. One bolt and wing nut.
Total expense= $0.00

Check out the photos and let me know if you come up with any improvements.
2016-03-06 14.25.30
2016-03-06 15.52.06
As you can see from the photos, I had to spray my putty knife with black paint. Save yourself the work and purchase one at Home Depot in black and you’ll have one better than mine.
$2.98Home Depot, and just $2.97 for three!