Today we'll discuss getting ahead of the competition by staying focused over the summer.
Summer is a great time to get ahead of your competition by working on fundamentals. Many people take it easy over the break. Last summer I made it my mission to improve my range both low an high. I set a goal of adding an octave and ended up adding about an octave and a half. You can read all about how I did it here.
Staying focused on the single goal of increasing range last summer worked so well that I decided to pick a different goal this summer and work towards it. This summer I want to increase my double tongue speed from sixteenths at quarter = 150 to sixteenths at quarter = 200.
I was inspired by a shooting drill that basketball superstar, Lebron James does after practice. He takes three point shots until he's made 400. That's probably around 1,000 shots after he's been practicing and training all day, by the way. I like the idea of trying to improve double tongue technique with a high-volume (lots of repetitions) drill. My plan is to play through the Brum! exercise from the Brass Gym (euphonium and tuba) 200 times each practice day. There are 12 lines, so if I play the exercise top to bottom 17 times that's a total of 204 lines!
In the past week I've increased the tempo of the exercise to 160. I don't expect linear gains for very long. At some point I'll have to slow tempo increases down to 5 beats per week, then 2.5, then 1. Once I reach a plateau I'll switch exercises to some of the more advanced double tongue examples from the Arban book. After that, a different exercise. After that, maybe I'll experiment with tongue placement and try to find something more efficient/faster.
Without getting too far into the weeds, make sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely). You can find more about SMART goals here.
What're your goals for this summer?
Thank you for reading!
Today we'll discuss five books I think every aspiring musician needs to read..
Last weekend our local library had one of their semi-annual book sales. This is an event which is near and dear to my heart as it involves two of my passions: books and bargains.
The library off-loads surplus inventory three times a year during these sales by offering books, which are often in excellent condition, for $7.50 for a grocery bag full of books. Yes, as many books as you can fit into a large paper bag! Weeks-worth of learning and/or entertainment for the price of a burger and fries. If that's not a good enough bargain for you, on the final day of the sale it's just $5 per bag!
This got me thinking about the books I've found most useful over the last few years. None of them is specific to music, but are more general to improving some aspect of your life. Take a look and let me know what you think.
Mindset by Carol Dweck
Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset? People with a growth midset are much more likely to succeed and to be happy.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Transform your life by developing better habits. It's often our habits which hold us back from getting closer to our potential. So why not implement new habits which help us instead of hinder us?
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
Develop your talents and optimize your performance. I'll let you in on the secret of the book; talent isn't the most important thing when learning a skill-based task (like a musical instrument).
The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
I got so much out of this book that I bought the print and ebook editions. Ready to take productivity to the next level? Find the one thing that by doing it you can make everything else easier or unnecessary.
Performance Success by Don Greene
This book is harder to find the the others on this list. However, I'm not exaggerating when I say that it has revolutionized the way I approach preparation for performances.
Thank you for reading!
Today I'll be short and to the point (mostly).
This has been a hectic couple of weeks. So in an endeavor to stay in the groove of producing a new Tuba Tuesday edition every two weeks I'm sending out a couple more online resources that one of our readers (and current WTAMU junior), Alex Rivera reminded me of.
I honestly can't understand how I forgot these two resources, but stranger things have happened.
International Tuba-Euphonium Association
Thank you for reading!
Today we'll discuss the most important book in your journey to become a better brass player, the Vocalise etudes (euphonium/trombone and tuba) of Marco Bordogni.
There are many reasons to use the Bordogni book; it's an excellent resource when you're learning to play expressively. Since all of the etudes are written with slurs pretty much the whole way it's also great for working on playing with smooth legato. Since smooth legato requires smooth air stream, it's also a superb study in breath control. Finally, It's a versatile wealth of music that can be adapted and adjusted to suit your needs as a player.
The one time in my career where I think I've made the most progress as a tuba player was when I was playing Bordogni etudes for roughly an hour every day. I'd work through my daily routine, then move on to Bordogni, then practice other repertoire for the rest of the day. Wow, those were the days! No responsibilities except to make myself a better player. I digress...
I wasn't just mindlessly playing though the etudes. I had a purpose to everything I did. You can do anything you want with the etudes. You're limited only by your imagination.
Below is a list of the things I would do regularly that I found most useful.
1) Sing each etude using solfege if possible
2) Buzz large portions of each etude with particular attention to large/awkward leaps
3) Play them at the written octave but change certain aspects such as:
If you're familiar with the Bordogni etudes, what do you do that I didn't discuss here? Reply to this email if you'd like to talk about it.
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Today we'll discuss websites, YouTube channels, and other online resources for euphonium and tuba.
There are lots of great tools online for aspiring tuba-euph players. Some of my favorites are:
The Brass Junkies
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eioday we'll discuss buzzing; when, why and how. Happy practicing!
A few years ago there was a huge (by classical music standards) argument online about the pros and cons of buzzing on the mouthpiece. There were people protesting outside of local music stores, riots were started, others named their newborn children in support of their favorite mouthpiece manufacturers. Just kidding, but people really did argue.
People said buzzing was different from playing the instrument (it is, but not because you create sound in a different way), or that the way you create a buzz differs from playing on the instrument (also true). Neither of which mean that buzzing is a bad thing; far from it! Buzzing is a useful tool to have in your box of practice methods.
Today, we'll talk about finding your way back to the instrument after a vacation or other break. Happy practicing!
After the New Year 2019 my wife and I went on a seven day cruise to Central America. It was amazing! We saw Mayan ruins, beautiful beaches, and floated down a river through a mountain. I also gained 12 pounds...but I digress. I took a CC tuba mouthpiece and had great intentions of working through the Buzzing Book by James Thompson.
I did this twice throughout the week. It just isn't the same as playing the instrument. Buzzing is much more taxing and (at least to me) much less gratifying, though still a useful tool. I'll talk more on that in a future edition.
Once we were safely back home, I found my way back to the tuba. I'm typically pretty consistent when it comes to practice and usually take a tuba (or two) with me when we travel. However, if you've ever been on a cruise ship you know that space is on a premium. Bringing an instrument was not an option.
After a long break from practicing I make sure to do things differently for a week or so before I move back to full-bore.
1) Have temporarily low expectations
I'm not saying you should accept bad sound or sloppy technique. You still need to strive to get better. Just keep in mind that during the time you took off from practice you did de-train a little bit. You won't be where you were before you left, so go in with the expectation that you won't be able to do as much as you could before.
2) Go SLOW
Everything needs to be slowed down...more than you initially think it does. If my gut says "play this lip-slur at quarter = 80" I slow it down to 70 or 60 or even slower. Make sure you set yourself up correctly to start making progress.
3) Don't worry about lessened abilities
You won't be able to play as high/low/fast/slow/loud/soft, etc. It's not a big deal, you'll get back to where you were before you left. Take your time!
4) Work through your routine every day
This should go without saying, but I'm saying it anyway. It's that important! You need a routine that you work on every day.
5) Stay away from the rep you were working on before the break
Before the break I'd been working on a recording project and was very familiar with the repertoire. I haven't touched any of it since my return and probably won't for a few more days. This is important to me because I tend to be very critical of myself, especially in situations where I'm not in top playing shape.
6) Play only things you enjoy for a while
I like to take an etude book and gradually read through it over the course of a day or two. My favorites are Bordogni Bel Canto Etudes, Snedecor Low Etudes for Tuba, or Fritz Twenty Characteristic Etudes. Other times I'll just work on Arban exercises like arpeggios or intervals.
The point is to stay in your comfort-zone for a while until you get your chops back.
Thank you for reading!
Today, we'll discuss the best way I've found to increase single-tongue speed. Happy practicing!Every year I follow a rough schedule that looks something like this: Winter - focus on learning new repertoire for the brass quintet; Spring - focus on brass quintet repertoire; Summer - focus on specific problems in my playing and learn new solo repertoire; Fall - focus on solo recital repertoire.
A few years ago I decided that the focus for the summer would be my single-tongue speed. I spent some time looking for exercises that would work. I made my own drills, asked colleagues what they did, and spent hours online perusing the various brass forums (yikes, those places can be scary). Ultimately, the exercise that works the best for me came from a blog by an oboist. At this point, I have no idea where it actually came from, otherwise I give the oboist credit.
Single-tongue is something I have to constantly maintain. My default state without maintenance is about quarter = 95 beats per minute. After a few weeks of working with this drill it had increased to about 109 beats per minute (BPM). Here's a link to the exercise. It can also be found at the end of Routine I for euphonium and tuba
Anyway, here's the basic exercise.
When 100 is easy and you can keep up at stay with the metronome without having trouble, make 101 BPM your new starting tempo. The new sequence should look like this:
Thank you for reading!
Performance Preparation Tips
It's recital week! Since I'm a little crunched for time, I'll keep this short and sweet.
Here are a few things that may or may not be obvious to do when you're getting ready for a recital, audition, or other performance. These are things above and beyond what most people consider "good practice habits." I didn’t describe some of the items on the list because there’s a lot of information available on the internet if you just search. Enjoy!
Thank you for reading!
Today, I'm posting about some of my thoughts on low and high range development.
So, every year the WTAMU faculty brass quintet plays holiday themed performances at local elementary schools. At the end of each performance we usually have time to let the kids ask questions. By far the most common thing to happen in this situation is for the student to forget what they were going to ask about. The second most common, at least for me, is to be asked, "How high can you play?" or, ‘How low can you play?’
My instinct is to reply with a snarky answer like, "Who cares?" After all, playing high on the tuba is about as impressive as being the world's largest teacup Chihuahua or smallest English mastiff. Just so you know, there were supposed to be hilarious pictures of the aforementioned animals, but I could find no record of such creatures on all the internet. This serves my purpose here nicely, though. I understand the lack of evidence of pictures to mean that no one cares who has the world's largest teacup Chihuahua or smallest English mastiff.
Outside of the tuba-euph community no one really cares about our ability to play high or low. It's slightly more impressive to be able to play high on the euphonium than it is the tuba, maybe more like being a very large Sheltie (still, no one really cares).
All snarkyness aside, my serious answer to that question would be, "It depends." Am I focused on producing extremely low/high notes currently? How fatigued are my chops? Am I in my best shape?
Playing high is just not all that important in the scheme of things. Still we must be able to do what the composer asks at any time, every time. Which is why I recommend at least an octave above the highest note in the piece you currently plan to perform. It's not as important to have an extra octave below, but you should shoot for reaching at least the bottom of the pedal register. In case you're wondering that's: euphonium - C-flat 1 (all four valves), CC tuba - D-flat 0 (all five vales if you've got them), and BBb-flat tuba - C-flat -1 (yes, that's negative 1!).
We'll talk about this in more detail later, but the long story made short is that your body will compensate for increased demands through adaptation…Do more so your body will be able to do more, repeat. This concept applies equally well to lifting heavy weights, running a marathon, and even learning to play the euphonium or tuba.
Here’s how you can do it. Play scales every day; major, natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor. It doesn't matter, any scale will do.
Moderate tempo is best for endurance purposes. Start on the lowest note you can play with a great sound. Perform each scale in ascending chromatic order so that you’re constantly working toward your peak high range. You'll notice that by starting on your lowest note every day you will make gradual progress and be able to play even lower ultimately. If your initial starting note was E-flat 1, eventually you'll be able to start on D 1, then D-flat, and so on. Just keep working at it.
Play each scale two octaves. If you can get through all of them great, continue to three octaves. If not, also great, room for improvement! If you can play all of them three octaves, continue to four octaves, and then five. The point is to keep adding octaves to scales until you fail/miss the highest note of two scales consecutively. This is enough to inspire adaptation in your body.
Make every effort to play with an awesome sound no matter which octave you're currently playing in. From your very lowest, to your very highest notes, always perform with your best sound. Be sure you know the scales well enough that you won't need to devote much mental resource deciding which buttons to push down (I know, it's hard sometimes). You want to dedicate all of your considerable intellectual faculties to figuring out ways to play lower and higher each time you play the exercise. This can be done using any type of scale or arpeggio if you follow the directions (fail on the top note of two scales/arpeggios/exercises consecutively). I recommend the scales in Routine I for euphonium and tuba (links) as a starting place.
Thank you again and happy practicing!