THE TRUMPET SHED

Wave Form Biofeedback in the Teaching Studio.

BIOFEEDBACK: READING RECORDED WAVE FORMS

Check out this short video of a student playing an excerpt of Clarke 2 (#37) followed by the same passage played by the the teacher (me). The recording software used is Audacity, a free open source recording application.

Compare and Contrast

What do you hear and what do you see?  In the teaching studio, it can be difficult to express certain sounds or perceptions in words that clearly communicate to the student the difference between what the student is playing and what the teacher is describing and modeling.  Inexpensive technology offers a way to bring the differences to life visually and to drive home a teacher’s observations with indisputable evidence.

In the video above, the student missed zero notes, however NONE of them were centered or resonant.  When this was pointed out to the student, he agreed, but really didn’t have a clue why, nor what to do differently in order to achieve the different effect. After my demonstration, I described the physical way I approach making those sounds (pressurized breath and articulation) as well as the musical considerations that go beyond simply popping out a consistent sequence of pitches in time.

Wa-Wa Wave Forms

Here is an example of a student, again not “missing” any notes, producing an overall pleasing sound but unable to sense an issue where she was putting a slight crescendo on EVERY note. She could not hear that this was happening in the moment and gave a good degree of push back when this was pointed out (hence the recording).  In this case, the student was attempting to be “musical with the air” and result was a “Wa-Wa” effect. Again, perhaps because this is a a more subtle effect, the student could NOT hear that this was happening, but when shown the video was able to see and, more importantly, hear the difference.  Of course, this information is less helpful if the teacher doesn’t have an effective way of addressing and fixing the issue.

(This and the following examples were recorded with the Garageband app on Mac)

Goldman, Dotted Eighth/Sixteenths: Teach a Man to Fish….

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Student                           

Dotted 8-16_Student

Teacher

dotted-8-16_belck-e1565725582326.jpg

Goldman Etude # 6

This video of the wave forms generated by Garage Band clearly illustrate at least two important concepts and, at the same time, give the student a visible representation of what they need to work on.  Further, students can use this technology in their own practice sessions for very little cost.

The spacing of the notes gives away the underlying triplet feel that the student plays.

The size of the 16th notes, being smaller, reveals that they are slightly “swallowed.”

The “Teacher” wave forms reveal a uniformity of articulation, resonance, and rhythm.  The dotted 8ths are all consistent triangles, the 16th notes are full, and the spacing is indicative of a beat squarely subdivided into 4 rather than 3.

When demonstrating this concept in lessons, I routinely exaggerate two aspects of this rhythm:

1) Conceptually, the 16th note is twice as loud as the dotted 8th just to get it to be “as loud” and not swallowed.

2) To illustrate the difference between the 16th rhythm and the triplet figure, it may be necessary to compress it just slightly.  This is done, hopefully, without changing it to a 32nd note.

Notice the size of 16th notes and how much closer they are to the down beat immediately afterward.  The “Student” wave forms show the more rounded, triplet like distance between the first and second notes of each beat of the dotted 8th/16th rhythm.

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Consistency of the note shapes below represents (to this observer at least) a balance of resonance and precise articulation as well as consistent rhythm.

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Here are some thoughts on how to get started in your teaching studio or practice room:

Reading Your Own Darn Waveforms:

Using Audacity and GarageBand to Provide Visual Feedback for Instrumentalists

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What is Audacity?

  • Audacity® is free, open source software for recording and editing sound. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems
  • http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

What is GarageBand?

Mac OS only – not available for Windows

What do you need to get started

  1. Computer with microphone input or extra USB port
  2. Good Quality Microphone
  3. Plenty of RAM
  4. Playback System
    What to Listen and Watch For

    • Attack/Clarity of Articulation
    • Note Shapes (look prior to missed notes)
    • Rhythmic Spacing -1 subdivision of beat
    • Connection and consistency of airstream, bow etc
    • Resonance/width/shape versus shape of uncentered notes
    • Releases
    • Pitch stability
    • Timing and Rhythmic issues

    The Process

    • On First Playback – focus on one element (usually Time) I have my students conduct
    • Guide students to listen for elements so that they might discover for themselves what you are already hearing
    • Record a model track emphasizing the musical or technical point you wish to communicate – this may need to be an exaggerated version

    Consistent repetitions over weeks often result in the student being more readily able to self-analyze.

     

     

Look Kids, Parliament Flexadelic

Played a very funky gig Saturday….

and during the sound check, the bass player was laying down the groove to Parliament’s “Do That Stuff.”  As the saying goes, when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail and when you’re a purveyor of sarcastic lip slurs, everything sounds like a flexibility study.

Here’s a link to the original groove.  It drops about 30 seconds into the track and is in the key of E, of course.

“Do That Stuff” – check out the groove here:
Download the first page of Parliament Flexadelic:

 

“TASTEE SLOTS”

Looking for someone to help take you playing to the next level?  Can’t help you there.

Do you want to make playing in the upper register simple and easy?  Not so much there either. Takes work and thought. Plus, you have to be able to do it “in traffic”, that is, in an actual live musical setting, on demand, in time, with human people.  Not just on the internet into your phone.

Looking for something new to practice? There we go.

Download the first page of “Tastee Slots” below:

Tastee Slots p1 (19)

PLAY SOMETHING PRETTY

SUMMER PRACTICE RESOLUTIONS, BITTER REGRET, AND VERMOUTH

Each year at this time, teachers and students alike begin to post and share ambitious and exhaustive summer practice regimens. Although they are meant to inspire, these “best laid plans” tend to take on the character of those old drawings of flying machines that were doomed to plummet straight down from the edge of the boardwalk into the surf.  Yes, summer is a great time to finally get the practice hours in that seemed so hard to come by during the academic year, but often, players can find it even more difficult to get jump-started without the structure of a busy schedule.  Combine this with an imposing and unrealistic musical check-off list, and let the avoidance mechanisms kick in.

One such practice summer schedule I recently witnessed online, was the musical equivalent of “This summer, I’m going to lose 2,150 lbs. and 42 dress sizes, play “Giant Steps” in all 13 keys,  compose my first two symphonies left-handed while spending the days serving the community by lighting fires for the poor.”  If that was my to-do list for the day, I’d stay in bed.  The fantasy summer practice schedule, like its cousin, the New Year’s Resolution, quickly makes its way to the guilty scrap-heap of failed enterprises without so much as a running start.  What to do?

PLAY SOMETHING PRETTY, PREFERABLY EASY

As an accomplished practice-avoider, procrastinator, and otherwise distracted human, I’ve developed a summertime practice coping mechanism that seems to work for me. Here are the basics:

•  Set the bar as low as possible.  By defining success in modest terms, you may have a shot of at least accomplishing one thing today.  Yes, this is the opposite of the “New-Year’s-Resolution-Ironman-Ninja-Warrior-Conquer-the-World” approach, but at least it has the  potential side-effect of getting you started with minimal dread and guilt and offers the promise of a realistic and fulfillable goal.  It may be difficult to lose that 2,150 lbs. if you can’t put the fork down just once.

•  Play something, don’t practice something.  I like to start by playing along with a catchy tune from one of the great Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks (see below).  Just put on a track and play along, try to pick out the melody in real-time, don’t worry about missed pitches.  Stop to figure out the pitches if necessary, but just try to learn the melody.  This can be MUCH easier than “transcribing” an improvised solo, after all, it’s just picking out a tune.

When you play in this way, YOU are accompanied by the world’s greatest singers on tunes written by history’s great songwriters, arranged by legendary arrangers.   This has the added benefit of making you sound better by association.

Set your timer, and just do this for about 10 minutes.  If you are like most folks, after ten minutes, you will probably want to keep going just a little longer which is totally cool. Or, you may be ready to move on to other material, either way, you’ve already spent 10 minutes sounding pretty good playing great music without having to knock yourself out.

Here’s today’s assignment — Play along and learn the tune to:

“Yesterdays” by Jerome Kern. Performed by Ella Fitzgerald. Arranged and Conducted by Nelson Riddle.

“Kitchen Sink” Articulation, Chromatic, Chord, Flex, and Scale Study

Sometimes, one gets bored.  Just keep your fingers and lips away from the garbage disposal.

Download SB Kitchen Sink Study 1 (18) Double

Doc’s Corners: 8th Wonder of the World

At 91 years old, Doc Severinsen displays a control, power and musical energy that are simply beyond comprehension for most players.  Here is some video I took from the I.T.G. Cancer Blows rehearsal in San Antonio last year.  There is a lot to unpack, but I believe there is a career to be had in understanding what is really going on in those corners.  Listen, watch, and learn.  Doc figured it out for you.

Doc’s Candid CornersDoc's Corners (BurnsPic)

Photo courtesy of Kevin Burns Photography – Thanks Kevin!

“Name that Slur, Win a Free Book” Contest Winner Announced!!

Results are in for the “Name that Slur, Win a Free Book” contest- Congratulations to the winners. Final results:

Grand Champion(s):

Tim Fogarty “I Plead the (Descending) 5th” 11 like
(+2 pts from the house because my wife laughed out loud at your title) ~ Tim wins naming rights, however he has already received a free copy of PLF, so that goes to:

Ryan Beach:“Why do these keep popping up on my Facebook” 10 likes – wins the FREE BOOK
(+2 pts from the house because my wife laughed out loud at your title)

2nd Place 
Matthew Anklan “Lip Slur?! I Hardly Know Her!” 9 likes

3rd Place (5-way Tie)

Nate Lesiak “Tongue-Tied and Finger-F(ill-in-the-blank)ed” 7 likes
(+2 pts from the house because my wife laughed out loud at your title)

JG Miller: “Slurry McSlurryface” 7 likes
(+2 pts from the house because my wife laughed out loud at your title)

Brad Goode “Make It Stop.” 7 likes

Jeff Folkens “Game of Groans” 7 likes

Liesl Whitaker “Hold my Beer” 7 likes

Tim Steepe – “You Can’t Be Slurious!” 7 likes

Honorable Mention:

Michael Shults “Terrence” only 1 like (but a critics pick)

Bryan Davis “Thank you Slur, May I Have Another…” 6

Marylee Vennemeyer “I Can’t feel my face when I’m with you…and I like it?” (critics pick)

Rules Violation(s) update and House Edits of Note from the Judges’ Panel

Victor Cummings “Mr. Belck, I don’t feel so good”

Judge Joey Tartel: “Victor- it’s Dr. Belck. Are you trying to get yourself disqualified?”

Victor Cummings “”Shit….” …..”Fixed”

“Dr. Belck, I Don’t Feel So Good”

Adrian Griffin “pull my finger”

Scott Belck “Disqualified!!! See “Progressive Lip Flexibilities for Brass” 2019. Already published as “Pull My Fingering Chart” on page #73. Judges Joey Tartel and William Stowman – this title shows a complete lack of knowledge of the oeuvre, need a ruling for the appropriate penalty!! We need another ruling.

Judge Joey Tartel “Shocking! Although I appreciate Adrian’s enthusiasm for the contest (with multiple entries), this kind of careless oversight is unacceptable!”

Judge William Stowman: “Adrian Griffin DISQUALIFIED. Sorry man, great idea. . .but you’ve got to know the lexicon.”

Matt Dixon “Su-per-ca-li-fra-gile-stiff-lip-expiali-slur-ocious” 7 +2
Judge William Stowman “Matt Dixon nice work. . . But the royalties to Disney would break LSWHQ. . . Scott already owes money for infringing on tunes from Oklahoma. . . See what I did there?”

Max Levowitz “Suicide Slur”
Scott Belck: “Max – you need to work with your raw materials and editing process. Something like “Assisted Sluricide”, which, I’m keeping for myself.”

Max Levowitz “Scott Belck I’m disappointed in myself, and the fact that I’ve let you all down. I shall tuck my tail between my legs and go back to the drawing board.”

Thanks to all who participated and two our esteemed judges panel. If you didn’t win your free copy of “Progressive Lip Flexibilities for Brass” it’s not too late to order your copy at the link in the comment section below. Slurpplies are limited and operators are standing by.

DOWNLOAD THE FIRST PAGE OF “I PLEAD THE (DESCENDING) 5TH HERE:

I Plead the (Descending) 5th

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