Thursday, October 27, 2016


Two games have been played in Cleveland and the Series is tied 1-1. According to MLB, the last 1 home teams who won game 1, went on to win the Series.  But this is its own Series- historic and anything could happen. I wouldn't count either team out until one of them wins the 4th game.

Earlier this week I looked at the last World Series that each of this year's teams played in- and lost- 1997 for the Indians; 1945 for the Cubs. Today I thought I would look at the last time the Indians won. As I said when in an earlier post, I was two months old the last time the Indians won the World Series win 1948. In other words you have to be an early Baby Boomer or older to have been alive. So who were the 1948 Indians?

They had six future Hall of Famers on the team.

  • Lou Boudreau SS, also their player-manager
  • Larry Doby OF
  • Bob Feller P
  • Joe Gordon 2B
  • Bob Lemon P
  • Satchell Paige P
A quick look at that list would tell you that there was history made at the game itself. Larry Doby, the first African-American to play in the American League, joined the immortal Satchell Paige to be the first African-American players to be on the winning team in a World Series.

That and Paige appeared in Game 5 for the Indians, becoming the first black pitcher to take the mound in World Series history.

They beat the Boston Braves in six games.

From Wikipedia:
The Braves had won the National League pennant for the first time since the "Miracle Braves" team of 1914, while the Indians had spoiled a chance for the only all-Boston World Series by winning a one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox for the American League flag. Though superstar pitcher Bob Feller failed to win either of his two starts, the Indians ... capture[d] their second championship and their first since 1920 (as well as their last to the present date).

It was the first World Series to be televised on a nationwide network and was announced by famed sportcasters Red Barber, Tom Hussey (in Boston) and Van Patrick (in Cleveland).

This was the second appearance in the Fall Classic for both teams, with the Indians' lone previous appearance coming in a 1920 win against the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Braves' lone precious appearance coming in a 1914 win against the Philadelphia Athletics.

This was the only World Series from 1947 to 1958 not to feature a New York team, and also the last World Series until 1957 not won by a New York team.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Tuning Slide: 2.8- Listen to Grow

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

The past two weeks I looked at the first two parts of this statement from Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop

Three characteristics of a great trumpet player:
1. Every time you play you have a great- not a good- sound.
2. You have great- not good- rhythm.
3. You have great- not good- ears to hear the sound.

How does ”great ears” add to this trio of greatness? What the heck does that even mean?

My first thought went to “ears” as the ability to be in a group and hear what others are doing. That would be the skill of blending your sound with the sound of the whole group. Not as easy a task as we might think. I am still amazed when one of my colleagues in the concert band knows when I have hit an F instead of an F#. (One of my most common errors.) Even when I wasn’t playing loudly and they were sitting two chairs away from me. They have a good ear, perhaps even a great one. They know when my note isn’t fitting into theirs. I can do that sometimes with others in the section, but it hasn’t come easy.

Most of the time I am way too involved in myself to hear what the rest of the band is doing. I want to make sure that my “ears” hear “me.” Fortunately this has gotten better over the years. One of the best ways to work on it is to play in a smaller ensemble like the brass quintet I play with. After the first run through of a piece when we do end up concentrating on our own parts, then it is time to let the ears do more work. How do I fit in with the group? Am I hearing the chords and my place in them? Am I overpowering the other parts, throwing things out of balance? When there are only five of you and obviously only one on a part, these are not incidental questions. Thus one of the important pieces of having “great ears” is to know how to play well with others.

But I also realize that a lot of this has to do with what we do before we get into the rehearsal. As always it is found first in the practice rooms. Wondering how others understood this I asked Matt Stock, one of the faculty from Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop, to reflect on what “great ears” meant. He responded:
I’m realizing more and more that “ears” is misleading. Generally we think of that as just pitch or passing an aural skills test in school. The better definition would be the ability to conceive every detail of a performance (pitch, tone, time, expressive details, etc.) from a written score. I suppose good ears would be the ability to do that with the music you normally encounter and great ears would be the ability to do that at sight with the unexpected/unfamiliar and for a classical player transpose at sight. For a jazz player I suppose that would be the ability to react to unexpected chord substitutions, transcribe, etc.
I didn’t expect that answer (which is why I ask questions!) Matt is saying that “ears” is the ability to go beyond just sight-reading when you see a new score. It is the ability to “hear” that score even before you play it. It doesn't necessarily mean to look at a full score and hear all the parts. That takes years and probably more time than most of us have if we are not becoming conductors or music majors. But it does mean to look at my part and see where it goes, what it does, and how it does it. It means audio visualization like we have talked about before.

In many ways this took me back to the ongoing fundamental analogy that music is a language we learn to speak. When we develop an “ear” for a language we are on the way to learning the language. It means that when we read the language on the printed page, we can “hear” it and know what it means. Then it moves to being able to hear the language when spoken and be able to know what is being said. That starts with mentally translating as you listen. To do that is very slow and means we miss a great deal of what the other person is saying. Then it moves to where certain words and phrases are understood without translating. You then start to use those phrases appropriately without needing to translate into or from our native language. Eventually if we are to really learn the language we have to do more than read and listen- we have to internalize it and then speak what we hear. To do that with our music takes us back into the practice room and playing it.

If we have the opportunity, we need to hear it being played, of course. We have talked about listening to recordings of performances, then singing it, before playing a piece. That’s hard to do in the middle of a rehearsal, though, when a new piece is handed out or in the middle of improvising when an odd chord comes up. So we develop our ears to know what it sounds like before we play it- or to know what’s happening when we hear it.

Back to playing in ensembles, that, too, is more than just hearing the others play. It is about the ability to hear when I am wrong. It is “ears” to know that my style isn’t matching the style of the lead trumpet, or that when I have a part that is a duet with the horn or trombone, we have to be able to blend our sounds together. When we do that we change- and enliven- the color of the music. Playing in the quintet has been the single best way for me to develop my “ears.” It still takes the practice room where I learn the language of my part. It takes the practice room to begin to put those sounds in the right place.

Back to Matt’s thoughts:
What helped me be more demanding with my ear training has been to record myself singing. With the Tonal Energy app you can record yourself and use the tuner when you play it back. ( In the ear training classes I took you passed if you ended up somewhere near the right note no matter how sloppy everything was along the way. This forces you to be much more honest. It’s humbling at first but pays off if you stick with it a few weeks. John Hagstrom recommended that in a masterclass at NBS a few years ago. He also talks about it in one of the interviews with Brass Herald that he has posted at: (top right corner).
In the practice room, the “great ears” come from working on them. It can be ear training, long tones (them again!), learning the sound of arpeggios in each key, or recording yourself. You won’t develop great ears if you don’t use them. Intentionally. (By the way, I looked up the two resources Matt mentioned. The Tonal Energy app looks like a really good overall resource- a tuner that does more than tell you that you are out of tune. Trumpet Multimedia has some excellent information. Thanks, Matt!)

Beyond just hearing the sound and playing it appropriately, this is about mindfulness in all that we do. As I have gotten older and more aware of the importance of paying attention, the whole concept of mindfulness has grown in value. Being mindful is about being in the moment, knowing where and who you are and how you fit in with what’s happening around you. One definition I found (Google):
a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations…
Even more to the point is the definition from Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the key developers of the ideas of mindfulness:
Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.
• Paying attention
Concentrate on what’s happening and going on within you and around you.
Take time to more than smell the roses- see them and appreciate them.
• On purpose
Not as an after thought, but being committed to your growth and development.
Make it part of your daily plan to be aware and mindful.
Allow the world to amaze you at what is happening that you may have missed before.
• In the present moment
The past is history, the future a mystery, stay in the now.
Our fretting over the past or worrying about tomorrow is one of the biggest obstacles to growth.
Notice the world in all its infinite wonder.
• Non-judgmentally
Don’t be hard on yourself, judging, and over critical.
You are where you are. You may not be where you want to be.
But only when you accept the here and now can you begin to move beyond it.

When we practice this in our music, we will discover it in the world around us.

When we practice this in our daily lives, we will find the wonderful sound of our music.


It is more than just hearing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

1945 and 1997- Former "Last Times"

I am pumped by this year's World Series! As a life-long baseball fan to have a "historic" Series like this does not happen often. My personal greatest was the 1987 World Series where my Phillies won their first ever Series after two earlier widely separated tries. I was there for the first game at Veterans' Stadium- which was the first post season game they ever won.

Anyway, that is why this year could be quite a time. If both teams live up to their season-long exhibition of skill, it may rank as one of the greats. Only time will tell if either- or both- fizzle and turn it into "ho-hum" baseball in spite of the hype.

I went back and did a little research into the "last time" these teams were in the World Series. For the Cubs it was 1945, as we have heard so often. Seventy-one years.

1945 Cubs
  • Charlie Grimm was their manager
  • There were no future Hall of Fame players on the team. That should be no surprise since it was the end of World War II and many of the top players had been drafted or enlisted.   
  • They lost to the Detroit Tigers in seven games.
According to the Wikipedia article on the Series:
Warren Brown, author of a history of the Cubs in 1946, commented on this [lack of stars due to WW II] by titling one chapter "World's Worst Series". He also cited a famous quote of his, referencing himself anonymously and in the third person. When asked who he liked in the Series, he answered, "I don't think either one of them can win it."

In a similar vein, Frank Graham jokingly called this Series "the fat men versus the tall men at the office picnic."

One player decidedly not fitting that description was the Tigers' slugger Hank Greenberg, who had been discharged from military service early. He hit the only two Tigers homers in the Series, and scored seven runs overall and also drove in seven.
More recently, merely 19 years ago, we have:
1997 Indians
  • Mike Hargrove was the manager
  • No one from that team has yet been elected to the Hall of Fame, but a number of them are clear contenders including former Twins favorite, Jim Thome.
  • Lost to Florida Marlins in seven games. The Marlins were only in their fifth season as a MLB franchise- a record.
Wikipedia reports:
The Marlins, who were underdogs, capped a stunning season. They [won] their first World Series championship, making them the first wild card team to ever win the World Series.

This was also the third (and most recent) time where Game 7 of the World Series went into extra innings, after 1924 and 1991 both of whom involved the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins franchise.
So it begins tonight. More sports, more baseball, more of the Fall Classic- # 112. I hope it lives up to- and even exceeds- the hype.

With all the pain we have been through in this election cycle, we need something extraordinary!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dylan- My First Ten

Well, Dylan has sure been keeping everyone in suspense. As of this writing no one has heard from him and he isn't answering the phone. Is he just being "Dylan" or what? (Yes, there are those who have refused the prize, or have been forced to  by their country- the Soviet Union.) I hope that isn't what Dylan is up to.

Anyway, I said I was going to post about some of my favorites. Instead of ordering them, an impossible task, I am going to list mine chronologically. (I will do the three iconic, forever great songs in a separate post.)

So here are the ten in that first decade of greatness.
(All lyrics, Bob Dylan)

Protest- As a folk-singer in the early 60s, Dylan would naturally have been seen as a protest singer. That's what the Greenwich Village scene would have been all about. But Dylan was not one to do it as blatantly- or unambiguously as some. You were often uncertain what he was getting at, thanks to incredibly well-written verses. These three from that era spoke volumes, even when he would deny or be non-committal about meanings.
1. A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall (1963)

I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
2. Masters of War (1963)
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
3. Chimes of Freedom (1964)
Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
Musical Revolution- Yes, everyone points to the Newport Folk Festival and Dylan "going electric." But it sure didn't change his writing style any. In fact, the electric sound only enhanced the words.These five are truly my top favorites among all Dylan's songs. They are fun, they have depth, they can be inscrutable. But they are Dylan at his poetic best. He took the poetry and made it rock- and sing- and go into all kinds of unusual places. The protest songs had poetry and power. These are just immortal.
4. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
Now the rovin’ gambler he was very bored
He was tryin’ to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We’ll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61 
5. Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)
Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin’ that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone’s tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D.A.
Look out kid
Don’t matter what you did
Walk on your tiptoes
Don’t try “No-Doz”
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows
6. Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun
It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin’
And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind
It’s just a shadow you’re seein’ that he’s chasing

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you
7. Maggie’s Farm (1965)
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
No, I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them
They sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
 8. Rainy Day Women #12 and 35 (1966)
They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table
They’ll stone ya when you are young and able
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck
They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say, “good luck”
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned
New Depth- Here was a whole new Dylan- again. Motorcyle accident, Nashville singing, reacing middle age. The poetry was no less profound, and he was still speaking for himself. No, he was not the poet for a generation. He spoke from his life and his views. The fact that we could go with him was a bonus. These two of that first decade spoke to a longing we didn't even know we had.
9. All Along the Watchtower (1968)
“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth”

“No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too
10. I Shall Be Released (1971)
They say ev’ry man needs protection
They say ev’ry man must fall
Yet I swear I see my reflection
Some place so high above this wall
I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

Let's end with an iconic music video. A classic of a fun song. Yes, it is the song that gave the "Weathermen" radical group its name. It is fun, it makes you smile.

It's Dylan.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Now Outdated Song

Steve Goodman was Chicago through and through. In his own wondrous way he captured the plight of the hapless Cubs in his 1981 song, A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request. In 1984 Steve wrote the song played after each win, Go Cubs, Go (as heard last night). Steve died of Leukemia at age 36 in 1984. After last night this song is outdated. Still a fun song, here is one last time before retirement.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

One for the Record History Books

What a World Series awaits us! 
More than setting records, it will, 
one way or another,
make history.

Chicago has already made history. It is the first time since the troops  returned home from World War II that they have been in the World Series.
In fact my dad was on a troop ship in the Atlantic heading home when they were in that Series.

If Cleveland wins
it will be the first time since 1948.
(To show you how old I am- 
I was 2 months old!)

Let me tell you the top news from the last time the
Cubs WON the World Series:

  • Petroleum production begins in Middle East
  • Henry Ford develops the first Model T automobile, which sells for $850.
  • Baden Powell Starts the Boy Scouts,
  • Billy Murray hits the charts with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
  • The Gideons put the first Bibles in hotel rooms
  • William Howard Taft elected president
  • Oh- and that veteran returning home from Europe after World War II was only 3 years old.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Debates are Over!!

 Next: The end of the election cycle!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Tuning Slide: 2.7- Feel the Rhythm

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Last week I quoted one of the ideas from this past summer’s Shell Lake Trumpet workshop:
There are three characteristics of a great trumpet player:
1. Every time you play you have a great- not a good- sound.
2. You have great- not good- rhythm.
3. You have great- not good- ears to hear the sound.
This week we focus on rhythm.
Life is about rhythm.
We vibrate,
our hearts are pumping blood,
we are a rhythm machine,
that’s what we are.
—Mickey Hart (percussionist, Grateful Dead)


For us, we start with this simple definition:
Rhythm is the arrangement of sounds as they move through time.

We know the synonyms. They are common in our musical language:


We are not just talking about the groove, though. Groove is a basic part of rhythm, but it goes beyond that. Rhythm is not just what a “rhythm section” does. What, then, IS rhythm? I asked Bob Baca, our Trumpet Workshop director for his thought:
Rhythm is the underlying pulse that creates initial emotion far greater than color or attack can achieve. All music, including cadenza must have an underlying pulse. In Western European Classical Music that pulse is some sort of a duple or triple subdivision. In classical music, although solid tone is of first importance, conscious rhythm is a close second.
That’s a good start. Rhythm is not just the beat, it is one of the ways that music creates emotion. All the standards we think of in music- crescendos and decrescendos, tension and release, accents and slurs, major and minor chords- are part of the rhythm of the music. That brings the music to life. Without those elements, a straight, non-changing sound would put us to sleep. Just plodding along at a steady level allows not tension and interest. Using only one chord without variation would get dull.

That is rhythm. What does it mean, though, to have great rhythm? Back to Bob Baca for a very simple answer.
Conscious Rhythm. We want to feel but not hear rhythm.
From the perspective of the listener, a song with great rhythm is not in what you hear, but in what you feel. It makes you move in response to what is being played. It can be overpowering to our senses if the rhythm is forced into the forefront. Sure- a good drum and rhythm section solo can be fun, but not for a whole song. Watch a Buddy Rich video, for example, and you will see conscious rhythm at work- and Rich doesn’t even look like he’s doing anything all that difficult when he is not doing a solo. You watch him and you feel the rhythm as all the other instruments play. The band without Buddy, if not dull, probably chaos. Together- the rhythm works.

From the perspective of the musician, rhythm is what we find when we move beyond simply playing the notes and trying to get them right. We move to playing the right notes, at the right time, in the right place, in the right way. The right way being in the rhythm of the song.

Rhythm can be easy to lose, of course. We’ve all heard a band or group get “out of rhythm” for any one of a number of reasons. Sometimes it is difficulty in communication across the group. Sometimes someone wants to jump in too early or misses the beat too late. (That is way too often me!) That’s where being conscious of rhythm is most needed.

Actually, if you think about it, rhythm is part of the language we are trying to learn. In jazz - eighth notes swing is a piece of the language-rhythm. The feel of a Sousa march is a piece of the march language- rhythm. Feel the pace and pulse of a Bach chorale- that is a piece of the language of the music- rhythm.

Part of our work then is always in the fundamentals. As Bob Baca explained:
Where rhythm is most lost is usually at the ends of phrases, especially if the phrase ends with a long note. If a note is held full value, the rest in-between phrases become part of the rhythm and sounds musical.
In our fundamentals we learn how to phrase our music. We learn the importance of “playing the rests” as much as playing the notes. Rests are essential to the rhythm, They help set the tension and release, they help give movement to the notes.

As I was writing this, an a Capella choral version of Amazing Grace came on my iTunes shuffle. Not a drum within hearing. I can imagine the conductor moving his arms in tempo, but beyond that it was all done by voice. Every rhythmic impulse of the song built through the melody line, the rise and fall of the solo voices, the droning vocal bass accompaniment laying the foundational rhythm. What did I do as I listened? I moved. Not just because I know the song so well, but because the singers kept the rhythm alive. It had a living pulse.

So how do you get it? Said Mr. Baca:
Always have a legato subdivision in your head.
It seems that audio visualization is never far from our thinking and playing. How do you hear it before you play it? What I have found is that just picking up the trumpet and playing the notes is not often a helpful first step in learning the rhythm. Several instructors have talked often about
1. Reading the piece
2. Singing the piece
3. Listening to a recording of the piece.
4. Maybe repeating the process a time or two, and then
5. Pick up the instrument and play.
I am not sure that anyone has a natural ability to know and feel rhythm from a printed page. These steps of practice and learning help focus us to feel it, then hear it, then play it. Yet we are naturals at rhythm. We are born with it. We hear it in the beating of our mother's heart while in the womb. We hear the tide-like rush of blood traveling through her system. It is the original music.

In full harmony with the overall theme of this blog- reflections on life and music- Mr. Baca had one more thought:
Life is about rhythm.
The very earth that we live, rotates runs in a steady rhythm and music, our most positive expression of who we are, must as well.
Music, as Mr. Baca says, is the most positive expression of who we are. Throughout history people have made music. Throughout history music has started with rhythm. That rhythm is the heartbeat of life itself. Whether the sound of ocean tides or the “lub-dub” of the human heart, it underlies everything around us. It may even be that the very idea of sound- frequency, etc.- is a rhythm itself. What we do in our lives is find our place in that rhythm.

Once more from author and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart.
In the beginning, there was noise. Noise begat rhythm, and rhythm begat everything else.
We are part of the physical expression of that rhythm. Translate it, hear it in your music, share it with others in your actions, make music! Philosopher Lao Tzu said once that the music of the soul can be heard by the universe.

Stop and listen for a moment and it may also be that the soul will hear the music of the universe.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Favorites By the Nobel Winner

According to Wikipedia, Bob Dylan has a collection of 522 songs he has written.

We can often accuse Dylan of not singing as we normally think of it. He has a way of using the sound of words to build the emotion and movement. The rhythm of the words is as important as the musical movement.

Hence, in my opinion, the Nobel Prize for Literature is well-deserved. He is a poetic wordsmith that allows music to flow from the words. I have not idea, of course, when Dylan started with the words and when he started with the music. Whichever might come first the connection between the two is always in service of the words. Sometimes, especially in the truly iconic songs, the music may seem trite, the words cliched. But that is only due to the fact that these were there at the creation. In fact, these types of songs ARE the creation story.

First, though, I listed my favorites. I wanted to give my top 5. Didn't work. I easily came up with my top 6. (It's impossible to stop at 1, 3, or 5.) Needless to say they are from after his move into rock. Some of his most powerful- and also among my top favorites- are before that. The words, the sounds, the fun of the first three move into into three songs that moved me internally, numbers 4 - 6. Then I wanted my top 10. Just as impossible to do. But what about...? After that it was how they came to me. It was easier to stop at 20. Hence this list:
  1. Rainy Day Women #12 and 35 (1966)
  2. Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)
  3. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
  4. Knockin' on Heaven's Door (1973)
  5. All Along the Watchtower (1967)
  6. Forever Young (1974)
  7. I Shall Be Released (1971)
  8. Gotta Serve Somebody (1979)
  9. God Gave Names to All the Animals (1979)
  10. Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
  11. Masters of War (1963)
  12. A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall (1963)
  13. Chimes of Freedom (1964)
  14. Shelter from the Storm (1975) 
  15. Duquesne Whistle (2012)
  16. Thunder on the Mountain (2006)
  17. Everything is Broken (1989)
  18. The Levee's Gonna Break (2006) 
  19. Maggie's Farm (1965)
  20. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum (2001)
There are three songs conspicuously missing from that list. These are the obvious songs. These are the songs that go beyond "favorites" into the realm of the iconic, cultural stepping stones, music-changing music. These are THE creation songs I referenced above. Even if I didn't like them, which I do, they are here forever, as essential as any music ever written. In chronological order:
  • Blowin' In the Wind-1963
  • The Times They are A-Changing-1964
  • Like A Rolling Stone-1965
I will be putting together several more posts on these 23 songs. Watch for them over the next couple weeks.

In most ways, it would be easiest to say that my favorite Bob Dylan songs are the songs written by Bob Dylan. Dylan and the Beatles dominate my iTunes songs in the popular music. No one has done with and for music as much as these artists. Dylan is unique. Always moving, always creating new ideas, always a step ahead of even himself. Folk, rock, country, bluegrass, jazz, the American songbook have all been impacted by this minstrel of American music in the past 55+ years.

It is poetic literature. It is amazing.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Set-up Is Downright Frightening

When otherwise thoughtful people think the president of the United States is a traitor and deserves the firing squad, I am afraid for the United States.

When a presidential candidate says that the election is rigged because it is clear that he is going to lose, I am afraid for the United States. And when some of his followers call for violence to win for him, I am afraid for the United States.

When the same presidential candidate says that his opponent will be in jail after he gets elected, I am afraid for the United States.

When the presidential candidate wants to shut out the opposing viewpoint in newspapers or a comedy show, I am afraid for the United States.

When research has disproved over and over again the idea that IDs will defeat a non-existent voter fraud yet the move to make it more difficult to vote continues, I am afraid for the United States.

Yes, even as a liberal, when people suggest banning guns in general and working to overturn the second amendment, I am afraid for the United States.

But so does the unthinking support of gun ownership make me afraid for the United States.

When we have gotten to the point that we are as divided as we have become, I am afraid for the United States.

When it has gotten to the point where I am offended by what people I like are saying, I am afraid for the United States.

When simply being a "liberal" can make one get called anti-American, I am afraid for the United States.

You see, many of these positions I have talked about here, we cannot discuss. They become points of anger.

Yes, I get angry about these things. I get angry because I am deeply afraid for the United States. We MUST be able to discuss and disagree without extremes. But when we make extreme statements, even as I make them here, we stop the conversation.

Don't we see how angry we have become? Don't we see that we need to do things differently than we have been doing them? Don't we understand that democracy is built on dialogue and compromise, and not violence and hatred of others?

I want to cry- for our country, for myself, for friendships strained. I want to cry in pain, the internal paid of the incredible divisions that continue to develop, divisions which we all blame on the "other side."

Yes, I cry and rant.

Where is our decency? Where is our grace? Where is our American greatness? We don't have to agree, but we don't have to inflammatory. (Yes, me, too.) But we aren't listening. Even when we listen, we ignore. We have the final (!) debate of this election cycle this week. Finally. But I fear it will be far from over. The repercussions of this election may be with us for years.

God, help us all.

(By the way- I AM committed to doing what I can to facilitate the kind of dialogue I am talking about. Think globally; act locally.)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Quote for The Day

Within every one of us is an inner monastery. There is a part of us there in residence, right now. No matter how busy it seems on the surface of our lives -- In the very depth and truth of our being, we are already in residence in the inner monastery of total peace, wisdom, compassion, forgiveness and aliveness. This is where all answers are known, all peace is found and all rest is assured. We can take heart and comfort right now in knowing that all things are lined up to work together for the good. Go to your inner monastery and live from the awareness. Take your whole Self there today to revel in the peace, wisdom, aliveness and joy.
~ Mary Morrissey

Saturday, October 15, 2016

This Happened Yesterday!

The election cycle is over for me.
Early voting works wonders.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Out-of-Control Election

I am fed up! This is a rant with no excuses for it. We have hit the lowest in "political" rhetoric that I have seen in my over 50 years of being a political junkie.

For me it is summed up in a word.

A person who ruthlessly exploits others. 
(Oxford Dictionaries)
It came into usage as an analogy to predatory behavior in animals.

  • Stalker
  • Tracker
  • Pursuer
  • Lurker
 From Psychology Today:
Among their most dangerous features are a callous disregard for the rights of others and a propensity for violating norms. They can charm and manipulate others for their own gain, conning with no regard for anyone's feelings.

They look for opportunities—taking a security job that positions them to meet potential victims, for example—and they have no qualms, when the time is right, about exploiting them. We want to spot them, but they usually spot us first.

As predators get away with their acts, they learn the best ways to deflect others from discovering their secrets, and they enjoy the lack of accountability. They devise different sets of values for different life frames, so that they can speak convincingly about socially-approved venues of right and wrong, yet have no qualms about their socially-condemned behavior. -Link
I started writing this earlier this week after the ongoing conflict with Donald Trump's behavior. I would sit and watch him and his responses to the issue and would feel "creeped out." My radar kept saying, "This guy is creepy. He is a classic predator." I watched the way he walked, the demeanor, the sneering look, the "no one can challenge me and get away with it" attitude. It all rang out.This guy is a dangerous predator.

But then I decided not to post it. Maybe I was feeling overwhelmed by the whole election fiasco. Maybe I just wanted it to go away. Then Michele Obama spoke yesterday. She spoke of the way this has shaken her to her "very core." I agree. I have to say this.

For a public person like Donald Trump to do what he has been doing since almost the beginning and now this? What in the world is wrong with us? What is the world is happening that we as a nation continue to believe he is a suitable candidate for president? Because he got so many votes? No. He is a con man that knows how to play the emotions of many who feel disenfranchised. He knows how to touch the base emotions of our lives and play on them. His language that has gotten him into the most trouble is this so-called "locker room" language.

It is the language of sexual assault. It is the language of rape. Even if he didn't actually do what he claimed to do (locker room boasting), he is setting it out as appropriate behavior. And then one of his supporting male surrogates (Rush Limbaugh) in excusing the language, went so far as to say that we give too much power to the idea of consent. Men know when "no" means "yes" he implied.


Where have we gone as America?

Yes, there are those who say that at least no one died like at Benghazi. Well, that ignores a great deal of information on what led up to Benghazi and what the Secretary of State could have done about it.

It also ignores the many women who HAVE died as the result of the type of actions that Trump and his surrogates are now trying to excuse. Assault, forcibly pushing oneself onto another person, rape. People die from it every day. As long as we want to excuse it, overlook it, do a "Tsk! Tsk!" finger wagging at boys will be boys, we are allowing the whole culture of rape and assault to go unchallenged.

We are being assaulted as a nation by Donald Trump. We are being emotionally raped by a political predator. He is getting away with standing in the middle of 5th Avenue shooting people. He just isn't using guns. He talks about jailing his opponent as if it is something he as president could do. He talks about suing the New York Times because it published accusations against him. He banned the Washington Post for a while when they criticized him. He has denigrated women, Latinos, Muslims while upholding dictator/oligarch Putin as a great leader. It hasn't been overt, yet, but watch- he will come after the Jews next.

And the press is only just beginning to realize their own mistake in not standing up to it earlier and aren't sure what to do about it.

What will happen if he is elected? How long will it take the nation to see we have been assaulted politically without him firing a shot? He will find ways to use the executive order power to undermine who we are as a democracy in ways no president has ever done. And there is a lot more to undermine than the 2nd Amendment.

What will happen if he is defeated? That is potentially more frightening in the short run. He has implied that if he loses it will only be because it was stolen from him. He couldn't possibly lose fair and square. That is predatory behavior and thinking.

For today, though, I had to say these things. Watch him. Not as a presidential candidate, not as a politician, but as a predator. Watch the way he moves and speaks. These were some of the things that people commented on about Bill Clinton in the 90s. Clinton may have learned his lesson.

Donald Trump hasn't.

God help us all.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Times, They Have Changed!

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Tuning Slide: 2.6- All About the Sound

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Last week I talked about the basic (and oversimplified) physics and acoustics of trumpet playing. Being centered in sound was at the heart of it and the way practicing long tones can help us visualize and enhance the resonance of the sound we produce. That can then lead us to finding ways to center our own lives through focus, visualization, and breathing. The result is the congruence of who we are and how we play.

This week I want to look a little more at this fine instrument many of us have fallen in love (and hate?) with.

First, here’s how it’s made from the How Products Are Made website:
Brass instruments are almost universally made from brass, but a solid gold or silver trumpet might be created for special occasions. The most common type of brass used is yellow brass, which is 70 percent copper and 30 percent zinc. Other types include gold brass (80 percent copper and 20 percent zinc), and silver brass (made from copper, zinc, and nickel). The relatively small amount of zinc present in the alloy is necessary to make brass that is workable when cold. Some small manufacturers will use such special brasses as Ambronze (85 percent copper, 2 percent tin, and 13 percent zinc) for making certain parts of the trumpet (such as the bell) because such alloys produce a sonorous, ringing sound when struck. Some manufacturers will silver- or goldplate the basic brass instrument.
Very little of the trumpet is not made of brass. Any screws are usually steel; the water key is usually lined with cork; the rubbing surfaces in the valves and slides might be electroplated with chromium or a stainless nickel alloy such as monel; the valves may be lined with felt; and the valve keys may be decorated with mother-of-pearl.
[Not a surprise that they look for alloys that produce a “sonorous, ringing sound.” That’s part of the overall acoustics we talked about last week. The trumpet is about $5.00 or so in metal. Probably less on the junk market where you may get as much as $1.30/pound. Weighing in at an average 2.5 pounds of metal, you might get $3 - $3.50 for the metal as junk. The thousands of dollars a Strad costs is in the design that helps make the sound.]
The most important feature of a trumpet is sound quality. Besides meeting exacting tolerances of approximately 1 x 105 meters, every trumpet that is manufactured is tested by professional musicians who check the tone and pitch of the instrument while listening to see if it is in tune within its desired dynamic range. The musicians test-play in different acoustical set-ups, ranging from small studios to large concert halls, depending on the eventual use of the trumpet. Large trumpet manufacturers hire professional musicians as full-time testers, while small manufacturers rely on themselves or the customer to test their product. --Link
Now comes what may be the most important paragraph from the website:
At least half the work involved in creating and maintaining a clear-sounding trumpet is done by the customer. [Emphasis added.] The delicate instruments require special handling, and, because of their inherent asymmetry, they are prone to imbalance. Therefore, great care must be taken so as not to carelessly damage the instrument. To prevent dents, trumpets are kept in cases, where they are held in place by trumpet-shaped cavities that are lined with velvet. The trumpet needs to be lubricated once a day or whenever it is played. The lubricant is usually a petroleum derivative similar to kerosene for inside the valves, mineral oil for the key mechanism, and axle grease for the slides. The grime in the mouthpiece and main pipe should be cleaned every month, and every three months the entire trumpet should soak in soapy water for 15 minutes. It should then be scrubbed throughout with special small brushes, rinsed, and dried. --Link
Perhaps I am overdoing it with this whole thing, but the one thread working through these quotes as well as what we talked about last week:

The Sound.
It’s all about the sound! Sound is everything- tone, upper register, melody, etc.

Everything is done in order to produce the best sound possible. From the chemistry of mixing metals to the long tones we practice, the end product is the best sound possible from the instrument you own. Period. With that in mind let me quote Mr. Bob Baca from the Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop.
These are the three characteristics of a great trumpet player:
1. Every time you play you have a great- not a good- sound.
2. You have great- not good- rhythm.
3. You have great- not good- ears to hear the sound.
Let’s expand some more about developing a great sound. Remember that after the right mix of metals, tubing, etc. it is:
• being centered,
• finding the resonance,
• utilizing long tones in our basic practice.

Going beyond those basics, them, here are some thoughts from Brass Musician magazine’s web site.
We must have a very definite concept of a beautiful tone in order to produce a great sound. Conception of tone is a mental memory, aural visualization, imagination or recollection of what a beautiful tone sounds like. We cannot imagine or remember what we have not heard and memorized so we must frequently listen to fine players live and on recordings. Daily listening to recordings of fine players will develop our concept of tone. … Playing along with recordings… helps imprint the aural role model and imitation in our minds.
Olympic champion Michael Phelps and Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski were interviewed on TV last week. Both of them spoke of the value of “visualization.” Phelps said he works through the possibilities in a race beforehand- including potential problems. That way, he said, he will be ready for anything. Coach K. said he prepares visualizations for his players to use on iPads. They can see what a “champion” looks like- how champions carry themselves- including how they walk and talk. That’s what the above paragraph is talking about. You can’t hit the notes if you don’t know what they sound like. What better way to learn than to hear them, get them aurally imprinted, visualize the sound, and then “rehearse” it in your mind. I have heard a number of musicians say they hear the note or sound in that small fraction of a second before they play it.

For years I had the problem of not being able to come in on the right note after a rest, or at the beginning of a piece. Sometimes the note would slide off downward or I would overshoot it higher. It was particularly difficult if it was happening during or after an unusual chord structure where my note didn’t seem to be right. I asked one of my colleagues how she did it- and why I was having difficulty. She simply told me that I have to hear the note before I play it. No, I do not have anything like perfect or near-perfect pitch. If you asked me to sing that note in tune I probably couldn’t. What I could do was take a second and silently “sing” my way to the note using the open tones- middle C, G, and the C on the staff. That helped with the B or D on the staff. If I was going for the E or F at the top of the staff, I just silently sang the open notes to the E. It worked. I am still not in the habit of doing that as regularly as I could, but I don’t miss the notes as often as I used to.

Such visualization helps with a player like me who rends to be somewhat lazy in hitting notes. It focuses, centers my sound and keeps me in the music. That also means I am less tense when I come to the notes. I find myself able to hit the note with a stronger sound, probably more in tune and less pressured. Which brings me to the next paragraph from Brass Musician:
A steady relaxed airstream is critical to a full, beautiful tone. … When we ascend into the upper register we should blow faster and avoid tightening the abdominal muscles, which restricts the throat and causes a strained, brighter, sharper sound. There are many ways to improve breathing, blowing and tone. I recommend visiting, reading books and articles about or by Arnold Jacobs…
◆ Steady
◆ Relaxed
◆ Don’t tighten the abs
◆ Keep the throat open

Seems simple enough.

Check your shoulder position? Have you pulled your shoulders up toward your ears? You are probably tense. Drop them. Let them droop.

Are you holding the trumpet with a left-hand death grip? Relax. That tension is going all the way up your arm and even into your jaw. Loosen it.

It is amazing how much physical work is involved in playing a trumpet. For me it even goes to my posture either sitting or standing. I know, sadly, that if I took the iconic “Miles Davis Stance” I would not be relaxed. MY sound, at least at this point, would be constricted. That may be part of what Miles wanted. For me, it hurts my style. I have to sit up, give my abs the room to relax. Leaning forward tightens them, reduces my airflow and abdominal support for my sound.

That is where those infernal long tones help. Playing them in a relaxed but appropriate position helps our bodies to learn how to do it and enhance our muscle memory.

Arnold Jacobs is mentioned above. He was principal tubist for the Chicago Symphony and many consider Jacobs one of the great music instructors of the second half of the 20th Century. He has become well known as an expert on breathing and wind instruments.

(Here is a collection of quotes and explanations of some of what he taught.)

One of the quotes and explanations from the site.(Bold in original):
"Conceive, don´t perceive"

Controling our thoughts is one of the most important parts of musical performance. When we are playing, it is very common to ask ourselves questions like "does this sound good?" "am I breathing right?", "am I using my fingers correctly", "do I feel okay?", etc.

Arnold Jacobs thinks we shouldn´t ask ourselves these kind of questions during the performance because we´re sending information from our muscles to our brain when we should be doing exactly the opposite; creating music in our mind and making our muscles to produce it.

As Jacobs says, "be a great artist in your imagination", since analysis does not help performance. If we want to progress and improve we should present what we want listeners to perceive.

Jacobs points out that musicians should show their feeling and tell stories with their sound. If we want a specific colour in our sound, we have to create it in our mind and then our body will produce it by making the necessary adjustments. The idea is to tell a story though musical orders.
All this talk about breathing- remember that it is always in support of the sound, the great sound that we should always be seeking for. Breathing is the best way to start in any attempt to improve our playing. But it is also the starting point for stress reduction, personal centering, meditative focus, and many other introductions to better health.

Keep breathing- and learning to breathe better.

Monday, October 10, 2016

If Men are Really Like That....

It's time for men who aren't like that to stand up and cry foul!

It's time to show that respect is manly.

It's time to get our image out of the locker room and gutter and stand up for decency.

Call it what it is- abusive to women and demeaning to men.

Don't let others get away with it, either.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Not in My Locker Room

Trump's comments are offensive. They are offensive anywhere they are spoken. It is sexual assault talk. It is the kind of talk one finds in porn, not presidential politics.

As a father of a daughter, this is beyond politics.

This is plain human decency. And the religious right, who want us to return to decency and morals support him.


Will no one stand up to him?

One article I read online remembered the famous line from the Army-McCarthy Hearings where Army counsel Joseph Welch said:'ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
When will the GOP see this as the catastrophe that it is? When will they not only ask the question, but refuse to continue in this undermining of American democracy, decency, and honor?

Friday, October 07, 2016

Why I Support Hillary

It is now two days to the next presidential debate. I thought I would post this week on why I am supporting Hillary Clinton.

Naturally some of it is based on the level of uncertainty and downright fear I have with Donald Trump and his VP candidate, Mike Pence. But that is the current situation. In reality I would have had a difficult time voting for any of the GOP candidates. While I tended toward Bernie Sanders in the primary process, that does not mean I am opposed to Hillary. So, first, why I support her and then a look at what I feel are some of her shortcomings.

My core values and my understanding of the history of the United States, our gifts and direction as a nation, and the role of government with a large and diverse population most closely align with the policies and ideals of the Democratic Party- and always have. This is nothing new in my political history. I don't just tend to be a liberal- I am a liberal. I don't just tend to support Democrats- I do support Democrats because of the party's stance in the last 50 or so years. That doesn't mean I accept and support every stand and action of the Democrats in power. Of course not. But on any given day, I am most likely to agree with a Democratic position than a Republican.

This has become even more true in recent years as the extreme right-wing Tea Party and the religious right have hijacked the more traditional and reasoned conservative positions. There are many elements of government, such as to

  • form a more perfect union, 
  • establish justice, 
  • insure domestic tranquility, 
  • provide for the common defense, 
  • promote the general welfare, 
  • and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. (Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.)
In the past 50 years, in general, I feel the Democratic Party has worked hard at these in ways that I feel are appropriate. I have seen the GOP tear itself apart with supporting stands that often hurt the more vulnerable among us. In too many ways, the GOP has remained a voice for white males, leaving aside people of color, women, and those of differing religious and personal identities. (My purpose is not to delineate these. I can but I am speaking in general terms. Yes, again, there are Democrats who don't agree. That is fine. But, generally, this is my view of the Democratic Party.)

Hillary is the nominee of this party. She has supported the party's platform and direction. She has been a good spokesperson for these positions in many different ways. She is in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders was more to the left of center, but was within that same overall tradition which is why they have been able to reconcile. She- and the overall party- appear to have heard the positions of the Sanders wing and have seemed to be working to bring some compromise and acceptance. That is how American political discourse is supposed to work.

I also believe that Hillary is as qualified as any other presidential candidate- and more so than some. She has been a political person her entire adult life. That means she has done good things and helped people. As a political person, that means she has been able to see the value of discussion and compromise (NOT a dirty word in a democracy!) As such, if faced with political concerns, she is probably more likely to look at the political advantage of not taking an ideologically strict position. Ideological strictness and control may be good to maintain a group built on those, but it is not how a democracy can work.

Being a political person also means she has done things which were stupid or unpopular. But she has been willing to learn and change her opinions. I have no problem with any politician being willing to do that. In many ways it doesn't matter that she (or Trump or whoever) may have supported the initial entry into the Iraq War. At that point, with the information in hand, that was what was felt to have been right. If they have changed that opinion because they have different or more information now, great! They are willing to listen, learn, and grow.

Is she "Crooked Hillary?" No one has, so far, been able to prove anything that would disqualify her. The endless series of investigations by congressional committees has found nothing. From a balanced look at things, it does not appear that Benghazi is all that different from any other attacks on US embassies under other Secretaries of State. Her email usage is just plain stupidity but part and parcel of many in her type of position on both sides. Trump, too, has been attacked for actions which are more just plain political actions or an ability to say what comes to mind with no filter than any crookedness. The Clinton Foundation appears to be a well-run and effective organization which does not appear to be true of Trump's. Even Trump admits to "pay to play" kind of actions. Why does it make him blameless and her the "worst?"

As to Bill's sexual actions in the White House- that has as much relevance as what Trump did with his first wife. Period. Or Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, or John Kennedy. Many, many married people have reconciled following indiscretions and affairs. That does not mean they were culpable in any way that is important to the American electorate. Period. Perhaps it goes back to the idea of what did they learn from it and how are they willing to move forward?

As to her shortcomings, she has them from my standpoint. Remember I am to the left of center and a pacifist. She tends to be more of a "hawk" than makes me comfortable. But then, so is Obama. Trump's war stances seem to be more trigger happy, and are also worrisome. She tends toward too much reserve, but so does Trump. Do any of us really believe that what we are seeing on the campaign trail with him is his real self? It's more of a show than Hillary. She has had difficulty playing to the audience and does tend to be more closed. But after 30 years in the political spotlight in all kinds of situations we know far more about where she stands than we do about where Trump stands. We have seen her tax returns. We have watched her change her stance on same-sex marriage as well as others.

A couple weeks ago my wife and I had the joy of seeing the comedian Lewis Black in performance. One of his insights into why we have problems with Hillary is simply that we know her too well. She HAS been around for many years and never seems to go away. We are tired of her and want someone new. He commented that she's like that person in your carpool that you wish would decide to retire. He explained that First Ladies, like Presidents, are supposed to get off the stage or at least do things that aren't as politically focused. We saw Nixon and Ford disappear. Regan's Alzheimer's forced him to be invisible. Jimmy Carter became an Energizer Bunny, non-stop house builder. The Bush Presidents did the normal step out of the limelight.

Bill and Hillary are still there. In the end, that might very well be her downfall. I hope not, for, as I made clear last week, I am downright afraid of a Trump presidency. He is a con man out to make what he can on us and leave us worse for the experience. But no matter which of the other candidates it would have been from the GOP, Hillary would still be my choice. Say what you will about my position, this is where I am.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The Tuning Slide: 2.5- Finding the Center

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
How is it that this bunch of metal can make music? Whether I’m working on a Bach piece for the quintet or listening to Doc soar skyward from the very lowest G to far higher than I can go, this comes out of the same basic physics and metallurgy of the instrument we share in common. This is just as true for any instrument, but those of us who play wind instruments depend on some special properties of tubes. (Yes, that’s really all a trumpet or sax or clarinet is- a long tube.) So to understand some of the basics of our instrument, let’s look at some physics. Don’t worry, I’m not a physicist so it won’t get too technical.

As with all brass instruments, sound is produced by blowing air through closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound into the mouthpiece and starting a standing wave vibration in the air column inside the trumpet. The player can select the pitch from a range of overtones or harmonics by changing the lip aperture and tension (known as the embouchure).  (Wikipedia)

638px-crest_trough-svg (Link)
Standing waves are produced. Waves have frequencies. They have “sound” when they are in a frequency range we can hear. Our famous western tuning note of A440 means that the frequency (distance from crest to crest) of the standing wave is 440 Hz, or 440 cycles/second. Fortunately the way sound waves work in a tube, for example, produces more than just the base frequency or wave. Otherwise the sound would be dull and lacking in a lot of character. It also produces
Overtones, simply put, are various multiples of the original fundamental frequency of the wave. The higher the note, the fewer the overtones and the closer the next note. That’s why we have 7 different fingering positions between middle C and G on the staff (open, 123, 13, 23,12,1,2,) and only 4 different fingering positions (open, 12,1,2,open,1,2) repeated between the next C and G above the staff. (Overly simplified, I know. Don’t worry about the specifics of the physics. If it works, we don’t have to know how.)

But let’s keep going. There’s one more bit of acoustics that explains the sound of our instruments.

Resonance is when one object vibrating at the same natural frequency of a second object forces that second object into vibrational motion. (Link)

Which is what happens within the folds and valves of the trumpet. It is the ability of the sound to be reinforced or prolonged by reflection from the inner surfaces and setting them into their own vibrations. The result is that they is a deeper, fuller sound. It is how many overtones we are playing at a single moment. Lower notes tend to have greater resonance than higher notes because of the overtones, frequencies, tube length, etc. As we learn to play higher notes, we strengthen the resonance. That’s why someone like Doc can hit those high notes and he still produces resonance where mine sounds like a screeching baby bird being strangled.

Hold on, I’m just about through with the physics. It will all make sense even if you don’t understand the full science.

One of the reasons that Doc or Maynard (or whoever your favorite trumpet player is) can have a resonance in their higher register- as well as in their whole range- is that they have learned to keep the sound centered. You see the center of the horn, the center of that lead pipe or tuning slide, is where the sound is most effectively and efficiently produced. It allows the standing wave to go right down the middle and its overtones to be centered with it.

Yes, this is a long way to get to the point but let’s boil it down to this simple explanation:

The center of the horn is where the resonance is. Therefore, in order to get the rich, full sound, all you have to do is find the center and play into it. Center the tone; center the air; you will improve your sound.

How do you learn to do that? In looking at this basic explanation of trumpet acoustics, we have reached the very basics of trumpet practice and development- finding ways to center our sound. Since it is basic, it should come as no surprise that it is…

Long tones!

Yep, those boring exercises in holding a note for an “extended” period of time are probably the most important thing we will ever learn about being a trumpet player. It looks like, from an acoustics and metallurgical standpoint, everything else builds on top of that. You don’t have to know the science, but it helps me visualize what is important when I am doing long tones. And in visualization, we are actually helping ourselves to do what we are wanting to do.

When you play those long tones, it may be helpful to picture in your mind the sound wave moving down the lead pipe. As it does make sure it stays in the center in your mind’s eye. Through the wonders of the nerves and workings of our brain that actually helps us to guide the air that way in the world of the trumpet itself. We often overlook the mind-body connections and the power of visualization and thought.

Well, how long should we play a given long tone. There are all kinds of advice on the Internet abut how long, in time, “long” is. Some say hold it for as long as you can keep it centered and steady. Others talk about a flowing series of long tones. (Look up Schlossberg #6 at Greg Wing Trumpet for a really helpful exercise of long tones.)

In general though here are four definitions of what is long enough:

•    Long enough to keep it centered
When we are first warming up the sound will not be as centered as it can be. For those of us who are less advanced, such centeredness comes with time. But you will hear the difference.
•    Long enough to hold it steady
Once we hear it getting centered the next step is to keep it steady there. That means the force behind the breath and the abdominal support.
•    Long enough to hold the dynamics.
Pick a dynamic and hold it. Many recommendations are to play it soft, then next time softer, holding it at the pianissimo level for the duration.
•    Long enough to listen! Really listen!
Can you hear it? No? Then do it again. Hold and listen. Keep the breath and dynamic steady.

One very useful way to get started is just playing the “tube” - the lead pipe. Take the tuning slide out and play 2nd line “G”. Listen for the centeredness, the steadiness. Listen again. Do it regularly at the start of your practice and you will be ready for the notes that come next.

Long tones can be a good 10 minute warm-up. Not strenuous, but solid. As perfect a way to get your session going as any.

Bruce Chidester on The Trumpet Blog has a list of 10 reasons to do long tones. Here are four of them:
  • Long tones give you the opportunity to listen to your sound- by listening to your sound; there is a natural tendency to improve on what you are listening to.
  • Long tones help you analyze what is going on within your air stream. Opening and closing the channel which encompasses the passage of air will dictate the timbre of your tone.
  • Long tones train your arms and hands to support the instrument more steadily for any shaking in these areas will telegraph into a shaky tone.
  • Long tones are the direct opposite of fast, highly technical passages and thus need to be implemented to balance your technical playing.
    Bruce Chidester
But there’s another piece of being centered. It fits in with the principle that the way you do anything has an impact on the way you do everything. Being “centered” in ourselves may be the most important thing we can do for our health and daily living. It gives us a place to go to within ourselves when stress gets overwhelming. It gives us a way to gather our thoughts and focus ourselves. What we are talking about above with “centering” the sound is a form of focusing the sound. It increases our ability at mindful attention to what is happening. It trains our brains to control our body to produce the sound we want. Apply that now to who you are.

You- the musician- need to be able to be centered in yourself. You need to sense and enhance the resonance that happens around you and within you. That rich, vibrant sense of life alive can enhance all that you do.

That means attention to breathing. That means attention to how we are feeling and reacting to our surroundings. That means being aware of the physical tensions and tightness that so easily derails us. That is one important piece of my own personal work. I have learned a lot of that mindfulness and breathing in so many areas of my life. Now I am applying it to my trumpet playing. My performance anxiety, for example, can be eased with self-centering. My listening for the centering of my sound in long tones teaches me what being centered feels like. It relaxes my muscles and I find I am playing with a more relaxed tone. If we do not play “centered” we can find ourselves playing “tight”, constricting the sound. Playing tight also tires me out more quickly because my breath isn’t centered or easily flowing. It is a wondrous cycle of the flow of our lives.

Seek the resonance within you- and in your music.

End note: Gavin Brehm is one who does know the science of physics and acoustics. He has designed mutes, started Brehm Mutes, LLC and knows something about trumpets. Instead of putting his comments into comments, I place them here in the post itself as he has some good expansion and ideas. Thanks, Gavin!
Interesting take on this topic! I think that this definition of resonance brings up an interesting distinction between being “forced” into sympathetic vibration (which would be an oxymoron) and simply sympathetically vibrating. This definition encourages saying that a resonant player is able to “make” the horn resonate (again oxymoronic), while the physics dictates that it is actually the horn that allows the players lips to resonate to their full potential by reflecting waves in series back to them. To me, this distinction is often missed in colloquial English because of its subtlety. Yet, since only objects which share modes of vibration can send each other into resonance, then the horn and the players lips must already have equal oscillatory tendencies. This reinforces the idea that a relaxed player will achieve greater resonance than would a player with undue tension, since resonance is not something that the player can force.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Guilt and Frustration

It has happened with my daughter. I tell her a "live" sports score or comment on a game's final score. Then she says something to the effect of

Thanks, Dad! I was recording it.
It happened again last evening with a friend. We were at band practice and I checked the score of Monday Night Football and told him.

Yep, he got upset at me because he was recording it. He says he never watches live anymore. Too many commercials.

Guilt flowed around me as I was sorry I had spoiled his football enjoyment.

Frustration then came along. Now I can't even talk about scores when I check them. I might be ruining someone's enjoyment.

Oh well. Just be quiet, keep a poker face and refuse to talk. Let them enjoy themselves. After all, I'm a nice guy and considerate of others.