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Some extensions on Carmine's approaches



 
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sabutin
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PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2011 8:50 pm    Post subject: Some extensions on Carmine's approaches Reply with quote

I just found Pat Harbison's very valuable notes that he kept from his time with Carmine. They started me thinking. As some of you may know, I have expanded Carmine's teaching in a number of directions. I studied with him extensively and have used his exercises daily for over 40 years as the basis for my whole approach to playing a brass instrument. I like to say that eventually I sort of threw a grenade into his method and almost all of the shards that came out of the explosion turned out to be useful variations on it.

Reading Pat's notes encouraged me to let people know more specifically exactly how I have done this, and I am going to use many of his notes as jumping-off places in this post. Since I have encountered so many crazed "My teacher's method is the best method" zealots on my many trips through the internet, I want to emphasize right at the start that this is in no way a criticism of either Carmine's teaching or of Phil's post. I also want to emphasize that the following is aimed at players who are already playing fairly well…at a good college/young pro level at the very least. If you are having chop or other playing problems these variations can be helpful, but only with the supervision of someone who really knows what’s up.

Word.

Read on if you are interested.

PH wrote:
I found these notes I had collected from my lessons with Carmine over the years. A lot of what he says here is restating the text portion of MCFB. I hope you find this interesting.

1) Start your foot tapping before you play. This sets up the timing. Even the first sound…even the breath needs to be in time.


Absolutely. In fact, I recommend that you time in the entire travel of your horn to your face and your physical preparation before you play a note. We all have one or two habitual rest positions, and we all must raise the horn to the absolutely correct position on our chops while simultaneously taking the right kind of breath, setting our embouchure for the intended note and eventually using the tongue to attack that note in the intended manner.

Phew!!!

That's a whole lotta doing, right there!!!

Time it in.

All of it.

Do so and eventually the horn rises to the chops the way a science fiction film rocket ship docks in the landing bay of the mother ship. Never a misfire from the first move of the horn to the last move of the tongue. All timed in. Especially the preparatory motion of the tongue, which I liken to the preparatory upbeat of a good conductor. The single most common fault that I hear in students...especially orchestral players...is that they do not have a clear grasp of that "preparatory" idea. The tongue's motion to the attack point should be neither too early...frozen tongue syndrome, I call it...nor (more commonly) too late. The Goldilocks mean. Juuuust right.

Find your habitual rest points and give yourself several beats...I use two beats at MM=60, which is where I play most of my exercises, but at faster tempi I use more...to get the horn in place and do all of the other prep stuff. This alone is one of only two things I tell students that almost invariably work immediately to help their playing. Try it.

Here come the variations. Most of them can be used for other practice than strictly “Carmine” exercises, but I would recommend not using them until you are familiar and comfortable with the basic Caruso tenets that Phil’s notes cover.

Quote:
2) Maintain the mouthpiece pressure and placement and keep the lip tension constant during the rests. Keep the setting until no notes are sounding.


I use are six variations to this idea. Three regarding lip tension and two regarding m’pce placement.

M’pce placement:

1-Just as Phil says. Leave it there

2-Take it off and then replace it for the next note or phrase. In good time. This allows you to practice in a manner that is more like performance.

Lip tension:

1-Again, just as Phil says. Keep the lip tension constant and the m’pce in the same contact place.

2-Keep the lips in contact with one another …the same contact that they had when the last note ended… and the m’pce in the same place but relax your corners.

3-Let the embouchure go entirely while the m’pce remains where it is and then…in good time, of course…reset it.

The three lip tension variations can be applied to both of the two m’pce placement variations, et voilà!!! Six useful variations, all of which serve to habituate the player to real world playing conditions while still dealing with aspects of time and consistent embouchure. How many of which variations to use and in what order? You decide. Or…do what I do. Use chance means to decide. A deck of cards, a pencil thrown on a piano keyboard, a 12-sided die…anything that has 12 equal variables will do just fine for all of my needs. More than 12 variations? You’ll figure it out somehow.

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3) Breathe through the nose so you don’t disturb the embouchure.


Or…when using the # 2+3 variations above, either breathe through the nose, breathe through your corners and your nose (#2 above) or just open up and take a “normal” breath. (#3 above)

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4) Don’t apply these procedures to other playing. These are only for doing your calisthenics.


I use these approaches everywhere while practicing, myself. And while playing as well. There is a time to take the m’pce off and a time to leave it on. There also are times to keep the embouchure perfectly set and the m’pce right where it sits and times not to do those things as well. How’re you going to learn what those times feel like are if you do not practice them? (And time them in as well.)

Tommy Dorsey and John Faddis (just to mention two brass masters) have both left the horn on their chops for long periods of time when they were not playing. No tension, I am sure, but when the sweet spot has been found and if it can be maintained with little or no added fatigue…why not?

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5) These exercises are a complement to your regular practice. Don’t abandon other exercises you already do.


Absolutely.

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6) When you do these exercises, try not to be music conscious. You don’t need to strive for pitch, tone quality, or aesthetic results. These exercises are designed for muscular conditioning. All of your thinking should be directed towards timing.


Three variations there as well.

1-Strictly non-musical. Strictly Carmine.

2-Strive for a certain “inner part” musicality. That is…not particularly expressive, but tongued smoothly and in tune w/a good sound.

3-Make music out of the exercises. This can be done quite easily. Improvise simply) within the confines of the exercise.

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7) Exercises need not and should not sound like performance.


See above.

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8-) Don’t stop as long as there is even a piece of the note. Where there’s smoke there is fire. Little notes will grow.


Yup.

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9) Disregard mistakes. Go on as if you are playing perfectly.


Or…do regard them sometimes. Sometimes. A note doesn't come out? Some part of an exercise doesn't work? Stop earlier than one would stop using a strict Carmine approach and try to go on from there rather than going to the edge before you stop. Eventually this idea will allow you to understand more clearly exactly what is going on in certain ranges that makes them hard to connect to or play through. Bet on it.

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10) Don’t make an issue over a mistake. It is already in the past.


The "fuggedaboudit" principle. Valuable in all playing.

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11) You learn from frequent repetition. Don’t consciously “fix” anything.


See above. Don’t always try to consciously “fix” anything. And don’t always not do that, either. There is a time and a place for everything. If something does not get better over an appreciable period of time…several weeks or 15 years, I do not care about the length of the time…then it’s time to look at it from another direction. For example, I spent well over 15 years trying to develop a true altissimo range with only moderate success until I really broke down what was going on in the chops of others…like John Faddis, Britt Woodman and Dave Steinmeyer…and emulated their tactics. I used Carmine’s exercises to do this only I consciously changed some things that I was doing. It worked, too. Bet on that as well.

Quote:
12) Synchronization and timing are the main goals.


Yup.

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13) All muscles in the chops, hands, breathing apparatus, etc. respond to musical and timing demands.


Yup

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14) Good sound comes from synchronization of muscles.


Yup.

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15) Good timing solves all technical problems.


Yup.

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16) Breathe in rhythm!


Yup. Do everything in rhythm.

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17) When playing, we are dealing with too many body motions to even list. The synchronization of these motions gives the desired results. Timing is of the utmost importance. Accuracy is the result of subdivision of the beat. Subdivide the beat immediately prior to any pitch change or articulation into four sixteenth notes. All motion should happen after the fourth sixteenth. Even finer subdivisions (than the sixteenth) will eventually produce more refined timing.


Here is where I have thrown the greatest number of grenades. I advocate using multiple meters and also starting exercises on multiple subdivisions of those meters. I personally use 3/4, 9/8, 4/4 and 12/8 most commonly (using straight and swing/latin 8th note feels on all of them as well) and I start all exercises on a given day in an aleatorically chosen (chance-driven) subdivision of those meters. So one day all my exercises…long tones, scales, scale patterns, flexibilities, harmonics, the works…might start on the fourth 8th note of a 3/4 meter played in jazz time, the next day they might start on the twelfth eighth note of a very strict 12/8 meter and the day after that maybe they start on the first beat of a 4/4 meter in a Cha-Cha feel. Not only do finer subdivisions refine the time but so do unaccustomed starting places played in different idiomatic feels in different meters.

Quote:
18) It isn’t how fast you play, but rather how fast you change from note to note that produces clean technique.


Yup.

Quote:
19) Feel the upbeat as clearly as the downbeat.


Yup.

Quote:
]20) Six things determine pitch: mouthpiece pressure, lipping, pivot, twisting, lateral slides, and jaw jutting. If any of these are overdone you have a bad habit. If these things are synchronized to occur simultaneously, you can’t overdo any aspect or you will miss the note. Repetition and synchronization end bad habits without conscious fixing.


Yup.

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21) Don’t think of any particular aspect of playing. Just play!


Yup.

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22) Practice the whole body, not specific parts.


Yup.

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23) Use the most natural volume FOR YOU on all exercises without dynamic markings.


Yup.

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24) Use a breath attack (“who”) on the six notes.


Lots of variations there, too. Mainly…which breath attack? Go back to the three lip tension variations.

1-Keep the lip tension constant and the m’pce in the same contact place.

2-Keep the lips in contact with one another …the same contact that they had when the last note ended… and the m’pce in the same place but relax your corners.

3-Let the embouchure go entirely while the m’pce remains where it is and then…in good time, of course…reset it.

Each of these leaves the lips in a different position. Thus each tends to produce a different breath attack.

#1 produces a more structured end to the note when the air stops, and the lips must to some degree be forced to open again by extra air. Or...you have to get to the #2 result below by slightly relaxing the setting..

#2, when done well? The lips naturally fall into a light “P” position where they are in perfect balance to start the next note. The slightest puff of air will start them vibrating.

#3? Gotta reset, preferably to the same position as #2…a silent, balanced “P.”

The same things hold true even if you take the m’pce off for each of those three variations. Carmine referred to the Six Notes exercise as "Tah-Dah-Hah"...at least he did so to me. A "T" attack followed by a "D" attack followed by a breath attack.

I call them "Tah-Dah-Pah", where the "Pah" is a breath attack on perfectly balanced lips. Say the word "pop" very quietly. Now say it again, only be sure that you do not follow the second "P" sound with an opening of the lips and expulsion of breath. That lightly closed "P"? That's the one.

Quote:
25) With a breath attack, the lips respond only if well focused.


As above…there are three different initial focuses, of which #2 is the ideal.

Quote:
26) Just let the corners happen. They only radiate what goes on inside the mouthpiece.


Not sure about this one. I use freebuzzing to work on my corners. In fact, another set of variations has to do with:

1-Playing the horn

2-M’pce buzzing

3-Cutoff rim buzzing

and

4- Freebuzzing

All related one to another in chance-driven sets.

Thus the corners “happen” in the freebuzzing variation because there is nothing else but the corners (and the air, of course) making the note sound. This is related to all other variations and gradually everything begins to come together within the rim into a well-coordinated and well balanced whole.

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27) Steady blowing makes a musical sound. Inertia keeps the air and chops moving regularly.


Dunno about the “inertia” thing either. “Inertia” is defined as the tendency of a body to remain in motion or at rest unless acted upon by an external force. The external force on a brass instrument is the air. Stop that air and the sound stops. Inertia does not keep it moving the way say a baseball continues to move after being hit by a bat. Musculature keeps the air and chops moving regularly. “Inertia” would tend to stop the motion.

Quote:
28) Breath intake and blow is a pendulum-like action. Don’t hold the breath or hesitate. Like everything else, the breath responds to the time.


Yup.

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\29) Keep the blow constant so the lips can ride on the air stream.


Yup.

Quote:
30) Steady breath is not forced breath.


Yiup.

Quote:
31) The instrument is an extension of the body!


Yup.

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32) Each note complements the next. Don’t set for where you are going. Set for the note you are playing now.


Well…there are variations here as well once you start talking about more than say 3 or 4 good-sounding octaves on a brass instrument. The “sets” in the extreme higher and lower ranges are in my experience never very much like those for the middle ranges, and sometimes you just have to set for where you are going instead of for where you are.

Quote:
33) The purpose of practice is to repeat a muscular activity until it is a habit.


Yup.

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34) The overblow indicates that you have more air power than you chops can harness.


Yup.

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35) We practice overblowing to train the muscles to handle the overblow so you can use that power.


Yup.

Quote:
36) Slow air=soft. Fast air=loud.


Yup.

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37) The chops, not the air, determine the pitch.


Yup, although air direction has something to do with that as well. Different chops require different angles for different ranges, and the tongue is the mechanism that fine-tunes the direction of that air.

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38) The lips are the resistors to the air stream. The resistance energizes the air molecules.


Yup.

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39) The same work effort is required for a double C as for a low C, only with more resistance from the lips.


Yup. If the chop set is right, this is absolutely true. But it is not true if one is trying to play a double C with the exact same set that is used for say a 2nd partial C. Then much, much more work is required for that double C.

Quote:
40) If stiffness occurs, breath attack a low F# ppp and hold it for 40 seconds or more. Intersperse low F# at varying parts of the routine, whenever you need it. You can’t overdo this.


Yup.

Quote:
41) Don’t do the exercises on tired, swollen, or stiff chops or on the day of an important gig.


Yup. Not much of them, anyway.

Quote:
42) Any stiffness that may result will go away in a short time as the muscles begin to set up properly. You will eventually be tireless.


Yup. If you continue to practice correctly. Almost tireless, anyway. I can feel my corners start to go after about 6 hours of really hard work or in even less time if that work includes endless mambos and moñas in the higher registers. But how often do you have to play 6 hours of truly physically difficult music on one day? Once or twice a year, for me.

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43) (to my orchestrally oriented buddy) Do these exercises on your main instrument. If C trumpet is your main instrument then do the exercises on C trumpet. Play them as written. Do not transpose.


Well…I personally transpose everything that Carmine gave me…and all of my variations on them…all over the horn and on any horn in any key or octave, myself. I choose different keys, scale forms and modes of those scale forms and start my exercises in any and all registers, going in any and all directions. This is another grenade that I have found to be very helpful. Almost always starting and going up and down from the middle limited the development of my more extreme ranges. Once I started beginning things in less…comfortable…ranges and going from them up and down into other areas I soon found great development in my pedal, sub-pedal and altissimo ranges, and my regular lower and higher ranges got much better too.

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44) Always finish a playing session on your main instrument. If you play a thing on flugelhorn or piccolo trumpet, or whatever, always play a little on your main instrument before packing up.


Yup. See below for more on this, though.

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45) If you are having trouble with a double like flugelhorn, you should at least do the six notes, seconds, and harmonics on flugelhorn every day. To be equally good on two instruments requires double the amount of practice time!


I regularly “double” on 7 main instruments and on a couple of others less often.

From the bottom up…tuba, bass trombone, orchestral tenor, medium bore tenor and three smallbore horns, each instrument with a different m’pce and a different musical mission in my life. Plus valve trombone and euphonium when required to do so. There is no way I can practice them all regularly, so I choose one as my main instrument for any given time period...the one that I will be playing most in my working life...and regard whatever others I might be playing during that time as my “doubles.” I make sure that I am thoroughly warmed up and in good balance on the one that I have decided is my main concern, then I get in good balance on whatever doubles I have and then return to the main horn to either practice or…if I have run out of practice time…to regain a good feeling on that one before I hang it up.

Works for me…over months and years my “main” horn has become whichever one that I am most playing at the moment.

Works for me…

Quote:
46) Consistency comes from repetition.


Yup.

Quote:
47) Relaxation is a product. Tension is a symptom. When the body works properly it will be relaxed. There is MINIMUM work effort for the desired result.


Yup.

I guess that’s about ll I have to say today.

My trombone method book Time, Balance & Connections: A Universal Theory of Brass Relativity (Trombone Edition) contains about 245 pages of elucidation and illustration of the things that I have mentioned above, and as soon as I finish proofreading an already finished and laid-out Treble Clef/Valve Instruments edition it will be available as well. Go to that link above and read some of the excerpts I have posted there. Also read some of my articles here.

Carmine was a great, great teacher. But as always, we stand upon the shoulders of our masters.

There’s more.

Bet on it.

There's always more.

Later…

Sam Burtis


Last edited by sabutin on Tue May 24, 2011 8:41 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PH
Bill Adam/Carmine Caruso Forum Moderator


Joined: 26 Nov 2001
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Location: Bloomington Indiana

PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great stuff, Sam! Thanks.

Does this new book sort of update the "American Trombone" book you did a few years back?

Folks, Sam Burtis has played with everyone and really knows his stuff. Hear, hear.
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sabutin
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Joined: 20 Aug 2002
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Location: NYC

PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PH wrote:
Great stuff, Sam! Thanks.

Does this new book sort of update the "American Trombone" book you did a few years back?

Folks, Sam Burtis has played with everyone and really knows his stuff. Hear, hear.


Not so much an update as a clearer, easier to use book. There are many more (and much more detailed) examples of how to construct the almost infinite number of exercises that can spring from these concepts. With "The American Trombone" I received so many emails about "Well...this all sound very good, but I don't understand how to use this information." My bad. I've lived the info on a mostly nonverbal level for easily 30 years and I made assumptions about how others would perceive and understand it that were a little...optimistic, if y'know what I mean. This book addresses those problems, I think.

I hope, anyway.

Later...

S.
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Jerry Freedman
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 3:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

These all sound great Sam, and someday I wish I was at the point in my development to try them. Its important to note ( well, you already have) the importance of timing. I was getting there myself but you are way ahead of me there but I will follow your lead and time everything.

Years ago, when Charly Raymond was moderated this forum, someone asked about advanced Caruso exercises and Charly said that subdividing into 32nds is all you need for advanced Caruso

Question about Caruso extensions. What do you think of Laurie Frink's book
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sabutin
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jerry Freedman wrote:
---snip---

Years ago, when Charly Raymond was moderated this forum, someone asked about advanced Caruso exercises and Charly said that subdividing into 32nds is all you need for advanced Caruso.


I think that this idea might be a little simplistic, myself. After writing a 245 page-long book that is about 80% Carmine-inspired I think that there is a lot more to "advanced" Caruso study. A lot more. In fact, the more I think about it the less it works for me. Chopping the beat up into ever smaller segments would necessarily result in a sort of stiff, mechanical time. I speak often about finding the "Goldilocks Mean" in musical study and in brass playing as well. Not too much, not too little. Juuuuussst right. A good feeling time...in a musical sense...works best for me. More important than obsessively subdividing is the relaxation without weakness that really good time brings. I hear too much of that other thing from orchestral players. "Choppy choppy choppy chop chop chop chop choppy. Ain't I the greatest thing since white bread!!!" And I mean this to include any number of quite well known symphonic players that I have heard as they tried out equipment. Accurate? Yes. Consistent? Of course. But then, a corpse is "consistent."

Human metronomes.

Metronomic time instead of human time.

I'm a jazz and latin musician. Really good time swings, and I don't mean so-called "swing eighth notes." There are as many jazz eighth note feels as there are great jazz musicians; straight-eighth latin music swings like crazy and so do Western European orchestral styles if they are played right. Can't "swing" if you are counting 32nd notes. More important to me is the idea that I presented after #17 in the original post.

Quote:
I advocate using multiple meters and also starting exercises on multiple subdivisions of those meters. I personally use 3/4, 9/8, 4/4 and 12/8 most commonly (using straight and swing/latin 8th note feels on all of them as well) and I start all exercises on a given day in an aleatorically chosen (chance-driven) subdivision of those meters. So one day all my exercises…long tones, scales, scale patterns, flexibilities, harmonics, the works…might start on the fourth 8th note of a 3/4 meter played in jazz time, the next day they might start on the twelfth eighth note of a very strict 12/8 meter and the day after that maybe they start on the first beat of a 4/4 meter in a Cha-Cha feel. Not only do finer subdivisions refine the time but so do unaccustomed starting places played in different idiomatic feels in different meters.


I had an "Ah HA!!!" moment many years ago while I was listening to Sonny Rollins in a club in Boston. I got there late and there was no place to sit. Things were loose in that club and I was a few pounds lighter as well, so I eventually kind of scrunched myself up under the piano and sat there listening as if I was in the middle of the quartet. I had my eyes closed during one of Sonny's solos...some standard beng played at an incredibly fast tempo. Sonny was killin' it! Somewhere during the solo I opened my eyes and there was the Sonny Rollins foot encased in a big old black army boot, tapping once every two bars.

EUREKA!!!

He was playing fast but simultaneously feeling the time in a very relaxed manner physically.

Accurate, but relaxed.

The real secret.

There's no room to relax if you're counting 32nd note subdivisions. I personally mostly subdivide in 8th notes during my practice unless something simply isn't coordinating correctly after a couple of passes. But they are accurate 8th notes.

All you really need.

I also try to practice everything...Carmine stuff included...as fast as I can possibly play it nearly perfectly, with the further proviso that this means no matter how slow that may be. One of the most wonderful things about Carmine's metronome-free idea is that after the student accepts the idea that "good time" is not necessarily metronomic he or she can slow down an exercise to a nearly glacial crawl with no fuss or muss whatsoever. No stopping and resetting a metronome, no nuthin'. What's working in the middle register isn't working so well as you progress up or down on the horn? Great. Slow your foot down until it does. End of story.

Quote:
Question about Caruso extensions. What do you think of Laurie Frink's book


I haven't looked at Laurie's book in depth...I really should buy it but I am so occupied with other stuff that I can't even seem to get my own work finished on a day-to-day basis. Laurie and John McNeil certainly know what they're talking about so I imagine that it's a very good and very useful book.

Gotta go practice now.

Very slowly, in a fast kind of way. Or is it the reverse...?

Now I'm confused!

Later...

S.
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Jerry Freedman
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 3:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not sure I understand your objection. Carmine said many, many times that his stuff was just calisthenics and musicality was not an issue. Why then, if one is doing CC stuff as calisthenics, should fine timing screw up things for playing real music.
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pepperdean
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe we're talking about two entirely different concepts. The relaxed but accurate timing when playing is the first. I believe performing calls for precision in placing rhythm patterns into some type of beat framework. As the tempo speeds up, that is often every two beats, every four beats,.... In my "retirement", I'm conducting a community band with some fine players. However, their adherence to each and every beat frustrate me. When the tempo goes very quickly or we play something with swing rhythms, they fail the music. My efforts get them to let go of 4 beats/measure and to find a larger framework have been slow to reach success.

However, I think Carmine's subdivision of beats has nothing to do with music and, like long--setting, is just a tool for practicing calisthenics. It's been a long time ago, but I seem to remember Carmine saying something like: 'If you count four sixteenths on the last beat before changing notes, the change will occur after the last sixteenth, thus giving you a 32nd to make the change. This solidifies the muscle action required for the change.''

Alan
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