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Carmine Caruso Forum Moderator

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 12:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is something a little different. I taped several lessons with Carmine and then transcribed them.
The following is a transcript from a taped lesson in summer of 1974. These are the exact words of Carmine Caruso either in response to a question from me or following the playing of an exercise. These are spoken words and there has been no grammatical editing on my part. Some parenthetical inserts have been made to clarify certain statements.

Also Carmine was fully aware and supportive of the taping and was intentionally more vocally observant, analytic, and thorough than usual, because of it. Once or twice he even asked, "Is that thing on?" And back then there were no nice, convenient little recording devices. What I lugged around was an old reel to reel Sony tape recorder. A little heavy
but as compact as a reel to reel could be back then.

The intent is for anyone practicing in MCFB to see if anything said in these transcripts will help you to understand a little better, and to see what might have been said to you if you were sitting in the chair back in 1973. You also must imagine the large window being open onto the sounds of Times Square (from the fifth floor) and the ancient table fan humming away. Actually it would be clattering away for the first ten minutes or so (if you were the first student) until, as Carmine would say, it found its balance. Then it would just hum along, effortlessly moving the air in the room. I always thought that old fan was a symbolic part of Carmine's teaching philosophy.

The dialogue begins with Carmine responding to a statement by me that I used to have a pretty good range and now I have nothing. And that as I go higher, the mouthpiece slides over to the left.


CC: What you have already conditioned with your body will stay. If you lost range don't worry about it. This is all part of what happens when it shifts. But over a period of time this is what practice is for. To eventually close this all in so that no matter where it goes you don't lose range. Eventually it's going to be a happy medium. It's not going to be all the way over there (to the left) and it's not going to be where you put it either.

CR: Is the feeling always going to be the same?

CC: Yes. Well, no. With tongue in cheek I have to say it's the same. It's never the same. No matter how good you're playing, it's never the same. But you get used to playing. That's where it's at. It's no different with you then it is with a pitcher with a ball. He knows what he's doing with the ball in his hand. He can see it .... You can't (see the notes). But he ain't going to guarantee where that ball is going to go when he lets go of it. He can approximate but he can't guarantee it. You're dealing with a human machine which is a highly variable mechanism. You have to realize that the whole purpose of practice is to condition these variables so you have a high degree of consistency. That's where it's at. To look for the word "perfect" …. it doesn't exist. Nothing on this earth is that perfect that it doesn't have a tolerance of plus or minus. Any thing that works on this earth, works with a plus or minus tolerance. I don't care what it is. We know the body can build up a high level of consistency, but that doesn't say that it doesn't have its plusses or minuses. If you look at it like that, you won't get disturbed. Your job is only one. It's to get yourself mechanically sensitized so that you can work well most of the time. And if you work that way your mind will be at ease and you will work better. Because, psychologically you're not beating yourself before you put the horn to your face.

You'll get range before you get volume on that range. You don't want to compare an area on the horn that is new in your career as a player with an area that you have played for a much longer time. Whatever you had you're going to get (back). You'll not lose what you had. Of course you can psych yourself out of these things by all of this confusion that you might put in the way by being too analytical and not allowing the muscles to find their levels…...and not panicking just because it went this way or that. It should be a challenge to see how well you can play no matter which way it went.

***** At this time I play the Six Notes exercise *****

CC: Now I'm going to explain some of this to you. All I'm doing is explaining it. I'm not asking you to make any corrections of anything. Where you put it (the mouthpiece) now is where you want it. It still happens that your lips are slightly open yet. So now, since they're slightly open, I know as you go higher you're going to go sliding over there, because you've got to close them somehow. And this isn't done with your thinking. It's a natural activity of the muscles to find positionings. That's why you slide over yet. Now I'm not telling you, "Don't do it." I'm not telling you to take heed and try to do something about it. I don't want you to bother. The things that we're doing eventually will level these out so you'll work well. Between now and the time that they work to your satisfaction it's going to take time.

CR: Will that possibly mean that the only way my lips are going to be closed is if it is over (to the left).

CC: You're kind of putting it in a sense, correct ….. but not necessarily so. I say, right now the way the lips are working …… that's what happens. But over a period of time with the practice they will find a spot. But in the meantime it doesn't mean you won't be able to play. You can play any place on your lips. If you can play on a lot of different places you can also sensitize those places that you can play as well. I know players who have two or three embouchures that they play with. Starting with Herbert Clark. He had three embouchures that he could play. Mendez plays on three embouchures. As long as you can get a note anywhere on your lips, across your mouth, you can play anywhere on your lips. It’ll play the places you work it. You put it where you want it all the time and let it find its place, which it will do. That's why those notes get thin up there yet, because there's a pull over (of the mouthpiece to the left). I know without you playing that that's what’s going to happen. And I don't care who comes here and starts with these studies. The first place that mouthpiece travels is where he used to play. It doesn't matter if it's twenty years ago. It comes back. It always goes home first. Because that's the way it knows first.

********** I play the Seconds exercise *************

CC: The mouthpiece remains there (on the spot where it started at the beginning of the exercise), but this is what happens. The meat slides over with the mouthpiece (laughter from everyone in the room from this type of reference to the lips). These things have to find a level; you can't do a thing about it. So, when it's sliding eventually it will slide slightly (less) and then you're going to be somewhere between the old one (final mouthpiece position from sliding) and the new one. The E (above high C) is a very flexible note for most all players. Before they get that note there’s a battle that goes on. They can get an Eb; they can get an F. But that E is a very elusive note, for a while.

CR: There's too much pressure on high notes.

CC: This is a natural function of the body. When the body don't know how to do something the muscles withdraw. That withdrawal is also tension. It's all part of that. You just can't say it's not going to happen, because when the muscles don't know how to do something that's the way they're going to do them. Tense. The more they're exposed, the freer they become.

And of course you can psyche yourself into a note. And, if you do that, that's no good either. Never look at it like you can't. Anything you do with that horn should be a challenge to see how well you can do it no matter what condition you're in. One of the things I always say, if you practice positive you'll play positive. But, if you practice negative you're not letting your body know anything about what you want from it. Then it becomes a confused muscular motion. Always go to it like it's there, never go to it like, “I wonder if it's going to be.” You do it! The Italians have a saying …….. You know a good player by how loud his mistake is. Which means he doesn't expect to make the mistake. He goes at it like it's there. That's the way to play. There's only one way to play. Do it! The whole idea of practice is to repeat an action until the muscles understand it ……… called conditioning. You can't do it with the thinking brain.

CR: A lot of times on the second blow I get nothing.

CC: That's possible. Because it depends on how much the pull came. In that case you don't try to force anything. Leave it alone. Get off it. That's why you can't use a third time (Carmine would have some students practice a third blow). Because then you’ll contrive and make it play, but it's someplace else then where you want it.

The 5th to 6th harmonic is the toughest area to get sensitized on all cup instruments. As a matter of fact, we can even add the 4th. The next one is the 9th and 10th. Everybody on any brass instrument ….. that’s the area. Once that’s located by the body, then the whole thing starts to work easy.
Charles Raymond

[ This Message was edited by: bugleboy on 2002-07-05 19:47 ]

[ This Message was edited by: bugleboy on 2002-11-12 12:35 ]
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Bill Adam/Carmine Caruso Forum Moderator

Joined: 26 Nov 2001
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Location: Bloomington Indiana

PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 4:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is great stuff, Charly. Thanks!

I have notes (unfortunately not full transcripts) that I took in some of my lessons plus other folks' lessons I observed. I think I'll try to dig those out again and post them here when I get back home.


[ This Message was edited by: PH on 2002-07-05 07:44 ]
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Joined: 11 Nov 2001
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Location: Garland, Texas

PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 6:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Thanks! This is fun!

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