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A Vacuum, Michael Sachs, and a Bissell Carpet Cleaner



 
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Derek Reaban
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 1:37 pm    Post subject: A Vacuum, Michael Sachs, and a Bissell Carpet Cleaner Reply with quote

My family spent the Christmas holiday in Tucson. I had some rehearsals for a New Year’s Eve job with my orchestra in Chandler, so I took the opportunity of having a quiet house to clean the carpets. My Christmas gift (the new Michael Sachs CD) was in the mail when I arrived, so I listened to the entire disk several times on my iPod as I was doing my cleaning job.

Who knows why my mind spins in the way that it does, but I thought I would share this interesting comparison to the trumpet that I experienced while I was cleaning carpets.

While preparing the first room I removed all of the furniture and clutter and vacuumed it extremely well. There’s a certain rhythm that is familiar when vacuuming, a common speed and pass distance, and a general idea of how long it takes to vacuum a room. All the time that I was doing this prep work, I was marveling at how great Michael sounded on this CD. Wow!

Next, I got out our new Bissell carpet cleaner (with a container for hot water and another container with the cleaning fluid). This thing has lots of bells and whistles, and the first thing that I noticed were the indicator lights as I pulled the cleaner across the carpet. There were eight lights that went from “Too Fast” to “Best Cleaning”. As I got into the rhythm of the Bissell cleaner, I realized that I was used to the vacuum and I was often in the “Too Fast” range. To arrive at the light that said “Best Cleaning” felt painfully slow to me.

As I looked at the first pass (soap and then rinse), I realized how long it was going to take to complete the entire room. What had taken 15 minutes to vacuum was going to take hours with the Bissell cleaner.

How many of us listen to music and prepare for lessons / concerts at vacuum speed, and then wonder why our performances lack the sparkle that Michael Sachs has in every piece he plays. I feel like Michael has spent his preparation time at the “Best Cleaning” setting while I’m constantly moving along at the “Too Fast” setting! Allowing the music to penetrate so that it is mastered simply can’t be done at the speed that most of us dedicate to practice and listening.

As I continued running the Bissell across the floor, I noticed the "Flow Indicator" that was spinning as the water was exchanging through the carpet and back into the machine. When the indicator stopped spinning it was time to change the water. During one cleaning pass after I had just changed the water (with the soap dial on the medium traffic setting), the Flow Indicator stopped spinning. I thought to myself, "That’s impossible! I just changed the water!" Well this machine was very SMART. When the cleaning fluid container was empty, it had logic built in to shut the water flow off. Man, that took me forever to figure out (I’m not one to read manuals). Once I understood the dual function of this flow indicator, I could keep track of both water changes and cleaning fluid changes with a simple glance of the indicator.

How often do young players arrive at a good sound and use this as the benchmark for their progress (it sounds just like their favorite recording from behind the bell)? Unfortunately, it may simply be a loud sound that doesn’t really project (forgot to put the soap into the machine). Or it could be a great sound that requires far too much effort to generate (not very efficient) – (adding water and cleaning fluid all the time to make sure it’s full wasting lots of trips back and forth to the kitchen).

The players that really understand how to listen to the sound (i.e. a vibrant, colorful, resonant sound) have figured out how that dual-function flow indicator works. They know they’re getting clean carpets, because they know how the machine works (i.e. they’re carrying a great sound into every piece and really making music).

Knowing where the heavy traffic areas are and spending extra time with spots assures the carpet are truly clean, just like a thorough understanding of the literature and adequate time addressing technical passages in the practice room will allow the performer to simply make music.

I feel like I’ve made the jump from vacuum to Bissell cleaner in my playing. Now I’m working to get into the “Best Cleaning” mode! I read so many posts (and I’ve written a fair number myself) trying to understand how someone can get the carpets so clean with a vacuum. Many times the answers that come back are related to specifics about a Bissell carpet cleaner and the miscommunication begins.

Coming at the music with a brilliant, vibrant, colorful sound first, coupled with thorough preparation, complete listening, and sufficient time allowing the material to be absorbed by the player will lead to a musical product worth listening to. You may think you can get there with 20 minutes and a vacuum, but you’ll just be touching the surface.

Who would have guessed I’d be comparing Michael Sachs to a vacuum cleaner and a Bissell carpet cleaner? I thought it was a very interesting analogy, though!
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Derek Reaban
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Tempe Winds / Symphony of the Southwest
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bachstrad72
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, interesting comparisons. Very true however. Time to go back and clean the floors.
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trumpetmike
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek - what were you on when you had that breakthrough??

More to the point - what am I on? - It makes sense

I love these posts of yours - a great way of looking at trumpet playing from a different point of view
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mhilton777
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting comparison and I believe you're absolutely right.

The comparison does remind alot of sitting around with friends in college after partaking in some "tobacco use" and having conversations like this! Although I'm sure they weren't anywhere near as intelligent as your post was!
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trptStudent
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll never look at a vacuum cleaner in the same way again.

But very interesting insights nonetheless.
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Derek Reaban
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike,

After being with my 3 little boys non-stop for more than a week (answering every question imaginable – generally several at a time), and having 12 people at the house in Tucson on Christmas Day, it’s very clear what I was "on" when I came up with this analogy:

A simple dose of silence!

Glad you enjoyed it!
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ejaime23
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Terrific post!! Really puts playing into a different perspective, thanks!
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Jim-Wilson
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek,

Thanks a bunch for the time and thought you put into your posts. I'm always pleased and excited when I see a new post from you. Your enthusiasm for excellence in playing the trumpet is inspiring.

As an engineer and yet a dedicated musician, do you ever think of objective methods of getting the feedback that will help you and others maintain the "epiphany" state of your sound? Feedback is such an important part of making the changes needed to improve our sound. Those of us who are fairly new at it don't have the experience and refinement of "listening" skills to get to the best "resonant, centered sound". A question I have is - "is there a quantifiable way to have good feedback as to when I'm playing a more resonant fully centered sound?" What I'm specifically wondering is whether or not there is a good sound card/software program that will sample and display the trumpet sound in a fashion that can give the player objective feedback as to whether his sound is closer to the fully resonant "ideal" sound.

Another question I have along the same line may be more simple and somewhat mundane. First, though, I have to make an observation. I have been doing the Stamps Warmups and the Thompson Buzzing Book on a daily basis. I often do one or the other first in the day and will not have "tuned" my trumpet by pulling the tuning slide out. I can play dead on pitch with the CD just about anywhere my tuning slide is from all the way in to out about 3/4" inch. I've only recently observed this and have been asking myself several questions about it. First, are the natural harmonics of the horn/fully resonant sound better at any particular tuning slide setting or is it all compensated for by the lips? I would presume there is a point where the lips are working harder to keep the tune and you lose the full easy sympathetic vibration of the lips and thus the ability to generate a more resonant "centered" tone. If so, then a centered/fully resonant tone is a function of the combination of the horn and the horn player's lips. Second, is a follow on to the first - how do you decide "where" to set your tuning slide since you can "lip bend" to tune. My presumption is it is a player preference based on the tuning slide setting that is "easiest" on the lips to play in tune. I actually am having a little trouble deciding where that is. I've only been doing Stamps and Thompson for a few weeks now and have just in the past few days been mulling all this over. I do know there are days when it goes very easily and others where my lips are very fatiqued after 30 minutes or so. I've not kept track of where I've set my tuning slide and need to pay more attention to that in the future.

Anyhow, once again, I do appreciate your posts and would appreciate any feedback. And, yes, I do plan to get a teacher soon - (I'm a comeback player - 36 years away from it since quitting as a Junior in high school and now back playing for just over three months).

Thanks,

Jim
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Derek Reaban
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jim,

Thanks for your message!

Quote:

do you ever think of objective methods of getting the feedback that will help you and others maintain the "epiphany" state of your sound?


I wrote about this in an article called Resonant Sound. Try the Harmon mute experiment or playing into an acoustic piano with the sustain pedal down. If you can find a strobe tuner, that will give you the visual feedback that you are looking for too.

Quote:

I have been doing the Stamps Warmups and the Thompson Buzzing Book on a daily basis.


These books both target balance / centering aspects of playing. I would suggest that doing one or the other and then moving on to some skill set work or music would be a better use of your time. Check out the Craig Morris article called Fundamentally Speaking for details about practice elements (you need to scroll down a little bit).

Quote:

I can play dead on pitch with the CD just about anywhere my tuning slide is from all the way in to out about 3/4" inch. I've only recently observed this and have been asking myself several questions about it. First, are the natural harmonics of the horn/fully resonant sound better at any particular tuning slide setting or is it all compensated for by the lips? I would presume there is a point where the lips are working harder to keep the tune and you lose the full easy sympathetic vibration of the lips and thus the ability to generate a more resonant "centered" tone. If so, then a centered/fully resonant tone is a function of the combination of the horn and the horn player's lips.


There is a best position for the tuning slide with respect to the pitch of the ensemble that you are playing with (or CD for that matter). In Monette language, you want the objective pitch center and subjective pitch centers to align the majority of the time. In other words, get the best sound that you can to align with where the horn wants to play in tune.

Quote:

Second, is a follow on to the first - how do you decide "where" to set your tuning slide since you can "lip bend" to tune. My presumption is it is a player preference based on the tuning slide setting that is "easiest" on the lips to play in tune. I actually am having a little trouble deciding where that is.


This does vary from player to player. For me, I like to use the pop test. Put your bell up to your ear and then gently pop the mouthpiece with the flat part of your hand. Move chromatically through the valve combinations as you do this and you will get a good idea of what pitch the horn wants to play for the given tuning slide setting. This seems to be the place where I want to play my horn to get the most resonant sound.

There is a post from Peter Bond that I’d like to reference in a folder called Resonance and Sound. It’s very clear that what I’ve written about the “pop test” works for me, but great (world class) sounds can be achieved in many ways by different players.

I hope this information is helpful to you!
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Derek Reaban
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Tempe Winds / Symphony of the Southwest


Last edited by Derek Reaban on Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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crzytptman
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek - could you bring your vacuum and cleaner over to my house and demonstrate what you're talking about? I'm not sure I get it . . .
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Jim-Wilson
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek,

Thanks for your reply. I'll be looking through things. I have been working through Arban's in addition to Stamps and Thompson. I definitely need to get set up with a good teacher and will be working on that. When I started back I wanted to give it some time on my own to be certain I would be committed to sticking with it and have decided I definitely will. Once again, thanks for your posts.

Jim
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Derek Reaban
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I’ve been reading the Talent Code by Daniel Coyle based on the glowing reviews that I’ve read on TH. I just finished the section on Deep Practice and the stories about Meadowmount who produced players like Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman.

The quote in the book was, “if someone walks by your practice room window and can tell what piece you’re playing, you are practicing too fast”. When I read that, the light bulb went off and I remembered this post that I had written a number of years ago.

I found Daniel Coyle’s email address and sent him a link to this post because I thought he would appreciate it after all of his experiences in researching for his book. I loved his reply!

Quote:
Hi Derek,

Thanks very much for your note -- I really appreciate your kind words, not to mention your terrific blog entry -- which surely must rank among history's best and most useful combinations of music and vacuuming!

All best,

Dan

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