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Making the Sound in Your Mind


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_Don Herman
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 25, 2002 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To carry on a previous post... One of the basic Chicago ideas is to have a mental picture of the sound you wish to play, and then play with it. Think the sound, play the sound. One of those simple concepts which seems fiendishly difficult in practice. Or, at least in my practice! Sometimes I "get" it, and it works really well. Most often when I'm trying to figure out an improvised part to play over or around the melody in a solo, and need to really think of what I what to do -- then do it!

My question is: What are some ways to make this happen more often? What do y'all do to train yourselves to automatically get the sound you want to play in your mind first? How do you keep it there, and not get distracted by technical demands? Too often, I'm thinking of other things, mostly centered on just the next (often the first) note, rather than the phrase and/or the whole musical concept (pitch, tone, dynamics, etc.) To restate one of my favorite (original, so far as I know) tag lines: The hardest horn to play is the one in my head. How do I make it easier?

Disclaimer: Hearing a double C, or triple-tongued two octave leaps, won't do any good if it's beyond your ability to perform them. But, getting a mental image of great sound you can perform, or a maybe just a bit better than you think you can do, is what I'm on about here.

Curious and hoping (hopeful?) - Don

p.s. FYI -- the SysAdmin is actively working on the Moderator issue. Stay tuned.
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Emb_Enh
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2002 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Relaxation is the key to this also I believe....as you've already pointed out it happens for ya when you are least expecting it.

It is a difficult one.....I think we all struggle with trying to be as relaxed as possible...good thread...I don't know much here to pass on I'm afraid... good one...thoughtful..Hmmm!
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trickg
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2002 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know if this is the same thing but once a friend and I were talking about the mental images that we used while doing long tone exercises. She was saying that she pictured her sound as a flow of water, cascading out of her bell. For me, I pictured a solid core of sound, about the diameter of a coke (beer) can boring into the far wall of the room where I was playing.

I also agree that this is much easier to talk about than to practice because keeping the mind focused on the mental image wasn't always easy, especially when the room was full of Sophomoric Army Bandsmen that were doing all kinds of hijinks and avoiding practicing altoghether.
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_Don Herman
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2002 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Roddy -- Made you think! (Hurts me, too...)

Patrick -- Not quite what I was after, but you've made a good post. I may make one (or, you can!) later about relating warm air to fast air, thick to thin air, fogging the mirror vs. shooting air through a straw, etc. Goes along with blowing out the candle, moving the candle further away as you ascend and all that jazz. (Oh, good grief, I'm imitating my Bad side! )

But, I'm looking for how players can get and keep a mental sound of music as they are playing. I've thought of playing it in my head before I start, then trying to keep it in my head as I play. One thing perhaps worth noting is that you have to be able to see the notes on the page and hear the pitch to do this (sight singing helps). Not saying I can, but it's one thing I do to help. Once you can see a note and hear the pitch in your head, the next step is to hear it as you would like to play it, whether dark, rich and full or bright and screaming. Then, grasp the phrase as a gestalt and play along with the music in your mind.

Maybe people who do it automatically have trained themselves through endless practice to focus on the music so they always have it in their head? I suppose listening to recordings and other players helps. (I suppose that last was redundant!) I certainly find that it's a lot easier to play a piece once I have the notes I'm playing firmly in mind, which means I haven't (yet) trained myself to see the note and hear the pitch. Maybe mentally singing along would help? Hmmm...
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johntpt
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2002 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I look at it this way. A musician is the product of a lifetime of experiences. As a young child he (or she) developed an interest in music by hearing it on the radio, TV, or stereo. Perhaps he enjoyed singing in the choir in basic music class or at church. At some point something aroused interest in the trumpet - a recording, a concert, a friend or relative who played the trumpet.

The young musician begins to play in a band and enjoys playing familiar melodies or songs. The older, more experienced players provide an example and goal of what is possible to accomplish. The young player begins to take private lessons and now has a good weekly example of what a trumpet sounds like. This provides a positive role model and serves to inspire.

Later the player might join a youth orchestra or community band, hearing more fine players on all instruments. This is supplemented by attending orchestral or jazz concerts, or concerts featuring a solo trumpeter.

At the university level and beyond the player is surrounded by good music all day every day. The player becomes immersed in the sounds and styles of great music. Perhaps the player will focus on one or more particular artist(s) through recordings and live performances to serve as a role model. Concepts and ideas become more concrete with time serving as inspiration for great performances.

A musician is the product of many musical (and non-musical) experiences over many years. When performing, a musician draws on these experiences to form a concrete idea of the sounds one wants to produce and the ideas or musicality one wants to express. Inspiration can come from many sources, most importantly good teachers, good recordings, and attending good live concerts.

This is the essence of the "Chicago School" of brass playing. You might spend much time in the practice room working on technique, but when you perform the thought process is goal oriented - having a concrete concept in the mind about the sound you will make and what you will express with the music.

John Urness
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NCTrumpet
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2002 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I prepare to play a phrase, the image in my head is not pictoral or even necessarily sound, but emotional. Music is an expressive language, intended to describe human emotion. As I play, I try to convey my idea of what that emotion should be. This is probably not unlike an actor playing a role. You cannot have any doubt about your concept of a work or you'll miss the mark. One of the fantastic things about musicians is that no two can be exactly alike. Every time we play something we are interpreting.

In addition, while I play, I believe that I'm actually "singing" the music in my mind. Hopefully, the sound I'm producing will match that sound. I rare cases does the sound I'm playing exceed the expectations in my mind. One can always hope.

JC.
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tcutrpt
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2002 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I find it is much easier to produce a good sound when I've heard some great playing within the last few hours or so. For me, it helps to try and memorize an aural concept of how a recording sounds and when I play, I try and play it as close to what I listened to as I can. I have also been singing a bit. I think as has been written before in this forum, that singing is very important. Try singing a clear, steady tone and then match it on trumpet while singing in your head. Don't think about setting your embouchure or breathing or the attack. Just think of singing in your head and try to repeat everything that you did to sing the tone when you play it on the trumpet. This exercise has helped me start the day with the best sound I'm able to make. It's a consistent way for me to get a good sound every day.

Matt
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Trptbenge
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2002 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hearing the sound in your head is important. Any of you that subscribe to TPIN were fortunate to read Mark Minasians post on Bud Herseth's Master Class. He definitely is an advocate of hearing the sound in your head. I find it helpful when I play different styles of music. It helps if I can hear in my mind what I going to play first. If you justmindlessly bring the horn up and begin to play you may not acheive the sound or effect you desire.
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dales
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2002 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love John's summation. Being primarily interested in jazz, I find the Chicago philosophy as he expresses it to be appealing.

But--Jacobs had solfege training in his youth, as did most serious trained musicians of his generation. Jacobs also describes having learned to play by ear. In addition, he was once laid up for several months in his youth and played solely on his mouthpiece, which tends to force a real focus on hearing the note. In other words, Jacobs had several experiences in his youth that taught him a brain-sound connection not reliant on the horn.

The Chicago school is a philosophy that came from a generation of solfege-trained players. Nowadays, however, far fewer musicians learn solfege (John, did you have solfege training or learn to play by ear?). As someone who learned to play by reading, not by ear, I feel I'm playing catch-up. I've bought the idea that improving my hearing and even replacing a little of my trumpet practice with ear training will make me a better player.
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johntpt
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PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2002 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No I did not have special solfege training when I was young. Before ever playing a trumpet I did for years sing in the choir and take classical guitar lessons, which involves much playing by ear.

When I was in graduate school Ghitalla insisted that we spend a fair amount of time each day singing solfege using several books, including the well known Sightreading book by Dufresne. He insisted that he never developed a good ear until he had been in the Boston Symphony several years and then started learning solfege, although it is was always hard for me to believe that one could get into an orchestra on that level without a good ear.

This is certainly something that Ghitalla had in common with the "Chicago" School - the importance of ear training. On the Summit CD Arnold Jacobs talks about how his early musical training involved singing tunes and playing songs on instruments that his mother would play or sing for him. I believe he first played trumpet, later trombone, and finally tuba. As trumpet players a good way to work on "hearing" your own intonation is to play a passage on different instruments. First play it on a Bb trumpet, then a C trumpet, or on 2 different Bb trumpets with different pítch tendencies, or on a Bb trumpet and a flugelhorn, etc. Listen carefully and play the passage equally well in tune on both instruments. Use a tape recorder to see if it sounds in tune on both horns. Used intelligently a tape recorder and a tuner can really help you develop your ear.

Jacobs tells another interesting story - that as a youngster he could play things that only later someone else told him were very difficult and "shouldn't" be able to be played by such a young player. How true it is that so often we are limited only by our minds and conditioning - someone tells you something is difficult so you have trouble doing it. Many sports training books center around the idea of positive conditioning or imaging. The first step to achieving anything is believing you can do it!

JU
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_Don Herman
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PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2002 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My teacher has me singing notes and phrases frequently. At times, I hope nobody is around as we are both belting out in falsetto trying to get an operatic sound in our minds. I picked up a book on sight singing, though haven't done much with it yet. In teaching my son, I start by singing a note and having him repeat it, moving to the mpc, then the horn. After working with my teacher, I'm amazed at how often I'll put up a new piece and he'll first say "sing your first note" -- and I get it right, or nearly. Sight-reading, even! Sometimes the mind actually helps... - Don

p.s. I started playing mellow jazz stuff (not standards) and did a lot by ear. Now, in our Praise Team, I usually have just the melody line, which I play first time through, then improv the rest -- again, by ear. One time, the MD at the later traditional service, who is a stickler for "by the book", complemented me on a descant I played with the choir. I had made it up on the spot, having decided I didn't like and really couldn't play (might be some relationship, I suppose...) the Wallace-Head descant she had picked out...
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"After silence, that which best expresses the inexpressible, is music." - Aldous Huxley

[ This Message was edited by: Don Herman on 2002-05-03 01:34 ]
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Quadruple C
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PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2002 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[ This Message was edited by: Quadruple C on 2003-09-20 22:46 ]
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_Don Herman
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2003 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just bringing this back up to the top...
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PC
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2003 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,

My take on mental thingies: I try to go both for sound (remembering a trumpeter that I like) and other non-sound emotions. These other emotions might be completely abstract, such as sadness, joy, resolution, anger even, or they might be more technically oriented concepts such as sharpness of tonguing, tempo, dynamics and phrasing.

I usually try to hear the piece I am going to practise just in my mind, looking at the music and then have a go with the trumpet. While hearing it in my mind, I try to capture all different aspects discussed above, so that I really try hard to not only hear a trumpet sound I like, but a phrasing which speaks to me, articulation and what-not. This can save you a lot of unsatisfied attempts on the trumpet, if you train yourself to really hear all the details.

A good exercise for just that is sight reading new music, first in your mind, then with the instrument. The most difficult music to do that, I found, was reading old music from facsimile editions where no bar lines are marked (such as the quintets by A. Holborne) and trying to figure a way of making the music sound sensible.

Just some thoughts,
Pierre.
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redface
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2003 4:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

On 2002-04-26 00:59, Don Herman wrote:
Sometimes I "get" it, and it works really well. Most often when I'm trying to figure out an improvised part to play over or around the melody in a solo, and need to really think of what I what to do -- then do it!

The hardest horn to play is the one in my head. How do I make it easier?



I personally find that when playing jazz (or any playing by ear), it is much easier to get the sound of my trumpet closest to the sound in my head. I guess it's because you have to use your ears much more and you forget about technique - your body takes over and does the necessary adjustments to get the required sound. I find it hard to do when I am sight-reading, but quite easy to do when I am sight transposing (you have to think of pitch much more). I also find it easy when playing things from memory.

I read something in a book on sight-singing that said that the aim of learning to sight-sing was not to be able to sing a series of pitches with perfect accuracy - it is learnt to develop musical and aural sensitivity - I think there is a lot of truth in this.

This is what my teacher is getting me to do at the moment:
Take a piece of music you are working on. Look at it. Sing it through in your head with all the phrasing, tone colour, articulation that you really want to hear (perhaps do this phrase by phrase). Then play it the way you heard it in your head.
Also sometimes when I get home from college of an evening (where I can't practise cos it upsets the neighbours) I will just look at the music and practise it in my head - this way I am practising the `horn in my head' - in fact I am isolating the weak part of my playing (just like practicing k tounging isolates the weak part of double/triple tonguing).
If the hardest horn to play is the one in your head, then it makes sense to practice that horn, and not the real one.
As Herseth said: `if you have a technical problem with a passage, it's probably because you are not playing it musically enough.'
By practicing in you head, you are working on the musical elements and you don't have the real horn in your hands to worry about.

I know it sounds a bit weird, I thought it did when my teacher told me, but it works better than anything else I have tried.
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_Don Herman
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2003 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Redface - exactly! That's what my teacher is trying to get me to do as well. Starting with learning pitches by sight (we use relative pitch by popping the mpc to get a starting point), then progressing to where I hear the whole of the music -- the gestalt -- and play to it. Thanks for the advice and experience presented in your post! - Don
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redface
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2003 3:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don,

On a further note, I often think that looking at music and hearing it in your head should be able to be developed so it is as fluent as reading a book. When you read a book your brain recognises text (visual symbols) as word sounds, punctuation as rhythm. You can read a book and hear the sound and rhythm of the words in your head. When you read music your brain interprets visual symbols (notes) as sound (pitch) and rhythm. I can look at passage in a book and read it to myself with expression and clarity. I can't do it with music yet (fluently), but occasionally things click (generally on simpler stuff), kind of feels like when I learnt to read as a kid.

Keep practicing that `horn in your head'

Redface
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_Don Herman
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2003 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the book example! An example I've used before relates playing music to Morse code (really -- bear with me here!) Beginning Morse listeners hear individual sounds, and translate them to a letter. Hear dit-dit-dit, think S, write it down. As they progress, letter groups emerge so dit-dit-dit is immediately written down as S without the little extra step of thinking about the sounds first. Finally, whole word groups are recognized so that dit-dit-dit, dah-dah-dah, dit-dit-dit is heard and immediately written as "SOS" without any conscious translation process. Really good Morse talkers sit and listen as the message starts up, then write down sentences and such after they've gotten the whole message. When I see a note and hear the sound, rather than seeing a note and going through the whole "hmm, that's an A, finger 12, now what is that pitch" process, I'll feel I've gotten somewhere!

Great thoughts! - Don
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Pops
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2003 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I start with my first note of the warmup.

I heard a big Baritone voice sing it in my head; suddenly my throat opens my tongue drops out of the way and I'm ready.

Funny when I used to try trumpet sounds in my head I always got too many overtones.

I even do this with Arban exercises. I hear a Baritone sing it then I play it.

There is a BIG noticable difference with me when I don't hear it first.

6 months ago or so on TPIN they were discussing some clinics that Herseth did where he mentioned vocal sound models and they talked about how different their sound was as soon as they tried it.

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[ This Message was edited by: Pops on 2003-01-23 10:17 ]
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_Don Herman
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2003 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the "small world" department, my teacher has me sing out with gusto the way I'd like it to sound. Never any mention of a "trumpet" sound; more like an opera singer. Sounds like Pops is right on the money (as usual). Thanks, Pops!

p.s. Love your books!
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