Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Myths of Focal Dystonia


“A neurological condition that causes the involuntary contraction of muscles.”

Focal dystonia is a common, but incorrect application of the term describing the paralyzing condition experienced by too many instrumentalists and singers. The condition is very rarely involuntary contraction of muscles. Most often, it’s involuntary paralysis of muscles.


“There’s nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up.”

I recall the time I first met a very fine professional trumpet player who came to me for help with the paralysis he was experiencing when he tried to play. He was in danger of losing his job as principal of a second tier American orchestra.

His first words to me were, “Roger, I have bad news. I just came from the doctor and he told me there’s nothing wrong with my chops.” I replied, “That’s the good news!”

In 1976, while I was a member of the Seattle Symphony, I personally experienced total paralysis when I attempted to play the tuba. The condition developed over a period of about two years. It took me two years to recover well enough to play again professionally. Like a person with a history of substance abuse, I have been in recovery ever since. However, recovery from such a devastating hell can be a wonderful learning opportunity! It’s a life altering experience similar to someone who recovers from a near fatal illness.

Unfortunately, very few musicians recover because they don’t understand the cause of the condition and they don’t know what to do about it. Frequently, they are advised by the medical or educational communities to give up their careers because there is no treatment. I have heard of some ill advised treatments such as cortisone injections in the lips.

I have watched some of the finest musicians in the world give up their careers because they believed what they were being told. I have helped myself and many others resume their careers.


1. The paralysis is physical rather than psychological.
2. The paralysis is not treatable.


A few years ago, I received a call from a very fine flutist who I first met when she was as a high school student. She was in her forties and had a professional career for many years. She told me that she had seen doctors and flute teachers all over the world. She was told she had focal dystonia.

I asked her to describe her physical symptoms. She replied, “There is pain in my right hand and it is paralyzed. I can barely finger the instrument” I asked, “Are these symptoms present only when you play the flute?” She responded, “Yes!” I immediately understood that she did not have a physical problem with her hand. The problem was psychological.

I remember asking her two important questions:

1. How long have you experienced symptoms of pain and paralysis? She responded,
"Fifteen years!"

2. What were you doing professionally fifteen years ago? "I was giving eighty private flute lessons per week."

It became obvious that she was influenced by the elementary level playing she was experiencing endlessly.


"After a day of giving lessons, I sound more and more like my students."

As the quality of her playing deteriorated, she became anxious and unhappy. She tried to treat the symptoms of her deteriorating tone and technique. Eventually, the flute became a "hot stove". Her subconscious mind reacted to prevent further emotional pain by creating paralysis and physical pain in her right hand. The protective reaction was no protection because it greatly exacerbated the condition.

I brought her back to the music by having her vocally sing and finger the flute. Interestingly, she had no pain in her hand unless she fingered and played the flute.

Essentially, I applied the SBP formula without the buzzing. When she was able to maintain mental singing as she played, her hand functioned without pain. As she repeated the singing and fingering process, her playing returned to normal and she was able to renew her professional career.

Adolph Herseth understood that the lower performance level of students could have a negative influence on his playing. He always said that his first duty was as principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony so he limited his private lessons to a few select students.


Since no one intentionally wills paralysis when playing an instrument or doing anything else, all muscle paralysis is involuntary. Most often, involuntary paralysis occurs in the hands of woodwind, string, and keyboard players, and with the embouchure, tongue, or breathing of brass players.

Most musicians and teachers make the mistake of attempting to treat the symptoms rather than the cause of paralysis. Misdiagnosis always leads to greater paralysis and more failure.

The first symptom of paralysis for woodwind, string, and keyboard players is usually pain in their hands or their inability to finger technical passages that were easy in the past. The first symptom for brass players is usually their inability to play initial notes in rhythm. Later, accuracy and range gradually diminish. I frequently notice that brass players, who have advanced stages of involuntary paralysis, can no longer function in their midrange or lower register. They may retain some function in their upper register.

Since this condition takes some time to develop, I have never seen it in beginners. It can be somewhat common in intermediate musicians, but the worst cases I have encountered are in highly accomplished professionals.


“Most people never realize their dreams because they are paralyzed by fear of failure.”

“Fear is motivated by an expectation of impending doom. It can only be controlled by altering the expectation.”

“If you are fearful because you are standing at the edge of a 1000 foot cliff, step back from the edge of the cliff.”


“A trumpeter’s life is risky business. No greatness can be achieved if the player is paralyzed by fear.”

“If you are fearful when you play the trumpet, you should consider not playing it.”


The emotion of fear is a subconscious protective reaction to an expectation of physical or emotional harm. It cannot be controlled by the conscious mind. If we say to someone or ourselves, “relax” or “Don’t be afraid”, they usually become more aware of their fear and even more fearful.


Physical and emotional experiences while playing eventually become associated with and influenced by the instrument.


Most people are familiar with the experiment of the salivating dog and bell by the well known Russian behavioral psychologist. He rang a bell each time he provided food to a dog. In time, a powerful association developed between food and the sound of the bell. Eventually, the sound of the bell alone caused the dog to salivate even though no food was present.


From experience, everyone eventually learns that touching a hot stove is a harmful and unpleasant experience. When it occurs, we don’t have a conscious intellectual decision about what to do next. We don’t think, “This is very uncomfortable and harmful, what should I do about it?”

There is a powerful protective reaction is the subconscious
(Mark Douglas, Trading in the Zone)that immediately overrides the conscious will, causing the hand to move away from the hot stove. It’s almost impossible to prevent this subconscious reaction from occurring.


The instrumentalist’s emotional and physical experiences eventually become associated with the instrument they are holding for endless hours. If the history is dominated by failure, they will develop and expectation of failure. Unfortunately, a brass player receives a double dose of negative conditioning from their failure. They experience both emotional pain and physical discomfort. The protective reaction in the subconscious reacts powerfully to both in the same manner.


“We always realize our expectations.”


Unfortunately, the subconscious mind reacts to protect us from experiencing the emotional and physical pain of failure by causing paralysis. This is no different than the paralysis that prevents us from touching the hot stove. In time, the instrument becomes a hot stove!


Consciously, the musician wants to create the mechanics necessary to play their instrument. Subconsciously, their mind wants to protect them from experiencing the emotional pain and physical discomfort of failure. This antagonistic relationship always results in increased failure and an even greater expectation of failure. The downward spiral eventually leads to total paralysis if the condition is not alleviated.


“The subconscious mind is infinitely more powerful than the conscious will. If there is conflict between the two, the subconscious will always win the battle.”

“When playing an instrument or doing anything else, we must always achieve a symbiotic, rather than an antagonistic relationship, between the conscious and subconscious mind.”

ROBERT CARTER (The Secret of the Ages)

“The conscious mind is the gateway providing information to the subconscious.”


I received a call from a very fine professional horn player in Chicago. He had been performing in the pit orchestra for a very successful show that had been running for several years. He said, “I have been on vacation from the show for the past two weeks. My playing has deteriorated to the point where I don’t think I can continue.”

Although we had never met, I immediately understood what was going on. Because he had been performing the same music eight times a week for several years, he began to play less mindfully. His playing became somewhat “automatic” or on “autopilot”. As a result, he opened the door for failure to make an appearance. The feel of symptoms of failure became increasingly dominant while his awareness of the music faded away.


“In addition to the poor sounds coming from the bell, the brass player also experiences physical symptoms associated with their failure.”

A friend colorfully describes the physical symptoms. “It feels like I’m trying to push a piano up the stairs when I play my trumpet.”

It’s normal for us to try to alleviate such uncomfortable physical symptoms, which usually manifest themselves in the embouchure, breathing, and sometimes the throat.


"Sound is the criteria for how we do this and that."

The horn player described the physical problems with his embouchure that he was trying to correct. Of course, I immediately understood that source of his symptoms was not in his embouchure. It was in his “state of mind.”

We spoke in the phone for an hour. I explained his embouchure malfunction was only symptomatic of problems in his conscious mind. He needed to restore his dominance to musical awareness rather than “feel” awareness.


“Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player.”

“Playing by feel is like trying to drain a swimming pool with a straw.”

“If your playing is not motivated by a powerful awareness of sound, you will attempt to motivate it with a weak sense of feel. Failure will be the only possible outcome.”


I instructed him to apply the SBP formula in sets of three repetitions until he was able to restore his ability to execute playing mechanics normally. It is important to understand that I did not discuss playing mechanics.


“Playing mechanics cannot be motivated by the conscious will because the motor skills are much too complex for the intellectual mind. Playing mechanics can only be achieved by the powerful subconscious (reactive) mind.”

“Your subconscious mind already knows how to execute the notes. Your conscious mind only needs to be highly aware of the notes you want to play, not mechanics.”


The knowledge of how to produce sound was established in his mind many years ago. And, it was still present but it needed to be motivated by his powerful awareness of sound.


“It is sound motivates function, not function motivates sound.”


“The seventh cranial nerve transmits my musical thoughts to my lips, but I don’t know a thing about how it happens.”

“I was a good brass player until my first analytical teacher came along and attempted to teach me how to play.”


“Think sound, not mechanics.”

I’m happy to report the horn player did return to the show successfully. Over a period of three years, he had about six lessons. He is now performing at the highest level of his career.



“All our life experiences are stored in long term memory forever. Memory cannot be deleted like files in a computer.”

“We cannot erase our past. It must be replaced.”

“Being chased by a tiger is fatal only if you cannot outrun it.”

“There is no cure for our bad habits. There is a treatment, which is to create new habits that dominate the old. However, if we discontinue treatment, without fail, the old habits will reemerge.”

“The bad news is that there is no cure for your paralysis. The good news is that it’s treatable and you will be able to continue your career. If you are highly motivated, you will emerge from this experience performing at new levels of excellence.”

“If you want to understand what I’m teaching you, teach it to someone else.”


“To teach is to learn twice.”


1. The paralysis experienced by so many highly accomplished musicians is treatable.

2. The treatment does not involve medications or injections.

3. Playing skills that were present before paralysis occurred, are stored in long term memory.

4. It is not necessary to relearn our playing skills. We only have to understand how to access the skills that have not disappeared.

5. Playing mechanics are motivated, at the subconscious level of the mind, by a brass player’s conscious awareness of musical sound.


"The brass player should be somewhat unconscious of their physical maneuvers but highly conscious of their musical sound."

"I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn't matter how my lip feels or how I feel."

"It's not what you sound like that's important. What is important is what you want to sound like."

MAXWELL MALTZ (Psycho Cybernetics)

“The mechanisms of failure and success are the same.”


“Climbing the ‘Ladder of Awareness’ of sound will bring you to the notes you want to play.”

“Feeling good is a by-product of playing correctly. You cannot establish correct playing by trying to feel good first.”

“Failure is permanent only if the brass player doesn’t understand how to create success.”

“Follow the yellow brick road.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Brassaphone


“I gave up tuba playing a long time ago. Now, I’m a mouthpiece player!”

“Play the mouthpiece, not the instrument.”

“It’s just a long mouthpiece with valves or a slide.”

“Play the mouthpiece in the same manner no matter where it is, in your hand or the leadpipe.”

I recall Jake commenting to me, “You have two different mouthpiece playing techniques. One technique when it’s inside the horn and a different one when the mouthpiece is in your hand. You must transfer the same successful mouthpiece playing technique you use when it’s outside the instrument to the instrument.”

At the time, I didn’t fully understand his comment. However, I knew that when I played the mouthpiece outside the instrument, my playing was always easy and I sounded good. However, I didn’t always have the same experience when I placed it in the horn.

Later, I realized that I was forced to mentally sing the notes when I played the mouthpiece alone. There was no other way to realize different pitches. However, when I placed it in the horn, my forced singing was replaced with forced feeling because the singing stopped. Failure was the predictable result.


“Feel and Fail are four letter words to a brass player.”

“Playing by feel is like trying to drain a swimming pool with a straw.”

“The instrument is just a length of brass tubing. It already has plenty of air but it has no intelligence or sound of its own. That can only come from the mind of the player.”


“When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing then buzz. Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.”

“Practice entire sessions on the mouthpiece alone to avoid having problems creep into your playing.”

As a young tuba player, I developed a virtuoso mouthpiece technique. On several occasions, people hearing me play in a hallway or a closed room mistook me for Jake. Wow! What a compliment! I routinely played the mouthpiece for 45-60 minutes a day.

I enjoyed playing along with my favorite Reiner-CSO recordings. Actually, there were no favorites. They are all wonderful examples of the finest art of orchestral performance!

While I was a music student at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago, I frequently took long walks along the lakefront with my mouthpiece in hand.



I’m always amazed that very few brass players or wind players understand the acoustics of their instrument. In my lectures, I frequently ask, “What is the resonating element of a brass instrument?”

The surprising responses usually range from blank stares to lips or lungs. I usually reply, “Do your vibrating lips sound like a brass instrument?” “Does an oboe reed sound like an oboe?”

The obvious answer is no because vibrating lips or a reed are only the catalyst that initiates the vibration of the air column within a length of tubing. Since the air is already present within the tubing, it is not necessary to “fill the instrument with air.”


“The instrument already has plenty of air but it has no sound. Fill it with sound.”


Once I establish that the resonating element of a brass instrument is the vibrating air column, I ask students, “What method is used to vibrate the air column?”

Again, the responses range from blank stares, to “pushing air through the instrument”. Someone usually mentions first vibrating the lips but they are unable to explain how that initiates the resonance of the air column.

I explain that the process is not like using friction to create resonance with a string instrument or concussion on a percussion instrument.


“There are acoustical laws that must be obeyed.”


We must send a resonance through the mouthpiece to the air column that it can respond too, the partials of the overtone series. If the source frequency we are creating in the mouthpiece is identical (sympathetic) to a frequency of the overtone series, the air column will begin to vibrate at that frequency. If the two pitches are not sympathetic, the air column will reject the catalytic frequency, causing embouchure malfunction and resistance of breath. Unfortunately, traditional brass pedagogy is more focused on treating these symptoms of failure rather than the cause.


I remember a cutaway mouthpiece Jake used with his students to encourage them to play the mouthpiece rather than the instrument. Most of the bowl material was removed leaving only the stem, which was inserted into the leadpipe, and the rim. We would buzz the rim while fingering the instrument. This worked well if the brass player could transcend the unusual feel of playing on the rim alone.


“We must transcend physical strangeness while playing by giving dominance to music.”

Later, Mario Guarneri and others developed a device (Berp) that allowed the brass player to use their normal mouthpiece in the same manner as the cutaway mouthpiece. The advantage of these devices was that playing "feel" became less of a distraction.


A few years ago, I decided to create a simple instrument, without valves, by placing my mouthpiece in a small acoustic megaphone. I called it a “Tubaphone”. The effect was wonderful because the cone amplified my mouthpiece playing, making it easier to buzz with a resonant tone. I now refer to the tuba as a, “Megaphone.”

The Tubaphone sounds like an amplified mouthpiece rather than a tuba. However, it is the same shape as the bell of the tuba and more importantly, it dramatically illustrates the connection between playing the mouthpiece in the same manner inside or outside the instrument.


With the smaller mouthpieces, I suggest that my students go to a hardware store and find a funnel with an appropriate size opening. Some of my horn students, who use instruments with detachable bells, place the bell over the funnel for even greater amplification.



Some brass teachers discourage external mouthpiece playing because of the strange difference in feel between playing inside or outside the instrument. Also, some trumpet teachers encourage their students to buzz their mouthpiece with a leadpipe in order to duplicate the “feel” of playing in the instrument.


"When I use a megaphone to amplify the sound my lips, it's exactly the same process I use to amplify my vocal chords. I don't have any conscious knowledge of my vocal chords when I talk or sing and it's not necessary to have such knowledge when I create musical sounds with my lips. However, the powerful knowledge for singing and buzzing originates in the same area of the brain, but at the subconscious level of thought."

“We must not concern ourselves with how playing feels. We must transcend feel by having a powerful awareness of sound.”

“Feeling good is a by-product of playing correctly. We cannot motivate correct playing by trying to feel good first.”


"The key to creating success can be found in speech."

“It doesn’t matter what playing feels like. What’s important is what it sounds like.”


"We can learn to play an instrument the same way we learned to speak language."

I like to illustrate the used of the Tubaphone by playing the same music, without the use of valves, on both instruments. Sometimes, I’ll even finger the Tubaphone as if it has valves. I refer to valveless tuba playing as a “Megaphone Concerto”

Another interesting technique is to personally finger the instrument for the player as they buzz their mouthpiece inside the instrument. Once they get past the strangeness of having me finger their instrument, they can focus only on their musical mouthpiece playing.



“I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn’t matter how my lip feels or how I feel.”


“A brass instrument is nothing more than an extended cone with valves or a slide. The valves or slide have no function in producing sound and little function regulating pitch. They only allow the regulated sounds created in the mouthpiece to be realized outside the bell in a more technically efficient manner.”

“In some ways, the invention of valves was not such a good occurrence. Too often, brass players think that valves are an important element of tone production. Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven wrote technically challenging music that was performed beautifully on brass instruments long before the valve came along.”

“It’s just the singing.”

Friday, March 5, 2010

Master of Failure


“I have personally experienced your worst moment of failure. I hope you never have an opportunity to experience mine.”

“Failure is an opportunity to learn.”

“We must accept a certain amount of failure as an element of creating success. However, we don’t have to like it!”

“Although I never enjoyed what was happening to me during my worst moments of failure, I’m grateful they occurred. I now have a unique opportunity to help others.”

When a student comes to my studio, they are completely transparent. There is nothing going on, either positive or negative, that I have not personally experienced. On many occasions, I have worked with brass players, who possess impressive academic credentials, but are unable to play their instrument.

For many years, Jake did not allow a doctoral degree program on tuba at Northwestern University.


“If you can play, you don’t need an advanced degree. If you can’t play, I refuse to allow a piece of paper as a substitute.”

I frequently asked, highly credentialed but struggling students, what their former teachers said about their failure. I recall one particular response.

“He didn’t understand why I couldn’t play and he also didn’t understand why he could.”

In every instance, their former teachers were excellent brass players themselves, but they didn’t understand the failure of their students.


Here is a question I commonly ask students of all ages and stages of development after we have created some success in a lesson.

“Has anyone ever said anything to you about air or embouchure?”

The reply is usually, “Yes!!!”

My response is always, “Have I said anything about those words to you?”

The replies vary from, “NO” to “I’m not sure.” Sometimes they think I did, so they respond by explaining what someone else said to them. I quickly remind them that I said nothing about air or embouchure. I follow up with the question,” Was it necessary for me to discuss those words for your success?” The obvious response is always, “No!”




“There’s nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up.”

“Paralysis by Analysis.”


“Take in a large breath every time you breathe.”

“Breath can only be motivated by the player’s concept of sound,

“Sound motivates function.”

“While playing, we can only have a vague awareness of air at the conscious level. However, we can have a vivid awareness of sound.”

“When you treat only the symptoms of failure rather than the cause, you will create more failure.”

“Embouchure malfunction and breath resistance are only symptoms of a problem with the brass player’s state of mind.”

“There are many fine brass players in the world, but great teachers are rare.”

“Too often, applied brass teachers are hired solely for their performance ability.

It is wrongfully assumed that if someone can play an instrument well, they will also be successful teachers. Teachers should be evaluated on the success of their students as well as their own playing ability.”


The Double Barreled Shotgun

When the air column of a brass instrument rejects the vibrations that are being created in the mouthpiece, the player experiences emotional pain and physical discomfort. Rejection occurs when the air column cannot accept a non-sympathetic frequency.

The unpleasant physical symptoms of rejection are embouchure malfunction and breath resistance. Most often, brass players and their teachers attempt to correct their embouchure and air.


“There is plenty of air creating the bad sounds coming from your instrument. If your problem was the lack of air, there would be no sounds.”

“In all my years of teaching, I have never encountered any brass player with an embouchure problem. However, I have met many who think they have a problem.”

I recall the time in 1973 when I found myself working daily with some very insecure brass players in the Honolulu Symphony. It was an unfamiliar experience because I was accustomed to playing with some of the finest brass players in the world in Chicago.

Gradually, I began to notice a deterioration of my tone, it was becoming more difficult to play, and I was losing accuracy. I also noticed that my chops didn’t
“feel right”, tonguing was difficult, and I was no longer taking in large breaths.

My playing felt uncomfortable and insecure so I was not a “happy camper”. Jake was five thousand miles away so I was on my own. Incidentally, the very same thing happened to my successor in the orchestra. Later, I was able to help him recover also.

Over the years, I noticed a problem that occurred with some of Jake’s students, including myself. When we went off on our own, we tried to bring him with us! That would have been wonderful if we brought the “musical” Jake. But too often, it was “analytical” Jake. He always told his students not to analyze themselves when they played. However, we all new we were being analyzed by him.

As I began to analyze why my chops, tongue, and air were not functioning, everything began to work less and less until I could not play at all. I was not strolling down the “Yellow Brick Road” to Emerald City. I headed directly for the “Witches’’ Castle”.

At age twenty-six, I was young and motivated enough to find my way back from total devastation. My personal process of recovery gave me exceptional insights into what causes failure and what is necessary to create success. If I had known then what I know now, there never would have been a crash.


“It’s normal for us to want to treat the symptoms of failure if we don’t understand the cause.”

“If we truly understood the cause of our failure, there would be no failure.”

It’s also normal for us to want to eliminate or prevent physical discomfort or emotional pain. There is a protective reflex in the subconscious mind that wants to protect us from physical and emotional harm.

Unfortunately the reflex which prevents us from touching a hot stove can eventually have the same reaction to the instrument in our hands. The negative conditioning increases in time as the player creates a history of failure. In time, they may become partially of fully paralyzed.


“Once negative conditioning is established it cannot be undone. It must be replaced with positive conditioning.”

“Positive conditioning, associated with playing an instrument, can only take place if there is a history of success playing the instrument.”



“Self analysis motivates the sense of feel which stimulates very weak input to the brain. As a result, playing mechanics are inhibited rather than encouraged.”

To create successful note execution, we must encourage motor function which is the stimulation of output from the subconscious brain. Successful output can only come from the subconscious because the mechanics and awareness’s involved are much too numerous and complex for the limited intellect of the conscious mind. It is possible to have only one conscious thought at any given moment.

Unfortunately, traditional brass pedagogy encourages self analysis. It is not necessary to study lips in order to produce sound just as it isn’t necessary to study vocal chords to do the same. We don’t study the mechanics of breathing in order to breathe and we don’t study the tongue in order to speak or chew.

It is our desire for and awareness of accomplishment that motivates the mechanics necessary to achieve whatever we want.


“I order products but I don’t know a thing about how they are delivered.”

“The key to playing successfully can be found in speech.”

“I want you to have the mind of a child.”

(The Inner Game of Music)

"Would you like to play with the ease of a six year old child?"


“When we play an instrument, we must use the same simplistic approach to creating the complex physical maneuvers that allow us to successfully do all other functions in life, such as walking and talking.”


When we talk, it’s our conscious awareness of the sound of words that motivates the mechanics necessary to realize speech. We are not consciously thinking about air, vocal chords, or the tongue. As children, we didn’t learn to speak language by consciously studying mechanics. Given enough time, our subconscious mind figured out the mechanics based on the motivating awareness of sound.

We have all heard stories about very successful musicians and singers who never had a lesson in their lives. For example, I’m reminded of the great Cuban trumpeter and pianist, Arturo Sandoval.


“I was a very successful brass player until my first teacher came along.”

“We must give dominance to music, not an instrument.”


My personal recovery, and that of the many people I have encountered in the last forty years of my career, has been motivate by an altered state of mind.

That alteration was to become much less aware of how playing feels and the awareness of playing mechanics to becoming committed to the awareness of sound. That is how I created success in the past before I drifted into the abyss of mindlessly using the sense of feel as a motivator of playing mechanics.


“Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player.”

"Playing by feel is like trying to drain the water from a swimming pool with a straw."

When I finally realized that there was nothing wrong with my embouchure, lungs, tongue, or fingers, I became liberated to focus all my energy on the sound I wanted to produce.


“The brass player should focus 90% of their intellect on the sound they want to produce. If they do, there will be only be a peripheral (10%) awareness of how playing feels and what we are doing (mechanically).”

"It is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers and highly conscious of our musical goals."

“It’s not what you sound like that is important. What’s important is what you want to sound like.”

“I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn’t matter how my lips feels or how I feel.”


“If you can sing it, you can play it.”


“When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing, buzz, then transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.”

“Sound is the criteria for how you do this and that.”

"Think sound not mechanics."


"The first teaching point is tone."


For many years, I have prescribed a formula of vocally singing and buzzing in sets of three repetitions. The sets are repeated until the awareness of sound is powerful enough to transcend all distractions, including feel and the mindless collection of brass tubing in our hands.


“At times, my students have failed to apply the Sing, Buzz, Play formula, but the formula has never failed them when they did apply it.”

“We must create a history of success in order to create an expectation of success.”