Paralysis by Analysis
Sound is the criterion for how you do this and that
First sing vocally then buzz the mouthpiece. Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.
There's nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up.
It's amazing what your chops can do when you get your (analytical) mind out of the way.
I’m just ordering products (musical sounds).
Being aware of what sound like is not as important as being aware of what you want to sound like.
Your audience does not care how it feels when you play so neither should you. You audience only cares about how you sound, so should you.
There are two instruments. One in the head and one in the hands. The instrument in the hands is a perfect mirror reflecting the one in the head.
The instrument provides a readout of our thoughts.
The object in your hands is not the real instrument. YOU are the real instrument.
Sound motivates function.
Your instrument is already full of air but it has no sound. Fill it with sound.
That's just a hollow length of brass tubing at the end of your mouthpiece. It has no intelligence or sound of it's own, but it already is full of air. You must fill the tube with musical sounds that originate as conscious awareness in your mind and are created in the mouthpiece. It is not necessary to intellectually understand the mechanics of how to accomplish tone production. Your conscious awareness of the sound will motivate your subconscious mind to learn and execute the mechanics if it's given enough time.
You don't need to study or be aware of your lips or breath when you play just as it is not necessary to be consciously aware of your vocal chords or air when you speak. Your subconscious mind will realize the complex mechanics necessary to produce sound if you don't consciously interfere.
We can only have a vague awareness of embouchure and air while playing. However, we can easily have a vivid awareness of the sound we want to produce.
Conscious self awareness and self analysis will cause you to bypass the power of your subconscious mind. Paralysis is the inevitable result.
The audience does not care how you feel when you play so you should not care either. However, the audience does care about how you sound and so should you.
Feeling good when you play is a by-product of playing correctly. You cannot motivate effective performance by attempting to feel good first.
If you don't influence the instrument with a vivid conscious awareness of the music, it will influence you with uncomfortable feedback and paralysis.
The only thing that matters is your mental commitment to the music. Your subconscious mind will respond faithfully and powerfully to motivate whatever playing mechanics are required to realize a musical commitment when an instrument is in your hands.
We cannot motivate effective mechanical function by receiving messages and sending messages simultaneously. Our nervous systems function most efficiently in DC rather than AC. It's like a one way street.
You can sing without buzzing but you cannot buzz without singing.
Play your mouthpiece as if the instrument does not exist. The instrument is nothing more than a mindless length of brass tubing that is an extension of the mouthpiece.
The sound that emerges from the bell of your instrument is an honest reflection of the sound that begins as a conscious awareness in the brain and is realized in the mouthpiece.
All my playing is on the mouthpiece alone. The only thing that varies is what is on the end of the stem.
H. A. Vandercook
Keep it simple.
If you can sing it, you can play it.
You cannot sit on the stage and in the audience at the same time.
Brass players are much too concerned about their embouchure and to little concerned about how they should sound.
Jake first heard me play in 1966 when I was 17 years old. After listening for about a half hour he said, “You sound like you have already been studying with me for three years.” At the time, I didn’t understand the significance of his statement. Later, I realized that I actually had been studying with him for three years. In my personal practice, I was totally committed to imitating his sound every day.
I was very fortunate that there were no other music teachers preaching air and embouchure analysis. I focused only on trying to sound like Jake. Sound awareness became the only factor motivating my development as a young tuba player and later as a teacher.
The key to playing an instrument successfully can be found in speech.
We must give dominance to the music over our awareness of what we are doing physically or the instrument.
We can teach a child how to play an instrument the same way they learned how to speak, which is the imitation of sound.
What motivates everyone to create language is their awareness of the sound of words. Over time, the ability to talk occurs without any conscious knowledge of the mechanics of speech.
THE COMPLEX MECHANICS OF SPEECH ARE EXECUTED PRECIOUSLY BY OUR SUBCONSCIOUS RESPONDING TO OUR VIVID CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF WORDS.
The mechanics required to produce sound on any instrument are much to complex to be motivated by our conscious intellect. We must motivate the power of the subconscious mind to provide the necessary motor function.
OUR VIVID CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF THE SOUND WE WANT TO PRODUCE MUST DOMINATE OUR THOUGHTS OTHERWISE WE WILL BECOME PARALYZED.
Virtually every musician who comes to me for help has lost their ability to function because their conscious awareness has become dominated by how they feel physically, mechanics of playing, or the instrument.
FOCAL DYSTONIA is a paralyzing condition (Val Salva) that is motivated by the subconscious mind in response to the negative conditioning associated with the instrument. If the player experiences too much failure, the resulting anxiety and physical discomfort becomes associated with and reinforced by the instrument. The subconscious reacts the same as it does to any harmful or unpleasant situation by causing paralysis. The instrument becomes a hot stove.
FOCAL DYSTONIA has become a common diagnosis for mechanical malfunction or paralysis. Unfortunately, it is described as an incurable or untreatable condition that is career ending. Too many wonderful musicians have given up their playing careers because they are not aware that FD is treatable and that mechanical function can be restored. Almost all of my teaching now involves helping paralyzed musicians begin the process of recovery.
The process of recovery is endless. I'm 40 years into mine. I describe the process like being pursued by a tiger which is fatal only if you don't outrun it.
I outrun the tiger every time the instrument is in my hands by making a mental commitment to the music by singing every note as I play it. This allows me to transcend all uncomfortable physical feedback reinforced powerfully by the instrument. How I feel physically or emotionally or the instrument mean nothing. It's only the music that matters.
My vivid mental commitment to the music always motivates my subconscious to do whatever is necessary to realize it with the instrument. The only time it doesn't work is when my musical awareness is not accurate, I run out of breath, I use an incorrect fingering, or a valve malfunctions.
If I don't have a vivid and accurate conscious awareness of every note, my subconscious will attempt to substitute ineffective feel awareness for the weak or missing auditory awareness.
PARALYZING FOCAL DYSTONIA IS THE RESULT OF NOT HAVING A MUSICAL AWARENESS IN THE CONSCIOUS MIND THAT THE SUBCONSCIOUS CAN RESPOND TO. NOTHING MORE!
I want you to have the simplistic mind of a child not an intellectual adult.
I sing the notes in my head as I play them, It doesn’t matter how my lip feels or how I feel.
I always believe that it is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals.
I don’t care if everything you are doing is wrong if your playing sounds good.
The logical conclusion of that statement must be that if your playing sounds good, you cannot be doing anything wrong.
Over the years, many of my most successful students have had their playing destroyed or damaged by other teachers and clinicians who tell them they have an incorrect embouchure or breathing problems.
Fortunately, I have always helped them recover by restoring their conscious commitment to the sound.
Your subconscious mind will respond faithfully and powerfully to execute your vivid conscious awareness of the sound you want to produce.
A vivid conscious awareness of the sound you want to produce is achieved when you have a powerful mental commitment to singing each note in your mind as you play it.
If you are not fully committed to a vivid awareness of the sound you want to produce, the instrument will have a powerful paralyzing influence on your subconscious mind because you will attempt to play by feel.
Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player.
Attempting to play by the sense of feel is like trying to drain a swimming pool with a straw or driving the wrong way down a one way street.
You must be an honest musician because you have a lie detector in your hands.
We get into trouble when our awareness of the sound is vague or does not exist. Since there is no auditory awareness to respond to, the subconscious mind reacts to create sound awareness using the sense of feel. The mouthpiece is on the lips, so the subconscious mind will attempt to convert them into ears if there is no awareness of sound in the inner ear of the conscious mind. The lips are quite capable of producing sound but they are very poor detectors of sound.
The unfortunate result of attempting to play by feel is that paralysis is inevitable. Since there is no auditory awareness there is nothing for the subconscious mind to respond to.
Robert Collier (The Secret of the Ages)
The conscious mind is the gateway accessing the subconscious. where the real power lies.
Mark Douglas (Trading in the Zone)
The zone is the state of mind necessary to create an accomplishment.
Go for the product. The product is not blowing or fingering. It's musical sound.
With an instrument in our hands, the product is never blowing, fingering, or other physical maneuvers. The mechanics required to create sound with an instrument are much too complex for anyone to motivate by conscious intellect. We don’t have the intelligence or awareness of our internal bodies to motivate such complex motor function.
When we attempt to create motor function by using conscious intellect, we bypass the great power of the subconscious mind and failure in inevitable. Computers were developed to compensate for the weakness of our conscious intellect.
It wasn't necessary to study your vocal chords to learn how to speak. It is not necessary to study your lips to learn how to produce musical sounds. In both instances, the sound of words or music motivate mechanical function.
The music tells us everything we need to know because it will motivate the power of our subconscious mind.
If our powerful subconscious mind stopped maintaining life support, we would die immediately because we could not replace it with weak conscious intellect.
CONSCIOUS MUSICAL IMAGINATION IS A POWERFUL MOTIVATOR OF SUBCONSCIOUS MECHANICAL FUNCTION.
INTELLECTUAL ANALYSIS IS A POWERFUL DESTROYER OF SUBCONSCIOUS MECHANICAL FUNCTION BECAUSE THE INTELLECTUAL MIND IS TOO WEAK AND UNINFORMED TO EXECUTES SUCH COMPLEX MOTOR SKILLS.
Meredith Willson (“The Think System” from The Music Man)
You only have to think the tune to have to come out perfectly clear.
When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece). Transfer the singing and buzzing to the horn.
SING BUZZ PLAY
The most important concept I learned from Herseth, Jacobs, and Kleinhammer was that the real challenge when playing an instrument is mental not physical. They had a powerful mental commitment to the music which resulted in extraordinary sounds emerging from their bells.
We must first establish the state of mind that will motivate the physical. There are so many with instruments in their hands but there are so few who can function well. The discrepancy can only be explained as a difference in the mind of those who can and those who cannot function well.
THE HOLY BRASS GRAIL
The paralysis that results from our lack of musical awareness has a very simple treatment which has nothing to do with mirrors or breathing devises.
WE MUST ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN A VIVID CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF THE SOUND OF EVERY NOTE AS WE PLAY IT.
We only need to have the courage to allow our awareness of the sound to motivate the mechanics necessary to play.
The mouthpiece is a powerful tool because it encourages mental awareness (singing) of the music and tone production if played loudly. The player will be encouraged to do whatever is necessary to provide the amplification ordinarily supplied by the instrument. I encourage brass players to use a plastic funnel as a bell to amplify their mouthpiece playing. It makes the sound more resonant and tone production is a somewhat easier.
The instrument only amplifies and colors the sound which is created in the brain and realized in the mouthpiece. The instrument has no sound of it's own.
I was a successful brass player until the first teacher came along.
Jake's first experience as a brass player occurred when he came home from The Boy Scouts with a valveless bugle in his hands. He had offered to learn the instrument for his troop. His mother was a trained musician but she new nothing about playing brass instruments. She simply played the notes on the piano and Jake imitated what he heard.
That simple beginning had a powerful impact on his development and ultimately on the many brass players who have been influenced by his playing and teaching.
I gave up tuba playing long ago. Now I play an 18 ft. mouthpiece with valves.
The mouthpiece is a powerful tool because playing it without the instrument encourages mental singing and tone production,
The function of the instrument is limited to amplifying and coloring the sound that is created in the mouthpiece. It has no sound of its own.
The frequency of the sound created in the mouthpiece must be precisely accurate otherwise the air column within the instrument will reject it.
It's our vivid conscious awareness of WHAT we want to sound like that's important. We must have the courage to allow the great power of the subconscious mind to motivate HOW to create it.
THE GOLDEN RATIO (3:1)
To elevate their musical awareness, I encourage brass players to sing vocally and buzz musical phrases 3 times (any combination of singing and buzzing) externally before transferring to the instrument. The sets may be repeated as necessary to maintain mental focus by singing the music while playing.
NOTHING MATTERS BUT A VIVID AWARENESS OF AND COMMITMENT TO THE SOUND WE WANT TO PRODUCE. THE INSTRUMENT IN OUR HANDS WILL HONESTLY REFLECT THE LEVEL OF OUR COMMITMENT.
Self awareness and paralyzing self analysis leads us to the Witches Castle where we are plagued by flying monkeys and the Wicked Witch of the West.
The Yellow Brick Road will lead us to Emerald City where.......
IT'S JUST THE SINGING AND BUZZING!
IT'S JUST THE SINGING AND BUZZING!
IT'S JUST THE SINGING AND BUZZING! ..... EVERY NOTE, EVERY DAY!
I EMPHATICALLY ENCOURAGE ALL INSTRUMENTALISTS AND VOCALISTS TO REJECT THE SELF ANALYSIS AND SELF AWARENESS THAT IS PARALYZING THEM.
YOUR CONSCIOUS COMMITMENT TO THE MUSIC WILL MOTIVATE AND GUIDE YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS MIND TO PROVIDE THE MECHANICAL FUNCTION NECESSARY TO REALIZE IT WITH AN INSTRUMENT OR THE VOICE.
COME BACK TO THE MUSIC BECAUSE IT TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW.
Friday, January 17, 2014
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