Welcome to the blog devoted to brass playing and classical music. A blog by two brass teachers: Matt Hurley and Doug Battson.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Braces, Trumpet and Trombone

I have a student that has been taking with me for awhile and he's finally starting to really get a lot of the concepts that we've been talking about. He got braces last year and has been struggling some, but has improved his tone and range since getting them.

His band directors are constantly giving him grief about little embouchure problems. Which is fine in my book, except that this is a guy who is a perfectionist to begin with and is now dealing with whatever stigma is attached to having the braces.

Earlier in the year I had him blow on an old trombone mouthpiece because I wanted him to get a feel for getting the "buzz" going in the chops without overtaxing his trumpet chops. It worked and really helped focus in on getting a good "buzz."

School is back in session and he's now realizing that the pieces that he had been playing were short. He doesn't quite have the endurance that he needs to achieve the kind of results that he is used to.

His solution: switch to trombone.

My concerns with this plan is that I don't think he's going to have the appropriate air support to play a low brass intrument. Sure, he could develop that over time, but air support was one of the things we had been working on a lot over the last year or so on trumpet. While he had made significant progress, I don't think he's going to be happy with the results of making the switch.

I have set up a session with this student with Doug to determine the feasibility of him making the switch and am interested to hear what others might have to say on the subject.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Another Month... Music still lives

Another month has gone by and so it is time for me to post once again on this site. Not a whole lot to report. Life continues on. I still work too hard, still don't play my trombone as often as I would like, still doing the same things that I did yesterday and the day before that, and the day before that. Otherwise, not much happening.

One of the items that is new is the store where I teach lessons is closing its doors as of the beginning of March. Caught me by surprise. Certainly didn't know what I was going to do about teaching anymore. Gave me pause for several long nights of doing some heavy thinking considering my options.

One of the options was to teach out of my apartment. However, since I am not the neatest of individuals, that would mean some serious cleaning and keeping the apartment clean. Didn't forsee that happening very well.

Another option was to go to another store and try and teach there. This nice thing about the place I was teaching at was that it was literally 2 minutes away from my apartment. I was going to have a hard time driving other distances just to make a go of it, especially with the shape that my car is in.

Another one of the options was to stop teaching when they closed their doors. I will have to admit that I gave this one some serious thought. It would be nice to have my Saturday afternoons and Monday nights back to myself. It would be nice instead of having to go to teach lessons to be able to sleep in and kick back and do whatever I wanted for the weekend. The thought of this was very tempting to me. However, the more that I thought about this, it just wasn't me. I enjoy teaching. I enjoy playing.

Luckily for us, one of the guitar teachers there has partnered with somebody who is willing to put up the cash to open up a lessons studio just a few doors down from the current teaching location. They will be opening up just as the other store is closing. This is great news for me and my students. It will mean that I will have to continue to give up my Saturdays and Monday nights, but after the next story, how could I not give up those days to teach music.

I have a 69 year old gentleman who started taking lessons from me a year ago. He had never played an instrument before in his life, but he always enjoyed music and always wanted to learn. He was so distraught when I broke the news to him that the store was closing that he went home and talked to his wife to see if it would be okay for me to come and give him lessons at his home. For someone who loves music that much and feels that he his learning something each time we have a lesson, how can I not continue to teach?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christmas Music and the Holidays

Well my how time flies. It has been a while since I have posted here. As I am sitting here waiting for work to call and confirm what I already know, that the 8 inches of snow on the ground and still falling is enough to cancel work tomorrow, I am listening to the sounds of the season presented by a trombone player that I found on the web the other week (Keith Bilinsky at www.bebop.ca/index.html excellent trombone Christmas music!). As I am sitting here listening to these sounds, I am just thinking about what the music means to me especially at this time of year. My tastes tend to run towards more traditional Christmas carols (Silent Night, O Holy Night, etc). However, no matter what a person's musical tastes are, this season allows everyone to experience their tastes.

Like I said, my tastes tend to favor the more lyrical, melodic lines. O Holy Night if done right will bring chills to my spine. Even if done poorly, it still is nice to listen to. Silent Night is always a favorite. Coventry Carol tops my list too. I am fond of Bing Crosby singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" or Nat King Cole's rendition of "The Christmas Song". Working with my students over the last month and a half, I have found that they have their favorites. My fourth grade trumpet student wanted "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to be able to play for her holiday concert. That one took some time to arrange for her ability and even still we started on the 12th day. I guess that my point to all of this is that music is an integral part of our lives during this time of year.

In light of that revelation, I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas with your families, friends and loved ones. Happy New Year to all of you as well. May you enjoy this holiday season and enjoy the music that goes along with it. Until next year, may the music lift your heart and take you to new places to sail.

God bless.


Friday, November 19, 2004

For A Good Time...

This sounds like a really good time. I just love this kind of thing and wish we'd see stuff like this in America more often than we do...

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Wow. I have just stumbled across a wonderful piece of music here recently. "Trombonology" by Tommy Dorsey is a fun piece that would challege the most advanced player. I stumbled across this piece while looking at websites for different trombone players. This particular site had a MIDI file in which this particular player was showcasing his own solo trombone with piano arrangment. I have to admit I listened to this file and was blown away. I have since been back several times just to listen to this piece of music and have become enthralled. Where was this piece of music when I was in college? Shame on you Mr. F L. Shame on you Mr. K S (you still have not earned your "doctor" title in my opionion). You at WSU school of music did not let me know. You did not alert me that this piece of music was out there. Had I known about this piece, I would have wanted to attempt to play it. It is definitely a challenging piece, but as I have been listening to it over and over again, I am finding it a fun piece of music that I wish that I had know about much earlier.

I now have a copy of the music. I am going to work on it on my own. However, I am not playing as much as I was back in college because I just don't have the time. It would have been fun to try this piece when I was playing every day and at my best.

When I started reading the comments, I realized that I did not include the link where I found all of this information. Hat tip to the commentors. Here is the link where I first discovered the information on Trombonology. This link includes trombone part, trombone and piano part, and a midi file of the performance of Trombonology. Site owner is Benjamin Coy and this is his arrangement of the trombone and piano part. The website link is http://www.tenorposaune.com/music/Trombonology.php
Hope that you enjoy.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Braces and Brass Players

It used to be when beginning students would get braces, it would effect their playing considerably. I don't feel that this is the case so much anymore. Braces of today are not quite as bulky as they used to be when I was growing up. They seem to do as effective a job as those of years past.

You do need to be careful with students with braces and make sure that they are still playing in a good position so as to not let them get away with poor embrouchure. You also want to make sure that they are playing in a good position as to not comprimise tone quality.

I have a student who has some dental problems that really affect his ability to play the horn. We were just getting him to the point where he was starting to take off. He has recently gotten braces. Luckily for him and for me, it has not affected his ability to play. While the braces are something that he will have to deal with, the fact that they are not a hinderance to his playing ability is a good thing. This student has a strong drive and desire to want to play the instrument well. As a beginner, he is already exceeding the abilities of the rest of his class. While I want to encourage him, I do not want to have him get too far ahead of his class, or he will become easily bored. This is the type of challenge that I am blessed to have. Now I just need to figure out what steps to take from here.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Beginner or Easy Play Books, Should They be Used?

When I head over to the local music store to find music, I am often torn as to whether or not I should brouse through the Easy Play Books. Ultimately, I usually do look through these selections and find something that I will pick up and use with my students.

My quandry for wanting to choose these books is the fact that they are easy. Most of the time these types of books do not present any kind of challenge except for beginners. The arrangements are usually simplified versions of the songs. Sometimes, the editors and writers in an effort to make the songs easy for students actually make poor editing choices and the essence of the song is comprimised. Most of the time the range for these songs is well within the students abilities and is actually limiting for Intermediate to Advanced students.

So if they are easy and so full of problems why choose them? They do offer some benefits. Oftentimes they can be used to help teach different musical concepts or styles in a simplified manner. They can also be used to teach musical phrasing. When introducing another style of music, such as latin and jazz, they can helpful to help teach the style without too much difficulty.

When you use these books, you use them knowing that you will have to be careful and choose wisely. They should be used to help reinforce musical concepts and ideals rather than as true music.