Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Contradictions and meanderings

James Boldin has recently published an article on his blog, in part about playing softly. In it he quotes various authorities on what you need to do to play softly.

They are all agreed on the importance of it, and the need to practice properly, but they have remarkably different ideas about what you do to physically produce soft notes. There are flat contradictions between the different visualisations involved. Everyone has their own idea as to how it is all working, and some of these (possibly most of them) are physiologically wrong. And yet they all work for the people concerned, since they are professional players and teachers who have definitely mastered the art of soft playing.

This is a real problem with wind teaching. Almost everything about wind playing is either happening internally within the body or in minute and outwardly almost imperceptible changes in the embouchure. It sometimes makes me wonder how anybody manages to learn a wind instrument at all!

I don't know "how to play the horn". All I know is how I play the horn. I could describe how I play softly. But would it be of any use to anybody else? I've seen and heard and read so many conflicting ways you should go about playing the horn. Some I agree with, many I don't. I have a few approaches that I haven't heard mentioned by others. They seem to work for me - I claim nothing more for them.

There seems to be such disagreement as to what is going on. If we all disagree, we can't all be right and most of us are wrong. But then there is great disagreement in the best approach even for such apparently simple things as teaching children how to read. And yet most of manage to learn it somehow.

So that's why I've tended to talk here more about musical aspects of horn playing rather than the technical aspects of producing the sound. I've no reason to regard my own particular synthesis of ideas on horn technique as being superior to anybody else's. But musicality is talked about less than technique, and so I feel there is a gap to be filled there.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great point Jonathan! As wind players we often shy away from actual anatomical explanations for things, in fear of the dreaded "paralysis by analysis." I'm always amazed at how much anatomy singers are required to learn in their vocal pedagogy classes. In regards to soft playing, or any other technique really, I suppose we have to proceed using the best information we can find (either in the form of lessons or in print) and adjust things as necessary along the way to achieve what works best for us.

    Best regards,