Message from Gerry Klaassen
“All of us enjoy making music or we wouldn’t be in the band. Some of us have been at it for many years, some of us for just a few. Have you ever wondered what makes some performance pieces more enjoyable than others? Could it be the type or style of the composition or arrangement; the degree of difficulty? Could it be because of a pressure packed concert with family and friends in the audience? It may just be all of the above, but there is an added ingredient. In most instances it is our own ability and the work each of us puts into playing our own part to get to the performance level required by the composer or arranger. (Or conductor?)
There are some simple shortcuts musicians can take to build up technique to the point that will make the difficult passages and performance pieces easier to play. When Isaac Stern, the renowned solo violinist was on tour, he would spend many hours daily just on scales. This was his way to maintain his technique to his required level. Some conservatories have scales at given speeds and with various articulations as a requirement for certain performance levels. After all, most music is made up of scales and arpeggios, therefore it makes sense to commit to muscle memory the recurring components that make up our favorite selections.
The second shortcut is building flexibility and embouchure strength. For a percussionist, it is independence of hands and feet. For woodwinds and brass, each of the instrumental families differ somewhat. Are long tones the best? Octave and interval leaps? There is no one right answer although a combination of both can’t hurt lip strength. Neither will changing dynamics while maintaining intonation on each note.
The third shortcut is listening to your favorite soloist/virtuoso to get a preferred sound in mind to strive for. Listen to several performers playing the same solo. Which one was the most enjoyable and why? We often choose the one we would like to sound like. Having an idea of our preferred sound will lead the player to achieve the best in tone production.
The above shortcuts are of course the basis of performing musicians’ regular approach to practice. Our own enjoyment of the pieces and solos we like to play often depends on our ability to master the passages that give us the most difficulty to play.