A few days ago I posted (A lesson in basics) about my grueling lesson with Scott Bacon who I take lessons from monthly. Thursday I had my weekly lesson with Lynn. I reviewed my lesson with Scott pointing out the specific things I wanted Lynn to watch for. In general I work on very, very specific exercises with Scott along with one piece of music that Lynn and I are working on if there is time. In my lessons with Lynn we go over the exercises I work on for Scott and then spend a lot more time on music.
Lynn and I started with the low arpeggios that I always warm-up on. Low C – middle C – G – middle C – back to G and then down to C. This is the exercise that Scott stopped me about half way thru and said that I was closing my throat. It’s described in a bit more detail in A lesson and practicing. I worked on it a lot between Monday and Thursday and Lynn watched me carefully as I progressed up to third space C and back. She didn’t see me close my throat (phew) as I got higher but she did say that I am working too hard. I wasn’t really sure how to work less hard but I got it during the next exercise.
After the arpeggios we worked on Singer exercise #4. The goal is to play the four note slurs (G-A-B-C; then A-B-C-D, etc.) as smoothly and evenly as possible. We spent some time doing this sequence on the mouthpiece only. This got me to relax, not work so hard (I got it), and just blow a nice even airstream. As you go up in the scale more air is needed but the volume and the smoothness has to remain the same. The exercise went much, much better back on the horn.
Here’s the big advantage of working with two teachers. Scott talked about what he wanted me to accomplish from the exercise. I played the exercise over and over at Scott’s and eventually I got to ‘very good’ and ‘that’s what I’m looking for’ comments from Scott. The problem for me was that I really didn’t know exactly what I did to get to ‘very good.’ I could hear that I was playing the exercise much better. I know the goal but getting to the goal, not so much.
Lynn provided the tools that got me to play the exercise correctly consistently. The same thing was true with Kopprash #2. Scott told me what he was looking for (this was my third lesson on Kopprach #2). 1 – enough air to get thru the phrase; 2 – legato tonguing; 3 – impeccable rhythm; 4 – very controlled dynamics starting from pppp and getting to ffff, as loud as I can possibly play, at the exact places in the music where the crescendo starts and stops. I never got even close to a ‘very good’ at Scott’s. Lynn had me start at the last three notes and play them as loud as I could. Then we went backwards. This way I learned how loud I needed to get and how much air it took to play those notes, my two biggest problems with this exercise.
Scott also has techniques that helps me with the music I’m working on with Lynn. For example, (and this is just one of many) he taught me to set the metronome at double time to work with my rhythm issues. One interesting note about the metronome. Lynn and I discovered Thursday that once I learn the rhythm with the metronome, I actually play more spot on with the metronome off than with it on and I feel like I play a whole lot more musically. I would never have realized this at Scott’s since the metronome is never off. (Ugh.)
Fortunately for me, Scott and Lynn were able to meet each other and spend a bit of time talking at the Southeast Horn Workshop. It’s nice to know that when I say ‘Scott said this’ or Lynn said that’ at a lesson that we all know each other. It’s also good that inevitably if I say ‘Scott said this’ or Lynn said that’ that the response is always, ‘good.’ This two teacher thing would never work if I was getting conflicting advice. I think I’m learning a lot faster by having both teachers and I’m very happy that, so far, this is working well for me.