Hi everybody! Thanks for checking this out. Here are some reflections and resources based on conversations we had as wind players at Camp this year!
-Breathe, Set, Play: Some Explanation and Clarification
-The BEST Sixty Seconds To Add To Your Warm-Up
-Practicing Scales: Free Download
-Chorales From The First Day of Camp
Breathe, Set, Play: Some Clarification and Explanation
A couple folks have asked me about holding their breath during “breathe, set, play,” so I’m going to first explain and then clarify what I mean. Here is how I explain “breathe, set, play” in my scale series:
As wind players, our ability to perform at our own highest level is dependent on the air we take in before we play, and so we need to ingrain in ourselves better habits of better breathing. Especially during our own practice time, it’s incredibly important to set ourselves up with a healthy breathing sequence. By breathing in slowly for a full beat and allowing our air to suspend for the beat before we play while we set our round, forward embouchure, we build up just enough backpressure to help the first note speak exactly when we want without a harsh articulation. Use this breathing sequence with your scale practice to make it your standard breathing approach.
Now, for some important clarification: This is meant to be one fluid motion, not three chunky steps. You don’t breathe for exactly one beat, tightly hold your air for exactly one beat, and then expel it all on the beat you play. Instead, picture a roller coaster loop-de-loop. The top of the loop-de-loop is “set.” You breathe going into it, slowly suspend your air as you set your embouchure (suspending your air is relaxing, holding your air involves tightening), and then you move your air to play. Try doing that a few times, and even use your hands as a fake roller coaster car moving through a loop-de-loop.
If you do a smooth “breathe, set, play” for every entrance you have, I can guarantee that your tone and pitch (the two components of “intonation”), quality of articulation, and sense of tempo and pulse will improve rapidly. Give it a shot!
The BEST Sixty Seconds To Add To Your Warm-Up
Two of the most important components of wind playing when taking an audition are RHYTHM/PULSE and TONGUING. And while they are two separate components, they often impact each other – poor control of tonguing often impacts how your audience interprets your pulse. So, the best sixty seconds you can add to your warm-up? Single Tonguing.
Play four beats of sixteenth notes on a pitch of your choice. Each measure, change the pitch by a half-step (so move up or down the chromatic scale), and go to the extreme ends of your range. Remember to “breathe, set, play,” and whenever you need to breathe, turn beats three and four into a half note, exhale, and restart that measure, beginning with “breathe, set, play.”
Use more air and less tongue to make this as smooth and easy as possible.
Start at 92 – 100 bpm and do this EVERY TIME YOU TAKE YOUR INSTRUMENT OUT. If you do this, your tonguing and your ability to convey an even, controlled pulse will separate you from other musicians in no time.
Practicing Scales: Free Download
Below this blurb, I am going to attach free copies of the first volume of my Scale Studies. Get picky with how you practice scales and scales-in-thirds!!! If this is easy for you, expand the scales to two octaves and use the same patterns. (For two octave scales, ascend one note past the highest octave on ascent, and one note below the lowest octave on descent – this will create an equal rhythm scale that fits in 4/4.)
Scales are a gateway to every single musical concept. There is nothing that cannot be taught or learned via scales. Whatever you’re working on, you can adjust your scale practice to help. Remember that scales are pieces of music – if you practice them musically and beautifully, you will perform musically and beautifully.
If you are EVER bored while practicing scales, reach out to me and I will show you at least 10 new ways you can practice your scales.
Scale Studies, Volume 1: Approaching Scales
Flute (Higher Range)
Flute & Oboe (Lower Range)
Bassoon (I almost forgot you again…)
Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Trumpet, & Baritone T.C.
Alto & Bari Saxophones
Soprano & Tenor Saxophones
Trombone & Euphonium B.C.
Chorales From The First Day Of Camp
Here are downloadable PDFs from the first day of camp. Play these in groups! Find other Four-Part Chorales by Johann Sebastian Bach and try arranging them! Remember to choose the octave that makes sense for YOU! (Trumpets and clarinets share the same page – trumpets, no need to play the highest notes!) Side Note: The Bb Treble Clef page says the wrong key at the top. My bad.
Chorales From The First Day of Camp
Treble Clef in C: Flute & Oboe
Treble Clef in Bb: Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Soprano & Tenor Saxophones, Trumpet, & Baritone T.C.
Treble Clef in Eb: Alto & Bari Saxophones
Treble Clef in F: French Horn
Bass Clef in C: Trombone, Euphonium B.C., Bassoon, & Tuba
Is there anything I missed? Any questions you have? Any topics or resources you want links to? Please feel welcome to use this contact page to send me an e-mail (be sure to check with your parents before using an online contact submission form!) and I will be happy to share resources, exercises, or advice with you!
Once I finish recovering from getting my wisdom teeth out, I’m going to make it my goal to post more playing and teaching videos on my instagram. So if you found the videos posted on the LMC instagram in June helpful, feel free to follow me @boxoonist!
Bravo Again to all of you for an excellent week of rehearsals and a wonderful concert, and I hope to see you all again on June 27th, 2020 for the 76th season of Laurel Music Camp!