- Nick Drozdoff
Well, folks, I have NOT blogged in quite a while. I have been VERY busy redoing my big band library and putting together a new performance book for the new Variable D Postulate Big Band. Yes, I will be fronting the band doing a bit of Doc meets Maynard thing, but I'll also be doing some mellow more changes oriented blowing, as well. More importantly, I will be featuring a KILLER band staffed by some of the finest new musicians in the entire Chicago area. In fact, I will not even be PLAYING the lead chair! I've got folks set up to do that who own the most wicked DHC's ever! No, we will NOT be playing standard dance music. There are MANY fine big band dance bands in the midwest. We'll be doing big band concert charts from the work of Bill Holman, Don Sebesky, Tommy Newsome, Kim Richmond, Steve Wiest, Eric Bolvin, to name a few... We'll also b e tapping the talents of many new composers and arrangers. Our emphasis will be on the idea of playing things that DON'T get played enough. Stay tuned for more later!
Now to the actual blog. The title is deliberately provocative, but I loved this odd little exercise. I got the idea from a post from trumpeter Bryan Davis. I am a big proponent of the ideas voiced in the book "Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise" by Ericsson and Pool. They do mention the idea of 10,000 hours, but that is a hugely oversimplified concept. They make an important point about focused practice as opposed to simple quantity. This is very important. However, that 10,000 number is an easy benchmark to consider.
Davis brought up the idea in one of his posts on his trumpet education website, "Airflow Music." He commented on the idea that certain notes are easy for us because we have simply played them so many times as to make them automatic. He pointed on 2nd line G as an easy note for serious players by virtue of repetition. Someone picking up a trumpet for the first time might struggle to play that note.
Davis suggested that it is likely to impractical to consider playing a single note for 10,000 hours, but suggested 10,000 repetitions. Pick a note that is tough for you now and make a point of hitting it for, say, 100 reps a day.
OK, I've been playing DHC's for a LONG time. However, I would NEVER say that it is an easy note for me to just toss out there. I'd wanted to MAKE it that way.
I have adopted a way of practicing that works for me. I play generally VERY quietly and I fragment my practice throughout the day. I average 4 hours per day, but it takes me a full work day to get that in.
I have a method of playing DHC's very quietly - using as little air as possible mostly squeezed out of my mouth. I can get them to slot in very nicely and quite easily. Then the trick is to get the airflow from my lungs to couple into the system to keep the note going. The final step is to add enough air flow and volume to really flesh the note out. It works nicely.
There was something I noticed on gigs, though. I'd be barreling along "brining the heat" all night long, but when I tried to do these soft DHC's, they didn't want to speak anymore. I concluded that, if I was to truly own this note, I needed to be able to pull off those nice pretty quiet DHCs particularly when my chops were spent.
So, I took Mr. Davis challenge. I've been playing 100 DHC's per day - 98 of them softly and 2 nice and loud. I just finished the last batch today.
I LOVED this little exercise (though my wife is sure glad I'm done with it!). What I did was to knock out ten DHC's at a time - first playing a C in the staff and the popping out the DHC. I don't hold them out super long - a quarter note length at 60 BPM did nicely. I'd do them in between other exercises I work on (see my practice routine elsewhere on my blog site).
Doing this really helped me solidify my technique. Just a reminder, playing high notes is NOT about being a super strong person or being some sort of threatening thug like badd-ass. It is JUST technique and ANYONE can do it!!
Now, I've started on 10,000 DHE's!! Really! I'm afraid to tell my wife, though!!
Here is a set of clips on which I was applying these techniques. At the time of this recording session, I was only up to about 1000 DHC's.
Now, I close my blogs with a request for support, and I will do the same here, but I'm going to be a bit more specific.
If you enjoy or benefit from what you find on this website, I can definitely use your support. Much of my work is totally self-funded. When I rehearse my bands, I pay the musicians out of pocket. When I record my music, all my sidemen are paid. Marketing is all on me, as well. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I am fronting a new big band in the Midwest. We will be performing in clubs and making videos. I am looking for supporters to keep this all going. Please take a look at my "Sponsors" page, and PLEASE check back there periodically. I will be updating the info regarding the Variable D Postulate Big Band support, periodically. By going with crowd funding, I hope that I can raise the funds for our video projects without asking any one person for much money at all!
As always, please consider subscribing to this blog/website, if you like what you read.