Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Just Thinking....



I was thinking this morning that if it weren't for BE, 
there's no way I would have the confidence to calmly approach the high range.  What other method teaches you exactly, precisely how to set your chops to play the highest notes on the horn straight on, cold turkey, without slurring or "glissing" up to it? I could be wrong, but there are none that I'm aware of.    Jeff Smiley is very clever.

Monday, May 2, 2016

BE Now for Doug Wagner

The following is an email sent to Jeff Smiley and shared with me March 16, 2016.  Doug is retired, played trombone for many years, and took up horn 10 years ago.  Doug has been studying BE since 2010.  

Jeff,
It has been a few years since I contacted you, and I don't even remember what I told you about my progress. The main thing I remember from your first reply, was that age was not my issue. That had to have been nearly seven years ago, and today I am approaching seventy years old, and my chops have never been in better shape! You were so right, and I am so grateful for your encouragement back then. 
The thing I believe age has influenced, is how long it takes to get to the same place a younger person would take. The good news is that consistent practice and dedication can still get you there. I will never play with a major orchestra, or even play professionally, though I have been paid for a few performances. My goal is to play to have fun and to get better and have even more fun. Music and playing horn is the passion of my retirement.
For several years I have not steadfastly practiced the BE routines, but I have always kept firmly in mind the BE principles as I progressed. I have stayed in contact with Valerie over the years, and she and I have become good friends.
What is personally important to me is that I struggled and struggled with the lower register on horn, and came up against the Reicha trios for horn, opus 82. The 3rd part drops down into the bass trombone/tuba range and expects that the player has the flexibility to play nimbly in that range. So I began experimenting, keeping BE in mind. I certainly could play the lowest notes without any difficulty, having learned from BE how to play that low, but to move back into a more RI embouchure for the higher notes was a daunting task.
I kept experimenting and one day recently, the epiphany/eureka moment arrived and I found that I could still roll out enough to reach those lower notes without rolling entirely outside the mouthpiece. It's kind of a pooch of the lips that still allows a quick roll in of the embouchure. It made all the difference.
I'm not quite up to tempo yet on being able to perform those low passages, but I'm closing fast. On the high side, my upper range has increase a solid performable fifth, from my beginnings. This I truly believe is because of embracing the principles of BE, and finding ways to implement them in my day to day playing.
I play principal horn in a small town pops orchestra in Colorado, and occasionally sub in area orchestras that play major works. I travel to California each summer to play in the Brass Chamber Music Workshop at Humboldt State University, and have such a fantastic time with all those terrific brass players.
So I just wanted to give you an update and a huge thank you for what you have brought to my playing. I'm so glad to see that your web site is up and active, and that BE is alive, well, and thriving. 
Regards and appreciation,
Doug Wagner
Lakewood, Colorado


More Feedback From Alecia

Now this is BE-ing patient!  Alecia's well paced application of BE will certainly pay great dividends.    

Hi Valerie, thought I would check in again.  Thanks for your description. 
I am continuing to use BE, rather slowly because I enjoy what I do so much, I don't feel any great need to rush though the exercises!  I can now initiate lower notes (not the pedal notes) during pieces in rehearsal without thinking it is a big deal.  I could not do that last November.  I am also starting to attempt some of the higher sections, eg. Bb two above middle C, in public and no one has turned a fire hose onto me.  I take that to be a passive compliment.  I can't really play that area properly, but I am WORKING with it, which is a door that has only opened to me via BE.  I can see that I am earlier in the same development process I had around low notes, and I confidently expect to be able to play up to C reliably, within a year. 
I still find that trying the BE embouchure for high notes when playing causes chaos and shut down, so I don't!  But I can play the higher range available to me with less fuss, because I know that I am able to play even higher, so my brain doesn't think of it as such a big deal any more!
I practice "strategically" rather than long, and still pretty regularly use the embouchure strengthener, and the BE embouchure "squeeze" method.  I find I can't play sustained passages that center around D-G two above middle C, but aside from that I am amazed how good my endurance is, and I can feel that I have more lip muscle.  And a bar's rest is mostly enough to get me back in order.  I no longer subscribe to blindly putting in hours and hours of practice, albeit that I am not a professional.  I'd rather do BE, then solve problems I meet in pieces, eg the flutter tonguing that took me 4 weeks to get the hang of. 
So, all is going well! 
Hoping this finds you well,
Kind regards, Alecia

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"Holy What-was-that, Batman!"

It's fun to receive feedback, especially like this.  Last week I received this in an email with the subject line "Holy What-was-that, Batman!"  

Hi Valerie,
Today was my first chance to try out the exercises.  I just did roll-out 1, squeaking and roll-in 1.  Within 2 minutes I had played a low E I had never played before!! I got to D in various stages of disbelief.  It was interesting; at one point ... suddenly the note seems to be sucked out of you, then I go lower.
My squeaking, which I could not do every time, got me wailing around G and B 3 above middle C.  More exclamation marks due.  I could not do it on the mouthpiece though...
This is F U N !
Thank you so much for the video.  I needed it to know how to do the lip turn out.  I have to do it in front of the mirror for a while, I think.
Sorry to bother you, had to enthuse.  Even my husband was impressed, not by the face mind.
 Then this additional comment came in the next day:  

Just to see what the mouth clamp approach would do, I tried my high notes after finishing the BE exercises.  I got my target note for the year immediately!  (G two above middle C) It's only March, now what do I aim for??  Oh yes, decent tone so the neighbors don't try to rescue the kitten apparently being tortured in my living room.                                            
Best, Alecia