EPN Travel Services proudly presents: The Playing Tip of the Month!

Enter your warm-up, rehearsal, performance, or teaching tip for a chance to win a special prize from EPN Travel Services!

Winning Playing Tips will be published in School Band & Orchestra magazine.

Saxophone and clarinet players: look in the mirror, place the mouthpiece in your mouth with your normal embouchure and don’t play. Look at the lips and chin surrounding the mouthpiece, start to blow air into the mouthpiece until the reed vibrates. There should be no change in your lip, chin or face muscles from not playing to playing. If there is a clenching, or tightening of the area of the face surrounding the mouthpiece, you are choking off the reed and not allowing it to vibrate properly. The reed must be free to vibrate across the tip and both side rails. This will produce a more focused, rich, resonant sound full of overtones.

Mike Iappica
Parsippany Hills High School
Morris Palins, NJ

Don't practice until you play something right - practice until you can't play it wrong. 

Lauren Bushong
Gaylord High School
Gaylord, Michigan

Record yourself playing a song and compare yourself to professionals playing the same song. Ask yourself questions like, "Do you sound like a professional playing? Do you have dynamics? Do you have the right intonation?"

Gillyoung Koh
Marple Newton High School
Broomal, Pennsylvania

Recently, I saw various sections resting and oblivious to the music that was surrounding them. I stopped the group and began asking the various sections: who has the melody? Those sections were caught off guard, so I invited them to listen as the other sections played again: this time hands skyrocketed with the answer. Later, I asked sections who were playing at the time if they knew who has the melody. Those sections were unresponsive: so I asked that they play softer to listen for the melody. After playing through the excerpt again, the sections knew the answer and learned to listen for the melody. 

Paul Herrera
San Jose State University 
San Jose, CA

I get many phone calls asking for help because "I oiled my valves and now my horn won't play." The best way to avoid this is to oil valves using this simple method:

- Press the first valve down. 

- Remove the first valve slide. 

- Put a 'squirt' of oil in eac tube. 

- Press the first valve down. 

- Re-insert the slide. 

The oil will travel through the connecting ports to valves two and three. If you do this each day before you play, your valves will never stick and the valves will always be in the correct slot!

Jim Manzo
Retired MS Band Director
Retired US Army Band Director
Current Private Instructor, Beorne, TX 

Imagine a story as you perform, whether the music at hand is an etude, a concerto, or a set of scales. Have a constantly evolving picture, a storyline in your mind’s eye as you connect mind-to-body, body-to-instrument, instrument-to-music, and the music will transcend itself. If music is a language, then why shouldn’t the notes tell a story?

Kelly Hung

Hinsdale Central High School

Hinsdale, Illinois

A great practice method is the Penny Game. There are three versions of this, so it can be tailored to the student. Put ten pennies on the left lip of your music stand. The goal is to get all ten pennies to the right. Easy version: If it's played accurately, move one to the right. If it isn't accurate, leave one to the left. Hard version: Accurate = move right; inaccurate = move one back to the left. Sudden Death version: Accurate = move right; inaccurate = move ALL pennies back to the left, and start over again!

Liz Harwood
Kasson-Mantorville Middle School
Kasson, Minnesota

Most sax players use too little mouthpiece in the mouth. I use my "rule of thumb": have them put their thumb in their mouth so their bottom teeth are at the bottom of their thumbnail. That's how much mouthpiece should be in their mouth. If they match that to their mouthpiece, it will open up their sound and help with their pitch.

Dan Hodgkins
Torrington Middle School
Torrington, CT

Play loud, and act confident until you are confident with your playing.

Razan A. Badr
Riverdale High School
Jefferson, Louisiana

Never play to "impress" others! I have seen dozens of musicians tie themselves in knots at auditions, performances and even rehearsals trying to impress someone else — the conductor perhaps, the anonymous committee at auditions or even people in the audience! Play for the joy of the music, the composer and for yourself!

Stephen Heyde
Baylor University

 


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