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Playing Tips

  • See me, hear me…

    Mike Lawson | March 2, 2018When learning and rehearsing a new piece with your ensemble, allow them to have access to a recording AND a score in rehearsal, and online. They can study their parts and realize how they fit within the entire aural texture. During rehearsal, I use my computer and a school projector. Outside of rehearsal, students can […] Read More...
  • On Your Mark, Get Set, Go…

    Mike Lawson | February 2, 2018Don’t start playing until you are ready; mentally and physically prepare to commence. Too often, younger players try to begin playing before they are actually “set” to begin, resulting in poor entrances, missed rhythms and notes, and an array of other inaccuracies that otherwise might not occur if they simply take a moment to prepare. […] Read More...
  • The Goldilocks Method

    Mike Lawson | January 8, 2018To get beginners to understand quantitative playing skills like air, tonguing, and embouchure, I use the 3 bears analogy and tell students to “find baby bear.” This accelerates learning and makes it interesting. Phrases like “You’re blowing like Papa Bear, use less air and keep it moving” or “Your tongue is like Mama Bear and is […] Read More...
  • Pencil Pushing

    Mike Lawson | December 6, 2017

    If you’re having a problem playing a certain passage, set out an empty glass with 10 pencils on the side.

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  • Don’t Start Playing Until You Are Ready, Mentally and Physically

    Mike Lawson | November 6, 2017

    Too often, younger players try to begin playing before they are actually “set” to begin, resulting in poor entrances, missed rhythms and notes, and an array of other inaccuracies that otherwise might not occur if they simply take a moment to prepare.

    Read More...
  • 10-Minute Brass Warmup

    Mike Lawson | October 4, 2017

    Brass players, warm up on your mouthpiece only.

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  • Passing the Buck

    Mike Lawson | September 8, 2017

    My long-time sax repair man showed me a trick that has saved me a lot of money on pad replacements.

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  • Playing Tip of the Month: Taking AIM

    Mike Lawson | August 11, 2017

    Having worked with elementary band students for the past 26 years, I have found that having my Woodwind and Brasswind students think of the acronym AIM (Air in Motion) works a lot better than asking them to “support their air,” which can mean several things and become confusing.

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  • That’s A Good Question

    Mike Lawson | March 20, 2017Record 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 Read More...
  • ‘Sometimes I’m Right, But I Can Be Wrong…’

    Mike Lawson | March 20, 2017Don’t practice until you play something right – practice until you can’t play it wrong.  Lauren Bushong Gaylord High School Gaylord, Michigan Read More...
  • Positive Vibrations For Woodwinds

    Mike Lawson | March 20, 2017Saxophone 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 […] Read More...
  • Active Listening Exercises

    Mike Lawson | December 13, 2016Recently, 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, […] Read More...
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