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Playing Tips

  • Pouring Oil on Troubled Trumpets

    Mike Lawson | December 13, 2016I 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.  – […] Read More...
  • “Is there anybody going to listen to my story…”

    Mike Lawson | October 7, 2016Imagine 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 […] Read More...
  • The Penny Game

    Mike Lawson | September 12, 2016A 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. […] Read More...
  • The Rule of Thumb for Saxophone

    Mike Lawson | September 12, 2016Most 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 […] Read More...
  • Turn it up!

    Mike Lawson | September 12, 2016Play loud, and act confident until you are confident with your playing. Razan A. Badr Riverdale High School Jefferson, Louisiana Read More...
  • Play for Joy!

    Mike Lawson | September 12, 2016Never 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 […] Read More...
  • “Dots Good”

    Mike Lawson | September 12, 2016The dot makes a note longer by half the notes value. I first teach the dotted half note, then the dotted whole note. Learning to read the dotted quarter note becomes much easier for students to grasp the concept of augmentation dots. Michel Nadeau Burr Intermediate School Commack, New York Read More...
  • Five-Minute Flute

    Mike Lawson | September 12, 2016Before playing your flute, take the mouthpiece only and do a few slurring exercises (going from the lower octaves to the high octave) and play around with your sound a little while looking into a mirror. Listen carefully how your sound changes by either pushing more air from your stomach, or loosening/tightening your embouchure. Make […] Read More...
  • Clarinet “B for Bulls Eye and Both Pinky’s”

    Mike Lawson | May 12, 2016To accelerate learning for B above the break, I put 1/4″ round color coding labels on both pinky keys. Students learn that B is the bulls eye of the music staff and played with both pinky’s.   Michel Nadeau Burr Intermediate School East Northport, NY Read More...
  • Practice Stretching

    Mike Lawson | January 8, 2016Tip: I always start my practice with a stretch of my hand. By doing this, I can play more efficiently and easily with my hand not cramping up. To protect my hand from any strain, I also rub out my hand when I am through. Nicole Reed Bartlett High School Anchorage, Alaska Read More...
  • Playing Tip of The Month: Play it Again!

    Mike Lawson | December 11, 2015Play it again! Often in rehearsal, we are quick to stop playing and “fix” something. Many times, simply playing a passage again and getting some repetitions in will “fix” the problem we wanted to stop and work on. Our students can “iron out the kinks” pretty well themselves if we give them the time and […] Read More...
  • Picture This…

    Mike Lawson | November 11, 2015

    Practice articulations by using visual representations. Draw a picture of staccato.

    Read More...
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