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Playing Tips

  • 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...
  • 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...
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