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Playing Tips

  • 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.

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  • Getting Good Air

    Mike Lawson | October 22, 2015Characteristic tone and tuning start with air. Unrestricted air requires use of the diaphragm, posture that allows for expansion in the abdomen, a relaxed and open throat, and no tension in the shoulders or neck. Good air should move a piece of paper held in front of the face from vertical to horizontal. Carolyn Ireland […] Read More...
  • A Long Tone Warming Up in Half Steps

    Mike Lawson | September 15, 2015

    For a well-rounded tone quality, I am convinced you need to warm-up the band always using long tones from B flat concert and play half steps down to low F concert and back up using half steps. It results in better tone and better tuning. It’s simple, but it works over a period of time.

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  • Fix it in the Mix!

    Mike Lawson | August 14, 2015Reseat string orchestral sections into multiple string quintets. This approach emphasizes listening beyond your section and part while playing in an ensemble. It can also be a smooth introduction to conductor-less chamber music. Additionally, it’s a good way to check for individual accuracy much more efficiently and more in context than having them play one […] Read More...
  • Breath, Breath in the Air….

    Mike Lawson | July 24, 2015

    When a student is sitting poorly they are able to take in air until their lungs can’t take in any more. To the student, this feels like a full breath of air. We know that once they sit up their chest cavity will be more open and allow them to take in even more air. To demonstrate this, hold up an empty disposable 12 oz. plastic water bottle, which represents their lungs.

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  • Perfectly on Pitch

    Mike Lawson | June 11, 2015

    Young clarinet players often play with unsupported, flat sounds in the upper register. This is often caused by a “mushy” bottom lip and chin. Ask your clarinetists to imagine they are looking in a mirror and putting on either lipstick or chapstick. As they do this, the bottom lip should stretch automatically and the chin will go flat. A firm bottom lip and a flat chin are essential for a good clarinet embouchure (especially in the upper register) and this should get your clarinet players making the correct embouchure.

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  • Keep it Warm

    Mike Lawson | May 18, 2015

    Begin each rehearsal with a warm-up routine that focuses on some basic playing. This will develop good tone, intonation, blend and balance, technique, and it will engage the students to develop deeper listening skills. There are many good ensemble method books that can be incorporated to help a director initiate this phase. All in all, this could be 10-15 minutes of the most important time spent at each rehearsal. Everything done during this time period will transfer to other portions of the rehearsal.

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  • Essential for Embouchure

    Mike Lawson | April 7, 2015

    David Snyder of Illinois State University in Normal, IL presents this month's Playing Tip.

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  • The Sound of Silence

    Mike Lawson | March 9, 2015

    I’m very insistent on the sound vs. silence duality. We will often practice by starting a note together with a solid sound and releasing the note together as a group. Depending on the group, it sometimes takes only two or three tries, sometimes it takes 15-20 minutes of work, but we get there.

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  • “Use the Force” For Quick 
Knowledge Assessment

    Mike Lawson | February 19, 2015

    To get all students involved and to quickly assess their knowledge, I will pose a question and have students close their eyes when they have the answer. I will then ask them to raise their hand when they hear the correct answer, or I will have them show me fingers for beat counts, et cetera. Doing this allows me to quickly get feedback on their retention and cuts down on written tests.

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  • Teach Me Bass Guitar Now Available For Download and Streaming

    Mike Lawson | February 10, 2015

    Since 2009, Roy Vogt's Teach Me Bass Guitar (TMBG) has been acknowledged as the world's best course of self-paced bass guitar instruction, and it's now available in two formats - download/streaming and the traditional, award-winning 10 DVD package.

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