tenet (ten' it), noun: a principle, doctrine, or belief held as truth

Welcome to my blog! Here I will share some of my thoughts on horn playing and teaching, which I think about a lot, and maybe some other things, too. Since my job (which thankfully, allows me to do a lot of playing and teaching) keeps me very busy, as does my wonderful family, I may not write frequently. My goal will be quality, not quantity!

Please share your comments.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Are You Pickin' Up What I'm Puttin' Down?

     I tried a new activity in our weekly Studio Class yesterday: Dynamic Dictation.  If you've been through sight-singing and ear training courses, you know about rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic dictation.  This is when the instructor plays something on the piano, and you have to write down what you hear.  Well, in a Dynamic Dictation exercise, one horn student plays part of a prepared solo, etude, or excerpt, and the rest of the students mark the dynamics they hear.
     I chose the selections in advance, and copied the passages to be played with all dynamic indications whited out.  Then, the listeners mark the parts based on what they hear in the performance.  The inspiration for this was the fact that I am constantly asking my students for "more contrast" and telling them they have to exaggerate their dynamics and do more than they think for it to translate to the listener.
     I often compare it to an actor in a stage play.  If you're up right next to the stage, everyone seems to be talking way too loud, making wild gestures, and wearing too much make-up!  But, from further back in the audience, they look and sound more normal.
     Dynamic Dictation has a lot of great benefits:
  • The performer gets extremely valuable feedback about what the audience is hearing, and how that compares to what they think they're doing.
  • It encourages the listeners to pay attention to the music, and notice what opportunities are being missed.
  • It's fun!  Who doesn't like horn games?  (I still need to write a post about Scale Pong...)
     Ideally, the listeners should mark the parts to look a lot like the original, but hopefully they hear even more contrast and expression than that!
     You may not have a room full of students or classmates to try this with (or a jar of White Out), but many of the same benefits can be gained by having one or more friends listen to some music you're preparing and then describe your dynamics back to you.

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