Borkopolis

April 22, 2011

More Air!

Filed under: 20-minute,bassoon,Mark Norman,music,skills — Mark Dalrymple @ 6:35 pm
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Halloween tree

Another one of Mark Norman’s favorite phrases back when I played in his bands was “More Air!”. Playing a wind or brass instrument requires air. Many amateur musicians don’t Play Out enough. This can be linked back to not using enough air. Hence, When in Doubt Playing Out requires More Air!

Mark used to work with the Music and Arts chain of music stores in Northern Virginia. For whatever insane reason, they let him make a radio commercial. It of course featured tuba, since Mark is a tuba player. The commercial was a “lesson” with Dr. Adidibandyopatai (or something like that), with a hilariously terrible Indian accent, repeating “Morrre Aiirrrrr!  Morrre Aiirrrrr!” to his struggling tuba student. Over this tableaux Mr. Norman intoned the availability of private lessons at Music and Arts. It was probably the most surreal commercial on the local radio at the time.

To this day, Sharlotte and I still say “Morrre Aiirrrrr!” to each other.

I myself have had a More Air moment. I’ve always had pretty good technique on trombone and bassoon, but kind of a fuzzy, weak sound. I had one or two lessons with Mark, and we did the usual exercises of using wind power to keep a piece of paper pinned to the wall as long as possible, and blowing into weird torture devices to suspend a ping pong ball in a column of air. But the advice of, “dude, just use more air. Fill those lungs and blow” is what did it for me.

Pushing More Air through your horn leads to other improvements in your playing. You need to collect a large lungful of air in the first place (unless you’re an oboe player, of course). You can’t collect a good quantity of air if your posture is bad. Sitting up straight, on the edge of your chair lets you inhale more deeply. Poof. More Air!

You also have to learn more control over your instrument. Sure you could force a lungful of air through your trombone at mach 3, but it’ll last five seconds and sound terrible. You need to learn control over your air. By making your More Air last longer, you’ll get better tone, a better dynamic range, plus be able to sustain longer phrases. More Air in the lungs let you keep a constant column of air going into your horn for a longer period of time. A consistent air column means you have less work to and fewer adjustments to make from moment to moment.

Maybe you’ll need a different reed or mouthpiece to support putting More Air through your horn. That’s one reason why I like the David Brundage bassoon reeds: you can push a huge amount of air through them before the sound starts distorting. If you have to fill a church sanctuary with sound during a solo piece, you need to have the volume and projection that come from moving More Air through the horn.

It’s amazing, but that two word piece of advice was the start of a chain reaction that has drastically improved my playing over the 15-some-odd years since I first heard it.

 

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