Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On listening to tone

I have a lot of trouble with finger mechanics. Very common, no doubt, but still, my problems are my own, something that I've got to sort out myself, somehow. In the past few weeks I've switched to playing my scales full compass, from Bb1 to C5, which puts a lot more emphasis on the outer ends than the two-octaves-if-I-feel-like-it scales that I'd been playing before. The bottom fifth, constituting half the length of the instrument, controlled by thumbs and pinkies only, is particularly painful for me, full of lumps and irregularities. Slow work, and altered rhythms, is the canonical solution, and while I'm making progress, it's slow.

The other morning, however, as I was walking through one of the nastier ones, I think it was B major, near the bottom of the horn, I noticed that the tone was sounding good, pretty rich and full. I don't know if it was catching a room resonance, or the mood that my ears or reed happened to be in, but it sounded resonant, dark, and nice. Huh, I thought. And tried playing the scale at speed with the metronome, just listening for and enjoying that sound. The tone was there, up and down the part of the scale I was working. What I didn't expect is that the lumps went away: the evenness I'd been trying to force my fingers to do suddenly appeared when my brain was focused elsewhere. Very cool. And I don't think it's just distraction. Rather, I think my brain had a clear, positive vision of what it wanted to hear, and even minor finger goofs would interfere with that vision, with that tone it wanted to hear. There's a lot of finger mistakes which seem to only have an effect on sound quality, particularly in the high register. How delightful to find that focusing on the positive can work.

No comments:

Post a Comment