Sunday, June 24, 2012

Music Making: Experience & Language

Part of the process of learning how to make music is that the effectiveness of language describing what you're trying to do is so dependent on your level of experience. I've noticed this especially with the horn. Not only is instrumental music a non-verbal art form in itself, trying to put into words exactly what's going on with the embouchure is extremely difficult.

Since taking voice lessons at conservatory back in the 70's I've been hearing variations on "breathe from the diaphragm", and from the beginning I understood what that meant. What is so interesting is that over the years, that phrase has gained meaning for me via experience, and it means much, much more to me now than it did then. It's not just language, but language that connects up with a much more tactile, proprioceptive understanding of music making that years of experience have given me.

It's another virtuous circle like the one I talked about here between proprioception and hearing. I'm not sure there's any way as a teacher to help people make these kinds of cognitive/experiential advances any faster, but I have caught myself from time to time expecting words to convey to a student something they're not experientially ready to take on board. 

One of the reasons I've been so struck by the work of Jeff Smiley and his Balanced Embouchure method for trumpet and horn is that his exercises are a mother lode of experiential learning that taught me a world of things about embouchure that are beyond words. It's the one time for me in learning how to make music the experiential side got so far ahead of the verbal side. 

(If any Blogger users can explain why sometimes it double spaces between paragraphs and sometimes doesn't and there's a way to stop it without messing with HTML - I'd love to hear about it. It's been happening sporadically since they "upgraded".)

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