Sunday, July 29, 2012

Roger Bannister and the Four Minute Mile

Dear Mr. Bobo,

If you get this, I’m tuba player from North Carolina. I'm just writing to tell you that my journey is about to begin. I told my brother that I was going to be the best tuba player in the world, hands down, but he doesn't believe me. I'll be auditioning for 5 music schools my senior year in high school, but I'm going to take the time now until then to find and perfect my solos. Have you ever heard of ''Dream of a Witches' Sabbath''? Well, if you choose to read this, I've finally proven that I'm one of the best here in North Carolina, but now it's time to prove it to the world. If you're still around in about 10 years, I will be the best tuba in the world, hopefully and I hope that you'll be proud to see that a small town boy has achieved the highest level of success. So, I hope we will meet, eventually.

Thank you for your letter,

It's strange to have received your letter in my email inbox the very day I planned on starting this essay. I sincerely hope that you will realize your tuba playing goals, that we will meet someday and… that I will still be around. I remember very clearly a letter I wrote to William Bell a very long time ago, when I was in my early teens, which was much the same as your letter to me is today. But I wonder if you know who William Bell was? William Bell was the daddy, well, let's change that to granddaddy, or is it greatgranddaddy of all American tubists. You see, the generations of tubists are not the same as regular generations, by my observations through the 54 years of my tuba awareness; a tuba generation is about every ten years, and as each of these ten-year tuba generations passes into the next I am absolutely amazed at how the level of playing and musicianship improves.

About the same time that I wrote that letter to William Bell, it might have been 1950, I was quite interested in sports, particularly swimming as a competitor and track and field as a spectator. It was a great thrill for me to see world records fall and to see the track and swimming times getting faster and faster. One of my heroes in that period was the Australian mile runner Roger Bannister. He was the man whom the world thought would break the seemingly unachievable goal of the 'four-minute mile'. The world watched as Roger Bannister trained and prepared his strategy for his record breaking run; finely the news came that he had done it. It was a milestone (pun unintended) in track history. Today a four-minute mile is still a very good time but there are hundreds of college and even high school runners that can do it.

When I was a young man, the composer William Kraft, wrote a very fine and special piece for me called Encounters #2; it was considered extremely difficult at that time, and I had heard it said that I was the only person who could play it. If that was true it was only true for a short time; today you can frequently hear it played by high school and college players. I enjoy very much watching this happen.

But, I'm troubled by one thing; how far can it go? How fast will it be possible for a man to run a mile, will we ever see a limit? And in our tuba community will we continue to excel at the same unbelievable rate that we've seen so far? Of course, I want to believe we can but when we look at the evolution of more traditional instruments like the violin, for example, we don't see the continuing remarkable growth that is presently visible in the tuba. We see generation after generation of remarkable violinists, but we do not see the expansion of the technical capacities any more. Rather we see their ability to express their musicality, their musical soul, their musical personality. Today, when we listen to the international competitions for tuba we begin to hear the same thing, the same growing ability to project a musical atmosphere. Everybody in these competitions has an extraordinary technique; it's their musicality they make that makes them winners!

Your goal to become the world's greatest tubist is a noble one, but there are a few things you should know as you begin this quest. First, please keep in mind that there are other young men and women your age that have the same goal. It's very much like the Olympics, not every athlete can win a gold medal. However, the performance of these athletes is enhanced by the energy they receive from their competitors; don't forget that.

There are three pieces of advice I would like to offer as you set off on this tuba quest:
1. Become part of the extraordinary tuba community; read the magazines and books, join the associations, attend every masterclass and symposium that you can so that you will know what's happening in the tuba world, and listen; listen to every CD, recital and concert possible. Be aware of every aspect of this tuba world that you are entering.

2. Remember that this tuba community is only a small part of the much bigger and richer musical community; look beyond the tuba, look far beyond the tuba world.

3. And, be your own teacher. I'm sure you have a great teacher but he or she is your second most important teacher; you are number one! It is fun to think about the things you want in a teacher; let me start your list for you: Good musician, intelligence, kind, wise, patience, perseverance, and please don't forget a good sense of humor. Use the learning tools you have: metronome, tuner, and I hope you have and use some recording device so you can play something and instantly hear it back. We hear things differently when we hear ourselves without the horn in our hands!

Just one more thing; the experience you'll have in pursuing your quest for the next ten years will probably be more important in your life than achieving your goal of becoming the greatest tubist. Enjoy this time.

So, I wish you luck in this journey, and I look forward to that meeting in ten years.

I'll be around.

Tokyo, Japan - June 30, 2004.

Revised July 29, 2012, Firenze, Italy

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Is Music a Democracy?

Frequently, while giving master classes, I will ask students to play a passage several different ways and then ask the class to vote on which they preferred. The results are always interesting and enlightening, but then I ask the class this question; ‘Is music a democracy’, and do their vote results necessarily indicate the best musical option? With that question, people are usually reluctant to show an opinion; that’s a good thing, I hope it means they’re thinking about it.

Symphony orchestras, for example, are probably among the last vestiges of a non-democracy we have and possibly could be called a “good dictatorship”! A successful musical performance needs a strong musical personality and strong musical personalities occur far more frequently in the individual than the collective. The conductor of a symphony orchestra holds a very powerful position, a position that almost requires he be a dictator; musical decisions need to be made singularly. Assuming the conductor is a powerful musical personality, and a wise, kind and sensitive person, everything should be okay! … Well, that’s a huge assumption! We all know that not all conductors are powerful musical personalities, kind, wise and sensitive. Still, music needs that individualism to project to a listener. How to deal with conductor incompetence and power abuse is a delicate matter to be addressed by orchestra committees and administrations, however, this article is about the need for individualism in musical performance.

I once played in a brass quintet made up of five men with five very strong and distinct personalities, musical and otherwise, each of who were qualified to make musical decisions and to present memorable performances. Sometimes, during nostalgic moments, when I listen to the old LPs we recorded (now safely stored in my computer), I hear very little of those strong personalities which should have been apparent and extraordinary; quite simply, the powerful musical personalities just weren’t there! Why? Was it that perhaps the personalities were too strong; perhaps it was just easier to compromise the individualism for the sake of peace in rehearsals; or perhaps those five strong personalities were simply incompatible? I may never know an accurate answer.

Since I moved to Europe it has been a pleasure to be invited as a judge for many brass ensembles, especially brass quintet competitions. In listening to hundreds of quintets, three things have become evident:
1. There could be no weak link in the ensemble, all the members had to be great players.
2. They had to project some kind of positivity while performing; this could be called “joy” for want of a better word.
3. And all the truly great groups, the winners, had a leader. It was abundantly clear that the winning groups had a musical leader that, with his or her strong personal musicality, influenced the other players. This became very apparent when the same quintet participated over the years and we, the judges, could hear the influence of that musical leader growing in the other players through time.

There were groups that played perfectly together and projected no musical personality whatsoever. These groups, absolutely amazed by not being advanced to further rounds, were invariably the ones who would approach the judges, demanding an explanation as to why. Trying to explain was not easy.

It’s interesting to vote in a master class situation and see what pleases most people, but just like testing mouthpieces for a group of colleagues, the final decision has to come from the individual.

Have the courage to be an individual, have the courage to be unique, it will serve you well and take you further.

Tokyo, September 6, 2005
Revised Tokyo, July 20, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Language’s Influence on Music

The more I travel and the more I become familiar with the various languages of the venues where I’ve resided and visited, the surer I become that our mother tongues have a huge influence on the way we perceive the performance of music. Tempo, articulation and note length all, are affected by one’s mother tongue.

Since my first residence in Europe (1962-64), while playing with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, I was fascinated by  idiosyncrasies of languages other than English. Studying these differences I learned two things: Different languages move at different speeds, and (something many of us were probably already aware); women speak faster than men! In English, for example, women speak approximately 175 words a minute while men speak approximately only 150. A further research on that fact would certainly be interesting but in the meantime we can find amusement in just asking why.

More important is the speed of our mother tongue and the influence it has on our performance of music. The French language on an average moves at about 250 syllables per minute, Japanese about 210, German 180 and English is 160. I haven’t researched numbers for Italian but I’m sure it’s considerably faster than French; an educated guess would be 280 (especially for Italian women). These language velocities influence greatly the way we hear and perceive sound in both speaking and performing.

Consonants also differ greatly between languages and the consonants of our mother tongues also have an enormous influence on musical performance in the way we approach articulation; Articulation is the consonants of the musical language. In the verbal languages of the world, linguists can’t agree on the number of consonants because they don’t know where to draw the line of distinction. The consonant T, for example, differs greatly from one language to the other. An Italian T is made with the tongue very forward, just at the top of the upper teeth, while Chinese the tongue is very high at the roof of the mouth. Those tongue placements result in quite different sounds for the same T, (please see the blog “Articulation”).

But there is another aspect of the influence of language on music performance that has come to my attention just recently while working with Japanese brass players. There is a prevailing tendency for Japanese brass wind players to play all tongued notes short; whether it's a half note or a sixteenth note it’s frequently played at a shorter length than the printed music indicates. Last week while giving a lesson, I asked several times for the quarter notes in a passage to be played tenuto and that there be no silence between the notes; still the silence between the notes remained. Finally, I used my name as an example. “My name is Bobo not Bo      bo.” When the student said the syllables after me verbally the silence remained. “Please try it again, my name is Bo ͡ bo ͡ ”. It started to get better: finally, the problem was and understood and resolved. 

Suddenly, it became very clear, Japanese is the most staccato language I’ve encountered and much of it is spoken with silence between the syllables especially if the syllable begins with a consonant. That is one of the reasons why some Japanese brass players occasionally play western music with a “foreign accent”, IE very short. This is not a serious problem and when it’s pointed out and understood it’s easily corrected.

Sometimes a foreign accent can be charming, but sometimes it distorts the intent; it’s up to the speaker or the player to decide which will better benefit the result.

Tokyo, November 7, 2007
Revised Tokyo, July 15, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Happily Humbled

Leonardo Da Vinci said, “It is the duty of the student to surpass his teacher”. Da Vinci was very right, I would add that the greatest pleasure a teacher can have is to experience his students realizing that duty. I’ve seen increasingly more students reach that level recently; it’s a wonderful feeling.

This Da Vinci quote was really not new a new concept to me. In the years between 1956 and 1960 while attending the Eastman School of Music. I was boasting once to my old teacher in Los Angeles, Robert Marsteller, that I had a fellow student, a trombonist, in Eastman who was reputed to be a better student than the famous Gordon Pulis, the first trombonist of the New York Philharmonic in the 1940s. Mr. Marsteller broke into laughter and said “God help the student who isn’t better than Gordon Pulis was when he was a student”. Robert Marsteller was a man of vision.

I’ve always been quite aware that there were two levels of tuba playing in my life, the one that existed in my mind and the one that existed in my hands, With the physical encumberments of breathing, embouchure, tonguing and fingering, regardless of how much I worked, never reached the level of that tuba in my mind. It’s interesting that after I played my last concert in 2001, that tuba perceived in my mind continued to develop in a more musical direction without those physical encumberments of actually playing.

There was, however, something else happening in the tuba world that was broadening my tuba vision. A new generation of tubists was emerging that was abundantly realizing the words of Da Vinci. Through the last decade I have seen increasingly numerous students ‘surpassing their teachers’ and from my personal vista I have heard students in Asia, North America and Europe even surpassing that perceived tuba that existed only in my musical mind, in fact, much of my lately acquired tuba awareness has come from those students.

Our world of Tubadom is a superb microcosm of the changing world we live in. The growth, the awareness and the excellence seen in our art is truly amazing, but although nothing like it has ever happened before in music history, it’s just an example of what we see in our daily lives. Computer science, cell phones and automobiles are other examples of improvements coming so fast it’s nearly impossible for us to keep up.

There is a vast difference, however, between the progress in technologies and that of our small, isolated and idealistic world of the tuba. The world today needs better computers, better cell phones, and more efficient cars. But there is another powerful motivation regarding computers, cell phones, cars and the other vast growing necessary products appearing in our world; the better these products become the more money there is to be made.

The development of the tuba is quite different and inspired by a different kind of energy. Our level of performance, the vision of what can be, the teaching, the institutions that promote our instruments and its performance are all primarily inspired by the fact that we love music and we love this instrument; that’s a very powerful energy. The instrument manufactures are, of course, happy with our idealism and happy to provide us with the equipment we require; we are lucky to have them and our idealism means more profit for them.

It’s dangerous to take too much time reflecting on our accomplishments of the past. Even so, it’s quite appropriate to reflect, a little retrospect is good; it can show us a clearer direction to continue this historical success.

Amsterdam, March 25, 2009

Revised July 12, 2012, Tokyo

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Jake was Right… Again

In my computer there are numerous files of Arnold Jacobs masterclasses, recordings and quotations. He was extraordinary; his calm resonate voice, his professional demeanor and his vast knowledge gave him the qualities that made him the impressive master teacher that he was. At least once a month I find myself browsing through my formative collection of Jacobs files and with each visit I feel recharged and redirected in my own teaching. He has inspired the next generation (and the next) to become better teachers and better players.

I have watched all these files many times, through them all, there is one major thought he emphasizes in all his teachings: “Let the music be your motivation”.

He has told this story many times and it has made a huge impression on me: From the time he was a student at The Curtis Institute of Music, which he entered in 1930 (he was 15) he used the music he heard in his own musical environment as his personal study material; when he heard something he thought was beautiful, whether it was played on string instruments, woodwind instruments or voice, he would learn it on the tuba and try to imitate the qualities that made it beautiful. It worked.

In Arnold Jacobs’ formative period there was very little study material for tuba compared to today. We’re blessed today with wonderful instruments, great teachers and abundant methods and study repertoire. Even so, the benefits of playing familiar material, listening to why it’s beautiful and imitating, are huge. Whether whole melodies or just melodic fragments, whether the music of Bach, Brahms or Michael Jackson, whatever key, whatever way, can play a very important part in the development of our personal musicality.
Enjoy playing music the way you want it to sound, let the tuba be your voice.

Roger Bobo, July 8, 2012, Tokyo

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Corporal Quartet

Breathing: It seems to be almost everybody’s fascination! For as many wind instrument and voice teachers as there are, there are that many theories on what is the right way to breathe. Everyone agrees that breathing should be natural and simple, but too frequently the results only become more complicated. Breathing needs to stay simple and needs to always be part of the music.

Embouchure: As we concentrate on the embouchure, making it stronger, playing higher, lower, louder or softer, we often forget that nothing would happen if it weren’t for our brass playing power supply, air. Embouchure is a verb, an action verb.

Articulation: The nearly infinite number of ways that we can start and end notes. Articulation is the fine-tuning of rhythm; articulation is the consonance of the musical language.

Fingering: Manipulating our instrument to the correct length for a required pitch. Fingering (or slide manipulation) is much too often forgotten in the shadow of our preoccupation with breathing, embouchure and articulation. Digital dexterity, fingering, is the key to our music-making dimension of velocity.

These four mechanisms: breathing, embouchure, articulation and fingering form a quartet of musical functions; a corporal quartet that we spend our musical lives coordinating and fine-tuning. But there is something missing. Who’s in charge? Of course, it’s our brain! It is particularly that part of our brain that determines our musicality and controls this corporal quartet. Like a conductor, whose responsibility it is to see that the ensemble functions together as one. Of course, we hope the conductor is clever enough to achieve those results he envisions.

Let’s create a scenario: You are rehearsing a trombone quartet and working on a fast passage, everybody is playing well except the 3rd trombone, he’s a little slow; what do you do? The first step is to give the responsibility to the 3rd player; it could go like this: “Excuse me Mr. 3rd trombone player, you have a very important part in this passage. If you could rhythmically lead here, it would make it easier for the other three players to keep it moving”. Hopefully, the 3rd player will respond and the passage will come together.

The exact same scenario could take place with the corporal quartet but making fingering the slow member (fingering is often the slow member). Giving responsibility to the fingers to lead the other quartet members, air, embouchure and tongue, the problem will probably be corrected.

Hopefully, we can simply practice and things will come together without analyzing but everyone at some time has to take a realistic look at where the problem is and take the right steps to correct it.

Fingering so often falls behind in the corporal quartet, especially with the tuba, because we simply do not hear as clearly in the lower tessitura as well as we do in higher registers. Also, the tuba has the largest sound in the symphony orchestra, therefore it is one of the most difficult instruments to articulate with its sonic mass. Clarity, especially in rapid passages, can be too easily overlooked and compromised. Playing the same passage two octaves higher on trumpet simply would not allow the same imperfections that frequently occur on the tuba. I discuss this in another article called “FINGERING”.

When the corporal quartet works well together we are able to concentrate on musical matters and depend on all the aspects of function to be at our simultaneous demand.

All successful players have at one time also been successful teachers to themselves; perhaps it’s the same with being a successful conductor of your corporal quartet. … And almost everyone wants to be a conductor! 

Tokyo, February 20, 2006
Revised July 5, 2012

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


In all the languages of the world, linguists can’t agree on the number of consonances there are. Some say there are around one hundred and others say there are over one hundred twenty. The disagreement comes from where to draw the distinction between consonances that are similar. The consonant T, for example, is quite different from language to language. In French T is pronounced with the tongue very forward in the mouth on the back of the upper front teeth, in English the T is placed on the rim of the gum at the point just before it rises up to the roof of the month, and in Chinese the T consonant is made high on the roof of the mouth; all are quite different in the way they sound.

If we can agree that there are over one hundred consonances in Languages, and if we can agree that articulation is virtually the consonance of the musical language, then how many types of articulation are there in music, and much more specifically, how many  types of articulation do we have the possibility of producing on brass  instruments?

Vocal consonants have been used successfully in teaching brass instruments for a very long time; every brass player has learned to start a note with Ta, Da or an occasional Ka, but, in fact, there are huge differences between consonants in speech and articulations on brass instruments.

Nature created our vocal mechanism in a very functional and wonderful way; the sound source comes first and the consonant comes second. It works beautifully, the vibration from the larynx reaches the mouth and with vowels and consonances we have an infinite possibility of sounds, in fact, we have language.

But what happens when the articulation mechanism (the tongue) comes first and the sound source (the lips) come second? The results are so different that comparisons can be dangerous or at least difficult.

Still, most of our references to playing brass instruments come from vocal concepts. I was very surprised in 1990 when performing and recording Verdi’s Il Trovatore with the Maggio Musicalli di Firenze with Luciano Pavarotti singing the lead. I was amazed to hear Pavarotti vocalizing (warming up) on one of the exercises in my book, an exercise from the famous James Stamp trumpet book which I took and modified and which Mr. Stamp had taken and modified from the time proven copious repertoire of vocal exercises. From Maestro Pavarotti I was hearing this exercise in its original form for the first time. These old vocal methods work for brass instruments and they will continue to work, but there are a few differences that need to be addressed.

For example, what is the difference between Ta and Da? Ta, is what linguists call a non vocalized plosive, first we hear the sound of the consonant (articulation) then the sound of the vowel (tone); this works very well on a brass instrument. But Da, the articulation that we are taught to use for a softer attack is a vocalized plosive, quite a different situation. With Da, first is the vocal sound then the consonant. That’s not possible on a brass instrument, except when connected to a note that is already sounding. Ta and Da have nevertheless worked well for generations to guide brass students to discriminate different articulations, but they are limited in their scope.

There are four aspects to articulating on brass instruments and when a player can coordinate those four things, the capacity for a wide spectrum of articulations is enormous. The four aspects are:
1.        Airflow at impact.
2.        Embouchure resistance at impact.
3.        Tongue placement at impact.
4.     Air compression released by the tongue at impact; i.e. Articulation.

Of course, airflow at impact is determined largely by dynamic and register, the lower and the louder requiring greater airflow. Embouchure resistance is created when the air meets the embouchure. That resistance together with the airflow broadens even more the potential verity of articulations.

Tongue placement modifies attack in a very important way. Like the different Ts mentioned above, tongue placement changes the articulation from a clear instant attack when it is forward and a less instant attack with the tongue further back in the mouth. It should also be noted that generally the low register responds better with the tongue forward, even between the lips, and in the higher register to avoid being too abrupt, it works better further back in the mouth. The compression of air behind the tongue at impact determines the type of the attack. Suddenly, the potential becomes evident. The possibilities are enormous.

Now come two tasks: learning to use these four articulation functions and far more importantly, which mix of the four possibilities serve best our musical purpose?

With essentially an infinite number of possibilities these articulations need to be on demand from the information in our musical mind’s ear; this is one of the many reasons for listening to music of all kinds. The more we know and the more we have experienced, the more sonic vocabulary we have to call upon for expressing our own individual musicality. The danger here is that we too easily learn a small vocabulary of articulations and dogmatically continue using only those that are familiar.

In an essay on articulation, something should be said about starting a note without using the tongue at all. This can occasionally be a good therapy for correcting poor response but as a normal day-to-day articulation it is very limited. Articulation is the fine-tuning of rhythm and most of the time the rhythmic energy of the music requires articulation be focused and clear.

In language when we are unclear with our consonants we have a tendency to sound either drunk or stupid, we all know that sound! But when clear consonants are returned in our speaking we can give the impression of intelligence! It’s very much the same with musical performance particularly in lower instruments. In low registers the human ear hears less clearly, therefore we who play in those low registers need to make a special effort in articulating clearly. Music becomes more enjoyable to play and to hear.

As William Bell used to say for his goodbyes, “Tatakatut”

Hiroshima, Japan, January 22, 2006
Modified November 4, 2008, Tokyo
Revised July 4, 2012, Tokyo

Monday, July 02, 2012


At first glance it may seem strange that the reason fingering on the tuba falls behind the other members of the “Corporal Quartet”, breathing, articulation and embouchure, is acoustical.

How is fingering affected by acoustics? Sit down at a piano and starting from middle C play ascending C, D, E, F, G and descending G, F, E, D, C and play it as fast as you can, than repeat the same thing in minor, with an    Einstead of E; You can easily hear the difference between major and minor. Now make the same comparison starting from the lowest C on the piano; in this register it’s suddenly very difficult to discriminate a difference between major and minor. Of course, tubists rarely play that rapidly in that extreme contrabass register, but the above experiment clearly demonstrates that the lower the register the more difficult it becomes to hear, and when the clearly is difficult to hear, it’s easy to be lenient regarding digital precision.
Similarly, the fact that the tuba has the largest sound of all the instruments in the symphony orchestra family also can cause clarity problems. Like low register, sonic mass can make discriminating tonal clarity more difficult and therefore allowing the fingers to become less defined. Thirty years ago while preparing a piece (Sarturnalis, by Meyer Kupfermann), which had many technical passages in the extreme low register, I naturally approached the work with a CC tuba; the principal problem, however, was tonal clarity (pitch recognition). Finally, in desperation I tried the same low passages on F tuba, and although the fingering patterns necessary in this extreme low register were far more complicated, I was able to hear more clearly, which required that the fingering be absolutely accurate. The F tuba liberated me from the unnecessary sonic mass, which resulted in masking the clarity of the CC tuba in the low register.

Any difficult passage played by a tubist in the low register, if played by a trumpet two octaves higher, would in all probability result in greater digital accuracy simply because the trumpet player can better hear what he’s doing! Of course, the tuba can be equally as accurate as the trumpet, but the fact is, we tubists have to be especially careful that we are equally accurate.

A FACT ABOUT FINGERING: Some people have faster fingers than others. It’s interesting to note that there is absolutely no correlation between those who have naturally fast fingers, and intelligence, musicality, manhood or which instrument one plays; it simply means the fingers can move faster and more accurately, just like some people can run faster than others.

Those people who are blessed with natural digital dexterity are lucky but those of us without that good fortune can develop fast fingers by practice! Personally, I am not one of those lucky ones, but I have discovered several steps that can help train digital clarity and velocity with extraordinary results.

Educational psychologists have learned that the old system of working on a technical passage, that is playing under tempo until perfect, turning up the metronome one click faster, and repeating that process until finally the passage is at the correct tempo, is tedious and frequently not successful.

The newer more efficient method is to take the difficult passage at a slower tempo, and master that passage at that slow tempo. I have added the following five steps for this method and have observed almost 100% positive results. In dealing with these five steps please keep in mind:
Play the passage at half tempo or less,
The tempo, should not change once the procedure is started,
Whatever the articulation, each note should be as long as possible (note lengths should be proportional to the slow tempo)
And all tongued notes should be articulated very clearly.

The 5 steps:

1.  At the slow tempo, change the fingerings from note to note quickly, simulating the speed you would need to change fingerings at the real tempo. Repeat. Be patient.

2.         Same process concentrating on the fingers that go down. Repeat! Be patient! Do not go faster.

3.      Same process concentrating on the fingers that go up. Repeat!! Be patient!! Stay at the slow tempo.

4.           Same process concentrating on fingers used in common between notes. Repeat!!! Still be patient and still stay sotto tempo.

5.       Only change to the real tempo of the passage after the passage has become stable and dependable sotto tempo.

Usually this process goes quickly, occasionally not; patience will be rewarded.

Fingering need not be the weaker member of the corporal quartet, but especially for lower register instruments, we need to give special care that fingering functions equally with breathing, articulation and embouchure. Sadly, many students see this kind of fingering work as embarrassing or child like. Focusing on fingering when necessary is nothing to be ashamed of and knowing when it’s time to focus on fingering is the sign of a brilliant student. Get the Herbert L. Clark fingering exercises and go to work!

Kyoto, Japan, March 18, 2006
Revised July 2, 2012, Tokyo