The Summerglen Files

Music, Creativity, and Everyday Life at Summerglen Music in Raleigh, NC

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A Trombonist Learns Guitar

February 8th, 2016 · No Comments

Just finished up Berklee’s beginning guitar course on Coursera.com. What a fun course! I started with very little experience with stringed instruments of any kind, and now am able to play several pages of chords and even a couple of songs! Here’s one of my favorites:

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Tons of Awesome Playing Tips for Trombonists…

February 17th, 2011 · No Comments

I stumbled upon this great post on the Trombone-L discussion list, and had to share it. Basically, this guy went to one of Joe Alessi’s trombone seminars, and then ever-so-kindly posted his notes for the benefit of trombonekind: http://maillists.samford.edu/pipermail/trombone-l/2005-September/003589.html. Each of these tips is an absolute gem.

And speaking of gems, here’s an Alessi performance. Enjoy! :)

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This is Your Trombone on Yoga

January 21st, 2011 · 3 Comments

yoga

I’ve been studying Anusara yoga for several months and thoroughly enjoying it, and lately I’ve felt the urge to learn even more. So, last Saturday, I took a class on how to practice yoga at home. The class was really interesting, but not just because it deepened my knowledge about yoga–it also was a great opportunity to get ideas from the way people in other disciplines practice! This week, I adapted a couple of ideas from yoga into my trombone practice, and here’s what happened:

At the beginning, set an intention. – When practicing yoga, one of the first things our teacher suggests we do is set an intention to guide our practice. We may choose to focus on things like staying in the moment, expressing gratitude, or a using a certain yogic principle. Doing this has really helped me in yoga, especially during those poses that are, er, not so comfortable! :0

So, I thought, why not do the same in trombone practice? Each day this week, I’ve set some kind of intention before starting to play. On Monday, I felt sluggish, so I set an intention to have a flowing practice session. I noticed that I grew more energized as the session went on, because the intention would pop into my mind whenever I’d start to sit a little too long between exercises. On Wednesday, AKA “potentially frustrating recording work day”, I set an intention to be nice to myself. Instead of succumbing to the urge to beat myself up, I was able to listen to my recordings more objectively–and I gained some valuable insights as a result. In short, setting intentions REALLY worked!

Finish with Savasana – At the end of yoga practice, we take a pose called Savasana, in which we lie down, chill out, and savor the results of the work we’ve done. My teacher has cautioned that Savasana is a non-negotiable part of yoga practice–you’ve gotta do it every time, or else you’ll find yourself frazzled instead of relaxed!

This made me think of all the times I’ve abruptly ended my trombone practice and gone to do something else, with no real transition in between. Like yoga, practicing trombone brings us into a different state of being: our senses are heightened, and we’re challenging the body and mind to perform complex functions in flawless harmony. When I think of it that way, it makes no sense at all to just pack up the horn and go watch TV–there should be a transition back out of the elevated state of practice! So, after each session this week, I’ve taken a couple of minutes to stretch my chops out and relax before leaving the studio. During this time, I write down a couple things I’ve accomplished, and allow myself to savor what I’ve done. This musical chill time has worked just like Savasana, allowing me to feel satisfied with the progress I’ve made, rather than anxious about everything I still need to do.

Have you found ideas from other disciplines that work really well in your trombone practice? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments section! Until next time, namaste! :)

→ 3 CommentsTags: Practice Tips

January, the Creative Month

January 7th, 2011 · No Comments

January!

Every year, I hear all kinds of people knocking the month of January. Some say that, now that all the decorations are put away and holiday festivities are wrapped up, January feels dull and bleak and depressing. Others complain that it’s too cold, or that there’s nothing to do. But I think that poor January has gotten a bad rap–because by taking a different perspective on this season’s chilly calm, it’s possible to turn January into a monthlong creative and musical retreat!

I get into this creativity-friendly perspective simply by turning around the wintery subjects I’m tempted to whine about. For example, if my first thought is, “Man, it’s too cold outside to do anything!!” I spin that thought around until it says, “But it’s super-warm indoors. What are some things I can do inside?” (And for a musician, this question has some awesome answers: practice, compose, arrange, harmonize, study, improvise, jam, experiment…and the list goes on!)

Here are 3 more typical January complaints, and how to turn them around to give you a creative boost:

1. “I’m SOOO tired!” – January is quite a dark and gray month in many parts of the country, so it can be a nightmare trying to get out of bed in the morning…or at all. Sometimes it may feel like all we want to do is sleep! But what if we looked at this urge to hibernate as a good thing?

Extra sleep can feel luxurious, especially when we lay aside our worries about what we think we “should” be doing and just rest. When we allow ourselves small luxuries like lazy, carefree relaxation, we contribute to the health of our Inner Artist. And when our Inner Artist is strong and happy, our creative ideas flow more easily!

2. “I’m SO bored; there’s nothing to do!” – After the craziness of the holiday season, adjusting to the calm of January can be very difficult. One great way to turn this complaint around is to view a sparse schedule as a golden opportunity to pursue those things we never seem to have time for. For many freelance musicians, January is a time when nobody’s calling us to play their music. So, we can turn it into a chance to make OUR music! When we start feeling bored or stuck, we can use it as a signal to sit down and work on music we’re passionate about.

3. “Everything looks so depressing, now that all the Christmas lights are down.” – It can be a real drag taking down all the pretty holiday decorations we put up last month. But who says that decorations are only a December thing? We can also have great fun decorating for January! Each year, I make January fun by doing up Summerglen in calm, meditative winter stuff. I only decorate for January once a year, so it’s a special thing that I look forward to. And…changing up our environment can stimulate our brains, bringing us new ideas to bring into our musical lives.

So, how will you make this month a fun and musical time? Best wishes, and happy January!

→ No CommentsTags: creativity · holidays · staying healthy

Why Trombonists Should Go For A Run

March 1st, 2010 · 1 Comment

woman_running

When I was in high school, my trombone teacher had an endless supply of laments about the weak state of my lungs (and tone). Unfortunately for both of us, his instructions to “breathe deeper” and “fill up my lungs” lesson after lesson weren’t exactly getting results. But what DID get results was the day he got fed up with my wimpy long tones, threw up his hands and said, “Put down your horn and take a lap around the block!”

This was perhaps one of the best trombone lessons I ever had, simply because it taught me what filling the lungs and supporting the tone really means. When you run, you’re asking your body to do some hard work–and your body needs lots of oxygen to get that work done. Your lungs expand, you breathe more deeply, and you naturally support your breath a little more than normal. Over time, this exercise beefs up your lungs, and helps you understand exactly what your lungs feel like when they’re full. And knowing how to fill your lungs is one of the keys to playing trombone beautifully.

Breathing exercises and running, even though they don’t involve the horn at all, have been some of the most effective things I’ve done to become a better trombonist. I started out with some wimpy lungs, but after years of exercise, they’ve become powerful and strong (and my tone has followed suit!) The greatest thing about this is that YOU can beef up your lungs, too. Just put down your horn and take a lap around the block. :)

→ 1 CommentTags: music education · Practice Tips · staying healthy · Trombones

Andrew’s Teaching a Drumset Workshop…and Taking Your Questions!

February 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

Happy Monday, Summerglen friends!
We’ve been insanely busy over here at the ‘glen. I’ve been working hard on setting up another after-school elementary band and some creativity workshops for businesspeople, and Andrew has been out playing solo percussion shows! (Pics of his latest show will be up within the next couple of days!)

Andrew's free drumset workshop!  Thursday, February 25th at 6:30pm

But the thing we’re most excited about this week is Andrew’s upcoming Drumset Setup and Tuning Workshop at 2112 Percussion this Thursday at 6:30pm. Andrew has a really cool evening planned–including teaching how to set up your drumset to make playing easier, helping you decide which drumheads are best for you, and demonstrating how to tune your drums to get a great sound. This workshop is FREE, and is open to drummers of all ages!

If you have a burning drumset question that you would like Andrew to answer at his workshop, post your question to Andrew’s facebook page, and he’ll make sure to cover it on Thursday! If you don’t have Facebook, please feel free to ask your question here in the comments section. We look forward to seeing you on Thursday! :)

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Glen Pix from Andrew’s Solo Percussion Show

January 16th, 2010 · No Comments

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

→ No CommentsTags: a day in the life · Live Music

A Wooden Trombone!

December 9th, 2009 · No Comments

Last year, I found a video about a glass trombone, and thought it was pretty cool. But today, the coolness record has been broken with this video…of the world’s first wooden trombone! Enjoy!

→ No CommentsTags: Trombones · videos

The Best Professionals are Still Students

December 5th, 2009 · No Comments

As I was packing up my scores after a Wiley Band rehearsal earlier this week, a parent asked me why I was taking my music home. “To study,” I said. The parent replied with surprise, “But why do YOU need to study? You’re a professional!”

Without even knowing it, this lady had answered her own question! The best professionals in any field–be it music, finance, or science–make it a point to continually expand their knowledge and understanding. We don’t rest on the degrees, certificates, or experience we gained several years back; rather, we continue to grow as much as we can, for as long as we can.

This brief conversation with the band parent made me think about why I continue to study and practice. Here are some of the reasons I came up with:

1. I respect my students. – My students come to me to learn how to grow as musicians. It’s much easier to help someone grow when you are growing yourself.

2. I respect the music. – I don’t want to be one of those unprepared musicians who makes Beethoven roll over in his grave. I’d rather give a performance (or coach a student toward giving a performance) that would make the composer proud.

3. Practice makes easier. – When I take the time to thoroughly study my scores before band class, my ability to help my students grows, and our rehearsals become more enjoyable and efficient. Likewise, when I practice technique, playing trombone becomes easier and more fun. And who doesn’t like fun?

4. I love music! I honestly can’t get enough information about musical styles, composers, trends, innovation, history, etc. I study because I love what I do!

How about you? What makes you continue studying and practicing music, even if you’re already pretty good at it? What are your favorite musical topics to study?

→ No CommentsTags: a day in the life · music education

Go Andrew Go!

November 20th, 2009 · 1 Comment

It has truly been the year of the book here at Summerglen Music. Back in June, Christina published her Women Embracing Creativity book, and now Andrew has a book of his own as well–Building Grooves: A Beginner’s Guide to Drumset Control and Coordination!
Andrew Munger with his new drumset book, Building Grooves
Andrew’s proof copy came in the mail today, and it looks great! The Building Grooves book will be available soon through 2112 Percussion, and Andrew will kick off the book’s release with a clinic and concert on January 14th. Go Andrew!

→ 1 CommentTags: music education · Summerglen News