[Dixielandjazz] blending

Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis larrys.bands at charter.net
Fri Nov 17 11:04:06 PST 2006

Actually it is much deeper than that.  That's a good volume exercise but 
blending is much more sophisticated and almost impossible without a lot of 
work for the High School and amateur musician to get his mind around. 
Always knowing where and what is the melody takes a lot of listening then 
adjusting your volume to be below or match.

When the H.S. kids get it I instantly say "that's it can you hear it".  This 
is why some of my ensembles consistently score ones at the State Solo and 
Ensemble contests each year.

In the other post I talked about a clarinet player that I couldn't hear. 
While he was an excellent player he didn't project much and the idiots that 
were in the band didn't have a clue.  Here you have a guy playing with 
little projection in the low range of the instrument and the background 
instruments wailing away and a crowd of 300 people talking.  That clarinet 
player should have been pumping some air and the other guys should have 
gotten out of his way.  The audience --- well what can I say --- pearls 
before swine.

When I was in college I played in a woodwind quintet.  For those of you who 
aren't familiar with the group it is an Oboe, Flute, Bassoon, Clarinet and 
French Horn. (yes I know a French horn isn't a woodwind - I didn't make up 
the grouping)  You have five completely different instruments with five 
completely different sounds.  Getting them to blend properly is not easy. 
This group is as diverse as the Dixie band and the problems are exactly the 
same.  Different instruments do things differently for example if the cornet 
player isn't playing cornet but Trumpet you get a whole new ball game. 
That's true if the reed player is using Soprano Sax or clarinet.  Then you 
get a whole different sound when the trumpet or trombone uses a mute. 
Actually I think it's more difficult to Blend a Dixie band than a WW 
Quintet.  Some of the instruments are a whole lot more powerful and more 
diverse in the Dixie band.  The Banjo pops to mind.

It takes a whole lot of listening to make a Dixie band have that blend. 
Another problem is that an instrument with a lot of power and projection is 
put up against one that has less.  I play Soprano sax and I can play over 
the cornet without even trying at all.  The problem then becomes for the 
Soprano player to still sound good, still project but still play under the 
Cornet or other melody.

Projection is not a matter of volume exclusively.  An example.  I had 
borrowed a Selmer Tenor one night and I could hear myself echoing off of a 
far wall.  I had played that hall before with my Conn and that never 
happened.  It's easier to get projection with the Selmer but it isn't always 
the horn.  You can't buy projection but it is true that some instruments are 
better than others.  Since then I knew what projection meant and how to 
recognize it and better still how to do it.  It's like throwing a ball, some 
people can just throw further than others.  Another good example is that 
Cornets project differently than Trumpets.

It all boils down to having the confidence in what you are doing and have 
time to listen to the other guy rather than burying your head in the stand.

All ensemble music is made up of solos, duets, trios, counter melodies or 
background.  Knowing how to handle each element so far as volume and 
projection goes is the essence of ensemble.  It's not about my instrument is 
the most important and I want to be heard.

I worked with blind people for many years and listening is not a problem for 
them.  Start closing your eyes while you play and listen.  I do it all the 
time.  Record your performances and listen to it a bunch to see what you can 
do better.  Today we have incredible recorders that will fit in a shirt 
pocket.  Get one and use it.
St. Louis

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jim Kashishian" <jim at kashprod.com>
To: <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Friday, November 17, 2006 11:13 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] blending

> Larry brought up the subject of "blending".  Back in Jr. High School, the
> band leader used to stop the band & ask if we could hear our neighbor.  If
> we could hear ourselves above the sound of the neighboring musician, then 
> we
> were playing too loudly...not blending.  It's as important a musical
> attitude as is dynamics (ups & downs in volume), that is learned or is not
> learned early on.
> Larry also mentioned "projection".  My trombone teacher used to stand 
> across
> the room from me & say "hit me with your sound, right here on my chest". 
> He
> was not speaking about volume, rather projection of the sound.
> What important lessons those were.
> I remember recording in the first completely carpeted recording
> studios....walls, ceilings, floor (a fad in the 1970's).  No projection of
> your sound was possible.  They wanted complete separation from each 
> section
> of horns, so they could all be "treated" differently.  If you wanted to 
> hear
> yourself you had to stand in front of the studio glass separating the
> musicians from the engineer.  When I complained about lack of resonance, 
> the
> engineer said "not to worry, he would put that in for me electronically!" 
> I
> thought to myself, how silly to take away an asset that I have only to 
> have
> to add it back by electronic means.  Of course, all you had to do was put
> the headphones on, and there was all this lovely churchy sound eminating
> around the tone of your horn....but, it was not me!
> The blended sound of the band needs to be there, along with good 
> projection
> & dynamics.  If all that reaches the audience with no amplification, or if
> necessary (due to the room) with amplification, then they are hearing the
> band as it sounds.  I prefer to use one mic for trumpet & trombone (we 
> have
> no reed), as then we control the blend (by getting closer/further away 
> from
> the mic), not the sound engineer.
> Jim
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