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I don’t know about you, but my diet over the holidays now seems to have consisted largely of cookies, and with the beginning of the New Year comes the revving up a regimen of a new diet and more exercise. It will take some time to work off all those cookies, but as I lumbered around the track this morning, the idea of a new beginning gave me some ideas on how I/we could turn over similar new leaves in horn playing for the New Year.

My idea was Tech [technique] Projects. It’s easy to set up a daily routine that goes over all the basics… and then sit on it for the next forty years. Once you get it down, it’s easy to breeze through it every day as well as getting a sense of personal virtue for doing it. Nothing wrong with a quick brush-up on what we already can do, but life is more interesting and personally enriching if it has some obstacles in it, so to speak, i.e. stuff we can’t quite do yet.

Enter our New Year’s Tech Projects. You are free to make up your own, but I have decided to throw out some ideas as the weeks and months scrolls by. Tech Projects will be focused work on some limited aspect of technique.

Technique for all musicians breaks down in general to scales and arpeggios. How these are practiced could be called Patterns – i.e. the specific forms of playing the material. The most common pattern is to play a scale up and then down one octave (or more). Ditto arpeggios. Patterns don’t have to cover a whole octave or go through all notes in a scale – they can be fairly short, parts of an octave. Patterns could also be sequential (decorating a scale step and then repeating it successively diatonically, first up and then down) or chromatic (repeat a single pattern through all keys). A pattern may be either a scale (or scale part) or an arpeggio or a combination of both.

Technique for brass players has additional dimensions: without valves or with valves. We need to do both. Both scales and arpeggios and their patterns can and should be done with and without valves.

I will try to bring you a new Tech Project about every week or so. The actual time you spend on a particular project (should you decide to do it) may be much longer. No matter. Work on one as long (or as short) as you like, until it’s comfortable and familiar and you’re ready for the next one. There will be more of them waiting for you; there will be enough to keep you busy for a long time.

I will also leaven the discourse with the yin to the technique yang: musicality, playing musically. You need technique to realize your performance dreams, but technique should be the servant of musical playing. It’s easy to get caught up in technique and forget that our most important goal is to deliver beautiful music to our audiences. So expect the sandwiching of posts on this subject as well.

Stay tuned. Tech Project #1 will be coming up soon.