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Sound Production Efficiency

My approach to the instrument is heavily grounded in the ideas taught by Arnold Jacobs and Carmine Caruso.  Jacobs focused on connecting the brain to the sound and maximizing airstream efficiency, in what he called “Song and Wind”.  Caruso focused on the development of the “chops” (ie facial muscles which form the playing embouchure) with musical calisthenic exercises.  I believe the combination of the two “methods” produces great results, as they work in concert with each other to maximize Sound Production Efficiency, or SPE.  What I mean by SPE is a beautiful, resonant sound with minimal physical effort.  Without a beautiful sound, you will be hard pressed to find someone to want to listen to you.

Arnold Jacobs: Song and Wind

For the majority of the 20th century, the Chicago Symphony brass section was considered the top brass section in the world.  The foundation which allowed Adolph “Bud” Herseth to soar over the orchestra was laid by Arnold Jacobs, anchoring the section with his tuba.  While Jacobs was widely regarded as one of the top performers on his instrument during his generation, he might be more famous for his influence as a teacher.  Countless top musicians, not just tubaists or other brass instrumentalists, sought his instruction to improve their air efficiency to make the process of making music easier.  Vincent Cichowicz, professor emeritus of trumpet at Northwestern University and former member of the Chicago Symphony had this to say about Jacobs:

When I studied with him there was a much larger concentration on wind than on song. Later he started to move with more emphasis towards the song. And yet, without that wind part it can’t evolve into the song. It just can’t evolve without that. In the years I taught I could not dismiss that either. The two had to be working together in order to achieve the results. You could not say, “Here is a good sound. Imitate.” Because if your breathing is corrupted there is no way you can achieve your goal.  (ITG Journal Oct 2006)

Carmine Caruso: Musical Calisthenics

Playing an instrument can be viewed as a muscular activity.  If you take a few days off from playing your instrument, especially a brass instrument, you will definitely notice the effect of the time-off the day you pick up the instrument again.  Same goes if you were a runner training for a marathon.  A countless number of muscles are involved in the process of producing sound.  The goal of this method is to create an efficient setup which makes playing easier by allowing the body to tell you what muscles need to be activated.  Some of the performers who champion this method include Julie Landsman (former Principal Horn of the Metropolitan Opera) and world renowned trumpet soloist, Håkan Hardenberger.  Hardenberger had this to say about the Caruso method in a recent interview:

I think without discovering the Caruso, I don’t think I could do the pieces I do.  (Horn Hangouts Interview w/ Sarah Willis on Youtube)

Teaching Experience

I began teaching privately 15 years ago.  I have taught elementary school beginners to college-aged advanced students.  My section coaching experience includes youth orchestras and marching bands.