Date: Mon, 29 May 2006 14:18:55 -0400 (EDT)
From: "William F. Dishman" <>
Subject: [TPIN] David Zuercher/Arnold Jacobs Lesson

Here is a transcript of a lesson I had with David Zuercher. He gave me permission to post this with the hopes it may be helpful to others.

Lesson with David Zuercher
(Colorado Springs Symphony / Colorado Symphony)

I called David Zuercher during the spring in response to his ad in the ITG Journal about helping players who were having difficulties with their playing. We had a conversation about his Arnold Jacobs philosophies and as my wife and I were going to be in Denver for the month of July, it seemed like the perfect situation due to my physical and medical problems (lymphoma/chemotherapy/radiaton) during the previous 18 months.

I did get to meet David Zuercher prior to the lesson as my wife and I were able to attend a Parks concert by the Colorado Symphony in which he was playing. Was able to introduce myself during the intermission break backstage.

In the couple of weeks before I was to meet with David, I had been practicing each morning in my car in the hotel parking lot for a couple of hours with a practice mute. I wanted to be in as good of shape as possible leading up to the lesson.

As the day of the lesson approached, I became more and more excited with the anticipation of working with David and hopefully working out some of the problems in my playing that had been haunting me and causing much anxiety.

The day of the lesson, I was so excited about meeting with him that I couldnt sleep and instead of waiting until about 6:00 A.M. to go out to the car and practice, I was out there at 4:00 A.M. wanting to be good and warmed up. (Lesson was at 10:00 A.M. in Colorado Springs) I did my light routine so as not to be fatigued when I got there.

As I entered Davids studio I immediately noticed the Arnold Jacobs posters on the room dividers! Already an affinity for his teaching style and background! We discussed his having studied with Leon Rapier at Louisville. (Another of my heroes, and the Addison Concerto recording that I had worn out. He proceeded to make another for me during the lesson!)

I related to David my medical situation for the past year and a half and the lack of consistency and confidence in my playing that had become the norm due to my physical / mental condition.

Specifically noted were inconsistent beginnings of notes and endurance problems, lack of embouchure control to finish phrases and the deterioration of tone quality as phrases went on.

Using Song & Wind (falsetto voice / Brunnhilde) concepts, many problems began to be fixed quickly. Occasional lapses occurred during the lesson but once corrections were made, immediate improvement was the result.

Evaluation was made that I was WORKING TOO HARD!
- Needed a more relaxed approach
- Needed to let the Wind work for me
- Blowing a Kleenex with continuous, even and easy air flow
- Blowing a candle evenly without blowing it out
- Inhalation with open vowel sounds (AHH / HOH etc.)
- Lip slurs with good air flow
- Same lip slurs but tongued without disrupting the air flow

We discussed my inability to conceptualize or visualize my tongue position inside the  oral cavity when it is not actually touching my teeth, gums or roof of my mouth.

Discussion of Blow and Wind (a la Jacobs)
- Head tones (resonance) like a singer
- Relaxation and lack of constriction of chest, throat and tongue
- Forward air direction with open chest expansion (Breathe to Expand!  Not the other way around
- Replace BAD HABITS with GOOD ONES!

Mind Over Body
- Mind controls multitude of physical actions to achieve a certain result
- Too many millions of instructions for us to ever control by conscious effort
- Signals from the brain allow the required actions to achieve desired outcomes if they are conceptualized beforehand

David took a piece of paper and wrote the word RUN.  What did I think of when I see the word? (I told him it meant that my feet hurt due to the neuropothy from the chemotherapy.)

His point was that I should think of the action of running, not a three letter word unto itself.

- Mind (complicated process) vs. Action
- RUN is an action requiring millions of coordinated physical instructions from the brain (muscle control, balance, coordination etc.)
- RUN is not a three letter word. It is an action
- We dont need to control all of these. The body responds automatically to  the instructions yielding the results we desire.
- We dont need to analyze the process.
- Let it happen naturally and focus on the results we desire
- Mind controls the sound one wants to get. The body will do whatever it takes to make this happen.
- Dont dwell on how things feel as one plays.
- Concentrate on the aural sounds (musical sounds) one wants to create

  Feel vs. Sound
(NO!)                   (YES!)
(Technical)             (Song)
(Mechanical)         (Wind)
The Lesson

Cichowicz Flow Studies
- Long breath inhalation
- Easy attack (relaxed tongue)
- Good air flow as opposed to pressure

Clarke Technical Study #2
- Same relaxed approach

- Strength
- Endurance
- Over articulations on attacks
- Range

Imitation (Sound concepts)
- F-G-A-Bb (slurred)
- Pinched tone
- Scruntched
- Played pitches with the mouthpiece
- Played B-natural with the mouthpiece
- Attempted to play B-natural with horn (open fingering)
- very flat pitch and thin sounding
- Inconsistent and lacked confidence

Mind tells body what to do directly (Arnold Jacobs)
- Not the actual steps involved but rather the end result. (Goal)

- Open, powerful falsetto voice (like and opera singer)
- Clear and relaxed - yet powerful
- Brunnhilde (Yo-Ho Ho-Oh - Wagner - horned helmet and all! Really!)
- Open throat
- Plenty of breath support (but not tension)
- Singing through the horn!
- Vocalists head tones with open vibration in the forehead. (resonance)
- Open and relaxed
- Avoid constructiveness of throat
- Keep air flow free and full but without forcing it
- Phrasing and dynamics as a vocalists would

- Four counts in - One count out
- Slow, even inhalation (4 counts, 3 counts, 2 counts, 1 count)
- Seven eighth notes in progressing to one eighth note in with the same quality as longer inhalation breaths
- Inhalation and exhalation should be smooth and seamless.
- One continuous action
- Free of tension
- No stopping at the top of the breath and breaking the flow
- BREATHE to EXPAND! (not visa versa!)

Minds Ear
- This (the mind) controls the sound
- Have concept in ones head (minds ear) before one plays
- Make the result match the initial goal
- The body (muscles, embouchure etc.) will do what is necessary
- Do not think technical (Adams)
- Just Blow (not push)

Moussorgsky Promenade
- Played excerpt as usual (with usual problems)
- Sing in falsetto with style desired
- Minds Ear (conceptualize the desired sound)
- Open throat
- Confident approach
- Play with same approach as falsetto singing style
- Much more open
- More intense
- More confident
- The sound is from the player not just the instrument
- David played the Promenade on an old King student model horn and sounded absolutely wonderful
- Mind over matter! (Think music not technical)

Mahler Symphony #5 (opening)
- Played in usual way
- Problem with the high A
- Sing in falsetto a la Wagner/Brunnhilde (wind power)
- Same positive results
- No problem with the high A
- Kept consistent tone throughout registers
- Very little tension or restriction of the throat
- Octave slurs (Clarke Study #11)
- Good wind equals good results!
- Clean slurs with full tone between the 8vas (glissando)
- A couple of false or inconsistent tries but improved with correct wind control
- Breathe to expand! NOT Expand to breathe.

Range (High A)
- Pinched, strained tone and difficulty (Cichowicz/Johnson exercises)
- When using falsetto singing approach - no problem
- Vibrant and full sound with little stress and strain
- Focusing on the Blow not the Chops

Mouthpiece Buzzing
- Work for a full sounding buzz
- Be sure to Glissando between pitches (no gaps)
- Drive the tone to the bottom of exercises
- Avoid dropping down to lower pitches.
- Air speed
- Relaxed embouchure
- Avoid tension
- Tension restricts the vibrations

- Discussed recent problems playing through entire Donizettis Don Pasquale solo even when not fatigued
- Applied good mental concept with good wind and good breaths  when needed during the solo and easily made it through the entire solo
- Played Puccini Quando men vo... aria (Eb part / played as a C part)
- Same results as the Donizetti when good mental and physical approach
- Wind, openness, relaxed feel
- Verdis Adagio
- Went very well!
- Applying Arnold Jacobs principles to making music
- Song & Wind yielded good results!
- Keeping good wind through to the end of phrases helps to keep embouchure from collapsing due to muscle strain
- Minds Ear (Hear it before you play it!)
- Let the body respond naturally to the signals sent relating desired goals and concepts
- Not technical! Musical!
- Noted whenever old habits crept in...the poor results also occurred
- Inconsistent tone, poor attacks, etc.
- Replaced with Song & Wind concepts and problems immediately fixed!
- Good wind and relaxation (no tension or mental pressure)
- Finished with great expectations of continuing to build confidence!

At the conclusion of the lesson (2 hours) I felt like I really had a chance to not only gain back some of the skills and abilities I had lost in the previous 18 months, but also had the potential to go even further as a musician if I could integrate the ideas and concepts David had exposed me to this morning. For the rest of our stay in Colorado, I didnt miss a single day of trying to build the good habits David had talked to me about. To me this was a real benchmark in dealing with my own frustration and striving to reach higher and higher goals. I will forever be in debt to David Zuercher for this wonderful morning. It was truly the highlight of my trip to Colorado.

If anyone wishes to contact David on their own, here is his website:

I highly recommend it.

Bill Dishman