From: "Reaban, Derek" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "'TPIN List'" <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, 13 Jul 2004 15:38:12 -0700
Subject: [TPIN] ITG
Conference 2004 - Michael Sachs
There is a very good write-up about the Michael Sachs master class
entitled "Standard Orchestral Passages: How To Practice and Prepare For
Performance and Auditions" at the recent ITG conference in Denver (http://www.trumpetguild.org/2004conference/wed/207.html).
I was in attendance at this class, and the several times that I have
read through the overview of this class at the ITG web site, I find I
just don't get the same feeling of excitement that I did when Michael
was transforming each of the players on stage. That is truly a shame,
because there should be a way to describe in words why this was such a
powerful experience for me.
Before I even try to give my thoughts about this class, I would
encourage everyone to find a way to attend a master class experience
with Michael Sachs at least one time in your life (if he gives a class
near you, you must find a way to hear him!) I know that my words will
fall short in capturing the magic that I experienced in Denver, just as
the ITG coverage did. While his ideas are very simple, they are
extremely powerful, and cater to the creative, inquisitive, musically
The basic approach to his method is to reduce those elements of a
particular phrase that are challenging, into components that are very
easy for the mind and body to "digest". To borrow a phrase from the ITG
conference review, he recommended "breaking it down to it's skeleton to
focus on the fundamentals". This is where musical curiosity comes into
play, and there are literally dozens, if not hundreds of ways to run
with this idea.
If you can envision the final musical product, whether it's an except,
or an etude, or even a simple exercise, as one that has layer after
layer of complexity, the goal of his concept to uncover the skeletal
form of the line. This allows the mind to focus on one aspect of the
musical product at a time. In this way, the mind can truly learn all
that it can about that one component before moving on to the next
challenge. When the mind has a complete picture (of all the various
components), it is then able to meld them together (via subconscious
thought) in the appropriate context. The final product can be heard on
every Cleveland Orchestra recording with Michael Sachs at the helm.
I'll give as many examples as I can think of on how this works:
Harmonic Guideposts and Airflow
In the Ballerina's Dance from Petrouchka, there are lots of eighth note
and sixteenth note patterns. The mind needs to have a very clear image
for every note to speak with clarity. To accomplish this using
Michael's approach, you would simplify the line by playing only the
notes that land on a downbeat. Play these notes as quarter notes and
slur the entire line.
This serves two very fundamental purposes. By choosing to play only the
notes on the downbeats, you are giving your mind a very clear harmonic
picture. The notes "in-between" simply add to the complexity, and will
be added back in later. By mapping out these quarter note harmonic
guideposts, you have simplified the musical line so that your mind can
truly hear what it needs to at each downbeat, producing a clear musical
By slurring the line in quarter notes you are establishing the proper
airflow that will be the foundation or baseline to refer back to when
additional complexity is added.
Airflow and harmonic guideposts would be the two fundamentals to stress
in this first approach.
Rhythmic Integrity and Articulation
The next step could be to look at the simplest "skeletal" form of the
rhythm. There are many different ways to approach this topic. To make
the line from Petrouchka as simple as possible, it can be played on
only one pitch. This could be the second line G to start with, and the
written rhythmic pattern would be played exactly as printed. The goal
here could be to assure that each articulated note sounds exactly the
same. The line could be played with a number of different articulation
styles, from short to long, to let the mind explore all of the
different possibilities. By addressing the musical product in this way
while recording yourself, you can ask yourself the question; "Does each
note sound exactly the same?" Slow it down so that you can really hear
the front end of each note. This allows the mind to focus on only one
question to be answered, and will lead to true improvement if your are
demanding in answering the question honestly.
Next the line could be played with the proper pitches, but this time
using an all sixteenth note pattern. Instead of an eighth followed by
two sixteenths in the second bar, it would be all sixteenth notes. This
helps the mind and body to understand what it feels like to play those
sixteenths exactly in time. When the line is played as written the mind
and body will default to proper rhythmic placement of these notes, and
the strong sixteenth note subdivision should be ringing in your mind.
Alter the rhythmic line with a different rhythm completely. Play the
phrase by swapping the sixteenths and eighths. Play 2 sixteenths on the
downbeat followed by an eighth. Substitute a rhythm like sixteenth,
eighth, sixteenth to give it a completely different feel. Re-write the
excerpt in 6/8 time and continue to vary the types of rhythms (all
eighths, dotted eighth-sixteenth-eighth, eighth-dotted
eighth-sixteenth, eighth-sixteenth-dotted eighth). When the mind has
gone through all of these variations, the standard printed example will
have literally penetrated, so you know every facet of the notes by
approaching them from a host of different rhythmic directions!
This was not touched on in as much detail as the other examples in the
master class, but using a reference or drone pitch to assure the
specific interval is the right width is the best way to focus on this
basic fundamental. Being able to hear that the arpeggio in Petrouchka
is in tune can be addressed by playing a drone pitch and listening to
assure that each interval is being played in tune. The mind will use
this as the intonation baseline when all of the individual pieces are
put back together at the end.
Playing in musical context is extremely important. Being flexible
enough to step outside of the rehearsed comfort zone can only be
accomplished by being very creative in practice. Play the Petrouchka
line in a bravura style like at the end of Tosca, or in a lyrical
approach like the solo line with the violins in Don Juan. Try posing
many different stylistic approaches to the line and see what happens!
This is where musical creativity comes alive!
Well, I wrote all of the above and then decided that I really needed to
get Michael's book, Daily Fundamentals for the Trumpet. All of his
ideas are in the book! And more!
I remember flipping though his book in the store when it first came
out, and thinking to myself, "Those are very familiar exercises and I
already have most of the books that he is referencing. I'm not sure I
need to purchase this one right now". Well, after personally
experiencing how powerful these ideas are, I am completely sold on his
"process" of practicing. And it really is a process! That's what I like
about it most.
Mark Gould, former Principal Trumpet with the Metropolitan Opera
Orchestra wrote the forward to the book. "This book is a window into
the 'trumpet-brain' of Michael Sachs...This is the detailed practice
routine of one of the finest trumpet players in the world. It is a
wonderful point of departure. What a gift!" And he wrote, "If these
exercises are practiced with care and focused aural concentration, over
time one can hardly avoid becoming a better trumpet player." "I keep
two copies. One is always in my trumpet case and the other remains open
on my stand in my practice studio. Thank you Michael Sachs."
I experienced how special this process to improvement is in Denver.
Then I read the words of Mark Gould (who I learned at the conference
was also Jens Lindemann's and Michael's teacher) and decided that I
would make a commitment to embracing this process in my own daily
Let the learning begin! Bravo Michael!