Category Archives: Music

Marching with the Band of the Ceremonial Guard

When I describe my summer job to people, I often say, “The government pays me to play saxophone and wear a silly outfit,” or, “You know those bearskin hats and red tunics? Yeah. I do that with a saxophone,” or, “It’s sweaty.”

This was my third summer playing with the Band of the Ceremonial Guard, and it was a great season. During one of our last parades, a clarinet player set his instrument aside, strapped a GoPro to his chest, and filmed the entire event! He was directly behind me, so you can get a taste of a day at the office. I’d love to answer any questions about the ceremony or what the job is like in the comments section below!

Changing of the Guard

Check it out on CG’s Facebook page.

Blanket Fort Concert

DF will be putting on a concert in a giant Blanket Fort on February 20! We love finding fun new ways to share what we do. When the inspiration struck to do a show in a giant blanket fort, a wave of pillowy nostalgia came crashing over us. Blanket forts are a hallmark of childhood joy, something we’re hoping to recreate for our audience on a wintery evening.

Be a part of making this awesome event happen by joining our Indiegogo!

Chops of Steel and a Tone of Gold, Part 2

In Part 1, I outlined six awesome chop busters to play with a fully assembled horn.  Check it out here.  Part 2 offers even more embouchure boosting fun by using no instrument at all, just the mouthpiece, and finally the mouthpiece and neck joint.

No horn:

Even when you’re away from the horn, you can still be strengthening, or at least attempting to maintain, your embouchure.  These can be done anytime, anywhere!

1. The Pen of Doom

Place the back end of a pencil or pen between your lips.  Now, using just your lips, hold the writing utensil straight out.  Keep holding.  You’ll quickly begin to feel lactic acid build up in all the places it would during an extended playing session.

Tip: For added challenge place as little of the pen in your lips as possible and pull the corners of your mouth back

2. Lion Face(RAWR!)/Lemon Face(Ooh!)

This one shares a name with an old theater warm up.  However, instead of preparing you to make weird faces on stage, the idea again is to build up lactic acid, and in turn better embouchure endurance.

Start by making a wide, toothy smile (Lion Face).  Then tightly pucker your lips together (Lemon Face).  Now alternate quickly, going for a full range of motion.

Mouthpiece only:

Using just the mouthpiece, aim for a full, clear tone.

1. Sirens

Slur from the highest pitch to the lowest pitch you can play on your mouthpiece by tightening and loosening your jaw.  This should be done both slowly for control and quickly for dexterity.

2. Long Tones

Using a tuner, play and hold individual pitches working your way down and then up chromatically.  Aim to extend both how low and high you can play on your mouthpiece.  Joe Allard could play two octaves on his mouthpiece alone!

Mouthpiece + Neck Joint:

1. Around the World

Play a well-supported long tone and listen for a full, round sound.  Adjust your embouchure and throat until you achieve the best sound you can.  Now, place the mouthpiece in one corner of your mouth and try and recreate that tone quality.  Repeat in the other corner.  Now flip the entire mouthpiece and neck joint upside down and repeat the exercise again in the center, left, and right.

Tip: You will need to uses a double lip embouchure when the mouthpiece is upside down to avoid your teeth being on the reed!

2. Long Tones

Similar to with just the mouthpiece, the idea is to relax your jaw to produce pitches descending as far as you can chromatically.

Try these at the start of each practice session.  They don’t take much time and are great for building your chops!

If you have your own exercises for working on tone and embouchure I’d love to hear about them in the comment section.