• Ben Vasko

Tuba-Less 2.1: The Return of the Tuba Player

Howdy everyone! Let me first apologize for how long I have been away from this project (and for the nerdy title of this post). I got back home from Blue Devils, packed my things, and promptly moved to Boston. I have been here for about a week now, hanging out with my sister and slowly getting used to my new home. I am optimistic about my time here and I cannot wait for Elena to join me in a few weeks. As always, thank you to everyone reading this, and if you like what you read feel free to subscribe down at the bottom!

I have been back on the tuba practicing for a few weeks now, and holy cannoli Batman: it has been eye-opening. The good news is that it is incredibly apparent the things I did not improve upon/sustain in my time off. The bad news is, there were more of these things than I had anticipated. In this blog, I will review the skills I have retained or improved in my time off, and what I think contributed to that. In the next iteration, expect the juice on all the things that got worse. And as always, there will be tips and tricks for dealing with these things head-on.

"While my chops are a bit rusty, having a strong ear has expedited the process of getting back in the saddle for sure."

I am happy to say that while I was away from my instrument, my ears got better. I can easily attribute this to the amount of listening I did, in addition to the amount of teaching in various settings that filled my schedule. Firstly, listening to different styles of music, recalling melodies I had previously listened to, and singing along has helped my attention to detail on my tuba. By mentally transcribing musical lines (looping sections of recordings and singing along until I get the notes right), it has become easier to decipher intervals and note collections. While my chops are a bit rusty, having a strong ear has expedited the process of getting back in the saddle for sure. Next, teaching the brass section at the Blue Devils has helped my ears as well. We do lots of work with drones, whether singing along, tuning, or playing exercises with them. I would say the majority of our time as a horn line is spent in the company of a drone. Having this ever-present, strong reference to pitch has let me listen to the students’ intervallic relationships to the drone, as well as allowing myself to hear and sing alongside it. I noticed this when returning to my instrument and witnessing my accurate intonation from pitch to pitch.

A benefit of the combination of teaching and regular meditation was the patience to stay strong in my fundamental values. While I taught, I learned to relay information in different, concise ways in order to reach 76 unique minds. Thinking of the many ways to communicate this information strengthened my interpretation of what I believe in. Learning about what I do that works and doesn’t allowed me to come back to the horn and treat myself as a student. I “taught” myself and thought harder about what I needed to be doing in order to gain the results I wanted. Ultimately, teaching afforded me the flexibility to try new things in order to improve, while resisting the urge to become stagnant. Practicing mindfulness has been essential in the return to my instrument. Staying present to work on what I need and accept where my abilities are at the current moment has been the priority. Trying to recreate what my playing was before the time I took off would be incredibly frustrating and counterproductive. I know what I need in the present, and I know what I want to sound like in the future. Being mindful and aware has let me begin to regain my skills in a timely and prescriptive manner while I take on new challenges day by day.

I would like to think that each topic I wrote about in Part 1 benefitted me in some way or another. Listening, teaching, and practicing mindfulness are all wonderful things to do when you have access to your instrument, but they have been essential to me without mine. While I don’t think anything I did caused me detriment, the overlooking of some things did. I will dive further into what else I could have done and what I plan on doing when I get back on the road. I appreciate those of you who took the time to read today’s blog, and I am excited to keep writing for you all.

-Scroll down for Pic of the Day and Today's Listening-

Pic of the Day: A patriotic view of the Boston Harbor after going out to celebrate the USWNT World Cup win!

Today's Listening: Getz/Gilberto in memory of João Gilberto

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©2018 by Ben Vasko.

Boston, USA

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