• Ben Vasko

Tuba-Less 2.2: Half-Diminishing Returns

Greetings from Kingsport, Tennessee! As always, I like to start these with some updates. I am here to instruct the students of the Dobyns-Bennett High School Band (under the amazing tutelage of my dear friend Turner Hawkins and my righteous twin Lindsay). I had a great first three weeks in Boston- I got settled, practiced, and even got to do some playing and teaching! Woo! After my week here, I hop back on the drum corps circuit to help the Blue Devils navigate their way to the end of the DCI season. This summer has flown by and I am grateful for each of you who have taken your own time to keep up with me.


In my last post I discussed the different ways in which I benefitted from my varied methods of staying musically sharp while away from my instrument. With this being a first-time experiment, I knew I wouldn't be able to cover every base. I do not believe one can stay completely "in shape" without actually practicing, but by revealing the weaknesses of my last stint away, it is my hope that you readers (myself included) will have a better idea of how to go about taking time off of your horn. This blog will go over the things that didn't go so well upon returning to regular practice. I will dive into how to avoid each issue in Part 3 of this series when I am back on the road.

The first thing I noticed when I started playing was the lack of coordination between my air, tongue, and fingers. On their own, each one of those was strong. I had done Breathing Gym with my students every day. I listened to lots of music to keep my ears open. However, the lack of putting all of those things together came back to bite me. I was puzzled about why that was, but then I remembered what my teacher Sam said. He would tell us that we could practice all the breathing and technique we wanted, but it wouldn't matter if we didn't then use those practiced abilities to make music. It has to be about music.

An obvious realization I had is that I lost strength and endurance in my chops. My typically strong high range was struggling and the steadiness with which I had been striving to play with had once again become a lofty goal. A reason this may have happened is because I didn't do anything with my mouthpieces. I don't buzz regularly, but prescriptively. That is to say I don't do it as part of a daily routine, but only when issues arise that I think could be solved with buzzing. Feel free to reach out to me if you'd like my opinions on the can of worms that is mouthpiece buzzing, but otherwise I won't go into it here. I will say, I am cooking up some ideas on how to derive the benefits of practicing on the mouthpiece without also bringing out the detriments that people find to come along with it. I am excited to share them in Part 3!

Honestly, I think the first part of this experiment was a success. My mind and ears stayed finely tuned and maybe even improved over the course of being away from my tuba. I am thankful that the issues I had when I started practicing made themselves very apparent. I look forward to reviewing and explaining the ways in which I regained my abilities once I returned to my tubas in the coming posts. Thank you all so much for continuing to peruse my blog and keep up with my Tuba-Less journey!

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

Pic of the Day: My stunning outfit for performances with the Downtown Boston Brass Quartet

Today's Listening: Straight, No Chaser by Thelonius Monk:

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©2018 by Ben Vasko.

Boston, USA

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