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1  In concert, in business, in the classroom / Professional bulletin board / Sam Burtis In Washington, DC area w/The Mambo Legends, Sat. 9/22 on: September 20, 2012, 07:24:12 AM
Hello all...

The wonderful Mambo Legends Orchestra is playing a gig at Artisphere in Arlington, VA this Saturday. It's a one-nighter by train from NYC so we won't be around long to hang. In DC at noon or so, soundcheck at 5PM, gig at 9PM, then back to the hotel in Arlington and return trip late morning  Sunday. I dunno yet about guest passes but if anybody's interested I'll see what I can do. If you're free, try to make it. (PM me here or email me at <>.) There is nothing like this band when it's playing live. 20 pieces including 4 singers and the best NYC latin-style rhythm section on earth. Great charts and great musicians throughout. The best large ensemble w/which I have ever played. In any idiom.

See ya, I hope.


2  Shoptalk / Playing Techniques / Re: Lumbar spinal surgery on: May 27, 2012, 10:22:17 AM
I am having a spinal fusion involving the lowest three lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum in a couple of weeks. Does anyone have any idea how long before I can play trumpet again?

Not me. Good luck with it, Jerry. Listen to your doctor. And then listen to your body. Too early might be a bad thing. Better late than never.


3  In concert, in business, in the classroom / Professional bulletin board / Re: bizzy //itsa blur !!!!!!!!!!!!!! on: April 21, 2012, 07:02:46 AM
Smiley Smiley man lotsa changes -flowers bloomed so fast this spring
in a  rush

Yes, 'tis.

Yes 'tis indeed.

Hard to keep up, ain't it?

4  Also sprach Zarathustra / Suggestion box / Re: Practice tool suggestion on: March 27, 2012, 09:41:24 PM
I use this website:

like this:

If you refresh the second link you get new numbers.

It's apparently better because it uses atmospheric pressure? Or something. I don't know. Using the weather makes as much sense as anything.

That'll work too, I guess.


5  Also sprach Zarathustra / Suggestion box / Re: Practice tool suggestion on: March 22, 2012, 11:36:18 AM
Applestore has several free random number generators. I got one random~number (I think) that allows me to find a number between one and twelve. Fits nicely in as a die or cards substitute.


Thanks...I'll look into it.

6  In concert, in business, in the classroom / Professional bulletin board / Sam Burtis in Ithaca, Wed. 3/14-Fri. 3/16 on: March 07, 2012, 10:05:14 AM
Not for work, necessarily...just visiting my son, who is living there while doing graduate study at Cornell. However, I'll have a pretty free schedule. Anybody interested in a lesson or maybe putting together a group lesson/masterclass sort of thing (or even just getting a book...Time, Balance and Connections-A Universal Theory of Brass Relativity...without paying for mailing), email me at and we'll talk.


7  Shoptalk / Playing Techniques / Re: Inductive or deductive? Novelist Cormac McCarthy on how the real deal happens. on: February 16, 2012, 11:03:04 AM
There gotta be something in this for a mathematician to graph how the teaching input might change from inductive to deductive as the student moves from zero skill to artistry.

Someone taught that crack shot how to safely load, unload and clean his gun and how to hold it so it didn't break his shoulder or his cheek. Someone probably taught him about the basics of breathing to steady his aim. The rest was practice.

It comes down to timing again. The right type of input or stimulus at the right time. That's the art of teaching. What does this student need from me today?


I dunno exactly how much "teaching" actually went into this guy's shooting ability. I really don't. I grew up in a hunting family and although I was cautioned on things like always checking to make sure a gun was loaded or unloaded, using the safety and never pointing it at myself or anyone or anything else that I did not absolutely, positively mean to shoot, what I learned about "shooting" had to do with...shooting. As in "practice makes perfect." How to hold the gun so it didn't break my shoulder or cheek? Maybe someone might have said something, but all it took was one shot with a powerful gun or shotgun to fairly well learn that lesson. Yup. Same thing with riding horses in the same family. Once you knew how to put the tack together on the horse...saddle, bridle, bit etc...then it was basically a matter of getting into the saddle and riding. Everything else was unconscious emulation. Ditto driving a car or piloting a boat. You did what the good shooters, riders and drivers did. If you did not do that, you got scolded or even perhaps rapped upside the head (not so gently as to be easily ignored but neither so hard as to be truly injured) until you either got the message or decided that this particular activity was not going to be your primary field of interest. There was no extensive "studying" of the subject; it was strictly seat-of-the-pants stuff. My father was a very high-level fighter pilot in WW II (Spitfires, the Battle of Britain), and when pressed on how he learned that skill on a survivable level he said basically the same thing. Actually, he didn't say much of anything, because he didn't know "how he learned," he just damned well learned or else he died. And this was no dummy...he later became an aeronautical engineer and "learned" all kinds of stuff about what made planes fly. But when he got into the cockpit...and I flew a great deal with him over the years...he basically just started the engine; did the requisite pre-flight checks and then took the **** off. He knew the plane; he knew its stall speed and its maneuverability envelope, and then he flew where he was going by the shortest and safest route possible.

How much "teaching" went into the playing abilities of Louis Armstrong or Charlie Parker? Mostly emulation, I think. And then the requisite 10,000 hours of simply doing it. Plus some serious talent, of course.

That's my take on it, anyway.

I hear player after player these days in NYC, all of whom play the instrument very, very well. But they are absolutely unidentifiable aurally. Could be this guy; could be that guy; could be almost anybody with talent who has successfully navigated the history of their instrument in a given idiom or two. They have been overtaught, in my opinion, and they are shackled by that knowledge. When I came to NYC in the late '60s after a couple of years of Berklee, the very first thing that I did was stop playing anything that sounded like what I had learned at school unless I was being paid for it. For a number of years I played only the outest freebag music, fusion stuff and latin music. I did this at least half-consciously, in an attempt to find my own voice. Like my playing or lump it, I at the very least succeeded in that effort. Only after that did I re-enter the history wars, and I did that fairly consciously too, in the secure knowledge that I had to some degree found my own way into the music. Of course, it was easier to do that in NYC at that time because one could live very cheaply whereas now if you're not pretty well working (or you have some kind of inheritance) you cannot afford to live within an hour's travel of the city, if even that close. Things have closed up here stylistically and in terms of work, and people who take chances are quickly marginalized in favor of those who are "good" players. Good little boys and girls.

So it goes, and so go the idioms as well.

Into stasis.

You know when change really stops?

When something dies. Once the decay period is over, it's just another fossil. Word.

So that goes as well.

May you be born(e) into interesting times, and always remember, these are the good old days. Stay alive. You be bettah off in the long run.

Bet on it.


8  Shoptalk / Playing Techniques / Inductive or deductive? Novelist Cormac McCarthy on how the real deal happens. on: February 15, 2012, 10:20:25 AM
I see so many people teaching a "how to do it" approach to brass playing.

Where to put the tongue.

How to manipulate the embouchure.

How to breathe.

Etc., etc., etc.

Essentially, how to induce good brass playing by dealing with specific aspects of the craft. This is the mainstream academic approach now, it appears to me. "Take this specific action to become a better brass player."

I studied with Carmine Caruso, John Coffey and Jack Nowinski, all of whom approached the idea from another angle entirely. A deductive angle. Whether it was the "Tongue and blow, kid, tongue and blow. That's all there is to it" concept of John Coffey, Carmine's "Play this exercise in good internal time" idea or Jack's approach...he once told me that the best way to find the proper place for your m'pce on your chops was to play a midrange note and then kinda "squinch the m'pce around on your chops until it sounds better," and it works like a charm...I never heard a word from any of them about what to do with any part of my anatomy. Not a word.

Ditto Jimmy Knepper. When I tried to copy his approach to holding and moving the slide...I eventually evolved something similar only influenced by my own physiology rather than by his...and had some trouble in a rehearsal playing really challenging unison mid-to-low range parts while he was just sailing through them, I asked him a question about what I was doing. Whether I "had it right." His answer...after a pregnant pause...was very simple. "Maybe you ought to move your hand faster." Duh.

So here I am, having my morning coffee and wandering through the internet is search search of the miraculous, I suppose...and I run into an article about one of the truly great American novelists, Cormac McCarthy. I have read a great deal of his work but know very little about him except that he is kind of a hard-tack American western type who pretty much stays out of the hype culture and does what he does no matter whether he gets rich or just scuffles on through. My kinda guy. So this article informs me that he is a resident "humanist" in a high-level scientific think tank called "The Santa Fe Institute," and that he has an extremely broad knowledge set that includes a deep understanding of mathematics and physics as well as the pushes and pulls of elemental human behavior that so inform his writing.


No great surprise there, any more than if the article told me that he refuses to leave his ranch somewhere in the badlands of of the southwest and spends all of his spare time training quarter horses. Genius does what it does.

But here's what he had to say that prompted me to make this post.

McCarthy noted a deeper link between great science and great writing. “Both involve curiosity, taking risks, thinking in an adventurous manner, and being willing to say something 9/10ths of people will say is wrong.” Profound insights in both domains also tend arise from a source beyond the limits of analytic reason. “Major insights in science come from the subconscious, from staring at your shoes. They’re not just analytical.” To explain why he doesn’t like to analyze the sources of fiction too closely, McCarthy told a story. “There was a guy who was a great wing shot on a quail hunt in Georgia. He killed everything he saw, he dropped 'em all morning. One of the other guys said, ‘You’re the best wing shot I’ve ever seen.’ At lunch the guy asked him, ‘Do you shoot with one eye open or both?’ He paused and thought about it. Finally he said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Duh squared!!!

Like dat.

Bet on it.

Back to work...

9  Sam's Corner / Ask and ye shall receive / Re: READ THIS FRST, PLEASE...before posting questions. Thanks. on: February 08, 2012, 01:43:52 PM
The ideas in your book are working for me.
I'm only on page 33 on my journey through and trying to do the exercises correctly.
My sound, time and endurance have all improved. I'm taking all the time I need and going slowly .
Very encouraging! 
Thanks again for taking the time and effort to put it together!
It's worth far more than the cost!!

Happy to oblige. Good luck with it.

10  Shoptalk / Equipment / Re: Conn 18H w/Shires .500 Slide on: February 07, 2012, 07:51:12 PM
I just saw this thread and I'm curious about what was being done. Did Shires make a brand new TIS slide
to mate with an old 18H bell? Or did they modify an old 18H slide? Sounds very cool and I believe Sam was
stating that the 18H was one of the best kept secrets around. Thanks. jb

I believe that they simply made new inner and outer slides and used the original crook, brace area and perhaps the original leadpipe as well. Whatever they did, it was awesome.

11  Sam's Corner / Ask and ye shall receive / Re: READ THIS FRST, PLEASE...before posting questions. Thanks. on: January 22, 2012, 06:50:53 AM
It's also like a biography, Sam: A Life in Practice.  Or a toolbox.  One that has the precise screwdriver needed for that screw with the funny looking head in that almost inaccessible location, left handed, upside down.  Or a finger indicating the moon.  Or a meditation. 

Yes, it is. And more. And less, too.

Thank you...

12  Shoptalk / Equipment / Re: Large mouthpieces with small shank for tenor trombone on: January 20, 2012, 10:56:15 AM
Contact Doug, 

He makes modular mouthpieces and is great at setting up equipment that works.

I agree. That's your best bet.

13  Sam's Corner / Ask and ye shall receive / Re: READ THIS FRST, PLEASE...before posting questions. Thanks. on: January 15, 2012, 04:28:53 PM
Sam ,
Since I can't make it to NYC for lessons, your book is the next best thing Smiley.
I've been playing bone for 51 years and always have looked to improve but found it difficult.
(Try to work on a a car without a wrench)
"Time Balance and Connections" has given me a toolbox full of great tools.
I am progressing once again.
Thanks Sam!

Someone once suggested to me that this book is a method book for those who want to create their own method.


Have at it, and good luck. I am glad to have been able to be of some assistance.


14  Shoptalk / Playing Techniques / Re: Hearing overtones as individual notes on: January 15, 2012, 09:14:34 AM
I think I'm already making some progress combining what you said here with what I learned during the lesson I mentioned earlier. I think I'm also getting dragged into your embouchure thing... I watched the video/read some of what you wrote when you first started talking about it, but I wasn't at a point in my development where I was really able to understand it. I'll try to scour what you've written here and other places about it since I'm starting to see how this is all connected.

thanks again.

Take your time. Don't overdo stuff or anything else. Find your own way.

Good luck...

15  Shoptalk / Equipment / Re: Caruso exercises versus Phil Teele exercises ! Do they work together? on: January 14, 2012, 12:51:04 PM
Caruso exercises versus Phil Teele exercises ! Do they work together?

Hi all
greetings from Rod Herbert in Sydney

a question on Caruso and Phil Teele exercises
are they compatable in practice sessions or alternate days

ive been working caruso and jacobs material for many years and it feels great
just discovered the teele exercises and have been working on these as well

i can see the benifits of all this material but caruso and teele seem like very much opposite
ie strength or stress versus total relaxation

please give me your thoughts on this and your various approaches

thanks in advance rod herbert

Short answer?


I use the Teele approach when trying to get my bass and tuba chops seriously together.

Futrher answer?

There is no difference, really. You can do Carmine exercises going down. I have a slew of variations on that idea in my book, Time, Balance and Connections-A Universal Theory of Brass Relativity. Check it out. Or just do an advanced search for <Caruso + sabutin + intervals> or <Caruso + sabutin + down> on this site and on The Trombone Forum. Also here. (Scroll's in there.)

Get back to me when you've looked through these links.

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