What Makes a Step-Up Instrument, Pt. 2

What makes a Step-Up Instrument?
We've discussed the basics of what makes a step-up level instrument different from the instrument you rent for your student musician. Now, we will be discussing how to select a step-up instrument that is best for your musician.
When upgrading, the number one factor most people consider is cost. Cost is very important, but also a bit deceptive during this process. The most expensive instrument may not be the best for you, while the least expensive may not be the worst. Once you have decided on an approximate budget for your upgrade, there are usually many different varieties of models and brands to choose from. The biggest part you can do for your musician is to come in and have them test the instruments.
Everyone has a different method they prefer to use to help test and select instruments, so I will be covering and explain how our Frisco location goes through this. We like to do what is called the “Eye Test”, similar to what you do at an optometrist. Starting with the musician’s instrument, we have them play a simple scale, something that they are very comfortable with so as to prevent the sound changing from what they consider normal. We always try to avoid long passages during this part of the testing so that the musician is focusing on the sound of the instrument rather than the music itself. We then will have them start with the first step-up instrument they are trying out and have them do the exact same scale. After comparing sounds, we ask which instrument they liked better: 1 or 2. We repeat this process with all the instruments being tried out until we get down to 2 or 3. At this point, the remaining instruments are what the musician says and feel that they play the best on.
With the last few instruments in hand, we ask the musician to play a variety of things: high and low pitches, faster rhythms, etc. This part of the process takes some time, multiple visits even! Sometimes we can loan the instruments to the private lesson teacher so that the student can test them in front of someone who is very experienced with the instrument itself and the student’s playing style. After all of these steps, the musician arrives at what instrument that they feel makes them the best musician they can be.
 Next we will discuss the differences in specific instruments going from student level to step-up.

Avoiding the Seven-Year Itch

Avoiding the seven-year itch: A guide for band and Orchestra parents and students

So, your child returns home from school exclaiming they would like to play a musical instrument. What a great idea you think to yourself, but what do I need to do as a parent to allow my child to accomplish their goal. This is a common situation that happens every year and I would like to help guide you through the process with some tips on obtaining an instrument as well as why a musical education is a great value that will aid our children throughout their entire lives.
In most of the school systems the directors of the music program will hold instrument try out (or testing)" sessions for the following year's incoming students. While these meetings may seem like an added burden to your already busy schedule, they are important for many reasons. It is possible for any child to leam to play a musical instrument, however certain physical traits and characteristics may dictate that one instrument will be more difficult for them to master. This is not to say they cannot ever learn that instrument, it is more of a general guideline directors are taught to look for during their training in order to avoid obstacles that may discourage kids from continuing with an instrument. The following tips will help guide both student and parents through the initial process of testing, obtaining an instrument, what to expect along the musical education path, as well as some reasons why learning to play an instrument is essential for developing good discipline in the future.
You will need to obtain an instrument for your child to play. There are several methods by which to get an instrument but for this article I will only be discussing the three main methods we see every year. 1) A family member or friend has an old instrument they are willing to let your child play. This is perfectly acceptable but we do recommend that the instrument be inspected by a qualified repair technician to ensure your child does not face a barrier while learning to play. 2) Purchase out right a new or used instrument. In most cases it is rare that a family is certain their child will stay in the music program, and as a result spending that money upfront may not be the most economically beneficial option for you at this time. 3) By entering into a rent to own contract you will be ensured the instrument you pick and will make monthly payments until the term of the contract is fulfilled. At this point you will own that instrument. The rental program is very beneficial in that it allows you to see if your child will enjoy their music experience and desire to continue on in the program. We hope they will continue with their music education at the very least through their 8th grade year, and as their abilities grow so will their need for better equipment. In all, the rental program may be seen as a life lesson for the child in that it promotes goal setting, dedication, and responsibility which are characteristics they will use throughout their lives.
The life lessons learned from a rnusic education are attributes that relate to other aspects of life after school. For example, many successful people in society were part of bands or orchestras, and the lessons they learned from their experience directly effected their future. Some of these examples are Albert Einstein who played the violin. Stephen Spielberg played the clarinet, Neil Armstrong played Baritone/Euphonium, and Aretha Franklin played the tuba. These are just a few examples of people who have gone on to have amazing careers that began in a band or orchestra classroom.
It is our belief that making it through the beginning year is crucial to the success of the student. It has been our experience that parents will need to encourage the student to continue their music education through at least the 8th grade. This allows the child to participate in a full band or orchestra experience involving attending contests as a complete group that they will only experience until the seventh and eighth grades. As a final note I would like to add that while there are many other activities in todays world children can participate in, and should your child join the band or orchestra, we would like to encourage you, the parent, to help them avoid the seven year itch by quitting their musical endeavors too soon. The fun is just beginning!

What Makes a Step-Up Instrument, Pt. 1

What makes a "Step-Up" Instrument?

When deciding to upgrade your instrument, there are plenty of key factors in how to select the best fit for your budding musician. This month we will be covering one of the questions most asked by parents during an upgrade: why is this horn better than what we have? In truth, there are many differences between a student level instrument and a step-up level instrument (intermediate or pro), but we will discuss the two biggest factors.

  1. One of the biggest changes is the process for how these two instrument groups are made. The majority of student level instruments are mass produced and assembled, while step-ups are made mostly by hand. This extra care and detail-work forms the foundation for improving the quality of these instruments. Also, hand-making instruments creates tiny differences in each individual model, which we will cover the significance of in next month’s article.
  2. Second, many step-up instruments feature a change in materials. For trumpets, almost all student instruments are a lacquered brass, gold or yellow in color, while step-up trumpets are predominately silver plated. This metal change affects the tone and resonance of the instrument, even without changing the dimensions of the instrument. Even on woodwinds such as clarinet, the quality of wood and the metal plating for the keys will change between instrument levels.

These two main factors, production and materials, comprise the two biggest differences between the rented, student level instrument and a step-up level instrument. This is a very basic explanation of these broad topics, so if you ever have any questions please ask your local WM1ST store for more info!

Brass Ensemble Competition 2018

Center Stage Brass & Williamson Music 1st Present:

Brass Ensemble Competition 2018

An online competition for brass ensembles consisting of 3 or more players of any combination of brass instruments. A cash prize is awarded to the winning ensemble of each level.

The competition has 3 levels:

  1. Young Brass - 8th grade or lower
  2. Intermediate Brass - 9th-12th grade
  3. Advanced Brass - College.

*No professionals are allowed, defined as your primary source of income derived from live or recorded play.

Cash prizes will consist of:

  • $250 for Young Brass level winner.
  • $500 for the Intermediate level winner.
  • $1,000 for the Advanced level winner.

Entries are due by May 1st, 2018 by 11:59 pm (UCT -06:00). Finalists are announced by May 15th and winners will be announced by May 31st.

Winners will be determined based on 2 parts.

  1. Technical proficiency (70%). Technical proficiency will be evaluated by the members of the Center Stage Brass and will be based on:
    1. intonation
    2. tone
    3. rhythm
    4. technique
    5. interpretation
    6. performance
    7. musicality
  2. popular vote (30%).

The competition is done by video. A video recording is required, recorded in a single-unedited take of no greater than 8 minutes. 

Contest Entry Fee: $40

Go to the contest page

Reed Care

Reed care is one of the primary ways to continuously produce the best sound possible. And when you properly care for your reeds it can provide a financial benefit of not having to buy reeds as often as you would without proper reed care. Students should always be consulting their directors & lesson teachers for advice on what kind of reeds to get, or adjustments to the reeds they currently have.

Here are some easy tips that every reed player should follow:

  1. Always rotate through a minimum of 3-4 reeds.
    • Rotating one reed per day will give the reeds the time they need to break-in & dry-out properly.
    • If you have a 3 reed case and you play a reed on Monday then you will not play on that same reed again until Thursday.
  2. Allow for proper soaking.
    • The reed needs to be properly soaked and wet for it to vibrate properly.
    • If you under soak the reed, you run the risk of it cracking and being hard to play.
    • If you over soak it, the reed will be too soft and unable to support the air stream produced.
    • Soaking the reed in water (water is less corrosive than saliva) while putting together your instrument should be about enough time.
      • 2-5 minutes for oboe, clarinet, & saxophone
      • 5-10 minutes for bassoon
  3. Allow for proper drying.
    • Reeds will mold if they are constantly wet. Rotating through your reeds will ensure that the reed you played one day has enough time to completely dry out, prolonging the life of the reed.
  4. Always have at least 3-4 reeds in your case.
  5. Always have a few (at least 2 or 3) reeds that are "concert ready."
    • You can achieve this by always rotating through your reeds.
    • It may take a couple weeks to have "decent" sounding reeds but ensemble rehearsals and home practice are the best places to break-in reeds. 
    • This will ensure that each reed has been vibrated and broke-in enough to be ready in the case of an emergency.
  6. NEVER store a reed on the mouthpiece.
    • Leaving a reed on the mouthpiece is the fastest way to ruin it.
    • Instead, you should store your reeds in a proper reed case that holds at least 4 reeds.
    • Proper storage helps protect them from warping, chipping, and lets them dry properly.
  7. Buy a new box of reeds when you have 2-3 unused reeds left in the box.

You never want to be in a situation where you don't have enough reeds to cover an emergency. We all tend to buy reeds right before a concert or right before an audition. If you are in middle school or high school, that means that probably every clarinet player in your county wants to buy that box of #3 reeds at the same time you do. Plan ahead and buy a box before you actually need it. That way you won't be stressing out over needing reeds, which takes away from your focus on performing.

Buy your reeds here (click)

Congrats Carroll Jazz!

The Southlake Carroll Jazz Ensemble is one of only fifteen bands in the nation to make it as a finalist in this year's Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. Carroll Jazz has made it as a finalist four times since 2007, three of which have been under the directorship of David Lown, whose talent for jazz education is seen directly in his student's knowledge, drive, and caliber of playing. We are immensely proud to have David Lown on a regular basis teaching jazz through The Helbing Jazz Initiative masterclasses, which are held at our Plano store the first saturday of every month. But we are even more proud of his students whose talent and hardwork continue to exceed and define the success of the program. Students who, in their free time, seek jazz outside of the classroom.

This past semester we were lucky enough to have some of David Lown's students partake in our new jazz program, The Helbing Jazz Institute. Below is a performance of one of the Southlake groups in the their end of the semester performance at The Kitchen Cafe.

Product Highlight: The Vandoren Mix Card

Tired of playing the same type of reed? Want to try something NEW? Try the Vandoren Mix Card for alto sax & clarinet. Each card comes with three reeds of varying Vandoren product lines such as the traditional reed, V12, 56 rue lepic, & V21(the newest reed from Vandoren). Each card also comes with a BONUS V21 reed.

Vandoren V12

"V12 reeds for Bb clarinet are manufactured from canetubes with the same diameter as cane used for alto sax reeds. As a result they have a thicker heel and are cut on a longer palette with a slightly thicker tip than the traditional. THe longer palette means that more of the reed is vibrating resulting in a deeper, richer sound. The thicker tip gives body to the attack and also increase the longevity of the reed." -Vandoren

Vandoren 56 Rue Lepic

"Designed from thicker cane with a heel taper very similar to German-style reeds, the 56 emits a rich, centered, and extremely pure sound while providing maximum stability and quick response in all registers. Strength gradiations are smaller and more specific, resulting in reeds that are very consistent" -Vandoren

Vandoren V21

"The V21 reed combines the conical shape of a 56 rue lepic with a V12 profile. This unique combination makes all registers of the clarinet more accessible with warmth and a depth of sound. It will allow you to play with amazing presence and immediate response. V21 is the perfect reed for performances that require the ability to handle large interval leaps efficiently with an even and rich tone." -Vandoren

If you're interested in trying the V21 reed, the mix card is the perfect introduction. By providing the V12 & 56 rue lepic reeds, the player truely gets an understanding for the way each different type of Vandoren reed feels. You can test which reed goes with which mouthpiece, helping to find the perfect combination for any performance, without having to buy a whole box before knowing your preferences. Once you've decided what you like, you can buy a whole box and feel confident in your decision.

Come to any of our locations to get the Vandoren Mix Card & try something new!



Brad's Repairs

For any musician no matter their level of experience, whether a student or professional, it’s crucial to have your instrument in playing condition. And when you don’t, or are waiting on a part to arrive, that’s time taken away from practicing and/or gigging. Especially with UIL competitions approaching, it is more important than ever for students to have easy access to quick repairs, and not having your instrument (the one you’re most comfortable playing), or having to play an instrument not in its best condition because you’re waiting on a part could harm your chances at UIL, or could cause you to miss out on an important gig.

Brad Waresback - repair-technician at our Burleson store - is going above and beyond to take care of customers in need of a quick turn-around on their instrument repairs. Instead of waiting days (maybe weeks) on a part that’s been ordered, Brad has been manufacturing them himself.

In his most recent project, a rotary valve rebuild, Brad built a rotor knuckle to replace a broken one.

To fix the broken trombone knuckle, Brad first had to isolate the valve section by unsoldering it from the connected parts, this way he had full access to measure and fit in the newly created part. Next he got rid of all remnants of Brass Tubing in preparation for the knuckle, which was handmade by him. The new knuckle tubing had to be carefully measured to fit the dimensions of the port. A jig was created to set up the tubing to align with the rotor before brazing. The difficult part of brazing with silver Solder is preventing it from running into the rotor house, which is done by making sure the temperature of the metal doesn't get too hot. It takes a careful eye and a lot of experience because the smallest amount of excess solder in the rotor house would ruin the rotor.  After the parts are re-assembled, they can be buffed and relacquered making the knuckle look like new.

  • broken trombone knuckle

  • broken trombone knuckle

  • broken trombone knuckle; isolated the valve for complete access.

  • shows the rotor knuckle port clear of all remnants of brass tubing in preperation for the new knuckle (also made by Brad)

  • The new knuckle tubing specifically with the dimensions to fit the part

  • The jig set up pre-brazing the new knuckle to the old Rotor

  • The jig set up pre-brazing the new knuckle to the old Rotor

  • Post Brazed

  • Shows that the silver solder did not flow into the rotor, which would have ruined the rotor. While brazing one must take care to not get the metal too hot.

  • Post Brazed

  • Post Brazed

  • Shows the finished Rotor after it has been reassembled, buffed and laquered

  • Shows the finished Rotor after it has been reassembled, buffed and laquered

Managing Oneself

by Peter Drucker

How do you make the right choices in business and life? Peter Drucker, the dean of management consultants, is one of the most respected thinkers on business and practical interactions in the economy. Drucker wrote this classic article, Managing Oneself, in the Harvard Business Review published originally in 1999.
Drucker’s underlying premise in this article is that you must understand how you learn in order to gather information and then manage yourself socially. Too often we are limited to someone else’s preference for teaching style because that is how they best learn, especially in the work world.
As the parent to 4 and the brother to 3, I have always been interested in why we all think and behave differently with genetics and culture only accounting for some of the outcomes. Ducker points out that among the ways people learn is by reading, writing, talking and listening. He goes through examples of famous people (Kennedy, Johnson, Churchill, Eisenhower, Patton and others) when they were successful and failures, as their mentors and teachers changed the style of communicating.

Drucker’s Examples of Ways people learn:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Talking/Explaining
  • Listening
Our T4MusicMentor uses each of these learning styles. Listening of course, as we communicate both visually and verbally to students. The recordings give the ability to rewind and reaccess in order to study. Students can send their teachers a video of themselves explaining what they have learned-I call it "explain to retain".
Drucker’s example of learning by explaining comes from Beethoven, who habitually sketched what he wanted to learn in voluminous books, but never referred to them afterward when composing. “If I do not write it down immediately, I forget it right away. If I put it in a sketchbook, I never forget it and never have to look it up again.” Beethoven’s sketches were explaining in his own words or a form of visualization. T4MusicMentor discusses visualization and memorization in several videos teaching the student how to read music.
Drucker discusses the importance of measurement of results, which he calls feedback analysis. He goes back to the 1500s and notes the first individuals to measure results regularly were John Calvin and Ignatius of Loyola, whose Calvinist church and Jesuit orders became dominant in 30 years after founding by measuring results regularly. Drucker says feedback is critical to learning how you learn and then adjusting accordingly.
Our T4MusicMentor measures results. We capture when students watch videos and whether they answer questions embedded in the videos accurately. Our teachers note that the internal measures can basically serve as a chair test for their own students.

Key Features of T4MusicMentor:

  • Teacher Led Podcasts
  • Student Videos of Assignments
  • Organized Modules for Progress
  • Measures Students Results – Views and Retention
  • Embedded Questions
  • Video Search by Topic
  • Topics: Play, Rhythm, Theory
  • Flexible Reorganization by Teacher/Classroom
Relationship management is the other key according to Drucker. In this context, he means that many of the communication issues in business are caused because people to not know how those around them learn, which is the core to communication. Music education offers many opportunities to work on the practical side of social issues and communication, from small ensembles to the large marching bands and symphonies.
Drucker moved into consulting in the 1930s out of a safe banking career, as he now understands, because of a value choice. He has written 34 books published in more than 70 languages. Drucker counseled 13 governments and countless business and nonprofit organizations on how to improve performance.

The Win D Fender

The Win D Fender
Flute players rejoice! Whether you are a student in marching band or a professional on a gig, the weather will no longer control where you can play, thanks to Win-D-Fender.
Twenty years ago, Win-D-Fender founder and north Texas music educator, Mark Dooly, was playing a gig with a big band on an outdoor stage. He stood up to play the Bossa Nova lead he had specifically practiced on the flute, when a gust of wind blew by preventing him from being able to produce any sound out of the instrument. After consulting with other flute players, all of whom had dealt with that, or similar issues, Dooly wondered, with the oldest record of a flute being six thousand years ago, why had nobody solved this problem of playing outside, yet?
Two years ago, after gaining access to a 3D printer, Dooly began to solve the problem. 20 iterations of the Win-D-Fender later, (the first example made out of a plastic spoon with rubber bands) and a partnership with Patrick Reeds and Clem Kwok of Argyle International Corporation, Mark Dooly has finally solved it.
The Win-D-Fender is the first of its kind, and a flutist’s first defense against wind. Made with a spring clip, the Win-D-Fender attaches to the head joint of the flute. Once there, the rubber shield averts any unwanted outside wind from interfering with the player’s sound. The rubber touching the metal leaves no gaps between the Win-D-Fender and the flute, preventing all wind from getting through. No muffling and no change in the flute’s sound is detectable by the listener. It comes with a built-in mount for a clip-on microphone, and an embroidered pouch that allows for easy portability.
Even in 110mph winds, the equivalent of a level two hurricane’s wind, the Win-D-Fender still protects the sound production of the flute.

Welcome Gary Rackley- Meet Our New Frisco Rep!

Welcome Gary Rackley- Meet Our New Frisco Rep!
Gary has joined the staff in our Frisco location as an Ed Rep.  He is a Dallas native who attended Highland Park Middle and High School before pursuing a degree in Music Education at Texas Tech University. Gary has performed in many groups including the Jazz Ensemble, Court Jesters, Concert and Marching Bands. After completing his degree, Gary joined the US Navy, touring South America with the Navy Show Band East. Four years later, Gary was honorably discharged to continue his education in Music Composition at North Texas State.
When asked about why he became a Rep for the company, Gary responded:
"Following a summer on the road with a local musician I chose to get into sales as a Manufacturer's Representative for several lines of consumer electronics.  We were awarded Rep-of-the-Year our first year with Alpine Electronics. My performance led to a corporate offer - Regional Manager for Alpine/Luxman - where I was responsible for managing reps in the Southeast & Midwest.  A few years later, I was selected to be Director of Sales for the Harman Consumer Group - dealing with key accounts, business plans, and rep management for the Southwest.
I have continued to play saxophone with various Big Bands in DFW: Crosswinds Jazz Band, Celebration Jazz Orchestra, Pecos River Brass, Joshua Experience, Dallas Jazz Orchestra, and others.  A few years back I played in Urban Renewal, a "Tower of Power" cover band; and still play in the praise & worship band at Chase Oaks Español."
Through his combination of musical talent and representative experience, Gary will be a helpful addition for us here in Frisco.
In his spare time, Gary also enjoys playing racquet ball, tennis and jogging.