• 972-633-8203

Why String Instruments are Sensitive to Weather

Why String Instruments Are Sensitive To Weather

It is inevitable. Your wooden instrument has gone through a lot of change this winter. Wood is a hygroscopic material, meaning that it absorbs water from the air. This water is stored in the wood pores and is called free water because it can be absorbed back into the air. This means that when humidity levels drop, your instrument loses this water content because it is absorbed back into air. This is complicated even more by the fact that most violins and string instruments are made of spruce, maple, and ebony. Each of these woods responds differently as the weather changes.

How To Check Your Instrument For Damage

First, find the top of your violin (or other string instrument). The top has two "f" shaped holes and is the part that faces upward when playing. Make sure that there are no cracks. Cracks are easy to spot, but they can be overlooked - especially when you do not know how to look for them. When you are done with that, turn your violin over to inspect the back. If you see a crack, immediately call us and check your instrument into our shop for repair.
Next, you will need to find the ribbing of the violin. The top and bottom of the violin are joined together by this thin piece of wood which most would call the "side" of the violin. Look at where the top and bottom of the violin would be glued to the rib. Make sure that neither top nor bottom are coming loose. If there is an opening, you have an open seam. Open seams are a common problem and nothing to worry about. Because of the changes that your instrument goes through during the winter, there is an extra risk for cracks (which are a very serious problem as mentioned above). In an effort to prevent cracks, Violin makers use weaker glues on the ribs to ensure that the top and bottom pull away from the rib as the violin changes. This ensures that the violin doesn't crack. Bring your instrument to the repair shop when possible.
Slipping pegs is the most common issue that violins have in the winter. If you are unfamiliar with the anatomy of a violin, the pegs are small pieces of wood with knobs that hold the strings next to that ornately carved scroll at the end of the neck. You have probably noticed that you have black pegs (this is not the case on all violins, but it is the most common). That is not paint. It is the natural color of Ebony. Ebony is a bit more resistant to the dry weather than the typical woods used for the peg box. Because of this, the openings for the pegs get wider as the wood contracts and the pegs slip. If you want to ensure that you won't break a string, bring the instrument into our shop where we can tune it for you. If you know how to tune your instrument, loosen the string, apply and hold pressure on the peg going into the peg box, and tune the string.
One Last Thing!
Once you have inspected for these other problems, pick up your instrument and start playing it. Does it sound okay? If this is the case, you can rest assured that your instrument made it through the winter weather without any issues! Do you hear a buzzing sound? Does one or more of your strings seem to be touching the fingerboard? Perhaps the bridge has changed in size and needs adjustment. Does the instrument sound choked and unresponsive? This could be due to you leaving it in the car all day and not taking it out (not advisable), in which case the instrument is just cold and needs to acclimate to the room. However, if this is an ongoing problem, you might have sound post issues. Both of these issues can be assessed and addressed by our local repairmen.
These are the most common issues that can occur with your instrument during the winter. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to contact us!

Product Highlight: Reed Guards

Reed Guards

One of the most purchased items in a woodwind player’s career, with the exception of flautists, are reeds. A product made of cane, this small item is as essential to playing as the instrument itself, while unfortunately not keeping the same shelf life as other items. Eventually, reeds crack, chip, or soften to the point where they are no longer able to be used and must be discarded. With each purchase the number one question we receive is how to keep the reeds lasting longer. The answer is a reed guard.
Reed guards come in a few varieties, ranging from basic plastic to a full close-cased humidifier pack. Most often, a reed player will start with a basic plastic reed guard holding anywhere from 3-5 reeds depending on the manufacturer and instrument. These are a great place to start, as they help protect against external damage that may be caused to the reed while inside of the case or band binder.
 For clarinets and saxophones, there is a slight upgrade version to these where a silicone bottom replaces the all plastic base on the basic models. This change facilitates three positive changes for reed storage: mold prevention, breakage, and rotations. Unfortunately, reeds can in fact mold, as they are a wood product that is constantly at a high point of humidity. The silicone base helps wick the water away from the reed to dry them out before mold can set in. The softer silicone base also prevents easier breakage of the reed from removing and inserting into the reed guard. The last aspect, rotations, refers to the process of playing reeds in a set order, rather than constantly playing one reed until it breaks. Rotating reeds allows the reed to be under a less constant stress, extending the lifespan of the reed. Most times, players will have to number their reed guard to remember what rotation they are on, but most silicone bases will have number already put into the reed guard itself.
The highest level of reed guards are those that completely incase the reeds in a protective shell and use humidifier packs to keep the reeds at a constant humidity level. With higher amounts of protection and a stable environment, reeds in these cases will generally last weeks longer than their counterparts. Without the constant flux of humidity, cracks rarely form in the reeds and molding is much less common.  This cases also have a higher capacity for storage than others, generally holding 5-8 reeds depending on manufacturer and instrument.


Understanding Your Oils

When you walk into a store to purchase items for you or your child’s musical instrument, it can be daunting at times to see how many different varieties of the same item there are to choose from. What makes one product better or worse than its competitor? Why is Brand A more expensive than Brand B? Thankfully, there are a few ways to make sense of which brand to select. 


For oils, there are two types that will be discussed; petroleum and synthetic. Both are found in either piston or rotor variety. To know if you need piston or rotor oil, you can take a look at the area you are trying to oil to tell you which is correct. If the valve moves in an up and down style of motion with a circular button, that is a piston valve. If the valve looks like a lever that you move up and down like keys on a keyboard, that is a rotor valve. Generally Trumpets, Euphoniums, and beginner Tubas have pistons while French horn, Trigger Trombones, and upper level Tubas have rotors. 
 The first type of oil that most people grab will be a petroleum based lubricant. This includes items such as Blue Juice, Al Cass, and most generic oils that come with an instrument at the beginning.  The second type of oil is synthetic based, which includes the Hetman brand and Yamaha’s synthetic line. 
 There are many differences between these styles of oil, but the biggest among them is what happens when the oil dries up. Hopefully your pistons and rotors are never left dry for long, but sometimes it happens. When petroleum based oil dries up, it leaves a crusty white residue on the valve that usually will lock it in place if not dealt with swiftly. This locking is due to the size difference in the molecules, where the smaller bubbles will evaporate quicker than their larger counterparts. These molecules collect dirt, and when a small molecule dries up, the larger molecule will absorb the dirt left behind. What this means is that when those larger molecules dry up, there is a large deposit of dirt in one spot as opposed to spread out over the valve causing it to lock up. 
Synthetic based oils are made in such fashion that the molecules are all evenly sized and spaced from each other. When this oil dries up, it is much easier to remove and clean/oil the valve than their counterpart. Most repair shops, including our own, use these synthetic oils on any instrument as a way to keep everything uniform and in the best shape it can be. 
Generally, pricing wise, synthetic oils are going to be more expensive than their counterparts on the petroleum side. But, this difference in price really does make a difference in the quality and care of your instrument. If you ever want to know more, please ask anyone in our stores and we will be glad to assist you!

Guess Who’s Coming Home?


Parents, hopefully you have noticed something new around the home this week – your child’s instrument!
“Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest….”
Please offer a warm welcome to the instrument instead of saying to your child, “It’s about time you brought the thing home!”
Now that the instrument will be coming home on a [hopefully] regular basis, the first point of advice I will offer you: DON’T RUSH THE PROCESS! [NOTE: I’m not yelling at you, despite the all-caps and bold print. I’m just very excited. Let’s press on.]
The teacher knows that you have been eagerly awaiting the instrument’s arrival home. He/she has planned very carefully in preparation for this moment. Now that the instrument has made its triumphant entry into your home, avoid the temptation of having your child fully assemble the instrument and “start playing songs.”
[NOTE: There are two classes that are the “exception to the rule”: Double Reeds and Percussion. If your child is a double reed player [oboe or bassoon], chances are they are already playing on the full instrument in class because you can only do so much with a reed. Just ask him/her to “crow” on the reed for 30 seconds…you’ll see what I mean fast!
Percussionists have been on the practice pad since the first week of school (overachievers….). He/she should be able to play a few exercises, but nothing you would recognize as a “song.” You will have to wait until they start working on mallet instruments.]
The teacher has your child playing on smaller parts of the instrument up to this point to guarantee a quality start and good experience on the instrument.
We [teachers and students] are aware that you are putting money into renting the instrument but trust the teacher. They have a job for a reason!
“We Talkin’ ‘bout Practice, Man….”
Your child may be asked to practice only 10 minutes a day at the start. If this is the case, hold him/her accountable during Practice Time. As you know, 10 minutes goes by in an instant, so please ensure 10 uninterrupted minutes! This will establish good practice habits in the future. If your child can be on a phone or video game for an hour without distraction, 10 minutes on an instrument will be a breeze!
True, 10 minutes does not seem like enough time right now but remember: DON’T RUSH THE PROCESS! [NOTE: Still not yelling at you… that was just a reminder. ☺] Your child will begin to practice for longer periods of time as they begin to play on more pieces of the instrument.
The 2 best ways to guarantee a good experience during the 10-minute Practice time are as follows:
  1. Don’t force your child to practice: If you force your child to practice the instrument, it will quickly become seen as a form of punishment. This will have a negative effect on the way your child views the instrument and the class. Practice Time will be a chore instead of a reward.
  2. Set up a successful environment: You can set your child up for success by establishing a specific Practice Time schedule. At this point in the school year, practicing the instrument will be the easiest “assignment” your child will bring home from school. Have him/her practice as soon as they arrive home. If your child waits until after snacks, watching TV, getting on the Internet, playing video games, extracurricular activities, homework, or watching 85 stories on Snap Chat (goodness…) – the desire to practice the instrument will not be as strong and the quality of Practice Time will suffer.
Overall, understand that it will take time for your child to learn the instrument. If you rush him/her ahead of the teacher, then you could unknowingly hinder your child’s progress on the instrument. Trust the teacher. Don’t rush the process. If you do those two things, your investment into the instrument will pay off.
Again, welcome your new guest into the home with open arms and be patient. Hopefully, the instrument will be in the family for the rest of your child’s life.
“Proceed as if success is inevitable.” - Unknown

What Makes a Step-Up Instrument, Pt. 4

What makes a Step-Up Instrument?
This month we will be talking about the differences and specifics of our two most common step-up instruments in the brass family: trumpet and trombone. The biggest differences you will notice at a glance when looking for a step-up brass instrument will be changes in the metal content and potential new mechanisms.
Trumpet step-ups will more often than not be made of silver plated brass, either a yellow or gold base. Silver is commonly used in brass instruments to provide a brighter sound in addition to the sound profile that the metal itself provides, nickel being a darker tone versus the brighter tone of brass. Many trumpet players prefer this style of tone since it carries itself over other voices, aiding in exposing melodies within most standard band literature. Mechanism wise, most trumpets remain the same regardless of level. One important thing to note is that most trumpets pitched outside of the standard B-flat are within the step-up category of instruments, as not many companies produce a student model of C, D, E-flat trumpets.
Trombone step-ups happen to fall into two categories, similar to saxophones as we discussed last article. The first is the addition of an F-attachment, commonly known as a trigger. In certain areas, some students will actually skip playing on a non-F attach trombone, referred to as a straight trombone. The addition of this mechanism allows the player to not extend out into some of the farther positions for certain notes, allowing for faster passages to be played with ease. Beyond the addition of this mechanism, further changes such as the wrap of the tubing and style of trigger (Thayer, Hagmann, etc) make more options available per each model of step-up trombone.

7 Steps to Help Your Beginner Musician Be Successful


A large majority of beginning band and orchestra parents are doing their best to give their student an opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. Many of the parents do not play instruments themselves and have little or no knowledge of how to be supportive in the beginning endeavor. This article attempts to help these parents be aware of what to expect and how to be supportive so that the student has a good chance to become successful and continue with the instrument while enjoying the experience. 

7 Steps to help your beginner musician be successful

1) Rent an instrument that the band or orchestra teacher suggests. If the actual instrument itself is of good qualrty, it will be easier for the beginning player to master and feel successful. A poor-quality instrument will hamper the student's progress.

2) From the first day, encourage your student to bring the instrument home to practice what they learned that day. Students need to be prepared to move forward the next day. Never make fun of the sounds they are making. It takes a long time to develop a decent sound on any instrument and everyone must start somewhere. Encourage your student to keep tyingand the sound will get better.

3) Beginning students learn from the frst day how to care for the new instrument as well as how to handle the instrument. Never allow brothers, sisters, or friends to play with the instrument. It is fascinating to them and many instruments are broken or damaged

4) Take the option, if available, to purchase private lessons for your beginner. There is no better Iesson than one-on-one. Some schools even offer a private lesson with two students together, each paying one half the fee. Remember, in the large class, the teacher can not get to each student to address individual problems.

5) Continue to ask your beginner if they are supposed to be bringing their instnrment home every day. Ask them to play for you so you can hear their progress. Many teachers give the student a "practice record" as part of their grade. Be interested in that record and sign it as necessary. lt is usually required that the paper be returned back to the teacher the next day for a grade.

6) "It takes a Village" - Band and Orchestra Directors need volunteers, so please volunteer and be available to help. They often need help in the classroom, with uniforms, general secretarial work, chaperons on busses, or fundraisers. If there is a Band or Orchestra Booster Club, please join and help.

7) The first time all the beginners perform together will be for a Christmas Concert. This is a big event for the directors as well as your beginner student. Be excited for your student and plan to attend the concert and take the entire family. Your beginner has worked very hard to learn the parts and will be excited for you to hear the entire group, since all you have heard so far is him/her play by themselves. Some parents simply drop their students off and come back to pick them up. This is their first concert, so parents should attend. After Christrnas, continue to encourage your beginner to stay with the instrument and practice because the second semester of the beginner year gets a bit harder and some beginners think about quitting.


Congratulations Prosper High School Trumpet Ensemble!

Congratulations to the Prosper High School Trumpet Ensemble for winning the Center Stage Brass online contest!

In May, Center Stage Brass, in partnership with Williamson Music 1st, held its first ever online-competition for brass ensembles. Ten groups, varied in size with between 5-10 students in each, competed at the intermediate level of the competition, with the Prosper High School Trumpet Ensemble ending with the best score and taking the $500 prize.

Here at WM1st we like encouraging this type of self-motivated drive to grow as musicians, both as a group and individually, that each student, in each group, showed by simply participating in the competition. Judged by the members of Center Stage Brass, each group recieved detailed comments on how they could improve their performance; feedback and advice from professionals that could only be recieved through participating in the competition.

You can watch the Prosper High School Trumpet Ensemble performance of Concert Fanfare by Eric Ewazen, HERE

What Makes a Step-Up Instrument, Pt. 3

What makes a Step-Up Instrument?
This month, we will be discussing the basic differences between a student and step-up level instrument within certain instrument groups. When stepping up, not only do you change the materials used and the manufacturing process, but many instruments gain new features when you upgrade, especially in the woodwind family.
The three woodwinds that we will be discussing today are flute, clarinet, and alto saxophone. These instruments are common rental instruments, and upgrading these can make a drastic difference in your student’s playing ability. For flutes, the addition of either a B or C foot grants the player a few advantages. Specifically for the B foot, this change in structure allows the instrument to reach lower notes in their individual register. Simply put, this addition increases the range of notes available to play.
Clarinets have two varieties of step ups, depending on what instrument you began on. Those with composite instruments can transition into a basic wooden student level instrument and notice a change within that small jump. For those that started on a wooden clarinet, step-up instruments change a few aspects. This includes the plating for the keys (Nickel, Silver of Gold), the variety of wood used, and the bore sizes amongst the barrel and body.
Alto saxophones branch into two varieties as well, albeit slightly different. These two categories are Jazz and Concert. Many players will have started to develop a preference for one style over the other, and certain brands and models fit those preferences better. This is not to say that any given saxophone is strictly for one or the other, in fact all saxophones can be used for both play styles. In general, players that prefer playing jazz will want an instrument with a heavier, darker tone. This means a nickel instrument over brass, with a metal mouthpiece over a carbon or ebonite variety to produce a dark, almost growl like tone. For concert, most players prefer brass instruments with standard mouthpieces, which produce brighter sounds that are very pure.
Next article we will discuss the differences for Brass instruments.

Ready, Aim, Take a Seat...In Your Region Band or Orchestra

A special note about this article: Williamson Music-1st is unique in that our team exists for Students, Parents, and Band Directors, all of whom work together toward a common goal of bettering music education. We continually strive to be aware of things our students will be working on at different times during the year and attempt to aid them in any way we can. This article addresses the goal of getting our students to the Region Band and Orchestra level and then the high school students on to the Area and State levels.
The following information is for High School players who wish to audition for the Region, Area, and State level positions. Note that Middle School students will receive their materials as soon as school starts from their Band or Orchestra Director (at which point the 'Tips For Success' below will become applicable). Those materials will vary from region to region. The Etudes will not be the same for every Region.
FOR ORCHESTRA - The Etude books were released on April 16, 2018 and the exact materials were announced on May 1, 2018. You can get that information by visiting the Texas Music Educators Association's home page and going to Orchestra and then Region Audition Materials (Click Here). All information you will need is there.
FOR BAND - The Etude Books were announced back in May and can be located on the Texas Music Educators’ home page by going to Band and selecting Region Audition Books (Click Here). The exact Etudes will be announced on July 23, 2018 at 12:00 noon. At that time all High School students in the state of Texas will know at the same time which Etudes they will have to perform for the auditions.


PRIVATE LESSONS - The very best way to start your preparation for the Region process is to have a Private teacher or coach. Try not to go it alone. There is no substitute for one-on-one.
HEAR THE ETUDES PERFORMED - All of the Etudes are available on the internet or through your band director. They are all performed at the Texas Bandmasters Convention, the last of July, by pros who would make the band. You really need to hear how the etude, or piece of music, sounds before you start to work on them, especially if you do not have a coach or private teacher.
SET GOALS AND KEEP THEM - Remember to begin slow and work up speed later. Set a goal like: Beginning of the Etude to bar 16 by Friday. Make yourself keep this short goal and do not get behind. Then set another goal and keep it. There are 3 Etudes to learn. Work on each one and feel your success as you complete your first goal. Setting down and trying to play the entire Etude at one time won’t work. You will become discouraged. Some private teachers will ask their students to start at the end and work backwards. This way, the ending of their Etude will not be weaker than the beginning. Never be afraid to ask for help with a rhythm or fingering that you do not know.
NEVER TRY TO OUT-GUESS YOUR COMPETITION - Many students think they know the competition and strive to out guess who they are up against, especially returning students from last year. Do not waste time on that: remember, every year is a new and different year. People get better and new people show to audition. Work hard to win a place no matter who shows up.
WORK IN A SMALL GROUP - There are always other students working on the same materials. It is fun to work together and help each other. When you help someone else, you become better yourself. If your Band Director holds any type of sectional or work session on the Region Materials - ALWAYS ATTEND - DO NOT PASS UP THIS OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN AND BE BETTER. 
NEVER WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE - The definition of “Tomorrow” is the best time to do anything; however, not for region etudes. You must start early and end up with time to polish your performance by adding better phrase endings and more dynamics.
PLAY FOR PEOPLE - Never be afraid of playing for people and showing off your hard work. If possible, perform in a "mock" audition before the real audition occurs. If you get nervous, it is usually because you know that you have not prepared yourself as you should have.
THE ACTUAL AUDITION DAY - First, get plenty of rest the night before. Eat some sort of healthy breakfast, just do not go without. As you get ready to go to the audition, make sure that you have everything you need, especially your music. Many people suggest eating a banana before you audition which adds potassium to your system which can help with your nerves. Lastly, listen to the rules of the room and follow them exactly. Be courteous to other participants and most important, do not change the way you are playing anything just because you heard someone in the room do it differently than you do. Do not change your tempo because someone else performs faster than you have prepared. Do your own thing the way you have practiced it.
FOLLOW - Use these tips and remember there is no substitute for practice. You should practice enough so that you almost know the Etudes by memory. Leam all of the Etudes and never try to guess which part they might not ask for. Be prepared for everything.

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.