Clark Media Productions

Clark Media Productions is a place for me to share my love of audio production, music, trombone, and music technology. Subscribe to my email list for late breaking blog posts, videos, and educational content!

Filtering by Category: Reliability

Cold Weather "artistry"

So the cold and gloomy weather in Washington, DC got me thinking lately about some of the work I do outdoors with a trombone in my hand! I have had a number of questions over the years from people interested in how I deal with performing in less-than-ideal circumstances. For now, I will talk about cold weather, as I think that is, for me, the greatest weather related challenge I face. I define "less than ideal", for myself, as basically under 45 degrees Farhenheit, and outside with no heaters or weather protection. This might include sitting on a stage that's covered, but has no wind protection, or it might include rain or even snow. This also usually means doing this for greater than an hour or two. Think 8 hits outside in 40 degree weather, 10mph wind, and occasional spurts of playing.

Here's a list of essentials that I remember when I head out the door to play in cold weather:

1. Plastic Kelly mouthpiece - this thing is indispensable. I used to play a mouthpiece with a delrin rim, but in extreme cold, having the entire mouthpiece made from plastic is a huge improvement. It warms up very fast and stays warm longer. That's important, because endurance can be extremely reduced in the cold. For me, playing in the upper register becomes much more taxing, and the sound tends to thin out greatly on a cold metal mouthpiece.

2. Trombones slides start to freeze at about 25 degrees. At 15 degrees, they may freeze so solid that you are unable to move them at all! Ask me how I know! When forecasted, fill a small spray bottle with antifreeze and try not to use the F attachment valve!

3. Under Armor 4.0 long underwear. Expensive as hell, but it works great and fits tight so you can fit it under whatever clothing you are performing in.

4. Gloves... Boy, this is a hard one. I don't have gloves that are remotely effective at work for keeping my hands even moderately warm while holding a metal object in the cold, not to mention when it's raining! For trombonists, mittens combined with chemical hand warmers would be the way to go if you have the option. Once the hands get cold, it's all over. Let the pain begin!

Speaking of chemical warmers... I have found them to be very unreliable. They have to be fresh (expiration date) and they can't be in an enclosed space as they depend on air circulation to generate heat.

5. Be reasonable with your playing expectations. Expect to have less endurance, range, and facility and plan for it. If you are in charge of music selection, pick something that seems "easy" in a comfortable rehearsal setting. Go easy on the loud dynamics and use your "safe soft" piano dynamics as needed.

This is just a few of my best suggestions for dealing with the cold! Everyone has their own special sauce when it comes to layering, mouthpieces, and staying warm. If you can add to it, please leave some suggestions in the comments!

Stay warm,

The Virtual Trombonist

Failure and Integrity

Recently, I was discussing some college beginning-of-semester auditions with a university professor.... Apparently some students found out what the sight reading on their placement audition was beforehand, and they had a chance to prepare the music before their turn to play came... I have to say I had mixed feelings about this.  Part of me feels like, in an audition, I'm going to do anything I can to get an advantage, especially if a great job or career enhancing position are at stake... However, in a school setting, where we are there to learn, I was somewhat appalled at this type of behavior...and, these students passed up one of the greatest gifts of making music in an educational setting - permission to FAIL!

Failure is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves in our musical lives.  I don't mean not showing up for work and getting fired from your job... I mean taking a chance, giving your best effort, and falling short.  And then, LEARNING SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.

I feel that most people have forgotten what a great tool failure can be.  As John Kitzman once said to me in a lesson, "If you sound good, you're just entertaining yourself!"  That statement couldn't be more true!  What John was getting at on many levels was that we all tend to do those things that are safe.  We play the solo we sound good on, we practice the things we already can play well, we take the piece to our lesson that we play well so as not to endure the embarrassment of not sounding our best in front of our teacher... In short, we shy away from failure.

Look, no one likes to fail.  I mean, if someone tells you they enjoy failure and having their weaknesses exposed for all to see, they're crazy.  BUT... and it's a big one... I will say that none of us learn anything without failure.

There is a big qualifier to that statement.  Failure in itself doesn't do anything for us.  Only failure where we STUDY WHY WE FAILED has any value.

Say I take an audition and don't advance past the prelims... What did I learn?  Did I take my recorder in to the audition and record my performance?  Was my time poor?  Did I achieve the musical goal I had for each excerpt?  What happened?  Did I just spend $1000 in travel expenses to take an audition from which I literally learned nothing?!

Take a lesson from our military.  In the military, most units have what they call a post operation analysis or debrief.  Every aspect of the operation is reviewed and all mistakes are called out and discussed.  No one gets the feel good treatment and a pat on the back if their part of the mission wasn't performed well.  People's lives are at stake!  Do you do any post analysis of your own performances?  What went wrong?  What should you have done differently? Do you have a recording to review?  How could you have prepared more thoroughly?

Back to the students who cheated on their sight reading... What is the real issue here?  Well, the biggest thing is integrity.  I don't want to hire someone who has a problem with being honest or with fulfilling their commitments with a clear conscience.  Second, these players missed a golden opportunity to see where they really stand with their sight reading ability.  You can train sight reading!  (Future blog post...)  Finally, those young players have planted the seed of doubt in the minds of people who matter in their educational and musical careers.  And as we all know, first impressions are hard to overcome!

In summary, prepare to succeed but don't pass up the chance to learn something about yourself when you fail.  Lead your life with integrity, work hard towards your goals, and when you fall short, use that experience to make yourself better.  Keep moving forward!


Chris Clark

The Virtual Trombonist

Powered by Squarespace