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British Bandsman announces new Owen Farr masterclass feature

Sunday 21 October, 2018

British Bandsman is delighted to announce a monthly series of brass masterclasses by tenor horn virtuoso Owen Farr as he discusses various aspects of brass playing and how we can best fulfill our potential as brass players. Below we feature the first in the series:

Welcome to my tuition page! Through this section of the Bandsman you will find lots of tips and advice about brass playing, as well as the chance to get your questions and queries answered. Regardless of what age or standard you are, I will still endeavour to make this as open as possible and hopefully everyone reading this will find something useful. No two players are alike in the brass world and therefore everyone will find they have different strengths and weaknesses. Whatever your weaknesses I can almost guarantee that you are not alone with this, and by writing in you will also be helping someone else with like problems. 

At this early stage in these classes I would like to urge all of my readers to become interested in their problems, but not to make judgements of yourself. You are not struggling with something because you are on your own or lacking that little something extra. It’s down to an understanding of how something is done and practising correctly to develop your own technique. 

It’s human nature to question our 'natural abilities' and in doing so we end up putting so many barriers in front of ourselves that we have almost given up before we start. As soon as we make a mistake, we find ourselves becoming disheartened and we accept that we aren’t succeeding because we simple aren’t talented enough.

I believe the word 'talent' is grossly overused and becomes the lazy answer to people’s ability. Joshua Bell hasn’t become one the greatest violinists in the world because he is 'simply talented'. He had to receive the correct education and then practise many hours every day to reach his goal. The same story will apply to any great musician, sportsperson or mathematician. It’s the knowledge and study of your area of expertise that leads to results, and not just waking up one morning to find you are wonderfully gifted!

Our self-belief can make such a difference to how we practise and progress. We are all born full of self-belief and curiosity; it is only as we get older we question ourselves. If you have ever seen a toddler learning to walk, it’s the most magical experience. The baby first has to build up the strength to stand up alone and take one step. Inevitably though, the baby then loses balance and falls straight down. Now ask yourselves, is the baby crying? Does the baby think, “I’m not talented - I’ll never get it. All my other baby friends can do it so well so it clearly isn’t for me!”? Of course not! In fact, you can clearly see how happy the baby is, as if it’s thinking “I’ll crack this real soon and before long I’ll be running around this house driving my parents crazy!”

We are all born this way, but the older we get the more uncertain we become. It’s suggest to you to become more optimistic in your approach and to become more optimistic in your problems. Don’t view your practise as a chore, but rather as a vehicle to learning something new, and to look forward to that feeling of accomplishing what at first may have seemed an impossibility to you. 

I would say now though that if you are looking for a quick fix to your problems, then you’re possibly looking in the wrong place. These tutorials will be designed to help you understand how to practise correctly and how to work towards your goals naturally and progressively. Remember – if you want to knock down the wall between you and your dreams, best do it one brick at a time! Until next time….

Have a question for Owen about brass playing? Please email owenfarr@googlemail.com and he'll try and answer it the next instalment of The Owen Farr Seminar!