BUZZ ON, BUZZ OFF. THEY BOTH WORK

This is the second in a series of Letters From NY columns that I originally wrote for the Online Trombone Journal sometime around 2003.

I have been taking part in various discussions on the Trombone listserve (Trombone-L), The Trombone Forum and my own brass discussion site The Open Horn over the past seven years or so, and I’ve saved the posts that made up a number of the threads that have developed during that time.

This month I’m going to include my answers to many questions regarding two techniques that are essential to my particular approach to the horn, mouthpiece buzzing and free buzzing. (That is, buzzing with just the lips.) As in my last column, I have edited and combined many of my responses, and condensed, combined and/or paraphrased the questions that elicited those responses.

My apologies to those people who wrote the questions. I can’t credit everyone because it gets much too complicated. Nevertheless, my heartfelt thanks to all those who take part in these discussions, those with questions, those with answers, and those with both as well.

The first and most commonly asked question I receive is: “Why buzz at all?” Here is a post I wrote which addresses the basic reasons why buzzing works.

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Q-I’ve noticed a bunch of posts on the Trombone-L about mouthpiece size and difficult high range, with the 6 1/2 AL being mentioned as the culprit a few times. Although the 6 1/2 AL isn’t a particularly large mouthpiece in the orchestral field, it is at about this size, and at about .525 bore trombone sizes as well, that the particular problems I wish to address in this article begin to appear for many players.

A-The real reason many people find the 6 1/2 AL (and other, larger mouthpieces with fairly large throats and backbores) difficult to play in high registers (or loud, for any length of time), is that they haven’t developed their embouchures to the point where they’re providing enough resistance at the lips, but rather are accustomed to using the horn and mouthpiece to produce that required resistance. (Some resistance is necessary, of course, or else the entire contents of your lungs would whoosh out at one time. That’s why the call it an air stream.) Tighter, more resistant horns and mouthpieces don’t require the same strength and balance of embouchure as less resistant setups.

As a beneficial side effect of buzzing (and this is very important, maybe more so than the embouchure work per se) it will enable you to find the natural angle (or angles) at which you should hold the horn in different registers. Once you have a good, comfortable mouthpiece buzz, and for that matter whenever you insert the mouthpiece into the horn while buzzing, try to insert the shank so that its sides go into the receiver exactly parallel to the walls of the receiver. This often results in different horn angles on your face than the ones to which you’re accustomed. Learn to hold your horn at the angle your physiognomy requires, if at all possible. The arms and hands are much stronger and more adaptable than are the facial muscles, and a slightly new horn angle, although initially foreign feeling, often produces startlingly good results.

The trombone is an asymmetrical instrument that changes its fulcrum every time you move the slide. Try not to let this fact dictate your embouchure. The only things that can prevent you from holding the horn at the angles that most please your chops are either arm and shoulder weakness (light, high repetition weight training will solve that in three easy weeks) or the occasional large-necked player playing a horn with a narrow slide.

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Some of this also addresses a couple of other recent posts. Someone suggested using a practice mute to play in the sub-pedal range, and someone else was talking about the relative dangers and benefits of buzzing without the mouthpiece. Both extremely low practice (long tones) and buzzing (with or without the mouthpiece) can be used to find and develop a strong point of resistance at the lips. Once this has been developed, one can play larger and less resistant equipment if so desired, without losing range or endurance. Using a mute to produce those sub-pedals is counter-productive to this end (as is mouthpiece buzzing with a finger partially stopping up the end, or using one of the artificial B.E.R.P. type resistance providers, in my view). It’s certainly easxier to do these things with artificial resistances, but the benefits are much less.

One way to look at almost all long tone/embouchure building/buzzing practice is to consider it an attempt to find and balance a strong and consistent resistance at the lips. Not before the lips, in the throat and oral cavity and not after the lips, in the mouthpiece and horn, but at the lips, where it can be controlled and used while still having the freest flow of air possible.
We brass players are lucky enough to have an infinitely adjustable sound producer/resistor (synonyms, really), made of flesh, a system only singers share with us. Reed players have to find a reed that suits their purposes that day; stringed instrument players must change their strings or bow to modify their sound. All we have to do is learn how to control our lips. The various buzzing techniques are particularly helpful in this process.

The next topic to be examined, once we have some idea why buzzing is valuable (there are plenty of other reasons, as well, but they’ll be mentioned as we go on), is how to buzz. (What approaches are valuable and safe, what approaches can be counterproductive.) Let’s deal with mouthpiece buzzing first.

Here’s a version of the most common mouthpiece buzzing question:

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Q-I just can’t seem to play the horn the same way I buzz the mouthpiece. When I buzz the mouthpiece, buzzing seems free, easy and flexible. When I try to play exactly the way I buzz, my sound comes out thin and strained. Also, my embouchure is asymmetrical when I play the horn (right corner sags), but it is NOT so when I buzz. I buzz a half-hour each day with a B.E.R.P. in the car. Is there any help out there?

A-Yes.

Please don’t buzz when you don’t have the horn handy for comparison (at least until you’ve become very proficient at matching how you buzz and how you play), and please don’t use B.E.R.P. or any other resistance aid. (Yes, I know it’s easier, it just isn’t better.)

Loosen the mouthpiece so it’s not stuck in the receiver and play an easy note on your horn. (Third partial F is usually a great place to start.) While playing the note, gradually remove the mouthpiece, sustaining the note (if possible). Note any changes in the angle of the mouthpiece to your face.

Without removing the mouthpiece from your embouchure, buzz the same note. (Breathe through your nose or the corners of your mouth for this exercise.) While sustaining the buzz, replace the mouthpiece in the receiver, being very careful that the angle of the mouthpiece to your face doesn’t change. It’s likely that this will result in a horn angle to which you are not accustomed. This is not only OK, it’s good.

Continued practice in this manner will probably change your horn angle to one that’s more natural to your face. Experiment, learn what your face needs. If the angle is initially uncomfortable, persevere. Your arm and shoulder muscles are much stronger than your face muscles, and can sustain changes in weight and angle much better.

DON’T use artificial resistance on the mouthpiece. Build your embouchure so that IT provides the resistance.

DON’T practice in the car, at least not at first. You need to find a compromise between your mouthpiece approach and your horn approach. (Also, it’s a terrible excuse if you have an accident or get a traffic ticket, plus it messes up the windshield.)

DON’T do it for one-half an hour a day…especially all at once. Start with only a few minutes a day, and work your way up gradually. Get a feeling for what’s happening, then transfer it to the horn. Use this approach, once it begins to work, for ALL the things you practice. Rochut, scales, flexibility, whatever, throughout whatever ranges in which you can buzz.

The last question on mouthpiece buzzing has to do more with the problems one encounters when the buzz doesn’t match the way you play.

===============================================

Q-I read with great interest Sabutin’s erudite thesis on embouchure. I have one important question: Is the buzz on the mouthpiece always supposed to equal the note on the horn? This doesn’t happen for me. Am I doing something wrong? I can get a clear buzz but the buzz note doesn’t equal the note on the horn and vice-versa.

A-Yes, it is supposed to equal the note on the horn, and no, you’re not necessarily doing anything “wrong.”

If (A big “if” here…there are other ways to go that work very well for many people) you wish to use buzzing as a technique to improve your playing, you should learn how to buzz with just the mouthpiece (no extra resistance), and further, you should learn to be able to insert the mouthpiece into the horn while buzzing without having the note (or the feeling of playing the note) change at all.

Conversely, you should be able to play any note on the horn,and while continuing to play that note be able to withdraw the mouthpiece from the horn, again without any change of pitch or feeling. (These techniques involve some pretty fancy balancing tricks with the slide, as one hand has to hold the horn while the other holds the mouthpiece…I use a towel in my trombone case on which to balance the end of the slide.) I have gotten to the point where I can do this through five or six octaves, more or less.

Start with your simplest middle range notes and exercises, and progress to more difficult areas of endeavour. Always relate the mouthpiece setting immediately to your horn (by inserting the mouthpiece without removing it from your mouth, and, if possible, continuing to play while you insert it), being very careful when you insert the mouthpiece to put it into the horn in such a way that the shank goes in parallel to the receiver, thus ensuring that your horn is at its most natural angle to your face when you play.

This approach has the triple advantages of:

1-Taking the responsibility of focusing the note away from your hardware and putting it directly on your musculature and mind.

2-Helping you to use an angle between your face and your horn that is more natural to your own particular physiognomy, less dictated by the weight of the horn.

and

3-Putting the responsibility of producing the proper resistance on your physical set-up, your lips and air cavity, rather than on the mouthpiece and horn. YOU dictate what’s happening, not your equipment.

(I have to emphasize here that if on the other hand, you don’t< wish to approach the horn this way, it doesn’t make a bit of difference whether you can or can’t buzz, nor whether or not your buzz changes pitch in or out of the horn. Many very fine players absolutely cannot buzz a note, and I’ve known a few people who were virtuoso buzzers but lousy brass players. This is just one approach among many, and the one that I have most successfully used and taught. “Y’pays yer money and y’takes yer chances” as the carnival barkers used to say.)

Q-Are you closing off part of the shank to simulate the resistance from the instrument?

A-No.

That defeats one of the purposes of buzzing. This makes it easier, it’s true, but with a bit of patient practice one can learn to play the mouthpiece without stopping the bottom at all. Closing off part of the shank simulates the resistance of the horn, which can be thought of in one approach to the horn (again, not the only or even necessarily the most correct approach), as a crutch, used because the embouchure hasn’t developed enough strength to provide that resistance for itself.

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Now we come to the third (and most problematic) part of working on the horn/mouthpiece buzzing/free buzzing triumvirate, free buzzing (buzzing without the mouthpiece).

Free buzzing can be VERY destructive if done incorrectly, and equally constructive if done correctly. It should be approached with the utmost caution because a wrong approach or initial overuse can really screw up an embouchure.

I speak from direct experience here. Free buzzing always seemed like such an elegant idea to me that I kept on trying to use it for over 15 years, but every time I’d start I’d have to stop after a couple of days because my playing would begin to suffer. Eventually I believe I began to get the concept sorted out, and now I use it regularly to great advantage.

Here are some questions and answers regarding this topic.

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Q-Regarding free buzzing, some people have recommended buzzing my lips without a mouthpiece as a way of warming up, making my pitch more centered, etc., but others have claimed this will make my lips “too loose.” The latter advice came after about a year of practicing and becoming rather accurate in buzzing pitches in tune and in a wider range, so I would question it.

A-You would do well to question advice like that.

If it works, use it.

If you alwayys relate your buzz to your mouthpiece and/or rim in increments of only a few seconds, you will neither stiffen nor loosen your lips any more than they need to be stiffened or loosened. Buzz off the mouthpiece (which can either be in or out of the horn, I use both), then, while continuing the buzz, place the mouthpiece on your embouchure. Next, without taking the mouthpiece off your lips, do the opposite: buzz a note on the mouthpiece (and/or on the horn) and then, while continuing the note, take the mouthpiece off your lips. You can then progress to simple exercises or etudes using the same approach, and ultimately to studies that travel through all the technical demands of making music.

These exercises will be much more difficult in some ranges than in others, and free buzzing in some registers (different ones for different people) will often result in extremely unfamiliar and seemingly “wrong” lip settings.
These “wrong” settings are in fact a direction toward which your “normal” setting could probably profitably travel, and the ultimate playing settings that will result from continued pursuit of these techniques will be compromises between the way(s) your lips most naturally play different registers without the mouthpiece and the demands put upon you by the mouthpiece, the horn, and real performance.

There are myriad ways to buzz your lips. Many are radically different from anything you’d want to do to play a brass instrument, so your first task is to be sure that what you’re doing functions with the mouthpiece and with the horn.

Regarding free buzzing, you can most simply envision the rim as a fence, beyond which the aperture should not extend. If you buzz a note with an aperture of 3/4″, but your rim is only 1/2″ wide, that embouchure, no matter HOW strong the buzz, won’t function when placed in that mouthpiece. The rim will stop the vibration, just like a finger will stop a vibrating string.

Another thing to think about is that at the upper and lower extremes of range, volume, and endurance, the embouchure, no matter HOW strong, NEEDS the rim as a surrogate ring of muscle for definition and restraint. You can EXTEND the upper and lower limits of where that need will begin to occur, but inevitably, at any and all extremes of playing, it will appear.

You can very profitably discover new approaches to playing, and develop muscles that you never would have known existed, by buzzing without the mouthpiece, but you can also destabilize your embouchure to the point where you can create serious playing problems as well.

Only do this buzzing outside the rim or mouthpiece for a few minutes a day at first, constantly checking back to see if your buzz will function in the mouthpiece, and if over a few days or weeks you begin to see detrimental results in your playing, STOP, at least until you’ve regained your normal balance.

Q-I can buzz with the mouthpiece alone, but not without the mouthpiece, and if I do succeed in buzzing without the mouthpiece, it has nothing to do with how I play. Is it the free buzzing technique that’s at fault, or am I doing something wrong?
Buzzing without the mouthpiece is not the problem.
Buzzing incorrectly without the mouthpiece is the problem.

If you buzz for long periods of time…and by a “long” time I mean over about 30 seconds…without relating what your lips are doing to the limitations necessarily produced by the rim, your lips will assume positions that are not effective on the mouthpiece. Usually the embouchure will spread beyond the confines of the rim, or one (or both) lips will roll under too much, the equivalent of a woodwind player playing on too thin or light a reed. Both of these tendencies can be highly counterproductive.

If, however, you constantly relate what you’re doing to the mouthpiece, everything will eventually sort itself out. Play a note on the mouthpiece (or a cutoff rim, or on your horn), then, while continuing the note, take the rim away. Free buzz a note, then add the mouthpiece while still buzzing. If it doesn’t work both ways, figure out why, and experiment with it until it does. It can do nothing but help. It will produce great balance and strength, and help you to understand what’s happening when you play a note.

Q-I’ve been practicing free buzzing (buzzing the lips without the mouthpiece or horn) in an attempt to supplement my daily mouthpiece exercises. I have found that I can free buzz up to a high B natural (in the octave above middle C), but can’t even approach that using my mouthpiece or my horn. Do you have any ideas about why this is happening?

A-I know I’ve said this earlier in this article, but I’m going to reiterate it because it is so important when using these approaches.

Whether you’re buzzing on the mouthpiece or free buzzing…always relate what you’re doing to the horn. Do it every 5 or 10 seconds…every few minutes at the most.

The idea is that the embouchure is a compromise between what your body (lips, mouth, teeth, oral cavity, facial musculature), mouthpiece, and horn want to do naturally. Most people just play the horn, and never explore what the other compromising systems really tend to need.

Some people overpractice one or the other form of buzzing, and can’t bring it back to the horn. Free buzzing can inform your trombone playing. If you patiently and consistently relate it to real playing, eventually your embouchure on the horn will change to include some part of that approach – whatever really works.

This takes time. It took me several years (once I discovered how to do it well) to integrate free buzzing into my playing and practice/maintenance routine, but the rewards were more than worth the time and effort, in my opinion.

As always, feel free to E-mail me at sabutin@mindspring.com with any questions or comments about this or any other articles you read on this website. My available E-mail answering time is increasingly limited, but I try to get back to everyone who writes with an interesting question.

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Carmine Caruso-A Brief Overview

OUT OF THE CASE

Letters from New York

Carmine Caruso-A Brief Overview

Hello again…

In this edition of Letters From New York I’m going to cover a question that I am often asked regarding the quintessential New York brass teacher Carmine Caruso and some of his teaching methods.

Here is a paraphrase of this commonly asked question.

“I have heard about an embouchure strengthening method called the Caruso method, and seen a number of different method books bearing his name. I have also heard both good and bad things about it. Can someone give some insight into this method and whether it would work for trombone players? Thanks!!”

Here’s what I have to say about the subject:

THERE IS NO “CARUSO METHOD”.

Sorry…there was only Carmine Caruso, who passed away some years ago after teaching brass (and life) to hundreds and hundreds of players in NYC for over 50 years.

Carmine WAS his “method”. None of the books about his “method” are of much use, as far as I know. (I haven’t seen them all, but I’ve seen enough of them to come to this opinion.) They’re not bad, or necessarily harmful (unless used badly, of course), they’re just not what he taught.

They contain the WHAT, but not the HOW.

Many of Carmine’s more common exercises have entered the world of “general brass knowledge” through word of mouth, and most of the time when I encounter someone who thinks they know something about what Carmine taught second (or third or fourth or fifteenth) hand, the “knowledge” they have has been so warped away from the original, so distorted, as to be either totally useless or even harmful.

I can’t tell you how many versions of Carmine’s “Six Notes” I’ve heard from various students, and not ONE of them that hadn’t studied either directly with Carmine or with one of his better students were even close to being able to get the desired results from the exercise.

There are however, many students of Carmine’s (I studied w/him for over 15 years…not every week, every year, but he was always there when I got in trouble) who teach THEIR “methods” which are based, to a greater or lesser degree, on Carmine’s.

The best of the bunch…she was closest to him, and she is a great player herself…is undoubtedly Laurie Frink, a trumpet player who does a great deal of teaching in New York City. We’ve talked about what she’s teaching, and it’s very close to the way Carmine taught.

My best advice…if you’re really interested in Carmine Caruso’s approach to brass playing, find a really good teacher who studied with him extensively, someone who acknowledges Carmine as a major influence, and study with that person. After that, the books can serve as reminders and research aids. It was Carmine’s APPROACH that did the real work, and it can hardly be put into words, let alone written down.

Carmine’s “exercises” were not the real focus of his teaching. They were fluid, adaptable, and often made up or altered on the spot to address the particular needs of an individual student.

Carmine would invent an approach for each person, synthesized from his vast experience in teaching brass. This is quite rare…although I do believe it to be the best way to teach.

His way of tailoring an approach to each student was to give very specific, simple exercises, which, when played, would result in the individual reaction proper to the person playing the exercise. There was no talk of embouchure, mouthpiece placement, cheeks, tongues, diaphragms, corners, breathing, horn angle…there was only “Play this exercise this way.”

If the notes came out well, whatever you were doing was correct. If they didn’t come out well, then you practiced the exercise until they did or played other exercises which would lead you to the “right” way. His idea was to let the body discover the right way without being verbally instructed, without being told “This is ‘right’, and all these other possibilities are ‘wrong’.”

When he did speak about playing, it was often in metaphors, analogies and pictures. Here’s one that I remember and use regularly.

One of the most common problems brass players have is trouble with attacks of various kinds. Many teachers try to treat this problem as a tonguing matter, but Carmine had a different approach. He said that almost ANYONE can pronounce the letter “T” correctly, that this fact pretty well eliminated the tongue from the equation, once properly understood, and that one of the real primary reasons for attack problems is an unbalanced embouchure…sometimes too tight, sometimes too loose.

He would ask the student to picture the swinging doors in an old western movie cafe. If the prop man were to adjust them so that they were pressing together too tightly, when the hero made his entrance, he’d have to force his way through them, ruining his entrance. Afterwards, they’d clack together as they swung, ruining the scene still further.

If, on the other hand, they were adjusted so that they were too far apart, when the hero came through them they’d open too easily, and he’d fall right on his face. Even if he didn’t fall, the doors would swing in bad sequence and in an improper relation to one another, again ruining the scene w/their random and uncoordinated movement.

IF, however, the prop man adjusted them JUST right, the slightest touch from the hero would set them to swinging in perfect rhythm, he’d make his entrance, and the scene would continue into the more important stuff.

Carmine would then assign the student one of a large number of variations on his basic exercises that would require fairly quiet breath attacks. These exercises would help to bring the lips into the proper balance and relationship to one another, allowing the student to begin to be able to attack properly.

This is a process that does not lend itself to printed form…a lesson with Carmine was more like a dialogue than a lecture.

Here is another example of Carmine’s approach:

Carmine taught all his students to tap their foot and mentally subdivide in sixteenth notes while doing his exercises. He claimed that rather than try to figure out which muscles and nerves to control (and precisely how to control them) among the thousands necessary to perform any action on the horn, the application of good time and repetition would allow those muscles and nerves to align themselves in the most efficient manner necessary to provide the desired results.

He used the story of the centipede and the ant to illustrate the idea of paralysis through analysis.

______________________________________________________________________________

Once there were an ant and a centipede living in the same house, and the centipede was continually chasing the ant around, meaning to eat it for dinner. (Centipedes are quite vicious, you know. And fast, too.)

Up and down, back and forth, the chase went on, under the sofa, across the living room, behind the bed, around the garbage pail, day after day after day after day….until one day the ant found himself looking down on the centipede from the safety of a high table.

And the ant had an inspiration.

“Hey! Yo! Up here, ya dummy! Yeah, right up above you!”

The centipede looked up.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you a question, but with all this running around, I never got a chance.”

“What?”, said the centipede.

“You’re real fast with all those legs and all, I know, but I often find myself wondering, as I hide beneath the rug or under the bread basket….WHICH LEG DO YOU MOVE FIRST?”

And the centipede never moved again.
_____________________________________________________________________________

The genesis of this concept came while he was quite young.

Once, when he was in high school, he was taken on a tour of the Ford plant in Detroit…this must have been in the mid-1920s or so. All throughout the tour, at a regular interval, he kept hearing and feeling a gigantic SLAM sound that shook the entire plant, and he wondered what was making that sound the entire time he was there. As the finale of the tour, the guide took them outside, where a very tall, multi-ton steam press operated by a man in a booth up at the top of the machine was pressing metal on various molds which would be placed underneath the press by workers…fenders, hoods, etc. The operator would release the press, and it would come crashing down, forming the part. The guide told them that each part needed a different amount of pressure to come out right, and that the man controlling it was the only one in the world who could do it correctly, having operated that particular machine for many years. As a demonstration of the man’s expertise and control, the guide put an inexpensive wristwatch on the base of the machine, and the operator dropped his press with such accuracy that he cracked the crystal without harming the rest of the watch at all.

Carmine, whose whole family was involved in music, realized at that moment that the man’s perception of time, his ability to subdivide the second or two it took the press to fall, must be so accurate that he had total control over his machine (his instrument, if looked at in a different way). Furthermore, he understood that time…good time, really accurate, subdivided time…was the secret to developing this kind of technique and control over the body, and by extension, any objects one wanted to control with the body. There was no way the operator could have intellectually figured out how to control the very small body movements necessary to operate that machine with that amount of accuracy and finesse; his expertise had to be a function of time and repetition.

To illustrate his consistent refusal to put words on things pertaining to playing, here, as an example, is a reconstructed (and slightly formalized) dialogue gleaned from my many lessons w/Carmine. (C=Carmine, S=student. Or “Sam” if you want to be precise about it in this instance.):

S-”I think I need more support.”

C-”Support? What IS support?”

S-”Well, EVERYBODY knows what ‘support’ is. Support is what you do w/your diaphragm when you’re playing.”

C-”Diaphragm? Where IS your diaphragm? Can you see it? Feel it? Separate it from all the OTHER muscles down there?”

S-”The diaphragm is the muscle you use when you’re breathing ‘correctly’.”

C-”Correctly? Do you mean you can breathe ‘incorrectly’? If you were to breathe ‘incorrectly’, you’d asphyxiate.”

And so on…this would continue around any number of subjects until the student tired of “thinking about playing”, at which point Carmine would give him an exercise or metaphor that would indeed help him do whatever it is he wanted to do “correctly”. Regarding breathing, for example, I remember him saying that if you wanted to know what “correct” breathing LOOKED like, observe an infant breathing in the crib. If you wanted to know what a full breath FELT like, yawn. If you wanted to know what good support felt like, you had to observe your own body when certain of his exercises were going well.

I can’t say enough about this reversal from common practice teaching. ALL the common teaching words…”SUPPORT” “EMBOUCHURE”, “CORNERS” “CORRECT”, “GOOD”, “TONGUE”, “DIAPHRAGM”, “OPEN”, “DARK”, “BRIGHT”, etc….are merely metaphors, code words for what we really experience. I’m not saying words are unimportant, but I am saying that the experience of playing in a certain way and the description, the map of that particular concept, are radically different, and that further, any given “experience” is different for every human being, and can even be “different” for any one human being from one day (or minute) to the next.

Carmine’s method was, in part, an attempt to go around this verbalization problem. His books…and he expressed a degree of unhappiness with them to me a number of times because of this very contradiction…due to their very nature as books rather than live teaching, solidified and therefore limited the fluid nature of his approach. (I must say here…he almost never spoke “theoretically”, even about his teaching. What I’m saying is what I perceived through inference, translated through my own take on things.)

In another installment of “Letters From New York”, I will outline a few of Carmine Caruso’s exercises and try to give you some concepts that might help you get the most benefit out of them. Meanwhile, consider these concepts well.

Left to its own devices, the body figures out how to do some very complicated actions. It walks; it talks; it hits a baseball, rides a bicycle and drives a car; it does the thousands of things necessary for everyday life, and does most of them with very little thought or reflection. It’s only when we find we either cannot do those actions through accident or injury or when we wish to truly excel at some of them that we need instruction.

If someone tried to teach you to run well or hit a baseball without regard for who you are and how you’re built, laying down a certain set of rules for you to follow, it would be simply a matter of chance whether those rules…effective as they might have been for certain other people…would apply effectively to your own individual case.

However, if a teacher of hitting had the wisdom to observe your own strengths and weaknesses and give you exercises and concepts that, if followed correctly, would automatically put you in the proper position to hit a baseball, much of the difficulty of learning how to perform that action would have been removed.

That is the essence of Carmine’s teaching methods, and the exercises to follow in the next Letters From New York will be those of his (and some of my variations on them) that I have found to be generally effective for almost all players, regardless of their level of achievement or personal strengths and weaknesses.

Until then, as always, feel free to email me at sabutin@mindspring.com with any comments or questions that you might have. Your continuing feedback helps me enormously as I try learn how to put my own teaching concepts into words.

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