dave kutz


Arnold Jacobs and his legacy

September 06, 2016
Arnold Jacobs

Hello to everyone! Below I have added an excerpt from my 2003 Dissertation regarding the materials and methods that Arnold Jacobs used in some of his teaching throughout the years.  What is interesting to note is that now, in 2016, the Jacobs legacy for teaching is still going strong, thanks in part to the great work of Michael Grose (in Oregon USA) with his highly informative Tuba People TV as well as the growing number of research documents and books that can be found.  I find it fascinating that Jacobs’ approach  has been held in such high regard years after his passing, and I am sure that he would also appreciate that musicians of all instruments, are seeking to better themselves based on some of his concepts.

Stay tuned for some new writings on this subject in the near future!

(Extract from Arnold Jacobs Master Class, United States Marine Corps Seminar 1991)

…I did research at the University of Chicago Medical Center many years ago and one of the physicians I was working with asked me to stand as still as I could as they put strain gauges on me. I thought I was perfectly still, but on the graphs it showed that I was constantly falling, straightening out, falling–it was going on all of the time. He then had me blow through a piece of tubing; He instructed me to blow as steady I could without a waver. I tried that, and I figured I could be pretty good at that–it should be a successful test. There was always a little line going through it showing motion and when we did it with a mechanical pump, there was no line at all. You see, our nervous system fires at a particular rate and our nervous system showed up on the graph. You body is in a constant state of change. There are things going on that your brain cannot comprehend, and what we must understand is that we are an enormously complex piece of machinery but made very simple for use by what I would call it, “bio-computer level” of the brain. Regions above the brain stem where the coordinate functions of widely diverse fiber groups that coordinate what ones to fire, what ones keep you straight, what ones should not fire– and it takes all of these things at a computer level rather than at the intelligence level of the person. You don’t even know that they exist and that makes you free to do what you want with you body because you don’t have to worry about it. Only in music do I find people worrying about using their body’s right. Go to the products, get the results–Don’t worry about the body, just make sure it sounds better than anybody else. That is the big factor. Take enough air so you can waste it…as I say it’s free it don’t cost nothing. Recognize that the intelligence of the human being has to do with the phenomenon of life outside our body; it doesn’t have to do with the phenomenon of life inside your body. Inside the body there is a system of controls internally that takes charge of it constantly–homeostasis; the ability to maintain temperature, acid alkaline levels, all of these things are taken care of in a level of the brain so that the intelligence is free to cope with all the phenomenon of life of the things you want to think of or do—such as where you want your body to go. You don’t have to worry about the variety of hundreds of muscles, you don’t have to try and control each one– it is done elsewhere in the brain. If you transfer this to music it becomes a joy– it becomes so simple in playing.

There are a few things that stand in the way– that of course is in the study of habits; the conditioned reflex. So often it has to do with an inadequate ventilating of the lungs; the brain gets connected with the tongue instead of the region where you want vibration, so that air is actually being signaled with your tongue rather than, if you are brass players, the vibration of the lip. It has to be always connected to the vibration needs of the embouchure and I suspect on the woodwind instrument, it has to be connected to what will cause the reed to vibrate one way. In other words, there always has to be a source of vibration or there is no source of sound. Usually if you could use electronics instead of breath, you wouldn’t need any air, but you could never do with out the source of vibration. That is the important factor; whatever the vibrating sources might be. That is where a great deal of the concentration must go and you function on a brass instrument based on the seventh cranial nerve; the motor nerve that comes from the brain and at the region of the lips– it is carrying the signal of motor activity to the lip and the lip acts reflexively to the signal from the brain (demonstrates singing and buzzing). It is so easy. If you don’t get into your own way, it is not much of a problem but if you try to tell the lip how to do it, then there is going to be a problem. It is a trial and error procedure and you have to be somewhat ignorant about tissue and somewhat knowledgeable about vibration…

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