YouTrombone

Jamie Kennedy considers YouTube as a practising and teaching tool.

Jamie KennedyI have often thought to myself “Gee, I wish I had some kind of magic box that would show my trumpet student how [Louis Armstrong/Wynton Marsalis/et cetera] does that. It would be even better if that magic device was small, portable and gave me lots of sound and videos for free.” And so, possibly in response to my wishes, YouTube was born and found its way onto my smartphone. I have to admit that I felt guilty about using it at first – “Did they need this during Prohibition? No! They soldiered on and sounded like Arthur Pryor” – but eventually I overcame my distaste.

The trick was to use it as part of my instructional and practice techniques; I didn’t replace my brain with it. I made sure that I could still use my Big People words to describe musical things and then used YouTube alongside, just as I would any other form of demonstration. It turned out to be very useful indeed, not just because I could access any kind of musical exemplar I liked but because my students could access it too. Gone were the days of wondering where my copy of Kind of Blue had got to. And so all of my problems were solved, and life was good.

Then one day, sitting in my university practice room, I had a singular lack of inspiration over just what kind of long tones I wanted to practice. I was bored with my habitual exercises and wanted to try something new. To get up, go to the library (all of 60m away), find a new technique book and pull out a likely set-list all seemed to be far too much effort. So I turned a slothful look to my phone and searched the YouTube app for “Long Tones”. I was instantly rewarded with the enthusiastic over-sharing of a thousand American university graduates. Here was a resource, hitherto untapped and literally in the palm of my hand, that could connect any practice space with the cream of the international trombone community (and probably some of the detritus as well). The question was: how best to use it?

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