woensdag 23 november 2011

Chamber tips: "The Sponge"

In the serie 'Chamber tips', 'The Sponge'

It is hard to keep an ensemble together. But after 15 years I found out some things that turned out to be essential.

The ensemble should function like a sponge. It should absorb all input on whatever subject, be it musical or practical. Even if the input seems unmusical, ridiculous or unpractical to the other members, the ensemble should try it out and at least incorporate an essence of the idea. There is nothing more frustrating than having the feeling an idea is bouncing off on a wall while one might have the idea that he is bringing something beneficial to the ensemble.

That  means that sometimes the individual members of the ensemble should set aside their own preferences for the sake f the ensemble. The ensemble that is in the end, its own musical entity.

On the other hand, if the input does not work, and the ensemble functions uncomfortably, one should recognize this and accept it.

vrijdag 18 november 2011

Watch my photos on Lomography.com

Since September I found a new passion, and it seems to be staying!

I am doing analogue photography. It uses a different part of the brain than music, at least, I guess :-)

I am looking at things now. It opened my eyes. We are on tour with the Amstel Quartet and usually I spend my time in the hotel doing administration, studying, meditating, swimming and fitness. But now I get out, looking at things. Talking to people. It's great!

Take a look at some of my pictures here: http://www.lomography.nl/homes/amellemseit

Review Vandoren BL3

Ever since I picked up the baritone in the '90's I wanted to play Vandoren, but it never worked for me.

The main problems were: Quacking sound when playing loud and squeaks! Every so many years I tried different types of Vandoren mouthpieces for baritone. I felt that there was something to gain from Vandoren. But the practical problems were always in the way. Vandoren came closer some years ago with the BL3 mouthpiece. The squeaks were gone for the largest part and the sound came closer to something that I liked. But of course, like on alto, the biggest gain I get from the BL3 is playing ease. Some eyars ago I decided playing ease was equally important as a 'good' sound when selecting material. The BL3 is fantastic in that sense that the legato, even in bigger jumps is so much easier. The sound is more consistent and 'cleaner'. I always have the feeling that the baritone is not a serious solo saxophone. It is too hard to play. The BL3 amkes the baritone come closer to a 'real' saxophone. When playing fast notes with register changes I can hear all the notes, whereas with my C* I just had to give up playing all the notes, some would fall out of the line, no matter how hard I tried.
In general, the mouthpiece is much easier to play than any other classical mouthpiece.

Disadvantages are still:
-There is a bigger chance of water on the reed, producing a strange effect to the sound.
-The squeaking is still there, but much less. I have not squeaked in the four concerts I gave in three days on our US tour. Gauvin's tip to put the reeds further over the tip worked, but also straighting out the reed with the Vandoren reed resurfacer seemed to work. And some reeds just squeak...
Also, I feel I have to take less mouthpiece in my mouth.
-The 'quacking' is still a risk. The Vandoren needs more containment, especially in the louder registers. On the Selmer I could open my embouchure and throat, and the sound would still be more or less focussed. On the Vandoren I have to focus the air more.
-The sound, even in legato, is a bit flat. You have to put a lot 'of yourself' into this mouthpiece to have personality and soul come into your sound.

maandag 14 november 2011

Amstel Quartet arrived in Platteville, WI

Ties' blog:
It is 8:12 AM in and I am drinking a great capuccino in Platteville Wisconsin. Is was up very early today. We just flew in from the Netherlands and the jet-lag is in effect. I am not sure where the rest of my quartet but I got up and went out to explore the neighbourhood with my beloved Diana cameras. Infortunately the lighting is not so good today.

In a few hours we will be rehearsing, doing a masterclass, a lecture concert and in the evening a concert at the Platteville uni.
And I am loving it so far. Platteville is a relatively small town, but very charming. Everything is walkable and people give me friendly smile everywhere. In the coffee shop where I am now they are playing jazz music!
Our US tours are milestones in my musical season. Although I miss my girlfriend and son, I get a chance to get back to myself. I meditate, make some photos of unknown territory, eat, drink, sleep, watch tv and think. These tours are commas in my life. Places to breath. In a holiday I have the feeling I have to do something. During these tours I only have to make music. It's great to only have to focus on that.

woensdag 9 november 2011

Ties Mellema is now endorsed by Vandoren. He plays Vandoren AL3, SL3 and BL3, Vandoren classic reeds and Vandoren ligatures (Optimum, M/O).