[78-L] Older musicians

Rodger Holtin rjh334578 at gmail.com.invalid
Fri Apr 3 17:41:14 PDT 2015

The biggest changes of which I have heard musicians speak have been issues
of stamina; stuff like breath capacity, aching backs and feet from the time
required on their feet to sing whole operas and the like.  I think Julian's
speculation about singers not changing the key is probably the opposite of
the situation.  Oddly enough, just in the last few days I've read a number
of accounts of both Caruso and McCormack adjusting keys downward to avoid
the high notes they lost with their youth.  I know at least one bass
vocalist who has lost much of the lowest range as well as some off the top.
Instrumentalists would scarcely have to lower or raise keys to adjust for
flagging physical prowess, with the possible exception of high notes on some
wind instruments that would require a full measure of strength and ability
to hit the target on pitch.  

Loss of hearing is surely a big ticket item as well, and that comes in
various forms too.  My beloved high school choral director had been a
concert tenor and toured as such after WWII (made two 78s - getting us
solidly on-topic) and sometime in his late fifties he lost tone recognition.
He could still hear to carry on conversations, but could not recognize music
(melodies), much less sing it!  I could not grasp that problem at all when
it happened to him, but now have an inkling of what that must feel like.

While I am not aware of any changes like holding the bow differently, I must
say that could be an element for somebody.  I played upright bass off and on
"until the accident" (broke my wrist and it was set wrong) and now there's
simply no plucking the strings that isn't excruciatingly painful.  [Some
days clicking the mouse is just as bad, and never know if I'll get a double
click or not.]  I was "only" 47 when that happened.  I have attempted to
play with the bow a few times since then and it's a train wreck no matter
what I do, so I steer clear of bass fiddles now, just like old Giles steered
away from wine, women AND song. 

I am sure others will weigh in and I, too, will be glad to catch the
experiences.  Good questions, Kristjan.


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-----Original Message-----
From: 78-l-bounces at klickitat.78online.com
[mailto:78-l-bounces at klickitat.78online.com] On Behalf Of Julian Vein
Sent: Friday, April 03, 2015 5:58 PM
To: 78-L Mail List
Subject: Re: [78-L] Older musicians

On 03/04/15 22:23, Kristjan Saag wrote:
> This is halfway off-topic; still I think the 78 list is where to ask 
> the question, because many of the artists we deal with have had long 
> careers and many of us list members have genuine knowledge of making 
> music, not only listening to it.
> So here's my question: do you know of any particular strategies for 
> older musicians to compensate for playing/ singing techniques that are 
> more difficult to use when getting older? I can think of singers who 
> chose to omit certain high notes, others who find that their vibrato 
> sounds more restrained and are more careful to use it, 
> instrumentalists who choose alternative ways of holding the bow or 
> playing a difficult passage on the piano etc. Any example would be
> Kristjan
I had similar questions about instrumental technique. Are there any writings
about a person's physical attributes and instrumental ability? 
The shape of a brass player's lips. The length of a trombonist's arms. 
The size of a pianist's hands. Does a trombonist have to stand further away
from the music stand than other wind players, or do they stand to one side?
Should pianists and vibraphonists sit/stand erect or bend over their
instruments? Do pianists need to look at the keys? Should clarinetists,
trumpeters and trombonists hold their horns horizontally or pointing down?

I assume a concert singer would be expected to sing as written, whereas the
rest could modify their approaches with age.

      Julian Vein

       Julian Vein
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