Tuesday, July 27, 2010



It is said that golf is a game of opposites: You swing down to make the ball go up, you set up right to draw the ball left, you set up left to make the ball go right. The shorter the club, the higher the number. And of course you must stay firm but relaxed.

I once heard a band director admonish his band to play softer telling them “Anyone can play loud. It takes a real musician to play soft.” His concert was painful to listen to. He had stifled their sound. Having played with some major orchestras I can say that the reason they can play so soft is because their loud is very loud. It is the contrast. See Barth’s axiom #1.

If a musician has difficulty keeping the pitch through a crescendo, he should practice a diminuendo. I prefer to test intonation with a fortissimo as it is less likely to alter the pitch. When testing new instruments for pitch I prefer a fortissimo slurred up to a questionable note followed by a fortissimo slurred down to the same questionable note. This shows the range of the pitch ‘center’. From this it is a matter of controlled relaxation to maintain the same pitch at a pianissimo.

It is contrary to common instruction but I play better golf when I warm up with the full swing of the driver and work down to a pitch with a wedge.


In golf there is a tendency to over-correct. Far too often a short putt is followed by a long one. Far too often a push slice is followed by a pull hook. In both golf and music it is crucial to stay focused on the desired result, not the past blunder. We learn in music that if we miss a note low, the correction is not to play the next one as high as possible. And so it is in golf that the good golfer does not follow a short putt with a long putt. He simply goes back to his routine with focus.

When the conductor asks for more we tend to blast out with everything we have. When he tells us we are too loud we tend to fake it only to let him have it with both barrels at the concert. This is not musicianship; this is emotions overriding common sense. This happens in golf too. When your opponent outdrives you it is best to stay with your routine and focus on your best rather than attempting to outdrive him.

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