Saturday, April 26, 2008

Air to Lips

This post has a special secret message at the end.

(Hint: it's "Air to Lips")

In a recent lesson, we began to talk about tongue position in articulation. This student had been told, like many of us, not to put the tongue between the teeth when tonguing.

(Don't worry about that,
just get the air to the lips)

I related a Jay Friedman masterclass I once saw in which he said he tongued between the teeth. This elicited an audible gasp from some in the audience. He said he preferred it because it provided a good path for the air.

(Yeah, like I was saying: Air to Lips)

I don't really like to think about my tonguing. Hey, if isn't broke....still, it doesn't seem to me that my actual "point of contact" is the tip of tongue at all. It seems like it is closer to a spot just above the tip. This spot makes a brief seal just behind the upper teeth.

(Dude, you are so over-thinking this!
Air to Lips!!!)

I'll also admit that, for tonguing pedals, my tongue actually touches the lip, effectively "kick-starting" the note.

(And...did that technique get the
"blank" to the "blanks"???
Probably yes or you wouldn't use it)

The only exception, something I never wanted to admit until Alessi talked about it: for super-smooth legato (esp on double tonguing) I actually pull the tongue back in the mouth so that it lightly grazes the roof of the mouth. Alessi referred to this region of the mouth as the "gulley" a termed coined by Phil Smith if I remember correctly.

(OK, call me crazy but did this happen to
allow that whole smooth "Air to Lips" thing??)

OK, this has been a bit too much analysis and I hope it helps and doesn't mess up people.

(Are we ready for that "secret message")

Whatever you do with the tonguing, remember that the main goal is to deliver...

( it comes; drumroll please:)


(ooh, big surprise)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hail to Ives

I post this with a mixture of humor and sympathy.

Hail to the Chief at a recent White House arrival ceremony.

Wow, I'm thinking someone got in trouble over this.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Why I don't teach flying...

I point out they're dragging...and then they rush.

I point out that a note is sharp...and then they play it flat.

I point out that it is too soft....and then they blast.

overcompensation: they mean well but...

Suppose I have a flying student and I point out that they're letting the nose dip a bit much and they should pull up...

you get the idea

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cool Notes (young Alexandre's composition lesson)

Here's a story that might help with phrasing...

Imagine a young Alexandre Guilmant arriving at his composition lesson having written the following piece ...

His composition teacher (Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens, if we can trust Wikipedia), thoughtfully scratches his beard and says, "Well, young Alexandre, this theme is rather nice but it lacks a certain Je-ne-sais-quoi "

He pulls out his pen and, with great flourish, adds a few notes to spice things up a bit...

"Oui, oui!" shouts Alexandre. Now I see! This piece has interesting notes in it. I shall become a famous composer!"

Soooo, when you play this piece (or any piece), be sure to aim at those cool notes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Inverse Ping principle

Here's a general rule I try to follow when tonguing...

Softer notes = more ping at the beginning of the note
Loud notes = less ping

For example, in Hungarian March, I want to let the air do the work on that run. I feel as if I'm using very little tongue since there's so much air.

On softer notes like, maybe, the scherzo from Tchaik. 4, I use more "ping" or "pop" at the front of the note.

Maybe I'm wrong here but it seems to work...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Keepin' it Smooth

I know I've talked about this before at some point.
As we move our slides quickly (but not too quickly!), we need to keep that air stream very smooth.
It is so easy for the blowing to reflect the slide movement.
Trying playing a passage with silent blowing. Listen to your air stream as you move the slide.
I talk about this in the BoneTips portion of my website.

Here's a simple exercise that should help...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Spring Trombone Night

Happy International Trombone Week.
Here's the program from our Spring Trombone Night Concert..

Spring Trombone Night
In celebration of International Trombone Week

Mon. April 7th, 2008 ~ 7:30 pm ~ Recital Hall

Fanfare for 8 Loud Trombones .....Joel Baroody

Grand Canyon Octet .....Eric Ewazen
Conductor: Ryan Tinker

Loch Lomond .....Traditional
Soloists: Zek Wardlaw, Ryan Tinker, Russ Zokaites

BoneWeek Fanfare 5, "Arbington" .....Brad Edwards

The Carolina Trombone Collective:
Zek Wardlaw, Matt Henderson, Alex Manley, David Dodgen, Ryan Tinker, Russell Ramirez,
Greg Abraham, Hunter White, Nathan Lodge, Russ Zokaites, Brad Edwards, Director

Canonic Sonata in A minor ....Georg Philipp Telemann
II. Piacevole non largo
III. Presto
Greg Abraham, Colt Campbell

Suite #1 in G major .....J.S. Bach
Nathan Lodge, bass trombone

Dances from a Hillside Manor .....Eric Culver
David Dodgen, Zek Wardlaw, Alex Manley, Russ Zokaites

Trois Pieces .....Eugene Bozza
I. Allegro
II. Moderato
III. Allegro Vivo
Matt Henderson, Russell Ramirez, Zek Wardlaw, Nathan Lodge

Kyrie from the Pangue Lingua Mass..... Josquin des Pres
Arr. Matt Herring

O Mille Volte .....Luca Marenzio
Arr. Jay Lichtmann

The USC Trombone Choir
Brad Edwards, Conductor

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The lungs don't count

....wait, it's not what you think.

Of course the lungs count for breathing, tone, survival.

What I mean is, Don't count with your lungs.
Here are some typical bad habits I see students get into:

Take this example:

It is amazing how many people will start breathing in the 16th rest! The result is a breath that is way too small and probably an entrance that is late.
In effect they are using their breathing/lungs to help with counting.

Here's a more compelling example:

In this string of upbeats, I often see people swell the tone on the downbeat, trying to keep a sense of the beat. It might sound like this.

Lungs are great for breathing and I agree that one should breathe in time. I'm just saying that there are some bad habits with the way we breathe in and blow out that seem to be connected with the idea of trying to keep time with the lungs.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

It seems so simple...

I'll start with a story from a former student. He was studying with Jim Markey and struggling with Bolero. Then Markey said something that seemed to really help (I'm paraphrasing here, of course)...

"Can you make that sound better?"

Hmm, so simple it seems silly. worked.

I tried it today in a few lessons. When the student seemed to be wrapped up in some detail or other, I'd simply suggest, "Can you make that sound good?" or "Make those notes sound good."

..... it worked every time.

Shouldn't this be obvious??

Still, I even tried it on myself worked.

Sometimes the simple stuff is the most profound.

Try it:
In your next practice session, remind yourself, "Make each note sound good."

As Jacobs would say, "Make every note worth $50."

(of course, with inflation, each note has probably risen to $72.50 or, if you're using gas prices as a model, $465.99)

Singing, Barbershop and Brass

This from one of my students. Philadelphia Orchestra barbershop quartet (1984) with Roger Blackburn, Joseph Alessi, Glenn Dodson, Charles Vernon.

Here's the part I love...that seamless transition from playing to singing.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

That highway we need...

In the brain, the musical concept!

Now, we need to have a clear pathway straight to the lips.

Here are two images:

Instead of the information traveling this way:

You want it to travel this way...

How to do this?
  • sing
  • buzz
  • play
  • get out of the way
(in other words, no running self-commentary, just sound)

And remember: the lips follow the brain, not the other way around.