Saturday, October 31, 2009

Frisbee Tone

Here's an analogy I sometimes use...

A note starts with a little wobble and then settles down and steadies. This sometimes makes me think of a frisbee. Notice that, when thrown, a frisbee sometimes wobbles a bit before settling down.

If only we could get right to the steady tone and bypass the wobble.

Why does the wobble happen? Well, I'm not sure there's one reason. I notice this more often with bass trombonists.

On lower notes, I often see students blowing with an air stream that is too fast/forced. Other times it seems as if the lips are trying to buzz the wrong pitch and need to be "fixed" into place by the instrument.

How to fix that wobble? Buzz some notes and make sure they're centered. On the instrument, try some breath attacks. Make sure you don't use an explosion of air to start a note.

Memorization and pitch

Here's an interesting experience from lessons this week...

I had a student memorize the beginning of a standard solo. He devoted a fair amount of time to it and returned with it (mostly) memorized. Here's the interesting part..

His intonation was better.

So let's think this through:
  • Learning from memory means listening to determine if you're playing the right notes.
  • Your focus of attention turns away from the print on the page to the sound in your head.
  • Boom, instead of focusing on the mechanics, perhaps you are now focusing on sound.

What if I sent each incoming freshman a simple recording (mp3) with accompaniment and asked them to learn it by ear to play in that first lesson?

In other words: Give lessons on a piece where no printed music is involved.

Might be an interesting start to the semester.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Aharoni's New Book (and I continue banging the relaxation/embouchure drum)

I recently got a nice email from Eliezer Aharoni, former bass trombonist of the Jerusalem Symphony. He had a few nice things to say about my new book, Simply Singing for Winds.

Mr Aharoni, if you don't know the name, authored one of the real classic books for bass trombone,
the New Method for the Modern Bass Trombone. A more exhaustive book I have not seen.

He has come out with a new book, The Non-Classic Bass Trombone, which has some nice tunes in a pop style along with a play-along recording.

He has posted some YouTube videos that mostly feature Micha Davis,Bass Trombonist of the Israel Philharmonic.

One nice thing about these video: they show the player(s) from some different camera angles.
I've never heard Micha Davis before but I really like his sound and his relaxed physical approach.

Anytime you watch a great player, be sure to take details of both sound and sight and store them in your memory vault. Four details that jump out at me when I watch Micha Davis play...

  • Really nice centering of sound on low notes
  • Very relaxed demeanor, especially notice that the slide arm isn't too tense.
  • The second uses a variety of camera angles including a brief close-up of Aharoni's embouchure. Notice those firm corners.
  • Lastly, notice that Davis is able to play most of these low notes without having to puff out the cheeks. Yes, it can be done.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Lips Don't Care...

So here's a saying that has been forming in my mind. Let me know what you think...

The lips don't care about the tongue.
They only care about air.

The horn doesn't care about the lips.
It only cares about vibration.

The audience doesn't care about the horn.
They only care about sound.

Perhaps it then follows that you should...

Focus more on: Air, Vibration, Sound

Focus less on: tongue, lips, horn

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NYPO Mahler 3 ..quick before it goes down

If haven't had a chance to hear it yet, move quickly. They pull it down on Oct. 16th!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"Ironing Out" those intervals

Here's a way to think of tuning.
Take one of those simple tunes (somebody should come out with a whole book of those things!) and really work it over, listening carefully to the intervals. Don't just play it in sequence from beginning to end. Go back and forth. Pause on a lot of notes.

Listen, listen, listen.

Have the tuner on but don't stare at it. Use it to check what your ear is telling you.

Think of an out-of tune melody like a wrinkled shirt. Just as you would work over the wrinkles carefully with an iron, you need to work out those wrinkles in your tuning. Back and forth, be patient. Get everything to line up.