Monday, August 27, 2012

New Year - New Warm-Up

I hope everyone had a good summer.  I decided not to blog because (1) I wanted to devote time to finishing up the Trombone Craft books (tenor AND bass) and (2) I get most of my blogging inspirations in lessons.

Well, the year has begun and I'll try to crank up the old blog.

If you know me, you know I am constantly tweaking/re-thinking/revising my warm-up.

This year's edition (which I've already tweaked about 20 times) is intended to be simple and short.  I also don't want it to be a daily routine.  It's meant to be simple warm-up that gets me ready to go.

2012-2013 Warm-Up

Here are some comments about the different sections:
#1 Buzz, Play
a. Buzz

  • If you have a tuning drone handy, that can be helpful.  I'm often standing by a piano and just plunking down a B-flat to provide a reference pitch.
  • The "AIR" symbol is a reminder to really let the air flow.  The lip setting will be looser than when you play the instrument.  Don't worry about that.  In many lessons, I pull out the pinwheel to give feedback on air flow.  Sometimes, I even ask a student to start the air moving before the lips come in contact.  This helps prevent that tendency to "lock up" that some people fight.
  • It's nice to include some legato tonguing early on.  Make sure the air still flows
  • Not everyone can buzz down to a pedal B-flat but it's a great goal!
b. Play

  • Even though the buzzing won't feel the same as the playing, it sure seems to help.  That's why this starts with the same notes.
  • Play slowly and make sure you are getting your most beautiful sound!  Don't worry about keeping a steady beat.  Just breathe easy and sound great.
  • The low glisses are wonderful for the chops.  Many students suffer from a wobbly tone on the lower notes.  That usually means they are trying to blow to fast or not allowing the lips to set for the lower notes.  With patience and practice, this usually improves.
  • You should have a tuner on and check 6th position on the glisses.  Set a good pitch.  Many students don't seem to know where 6th is.

  • I find it helpful to briefly ascend into the high range early in a warm-up.  It's almost like an inoculation against "high note freak-out"  
  • If those higher notes don't come out, don't play them over and over.  Try once or twice and then move on.
#2 Lip Slurs

  • The metronome click isn't critical but it does seem to help me stay on task.  There's something nice about simply turning it on and letting it run.  You can experiment with different tempi if you want.
  • These slurs go gradually faster and range gradually farther.  Obviously they get harder.  Some people may not be able to to go all the way down the page.  If not, just go as far as you can and then move on.
  • Bass trombones: there are too many high notes in your rep to simply live in pedal land.  You need to think of the bass trombone as having a wider range, not a lower one.
  • It's very important to be observant for throat tension during these slurs.  So many people allow this insidious habit to creep into their playing.  A relaxed throat is an open throat.
  • There are three versions of slur "f".  Choose the one that fits your level.

#3 Articulation
a. 1x Buzz, 2x Play

  • The purpose of the half note leading into the semi-legato articulations is to reinforce good air flow.  Don't articulate in a way that stops up the air.
  • If you want to take more time with this, you can do it in more positions.  You can also go higher or lower.

  • Many people tense up as they start to move the slide while tonguing. Don't try to stop the slide at each position.  This tempo sits on the borderline of necessity for stopping the slide (much slower and you need to stop on every note; much faster and you clearly shouldn't).
  • Don't forget to repeat down a half step (ranging from 2nd to 6th position).
  • The dotted slur means use a default "dah" tongue.  You can vary it if you wish.

  • Remember: forte not fortissimo. Don't tense up for these louder attacks.  Loud = loose

  • This is a nice one to develop confidence and accuracy.  Notice that it extends higher than the 1st position overtone series.  Sometimes I take this all the up to high F.
  • Keep the embouchure corners stable.  A bad habit I fight in my own playing is a tendency to re-set the embouchure as I descend to the 2nd partial and lower.  Doing this exercise consistently seems to help.
#4 Low and Slow

  • My thanks to Mr. Mulcahy for his master class reminding us of the value of playing low.  I used to know that but somehow forgot it.
  • I usually go down to a pedal C on this and, yes, I include the low B and even try to move smoothly from low B to pedal B-flat.  It doesn't sound elegant but it's good for me.
After this warm-up

  • Lately I've been thinking more about a daily routine that includes sing/buzz/play on simple tunes; long tones; lots of lip slurs; scales; and interval work.  I haven't come up with a system yet but the idea is appealing.  In college, Mike Miller used to joke that I was "Mr. System."  Oh well.
Shameless Plug

  • I didn't want this warm-up to overlap with my trilogy of books.  With the completion of Trombone Craft, I finally feel like I have a complete set of materials to work on fundamentals.  The books are: Lip Slurs, Simply Singing for Winds and Trombone Craft.  It's been a long time coming.  Whew.
What's missing?

  • While I tried to include some sense of phrasing, this isn't an overly musical experience.  Some may feel a bit stifled.  There isn't much room for creativity, either.
  • Some may express shock that long tones aren't built into this.  I believe in the power of long tones but I don't think of them as a separate warm-up activity.  Notice, however, that sustained notes do play a role.
    When I teach a new high school or middle school student, I sometimes ask them to show me some of their warm-up.  Invariably they play some sort of long tone exercise.  However, they rarely seem to know why they do this. Also they rarely breathe well and don't strive to make a beautiful sound.  Doesn't seem like getting off to a good start, does it?
Anyway, here it is. I hope it helps.  Please give me some feedback.

I always tell myself this lovely little lie: now I'm done tweaking the warm-up.  Well, done for now....