Thursday, November 29, 2012

Of Lip Slurs and Taffy

As performers and teachers, we often deal in visual imagery to help evoke the right physical response.
When I'm playing my slow lip slurs, I want to maintain an unbroken airstream as I move from note to note.  It helps me to think of my embouchure as SUPPLE AND MALLEABLE instead of BRITTLE.

For the air during these lip slurs, I like to think of an unbroken stream of air connecting the notes.  Like that taffy-pulling machine above..... (or below)...

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Black Hole of Silence

That title sounds like it should be the 8th Harry Potter book....Harry Potter and the Black Hole of Silence.

Take a look at the second line of the example from Trombone Craft...

Most students will come in early after the dotted-eighth rest. If that rest were replaced with a note, they'll probably have much less trouble placing the rhythm.  But since they are given nothing to do, it's just so hard to to feel the rhythm inside and accurately place the following note.

It's almost as if that silence is a black hole, trying to suck in all the notes around it.  And thus the title: The Black Hole of Silence.

Beware of its cousin: The Black Hole of Sustained Notes.  Similar problem, when we have no sounds to produce, it is all too easy for minds to go blank and lose their grip on the pulse.

Don't get sucked in!!  Resist the Black Hole!!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Buzzing and Bounce Houses

Here's a trick I like to use...take a few inches of flexible vinyl tubing and pop it onto the end of the mouthpiece for buzzing.  Adds some nice resonance and a bit of resistance.

A lot of students struggle to buzz as low on the mouthpiece as on the trombone.  One reason, I think, is that the mouthpiece provides less resistance to the air.  There's less back pressure.

The tube helps with this but sometimes it isn't enough.  One trick is to pinch the end of the tube to increase the resistance.  This helps a lot of my students get those low notes.

Here's the cool part: once you can buzz that low note with the tube mostly closed off, allow the tube to open up (un-pinch) as you continue buzzing the note.  What happens?  Did the note stop?

Many of you will notice the slight sensation of the lips "falling into" the mouthpiece a little as the tube gets "un-pinched".

Think of it this way:
Get yourself a really big pressure chamber and then put a inflated bounce house inside of it.  As you reduce the pressure in the chamber, the bounce house will expand from its internal pressure.

Likewise, as the tube opens up, the pressure inside the mouthpiece decreases and the lips naturally move forward, blown by the air.  

Let them go forward.  This is different from pushing your lips forward.  They "fall" forward a tiny bit if they aren't being held too tight. 

I think a lot of players try to set the center of the embouchure too tight so it can't buzz easily.  I'm fine with the embouchure corners being firm.  But the center?  Well, for me, I want that area supple and able to vibrate easily when the air hits it.

Anyway, stop by the hardware store, buy some tubing and try it out.  Let me know what you think.