Articles for Student Brass Players
From Symptoms to Solutions
The Alexander Technique and Musicians
We all have the ability to be balanced and poised without stiffness, and to move gracefully with less effort, but over the years habits of tension will often be layered over this natural ease of movement and prevent us from functioning well. This is especially true with the cultivated habits established through hundreds of hours of practice. The Alexander Technique is a simple and practical method for changing these habits through conscious awareness and re-education.
Daily Warm Up
Maurice André once said that playing the trumpet is like building a sand castle on the beach; every morning the tide has washed away the previous day's work and you have to start from the beginning all over again. For this reason, it is important to make sure that you build a solid foundation on which to base your day's work. This idea can be applied to all brass instruments.
How to Loosen a Tight Tuning Slide
Is your tuning slide too tight? Do you have to apply Vise-Grips whenever you want to tune your horn? Here is one simple yet effective method of loosening it up.
Symphonic Play-Along Practicing
Listening to an orchestral recording while following one's part is an important method for learning orchestral style. You can take this one step further by playing along with the recording. "Imitation was, is and always will be the best method of teaching that we have." …Arnold Jacobs
The Kevin Thompson Warm Up
Warming up every day is essential. Consistency in my playing only started to come when I started being consistent and thorough about warming up every day. The warm up routine presented here is an excellent workout for intermediate or advanced level brass players.
There has been a lot written about how to take an audition successfully, and it's a daunting task to try to add something new to the mix. Most people in "the know" will tell you that the things that eliminate players at auditions are sound, pitch and time. These elements are the foundation of good playing in any musical situation. A great performance, whether at an audition or some other venue, will connect on an emotional level with what the composer is saying and communicate that to the audience.
Breathing Exercises for Brass Players
Make your playing easier and more relaxed with this set of daily breathing exercises from bass trombonist Gabriel Langfur.
When and How to Use It
Circular breathing is a technique that wind players use to avoid putting breaks in the music. This can be handy in certain situations, and anyone can learn to do it! Work to implement circular breathing in your own playing and you will undoubtedly find many practical uses for it.
The Art of Practicing
Practicing is an art, not a skill. A skill is something you can be taught in a certain number of lessons, while an art is something you learn slowly and gradually over your entire life. Whether you are a sculptor, a painter, a ballerina or a trombonist, you have to apply discipline in order to progress. The art of practicing is something you adhere to for a very, very long time, and you must master it to become a great performer.
The Tripod of Sound
The process of sound production on the trumpet (or any wind instrument for that matter) is dependent on three fundamental points, thus the "tripod of sound." These three points are (1) the air source, (2) the air passageway and (3) the embouchure. If one of these is not working properly, the sound collapses.
The Pyramid of Trombone Playing
A pyramid is a strong structure, built from the bottom up. Each layer sits on top of the one below and relies on it to provide support and stability. This model is the one I suggest we think of in our approach to developing the basic skills needed to play the trombone and to make the "sonic engine" run efficiently.
Notes from a Joseph Alessi Seminar
Joseph Alessi holds the Principal Trombone chair with the New York Philharmonic. Dave took these notes at the Alessi Seminar held Aug 8–15, 1999 in Nyack, NY. Many thanks to both Joe and Dave for giving us permission to reproduce these notes here.
Here are some key method books that every serious trombone student should have in his/her library.
An update to Brad's 1999 article about the Valsalva Maneuver and its impact on brass playing.
How to hold the slide, move it fast, find the positions, and play in tune.
A practice binder can help you to set goals and focus your time on what is really important. My friends call me a trombone-nerd, but I find that organizing my materials in a practice binder really helps my playing!
In 1963, midway through a distinguished career as Bass Trombonist of the Chicago Symphony, Edward Kleinhammer wrote one of the most important treatises on brass playing we have: "The Art of Trombone Playing." It's now the year 2000 and Mr. Kleinhammer has done it again. His book Mastering The Trombone (co-written with Douglas Yeo of the Boston Symphony) is another monumental work that revisits all aspects of playing the trombone. But it's not just a rehashing of old material – almost all of it is new and relevant for today's musicians.
Proper legato playing on trombone comes from a combination of three things: steady air flow, quick slide action, and simultaneous tonguing.
It is possible to play trombone well without any knowledge of the breathing process. Efficient, relaxed breathing is best done without thinking about it too much, and the best teachers are those who reduce it to simple concepts. For example, Emory Remington referred to the "conversational breath," and that was all. However, for those musicians who are having certain problems, an understanding of the breathing process can help a great deal.