Many brass players have problems playing smooth legato lines and keeping the air flow going. This little exercise will help you overcome those issues, and it is also a comfortable mouthpiece warm up. The goal is to let the air flow freely and without interruptions when you change notes, regardless if you play glissando or legato. When playing staccato you will have to stop the airflow between notes, focusing on not building up any tensions or changing the embouchure. PLaying in pitch on mouthpiece can be hard, and doing it while playing staccato is really hard, so focus on that too. When you can play a staccato melody in perfect pitch on the mouthpiece, you probably can not play out of tune on the trombone! Continue reading
I had the explicit pleasure of visiting the S.E. Shires factory and try out a wide range of their trombones. They are located in an humble industrial area in Hopedale, Massachusetts. It is about one hour drive from Boston, and four hours from New York. The factory building is very discreet, and you would not think that a world class brass instrument manufacturer is based within such a timid building, but do not let the appearance fool you, they are serious about their business, and really know what they are doing! And how to do it. And why. And probably when too. Great New York trombone player (and Shires artist) Michael Davis were kind enough to give me an introduction to Steve Shires himself and Ben Griffin (Shires sales rep and pro trombone player). Ben has a deep knowledge about trombones in all sizes, and was very helpful during my visit. He set me up in the Shires showroom, and kept feeding me with new trombone parts for several hours.
Since I knew I would be buying a small bore horn, this was where I started out. Unfortunately I never got around to try out their large bore trombones, which gives me a good reason to visit them again in the future! In this test, I will review both the parts I tried, as well as the Michael Davis Signature Model, and of course tell more about the model I settled for.
Christmas is over, and we have now entered 2013. For me that mean picking up the trombone again and get back in the practice room. To get back in shape, I tried to come up with something to challenge myself with, and the result are these pentatonic trombone licks. It is basically just a three note lick, but it moves around in all twelve keys, following the circle of fourths.
For me, a good trombone lesson learned is when I forgot about the horn and just play music. This exercise help me do just that – shift focus away from the trombone, embouchure, breathing and other technical aspects, and rather just try to get the right notes in the right place. Continue reading
The 30 minute session
I have written about getting the most out of your trombone practicing sessions in a previous post – FOCUSED PRACTICING IN 7 STEPS. This time, I will give you some advice on how to stay focused while practicing. Personally, I tend to be very unfocused in general, letting my mind wander and following too many impulses to do small things not related to the current task. All of a sudden, it seems to be very important to answer that three days old email, look up a tune on Spotify or make a move in Wordfeud…
Buzzing for great trombone chops
This is a simple little buzzing exercise that will help you improve airflow and get rid of bad habits related to attack or tonguing. I often use it as a warmup exercise, making it the first thing I play that day.
The important thing here is flow. Make sure that airflow does´t stop at any time when you play the legato part of the exercise. There should be no difference in the way you blow when you go from glissando to legato. The only thing that should happen in the legato section is that the tongue make small fast movements to create a smooth attack on each note. You can check in a morris to make sure that no unwanted face or mouth movements are triggered when you go from glissando to legato.
Play the pattern starting in a comfortable range where you have good control over sound and pitch on the mouthpiece. Try starting on a Bb or F, and gradually expand the range both up and down playing repeating the pattern. Continue reading
Practicing with a wandering mind
I don´t know about you, but my mind tends to take a stroll during my trombone practicing. I have surrendered to the fact that I will walk around the room while playing, that´s ok, but not being focused on the task mentally is worse. This post is not about cleaning your mind, meditation, finding your inner zen or other new age-ish approaches.
My best solution is to plan what you will work on, and stick to that until you got it down. Don not try to cover all fields of trombone playing; scales, etudes, legato, flexibility, long notes, short notes, high notes, low notes, green notes, slide bending, trombone case remodeling, mouthpiece disinfection… Choose one or two focus areas, and find some suitable exercises (preferably some that you can not play properly already) and stick with that until it works. Of course you should work on general trombone playing as well, warming up properly, and make sure that Continue reading
Yes, we all know the fancy red&white music store trombone plunger, and it does sound really good. But I never liked the handling of it, it is too clumsy and hard to hold comfortably. Might be that my mid-sized scandinavian hands that are fitted backwards…
A few years ago, Erling Kroner (R.I.P. dear colleague) had a trombone friend in USA send him some plungers from an american hardware store, and he sold me one of them. I have been committed to it ever since! It is deep enough to have a good sound, but still nice to hold. I have used it on hundreds of gigs and several recordings by now.
BUT – I have had it for a few years now, and it it a cheap rubber product, so now it has started to crack. Is there anyone (americans) out there who know where to get hold of this model???? Continue reading
What to think about when working on your flexibility
- Don´t play too fast! Speed is nice, but always make sure to play the exercise well rather than fast. Are all notes in tune? Is your sound good?
- In a hurry? Play exercises on 1st, 3dr, 5th and 7th position (or 2nd, 4th and 6th). I do this when I want to cover more exercises without playing them sloppy. Saves you 50% of the time required for each exercise and only make it 34% less effective. See, that is a 16% gain right there!
- Do it daily! Flexibility and embouchure exercises are essential for all brass players. Make sure it is a part of your daily routine. And then make your daily routine daily!
- Keep embouchure in place. You don´t want to make big movements with your mouth when shifting notes. Look at yourself in a mirror and try to minimize it. Are you unnecessarily good looking? Another good reason to find that mirror.
- Try playing exercises on both trombone and mouthpiece. This is a killer tip. When going back and forth between trombone and mouthpiece, you can really get some basic embouchure stuff in place. Try it. Continue reading
A tenor trombone is always tuned in Bb, but unlike the trumpet, it is a non transposing instrument (probably because trombone players like to call a bone for a bone instead of a Bb for a C). There are two main types of tenor trombones, the small bore trombone and the large bore trombone. Both can be fitted with an F attachment. The bore refers to the actual size of the tubing, measured at the point where you insert the mouthpiece. This results in the need of two series of mouthpieces, built to fit either small or large bore horns.
The small bore trombone is typically used by jazz players, and has a bright sound. Due to the larger tubing, the large bore trombone is more mellow, and is the first choice among classical trombone players. I use to describe the difference in sound by comparing the sound of a jazz or pop singer with an opera singer ́s, although the difference is not that big on small and large bore trombones. Continue reading