This is a guest article, written by PhD student Matthias Heyne from University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. I find his thoughts very interesting, and would recommend that you answer his questionnaire and help him getting started with the project!
The Influence of First Language on Playing Brass Instruments
by Matthias Heyne – University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
First of all I would like to thank Anders Larson for offering to let me write a short article to appear on this website!
I am currently getting started on my PhD project within the Linguistics Department at the University of Canterbury. With my research, I’ll try to find out whether the sounds of one’s native language influence the playing of brass instruments. Drawing upon personal experience as a trombone player (and as many fellow brass players have assured me), there seem to be notable differences observable in the style of playing which seem to correspond to the players’ language backgrounds. Potential differences in playing styles may be due to differences in the consonant systems of languages as well as vowel systems. Continue reading
Using vowels to improve and optimize your trombone embouchure
I have written a lot about about air flow and keeping the throat wide open while playing trombone (and other brass instruments). Here is a really cool trick to improve your embouchure and make sure that you get the most out of your efforts. When you get it right, you will probably experience that your playing will be a lot more effortless, both in the high range and low range!
Your lips are not to be compared with a guitar string that produces a higher pitch the more you stretch it!!!! This is a very common mistake, and a dead end for trombone and brass embouchure. When you get it right, you will be amazed how little effort is actually needed, regardless of the range you are playing in. Continue reading
I am very proud to be able to present my new band Elektrojazz, not once, but three times during Copenhagen Jazz Festival! The festival is the largest in the world, with 1.000 concert in 10 days, spread out all over town. Very well worth a visit!
These are the dates I play with Elektrojazz during the festival, I hope to see you there if you happen to be at Mother Earth (((Europe) Denmark)) Copenhagen))) then!
Juli 8 @4PM - Funders, Frederiksberg Rundel 3A, Frederiksberg
July 10 @10PM – Cafe Bopa, Bopa Plads, 2100 Copenhagen
July 12 @8PM feat. danish R&B queen Karen – Krudttønden Serridslevvej 2,
2100 Copenhagen Continue reading
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!
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