As I have written before, brass playing is not about using a lot of power and forcing your lips to vibrate by compressing as much air through your system as possible. It is all about finding the most relaxed way to move a lot of air through your instrument, while keeping your (correct) embouchure in place. These simple exercises should point you in that direction.
The breathing exercises
The two breathing exercises described in the video below are great for brass players. They will help you open up your throat for free air flow, as well as relax your upper body for a more optimal breathing.
The first one described in the video is the Breath Of Fire (go find your inner dragon), and it is a great way to kick start your breathing before playing.
The Root Lock is a tremendeous way to release tensions in your abdominal region. It might make you feel a bit light headed since you force some extra oxygen to your brain, so don´t overdo it. Deep sighs have a similar effect, but I don´t find it quite as effective as the root lock. A good fast fix though.
This is the trombone embouchure article I wish I had read many years ago (a bit hard though, since I had not written it then…). It would literally have saved me for years of struggles. I hope that you will benefit from it now instead, potentially saving you from a lot of trombone agony and brass pains.
Don´t blow at your trombone
Have you ever thought about the best way of getting air out of your lungs (or wherever you keep it) and through your trombone? This is the single most important thing to get right for brass players. Once you master the task of effortlessly getting the air out of your body and through your horn, you will be able to focus on playing music. Getting this 90% right is not all that hard, and then you will spend the rest of your life perfecting those last 10%.
In order to turn that precious air into beautiful trombone music, there are three obstacles you have to clear: Continue reading →
This simple little mouthpiece exercise is actually quite effective. I recently had one of those days where both breathing and embouchure felt a bit locked in. I used these patterns to kickstart both, and was impressed with the result after just few minutes.
This brass breathing tip is almost self explanatory. It is about the sensation of letting the air pass tour lips as slowly as possible while playing with a rich, full sound. I will not claim to be the first to use the expression slow air, since that would be clearly on the wrong side of the truth, but it is good, so I will give you my take on it.
Focusing on slow air will help you relax while playing and make your throat wide open. Fighting your instrument will never end well. Ever wondered how top brass players can look so relaxed while playing technically challenging music? The truth is that they would not be top players in the first place if they did not have the ability to play with ease. Continue reading →
Forget about embouchure, strength, flexibility and scales, if you don’t get the breathing in place, nothing else does´t matter. You probably know about a good-lip-day. I would say that 9,3 out of 10 times, it is actually a good-breathing-day. If you make sure airflow is relaxed and controlled, your lips will have perfect working conditions.
Have you tried not playing for a while, maybe a week or so? And then picking up the horn and to your surprise it is actually responding quite well. This is because you have had some time to loose some bad breathing habits, and play more relaxed than you usually do. Hold on to that feeling! (Problem is you will only play well for 5 minutes, since you lost a lot of strength…)
This simple, fast and fun (yeah, right) exercise will help you gain control over your breathing and improve free flow. 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 →
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 →
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 →
How to improve your trombone playing with 5 minutes of theory (and a lot more practice…)
or The only way to get to the next level of brass playing
or Get that music-school-trombone-sound out of my life!!!
or The truth about one of the worst and most common bad habits among brass players
Are you convinced that you continue reading this? Good, then let us get down to business! This post is about attack and tonguing for trombone players and ALL other brass players. This post is about how to discover one of the most common bad habits among brass players – and more important – how to get rid of it. Continue reading →
Monday morning in the practice room? This is a great little exercise to get the chops going when you first pick up your horn that day. The key to all brass playing is in the air flow, and the key to a good air flow can often be found by working on a full, overtone rich sound in the medium to medium low range.
In this exercisee, I focus on F (below key hole-C) an augmented fourth down to B.* Many players have a hard time getting this register to sound as good as the rest of the middle range. One of the reasons is that the sound waves of the fifth in any given slide position doesn´t fit the instrument as goods as the fundamental on the same position (for example F versus Bb on 1st position). Continue reading →