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 →
Holiday season is here, and in my case that means a healthy break from my dear friend mr. Small Bore Shires. I have no trouble leaving for vacation without bringing my trombone. I don´t know if that is a good or bad thing…probably good. At least I use to bring my mouthpiece, and plan to play a little every day. That usually means that I find it hidden deep down in my bag one of the last days of the vacation. This is followed by a controlled panic, and I usually start buzzing at this point. 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.
Pentatonic scales are useful for many things, including working on your doodle chops. You will expand your range, build up strength and really get those pentatonic scales into your slide arm.
No secret formula here, just plain hard (and rewarding) work. Make sure that you play the scales in a tempo that you can master. Every attack should be clear, and make sure the difference between the doo-attacks and dl-attacks are minimal. Continue reading →
I like pentatonic scales. They tend to fit the trombone quite well, and are in general useful for many things such as bass lines, blues themes and funky horn section phrases. And of course in improvisation. This is probably the best scale to start with if you are new to improvising, since it will sound melodically any way you play it. I have written about how to use pentatonic scales in improvisation here.
This is no improvisation exercise. It is a simple trombone flexibility exercise, based on the pentatonic scale. The idea is to start each phrase on a low note, and working on expanding intervals with ease. Don´t try to fight the instrument when you work on these patterns. That never help your trombone playing. Try to blow as relaxed as possible, bouncing up from the low notes. Continue reading →
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 →
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. Continue reading →