Two simple but highly effective breathing exercises for brass players

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.

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    Trombone lesson: Bouncing ‘bone and large intervals

    Being able to switch registers rapidly and with ease, is a key to a relaxed trombone technique. In this trombone lesson, I give you some advice on how to achieve this, combined with five pages of exercises. Before you download and  print the free sheet music, please read the full article. This will help you get the most out of the exercises.

    The distance between high notes and low notes are only a few millimeters. Moving the cheek a few millimeters down, and increasing the distance between the lips another few millimetres is basically all it takes to make a leap of an octave. The problem is, that many of us brass players (my self included if I don´t focus while playing) tend to engage too many muscles and strange parts of our body when we play large intervals.

    Playing a low note with a big sound is only possible with large opening between your lips, and by moving your cheek slightly down and out. Air compression will be low. Besides making sure that the embouchure is stable, playing low notes should be a very relaxed task, and your focus should be on moving a lot of air.

    Playing higher notes requires a smaller lip opening and a higher cheek position. This will automatically lead to a higher air compression.

    This is a really important notice: Correct high note embouchure combined with an open throat will trigger higher air compression. Increasing compression will NOT trigger correct high note embouchure or air flow. Continue reading

      Phrasing essentials and sight-reading

      Making music is about much more than hitting the right note. Actually, hitting the right note is the least of it. After years of teaching and conducting musicians on all levels, this is the formula I have come up with in order to make music happen as soon as possible. This is of course not only a trombone lesson, but is true for all instruments.

      Sight-reading tactics

      When you play a piece of sheet music for the first time (or first few times), you probably won’t be able to get everything right. This is human and you won’t get shot for playing wrong notes. You might get shot for playing bad music though, so this is my approach to ensemble playing in general and sight-reading new music. Focus on: Continue reading

        Flow and pitch on mouthpiece

        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!
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