Here are some of my thoughts on a variety of topics related to performance and practice. I believe that progress occurs when we are on point and focused on the desired product. Feel free to contact me if you would like my insight on a particular issue!
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
Focused practice time on the following areas will help you improve very quickly. Remember, it’s much easier to progress if you don’t need to “unlearn” bad habits. This type of practice is “money in the bank” to be relied upon when performing ensemble or solo literature. Spending 10-20 minutes/day on each of these fundamentals will do wonders for your playing. You will find that you are much more confident and secure with your instrument. Don’t put it off – get started today!
Posture and Breathing:
• Stand/Sit very tall – allow for unrestricted breathing
• The air is always either going in or coming out –never stopped
• Like a balloon: fill up all over – keep it relaxed and natural
• CONSTANT & EVEN
• Stretching will promote better posture – which enhances air efficiency
Exercises to develop proper breathing:
1. Deep Panting Breath: Take a full breath and exhale the air as quickly and vigorously as possible 10 times. Repeat twice. Remember when exhaling to form a proper embouchure in order to simulate playing the instrument.
2. Gentle Breath: Take a nice relaxed breath and exhale evenly for 30 seconds. Repeat twice.
Increase by increments of 5 seconds every 2 days. Remember to expend all of your air by the end.
3. Countdown: Don’t let your air go – MOVE IT!
• In for 1 – Out for 4 (4 times)
• In for 1 – Out for 3 (4 times)
• In for 1 – Out for 2 (4 times)
• In for 1 – Out for 1 (4 times)
• ALWAYS PLAY WITH YOUR VERY BEST SOUND – NO MATTER WHAT!
• Keep an "“open"” mind
• Make sure and warm-up your “money register”
• What words describe the sound you want?
Ways to improve tone quality:
1. Mouthpiece Buzzing: Scales, Intervals, and Simple Songs
When buzzing, strive for full sound between notes with no tongue
2. Long Tones: Remington Exercises
Add slight dynamic motion for each set.
3. Listening to great musicians (on your instrument and others)
4. Develop a “sound concept” and make every note match the sound in your head
5. Strive for Consistency of Tone, Articulation, and Note Shape on EVERY NOTE
(REMINGTON – LONG TONES | ARBAN EXERCISES – FIRST STUDIES #11-50)
Range & Dynamics:
• Know your limits and use this as a point of reference
• Start with what you CAN do!
• Expand your comfort zone in each direction – a little bit EVERY DAY
• Once again – ALWAYS WITH YOUR BEST SOUND!
• Balanced playing needs soft & loud; high & low
Suggested Air Concepts for Improving Range & Dynamics:
For Louder Dynamics/Lower Range: For Softer Dynamics/Upper Range:
Aperture opens Aperture shrinks
Larger air column ← Always Cylindrical → Laser-like air column
Slower air speed ← Always Constant → Faster air speed
Tongue Speed & Articulation:
• Steady air stream – no matter how fast or slow
• Tongue cannot stop air – it “rides” or “touches” the air
• Surfboard & Wave mental image
• Use a metronome to gradually increase speed and clarity of tonuging
Tonguing and Dynamics:
• Louder = less tongue (think tOH or dOH)
• Softer = slightly more tongue (think Toh or Doh)
• Middle range: tongue should strike behind upper front teeth
• Upper range: tongue should strike further back on roof of mouth
• Lower range: tongue can come SLIGHTLY between teeth for crisp articulation (think THaw)
Style & Variety:
• Depends on style of music: Classical = broad/full; Jazz = light/crisp
Must practice all styles on a daily basis
• Basic categories of articulation are
• Detached: staccato; marcato; accented; unmarked
• Connected: tenuto and legato
Legato tonguing is one of the most difficult and crucial aspects of trombone performance. It is VERY important to master not only this type of articulation, but the necessary slide coordination that comes with it.
(ARBAN EXERCISES – ARTICULATION #19-38)
Lip Slurs & Basic Flexibility:
• Natural slurs increase musical expression
• “SMOOTH AS SILK”
• Work in groups of 2, 3, 4, and 5 – in each position/valve combination
• Keep the intensity of the airstream between pitches – don’t “relax” the air
• Always choose quality over speed
(REMINGTON EXERCISES – SLURS & FLEXIBILITY)
The three tools you should use in your practice EVERY DAY are:
METRONOME: Keep an accurate sense of pulse in everything you do
TUNER/DRONE: Pitch must be addressed – learn to hear in tune vs. out
RECORDER: Listen to your playing EVERY DAY to identify weak areas
THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS TO IMPROVEMENT
Regular practice is the ONLY way to gain consistency in your playing. You cannot cram for an audition/chair placement test. The sooner you began to establish good practice habits, the better!
Here are a few basic practice philosophies to which I ascribe:
Be smart – Don’t try to cram everything into one practice session. Make sure to spend an appropriate amount of time on each assignment.
Go slow – It only takes a second to make a bad habit, but it takes a year to break it. If you want to get better slowly, practice fast. If you want to get better fast, practice slowly.
Concentrate – It is better to have 30 minutes of solid, concentrated practice than to have 2 hours of unfocused rambling on the instrument. This is why it is so important to know exactly what you are going to work on. If you find that your mind is wandering while practicing, take a break. Get a drink of water or go for a walk. Come back later, and regroup for another session. This is better than simply going through the motions.
Attack weaknesses – It never fails to amaze me at how much time students spend practicing areas of fundamental technique that are already at a high level. In order to avoid embarrassment, many students will avoid working on playing deficiencies. It is important to understand that focusing on your weaknesses is the only way to make significant progress. Identify your weaknesses and incorporate exercises into your daily routine that focus on them.
Scales – Learning scales is essential to mastering the technique of your instrument. Practice scales in a musical fashion – with phrasing in mind. Remember to play with your best sound and pay close attention to accurate intonation. Once the scales are comfortable, vary the speed, dynamics, and articulation. Remember – scales are usually performed BEFORE any etudes. As the saying goes – You never get a second chance to make a first impression!
Teaching & Practice Concepts