Practical Suggestion to Improve Your Trombone Playing #3

TrombonePractice every day
so that you learn to control the elements also known as the “Five T’s for Trombone”. Try to make each one better every day.

  • TONE. Air makes a good sound. Breathe so that the lower abdominal muscles work for You. Take air in as though you are going to read a long sentence loudly. When air is inhaled properly, the lower abdomen (the area below and above the waistline/belt line) expands. Don’t make vocal noises when you inhale. Relax your lips and draw air in though your mouth. When air is exhaled properly, the abdominal muscles are firm but not tight. Give yourself plenty of time to breathe. Watch the breathing process in the mirror so that you appear to breathe normally and naturally.Remember, the embouchure is more than buzzing lips. It involves the support of all surrounding facial muscles and depends upon the freedom and flexibility of the red portion of the lips. The facial muscles that surround the lips must be firm and must remain still while playing. Do not stretch the mouth or pucker. Think of starting from an “M” position. The red portion of the lips must be allowed to vibrate freely to achieve a beautiful, rich sound. This means that you must not press the mouthpiece hard against the lip. Above all, do not let the mouthpiece press excessively or bite into the upper lip. This common problem causes many young players to have a small, thin sound. Use syllables as you exhale the air—upper register “ee,” middle register “ah,” lower register “oh.” Use more air in the upper and lower register. Use of the syllables makes the back of the tongue and throat cooperate to make a clearer sound. Caution: The corners of the mouth must remain firm, the jaw must not wobble up and down, the jaw must not be tight, and the tongue must not move at all after the beginning of the initial attack.
  • TONGUING. Find the correct place to tongue. Don’t hit the tongue against the air. Instead, touch the air stream using a whispered “tu” syllable. The tongue does not start the tone. It shapes the beginning on the sound. Likewise, don’t stop the sound with the tongue—“tut” tonguing. Learn to feel when the tongue is working correctly and hear when the sound is articulated well. Don’t tongue too far back and don;t tongue between the teeth. Practice tonguing in a controlled/regimental, slow exercise every day.
  • TIMING. Learn to start and stop notes on time—on demand. Breathe in tempo and plan the exact point at which you will stop the sound. Watch the conductor and breathe with her/his preparatory beat. The accuracy of your playing depends upon the timing of each breath. When you are playing by yourself, tap your foot or set the metronome. As you play, make sure that you understand all of the rhythms and that you can count them. As you play, think  about the subdivision of the beat so that passages are accurat and musical.
  • TUNING. Learn your trombone. Know where every note is played. Use a hand position that is relaxed and that allows you to easily and unnoticeably adjust the pitch. To find the pitch in the correct position, look at the slide, using your peripheral vision, and feel or “map” the placement of your arm and hand. Practice tuning so that you can eliminated beats in the sound. The tuning problems of your instrument must be learned and remembered when you are playing alone or playing in an ensemble. Learn to adjust to other players in an ensemble. Learn to adjust to other players by adjusting the slide. The left ear has a “hotline” to the right hand if that hand is not too tight/stiff to respond.
  • TECHNIQUE. Be able to play in all registers with absolute confidence. In addition to playing scales, practice lip slurs in patterns. Know how your trombone will react when you move from one note to another. Use range extending  exercises.