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Trombone lesson

Learn about the trombone from an expert musician with the U.S. Marine Band. Includes exercises for posture, breathing, Rochut etudes, and articulation.

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Video transcript

- I thought what might be helpful today was that we discuss a little bit how we relate playing in the ensemble to what we do when we're alone in the practice room. And there's a number of ways we can do that. The first, and one of the things we concentrate on in the marine band as we're playing, especially when we have a long taxing rehearsal or a concert, is to try to remain as relaxed as you can. It can often be difficult, especially for us. We're sitting in uniform. We're trying to look professional. You have to kind of switch that part of your brain off, and think about the things you need to do to remain relaxed. So one of the things I like to do is, especially deals with how I sit and how I hold my trombone. So the first thing we see a lot of, especially with young players, is we see people sitting and they really are gripping the trombone. They're working very hard. So one of the things we think about, and I think about all the time, is to sit up with good posture. You don't have to be rigid, but definitely sit up straight. And we put our horn up, and one of the key things about this is that we don't bring our face to the trombone. We put the trombone up to our face. So I'm sitting and I bring the horn up to my face ... Second thing is when we breathe, we like to try to do so in a relaxed way. I find a lot of times the harder I try to breathe, the less air I take in. So for instance, if I take a breath, (breathes in forcefully) I feel very tight. I'm trying really hard, which makes it seem like you're doing the right thing. But often times if I can relax a little bit, (breathes in calmly) and take an easy breath in, I get a much better result and I don't have all this tension up here when I play. One of the other things with the band music we're playing is it relates to a common type of playing that trombone players tend to practice a lot. We do what's called a Rochut Etudes, almost everyday. Most people start that when they're in high school. And Rochuts sound a little bit like this: (plays lyrical melody) So they're very lyrical, easy-sounding, vocal etudes. They were originally written for singers to practice. And if you listen to something like the Holst for Suite in E flat, the beginning starts, it sounds just like a Rochut etude. (excerpt from Holst Suite in E-Flat ) To me, those things relate to each other very well, and if I can play in the band like I play in the practice room, then it goes a long way towards keeping a healthy sound coming out of the trombone. And I try to do that whether I'm playing inside, in SOUSA Hall with the Marine band, or whether I'm out on the parade deck on ceremony, or a long funeral, or something where I'm playing outside and I have to play loud all the time. I try to keep that relaxed feeling in my playing as much as I can. One of the other things we do a lot of work on here in the band, and within our sections is articulation. So everyone knows when I say articulation, I'm talking about tonguing. And a lot of times trombone players tend to want to tongue very hard, very emphatically. And while it is important to be clear with your articulation, I think that sometimes it's easy to get too much tongue in the articulation. So one thing I do with my articulating is I concentrate on air. And it's related to what we talked about earlier with being relaxed with taking our breath in, and there's a great way to demonstrate this for any of you that want to try it, and it's when you take the back of your hand and you put it in front of your mouth, and you simply articulate like you're playing your instrument. (breathy articulating sound) And what we don't want to feel is (forceful articulating sound). If you try very hard to get a really clear tongue, you can feel the slap of the air against the back of your hand. And I like to have it feel much easier than that (gentle articulating sound) so that when I put my trombone up to play (smooth repeated note) we want to avoid (forceful repeated note) where I'm really getting a hard tongue at the beginning. So the air behind the tongue is what gives us some clarity to it. One of the building blocks of what we do is long tones. Most of us start practicing long tones at a very young age. And these are quite possibly one of the most simple exercises you can ever do. (long tones) So the goal is to start the note clearly, and just maintain the sound, and have a nice ending to the note that doesn't dip in pitch, or doesn't rise in pitch, and where we have that great sound carrying through the entire note. Keeping a great sound throughout an entire concert is probably the biggest challenge we have.