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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningPractice Room(Moderators: blast, WaltTrombone) Sounding like a bass trombone player
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jib
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« on: Oct 07, 2004, 04:58AM »

Let me first give you a bit of a background on my playing. Besides messing round on friends tenor horns once or twice, I've only ever played a bass trombone.

However, while at high school due to a lack of trombone players in the school, I probably played first bone about 85% of the time. But I have had a fair bit of experience playing bass in other bands.

My teacher has recently been telling me I have to sound like a bass trom player playing a bass, not a tenor player on a bass.

So, my question, how do I sound more like a bass trombone player?

Absolutely any comments will be helpful!!!
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CJ

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« Reply #1 on: Oct 07, 2004, 07:00AM »

1.  Ask your teacher what he means.
2.  Examine your equipment.  Is your mpc a bass mpc?
3.  Listen!  Emulate other bass trombonist's sounds.
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« Reply #2 on: Oct 07, 2004, 07:15AM »

this one has got me thinking. do i sound like a bass trbn player or a tenor player playing around w/a bass trbn? :/

i think air and embouchure control are the two most important things. bass trbn is a BIG instrument and controlling it takes strength and control. a good open bass register ( and below) especially in the valves is probably important. you don't want to be sounding week and feeble. :) you also don't want to be too overpowering.

during a concert week this summer with about 15 different concert bands playing, there were a few who had bass trbn players who ruined the whole performance.  so, air, embouchure and balance make the three most important things. :)

depending on the type of music you're playing you'll probably also have a different style of playing -- in the concert band our conductor wants me to no stick out like a sore thumb (except for a few places which he tells me explicitly). so i try to fit in between the tubas and the bone section. without sounding like a slide-tuba. Evil

big-band and small ensemble playing is then again something totally different.

otherwise: get some recordings of great bass-trbnists (ben van dijk, doug yeo, george roberts, phil teele, ...) and listen to them play. that should help some.

that was a stream of random thoughts that sort of fit the topic. hope it helps and that i'm not too far off the mark.

regards,
sb.
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« Reply #3 on: Oct 07, 2004, 07:44AM »

I have always felt that the Bass Trombone, in the mid to upper register, should be indistinguishable from the tenors.  This is purely opinion. On a march, for example, when all three parts are unison, there should be a unified sound, not "two tenors and something else".  When you get into the low register ("cash register") it's a different story.  Here the Bass Trombone has to sound like a Bass Trombone--not a like low tenor, definitely not like a tuba.  The sound should be big and full, even when played pianissimo.

Experienced composers and arrangers realize the potential of the Bass Trombone and write for it accordingly.  Poor composers and arrangers cut and paste the bassoon/bass clarinet/bari sax/bass trombone/tuba part.

Some modern composers who write good parts for Bass Trombone are (the late) Claude T. Smith, (the late) John Barnes Chance, Alfred Reed, and James Hosay.

In the big band, the Bass Trombone wears several hats.  You need to, at any given time:

*blend with the trombone section
*blend with the brass section
*blend with the bari sax
*blend with the bass
*perform as a solist

Each of these situations requires an adjustment in performing style.  The main challenges are to listen, comprehend your function, and perform accordingly.  The Bass Trombone can be every bit as exciting as the lead Trumpet, but only in the correct dosage.  It shouldn't sound like a muffled euphonium or a runaway chain saw.

Sidebar: A Euphonium major I went to college with was always accused of sounding like a trombone player.  When he started doubling on trombone so he could play in the jazz ensemble, he was accused of sounding like a euphonium player.  Go figure!
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Mike Suter
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« Reply #4 on: Oct 07, 2004, 09:33AM »

Other than the slide, bass and tenor trombone have little in common.

Think on that for a second . . .

I realize our overseas buddies will remind me that since we play our basses in the 'wrong key' that my statement is off base, but I never listen to them anyway. And my friends in academia will tell me there's no difference in the way the two are taught, so I'm wrong in their eyes as well . . .

Wait . . . I have no friends in academia. The overwhelming majority of them don't know beans (that's a euphemism) about bass trombone. Problem solved.

Bass trombone is as much about state of mind as it is equipment. The listening experience is vital to the development of a proper bass trombone sound because it identifies the differences between it and the tenor trombone.

The listening experience is also vital to the development of a proper bass trombone 'attitude' (for lack of a highfalootin' word) because it identifies those differences between it and the tenor trombone 'atitude'.

Please note that I've not lapsed into any sophomoric 'my horn is better'n your horn' crap. I'm not talking about 'better'. I'm simply noting that there are basic differences between the way the two instruments are approached, the way they are played, and the way they ultimately sound.

If you want to have a better grasp of the way you want to sound on bass trombone, listen to more bass trombone music - lots and lots of it. Get that sound in your head. Then practice to emulate that sound. The converse is true for bass trombone players who wish to have a more realistic sound on tenor trombone.

In short: I can't say enough for the listening experience. It's perhaps the most underused pedogogical tool. One that's disappeared from most courses of study for some reason unknown to me. I honestly don't know why this has happened. But we need to start it up again.

Just my $34,536.16 (nuthin' I say is worth only 2)

MS
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« Reply #5 on: Oct 07, 2004, 09:44AM »

You go, Mike! Good!

Pardon me, I have a rant I need to get rid of. :shuffle:

What is it with this fixation on not sounding like a slide-tuba? Of COURSE you're not going to sound like a tuba. It's a different instrument. Getting a good bass-trombone sound (and working on just about all other issues as well) does not rely on how NOT to sound, but how TO sound. You have to create an image of how you want to sound and go for it. Trying to replace your sound with how not to sound is trying to change from you current sound to, well, nothing. It doesn't work at all! Mad

Okay, rant done. Yeah, RIGHT.
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« Reply #6 on: Oct 07, 2004, 10:54AM »

All good posts!  I like Mike's first statement, reflecting on that I realize that I have to play bass and tenor with a different mindset, or I run the risk of "playing bass like a tenor player" or vice versa.  When I successfully switch my mindset when I switch horns, getting the appropriate sound in my head, I'm at least moderately successful in getting that sound out the bell.  And if I fail to adapt the appropriate mindset - you don't want to be in front of my bell, anymore than I want to be behind it - things just don't work right.

I also like Andrew's rant on "slide tuba".  When I hear the term I think first of how it was applied to me while in college rather than the popular meaning.  I doubled bass bone and tuba, in jazz band, and had to occasionally play in a tuba ensemble.  Some of the tuba players began referring to me as the "slide tuba" player, not becuase my bass sounded like a tuba, but becuase I played in that range as well as sometimes playing tuba, so although I was primarily a trombonist the tuba section adopted me if you will.  So while it's a negative term to most, it was first a positive term to me and I have to adjust to today's common meaning.
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« Reply #7 on: Oct 07, 2004, 02:34PM »

When I first commenced lessons with Ron Bryans at the Guildhall School of Music in London, he explained to me that I was playing the bass trombone like a large tenor trombone. He then went on to elucidate by pointing out that the principal differences on the bass trombone are in the method of breathing and tonguing, the former being probably quite obvious, but the latter rather less so. Indeed, my whole approach to the instrument changed completely once I had been given a solid grounding in how to tongue notes correctly on the bass trombone.

Unlike the tenor trombone, the bass trombone spends 90% of its time in a register that can very easily sound blatant and too "in your face". This is mainly due to the tonguing being too harsh, which is commonplace among tenor trombonists who dabble a bit in bass trombone playing. There really is a substantial difference in both breathing and tonguing once you get used to the bass trombone and these only come with practice. I used the Arban cornet method and just transposed the studies according to the register I needed to focus on. There are plenty of things one can accomplish even with simple means like the Arban cornet studies. Try it and see for yourself; just remember that it's all in the breathing and tonguing.
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« Reply #8 on: Oct 07, 2004, 02:53PM »

Mike's post is on the money. You have to have the idea in the head before it will come out of the horn. ANY decent bass trombone can be made to sound great, so don't worry about the tools. Listen, listen and then listen.
If I was asked to suggest one recorded player to listen to, it would have to be George Roberts- whatever style you want to play in. 'Meet Mr Roberts' and Nelson Riddle's 'The Joy of Living'. Those albums contain all the information you want to know about bass trombone sound.
Chris Stearn.
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« Reply #9 on: Oct 07, 2004, 05:13PM »

Chris,

You couldn't have picked a better model or a better album, which illustrates your GREAT point----George Roberts---"Meet Mr. Roberts"

I have been using that model for about  44 years!

I just heard a Dean Martin track, used on some TV commercial, here in the USA, and it must have been a Nelson Riddle cut, as there was George, sounding just like George! What a sound!  Way cool
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« Reply #10 on: Oct 07, 2004, 09:29PM »

I don't think there's any worries on the equipments side of things, I brought an Edwards a few months ago now and play on a Schilke 58.

Recording wise, I love the opening couple of bars of Doug Yeo's Proclamation, that sound is awesome.

What my teacher really wants is for me to get that extra 'zing' of a bass trombone, especially with the triggers. More clarity with the sound, that kind of thing.

Ed, when Ron Bryans told you that you were playing like on a large bore tenor, can you remember any specific exercises or ideas he gave you?
I play the Arbans a bit in different octaves, so i'll be doing a bit more of that.
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Edward_Solomon
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« Reply #11 on: Oct 08, 2004, 12:23AM »

Quote from: "Andrew Cook"
Ed, when Ron Bryans told you that you were playing like on a large bore tenor, can you remember any specific exercises or ideas he gave you?
I play the Arbans a bit in different octaves, so i'll be doing a bit more of that.


Yes, Ron's advice was to relax the tongue and effectively make it rather lazy compared with the tenor. Don't strike the attack of a note in the same way as on the tenor because that is too blatant. He made me attack notes with the tongue in a different position; instead of tu with the tongue between the teeth or thereabouts, he made me move the tip of the tongue back towards the palette and then produce more of a thu sound. We spent a very long time working on the first few Arban studies aiming constantly for a plump, round (yet focused) sound at a steady mezzo forte level. He explained that as far as he was concerned, staccato doesn't really exist on the bass trombone, at least not in the same way as on the tenor because that is when one is most likely to sound too direct. Having said that, the entire sound of the trombone section in staccato hinges on the lowest part, so the bass (or contrabass) trombone is critical in determining the overall effect in staccato writing. This is perhaps less of a problem in big band playing, but in orchestral music, the sound can very easily descend into something that can slice bread at 200 paces, so one must be careful to cover the sound and prevent it from being too blatant.

As I said previously, it's all in the breath and tongue control. Easy does it!
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« Reply #12 on: Oct 08, 2004, 12:13PM »

Hi All,

Responding to Andrew Cook's question regarding specific exercises for bass trombone, Ed Solmon wrote: << . . . Ron's (Bryans) advice was to relax the tongue and effectively make it rather lazy compared with the tenor. Don't strike the attack of a note in the same way as on the tenor because that is too blatant. He made me attack notes with the tongue in a different position . . . We spent a very long time working on the first few Arban studies aiming constantly for a plump, round (yet focused) sound at a steady mezzo forte level. He explained that as far as he was concerned, staccato doesn't really exist on the bass trombone, at least not in the same way as on the tenor because that is when one is most likely to sound too direct . . . the entire sound of the trombone section in staccato hinges on the lowest part, so the bass (or contrabass) trombone is critical in determining the overall effect in staccato writing . . . in orchestral music, the sound can very easily descend into something that can slice bread at 200 paces, so one must be careful to cover the sound and prevent it from being too blatant. >>

I couldn't agree more. One must remember that the bass trombone is a very loud instrument - louder than the tenor trombone (I'm not talking about the players [don't get yer macho panties in a twist] just the machine itself). And the latest generation of bass trombones are louder yet. This is supposed to be so that we can play SOFTER yet still fill our proper niche. You know; not KILL ourselves. But instead, too many dopes are turning these louder instruments into weapons. Stupid!

I'm certainly no advocate of the quiet, civil, PolCor bass trombone. But neither do I favor the overbearing foghorns that I hear way too often.

Those of us who play musically, contributing to the overall success of the piece, always have to be aware of our volume. We still push the "kill" button once in a while - it's part of our job - it's a recognized part of the bass trombone personae. Composers & arrangers write to it. BUT NOT EVERY D*** NOTE!!!


<< This is perhaps less of a problem in big band playing >>

Nope. It's even worse because of the terrible state of bass trombone pedigogy in our schools and colleges over here. Undereducated trombone instructors are advocating the very same 'blattiness' that we pros are fighting against because they simply don't know any better (and don't seem to have the gumption to research). In a large - and growing - number of cases, school, college, and hobby jazz bands are degenerating into nothing less than "pep" bands. Loud, louder, and loudest. Yeah, that's musical. Add a basketball hoop and their concerts would be perfect.

My main interest in music is clearly jazz, and I applaud the IAJE for their efforts in trying to find a logical way to teach jazz. But if instructors for all the other instruments are as uninformed as the general community of trombone instructors, it looks to be a losing battle.

MS
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« Reply #13 on: Oct 08, 2004, 01:14PM »

Ed's tounging advice is right up there with all the "right sound in your head" model; George Roberts, Doug Yeo and Bill Reichenbach are excellent models.  Part of the mindset change I have to do from tenor is to keep my tounge flatter to keep from having a harsh, explosive attack, especially in the low range.  I really don't think syllables much, but a "k" sound helps keep the tounge flatter or lower in mouth.  If I remember correctly Kleinhammer/Yeo refer to this in Mastering the Trombone.
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« Reply #14 on: Oct 08, 2004, 07:18PM »

Quote from: "Ed_Solomon"

Yes, Ron's advice was to relax the tongue and effectively make it rather lazy compared with the tenor. Don't strike the attack of a note in the same way as on the tenor because that is too blatant. He made me attack notes with the tongue in a different position; instead of tu with the tongue between the teeth or thereabouts, he made me move the tip of the tongue back towards the palette and then produce more of a thu sound.



I usually tongue in the area where the teeth join the top of my mouth.
So in everyone's opinion should I be adjusting this or not?
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« Reply #15 on: Oct 09, 2004, 08:25AM »

Andrew, there's really no way we can know what specific adjustments you should or shouldn't make - we can't hear you!

I really think the best advice is to listen to as many great bass trombone players as you can. Fortunately, you can now get your hands on lots of excellent recordings. That wasn't so much the case even 15 years ago.

Check out Doug Yeo's website - www.yeodoug.com
If you look here http://www.yeodoug.com/resources/text/yeores.html you'll see downlodable mP3s of the audition tape Doug made to invited to the BSO audition in 1984, and if you scroll down a bit, there's a link to his first amazing pass at a comprehensive bass trombone discography.

I'll recommend a couple of discs in addition to those mentioned above:

First, you might as well have Bass Hits, a collection of bass trombone solos by Eric Ewazen, performed by several fantastic players, including Dave Taylor, Charlie Vernon, John Rojak, and Stefan Sanders (I might be forgetting someone). Now, as much fun as Ewazen's music is to play, a whole disc of it is a bit much...but it's melodic, so you can really hear the kinds of sounds and articulations these players make, and where else can you collect the sounds of so many great bass trombone players in one disc?

If I had to pick one player's recording as a straightforward, comprehensive model of how to play the horn, I'd pick Randall Hawes' Melodrama. He makes a big, beautiful, centered sound with a wide range of articulation and color, and plays very expressively and virtuosically all over the instrument. He also does it all on equipment that more-or-less normal humans can play.

Now, all that said, listen to as much as you can get your hands on - if you are at a University with a music library you shouldn't be bashful about requesting that they acquire some of this, by the way - but don't be afraid to be critical of it! Pick and choose what you like from various players, and discard what you don't. There are great players, with great recordings out, that I don't particularly want to sound like, and usually it's because of some specific criticism I have of them. I know I'm being picky, but that's OK! I can still appreciate what's good about their playing while finding something I think I can do better. I have to create my own model for playing, and if I keep working at it, my own playing gets closer and closer to that model. That's what it's all about as far as I'm concerned.
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« Reply #16 on: Oct 12, 2004, 04:44AM »

OK, thanks for all the suggestion everyone
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« Reply #17 on: Oct 13, 2004, 08:57AM »

While writing about the listening experience, Gabe said << don't be afraid to be critical >>

And I agree. The question I ask when I'm listening critically is: "How did he/she do that?" And then I try my best to learn how to "do that", even if I don't intend to add that particular talent to my own playing.

There are plenty of top level bass trombonists that I do not want to sound like. There are plenty of top level bass trombonists whose playing I do not admire. But that doesn't stop me from learning how to emulate the best or most important parts of their playing - just in case some idiot producer asks me to play a certain line like "so-and-so." - a producer who should have hired "so-and-so" in the first place.

Find what's best and/or important in every bass trombonists playing and learn how to emulate it.

Listen, listen, listen.
Learn, learn, learn.

Mike Suter
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« Reply #18 on: Oct 13, 2004, 08:02PM »

Quote from: "Andrew Cook"
My teacher has recently been telling me I have to sound like a bass trom player playing a bass, not a tenor player on a bass.
I'm not so sure about that advice.  It really depends on what he means.  As others have said, if he means emulating a truly great, inspirational bass trombonist like Roberts, Yeo, Reichenbach, or many others at that world class level, then certainly we'd all agree with that advice.

If he means, "Forget about technique.  Your real job is to fart our low blasts, playing an octave below and a half beat behind where you are supposed to be.", then I'd passionately oppose that point of view.  I trust your teacher means the former, but it seems a solid majority of the young bass trombones have an ideal of the latter.

I think I might put it a little differently than your teacher stated it.  To me, the goal is to have the fullness of sound in the lower register expected of the bass trombone while having the fluidity, accuracy, and grace expected of a tenor trombonist.  That is a hard job.  When played like that, bass trombone is quite a challenge.

In other words, that extra valve doesn't exempt you from playing with dynamics, phrasing, balance, sensitivity, and emotion.  Make it sound good to people besides other bass trombonists.
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« Reply #19 on: Oct 13, 2004, 10:27PM »

Quote from: "Andrew Cook"
Let me first give you a bit of a background on my playing. Besides messing round on friends tenor horns once or twice, I've only ever played a bass trombone.

However, while at high school due to a lack of trombone players in the school, I probably played first bone about 85% of the time. But I have had a fair bit of experience playing bass in other bands.

My teacher has recently been telling me I have to sound like a bass trom player playing a bass, not a tenor player on a bass.

So, my question, how do I sound more like a bass trombone player?

Absolutely any comments will be helpful!!!


Have you asked your teacher what he meant by the statement? That would really be a better place to get the answer to what he was refering to.
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