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Author Topic: american and europran sounds  (Read 512 times)
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bigbassbone1

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« on: Jul 11, 2017, 10:18PM »

Hi guys,
So here is a topic which I have had a few discussions and thoughts on recently. Last night I had a friendly argument with a player I am doing a gig with about what he described as differences between American trombone players and european trombone players. The argument covered several specific players and concepts of "style".

This topic kind of comes up around this website too, and I always find it a bit confusing. Firstly, I think it is a pretty radical generalization to say "American" and "european" trombone playing. I mean, within America there are so many different sounds between player to player not to mention between orchestras! Similarly within europe and Probably to a bigger extent there, seeing as we are talking about different countries that constitute europe.

My friend said to me "surely you can hear a difference in sound between Europe and America?" My answer is; i suppose so, but no more than differences that i might here between players say, in Germany and Denmark, or the L.A. Philharmonic and Chicago symphony. The more I think about it, the more to me it seems like an ameteur mentality, I mean, the only people i hear say things like "I want to sound like an American" or vice versa tend to be students who dont really know what that means.

My thought process in approaching sound is to play in tune, in time and make the most resonant sound that I can. I would wager that most classically focused trombone players from anywhere in the world would probably have that focus too, regardless of what country they come from.
Another aspect that got me thinking was that coming from Australia, we do not really have a long tradition of orchestral, or simply trombone playing, I mean, not in the same way that europe and America do. No one ever talks about the "Australian" trombone sound, and even our best players tend to study and work overseas. Case and point, no one descibes Michael Mulcahy as having  a very "Australian sound" yet he studied and grew up here. Perhaps myself having grown up and studied in Australia means that I am not aware of specific cultural practices in trombone, as the best pedagogues here come from or studied in both America and europe, so we get a mix of different teachings and playing styles that I have become desensitized to? Maybe?

Anyway, are there players around here who legimately go into a practice room with the goal of playing like an "American" or "European"? And if yes, what does that mean? (Or is it perhaps whether you play an American brand or european brand trombone?)

I remember in a lesson a while ago here, a big name player from one of the Australian symphonies said to me (when I was talking about study overseas) that when he was younger, before youtube and various avenues to hear recordings of players around the world, overseas study was a choice of going to europe to learn how to be a musician, or going to America to learn how to play trombone. There was some jest in how he said it, but it got me thinking, I had never noticed or thought about that myself.
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Burgerbob

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« Reply #1 on: Jul 11, 2017, 10:45PM »

Well, the horns are a little different now (and used to be a lot different- French and German trombones, which are still used).

Otherwise, the sounds I heard at ITF from all nationalities were great.
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bigbassbone1

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« Reply #2 on: Jul 11, 2017, 11:03PM »

Well, the horns are a little different now (and used to be a lot different- French and German trombones, which are still used).

Otherwise, the sounds I heard at ITF from all nationalities were great.

Cool, yeah I would expect them all to be great! So do you think this idea of europran and american players being different stems from literally different gear then? That makes the most sense to me.
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Burgerbob

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« Reply #3 on: Jul 11, 2017, 11:08PM »

There are definitely more differences than the instruments. But in listening, great trombonists sound like great musicians no matter where they are from.
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Bach 50B, ditto
Conn 60H, ditto
Bach 42B, Greg Black NY 1.25
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Yamaha YEP-842S, Schilke 53/59
Yamaha YBH-301MS, Hammond 12XL
bigbassbone1

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« Reply #4 on: Jul 11, 2017, 11:12PM »

There are definitely more differences than the instruments. But in listening, great trombonists sound like great musicians no matter where they are from.


I totally agree. I am just trying to put those differences  (if they exist!) Into words. Do you think you could catagirise trombone sounds based on the words european and american?
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blast

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« Reply #5 on: Jul 12, 2017, 12:58AM »

You cannot lump Europe into one group. There is a distinct British style, Dutch style, Italian style, Spanish style, German style, Russian style etc. etc. All are distinct and detectable.
All are different from the American styles (yes, plural)
None of this is primarily about equipment. It is about ways of thinking and ways of hearing.
At the conservatoire where I teach, we get students from all over the world and I notice that even after several years of study, they retain their own national style. Many Spanish students in recent years and they have a distinct approach. The Americans that come retain their basic approach.
Fine musicians can adapt and fit in with other styles... we had an American principal trombone for a few years who was a great fit. When he played solo recitals his natural style came through. In the orchestra, he blended in.
My bass trombone students listen to great players from all over the world, but tend to gravitate toward the sounds and styles they hear most often and feel most empathy with.
Thank goodness there is a difference.... the world would be more boring if all players sounded the same.
If you cannot hear differences, you need to listen more carefully.
All this is related to classical playing.... the commercial world is a different place.

Chris Stearn
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bigbassbone1

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« Reply #6 on: Jul 12, 2017, 01:37AM »

You cannot lump Europe into one group. There is a distinct British style, Dutch style, Italian style, Spanish style, German style, Russian style etc. etc. All are distinct and detectable.
All are different from the American styles (yes, plural)
None of this is primarily about equipment. It is about ways of thinking and ways of hearing.
At the conservatoire where I teach, we get students from all over the world and I notice that even after several years of study, they retain their own national style. Many Spanish students in recent years and they have a distinct approach. The Americans that come retain their basic approach.
Fine musicians can adapt and fit in with other styles... we had an American principal trombone for a few years who was a great fit. When he played solo recitals his natural style came through. In the orchestra, he blended in.
My bass trombone students listen to great players from all over the world, but tend to gravitate toward the sounds and styles they hear most often and feel most empathy with.
Thank goodness there is a difference.... the world would be more boring if all players sounded the same.
If you cannot hear differences, you need to listen more carefully.
All this is related to classical playing.... the commercial world is a different place.

Chris Stearn

This is more along the lines of what I was arguing to my colleague. I agree that I dont think you can lump all of europe or America into a singular style of playing. My argument was that whilst there are distinct styles and sounds between countries and cities (which is more specific than what my colleague was saying), there are also I believe more similarities than there are differences. I have been lucky to travel to quite a large amount of countries in europe, cities in America as well as various places in Asia. In all these places I have been lucky enough to have a lot of lessons and listen to a lot of different orchestras. Whilst it is interesting to hear small differences between countries and cities, I dont think I have ever heard an orchestra or player that I would stereotype into saying that they sounded "european" or "American". I think that is narrow minded. I believe its more interesting to hear what the similarities are rather than differences, but thats another topic.

I think its very interesting to hear you say that your international students retain a certain element of their country in their sound. Have you ever had a student from a country that doesn't boast a nation tradition in orchestral (or even just trombone) sound?
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kbiggs

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« Reply #7 on: Jul 12, 2017, 07:08AM »

To me, the different sounds and styles are the result of different schools of thought or approaches to playing the instrument and making music. I also believe that different schools of thought are influenced by many factors, like tradition and history, the tendency to use specific types of equipment, the individual professor or teacher. (I think it's also possible that due to physiological differences, some people are better suited to a particular style, school of playing, or even type of music, but that's a completely different subject--and pure opinion at this point!)

In America, we have regional styles of playing just as their are regional styles in Germany, Great Britain, etc. I notice it most in articulations: it can be tricky to match articulations, especially if the way you've been taught is different from another player. East Texas, Austin Texas (yes, they are different!), upstate New York (Eastman), New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc., all have different characteristic ways of articulating, whether it's the beginnings of notes or connections between notes.

Jay Friedman, for example (the most convenient person to name as a leader of "The Chicago School," whatever that means), has some very specific ideas about articulation, particularly legato. See his website. Some of his ideas, no doubt, are different from the ideas of other teachers here in the States, as well as teachers in Europe and countries. These different ideas or approaches allow Friedman and his students to more closely attain "the sound in the head" by deliberately choosing techniques that make it easier to achieve that particular sound. 

One of the ITF journals several years ago had interviews with Ian Bousfield and his hand-picked second, Jeremy _____ (?) shortly after each won their respective spots in the Vienna Philharmonic. Aside from the busy schedule and musical demands, I remember Bousfield talking about adjusting his playing to fit the Viennese style. I also remember Jeremy talking specifically about paying attention to the middle note of triplets, for example, and how one of the trumpet players sang the differences in American vs. Viennese articulations to him during a rehearsal.

My bass trombone students listen to great players from all over the world, but tend to gravitate toward the sounds and styles they hear most often and feel most empathy with.
Thank goodness there is a difference.... the world would be more boring if all players sounded the same.
If you cannot hear differences, you need to listen more carefully. [...]
Chris Stearn

Indeed.
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Kenneth Biggs
Bass & tenor trombone
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I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
  -- Mark Twain
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