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The Trombone ForumCreation and PerformanceMusical Miscellany(Moderators: JP, BGuttman) a discussion of music and the trombone
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D Gibson
« on: May 10, 2010, 11:46AM »

i have long thought that this place could better utilize its potential by talking more about the elements of music and how the trombone can function in a musical environment.  i don't have any grand agenda about topics that should be discussed, but only wish that more discussions on this forum pointed towards music as their end. 

i find that many, if not most, of the discussions center around physical issues.  sometimes that is a mouthpiece or slide lubricant or metal alloys.  sometimes we discuss our chops and ways to play higher or faster.  those discussions seem to have a long life.  i believe there is a thread about 1.5G pieces that has survived for months.  but, musical discussions don't seem to fare as well.  i'm not sure if it's because those that have strong musical opinions intimidate those who identify as novices or if it's due to the presence of too much venom when differences of opinion materialize.  i think we'd all benefit from more musical discussion.

in a practical sense, i believe that we should be more than trombonists.  we should primarily be musicians.  we should use the trombone as a tool to make music.  we all heard someone doing this when we were young and it caught our attention...it ignited a passion.  that passion has fueled our pursuits to this point.  and here we are in this virtual space discussing our passion, yet the intangible fuel for it often goes unmentioned. music.

here is a recent post that articulates my thoughts: http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,51348.msg725268.html#msg725268

in my teaching, i have had much more success with my students when i put them in a musical environment and let them find problems to solve.  that may be playing duets or having a bone sectional.  when a technical impedance presents itself, it is a musical problem to solve.  the solution is necessary to remove the road block that is preventing us from making music.  our focus is on the musical statement...the meaning of the words and not only how well we pronounce them...not only our diction, but also sincere meaning.  when we approach technical exercises out of the context of music, they can become addictive ego games that are without the depth and purpose of music-making.  they can create the illusion of doing something short of actually doing what it is that we wish to do....make music. 

this topic is my attempt to spur more musical discussions.  should these kinds of discussion actually begin to occur, whether in this topic or another, i hope that forumites will be able to accept and respect alternative musical views whether or not they agree. 

it's so easy to be destructive.  it's so easy to be negative.  it's so easy to dismiss another's opinion without consideration of their perspective.  can we unite in our common passion?  it's addictive ego gratification to simply unite based upon our common enemies, whether music or people or ideas.  my goal is to understand more.  i don't think i'm alone.  that may be understanding how wayne shorter thinks of a major7(#5) chord or how brahms orchestrated or why jj speaks to one person while frank speaks to another or how to better use my airstream when playing a long phrase. 

we're such a niche.  here we have a hub to discuss our place on the musical landscape, yet we frequently define ourselves as individuals here based on how hip we think we are in comparison to others.  we could be helping one another better and more often.  i'm not completely cynical as i realize there are some very positive voices that contribute here.  often, it seems that the negative voices prevail and difficult/challenging discussions either become destructive or never get started. 

just my thoughts.  i use a trombone to make music.  i love my instrument, but it is simply a tool to communicate.  what am i trying to communicate?  what are we trying to communicate?  what are we trying to achieve in our relationship with our instrument and with music?  this forum is a tool, too.  how can we use it better?  our egos are tools, too?  how can we use them better? 

much of this has been said before by me and others, but it appears we could still do better.  i hope there are some other dreamers out there who will be able to point us in a positive direction.  i'm sure many of you have better ideas than me and would be better equipped to articulate your thoughts with the written word.  c'mon dreamers and reveal yourselves and your thoughts.  we can always use more positive energy and more disciplined communication. 

DG
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2010, 07:48PM »

DG, you are more eloquent than I, but here are some nuts and bolts about what I feel the trombone does and where the trombone fits...

Alto trombone... doubles the alto voice in classic lit and imitates that sound in romantic lit

Small bore tenor...brash, still a female voice, but she smokes 3 packs a day...

Large bore tenor... male tenor voice, big, powerful, orchestral

Bass trombone...bass voice, bigger, more powerful...softer and subtler

Trombone can work well with any instruments, but guitar is a standout.

The trombone adds core, breadth, tonality, and edge.

The trombone can be a chameleon blending with anyone, but stands alone also.

The word that sums the character of trombone to me is "Noble".




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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2010, 11:47PM »


Thanks for bringing up this topic.  I don't really have anything to offer at this time but I do have a question.  This afternoon I was asked if I'd be interested in playing trombone in the Mozart Requiem.  I'm interested but I'm afraid I don't know the music at all and the piece is not in any of my excerpt books and, after googling, I couldn't find the three parts for trombone to see if I could play any of them.  I've heard that the trombone part is very difficult to play.  Can somebody explain to me why it's difficult?  If a lot of finesse is required I'll probably decline.  I'm still trying to get back into shape and very soft, subtle playing from me is not a real option.  (And, yes, I practice lip flexibility and soft long tones everyday.)  Any thoughts on this piece would be great appreciated.

Aloha,
Richard
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2010, 11:55PM »

Thanks for bringing up this topic.  I don't really have anything to offer at this time but I do have a question.  This afternoon I was asked if I'd be interested in playing trombone in the Mozart Requiem.  I'm interested but I'm afraid I don't know the music at all and the piece is not in any of my excerpt books and, after googling, I couldn't find the three parts for trombone to see if I could play any of them.  I've heard that the trombone part is very difficult to play.  Can somebody explain to me why it's difficult?  If a lot of finesse is required I'll probably decline.  I'm still trying to get back into shape and very soft, subtle playing from me is not a real option.  (And, yes, I practice lip flexibility and soft long tones everyday.)  Any thoughts on this piece would be great appreciated.

Aloha,
Richard

The difficulty of the Requiem depends largely on the edition. Some editions have you doubling the choral parts, and the long melisma can require some finesse to keep the appropriate timber and still play sotto voce. Nothing in the Requiem is incredibly difficult and, in my opinion, is one of the most rewarding and transcendental pieces of music you will ever have the opportunity to play. Give it a go!
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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2010, 12:13AM »

Richard, your question maybe belong to another tread. I admire that you have a sober view on your self and what you can do or not do.  Good! There are many people that don't have that skill. They don't have a clue and some are here in the forum. I admire that skill you have. Many should learn from you.

About Mozart I only know the Bass part. Alto on 1st(hard maybe) and 2nd have a solo/duet with the bass voice soloist. There are lot of notes in all parts. But I cant exactly explain so much about it. The problem is maybe to support/balance with the choir, orchestra and the 4 soloists.

Wait and see if some other who knows it well chime in or listen a recording.

Leif
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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2010, 01:06AM »

go where the music tells you...

music is not a business, but to do it for a living you have to treat it as such... never ever confuse this with what the music is telling you.

the music tells me i don't know anything - but it also tells me that i'll never learn without shedding the fear to screw up. 

when i play/write music, there are two voices in my head.  one telling me how i think it should go and another telling me how i should play it.  it's hard knowing which to listen to.  i have issues with all aspects of my approach to music which need to be addressed - and the only way they'll be addressed is by putting myself in situations where i have a bit of apprehension. 

don't fear the music - it is as natural as breath and life.

for some it is breath and life. 

breathe and live.
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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2010, 07:24AM »

...when a technical impedance presents itself, it is a musical problem to solve.  the solution is necessary to remove the road block that is preventing us from making music.  our focus is on the musical statement...the meaning of the words and not only how well we pronounce them...not only our diction, but also sincere meaning.  when we approach technical exercises out of the context of music, they can become addictive ego games that are without the depth and purpose of music-making.  they can create the illusion of doing something short of actually doing what it is that we wish to do....make music.
A ha! Exactlyexactlyexactly.  John Faieta turned me on to thinking this way in my practice sessions---to think of my technical exercises in context.  I have a nasty habit of stopping whenever I play anything wrong.  In doing this, I'd break up etudes so that everything was without context, let alone a musical shape.  When I put everything together, I would be happy with all the right notes and some very superficial dynamic effects.  Without musical intent, my mental singer turned on, I'm simply a robot.  A poorly engineered one, at that.  But when playing something with musical intent, even if I don't play all the right notes...  I don't know, the horn just seems to come to life.  No, I come to life.

Playing the trombone is such a difficult beast, it is tough to navigate that physical interface with the horn.  I feel as though people bring their frustrations to the forums: I can't do this, I can't do that, help!

Making music is not a frustrating pursuit, for me at least, until the technique gets in the way.  I have the music in my head, whereas I don't know everything about playing the trombone and getting it to do what I want physically.  Maybe that's why more technique, range, flexibility, speed, questions are asked...
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D Gibson
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2010, 11:03AM »

maybe a positive direction for discussion would to be to identify those musical problems and how we define them.  then solutions could be discussed in context.  that could be productive. 

the difficulty is in explaining the intangible.  but, i think of it like acting.  one actor may read their lines and inspire intense emotion, while another sounds like they're reading a sheet of paper.  how does one achieve sincerity? 

it's the details.  so, we realize that we have to taper a note while holding it to its full value and all sorts of technical issues appear.  at that point, we create 3 individual exercises to help us achieve balance so we can simply think about how we are to deliver our lines.  we're actors.
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2010, 11:51AM »

it's the details.  so, we realize that we have to taper a note while holding it to its full value and all sorts of technical issues appear.  at that point, we create 3 individual exercises to help us achieve balance so we can simply think about how we are to deliver our lines.  we're actors.
Again, exactlyexactlyexactly.

When very involved in the making of music--for instance, the tapering of a long note--I will lose the sound of the trombone.  I'll gradually begin to sound like a didgeridoo.

Balance.  I need to balance the technical necessities with the musical necessities, if that makes sense.  I need to do both simultaneously.

Any and all advice welcome.  :D
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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2010, 04:46PM »

from a technical aspect, i always think of how i'd want to sound singing a particular exercise or piece.  i think of singers i like - Frank Sinatra or Luis Cordoba for instance.  it usually helps me anyway to have that sort of conception in my head - the body usually figures it out.

what kinds of mind/concept sort of things do you do?  I know this is going to eventually tread down that "inner game of _________" path - a path i like treading.  I think most problems are conceptual anyway.  Honesty - musical honesty anyway - tends to make one better, i think.
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2010, 05:08PM »

DG,

I understand completely about the trombonist versus musician thing.  However for most of us, the only way we can truly come close to expressing ourselves is through the instrument, and there lies the rub.  I recently took up classical guitar, an instrument that is polyphonic and by its nature, a solo instrument.  I am happy to have found another outlet.  It can be frustrating to express ones musical self by one instrument alone - for the most part!

George
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« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2010, 06:09PM »

In the end we make funny sounds with our lips and blow air down a metal pipe. I always say to my students 'blow in the small end and sound will come out the big end' that's all trombone is, making the sound that comes out the big end one that people, including yourself, want to hear is another thing entirely.
It is an odd thing, half the time we have to play for musicians who are looking at everything with a strong understanding of musical language and how things work, this is why I like playing things slightly outside of the musical norm, cage, stockhausen, xenakis for recitals and such to try and convey meaning in a language they don't grasp as well.
The other half of our audience have little to no knowledge of what we do, sure they may know how a trombone makes sound but really don't care, they are there to enjoy themselves, they are paying (hopefully) to be taken on a journey through sound, we have to make this sound into an emotional journey (whether we add a story to this or have absolute music is another debate entirelly) but in the end we have to take a language that half our audience don't understand  and make them leave with an image.
This is something in solo playing I always aim for but have only walked off stage maybe 3 or 4 times saying that I communicated exactly what I wanted to the audience though through personal experience they are going to take their own slant on this.
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D Gibson
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2010, 07:33AM »

DG,

I understand completely about the trombonist versus musician thing.  However for most of us, the only way we can truly come close to expressing ourselves is through the instrument, and there lies the rub.  I recently took up classical guitar, an instrument that is polyphonic and by its nature, a solo instrument.  I am happy to have found another outlet.  It can be frustrating to express ones musical self by one instrument alone - for the most part!

George

i understand that it can be difficult to remain committed to musical goals as a solitary performer.  but, it's a worthy endeavor to do so. 

music is communication, which implies that there is more than one person involved.  i think one of the reasons that there is such a healthy "rehearsal band" scene in nyc is the desire of musicians to communicate and be understood...in fact, isn't that a human desire?  although, it's much easier to judge our individual success by technical parameters while practicing, it's not impossible to maintain a focus on music.  i find this to be one of the inherent advantages of being a jazz musician.  improvisation is a natural part of the music.  what is improvisation other than spontaneous composition?  composing is a formal way to edit and organize one's thoughts for presentation to another.  so, practicing improvisation alone is an exercise in organizing my thoughts about a tune in the same way that i organize my thoughts about any topic.  i study the tune at the piano and understand the harmony.  then i try to find rivers of thought to connect chords, melodies and phrases...i try and see how many ways i can think about the tune/topic.  then, i begin to practice articulating those thoughts melodically...essentially the same thing as talking to myself in the mirror.  i am honing my communication skills....my music skills. 

if i have been successful at explaining my approach, perhaps someone else could describe their approach to remaining centered musically in the absence of audience and other musicians. 

also...to remain focused on music, it may be helpful to create an audience for one of your Bach cello suites or Rochut etudes.  that could be a family member, a friend, a neighbor or a pet.  communicate with someone who only hears music, instead of being distracted by their trombone-istic agenda. 

dg
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D Gibson
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2010, 07:46AM »

DG, you are more eloquent than I, but here are some nuts and bolts about what I feel the trombone does and where the trombone fits...

Alto trombone... doubles the alto voice in classic lit and imitates that sound in romantic lit

Small bore tenor...brash, still a female voice, but she smokes 3 packs a day...

Large bore tenor... male tenor voice, big, powerful, orchestral

Bass trombone...bass voice, bigger, more powerful...softer and subtler

Trombone can work well with any instruments, but guitar is a standout.

The trombone adds core, breadth, tonality, and edge.

The trombone can be a chameleon blending with anyone, but stands alone also.

The word that sums the character of trombone to me is "Noble".






i really like the idea of using personification.  it gives life to our idea of the instrument...it gives a voice, a persona to our instrument.  now, we can think of that voice like a character in a play.  in considering how to deliver a line, you must also consider how your character is interacting with the other characters.  we must see the big picture...the over-arching goal of a scene, or of the entire work. 

how does the composer view our character? 

interestingly, i have in my own practice been trying to approach playing more like talking through the horn.  sometimes, i actually put the horn up to my chops and talk through the horn.  then i follow-up by playing something that rhythmically mirrors what i have said while maintaining the same sense of balance and relaxation i had when simply talking....with no extra tension.  then, i try and apply that to music. 

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« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2010, 07:52AM »

We know that to play trombone successfully is a very challenging endeavor physically as well as musically.

There are so many things physically that one must master first on the trombone before one can then start exploring their musicality.

I started out on trombone in the 6th grade band, but also that same year, I took piano lessons. I later played the hammond b3 organ in rock bands after high school. On the b3 organ, all I had to do was master the correct fingerings of the different scales, and I could rip off 3 or 4 octave runs with no effort. I didn't have to think about how to create a musical 'tone', or play in tune. The b3 was such a magnificent instrument in it's day, with the leslie speakers, that it was easy to transcribe licks and runs from records, and sound like santanna all day long, with little or no effort, as compared to doing the same thing on a trombone.

I still can't rip off 4 octave runs because of the physical requirements that the trombone demands. Therefore, I find myself trying to build up my physical attributes on the trombone, knowing, that when I can put my face on the mouthpiece, and not worry about how to make the trombone sound the way I want it to, the music will already be there.


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« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2010, 08:47AM »

how does the composer view our character? 

interestingly, i have in my own practice been trying to approach playing more like talking through the horn.  sometimes, i actually put the horn up to my chops and talk through the horn.  then i follow-up by playing something that rhythmically mirrors what i have said while maintaining the same sense of balance and relaxation i had when simply talking....with no extra tension.  then, i try and apply that to music. 



Helen Merrill is THE sound to emulate on a small bore...Personification...  :D  I haven't found a personal hero on bass yet...I hear snippets of a powerful bass singer in many choir recordings...but being choirs the one guy nailing the bottom isn't identified.  I've tried listening to Operatic basses...too forced.

I was playing a renaissance piece awhile back and it had a line I couldn't get my head around.  The director said use syllables to make it like a spoken sentence.  I said which ones?   He said it really didn't matter, just think like spoken word...And it worked.  I talked to a friend who'd studied sackbut in Germany and he said that that was a common technique.  I've talked to lots of respected jazzers who say that you HAVE TO KNOW THE WORDS so play a song convincingly.  I thinks that's a way, but, just thinking conversationally, or telling a story does the same thing.

For so much of what we are asked to do, a  really doesn't have a melodic context.  Musical, yes.  I'd play that very differently in a big band compared to an orchestra...or a rock band.  But it's a hit one way or another.
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« Reply #16 on: May 12, 2010, 09:07AM »


I haven't found a personal hero on bass yet...I hear snippets of a powerful bass singer in many choir recordings...but being choirs the one guy nailing the bottom isn't identified.  I've tried listening to Operatic basses...too forced.


Richard Sterban.  That guy's amazing...and yes, he was the guy in the Oakridge Boys, and sang with Elvis.  He's quite amazing.
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« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2010, 09:12AM »

I was playing a renaissance piece awhile back and it had a line I couldn't get my head around.  The director said use syllables to make it like a spoken sentence.  I said which ones?   He said it really didn't matter, just think like spoken word...And it worked.  I talked to a friend who'd studied sackbut in Germany and he said that that was a common technique.  I've talked to lots of respected jazzers who say that you HAVE TO KNOW THE WORDS so play a song convincingly.  I thinks that's a way, but, just thinking conversationally, or telling a story does the same thing.
On Doug Yeo's website in the excerpts section, he writes the lyrics on the music and suggests that the player phrases with the German words: http://yeodoug.com/resources/handbook/image_files/text_files/creationexc.html

Yesterday, Gabe Langfur was telling me about his one lesson with JJ Johnson.  JJ said his ideal jazz solo was the first one on Kind of Blue (Miles Davis).  Why?  Because it never get too high, too fast, or too loud.  He said each phrase was a well simple, punctuated sentence.  "I went to the store."  Organized in paragraphs, telling a simple story.  "I bought (suchandsuch)."  I have to agree with JJ; it is a great, simple solo that is SO sophisticated in it's musicality.  Or maybe it isn't so sophisticated-it just speaks music very clearly.
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« Reply #18 on: May 12, 2010, 09:20AM »

On Doug Yeo's website in the excerpts section, he writes the lyrics on the music and suggests that the player phrases with the German words: http://yeodoug.com/resources/handbook/image_files/text_files/creationexc.html

Yesterday, Gabe Langfur was telling me about his one lesson with JJ Johnson.  JJ said his ideal jazz solo was the first one on Kind of Blue (Miles Davis).  Why?  Because it never get too high, too fast, or too loud.  He said each phrase was a well simple, punctuated sentence.  "I went to the store."  Organized in paragraphs, telling a simple story.  "I bought (suchandsuch)."  I have to agree with JJ; it is a great, simple solo that is SO sophisticated in it's musicality.  Or maybe it isn't so sophisticated-it just speaks music very clearly.

I think it's very sophisticated...and, in a word...elegant.
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« Reply #19 on: May 12, 2010, 09:21AM »

Richard Sterban.  That guy's amazing...and yes, he was the guy in the Oakridge Boys, and sang with Elvis.  He's quite amazing.

Also check out Tim Riley on YouTube.  Great, focused sound in the bass trombone register, and not forced at all, except maybe in his lowest notes (pedal Ab, G...around there Amazed). In fact, check out the sound of some of these gospel quartets (religious message aside). Kind of like a barbershop quartet, but usually with lower bass singing. Imagine a trombone quartet sounding like that...a small bore on the top voice, etc.
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