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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningPedagogy(Moderators: JP, Doug Elliott) What is it, then, that makes a good trombonist exceptional?
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LowrBrass

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« Reply #20 on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:22AM »

I think we have different ideas about 'exceptional' from various posters in this thread. My idea of exceptional is the small number of players who are considered world class... people like Ian Bousfield in the classical field and Jiggs Whigham in jazz.... many people earn a living playing in time, in tune, with a great sound.... these are fine players.... working pros in symphony orchestras, studios and big bands.

What makes those top players "world class"? What sets them apart from all the other fine musicians making a living playing in time, in tune, etc? A great publicist? Evil

To Harrison's point:

Who is playing new, entertaining music in front of people willing to pay money to see them? Especially if their name is on the showbill. Trombone Shorty, Jorgen van Rijen, Alessi, Wycliffe.

Trombone Shorty doesn't come up very often on this forum. I imagine most of us aren't terribly impressed by his trombone skills. But he's great at what he does. A household name. Top of his class. Famous. Exceptional?

Could you do what he does, trombone-wise? Probably. What does that mean?
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« Reply #21 on: Nov 28, 2015, 11:48AM »

then there are people who own a trombone.


I own my trombones really damn well, thank you very much!
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« Reply #22 on: Nov 28, 2015, 12:04PM »

I own my trombones really damn well, thank you very much!

You know what I mean  :D :D

Chris Stearn
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« Reply #23 on: Nov 28, 2015, 09:01PM »

I think the real problem here is defining an artist as "exceptional". I think that has no meaning unless you are a journalist throwing that adjective into a story to brag about yourself discovering some "exceptional" person. It has no meaning applied to anyone working to improve the artistry of what they do.

For sure, you can point to a few trombonists as being "exceptional" (definition: forming an exception or rare instance; unusual, extraordinary). But I think that search misses the point.

Within my 50 years of playing I have stupidly asked very accomplished players on all instruments, who is the best? I always got a blank stare and a smile. The basic answer is "they all are". Is Wycliffe Gordon better than Tommy Dorsey? Is Michael Douglas better than Joe Alessi...etc. They are all the "best".

So what does being the "best" mean. Obviously all the previous posters nailed it: work ethic, dedication, learning from those before you and those around you, etc. Read the thread, lots of great philosophy and experience about this.

To turn this around, I request that rather than think of "exceptional", consider "excellence". There are a lot of very good musicians, the excellent musicians are who we should emulate.

About 10 years ago I got fanatic about what is excellence. Searched over and over on the web and was astounded at what I found, quotes, advice, etc. When I applied it to my limited field (trombone playing) it was obvious that is my philosophy. Don't pursue perfection in what you do, don't pursue "exceptional" in what you do, don't pursue being better than anyone else....

Do strive for excellence (humbly) in all that you do, that means letting go of comparing and then focusing on making yourself better. Do you want to be Carl Fontana, who definitely was excellent at what he did? Or do you want to play like Joe Alessi, or Wycliffe Gordon...all of whom I am sure are the "exceptional" players? The difference is, they are focused on the excellence of their particular playing in their present moment. You will probably not measure up to them right now. But strive to be an excellent player and you will be happy with your successes, whether smaller or greater than these respected musicians.

Good trombonists will probably never be exceptional trombonists. But they sure can be excellent trombonists if they do due diligence in practice, learning, listening and imagining.
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« Reply #24 on: Nov 28, 2015, 10:18PM »

I believe we are, once again, bumping up against the limits of "talking about music."
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« Reply #25 on: Nov 29, 2015, 01:24AM »

I think we have different ideas about 'exceptional' from various posters in this thread. My idea of exceptional is the small number of players who are considered world class... people like Ian Bousfield in the classical field and Jiggs Whigham in jazz.... many people earn a living playing in time, in tune, with a great sound.... these are fine players.... working pros in symphony orchestras, studios and big bands. Below this there are good players... some lower end pros and many who play for fun.... average players... hobbyists who have their ups and downs with the instrument.... then there are people who own a trombone.
A lot of fluidity at the lower end... not much at the top.
You may disagree with me....

Chris Stearn


I don't disagree. I use your post to sum the people in three categories:


"The World Class" - The soloists who travel all over the world and perform for a mixed audience and among the audience a lot of other top musicians who admire them

"Working pros in symphony orchestras" - locally known people who perform for a mixed audience and among the audience a lot of local colleges and other local musicians and students and other nerds who know about them. These players would probably be respected by any world class pro too, if they only learned their names. Let's not forget all the freelance musicians - both jazz and classical. It takes a lot of talent to earn a living as a freelance player.

"Good players" or any player or owner - anyone not working as a musician and performs for a mixed audience with the exception of musicians. No musician pays to visit a concert with only "good players" or owners if they are not very close friends. They don't go there even if it is free :)


As I see it the two first groups consists of the fortunate exceptional ones, and what is obvious is they have high status in common. Their skills can be documented as "being part of this orchestra" or "have made a cd-recording with..." and such.

What does this tell us about "being exceptional"?

Well...nothing really.

I do know people in all those groups. I have had a chance to meet and hear a couple of world class soloists in a close up and a lot of professional players and retired professional musicians just below as I perform with them regularly. I also play a lot with "Good players" and sometimes with "hobbyists who have their ups and downs with their instrument". Now and then I meet people who can not play much at all too.

This means I have a lot of experience of all those categories which could be good if you want to tell who and why someone is "exceptional"?  Good! 

So what can I tell from this?

One thing I have noticed with the best and most professional trombone players I've met is they evaluate their playing constantly and they are on their way somewhere with their playing, when others just have settled down with what they've got.

Håkan Björkman - I've met and played with him a few times - just picks up his trombone and nails whatever there is with such ease, and it looks and sounds so natural. He acts as it is an immediate connection to the sound while he is playing, as if the instrument is a part of him. The impression to me as a listener is his trombone plays by itself. If you talk to him he is kind of the same, a fast and witty guy  :) When we met the last time he had made some discoveries which he generously shared and at the same time I got a few insights in how he works with the extremes in his playing. A fantastic witty exceptional trombone player Good!

Another player is a close friend, Sven Larsson at this forum, who at his peek was one of the most hired bass trombonists in Northern Europe. The similarities between them is he also worked with the extremes in his playing. He developed his techniques like no other player over here did on the bass trombone. Some of the things I noticed was that he could do circular breathing while he was doing crescendos in his whole register, and even in the trigger and pedal register, and he could do it even while playing melody lines down there, and no one took any notice of this which is of course good because then it sounds good. The backside to that is no one except the close friends new the skills behind that. It only showed every time someone else was supposed to sub on his parts and it did not sound as good ;-). Besides this he learned the fake notes on his single valve so good that you could never tell the difference from an open horn. This was at the time when the double bass trombone was not that common. This together has lead to a lot of very demanding bass trombone parts were written by the pro arrangers over here during that period in Swedish jazz and entertainment music. Now and then I see such a part when I'm playing bass trombone in various bands here and every time I do I'm reminded of these skills he developed for himself. He is an exceptional bass trombone player.

So what makes a good trombonist exceptional is the exceptional players does not settle down with what they've got. They make sure they evolve constantly even after they reached a goal that most people would see enough. This spirit is for us to take after, something we could try to copy. Practice, analyze and then more practice. Practice the things we can not do yet but want to be able to do. That's the way they got there. As Chris said it might take us to pro level but not make us a first class soloist. I think pro level sounds good to me  Hi

/Tom 
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« Reply #26 on: Nov 29, 2015, 02:36AM »

Lot of good thoughts here. And thanks for what JP say. Maybe the best ones are the people that are able to make the best out of them self? It's not easy. It needs lot of understanding and focus on how and what to work on to make the most out of our self. They also take good care of their own personality in their playing. And are often humble and respectful to another players.
Anyway lot to take with us in this tread. Have to read all one more time. My English is exceptional bad as my English teacher told me.

Leif
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« Reply #27 on: Nov 29, 2015, 06:43PM »

What makes those top players "world class"? What sets them apart from all the other fine musicians making a living playing in time, in tune, etc? A great publicist? Evil

To Harrison's point:

Trombone Shorty doesn't come up very often on this forum. I imagine most of us aren't terribly impressed by his trombone skills. But he's great at what he does. A household name. Top of his class. Famous. Exceptional?

Could you do what he does, trombone-wise? Probably. What does that mean?

I'd argue that if any one of the people on this thread could do what Shorty is doing ... there wouldn't be a Shorty. There are quite a few people who are three times his age on the forum. So, no, they couldn't or wouldn't do what he does. The job would be filled.

The discussion keeps coming back to technical or even musical skill, but I don't think that makes anyone exceptional. Look at Nils Landgren. Do you think anything anyone can do on the trombone, especially in a practice room, could surprise or impress him? Probably very rarely.

I bet he respects a full set by Shorty's group, though.

An analogy: if you're a painter, and you don't have all the brushes or paints, but only a few items in your art case, you're limited in what you can do. You can indeed paint a painting, and put it out for sale. Who knows, it may be a masterpiece if you really use the tools you do have with deft skill.

If you paint a lot, but don't put your paintings out for sale, no one is affected by your art.

You may add every color of paint and every kind of brush. But you may not actually use the tools with great skill, or you may decide not to show anyone your paintings.

Perhaps you only sell your paintings at a local grunge cafe for $25 a work, when they really could have sold for £1000 in la creme gallery.

Musicianship is the same way. It's not enough to fill your kit with every tool (ie great technical ability) if you use the tools only to practice, play for no one, or play horrible music for audiences that don't care. Once you're a performer, the only thing that matters is your product, how you present it, and what the audience thinks. A lot of what the audience thinks has to do with how you present your art and present yourself.

If you think being exceptional has to do with the contents of one's art case, or golf bag, their ability to play legato, or their opening book in a chess match, you've missed the point.
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« Reply #28 on: Nov 29, 2015, 07:19PM »

What is it that makes a good trombonist exceptional?

There are no exceptional trombonists. There are only exceptional musicians.

Shorty is a fine example of the New Orleans tradition. Many of the people who may deride Mr. Andrews tend to not dig New Orleans music, or may just not dig contemporary New Orleans music. Those who do dig New Orleans music usually find him quite exceptional. Will his music stand up to time? Who knows; that's a discussion for another day.

How do I judge exceptional music? I try to hold on judgement until after repeated listening to any artist over a long period of time, although there are certain people who at first listen just grab something in you. Slide Hampton, Trummy young and Kent Kidwell immediately come to mind - something in their playing spoke to my soul the first time I heard them, and imprinted there. Pau Casals, Jimi Hendrix and Maria Schneider had this same effect on me.
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« Reply #29 on: Nov 29, 2015, 11:27PM »

I'd argue that if any one of the people on this thread could do what Shorty is doing ... there wouldn't be a Shorty. There are quite a few people who are three times his age on the forum. So, no, they couldn't or wouldn't do what he does. The job would be filled.

The discussion keeps coming back to technical or even musical skill, but I don't think that makes anyone exceptional. Look at Nils Landgren. Do you think anything anyone can do on the trombone, especially in a practice room, could surprise or impress him? Probably very rarely.

I bet he respects a full set by Shorty's group, though.

An analogy: if you're a painter, and you don't have all the brushes or paints, but only a few items in your art case, you're limited in what you can do. You can indeed paint a painting, and put it out for sale. Who knows, it may be a masterpiece if you really use the tools you do have with deft skill.

If you paint a lot, but don't put your paintings out for sale, no one is affected by your art.

You may add every color of paint and every kind of brush. But you may not actually use the tools with great skill, or you may decide not to show anyone your paintings.

Perhaps you only sell your paintings at a local grunge cafe for $25 a work, when they really could have sold for £1000 in la creme gallery.

Musicianship is the same way. It's not enough to fill your kit with every tool (ie great technical ability) if you use the tools only to practice, play for no one, or play horrible music for audiences that don't care. Once you're a performer, the only thing that matters is your product, how you present it, and what the audience thinks. A lot of what the audience thinks has to do with how you present your art and present yourself.

If you think being exceptional has to do with the contents of one's art case, or golf bag, their ability to play legato, or their opening book in a chess match, you've missed the point.

Well...if it has not to do with skills on the trombone as in technical slills or musical skills as playing very musically then it has not to do with either music or trombone playing. An exceptional THAT is then the person who gets most known. You can be known if you do scandals, if you are on the frontpage of a newspaper or if you happen to be at the right place at the right time to write the history. Someone has to write your history for you though.

All these things could make you exceptional. It has more to do with marketing.

We are different and we appreciate different things. We also admire or find things exceptional differently as we get older.

In music school I looked up to the elder guys who could play better than me and found them to be exceptional compared to what I knew about the world.

My grandfather was a musician and at one time he was the excepional one, then my teachers were the exception of my world and finally Christian Lindberg, Alessi and the other world class players.

Now at 52 I think all trombone player with any special skill can be looked on as beeing exceptional. If they can do something that other trombone players can't do. If they have a rare skill then that's exceptional to me.

Most world class trombone players have that.

/Tom
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« Reply #30 on: Nov 29, 2015, 11:40PM »

Kagel wrote a theatrical piece about this called "Atem". Both people on stage are the same person.

Only one of them is exceptional.
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« Reply #31 on: Nov 30, 2015, 03:10AM »

I think Crisafulli has resorted to a bit of a vague and dismissive and pat answer there (which i find maddeningly common among music teachers.)

If I encountered a player who was playing at a high level and was better in every way and yet someone said his problem is "he doesn't practice" my question would be, what is it he is lacking that he needs to practice on?

If the expert is hearing something I'm not hearing, I want to be enlightened so i can hear it too and be aware of it in my own playing.

Not entirely related... In high school I attended a clinic by Maynard Ferguson and of course, someone asked him, "How long do you practice each day?"

His answer was basically... Practice?  I don't practice. I'm playing a two hour concert almost every night. My job is doing this thing that is exactly what i want to be doing and I'm capable of doing it. I had to practice to get to this but now that I'm here I need to devote my full energy to the performance. 

robcat2075,

You must understand the context in which Crisafulli's short statement was made. It was during a private lesson with me -- his teenage student going on 5 years of lessons at that point. I asked about the naturally gifted player and his response was quite complimentary "there's a lot of talent there" but his other comment "he doesn't practice" also turned out to be true and he also encouraged me to practice. I observed over the next few years the naturally gifted person's practice routines were irregular and undisciplined. He would come by every few months, play whatever he wanted for a few hours (his upper register sounded great as usual), and then be gone. As for myself I felt I was pretty average in the upper register department, however, I was very disciplined. I practiced a lot and I practiced what and how I was instructed to do so. In a few years, I excelled over the "naturally gifted" player but I had to practice to maintain it. Had the naturally gifted player applied himself as I did, I am convinced he might have been an "exceptional trombonist."

Patrick
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« Reply #32 on: Nov 30, 2015, 03:25AM »

Kagel wrote a theatrical piece about this called "Atem". Both people on stage are the same person.

Only one of them is exceptional.

Now that sounds fascinating! It isn't necessarily about pre-destination but perhaps about the greatness that we choose to do by force of our own will.
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« Reply #33 on: Nov 30, 2015, 03:37AM »


Now at 52 I think all trombone player with any special skill can be looked on as being exceptional. If they can do something that other trombone players can't do. If they have a rare skill then that's exceptional to me.

/Tom

Tom,

I offer couple of inspirational quotes to make your future brighter.

"I encourage those who don't have it immediately, and think everybody else is better than them, to keep working. Don't hamper yourself mentally. It still takes only application to improve."
Crisafulli

“At the very 11th hour, an artist might do something that will eclipse everything else.”
Van Cliburn

Patrick
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« Reply #34 on: Dec 05, 2015, 05:37AM »

Patrick, I by no means am trying to step on sacred grounds or anything here, so I hope you take this without offense- I feel like this quote really lack any sort of "gem", so to speak. Maybe a sort of "don't give up" message, but overall I can't find something to really take from this as use in my daily practice, nor really an answer to the question itself.
I definitely respect Mr. Crisafulli's ideas and things... Lots of cool quotes and teachings you've posted from him!

So what IS it that makes a good trombonist exceptional?

In terms of specifying the completely natural gifted trombonist, or brass player for that matter, the golden nugget for me is the word everything ... "There just seem to be some people who move everything correctly at the right place and at the right time." In "everything" I would include the obvious things like slide positions, embouchure settings, articulation, etc. as well as the more subtle aspects such as breath control, chest muscle tension, and throat/oral cavity shaping. All of these aspects are in play and will move together.
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« Reply #35 on: Dec 06, 2015, 12:57AM »

The physical side of playing is the small part. The mental side is the big part.

Chris Stearn.
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« Reply #36 on: Dec 06, 2015, 01:06AM »

The physical side of playing is the small part. The mental side is the big part.

Chris Stearn.

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« Reply #37 on: Dec 06, 2015, 06:57AM »

The physical side of playing is the small part. The mental side is the big part.

Chris Stearn.

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, "90% of this game is half mental".

(Wish I had something actually relevant to add. Mostly just wanted this thread to come up in my feed)
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« Reply #38 on: Mar 01, 2017, 05:46AM »

The physical side of playing is the small part. The mental side is the big part.

Chris Stearn.
...said the physically gifted bass trombonist...

 :/
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« Reply #39 on: Mar 01, 2017, 05:59AM »

To answer the question in the thread topic - what make a good trombonist exceptional - - - - - on this Forum, sometimes it's the listener.

...Geezer
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