Cutting Edge Techniques
The links on this page refer to some of the most fascinating, innovative, and helpful concepts and people out there. If you have a suggestion for this page, please email me.
Do you know whether the spine expands or compacts when you inhale? It is the opposite of what I would have thought! When the "body maps" in our mind are not accurate, we fight against them when we try to play. Barbara Conable details common misperceptions of the body, and their corrections in her book, "What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body: The Practical Application of Body Mapping to Making Music". In the Boston area, Vanessa Mulvey has trained in this approach, and is presenting clinics and private lessons.
Doug Elliott's Embouchure Coaching
Many teachers shy away from teaching on the subject of embouchure, because it is certainly possible to do more harm than good in this area. However, a brilliant mouthpiece designer, Doug Elliott has amassed a towering expertise on embouchure function. He has clarified and extended the work of his teacher, Donald Reinhart on embouchure motion. I have seen him help players make simple, small adjustments as he guided them to become more natural players. The improvements have been dramatic, and potentially life changing. This subject is very difficult to communicate other than live and in person, so it would be well worth contacting Doug to find out about classes or private lesson opportunities, and traveling to them. A written interview with Doug gives a good introduction to his work, but hardly betrays the depth of his research and knowledge.
Ways that music could and should be are found here. The proof is in the sheet music, recordings, and lives touched by their work.
Doug Yeo has done a tremendous service to the trombone world in presenting a wealth of information, resources, and insight.
The brass playing concepts of the late Arnold Jacobs will always be "cutting edge" because he distilled fundamental principles of brass playing to their essence. All serious brass players should make sure they understand and come to terms with the concepts in the books and materials on Jacobs from Brian Frederiksen's WindSong Press.
Joe Alessi is an absolute powerhouse player and standard setter in orchestral trombone playing and related solo, masterclass, and seminar activities.
This highly accomplished New York player has been the source of many brilliant insights into playing technique.
Angela Miles Beeching has run a model program which is a tremendous service to New England Conservatory Students and also has many publications and resources available to the general public.
Steve Shires was the creative force behind many trombone building innovations from other companies before he founded his own instrument shop in 1995. In my opinion, he is the "Stradivarius" of modern day trombone makers. I have heard professional players rise to higher levels after switching to his horns from other professional makers.
Early Music Revival
A sector of the classical music world is actually experiencing some growth! Brass players for years have been using renaissance music as minimally rehearsed, royalty free crowd pleasers, and viewing historical instruments as interesting but crude curiosities, but members of the early music community have taken every opportunity to grow closer to the heart of this music, and have produced beautiful interpretations steeped in understanding, sympathy, and talent. Veteran sackbut and cornetto players Mack Ramsey and Michael Collver are national treasures because of their unparalled stylistic knowledge and ability in historical brass performance, built up through a lifetime of dedication. Groups like Concerto Palatino have set the standard through recordings that would be quite ear opening to any that have not yet heard them. Next generation players and groups in the U.S.A. such as Kiri Tolleksen on Cornetto, The Spiritus Collective, and the New England Waites are continuing to push way beyond the stereotype that historical instruments are played crudely and out of tune.
Timing Reference Points
Our playing is made of up of an uncountable series of actions by our body. Somehow, the brain manages to time all these very specifically in relation to each other. Thankfully, this goes on without our conscious thought, but if we wish to hone aspects of our playing, we can make adjustments and refinements in our timing. What I have been emphasizing in my own teaching on brass instrument tonguing is that if we concentrate on the moment of pulling the tongue back from the roof of the mouth as our focal point in terms of when we expect to start a note (rather than the moment we start the tongue motion up to the roof), we can get cleaner articulation. We can then experiment with the timing of pulling the tongue back in relation to delivering a pulse of air for the note with the breathing muscles.
This is helpful for several reasons. It gives a more accurate map of reality, because the moment we pull the tongue back and the air hits the lips truly is the start of the note. Secondly, it focuses us on pulling the tongue back which gets it down in the mouth and out of the way for a clearer and more open tone quality. Also, it allows us to experiment with different relative timings for different degrees of articulation: releasing the tongue later in relation to the air pulse allows more pressure to build up for more of an accent, while releasing the tongue early in the breath pulse process results in a less obtrusive tonguing sound.