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Filtering by Tag: Texas

Texas ATSSB Year A etudes, plus a little trio recording

After finally finishing my Pathfinder Trombone Course, I have finally had time to get back to doing some recording.  Multitrack recording at home serves as a great form of practicing!  Over the past couple of years, I've started recording the various All-State music for Texas, both ATSSB and TMEA etudes.  I recorded the two ATSSB etudes this week, and in the next couple of weeks, I will be making a video master class for each etude discussing practice and performance techniques for each.  Also this week, I recorded a very short trombone trio from an old collection of arrangements by Herr Mueller.  I found the receipt in the trio book - I bought the book in a music shop in Berlin in 1992!  They are great little tunes to work on intonation, blend, and section playing either by yourself or with 3 players.  Thanks a lot for listening and reading!  




Texas ATSSB Trombone Etudes: Gatti

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First of all, let's discuss the proverbial elephant in the room... What the heck do I do about breathing in this piece???!!!  Well, I hate to tell you, but this is one of those pieces where you're "damned if you do, damned if you don't!"  What I mean is, you have to get your priorities straight. Ask yourself what is most important, playing every single note super fast or playing as clean and musically as you can, while picking and choosing smart places to breathe?

Now, I'm not here to say one way is right.  However, I do think there is a best solution.  In any audition, I prefer to hear someone come in and play a musically sound performance, while showing off their technical ability and skills without sacrificing their musical goals.  I think you can make this piece sound plenty vigorous while playing at the low end of the tempo scale, single tonguing, and breathing in strategically placed spots while leaving notes out to do so.

"WHAAAATTTT???? Did you just say to LEAVE NOTES OUT???!!!" Yep, I sure did. It is done all the time in ensemble/section settings in the interest of keeping the time consistent above all else and in facilitating staggered breathing within a trombone section. "But this is a solo piece!", you say. Yes it is. I think it is more important that you make this "strategic breathing" thing a part of your tool bag now, and this is a great place to learn it.

It IS possible to triple tongue this whole etude.  In my opinion, the time it would take me to be able to do that would be much better spent developing a faster, clearer single tongue, practicing long tones, cleaning my slide, and doing lots of other things in my life!  In my professional experience, with the exception of some Pryor solos, or playing cornet solos, there is much more use for fast single tonguing and even double tonguing before spending so much time developing this kind of triple tonguing.  I'm not saying it's not needed, but not before the other articulation skills are mastered.

My plan when I recorded this was to play all the phrases on one breath until I got to the passage beginning in measure 22.  I marked my music to breathe first in m. 26, on the last 16th of beat 1.  You can hear in the recording where I took my breaths.  I did my best to try to make my breaths short and quick, and get right back in on the next beat.  By breathing mid-phrase, I'm better able to play the dynamics printed which give this somewhat repetitive etude much more musical contrast. I tried playing faster and softer, but I could not make the phrase in the last four lines no matter what I tried!  And that was playing faster and very soft without really doing any of the printed dynamics.  Circular breathing is possible, but again, I just don't feel it adds much to the musical goal of the piece.  Finally, anticipate the fact that most mortal humans will be nervous in an audition, and planning for phrases that stretch your air capacity to the max in a comfortable practice session are probably not a good idea in an audition setting.

So, how to practice?  SLOW.  Slow it down.  Take one phrase (or measure, or beat) at a time.  Strive to make all the 16ths equal, unless they are marked with an accent.  Record yourself and listen for equal sound and even time.

Speaking of time, I'm thinking 8th note subdivisions, except for the measures where we have accents/hemiola, such as measure four. Keep the eighth note pulse rolling in your head constantly, and combine that with metronome practice at all speeds. You will have to live with the practice of the time concept for some time to really ingrain it! Don't give up! Keep at it and if things start to fall apart, revert to a slower speed. Practice SLOW FIRST! Have I been clear enough ?! :)

Good luck. Get to work, and keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming series on How to Prepare For and Take An Audition.

Texas ATSSB trombone etudes: Blazhevich

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Would you like to know the secrets to becoming an ALL-STATE TROMBONE PLAYER? Do you want to know exactly what and how and how much and when and where to practice? Ok, I thought so. Read on and let's get busy!

Let's start by discussing the Blazhevich G Major étude in this post. This is a classic Blazhevich étude and one of my favorites. This is one of those pieces that kind of just "plays itself", musically, as long as you do your job.

First off, I want you to consider your chosen tempo and your time. Those are not the same thing. Your tempo is the chosen metronome marking you are using as your reference for the overall pace of the piece. In this case, I suggest a tempo marking of 72-78. This piece lends itself to a wide variety of tempos, but this range gives it a nice relaxed feel, while still enabling the performer to keep it moving forward.

Ok, now that you have your tempo, let's talk about time! Your time is defined as the consistency by which you apply your tempo. Time in this piece is important in that you need to keep the music moving ahead. If you start at one tempo and slow down (without returning to your original speed), the music will feel like it is just dragging along, and you will feel like the piece may never end. So, it's perfectly appropriate (and beautiful!) to add some ritardandi at the ends of some of the phrases. Just be sure that when you begin the next phrase, you return to your original tempo and keep the music moving. This will give you the "push and pull" that is so desirable, and comfortable, in a piece like this. The critical thing to remember is to ALWAYS SUBDIVIDE! Everyone talks about it, but no one does it! You need to be thinking constant eighth notes in your head throughout the performance of this work. Count yourself off (silently) when you start but think eighth notes in your count off before you begin. You will hear, in my recording, that I am not always back in right on time after my breaths. I feel that's ok in a piece like this as it keeps the music relaxed and unhurried. Just remember, when you come back in, do so at your original tempo. Subdivide!

Volume... I like to play a piece like this with what I call a "soloistic piano", or better yet, "safe soft". This gives me enough volume to add or subtract intensity in a given passage, especially when I'm nervous. Be comfortable, but on the quiet side. Grow the intensity in the fuller dynamics, and let it relax in the quieter sections. Keep it simple. Imagine you are playing in a huge concert hall, gymnasium, or even outdoors and that you are trying to fill up every inch of space with your beautiful sound!

One of the most important things you can do in your preparation for your audition is to record yourself in practice. Use the voice memo recorder on your phone or your parents phone, and every other day or so, play straight through the piece as if you are in your audition. When you play it back, listen for the following:

1. How was my time? Did it stay steady and consistent or did I get faster/slower as the piece went on? WAS I SUBDIVIDING? 2. How was my sound? Was it full and beautiful? Did I imagine the sound I want to hear in my head before I played? 3. How was my legato? Am I moving my slide "late and quick" so as to get a smooth connection between notes with no (or almost no) gliss in the connection?

Good luck. Remember, practice is temporary, pride is forever! That is no joke. Work hard, practice smart, record yourself, and have a great audition!

A posting of the Gatti étude will follow in a few days. Have fun, play your trombone, and make music!

Your Virtual Trombonist, Chris

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