Check out the below video created by Don Glanden, who teaches at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. It’s an detailed analysis of Chick Corea’s improvised solo on his composition 500 Miles High. It’s an excellent discussion of an amazing solo.
The University of the Arts currently has 73 videos uploaded on their YouTube page. I’m going to have to look through them carefully for more gems like this one.
About a month ago I posted a bit of info and some of my interpretations of the effect that the size and shape of the oral cavity and vocal tract have on intonation while playing a brass instrument. Today I will finally get around to expanding a little bit on this post, again with the help of Vincent Freour, a PhD candidate in acoustics at McGill University and a trombonist. Vincent has given me permission to quote his email to me, which I will do at length since he’s a much better authority in physics than me.
First, Vincent confirmed that I at least had one aspect of my discussion correct. When we play a brass instrument our lips are directly responding to the “acoustic wave” of the vibrating column of air inside the instrument. When we play a pedal B flat on the trombone, for example, the vibrations travel inside the instrument towards the bell, where some of the energy is reflected back until it reaches the lips. This helps to support the vibrating lips and makes the pitch slot. By increasing the muscular contraction of the lips we form “node points” and the vibrating column of air will split into two, three, or more sections. This is why brass instruments play along the, familiar to brass performers, harmonic series. For a little more info about this, check out this article here.
Where I started to go wrong is in eliminating the influence the oral cavity and vocal tract can have at the same time. I wrote earlier, “Traditional brass pedagogy emphasizes playing with as open a throat as possible, which greatly lowers the resonance of the oral cavity as much more of the sound gets absorbed by the porous lungs.”
While I consider a discussion of “einsetzen” and “ansetzen” embouchures to be more of historical interest, I’ve been coming across these terms lately and wanted to write up my impressions of these terms and how they are relevant (or not) to brass pedagogy today.
Like many, my first exposure to these terms came from Philip Farkas’ text, The Art of French Horn Playing. In this book Farkas quotes the 19th century hornist, Oscar Franz.
While playing, the mouthpiece should be set upon the upper and exactly within the inner part of the lower lip. In German this is termed as Einsetzen (Setting In), in contrast to players who place the mouthpiece against, and not within, the lower lip. This latter is termed as Ansetzen (Setting Against). These two ways of tone production demand careful consideration. While the tone produced in the first described manner (Einstetzen) will sound smooth and gentle, and the progressions from the higher to the lower intervals, and vice versa, can be easily mastered after careful study (the higher intervals being somewhat more difficult to produce), the higher intervals will speak easily for those who employ the second way of playing (Ansetzen); however, in passing from the higher to the lower intervals, and vice versa, this mode of playing often presents a variety of difficulties; and, in addition, the tone, as a rule, sounds less poetic and harder in quality; naturally there are exceptional cases of players to whom these various modes of playing present no difficulties whatsoever. If a player, employing the second mode of playing (Ansetzen) passes into the lower register, he is forced to change his lip position to the first mode (Einsetzen).
It’s time for another one of my installments of “Guess the Embouchure Type.” This week I’m going to see if I can tell what embouchure type the great Norwegian tubist Øystein Baadsvik belongs to. Take a look at this video of him playing the Vittorio Monti version of Czardas and see if you can tell. Although he moves around a lot, making it tough to get an easy look at his chops, beginning around 3:35 into the clip you should be able to spot enough to make an educated guess, if you know what to look for.
Orchestra season has started up again. This Sunday I’ll be performing with the Brevard Philharmonic, with violinist Rachel Barton Pine performing a piece I wasn’t familiar with before, Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 46 by Max Bruch. We’ll also be performing Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5.
Practicing with drones offers a nice way to work on a number of different things at once. Valdez lists three different exercises that you can do: practicing long tones, pitch bending, and improvising. While his pitch bending exercises are more specific for saxophonists or other woodwinds, the long tone exercises will be good for any brass or woodwind instrument and improvisation good for any musician. Continue reading Practicing With Drones
Every once in a while I come across a book or internet resource that talks about an off-center aperture, usually in the context of explaining why some players have a mouthpiece placement to one side or another. The general idea of many is that if a player’s free buzzing embouchure has an aperture that is to one side then this player should place the mouthpiece in such a way that the aperture gets centered inside the mouthpiece. On the surface this seems logical, but like many seemingly convincing descriptions of brass embouchures, it is too simplistic an explanation and doesn’t conform to what you will see if you take a closer look. Continue reading The Non-Relationship Of Off-Center Embouchure Aperture, Free Buzzing, and Mouthpiece Placement
Mexican trumpet player Rafael Mendez was one of the most well regarded trumpet players of his day. He was noted for his incredible flexibility, multiple tonguing, and large sound. While researching for an article I wrote several years ago on Donald Reinhardt I heard from a couple of teachers whose opinion I trust that Mendez had an embouchure type that corresponds to what I call the Medium High Placement embouchure type. Based on photos and video of his playing I would agree.
The best look at his chops happen towards the end of the video, starting at around 7:11 into the clip. There are three things that I would point out that, in combination, make me believe that Mendez belonged to this embouchure type. Continue reading Guess the Embouchure Type – Rafael Mendez
For anyone around Asheville tonight looking for something different to do, come check out the opening of Eliada Home’s annual Fields of Fun corn maze. Eliada Homes is a non-profit that works with children in western North Carolina and is a very worth-while charity to support.
I’ll be playing with a jazz quartet just outside the maze tonight. The rhythm section will be Jeff Knorr on piano, Grant Cuthbertson on bass, and Ben Bjorli on drums. If you make it out, stop by and say hello.
It’s a well put together list of suggestions and terms to help people planning a wedding communicate with a trumpet player performing at the ceremony. Someone should put together a generic one for gigs in general.