Brass Advantage with Wayne Downey
Welcome back to the "Land of All Things Brass." This installment of Brass Advantage will shed some light on what I consider two the most important techniques in brass performance, tone production and range development.
Here’s a question from a young brass player that I think sheds some light on a common dilemma young musicians find themselves in each and every day.
I just wanted to ask how I could improve my tone and range. I plan to try out for a drum corps this fall and I hear plenty of people telling me that the three things I will need are a good attitude, good tone, and good marching. I have the work-ethic attitude and I march pretty well, but I do not know about my tone. You see, I do not know what is good tone and what is bad. I play trumpet and normally I prefer to stick to either 2nd part or 3rd part, music that is not too terribly difficult range-wise and also is much easier to tune. What kind of tone should I be looking for? And also, how do I achieve this tone?
The other subject I would like to ask you about is range. Although I do not plan on playing too much above a Concert Bb above the staff, I would like to be able to play above that anyway, in case I am to need it for when I audition this fall. What do I need to do to achieve good range? (Note: I am not looking to become one of those players who can blast a Double C or anything, just a good range player).
Thank you very much,
Kyle – to best understand what a good tone is, I suggest you take a trip to your local music store or log on to the Internet and visit either iTunes, Rhapsody, Towerrecords.com, Virgin.com or any Internet site that has a wide selection of Classical and Jazz CD’s or DVD’s. I highly recommend you purchase a number of recordings of some of the greatest musicians of our time. Trumpet players to look for include: Wynton Marsalas, Bobby Shew, Allen Vizzutti, John Faddis, Maurice Andre, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, Harry James and Louis Armstrong, just to name a few. To create a great tone you must first understand what a great tone sounds like before you can produce that tone yourself. You must create in your mind’s eye an audio snapshot to continually refer to, a standard you can match and emulate each and every day.
Concerning your question "How do I achieve this tone?" I can only hint at possible techniques in this column but would encourage you to do some research on the Internet by possibly Googling "Tone", "Tone Production" etc. and most importantly find yourself a private teacher to help you achieve your dreams of being a great trumpet player in a Division I Corps.
The most important factors to be aware of to ensure the production of a characteristic quality of sound (tone) include but are not limited to; embouchure formation, instrument selection, mouthpiece selection, mouthpiece placement, breathing and breath control (with an understanding of air speed, air pressure and oral cavity pressure.)
Detailed information on instrument selection can be found in Brass Advantage #1, suggestions on mouthpiece selection and placement can be found in Brass Advantage #2, and of-course for detailed information on brass technique I always encourage brass players to log onto my website and purchase "XtremeBrass Technique" for a comprehensive approach to brass technique and pedagogy.
As far as range development is concerned I must state emphatically that you must establish a great sound (tone) first before you begin on your journey to develop your range. I have to giggle to myself when I hear young brass players discuss developing range because they always talk about playing as "high" as possible as the benchmark for having great range. They completely forget that having great range means being able to play as "low" and as "high" as the instrument combined with great technique will allow.
First and foremost you must realize that developing great range is contingent on the development of the musculature of your face that form your embouchure. To ensure you have the ability to play in all registers of your instrument you must strengthen the muscles in your face that control the size of your aperture. The size of your aperture combined with the air speed and air pressure you play with determines the pitch (the note) you’re producing. Secondly, avoiding tension and tightness in those muscles groups will afford you the flexibility needed to play effortlessly in all registers. Those muscles must remain firm but still be able to be very elastic in their motion to promote great vibration of the tissue (skin) of the aperture.
I always recommend that my students developed both the lower and upper registers of their instruments at the same time. Developing a great pedal register will aid in the muscular development needed to produce great pedal "C’s" as well as those double "C’s" everyone’s striving for. The benefit of developing the muscular strength with the pedal register at the same time is that there will be much less tightness and constriction in that register and it will constantly remind you of the condition of the musculature your striving for while playing in the upper register. Remember, you’re trying to promote fluid muscle motion without tightness and constriction. I’ve created a technique book for my students to aid in their range development titled XtremeRange Development – "Chopbuilders" I highly suggest you add it to your daily practice routine. The book’s available on my website and is the number one #1 seller.
Next I want to share with everyone an email I received from Tom Luckowizc (tuba player extraordinaire, ex-Blue Devil) on the article I wrote titled "Can a Tuba be referred to as a Contrabass?" Here’s a snippet of his e-mail….
"In the legit world Tubas have been traditionally divided into two sections, bass tuba and contrabass tuba. The bass tubas are pitched in F or Eb and the contrabass tubas are pitched in either CC or BBb. Most composers have no idea of how we select which horn to use, mostly based on performance and tonal color issues. However, Wagner specified a bass tuba for the Introduction to the Lohengrin, while Bruckner actually went as far as to specify which tuba to use during certain movements in his symphonies. This is noted in Bruckner 7, where the 1st and 3rd movement are written for Bass tuba and the 2nd and 4th are for contrabass. This instrument changes are noted at the beginning of each movement. This performance practice is usually overlooked in America because we tend to play huge equipment all the time, but some players honor Bruckner’s wishes and switch horns, which in my opinion makes a difference, especially because he was aware of his scoring as to the tubas function and either serving as a lower member of the brass family (bass tuba) or the entire orchestra (contrabass tuba)."
I want to thank Tom for his wisdom and knowledge on the subject, nothing like the student teaching the teacher a thing or two… LOL
Well that’s about it for this month, don’t forget to send your questions or topics to: AskWayneDowney [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com and when you get a chance log onto my website www.XtremeBrass.com for all your brass needs. I’ve just released Frank Dorritie’s new brass method book titled "XtremePower & Range" and my new compilation of XtremeBrass Etudes titled "SuperStar Etudes".
"Don’t Let The Chance Pass You By". See Ya Soon…
Wayne Downey is the first of Drum Corps Planet’s panel of subject-matter expert columnists – providing our readers with expert information and insight from the best teachers and leaders in the drum and bugle corps activity. In addition to his long-term role as Music Director of the 11-time DCI World Champion Blue Devils drum and bugle corps – where he’s won 20 Jim Ott awards for "Excellence in Brass Performance", Wayne is distinguished as one of the finest brass teachers/clinicians and arrangers in the world. His work has been featured by some of the world’s most-respected drum corps, high school and collegiate bands – as well as the Tony and Emmy award winning show "Blast" and in feature films. In 1991 Wayne was inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame for his contributions to the Drum & Bugle Corps activity as the musical director for the Blue Devils. Wayne’s latest venture – XtremeBrass.com provides brass players of all ages and skill-levels, as well as educators, personalized lessons and access to his championship-winning techniques and methods. We’re honored to have him as one of our contributing columnists. -jmd
Wayne Downey was the first of Drum Corps Planet’s panel of subject-matter expert columnists – providing our readers with expert information and insight from the best teachers and leaders in the drum and bugle corps activity. In addition to his long-term role as Music Director of the 14-time DCI World Champion Blue Devils drum and bugle corps – where he’s won 21 Jim Ott awards for “Excellence in Brass Performance”, Wayne is distinguished as one of the finest brass teachers/clinicians and arrangers in the world. His work has been featured by some of the world’s most-respected drum corps, high school and collegiate bands – as well as the Tony and Emmy award winning show “Blast” and in feature films. In 1991 Wayne was inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame for his contributions to the Drum & Bugle Corps activity as the musical director for the Blue Devils. Wayne’s latest venture – XtremeBrass.com provides brass players of all ages and skill-levels, as well as educators, personalized lessons and access to his championship-winning techniques and methods.
Posted by Wayne Downey on Thursday, August 24th, 2006. Filed under Brass Advantage.