Brass Advantage with Wayne Downey
Issue 12

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Welcome back to the land of “All Things Brass.” This installment of Brass Advantage continues to discuss the brass pedagogy (the study of performance techniques specific to brass instruments) relative to producing a characteristic tone quality. If you haven’t read Brass Advantage #11 I would encourage you to do so to gain an understanding of the concepts that have already been discussed to aid you in your search for that allusive characteristic tone.

Breath Control – The next priority in creating a great sound is learning how to control the air you breathe. First and foremost you must learn that the lower abdominal muscles in combination with the position and shape of the tongue in the mouth cavity regulate air pressure and air speed. The more you exert the lower abdominal muscles in an upward motion the more air will be released out of the lungs. Conversely, the less exertion, the less air will be released.

Air pressure is created when the air released from the lungs comes in contact with the back of the tongue before passing over the tongue through the oral cavity and into your instrument. The shape of the tongue in the mouth cavity plays a pivotal role in creating this pressure as well as controlling the speed of the air. The higher the arch of the back of the tongue the smaller the oral cavity becomes (the space between the tongue and the roof of the mouth.) Obviously, the smaller the space between the tongue and the roof of the mouth the more pressure will be created and the faster the air will be released over the tongue into the instrument. Conversely, the lower the arch of the tongue the larger the mouth cavity becomes creating less pressure with a slower speed of air. All professional brass players have learned to coordinate the motion of the lower abdominals with the motion of the tongue for complete control over their air pressure and speed. Once these basic concepts of varying air speed and air pressure are learned you are well on your way to understanding the concept of controlling the air you breathe.

Pitch Control – Once you’ve learned how to vary both your air speed and air pressure you must understand how those functions affect both your tone and pitch. At this point it’s important to understand the direct relationship between the frequency of the vibration of the tissue and the speed of your air. The faster the speed of the air passing through the lips the faster the tissue will vibrate producing a higher pitch, conversely the slower the vibration, the lower the pitch. You might be fascinated by the fact that the frequency of the vibration also affects the color of your tone. The faster the tissue vibrates on any given pitch the brighter your tone will be, the slower the vibration, the darker the tone will become.

Once you’ve learned how to breathe in a relaxed manner, vary your air pressure and air speed you must understand that there is also a relationship between the speed of your air and the frequency of the vibration of the tissue with the size of your aperture.

Realize that the speed of the air is not the only factor that controls pitch. The size of the vibrating surface (aperture) also affects the speed of the vibration of the tissue. Assuming a constant air speed is traveling through the aperture the smaller the vibrating surface the faster the vibration will be, the larger the vibrating surface the slower the vibration will be. Hence the sharper or flatter the pitch or the brighter or darker the tone becomes.

Simply stated, accurate control of pitch and tone color involves a coordinated effort between the speed of your air, your air pressure and the size of your aperture (the vibrating surface).

Assuming that you remember how to change the speed of your air using the lower abdominal muscles in combination with the position and shape of the tongue in the mouth cavity, the next step in the process is learning how to vary the size of the aperture. Stayed tuned for next month’s installment for more…..

Well I hope this month’s installment has enlightened and encouraged you to go out there and lasso that tone quality you’ve always wanted to play with.

Stay tuned for more “XtremeBrass Technique” in the next couple of installments of Brass Advantage….

For all of you members of M.E.S.T. (Major Ego Soloist Types) Frank Dorritie’s new brass technique book titled “STARPOWER” was released last month on www.XtremeBrass.com it contains all you ever wanted to know about being an incredible soloist and much, much more… Check it out!!!

Well that’s about it for this month, don’t forget to check out all the new brass and percussion technique books, marching band warm ups, drum cadences, drumsticks, CDs and DVDs on my website at www.XtremeBrass.com, send your questions or topics to: AskWayneDowney [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com?subject=Question%20from%20Drum%20Corps%20Planet.

“Don’t Let The Chance Pass You By”. See Ya Soon…

Wayne

Publisher’s Note:
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

About the Author:
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 on Sunday, July 22nd, 2007. Filed under Brass Advantage.