Brass Advantage with Wayne Downey
Welcome back to the land of “All Things Brass.” This installment of Brass Advantage continues to discuss brass pedagogy (the study of performance techniques specific to brass instruments.) If you haven’t read the last two Brass Advantage columns, I would highly encourage you to do so to gain an understanding of the concepts that have already been discussed. Simply click on the links that follow to catch-up on what we’ve covered already: Brass Advantage #11 & #12
The Aperture – I like to create the image (for my students) of the aperture gliding along what I call a laser beam of air (the air column) in a forward or backward motion towards or away from the throat of the mouthpiece. The motion of the aperture is controlled by the muscles of the face and is accompanied by the corners of the mouth moving in a similar manner (much like puckering your lips). The motion of the facial muscles should be very elastic and smooth and the condition of the tissue vibrating should be very supple.
You must realize that this type of motion not only changes the size of the aperture but its location in the mouthpiece as well. The closer the aperture is to the throat of the mouthpiece the larger the size of the vibrating surface, the further away the aperture is from the throat of the mouthpiece the smaller the size of the vibrating surface becomes. This movement should be thought of as a simple rolling motion. This motion will now serve as the technique we will use to vary the size of the aperture (the vibrating surface). To produce a well-centered pitch you must coordinate the speed of your air, your air pressure with the size of the aperture to create the frequency of vibration necessary. I would like to caution you that any unnecessary pressure from the mouthpiece (usually prompted by the hand) could impede the motion of the facial muscles and adversely affect your attempt to control pitch and tone color.
Hand Pressure – The hands play a major role in regulating pressure on the vibrating surface (aperture). Careful attention must be paid by the performer to evenly distribute the pressure of the mouthpiece on both the upper and lower lips to ensure even vibration of the tissue. Uneven distribution of pressure will adversely affect your tone, pitch and flexibility.
You also must understand the relationship between the amounts of pressure the mouthpiece exerts on the vibrating surface and the register (range) you’re playing in. The higher the register the more pressure is needed and conversely the lower the register the less pressure is warranted. The hands must regulate these variations in pressure but at the same not impede the muscle motion. Please understand that the variation of pressure is slight but all-important. For all brass players with the exception of those who play French Horn the left hand is key in adjusting the amount of pressure the mouthpiece exerts on the lips. French Horn players on the other hand (don’t mind the pun) control the pressure with their right hands. Please make a conscious effort not to use pinky rings or any other grasping aids on either hand to alter hand pressure unevenly. Pressure unevenly exerted from either hand could disrupt the equal pressure of the mouthpiece on the vibrating surface.
In Conclusion – The XtremeBrass approach to brass technique has been designed to create a coordinated system of muscle motion that is both fluid and unrestricted. The performer should concentrate on synchronizing the motion of the aperture, tongue, lower abdominal muscles and hand for optimal physical and tonal development.
You must be aware of and memorize the physical sensations that occur when a beautiful tone is produced. You must strive to duplicate those same physical sensations repeatedly so your brain will learn to direct the muscle groups (muscle memory) to involuntarily direct the physical aspect of your performance to free your expressive and emotional self. Whatever you’d like to call this phenomenon, being in the zone or being on automatic pilot an incredible amount of dedication (hours of rehearsal) will be required to create that “natural sense” of muscle motion.
The barometer of success of this method is without a doubt your quality of sound (tone). If the tone produced is not satisfactory then one or more of the elements of the system is out of balance and or being disregarded. The method relies on your knowledge of the system coupled with your ability to monitor your tone while making music.
I hope you reap the same successes in your music making with my XtremeBrass Technique that the Blue Devils have enjoyed for decades.
SuperStar Etudes Vols. 1 & 2 are featured (and on sale) this month on www.xtremebrass.com save 25% off the original price.
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%20Brass%20Advantage%20Column.
“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 12-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, September 27th, 2007. Filed under Brass Advantage.