Jacobs felt that the body is an efficient “computer” that
does not need step by step instructions about how to solve a problem,
but rather will come up with the best/most efficient solution on its
own. In other words, one usually doesn’t have to tell one’s
hand to reach out, grasp, and turn a door knob to open a door, but
rather just “open the door.” The body’s reflexes
handle the rest. The same principle applies to teaching or playing
the trombone. If a student has a poor tone, the problem is not his
equipment or even his embouchure (although his embouchure may technically
be causing a bad sound) rather, it is his/her concept of sound. If
a student has not focused on/listened to what is considered to be a
good sound, that student may be perpetuating his/her own concept of
sound that is simply underdeveloped.
most important part of having a musical product is one’s concept
of music or how a person internalizes the music. Without this concept,
the music may be dull or lifeless. It may be technically correct in
every avenue, but not be saying anything to the audience.
It is an intangible that sets apart the technically uninspiring players
from those that attain a high level of artisanship. Listening to other
musicians is of primary importance. Having an array of personal experiences
and emotions to draw from is also beneficial in my opinion. Musicianship
is a combination of understanding of style, including tempo, rubato tempo,
and articulations, dynamics, tone and timbre, and personal expression.
If the concept for anyone of these is not met, the end result may not
favorite teaching etudes are the Melodious Etudes by Bordogni/Rochut.
With these tonal/accessible etudes, I can teach my students that it
is okay to add their own personal expression by means of dynamics,
rubato tempo, articulations, and/or tempo. Many times I have them develop
a plot for these etudes, complete with characters and a storyline.
This is very difficult for some of them and easier for others. Sometimes
I have them work up the etude in a different style from that marked.
When they actually “get in” to the music, the difference
in the end product is striking. There is quick improvement on every
etude books that I like for the undergraduate include Couillaud’s Trente
Etudes Modernes, Voxman’s Selected Studies,
LaFosse’s School of Sight Reading and Style, Blazhevich/Fink Advanced
Musical Etudes. All of these etude books focus on music. I know
that there are other methods that are more popular such as the Arban
method or the Kopprasch. I find that these are too technically bogged
down and are not satisfying to learn or to listen to. My students make
fine technical and musical progress without these. Also, I make sure
that students are constantly exposed to solo works which can teach
them more than most etude books. I use the same techniques mentioned
above for the solos. They also have the opportunity to perform frequently
(weekly) for their peers.
course, there are technical aspects that need to be worked on such
as the ability to read tenor clef. I like to use Fink’s Introducing
the Tenor or Alto Clef books.
is an important part of being able to play your best; deep breathing
can help with this process. I teach my students the importance of breathing
deeply, taking a full breath and supporting their sound. Many times
I have my students play their legato or technical studies without any
tongue, keeping the air constant. Sometimes I have them buzz the mouthpiece
to help with centering the pitch, since the mouthpiece is less forgiving
than the horn in this respect.
and memorizing all major, minor, and chromatic scales will help develop
mental patterns similar to the automatic reflexes mentioned above for
opening a door. Buddy Baker’s Tenor Trombone Method is
a thorough list of scales with good alternate positions that I like
my students to know. Remington’s Warm up or Marstellar Basic
Routines are good books for lipslurs, greatly improving flexibility.
I believe that although there must be a thorough knowledge and understanding
of scales, breathing, and flexibility, the primary focus should be
on the music. Students should focus on making musical sounds, whether
it be the most musical scale they can play or Grondhal’s Concerto.