Apr 8, 2007

Over the Top

I've got a good one for you this month. It concerns slurs with a shift of position and across a partial(s). I will use the slur from middle Bb to Eb above the staff as an example, the first two notes of the Rhenish excerpt, although this technique can use used on any similar interval. Virtually everyone waits until the slide (or valve) gets to the arrival note to cross a partial, which results in unwanted noise in that slur because the player approaches that slur from underneath. The noise are unwanted notes from crossing partials below the intended arrival note. In other words the air is late and the slide or valve is already there with no sound to fill that space and more importantly no sound approaching that note.

I'm going to give you a technique and an exercise to fix this once and for all, so you can pick up your horn cold in the middle of the night and play a beautiful soft slur from Bb to Eb, as well as others, and be able to do it 100 times with no garbage in between ever!

To slur from Bb to Eb you must cross two partials, the D and F above the staff. Then you must slur down to the Eb. To get a perfect slur, do the following exercise; play a middle Bb, then slowly slur up to an E natural above the staff, then gliss down to an Eb a half step lower. Do this many times to get used to this feeling of going up and over the desired interval slur before the slide gets to 3rd position. Now slowly and VERY GRADUALLY move the slide past the 2nd position E natural without stopping, but still playing the E with your embouchure. Slowly eliminate the sound of the E by smoothly moving the slide past the E without stopping, but still crossing that partial in second position. Add just enough legato tongue to turn the gliss into a smooth legato slur. If you take enough time to work this out I guarantee you will get a great slur with a great sound that will never fail you!

This concept can be used with downward natural slurs as well, using the same exercise in reverse. The secret is, as I've said before in other articles, going across a partial midway or earlier in the distance the slide (or valve) travels. This makes sure that the air and embouchure change the note and not the slide or valve. They never do anyway; just because they happen to be there when a note changes doesn't mean they made the note change. That's like the guy who winked his eye every time he played a high Bb. Pretty soon he thought that the wink made the note come out. In other words, once you get away from the habit of relying on the slide to activate the air and embouchure and reverse that process, you're going to be a different player. The slide and valve are licenses to play a note, not the activator.

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