May 12, 2010

Recipe for success

Think of the amount of legato tongue you use in slurring as an ingredient in a recipe. Depending on the altitude you live at, the ratio of ingredients in a recipe change to adjust for atmospheric pressure. The same thing applies to use of legato tongue in slurred passages. When slurring in the bass clef staff where the partials are far apart and the slide moves farther between notes, a different amount of legato tongue is necessary. As the register ascends, less legato tongue is necessary, until at the very top of the trombone range, little or none is required. The object of this is to make every slur conform to an ideal, equally smooth, resonant slur. To do that we must adjust to the particular idiosyncrasies of the trombone, which no other wind instrument must deal with. The way I like to describe the use of legato tongue is to visualize the tongue making a dent in the air stream. The way you control the amount of legato tongue suitable for a certain passage is to control the amount of air that goes past the tongue. The more legato tongue necessary, the less air flow is allowed past the tongue at that exact moment the slur is taking place. Of course the air never stops, and if fact doesn't slow down, but the size of the dent made by the tongue to the air stream determines the degree of legato tongue used. This gives the player a selection in the degree of legato tongue available to suit each register and slide movement, to realize the ideal legato slur.

I'm going to go out on a limb this month and put forth a theory that will ruffle some feathers in many quarters. Namely, I think the average player doesn't use enough mouthpiece pressure to balance the air flow and stabilize the embouchure during loud or high register playing. I believe a large factor in the production of the dreaded double buzz, is the buzzing of lip surface outside the rim of the mouthpiece, or even on the rim itself. Professional players have no problem using the necessary amount of mouthpiece stability to balance a strong airflow. The trouble starts when people want to use the no pressure system when playing loud and/or high. The embouchure is not held stable enough to hold that much air flow and lip tension and notes can not be sustained in an even and resonant manner. When you think about it the mouthpiece is shaped like it is to isolate the center of the embouchure so that part can vibrate. The rim is there so that only the lips inside the rim can vibrate, not those outside. The rim is also there so the lips inside can vibrate more because they are isolated, and the lips outside can stretch and relax providing the right length of vibration just as a string is shortened or lengthened to produce different overtones on a violin.

This is not to say using more mouthpiece pressure is automatically a good thing. If you have a slow, weak air stream, this will be a very bad thing to do. Using the right amount of mouthpiece pressure in a certain register and dynamic allows more vibration of the lips inside the rim while keeping the embouchure still and stable, a must for producing a steady resonant tone, providing there is also a suitable amount of air flow to balance it. The most important thing a suitable amount of mouthpiece pressure allows you to do is play with a completely relaxed body, which is absolutely essential in producing a great sound. If the embouchure is not stable enough, some other part of the body will take over that function and the sound will be constricted and dead, as if someone rang a bell and then grabbed it with both hands to keep it from ringing.

Feeding Frenzy

Remember when President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation about the "Military-Industrial Complex?" Well I'd like to add a new candidate to that conglomerate; the Military-Terrorist-Industrial Complex. We now have a feeding frenzy of fear about the guy who tried to set off a bomb in Times Square, but forgot to turn on the thing and set his alarm clock. This guy couldn't blow off his underpants if he had a nuclear missile, but everyone, including the media is saying the sky is falling and the end of the world is near. Janet Napolitano, the poor man's, (or women's) Janet Reno, (remember her: she's the one who gave the order to torch all those women and children at Waco,) is literally salivating at the thought of hiring 400,000 more unemployed dishwashers who will have absolute control over your body, not only at airports, but at many places you normally frequent.

How about the guy on TV who says you have the same chance of winning the lottery as being mauled by a polar bear and regular bear in the same day. Well how 'bout this? You have the same chance of being the victim of a terrorist attack as being mauled by a polar bear, a regular bear, a grizzly bear, a koala bear, yogi bear, Max Baer, Parley Baer and a Teddy bear in the same day! The business of fear however is big business, employs lots of unskilled people and really helps keep the people in line, and not too concerned about their civil rights. Remember the Patriot Act, which now is almost universally recognized as a gross over reaction to a terrible tragedy? Then there's what the security experts call the "Kabuki Theater" at the airports, which give travelers a nice, though imaginary feeling of security.

The government and the media barons provide free fear, and even if you don't want it, your going to get it anyway, because it's big business, big money and keeps the peasants in line and not too questioning about what's really going on. So take off your shoes, strip down, open wide, AND BEND OVER.

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