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Pinning the Line and Chasing the Sound with MrClean!!!


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Derek Reaban
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 10:49 pm    Post subject: Pinning the Line and Chasing the Sound with MrClean!!! Reply with quote

Iíve been on vacation with my family in California for the past week during my boyís Fall break from school. We started out just North of Los Angeles with a couple of days at the Magic Mountain amusement park experiencing the thrills of Tatsu, Goliath, Batman and many others. With it being ďoff seasonĒ there were virtually no lines and the weather was perfect for being outside. For day two of our adventure, I opted to take a thrilling ride of a different sort and told my Wife and boys that I would meet them at the park after lunch.

With it being Columbus Day, the freeways had few cars and my drive to La Crescenta was very uneventful. I arrived in Jim Wiltís neighborhood with about an hour to warm up before my lesson and found a beautiful park just minutes from his house to get ready for the experience that was waiting for me.

For the past 2 months Iíve been working diligently on my fundamentals, and I prepared a Rochut Etude, Charlier 2, Pines of Rome (offstage solo), Petrouchka (Ballerinaís Dance and Waltz), Pictures (Promenade), and the Posthorn Solo (Mahler 3). I brought my video camera with me to capture all of the little details that I knew would quickly fade from my memory as I would be rushing back to Magic Mountain after the lesson and be spun every which way for many more hours that day.

I got to Jimís door right at 10 AM and he was there to meet me even before I had a chance to ring the bell. Itís exciting to finally meet someone that Iíve only known through forums. We set up in the big dining room area in his home facing the kitchen, and it was a treat to get to sit in this vibrant, resonant space (vaulted ceilings and beautiful hardwood floors)! Jim mentioned that it was his day off, and that he had just had 11 services the past week getting ready for the LA Phil Opening Night Gala as well as a full week at The Colburn School. I was thrilled that he was able to fit me into his busy schedule!

During my lesson Jim covered many familiar concepts and several new ideas that I havenít been exposed to before. While Iím good at absorbing new information, after watching the video that I made, Iím simply amazed at how much material Jim was able to cover in the couple of hours that we were together. Iím planning on providing a full overview of my lesson, because I always learn a lot by synthesizing the ideas and then presenting them in a written format. Things tend to stick with me better when I write them down.

For now Iíll just mention that when we worked on Charlier 2 we discussed the following concepts:


  • Chasing the sound Ė Finding where the intensity is
  • Pinning the Line Ė Using the air effectively
  • Downward Sit Ė Something that was brand new to me and was very easy to hear in the video how effective this idea is to help ďchase the soundĒ.
  • Embouchure coming inward Ė Another familiar topic, but experiencing Jim ďbendĒ notes in combination with the Downward sit, really opened my eyes (ears) on how vibrant a trumpet sound can be.
  • Slow Valves, Firm Airstream Ė While this applies only to more lyrical etudes or passages (like Charlier 2), I was immediately reminded of the Jay Friedman article on ďpervasive airĒ and slow valves. I indicated that I knew what Jim was talking about, but this is something that Iíve only read about, and Iím sure I could have an entire lesson on this one topic alone!


I feel like I am within striking distance of getting to the orchestral sound that I have always strived for. Jim was engaging and extremely knowledgeable! His approach to address these most important concepts using the Charlier then transferred directly to the detailed work that we did on each of the four orchestral excepts that I had prepared. The ideas dovetailed seamlessly into what we would discuss later in the lesson.

Iíll get to the details of this post over this next week...

Thanks, Jim, for a marvelous lesson! It was all that I had hoped for and more!
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like a great lesson Derek! Looking forward to all the details!!!
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a big fan of the pervasive air concept!

I'm sitting on the edge of my seat looking forward to your full write-up!

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek, I think you misunderstood me. I was going for a perverse sound...

It was good to get a chance to meet and work with you.

J
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Derek Reaban
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My lesson began with Rochut Etude #29, trading phases back and forth with Jim so that I could hear his sound and help to get out any jitters by playing something simple, but doing it very well before launching into the more challenging material. I felt good about my playing and asked Jim to select one more before we moved onto the Charlier. He picked #4 which is very familiar to me and after playing this one I felt like I was ready to go.

As a brief commentary, I should mention that I very rarely record myself, much less turn on the video recorder during a practice session. What I noticed when I watched the two of us play these etudes (after the lesson) is that I tend to move much more than Jim. There is clearly a good deal of movement and swaying in my playing (in tempo) and following the musical line. While Jim is not a statue when he plays, he clearly looked like an orchestral player, with minimal movement even playing these lyrical etudes.

I began Charlier 2 with a small chip on the first F and played down to the fermata before the meno mosso before Jim stopped me. I felt very good about what I had played and knew that this was representative of my best playing for this etude (playing the Rochut prior to the Charlier allowed me to have a really good, jitter free run through).

Jim asked me how good I am at forecasting where the first note is going to be (i.e. hearing the pitch before I play). I wish I had played a test note before I started and sang through the first phrase in my head, but I just started with no clear pitch in my mind. Jim said that I must, "be committed to the note that I have in my head and commit full resources right from the start." As I watched the video after the lesson, every time that Jim would model something for me, he would take the time to clearly hear what he was going to demonstrate to me before he played (at least 2-3 seconds of silence). It was obvious that by following this simple step there was no guessing before he played anything, and I should be doing the same!

Jim told me that he heard a slight lift in my downward slurs. "On the downward slurs, we need to feed them more. Rather than letting gravity pull us down, blowing through the line will help to stabilize the notes". Then he did something very simple that reinforced this concept and is something that I will be able to apply universally on anything that I play in the future. He took the first three notes of the etude and played a simple exercise: quarter half, quarter half, quarter quarter quarter (F-Db, F-Db, F-Db-C) at a slow tempo to establish a good first interval and feed the interval with air. After doing this it was clearly much more energized. I played the same exercises and it had much more confidence, and I was thinking about how I wanted that first phrase to sound instead of just guessing.

When we got to the measure with the breath mark (i.e. bar 9 into bar 10), I caught part of the D on the F to F upward slur. The phrase is C-Db-Bb-C-F-F. Iím usually pretty consistent with octave slurs, but this turned out to be a great opportunity for Jim to provide me with a practice approach that I will be able to apply in the future. He said that, "by feeding air through the lower octave to get to the upper octave, the percentages will go up. As long as the embouchure stays intact (not compromised) and you feed extra compression to it, the upper note will come out". He then said, "Play what I play": C-Db-Bb-C-F-G (up a major second from the first space F). After I did this he said that this was a mirroring exercise and I would continue playing what he did, in tempo, until he stopped (this was 2 minutes of back and forth playing):

  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-Gb (up a minor second from the first space F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-Ab (up a minor third from the first space F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-Bb (up a perfect fourth from the first space F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-C (up a perfect fifth from the first space F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-Db (up a minor sixth from the first space F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-Eb (up a minor seventh from the first space F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-Bb (up an octave from the first space F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-C-F (up a perfect fifth from the first space F then to the octave F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-Db-F (up a minor sixth from the first space F then to the octave F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-Eb-F (up a minor seventh from the first space F then to the octave F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-F (up an octave from the first space F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-Gb (up a minor ninth from the first space F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-Ab (up a minor tenth from the first space F)
  • C-Db-Bb-C-F-F (up an octave from the first space F)


"You must find a different way into it. Rather than continuing to ram your truck into a wall hoping that the wall will eventually go away, I want you do find a different way around the wall."

Wow! That practice technique is going to stick with me for the rest of my life! When we got to that last octave, it was perfect.

Much more to come...
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much, Derek, for taking the time to post your lesson notes online. This is truly what the TH should be about! Sharing your new discoveries and thoughts with the rest of the community....

The fact that what you had to share was a lesson with Mr Clean is awesome.
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Derek Reaban
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

With several new ideas spinning in my mind Jim asked me to play from the beginning of Charlier 2. After several phrases he stopped me and said that from a trumpet playing standpoint it was fine. But he wanted me to transport him away from the tubing that I was holding and make him forget that I was playing a trumpet. He said, "I hear athleticism in that line rather than music. You wouldnít sing it Dee-Ah-Ah-Ah Ė itís a little lippy. What youíre doing is adjusting those slots so theyíre nicely in tune and locked in, which I appreciate. If you can accomplish that with less massaging at the embouchure, a firmer airstream (not a forced airstream), and slower valves youíll get closer to the way Iíd like this to sound."

"In contrast, if there was a faster musical passage and it needed to be crisp, clean, and snappy, you would use very quick valve strokes. For this opening to Charlier, though, the valves need to move a little slower. The downside to applying this 'slow valves' concept is that it can sound like 'Wah-Wah-Wah-Wah' if youíre not diligent about buffering it with a nice firm airstream."

At this point I managed to stammer out the phrase "pervasive air" and nodded knowingly while my mind was spinning trying to recall all that I had read on this topic, but never fully committed to regular, thoughtful practice.

Briefly stepping outside of my lesson notes, if this is the first time that you have heard about "slow valves" I would encourage you to read the following articles at Jay Friedman's website, because what Jim is talking about is musical nuance and finding a way to be more vocally imitative. This is a very difficult topic to discuss in words, but these articles are the very best that I have found to get your feet wet and understand what the great musical benefits are in understanding and applying this concept (Iíve excerpted some key phrases, but read everything in the links to fully grasp this idea):

Trumpeting (by John Hagstrom)
As trumpet players, we often improperly use the resistance of the valve changes as a crutch that unfortunately breaks up the continuity of musical lineÖThe resulting musical continuity is not on the level aesthetically with other instruments that are forced to produce the sound with a more continuous effort (strings, woodwinds, singers.....trombones...). The sound of the trumpet is still compelling to the listener, but we have passively traded away the opportunity to connect with the audience in the same way and with the same musical tools as those other instruments.

Trompet! Ė Jay Friedman
Here is a program I guarantee will give you a sound that will be the envy of your peers. The idea is to produce a total portamento (glissando) where the sound is exactly the same on the note and in between the note to the next note. There should be absolutely no indication of where the note changes.

Legato and the Arms Race Ė Jay Friedman
I try to tailor my legato slur to the sound of male voices singing Gregorian chant, because to me that is the most beautiful legato sound. You will know you have a great legato when no one can tell exactly when a note changed because one note will flow into another without any break in the continuity of the sound.

Six Months in Chicago (by Chris Martin)
My legato, specifically the "pervasiveness" of my air to use Jayís term, has improved greatly thanks to my increased practice on rotary valves.


Moving back to my lesson, Jim modeled two contrasting examples for the beginning of the Charlier (quicker valves first, and then slower valves). After the first example he said, "You hear everything really snapping in but this time Iím going to try and smooth that out and make it a little bit more lyrical". When he finished playing the second time he said, "Do you hear the difference? Itís a little less lippy but everything is still in tune, right where I want it to be, and Iím using the support of the air to avoid the 'rah-rah-rah' quality".

I played the same passage with this somewhat nebulous idea floating in my head and Jim commented that "the hardest ones to get are the downward intervals like the C to the G in the 4th bar. You need more 'whoo -->' (air)."

Based on re-reading the articles that I have posted above, I am definitely going to explore this idea. While I may not be able to devote the same time or energy to this concept in my daily practice that Jim does (or Jay Friedman, John Hagstrom, or Chris Martin), I think a few 10 minutes sessions several times a week for the next month or so will at least allow me to scratch the surface of this concept and then I can ask more questions about it at a future lesson with my regular teacher who has worked with Jay and John.

Next up, Chasing the Sound...
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Last edited by Derek Reaban on Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Always a pleasure to read your posts Derek.

With much appreciation,

Laser170323
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic advice! Thank you, much appreciated!
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've tried to work out this "slower valves" thing myself, I just have trouble nailing down how slow is too slow. It seems a very narrow window between what sounds good, and what sounds horrible when you do this.
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Derek Reaban
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chasing the Sound

As I was applying the concept of slow valves on the opening on the Charlier, Jim told me that I needed to dig deeper into the sound. "Itís good playing, but there needs to be more depth in the sound." He mentioned that one of his students had just come back from having a lesson with Michael Sachs and Michael has stressed the idea of chasing the sound and finding where the intensity is greatest. Even at a mp-mf there should be a sense of direction in the sound.

Jim modeled a sound that was close to what I had just played and said, "Thereís nothing wrong with that, nothing offensive about it. But from a musical standpoint, when I listen to it, it doesnít move me. What Iím doing with the air 'is talking like this' (similar to how Marlon Brando might sound in the Godfather) 'Instead of Like This' (the Radio Announcer voice that Jens Lindemann describes). It has more purpose to it. Iím not using any more air, but itís more directional. This time when I play the phrase, it might be a slight bit louder, but Iím looking for more direction in the sound, like Iím going somewhere with it. Youíll hear more spin in the sound".

Then Jim played the most beautiful opening to Charlier 2 that I think Iíve ever heard, all the way down to the fermata, with great intensity and vibrancy in his sound. His vocal quality and musical nuance certainly "moved me"!

Pinning the Line

After he finished playing he said, "So the whole point of this playing example is that the air is always moving forward. When Iím playing, I think of the specific musical line or phrase as a single sheet of paper that Iím trying to hold to the wall." Jim got up at this point, took a piece of paper off the table, went over to the wall and put the piece of paper on the wall. "At a pianissimo dynamic I use a pinky to hold the paper to the wall. A fortissimo is achieved by holding the paper to the wall with a fist. There is always forward momentum. The line is always pinned Ė it has a gentle shove on it. This approach gives me more intensity in the line, and hopefully as we work through more material today, youíll find some other benefits to keeping the line pinned."

At this point I asked him if "pinning the line" is something that is accomplished simply by playing through the music or if there are specific breathing exercises that can be done away from the trumpet. He told me that he doesnít usually doesnít do any breathing exercises; he simply incorporates all of these concepts into his playing. Whatever he may be working on (solo, etude, or excerpt), he uses that music as an opportunity to reinforce these ideas.

He told me that in his teaching at Colburn, he likes to use movie imagery to better communicate this idea. In the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan, when the troop carrier squadron hits the beach and the door comes down, lead is flying into the boat from the enemy. The soldierís first instinct is going to be to retreat or to stay back from the door. But they know that if they stay in the boat they will die. The only way out is forward, pushing through the lead. Jim tied this to "pinning the line" saying that, "I refer to the notes in the horn as reluctant soldiers. Sometimes they need a gentle push and sometimes they need a shove, but itís always forward."
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

...and every now and then, despite our best preparation and intentions, we end up being that one guy carrying his own arm around the beach looking for a place to sit down and rest.

In all seriousness, good post Derek, and great advice from Jim.

Chris
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chstrpt wrote:
...and every now and then, despite our best preparation and intentions, we end up being that one guy carrying his own arm around the beach looking for a place to sit down and rest.

Chris


Yeah, but it is so much easier to pat ourselves on the back without the encumbrance of tendons, cartilage and other connective tissue...
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek,

I call the slotting and fast valves thing "Clicking" or "Bumping." The Jay Friedmann article changed the way I play and teach considerably.

Can you explain to me what the "Downward Sit" is? Your description of your lessons and masterclasses are the greatest!

Michael
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek - reading your posts is a pleasure that never gets old

Are you going to make it to ITG next year?
Would be great to catch up again
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek,

With respect to the "slow valves" post, when I was in college Dr. Richard Burkart taught me to make all my slurs like a glissando. He said to glissando from the center of one note to the center of the next ensuring that there was no break in the buzz at all. And he instructed all his students to practice their slurred passages on just the mouthpiece until the "glissando technique" (for lack of a better way to describe it) of slurring became habitual. So all Burkart's students spent hours slurring on the mouthpiece, where we could hear the glissando and then transferring that to the trumpet. But he wanted up to do that in fast passages as well as slow ones. That as I remember was just the way he wanted us to slur. I still practice working up slurred passages on the mouthpiece. It's good practice to ensure one really is slurring from the center of one note to the center of the next without a break in the buzz.

Is this the same thing you are talking about?
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not to answer for Derek, but that's exactly what I think he is referring to. I do the same thing with the mouthpiece and the glissando and it really works. The problem is when you have to add valves and tonguing to it. It takes some students a while to realize how important timing the valve and tongue so precisely so that the line isn't interrupted. "clicking" and slotting notes and putting a slight bit of space before a tongued note in the middle of a lyric line are all crutches to help deal with the technique. They are a-musical though and you need to time all three elements so well that the line sings like a good voice or bowed instrument. MA
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2010 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Iím glad everyone is enjoying what I have written so far. The first step for me to experience real learning is to be able to summarize what took place during a lesson (or masterclass). Iím just so glad that I played well enough to get comments beyond, ďthat F# should be 2nd valveĒ!

Regarding the questions about slow valves from Randy and Jesse, glissando and portamento are the terms that Jay Friedman and John Hagstrom use (Iíve also seen smear in the trombone language). I really feel like the Jay Friedman post provides the how (and parts of the why), and the John Hagstrom post very eloquently elaborates on the why. I would love to have the ďF-G-A-BbĒ lesson some day! When I think about the difference between good and great and consider that John Hagstrom and Chris Martin both latched onto this concept AFTER they were a part of the CSO, I feel like this concept is one of the subtle musical nuances that can be offered to a player after they have gotten to a certain point with their playing. I also think that John Hagstrom hit the nail on the head with the statement that I excerpted several posts above, and is one of the defining qualities of a player in the CSO or LA Philharmonic or any of the other fine orchestras around the world.

I will dutifully keep playing my Rochut etudes and listening to singers like Cecelia Bartoli and hope that I will be able to add some of this flavor to who I am as a musician!


Michael,

Itís been a very busy day and I havenít had a chance to get to my ďinstallmentĒ on the downward sit. It will be next up, and for me, this one new piece of information has really made all the difference between what I consider to be a very good trumpet sound and moving the next step to having a great trumpet sound! Iím finding this one suggestion to be a revelation to my playing. Iím guessing that you already do it, but when you read the example that Jim mentioned during my lesson, you may find that you can be more conscious of it, and you can clearly share it will your students who like to move when they play.

I have two posts left and hope to get to them before the end of the weekend.


Chris,

I laughed out loud! Thanks. That was classic.


Trumpetmike,

Iím seriously considering the ITG conference this year. Weíll see if itís possible (Iím kind of on the fence with several other things that I have planned for the summer). It would be fun to see you again.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I began playing at the meno mosso just after the fermata in Charlier 2 (considering the reluctant soldiers in my horn). Just before I reached the Ab ascending line, the house phone began ringing which rattled me, and I stepped all over that passage. I tried again with no better result and Jim stopped me and said that students may interpret the meno mosso as a gentle dynamic, in the mp range, but we need air to make that note speak. He said, "A lot of people see a piano dynamic and it's almost like they're sucking the air backward. It's not literally what's happening, but they're very timid with their air. I look at soft playing as just a miniature version of loud playing. It's the same mechanism. I'm using a pinky instead of a fist. So, by trying to be too precious with the air...(Demonstrating on the horn) an air ball happens."

He played the first seven notes at the meno messo and mentioned that it's a linear crescendo and should be approached as if climbing a ladder. "You need to use each note to get up the ladder. If you lose momentum on the way up, it's almost like jumping down a rung." If you let up on the intensity of the air around the C, it will feel like you've slipped back down to the Bb or G. You were on the C with the push of the air, but now it feels like you've dropped back to the second line G. Without that momentum, how are you going to get to the Eb?

The phone had stopped ringing at this point and I regrouped and played with this ladder image in my mind along with a strong musical message ringing in my head. When I finished Jim mentioned that he liked the fact that I wasn't sagging on the downward line. He said that, "As a musical line descends many people will head downwards with the intensity of the air, but you're staying up nicely."

I felt very good about what I had just played and the idea about "pinning the line" was starting to capture my attention. Everything was about to change though...

Downward Sit

Jim said, "There is still a little bit of float involved in how you're playing, especially upstairs (he sings the ascending Ab line). I see your body come up a little bit. As you follow the ascending line, your bell tends to start lower and then rise as the notes go up."

What happened next absolutely shocked me and clearly has transformed my approach to sound production.

"If you've ever watched great lead players when they're getting their job done you never see them come up. They actually sit down (metaphor)".

"Being an engineer, you know all about the laws that govern the ways gasses behave. If you have a one-liter soda bottle and you put one-liter of air in it, it has a certain pressure. If you take that one-liter of air and put it in a 2 liter container, what happens? The pressure drops. So, even the slightest upward motion with the bell, causes us to stretch ourselves a little bit (making the container bigger), and we lose compression. I'm not asking you to (grunt) crush (aggressively pulling the bell down), because you'll hear that in the sound. With a downward sit, not only will it give you a little more support, you'll have more confidence because you're not reaching for those notes, you're looking at them this way (-->), rather than up, they're out."

Using a John Wooden modeling approach, Jim played from the meno mosso, first with contrary movement (raising the bell as the line ascends) and then with the slight downward sit to demonstrate the power of this concept.

Before he played the first example he said, "I'm going to intentionally come up (raise the bell as the note goes to the top of the staff). I'm going to exaggerate a little bit, but the difference in sound really does happen."

I clearly heard the difference during the lesson, but on the video it was even more dramatic. The sound has less intensity when the bell comes up (his movement clearly impacts the quality of the sound). Playing the same musical example the second time, but this time with the bell in a fixed position or with the slight downward sit as the musical line ascends has a very strong impact on the overtones in the sound.

Jim said, "There's more depth to it and I know the notes will come out because I'm really supporting it. I'm not hoping that it will come out. Try that, not rushing, just a slight downward sit."

I played the same line (meno mosso) that Jim had just played, considering the downward sit. It sounded good to me, but not dramatically different. When I finished I asked Jim if he heard a difference. He enthusiastically said, "I do!"

Stepping out of my lesson notes for a moment, when I listened to the video after the lesson it was very clear that I had much more vibrancy in my sound, especially on the higher notes. When I returned home after vacation and played for my regular teacher, he was shocked at what a difference it made in my sound and commented that everything that I was playing had a more uniform quality to it (not just the highs).

After my lesson with Jim, I had remembered a conversation that we had on TH a year or so ago about Ed Treutel. As I re-read the posts in this link, I clearly have Jim's keen awareness to thank for helping me to move in a direction that is more conducive to great sound production, but I also have benefitted from some of the teachings of Edward Treutel. The more that I am exposed to the ideas from Juilliard and other fine musical schools, the more benefit I am finding in my own playing.

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Derek Reaban
Tempe, Arizona
Tempe Winds / Symphony of the Southwest


Last edited by Derek Reaban on Mon Aug 26, 2019 3:51 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Derek Reaban
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Joined: 08 Jul 2003
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Location: Tempe, Arizona

PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embouchure Coming Inward

After my success with applying the downward sit on some of the higher notes, Jim said, "Itís going to take you a while to get comfortable with it because itís not quite as clear as the other one (when I had played considering the ladder and pinning the line). What you might notice when applying the downward sit is that with the added compression, things might try to open up here (embouchure). You need to resist that because the air is going to look for the easiest way out. Itís going to look for the weakest spot and you want it to be right there (i.e. going right into the mouthpiece). So, for me, to counter the effect of that added compression, my embouchure comes inwards. The corners are firm and I go toward the center."

Jim enjoys using metaphors and I liked this next one very much (describing the Embouchure Coming Inward). "I liken this concept to the Cathedral in European architecture. Iím sure youíre familiar with the term flying buttress. When constructing these big towers centuries ago, they didnít have reinforced steel to build these structures so that had to build these enormous walls to counter the forces of gravity coming down. And with my embouchure, I think of it in the same way. The compression Ė the airstream Ė would be equivalent to the tower. These are the thick wall (pointing to his corners) and to thicken them I come inwards. Using another example, if you spread them out this way, theyíre very thin, almost like a line of soldiers. If you have them spread out too far, you have holes, places for the enemy to come it. So if I bring the ranks together, theyíll resist that pressure."

Jim demonstrated the concept by playing the ascending line again and said that he can feel that compression and he resists it by coming in.

Later in my lesson, Jim was looking for more depth in my sound on the Pines excerpt. He commented that bending a note down and then back up into place will help to find the center (a concept that I have explored in the past and feel I really understand). He demonstrated what he was talking about with a very aggressive crescendo and bent a second line G down a minor third with such conviction and strength and then brought it back to the G in such a way that it felt like a dart hitting the bullís-eye on a target. This was the "embouchure coming inward" concept at work and these walls would clearly hold up the tallest of European Cathedral towers!

Jim asked me to try this for him, and I very feeble managed to get down to a little more than a full step with an anemic sound (maybe a quarter of the dynamic that Jim had demonstrated). Clearly, my walls need to be thickened.

For the past several weeks I have been working out of Volume III of the Trumpet Lessons with David Hickman book, and I can feel what Jim was describing. It took Jim demonstrating how he accomplishes a note bend for me to fully appreciate what is necessary to start building a foundation that will support the vibrant sound that I experienced out of Jimís bell. By starting with half steps and then whole steps, about 20 minutes just before bed, Iím finding that my sound is really starting to jump out of the bell, coupled with all of the other great things that Jim shared with me.

Embracing New Ideas

As we finished talking about the embouchure coming inward concept, Jim said, "With some of these concepts, I donít expect you to pick up on them like that. Youíve been playing a certain way for x number of years. And you have thousands if not tens of thousands of repetitions doing things in a certain way. I never expect someone to spit it out right on the spot. At first itís not going to sound good because itís not what you know. But if you trust the concept and work with it, I think it will pay dividends. You want to resist the temptation to go back to what is familiar. My students do that all the time. They have habits that may not be the best thing for them but they embrace them because theyíre theirs. They belong to them. Itís like that security blanket. Even though youíre getting your ass kicked at school because youíre carrying a security blanket, you still donít want to relinquish it."

"Over time, if you try some of these things and they work, hopefully youíll embrace the new ideas".

The lesson continued to excerpts and the application of these many concepts (and more) and I could very clearly see why Jim is called MrClean! If you find yourself in Southern California and want to experience these ideas in person, you will clearly come out on the other side with a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of purpose in your daily practice!

Thanks Jim! It was awesome!
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Derek Reaban
Tempe, Arizona
Tempe Winds / Symphony of the Southwest
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