Monday, October 29, 2007

Picturing Entrances

C.S.O. trumpet colleague Doug Lindsay offers a great improvement on an Arban book term that probably has contributed to the stuttering and bungling of trumpet entrances for decades! He points out that the word "attack" of the note could well be replaced with "release" of the air. Brilliant! We subconsciously picture attacking entrances rather than a timed release of air onto them, a much more natural function. Attacking notes makes us think of explosive bursts of air, while releasing air gives us greater control for a variety of articulations. Finesse is possible in "release" whereas clubbing happens with "attack".

Not that clubbing doesn't have a large place in the arsenal of brass weaponry. But the point is how to control entrances with the greatest of ease. We've got the odds stacked against us when we consider how imperceptibly the violins can sneak in, and how unnoticed the woodwind players can ooze into their notes. Trumpet entrances are not so easy. Ever notice how the violin players can float the bow quickly over the strings (flautando), and yet still play very softly? A good visual for our fluid air movement even in pianissimo. Some thoughts, or images to think on while doing nothing:

Think of heavy aircraft landing on the runway without skidding and burning too much rubber, a graceful landing without bumps. Note also the small downward drop compared to the great forward thrust. Or how about pushing a child on a swing? No jerks, just smooth in-rhythm gentle shoves. Take bowling - an athletic windup followed by the silent release of the ball on the wood floor with no thuds or bounces. Like the plane, the main direction is forward, not downward. Or for those of you seniors, think lawn bowling, or boccie - old guys slowly rolling a not-so-heavy ball only a short distance. Then there is shuffleboard. Who in his right mind would think of striking the disc instead of giving it a smooth forward push?

More sports: think about the quarterback rather than the batter. Why? One releases the ball while the other hits for a living. Trumpet players must be able to do both. I wonder if our terminology needs some adjusting, our mental pictures more focus, and our practice habits greater efficiency. We need more forward-directed air, and a less percussive tongue. The tongue focuses, but it is the air that fuels the notes regardless of speed. Let's perfect our air releases so that they match the many demands of the music. Attack the problem, not the note!

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