Sunday, September 23, 2012


There's killing it loudly and then there's killing it softly. Both are feathers that must be worn proudly in every brass player's cap.  Ah the strange tools of our trade!  We must ride the jackhammer one moment, and wave a feather duster the next.  We must be able to blast away, and then dust delicately with the utmost finesse.  Does such duel-tasking even exist among brass players? 

We think of killing it as that typical trademark of the orchestra's brutal, callous, and over-confident back row jocks.  But maybe just as enviable is the opposite skill of amazing control over every treacherously difficult quiet passage we love to ignore.  So, who is able to master both skills?  Or rather, who even wants to do both? Or, who is patient enough to practice two ways to kill?

Why so loud, and why so soft?  Answer: Middle-of-the-road dynamics produce a middle-of-the-road response from the audience, or jury.  Average playing brings a ho-hum response, while exceptional offerings elicit raves.  Dynamic risk-taking is our aim.  We want to gas out the audience (as we used to say) with awesome displays of soft ravishing subtlety.  Who's ready for the challenge?  Try opening the Arban book to the Art of Phrasing, and have at it.  The simpler the better.  Our goal is to whisper as well as yell.

Just because a part is marked pp, doesn't mean the absence of beauty, sonority or phrasing. Where does it say that soft passages have to sound fearful, hard, and boring?  Quiet dynamic markings give us a chance to shine, not just with volume control but with sensitivity and flexibility.     

Make a list of very soft excerpt and solo.  Perform each as softly as possible with absolutely no loss of artistry.   Be that standout performer on your block.  We want to develop chops sensitive enough to execute the soft kill.

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