High Soft Entrances

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by camelbrass, Nov 19, 2006.

  1. Johntpt

    Johntpt Pianissimo User

    Feb 11, 2004
    Toluca, Mexico
    Brahms 1 can be a scary piece, as are many other Brahms pieces. "And no one notices you until you screw it up!" Here's how I prepare for these things:

    1 - Practice. Practice breath attacks pp in all registers. Then practice "timing" exercises, such as Sachs page 34. Soft attacks are relatively useless unless you can produce that attack at a precise moment. Set the metronome to 60 bpm, and play scales ppp soft attacks, a half note to each note followed by 6 beats of rest. Make sure to reset the embouchure for each note. Include descending major scales starting on notes like F, F#, G, G#, and A on top of the staff. After 2 or 3 weeks of 10-15 minutes a day of this, the soft attacks in the mid-upper register get a lot easier and predictable.

    2 - Performance. I feel your pain, Mike. Most conductors don't seem to be of much help at such delicate moments for us, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. I usually listen to the melody at moments like that and don't look up. The Brahms 1 2nd movement is a good example of where it's ok to be a little behind the orchestra on your attack - certainly not a half beat, but playing a hair behind the strings is just fine, and lets you cover your attack a bit. Another place where this works well is the last note of Brahms 3.

    And why not breath attacks? If it works, go with it!

  2. WildCat

    WildCat New Friend

    Nov 23, 2006
    Ask a choir person. They deal with a lack of ictus definition a lot. ...On second thought, nevermind. They'd just think the whole thing was magic anyway. :roll:

    But seriously, it's more of getting used to the specific person's conducting, at least from my point of view. Everyone has particular quirks about them when they start waving their arms around, so it's a very useful quality to be an adaptable enough musician to conform to what they're doing (or questionably doing at all). Even if you watch videos of some of the people considered the greatest conductors of all time, there'll still be a period of head scratching. I remember watching something things Bernstein pulled on camera and thinking "Um...how is this supposed to...? Oh, there it is!"
    Of course to some degree, we can call a lot of things components of bad conducting. Not giving clearly defined beats is a definite no-no for anything needing any sense of time in it, including sustained notes. Ya' gotta know where they're supposed to end, right? Consistency is probably the biggest part of the entire concept though, and it plays directly into what you're asking. Providing they conducting something the same way every time (one could hope), play the passage the same way every time. If there's something unsatisfactory about the musician/conductor relationship, chances are the guy on the podium will bring it up.
    In most cases though, I just ask the conductor if he could make something a little more apparent for security purposes. Most of them (the one I usually play under anyway) are usually pretty accepting of this, and realize it'll aid not only one player, but everyone playing. As for the ones who're stubborn about it and think they're God's gift to the musical world, collect the check every week and ignore them. I've been in that boat plenty.

    A disclaimer though, since I ripped on choral performers and conducters a minute ago... I've played under many choral conductors that I've liked a lot more than instrumental. They're usually more conscious of the music's workings and make a bigger deal out of things that absolutely need to be cued. I think the addition of words into their music raises the need to make it acceptable to an audience with the power of speech conprehension. To a degree, we can get away with it. As some recent performances have proved to me, it's sometimes a pretty high degree too. :lol:
  3. Rimshot

    Rimshot Pianissimo User

    Feb 14, 2005
    Pick up a copy of the Brahms First TV Broadcast from 1952, Toscanini NBC (readily available now on DVD, probably still on tape, too). Offering a clear (to put it mildly) beat didn't seem to impair the old man's musical goals. Should strap down "new" conductors with their eyes taped open to watch these!

    (Have old fogey moment, please excuse...but for some things there is no excuse--hmm, could really open up another topic maybe on, what's really "artistic", and what's just hogwash, laziness, or simple incompetence--or maybe the topic should be, "how to cover up that you're a lazy, incompetence show pony....for conductors only, of course...)
  4. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    You are absolutely right on all counts, Rimshot.

  5. Rimshot

    Rimshot Pianissimo User

    Feb 14, 2005
    "Pick up a copy of the Brahms First TV Broadcast from 1952,..."

    Whoops, that was November 1951, not '52 (and is not the same performance as the very slightly stiffer commercial RCA recording made in the same place shortly thereafter, sans audience).

    Accuracy never hurts.
  6. trumpethack

    trumpethack Pianissimo User

    Jun 1, 2006
    I like alot of what has been posted already on this and I wonder if anyone is still reading this thread, but I'll drop in my 2 cents.

    Part of your "problem" I think is that you are worried about "high" "soft" attacks. If you change your mental approach to the "entrance" you might be better off.

    Another thing is change things around a bit. Play the entrance as written but don't play it soft. Play it however loud you need to play it to get it to sound good. Then slowly experiment making it softer while keeping that same easy feeling of nailing it with a great sound.

    Another change to make as a drill would be to play the same entrance but on a lower note. Play it on the "highest low note" that you can comfortably nail it every time. Then work your way up the horn.

    In order to successfully do something we need to experience what if feels like to be successful at "it". So change the variables slightly so that you are successful and slowly work back towards the original.

    Make sure that as you work on each variation you've made for yourself that you always mentally approach it the same way. Hear the pitch/line, breathe, blow... so that you develop that mental coordination of playing and build up the confidence you need.

    Hope this helps...if anyone's around to still read it...

  7. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    If I may jump in with something...

    In your Arban, in the interval studies on p. 125, find #5. Practice it slowly and softly, listening for nice "pop" at the beginning of each articulation. The further down the page you go, the higher the repeated note is. You end up articulating repeated high Ab's and up to high C. Softly, but gradually working up by half steps.

    Also, maybe work just the opposite...low soft attacks. I fear them the most.
  8. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    Don't forget the vibrato!

  9. Liad Bar-EL

    Liad Bar-EL Forte User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Jerusalem, Israel
    That was very good Matt.



    You should name yourself TrumpetAttack instead of Trumpethack.:-)
  10. Siegtrmpt

    Siegtrmpt Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 21, 2005
    This thread got me thinking about what is actually meant by "soft" playing. Are we talking about barely audible playing or is it more of a soft quality to the sound that is actually louder but is relaxed and blends in with the other parts instead of sticking out? In my pretty good, part time playing situations I find most directors that ask me to play softer are looking for a softer quality to the sound (like cornet or flugelhorn) rather than less volume.

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