Working with Young Players (Brass Quartet)

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Derek Reaban, Nov 10, 2005.

  1. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    I very rarely play with students (occasionally at Church), and have not played in a small brass ensemble with very young sounds since I was in that same stage of development. My Choir Director at Church signed me up for playing with a brass quartet at Church (2 tps and 2 bones). We are playing some very simple arrangements of hymns that she found (actually they are very nice).

    I can blend very well with other players, but in this case I was literally sticking out like a sore thumb. A resonant sound works great with other resonant sounds, but with very small, developing sounds, there was no way for me to mix well with the ensemble.

    The two bones are a Dad and his Jr. High son. They both seem very enthusiastic, but sound production is a real issue. I typically don’t offer suggestions about how to play in these situations, but I think I need to be more proactive in this case. I’m sure that I’ll be paired with these two for years to come. The other trumpet player is a Senior in High School (but like me at his age, is probably years away from getting that vibrant sound that carries).

    I’m thinking about taking in Volume 1 of the Rochut etudes and the Jay Friedman CD with many of these pieces for a sound example and let the trombone players borrow this for as long as they want. I’m also going to talk about some of the basics of sound production and put together a couple of Power Point slides for them to have something to look at when they get home. Breathing is going to make a huge difference! I don’t think I heard one full breath in any phrase that either of them played last night!

    I have 45 minutes to work up three pieces, and while the notes and rhythms are mostly there, the sound literally makes it to their stands and then dies. I have to get some fuller sounds happening!

    Any suggestions beyond what I’m thinking about doing? I’m probably going to play the first couple of phrases from the 3rd or 4th Rochut etudes to demonstrate connection of sound, and have them listen to my sound model as well as the CD. Once we make some headway on achieving this sound then I’ll have them carry this same sound into the hymn arrangements that we are doing.

    Anyway, I was just shocked at how my sound was completely out of context with these other players.

    Thanks for any input.
  2. oldlou

    oldlou Forte User

    Aug 28, 2005
    Grand Rapids, Mi.

    Have you considered using a cornet with a deep cup mouthpiece instead of a trumpet? It will not project nearly as much and will have a more mellow, dark, sweet tone . This might blend better with the less experienced players.

  3. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    I don't think you ned to go to all of that trouble, Derek. Simply keep saying "Play louder, please" until it gets better. I'm quite serious. It's nice of you to consider doing all those nice things you were going to but the bottom line is that a simple but clear suggestion that has nothing to do with tone color (an esoteric concept) and intonation ( a learned skill for some) but volume instead will go a long way. Just be kind but relentlessly insistent. They'll get the idea.

  4. BradHarrison

    BradHarrison Pianissimo User

    Oct 31, 2005
    Toronto, Canada
    You don't need to go to all that work but don't be afraid to speak up. They'll probably appreciate the advice as well as your interest in their playing. I think the CD's are a good idea though. Lend them some CD's with good brass sounds. Canadian Brass is very easy on young ears(i.e. new to the instrument), and some lighter soloists too. It's all well and good to ask them to play louder and fuller but they need to know what a loud full sound is too.

    Be encouraging but keep on them. "It's sounding great guys but we really need to fill the room. Play stronger and match me." Also, let them know that your job is easier when they support you.

    Good luck.
  5. oj

    oj Pianissimo User

    Sep 9, 2005

    Recently I attended a seminar with the type of players you talk about. I played tuba, btw. The instructor, a very good trombonist btw, noticed this lack of resonance. He then suggested we play some simple exercises following him (call & response type).

    He worked on the open notes for Bb-instruments, starting with some G's in staff, then some simple slow slurs (G - C, C-G-C, etc.) Then he had us all make a very open mouth and blow warm air into our palms. So he told us to start notes like this (with no tongue).


    Almost like magic the sound filled the room. I think everyone noticed this. We then did some repeated notes, some scales, etc. with this "huffing". This really got the belly working ;-)

    Then we played some nice psalms (4 part things) and this also sounded good. But, later that day when working on more heavy pieces, the sound "diminished". Anyway it was a "sound AHA" for some.

  6. gus

    gus Pianissimo User

    Nov 10, 2003

    I teach and play in a brass school were you have all levels. This school produced the best brass players in our country for the last 15 years. All teachers are pro or semi pro and they are doing it for free.

    In a beginer to intermediate ensemble we worked with 4 part music (choral), the teacher who studied with Jacobs alumni, make the kids play the choral only with the mouthpiece, each own has to play the exact pitch, then when they played the chart with the instrument sounded resonant as hell.

    This is a drill you can practice.

  7. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona
    What great comments everybody!

    When I was practicing tonight I had on Saturday Night Live. I was playing during the commercials and when it was midnight I changed the channel to WTBS. Sister Act was on and it was the scene where Whoopi Goldberg’s character (Deloris) was sent to work with the choir for the first time. The choir was horrible and they asked her to lead the group. She singled out two of the singers and provided some comments that are very appropriate to my situation:

    That image made all the difference in the world! I’m going to try many of your ideas and hopefully I’ll get a much-improved musical product for when we play as a group next Sunday.

    I’ll give everyone an update after the Wednesday rehearsal.
  8. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona
    I thought I would post a follow-up on this topic.

    Our Wednesday rehearsal went much better than the previous week (I had a game plan this time instead of just sight reading some pieces and getting a feel for what the individual players could do). We talked very briefly about sound and playing out more. I didn’t go into much more detail, but I did encourage at every opportunity to sing out the musical lines, which seemed to help.

    We had three pieces (prelude, offertory, and communion), and I focused our time on getting the musical lines to make sense. There was a lot of resistance to “hear†where the natural musical line wanted to go (they were always rushing forward instead of letting the lines “breatheâ€).

    I spent the most time on the Children’s Prayer from Hansel and Gretel. I painted the picture of what we were trying to communicate and even found the libretto from the Opera so that I could read them the lyrics and give them a better feel for the emotion in the piece. I also took them into the choir director’s office and played the overture (orchestrated for horns), and the duet with H&G. This helped to keep the reigns on the tempo and allowed them to better follow me in shaping the phrases. It was great to let the line take shape without anyone stepping on it!

    We had our moments, and there were the occasional glimmers of potential.

    I was very busy in Church on Sunday. I was singing in the choir, playing all of the hymns and service music, and playing with this brass quartet. I was proud of the group! They played at least as well as they had in the Wednesday rehearsal. Unfortunately, it is such a hodgepodge of different capabilities that it will take a long time before we ever can find a uniform sound.

    I was glad to be able to share some of my musical ideas with the group, and I think they all had a good time!

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