Advice on rebooting my playing

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Advice on rebooting my playing

Post by RobinSterling »

Hello and thanks in advance for your help.

A very brief background on me for context before I get to the issue/questions:

1990-1993 - Played tuba (concert band) and trombone (jazz band) in high school.
1993-1999 - Tuba major at university, played trombone and bass trombone in the top jazz ensemble.
1999 - Started my career as a high school music educator. Ended up playing more trumpet in class for demonstration as it was easier than doing so on trombone or tuba.
2006 - Started a family. Between my job and my family, practice time decreased quite a bit.
2019 - Covid ended all the band classes and what little was left of my playing that I was doing in-class with my students.
Today - I have become a successful educator and composer (large jazz ensemble). This is where I feel my strengths as a musician lie today - my playing has suffered as I invested what time I've had into my students and my writing.

I've decided that I want/need to get my trombone chops back again. People in my community still see me as a trombone player and I get occasional calls for gigs. My heart sinks when I get these calls because I am so out of shape - I can barely play anymore.

Here's a synopsis of the issues that are surrounding my playing at the moment:
*Difficulty holding a steady, unwavering, consistent sound on long tones.
*Notes like B4, C4, C#4, D4 often argue with my chops - they don't seem to know where they want to land and they end up sounding like I'm doing a Remington of some sort.
*My articulation comes out clean about 50% of the time. The other 50% it sounds like a grace note precedes the onset of the sound. Very frustrating.
*Endurance - after 30 minutes of practice, I'm pretty pooped. I am just starting to rebuild, though.

What should I do? What is my best next step forward at this point? Should I just keep steadily plugging away day-by-day with a routine of long tones, scales, articulation, flexibility, arpeggios, etc? Or is there something very specific that I should do to get back to where I once was?

Thanks so much in advance for your kind consideration.

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Re: Advice on rebooting my playing

Post by ithinknot »

Let me be the first among dozens to very strongly recommend a Skype/Zoom lesson with Doug Elliott.

At this point you need someone really experienced to check whether or not the fundamentals are stable and correct.

You know what's wrong results-wise, and you know how to practice - which, without that expert survey, will also make you better at practicing your way around technical defects you didn't know you had... which works until it doesn't...
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Re: Advice on rebooting my playing

Post by AndrewMeronek »

Sounds to me like you've lost the "memory" of how the mouthpiece consistently sits on your chops, or maybe your mouth has changed some since you last played on a regular basis. Getting feedback from an embouchure expert like Doug is definitely a good jump-start. Until then, I like to emphasize with students that it's OK to do things that feel "weird" - in fact, to embrace trying out different playing positions and tactics and see if you stumble on something that makes playing feel easier. The only thing - don't do this while practicing extremely loud. Be safe.
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Re: Advice on rebooting my playing

Post by imsevimse »

Maybe you do need a lesson first or maybe you just need to do all those basic hours we all need to do to find your chops again.

A nice way to practice long tones is to find tunes (folk songs) to play. Play them in all keys. Put the sheet music away when you know the tune. Begin in one key and raise a semi tone to cover the whole register. Play them slow, play them legato. Play them different. Change and vary articulations. Play as musicality as possible. Record yourself. This is about what I do to keep in shape. Then I add etudes, scales, flexibility and minus one records.

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Re: Advice on rebooting my playing

Post by MTbassbone »

Don't be afraid to fail in effort to find your way back. Stay curious and be patient. I am huge advocate for quick warm-up (<5 min) and then short focused practice sessions. Oh and by the way.....get a lesson with Doug Elliott. That's no joke.
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Re: Advice on rebooting my playing

Post by robcat2075 »

RobinSterling wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 12:39 pm *Difficulty holding a steady, unwavering, consistent sound on long tones.
This could be age-related. It might be the infirmity of advancing age or... it might be that the greater discernment age has brought you is causing you to hear something that was always there.

I am very wobbly when I start each day. It takes me about 20 minutes of determined focus to get back to holding the horn steady and producing steady air and steady embouchure.
*My articulation comes out clean about 50% of the time. The other 50% it sounds like a grace note precedes the onset of the sound. Very frustrating.
The short answer is you did something different. The solution (this is true of almost all self-study endeavors) is to be more aware of your playing such that you can begin to identify what was the different input for these two outputs and work to cultivate the not-bad version with each note.

When I have a blip on an articulation, particularly after a larger interval jump, I have recently begun to realize that it is usually due to articulating with the wrong vowel for the note that got blipped.
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Re: Advice on rebooting my playing

Post by Doug Elliott »

I'm available on Skype. This Wednesday and Thursday are open.
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