Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Fri May 28, 2021 8:15 am

Okay, that was some pretty good listening, all-in-all. I'm not a huge fan of extremely complicated playing. I think it gets a bit boring quickly. I like to hear it more in spurts of passion, rather than a continuous stream of rapid notes for their own sake that never seem to end. And I find trombone-players in general tend to be a bit mono-dynamic, unless they are playing a Rochut or something where the dynamics are marked in and intended to be followed.

I also noted the ones who did a studio recording and dubbed it in over their video. It sounded nice, but gave me the impression of a foreign film with dubbed-in voices that never really seem to fit the actual context of the scene fully.

That said, they were all better players than me and I admired them, so who am I to nit-pick and criticize!

You must be well-connected.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Fri May 28, 2021 9:01 am

I'm glad you got something out of it! And I've been quite fortunate to work with, go to school with, or play with many of these people, mostly while I lived in NYC. Very inspiring young cats!

I suspect my "sample" here was quite biased towards intense and technical playing. First of all, looking for younger players who are making a splash is going to get you more of the highly technical, ambitious kind of player who is trying to "prove themselves" - the exuberance of youth and all that, you know. (The ones who both sing and play don't feel the same pressure to perform in this sense, so they're an exception.) Second, finding a good 2min clip on YouTube is going to show almost exclusively technically impressive passages. I didn't select these carefully, but sort of grabbed the first or second thing which popped up, since the request was for names who had albums out on the market, not for the best - or my favourite - short clips. I also looked for clips which displayed improvisational virtuosity, since that was the topic (do trombonists, in fact, "suck at improvising"?).

Those factors really contribute to this being a very specific kind of type of playing. If you buy the albums of many/most of these players, you'll find plenty of nuance, restraint, melodicism, and dynamic range, in a way you won't get from a quick 2min YouTube video.

On another note, I wonder what your own performance experience is: because there is a reason you hear more dynamic range in a Rochut etude than in an improvised solo with a salsa band (for instance). (Just try to play quietly over five horn players playing backgrounds, a drummer and a percussionist banging away... that context limits you dramatically. Playing a solo etude - improvised or not - is a *completely* different ball game.) Many of these players have an *enormous* dynamic range, and use it extremely well - but you have to play to the context you're in.

When I think of many of these players... their control of dynamics, nuance, and tonal colour is phenomenal. I find that - and I'm not necessarily talking to you, but anyone reading :) - people who haven't done a lot of professional playing in a variety of contexts really underestimate the challenges involved, and the skill of the people doing it. What you hear on a recording or in concert is often very severely limited by acoustic limitations, musical stylistic concerns, technical issues, and who knows how many other factors.

Here are some quick samples, just for illustration's sake:

Andy Hunter always sounds lovely when fronting a band (and has the creative control to get the sound he wants, as he does here) -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOnC7AnDrOQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Wbu2B_xtQA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btnWikE6t8w
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-az93VxJE2U
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8w_KX9QJ08

Samuel Blaser playing a solo concert (these are live recordings) -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRZu8bF ... rw&index=4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HZFnzP ... rw&index=3

It's weird how much music is available on YouTube for free these days... I really hope that, if you have the means, you can also support these artists by buying their albums. It's getting harder and harder to survive as a trombonist these days, so every little bit counts.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Fri May 28, 2021 9:44 am

Copy that. Makes perfect sense to "splash play" when the competition is keen and the face time on the horn is short. And I know what it's like to try to play over a noisy group - not fun.

The more technical performances actually did inspire me to jack up the tempo on the four Arban's Fantasies I played through this morning. I see those exercises as more of a means to an end rather than as a performance in and of themselves. If I can go lickety-split through one of them, then I surely ought to be able to put a nice multiple-tongue improv effort into a ballad in select places.

I love to hear a trombone player play as though it were the most beautiful musical instrument in the world because it is! So a nice range of dynamics - in keeping with the emotional content of the ballad - as well as some excitement generated by well-put technique makes for a memorable performance - if the tone quality is also memorable.

For me, it all comes down to tone quality. If it is superb, then not much else really is needed. And I firmly believe would-be improv artists can benefit from keeping it simple, beautiful and smooth. Get out of the way and let the horn do the talking.

Thanks again for the links. That will be tonight's listening. I'll also look for albums to buy.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Fri May 28, 2021 11:42 am

ArbanRubank wrote:
Fri May 28, 2021 9:44 am
I love to hear a trombone player play as though it were the most beautiful musical instrument in the world because it is!
Well put! Ain't that the truth? :P
For me, it all comes down to tone quality. If it is superb, then not much else really is needed. And I firmly believe would-be improv artists can benefit from keeping it simple, beautiful and smooth. Get out of the way and let the horn do the talking.
This is both true and false, I think. It's certainly true that sound and tone quality are either the first or second most important thing. So important! It's the sound that we are drawn to and react to - great players are recognizable within one note or three.

On the other hand, many musical contexts just don't call for "simple, beautiful and smooth". It's not appropriate, it's not what's needed or wanted. I've heard some of the best-sounding trombone players transform dramatically when it's necessary - whether it's brash, sloppy, out of tune, aggressive, or otherwise - and that's as much a sign of high artistry as anything else. Whether it's what the music asks for, or because your employer expects a particular thing.

I actually had a challenge of this sort a few years back. I was hired for a recording session by a local bandleader. No rehearsal, just one take. The music is intended as angry, protesting what's happening in the world. The tune is fast and rather "messy" - as you'll hear. Suddenly they want a trombone solo. Go! What would you do?

Here's what I did (my solo spot is roughly 1:50 to 2:50):

https://artofbreath.bandcamp.com/track/wtf

The tempo and time feel changes were quite uncomfortable, and I didn't handle them very well. And I was probably still playing too "pretty" for the track. But I tried to put something there which suited the vibe they were going for. It would have been nice to get another shot at it, but time is limited in the studio and no one wants to do another take just for the trombone player...
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by FOSSIL » Fri May 28, 2021 11:57 am

That sounded pretty good to me Paul...classy playing.👍👍👍
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Fri May 28, 2021 12:03 pm

Thank you! Not how I would ever play, normally. I threw it here precisely because it was a good example of being forced to go against my own tastes and instincts, in many ways. That's its own kind of challenge, musically and technically.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Fri May 28, 2021 1:28 pm

I get your point, but you have a beautiful sound and no matter how "angry" you tried to sound, your beautiful tone still came through.

Sure, there are exceptions where "noise" is required. But I stand my ground as far as most ballads or pop tunes are concerned. And even if the balladeer chooses to play some emotional parts in a sassy voice, with a lot of spit, vinegar and razamataz, I still want to hear a head-turning and memorable sound coming through it all. It's like a baseline standard. Those who play above that line are truly memorable. Those who don't are forgettable.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Fri May 28, 2021 1:59 pm

Thank you. Kind words, and that's appreciated! I see it rather as a failure on my part - I'd like to get better at changing the tonal quality to match the circumstances. I shouldn't sound "pretty" on a tune like this.

Here's the issue:

It's very difficult to separate a "baseline standard" from personal taste. You thought my "beautiful tone came through". Someone else might have said, "he's lacking bite; don't hire him again". Who's right?

Here's a great musical example of that (it might be easier to judge, in a way, with singers, plus it's a fabulous and intriguing performance):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaB9F3R9cIY

It's really cool to feel how you react, as a listener, when they switch over. For many people, the reaction is something like, "Ah! Now THAT's real singing!" And then the other performer takes over, and you think, "Oh, no, wait! THAT's real singing!" And then it happens again...

They certainly both pass your "truly memorable" baseline, don't they? :) So, in that sense, you are absolutely and fabulously right. And yet, neither would "cut it" in the other one's musical world - neither has the right sound or approach. If JB showed up at Pavarotti's gig, he'd pretty quickly get fired, and vice-versa. I think that's worth noting.

When it comes to tonal quality, we all have our own preferences and standards, but it's worthwhile to try to broaden that envelope, and to learn and understand why, in other cultures or styles, different aspects are valued. For instance, consider how octaves are tuned "wide" in Balinese music (out of tune, by our standards). Or how a throat singer's vocal "tone" would be judged by a classical singer, and vice-versa.

This may seem like a departure from the topic of this thread, but I actually think it's absolutely critical. The ability to listen to music - and improvisers - in different styles objectively, and to try to understand *why* certain aspects of their playing are valued, is a key component in learning to be a better improviser. This goes for tone quality - which we've been discussing - but also for time feel, articulation, rhythmic choices (e.g. are you playing with the clave?), pitch (e.g. playing a blues perfectly in tune actually sounds "wrong" to someone steeped in that tradition), density, harmony, and phrase lengths.

When someone is a highly respected improvisor in their field, it's much better - as a musician and as a student - to try to learn *why* and to develop a taste for it, than to see it as a flaw of some kind. I can't count the number of times I thought I heard a great player making some kind of "mistake" or having some kind of "defect" in their playing, only to learn later that it was a very carefully crafted effect. (For example, on many recordings Frank Rosolino kind of "chips" high notes. It's understandable - he's way up in the upper atmosphere, playing very technical passages! Well, eventually I got my hands on a recording of a master class with Frank, and he demonstrates how he practices that effect, until he can do it repeatedly and consistently, "chipping" the note exactly the same way each time.)

That kind of listening and investigation (especially talking to older musicians in that field) is really eye-opening, and will change your approach as an improviser. You'll learn faster, learn "deeper", and sound more authentic, as well as learning to appreciate more (and more different!) styles of music.

That can only make your life - and your personal character - richer. It's one of the ways music teaches us to become better human beings.

Anyhow, thank you for the kind words! At least it prompted me to write a little on the topic; maybe it will be helpful for someone somewhere someday. If anyone's reading this as a trombonist looking to be a better improviser, I'd consider it a valuable perspective, anyway - it was, and continues to be, for me. Happy practicing!
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Fri May 28, 2021 6:13 pm

:good: :good: :good: :good:

Solid gold. Every word. Great perspective.

It really is something to ponder when listening: is someone's sound appropriate and memorable within the context of what they are doing. Does it have "it" for the setting. Maybe that's partly why some guys think they suck at improv; they are attempting a sound that either doesn't work within the setting or they aren't capable of producing one that does. I've been there. I once attempted a solo pitched WAY too low for me to be heard over a noisy group. Then there's that right notes thing...
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Fri May 28, 2021 9:24 pm

Indeed! As trombonists, especially, we are often forced to avoid certain registers to be heard, and that can really limit musical expression. Mike Dease once showed me how he actually practices this: gives himself a "limit" (a note he can't play below) and works on various improvisation exercises. I find this especially important in big band settings.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Trombo » Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:03 am

Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?
Because they play the slide trombone.
I've always wondered why jazz trombonists ignore the valve trombone. It is much better suited to modern jazz than a slide trombone (IMHO).
Raul de Souza proved it.

https://youtu.be/CV5J4sEl1rA
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Macbone1 » Mon Jun 21, 2021 8:27 am

So much good info and many great ideas here. I'd also like to add that the inherent culture of the trb as a "back row" instrument (or tucked tightly between saxes and trumpets in big bands) does not inspire the leadership mindset needed on the horn to take the spotlight and solo. Of course each individual's experience and attitude may vary, and that's good. But who gets accused of dragging tempos/not matching articulations and phrasing most often? Trombones! That does not indicate a leadership attitude on the horn. Take charge of yourself, be a leader (even if it's just in your mind), listen a lot, take solos, get experience.
Keep moving forward.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Doug Elliott » Mon Jun 21, 2021 12:33 pm

Macbone1 wrote:
Mon Jun 21, 2021 8:27 am
...who gets accused of dragging tempos/not matching articulations and phrasing most often? Trombones!
Because it's often the truth.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Macbone1 » Mon Jun 21, 2021 1:51 pm

No argument here
Keep moving forward.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Mon Jun 21, 2021 3:03 pm

I'll make a strange comment on this, because it's more relevant to this topic than some people might think:

I think that a lot of trumpet players and saxophone players end up in big bands as part of their attempt to become great players and advanced improvisers. They hone their technique, and have no difficulty playing difficult or technical passages.

I wonder if those trombone sections might sound better if the trombone players approach improvisation with a similar kind of dedication?

I don't know, but it's interesting to consider. (To be fair, the reverse exists as well, and, as someone who prides himself on being an excellent "section player", I have nothing but respect for great section players who make that their specialty.)
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Bach5G » Mon Sep 27, 2021 2:25 pm

Shawn Bell has posted a new video on YouTube. It is called “How to Improve Every Solo You Take”.

I think Mr. Bell does an excellent job of demystifying trombone improvisation and providing useful information. Worth a look I think.

Of course, as always, YMMV.

https://youtu.be/qXdATJ8W7tI
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by michaelpilley » Tue Sep 28, 2021 2:39 am

Hot take: Because trombonists are lazy.

Maybe more of a personalised observation than a generalised one. But that's why I suck(ed) at improvising. I didn't want to put the work in, and the pub sounded much more appealing.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by jbeatenbough » Fri Oct 08, 2021 1:14 pm

Nice example of young players learning from older...

If I only had a brain TROMBONES DE LA SAJB ( dir Joan Chamorro) feat CARLOS MARTIN

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JelMOmQq83Q
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by torobone » Tue Oct 19, 2021 9:56 am

PaulTdot wrote:
Mon Jun 21, 2021 3:03 pm
I'll make a strange comment on this, because it's more relevant to this topic than some people might think:

I think that a lot of trumpet players and saxophone players end up in big bands as part of their attempt to become great players and advanced improvisers. They hone their technique, and have no difficulty playing difficult or technical passages.

I wonder if those trombone sections might sound better if the trombone players approach improvisation with a similar kind of dedication?

I don't know, but it's interesting to consider. (To be fair, the reverse exists as well, and, as someone who prides himself on being an excellent "section player", I have nothing but respect for great section players who make that their specialty.)
-----------------------------
On the way to a rehearsal with a friend:

Me: You know, I should spend more time on improvisation. But sometimes being in a section, just hearing a great chord is really satisfying.

My lead trumpet friend: You're a trombone player!
------------------------------

Sax players have one central venue for their talent, and that is jazz. There are few orchestral opportunities for sax players, or concert band opportunities that pay. So improvisation is it. I do not enjoy all of the improvisations I hear, but I hope they are working to improve.

Trumpet players are similar to trombonists. They have a wider range of music to play, and the same issues of brass playing come into play. Some trumpeters play flugel and cornet as well, so they are also doubling. Some trumpeters specialize in big bands (like 4 bands per week) while others play in orchestras or other bands. One trumpeter here plays lead in 4 big bands; he doesn't improvise, but he absolutely nails the high notes every time. The band is better when he plays lead.

Paul T. and I have occasionally played together over the past 7 years or so, and I know that Paul is the real deal when it comes to improvisation. Paul is not lazy, and most trombonists aren't either. Paul listens to more jazz than anyone I know, and his solos consistently demonstrate that. I'm very happy to be a section player when Paul is around. I can dream to do that, perhaps impossibly.

It's a matter of priorities when it comes to my limited practice time. I imagine, even today, that I'll put on a recording of jazz changes and play along. But instead, I will work on sound, range, some repertoire including some written-out big band solos and other tricky bits, and clef exercises. Every week, if not every day, I play my medium-bore tenor, alto and bass. The alto is sort of a novelty, but I'm learning things about my playing and it is time well spent.

As a dedicated amateur, I play in big bands, concert bands, and ensembles regularly. I am regularly asked to sub in orchestras as well. My journey is my own, as is yours. I believe that anybody willing to discuss topics is not lazy. It is a matter of using time effectively and making improvisation a priority.

I will improvise tomorrow; today, I'm trying to memorize Herbert Clarke's "Cousins", so my trumpet friend and I can perform in front of the band in the post-Covid era. I also hope to watch and listen to Paul T. sometime soon.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Tue Oct 19, 2021 1:06 pm

Thank you, Martin!

Those are very kind words, and quite true. I hope we get a chance to play together again soon!

Without disagreeing with you in any way, I'd like to add this:

It's certainly possible to work on improvisation or improvisation-related concepts while still improving sound, intonation, range, and other fundamentals. It's just a question of structuring practicing and exercises appropriately. That can take some thought or some practice, but with some experimentation or guidance from someone who's given it that kind of thought, it's really doable.

I'd encourage everyone reading not to think of those as separate in any way. An improvised phrase should be carefully interpreted and executed, just as much as a Rochut etude or symphonic excerpt or beautiful melody.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by baileyman » Wed Oct 20, 2021 5:42 am

PaulTdot wrote:
Tue Oct 19, 2021 1:06 pm
...
It's certainly possible to work on improvisation or improvisation-related concepts while still improving sound, intonation, range, and other fundamentals. It's just a question of structuring practicing and exercises appropriately. That can take some thought or some practice, but with some experimentation or guidance from someone who's given it that kind of thought, it's really doable.

I'd encourage everyone reading not to think of those as separate in any way. An improvised phrase should be carefully interpreted and executed, just as much as a Rochut etude or symphonic excerpt or beautiful melody.
This would be the way to go, and should be worth its own topic. I try this myself, but lacking imagination, I've only been able to migrate a portion of my fundamental work to improvisation.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by BGuttman » Wed Oct 20, 2021 7:04 am

baileyman wrote:
Wed Oct 20, 2021 5:42 am
PaulTdot wrote:
Tue Oct 19, 2021 1:06 pm
...
It's certainly possible to work on improvisation or improvisation-related concepts while still improving sound, intonation, range, and other fundamentals. It's just a question of structuring practicing and exercises appropriately. That can take some thought or some practice, but with some experimentation or guidance from someone who's given it that kind of thought, it's really doable.

I'd encourage everyone reading not to think of those as separate in any way. An improvised phrase should be carefully interpreted and executed, just as much as a Rochut etude or symphonic excerpt or beautiful melody.
This would be the way to go, and should be worth its own topic. I try this myself, but lacking imagination, I've only been able to migrate a portion of my fundamental work to improvisation.
The key is to let yourself go and allow yourself to fail. Obviously you don't want to fail "in public", so try to imagine yourself playing a solo against any music on the radio -- yes, even classical music. Sing your melody softly against the rest of the ensemble. Listen for notes that sound good and notes that sound bad. You could even start by just humming drone tones.

Big problem for us nerds (yes, I am one, too) is that we have an innate need to be perfect the first time. I wish it could happen, but it really doesn't. I keep trying to learn from my mistakes (and also from the guy next to me ;) ).
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by mgladdish » Wed Oct 20, 2021 8:11 am

My take on it is that the overwhelming majority of trombonists simply haven't spent enough time or effort on it compared to their non-trombone playing peers. Have you listened to saxophonists warming up? Going through keys, modes, scales, arpeggios, II-V-I patterns, etc., etc. Nobody even attempts that stuff on a trombone at the best of times as far as I can hear.
And when your inspirations are trombonists of the past, they were even further behind their peers. So if the bar of what's desirable/possible/achievable is set by trombonists past, then we're already starting from further behind.

Yes, of course, there's the issue of technical mastery of the instrument to get around the thing, but even great players struggle to make their way around complex changes, or their composure falls to pieces in an attempt to keep up and they end up sounding like the proverbial exploding elephant.

We're living in an era where more trombonists have greater technical faculty and musical education than ever before, and yet when other trombonists are asked about who they listen to, it's as if nobody recorded anything after about 1965. We're too insular, too backward-looking and, to be frank, irrelevant. The times when trombone was a first-class frontline instrument have been and gone. And, to be even more frank, I think it's our own fault for not keeping up.

Never mind not having a Bird, Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Griffin, Brecker, or Potter to look up to, we don't even have a genuine A-lister that eschews "flashy" technique like Chet Baker, Getz or, to a lesser extent, even Jan Garbarek. The latter is even more perplexing to me - the trombone should lend itself perfectly to exactly the sort of music Garberek made an entire career out of, yet absolutely nobody is doing it.

So we could have gone down one road to keep up with the technical wizardry and excitement of our saxophonist peers, or the other and embraced our relative cumbersomeness and led the nordic/ECM scene. Instead I think we've spent all this time transcribing JJ solos and let it all go past us.

Ooof!
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by afugate » Wed Oct 20, 2021 8:11 am

BGuttman wrote:
Wed Oct 20, 2021 7:04 am
baileyman wrote:
Wed Oct 20, 2021 5:42 am


This would be the way to go, and should be worth its own topic. I try this myself, but lacking imagination, I've only been able to migrate a portion of my fundamental work to improvisation.
The key is to let yourself go and allow yourself to fail. Obviously you don't want to fail "in public", so try to imagine yourself playing a solo against any music on the radio -- yes, even classical music. Sing your melody softly against the rest of the ensemble. Listen for notes that sound good and notes that sound bad. You could even start by just humming drone tones.
Notes are important, but notes are a small part of the improvisation challenge. IMO, rhythm and patterns are far more important in what we say on the horn in a solo, and yet the focus always seems to be on the notes to play. Syncopation, repetition, anticipation, delay, space... are also essential to making a solo work.

Perspective from a guy who still struggles to do any of these things well... :roll:
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by torobone » Wed Oct 20, 2021 9:10 am

Well now, I have indeed stepped in it.

With so many venues shut down, I joined a big band on lead. I was told the 2nd bone was the jazz chair, and I'm better than most at playing high.

So why am I seeing all these changes? I can only pass them off a couple of times per night, and the leader has selected pieces like 2 Bone BBQ and Raw Bones where I'm trading 4 bars with the 2nd. The leader is great at moving people out of their comfort zones, in a good way.

Time to switch my practice priorities. Necessity is a mother.
Martin Hubel
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Bach5G » Wed Oct 20, 2021 11:21 am

MGladdish wrote: “… the trombone should lend itself perfectly to exactly the sort of music Garberek made an entire career out of …”

Julian Priester, Love Love, on ECM.
Last edited by Bach5G on Wed Oct 20, 2021 4:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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BGuttman
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by BGuttman » Wed Oct 20, 2021 12:34 pm

torobone wrote:
Wed Oct 20, 2021 9:10 am
Well now, I have indeed stepped in it.

With so many venues shut down, I joined a big band on lead. I was told the 2nd bone was the jazz chair, and I'm better than most at playing high.

So why am I seeing all these changes? I can only pass them off a couple of times per night, and the leader has selected pieces like 2 Bone BBQ and Raw Bones where I'm trading 4 bars with the 2nd. The leader is great at moving people out of their comfort zones, in a good way.

Time to switch my practice priorities. Necessity is a mother.
We used to play a lot of charts with 3 bone solos (1st, 2ne, and 3rd). One of my favorites was "How High the Moon". One band I was in I was playing 4th but the 3rd player couldn't improvise so I played his solo.
Bruce Guttman
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Thu Oct 21, 2021 7:23 pm

torobone wrote:
Wed Oct 20, 2021 9:10 am
Well now, I have indeed stepped in it.
Good for you, Martin!

Call me sometime if you want some assistance. ;)
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by SackbutRoyale » Thu Oct 28, 2021 4:14 am

When I was in high school, my band director was a jazz saxophonist that handed out solos to whomever wanted it. But he was a stickler for theory also, so he spent a lot of time with ALL of us on how to learn improvisation. That being said, it was, Basin Street Blues, and a LOT of Al Jarreau tunes that presented the most trombone solos! Then, I get to college and our first concert was at the Montreaux/Detroit Jazz Festival, and we did a trombone heavy arrangement of Donna Lee and we ALL soloed!! I grew up listening to Urbie Green, J J Johnson, and Bill Watrous, so I based my improvisations on an amalgam of the three. That being said, after a stint in the military, where I suffered an injury to my face and jaw, changed my embouchure and led to a 12 year layoff of playing, and I'm back to square on on learning how to improv again!
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Pre59 » Thu Oct 28, 2021 7:21 am

I think that not enough trombonists spend time playing by ear, learning melodies, any melodies, in multiple keys, thereby shortening the distance between the thought and the output.
As a kid I was taught that the tbn was a melodic instrument, and there was a relatively large amount of it on radio and tv at the time. There was also money in being able to carry a tune, and being able to use your wits as well..
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by DominicaSanchez » Sun Nov 14, 2021 11:10 pm

hyperbolica wrote:
Mon Jan 18, 2021 2:20 pm
Before you take offense, I obviously don't mean ALL trombonists, but if you take 10 trombonists, 10 trumpet players, and 10 sax players, you'll have more guys that can wail on the sax or the trumpet than on the trombone. I've heard several trombonists play and then I say "I hope I don't sound like that". And often after a sax solo, its more like "whoa, I wish I sounded like that".

Is this a real thing or just a weird perception only in my head?

And one more thing. Is it really cool to end every other phrase with a descending tritone, or do you have to be Charlie Parker to pull that off?

And one more more thing. Are great improvisers really mental chord giants, or do they just memorize solos, or do they just piece together a bunch of cool licks in every key imaginable? I mean you can't just rip off a bunch of 1/16th note scales in non-enharmonic chords while following 8 or 12 bar phrases off the top of your head, on command, realistically, can you?
I think it is only because of all because of lack of time. Our teachers at school say it is harder to master and develop trombone. There is no technical possibilities to reduce the time of education on trombone
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by comebackplayer » Mon Nov 15, 2021 3:09 am

I'm a trumpet player learning trombone, and I also had thought, "maybe I could learn to improv..." and then realized how hard it is. There are some jazz bars near me and I've heard gifted trumpet players at them. I later have seen many people like me (comeback player, not naturally gifted, not hours a day to practice) run full speed into the wall on improv and give up. In my opinion it is *much* harder than it looks.

On trumpet, it seems like to improv well, ideally you have:
-learned dozens of classics, hopefully learned via transcription
-can transpose them into almost any key
-have learned minor scales, blues scales, chords, etc. (which are not something most of us get in high school)
-practiced a lot, ideally with live musicians but also maybe also over canned music, etc.

Beyond this you should be musically gifted:
-excellent intonation
-able to play on the offbeat
-able to swing
-able to (on trumpet) slur and articulate creatively
-able to key up with key changes and count out bars while you solo

Anyway... this is all to say that jazz is pretty hard for us to get, especially if we didn't grow up listening. The major trumpet players that do improve also spent much of their youth listening to [name famous jazz trumpeter] so there's been a lot of ear time hearing tunes. Do trombonists do this? I don't know. I'd love to start listening to trombone jazz improv, and I watched a lot of Lincoln Center during Covid, but I still feel like I don't have much jazz trombone in my head.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by imsevimse » Mon Nov 15, 2021 10:13 am

comebackplayer wrote:
Mon Nov 15, 2021 3:09 am
I'm a trumpet player learning trombone, and I also had thought, "maybe I could learn to improv..." and then realized how hard it is. There are some jazz bars near me and I've heard gifted trumpet players at them. I later have seen many people like me (comeback player, not naturally gifted, not hours a day to practice) run full speed into the wall on improv and give up. In my opinion it is *much* harder than it looks.

On trumpet, it seems like to improv well, ideally you have:
-learned dozens of classics, hopefully learned via transcription
-can transpose them into almost any key
-have learned minor scales, blues scales, chords, etc. (which are not something most of us get in high school)
-practiced a lot, ideally with live musicians but also maybe also over canned music, etc.

Beyond this you should be musically gifted:
-excellent intonation
-able to play on the offbeat
-able to swing
-able to (on trumpet) slur and articulate creatively
-able to key up with key changes and count out bars while you solo

Anyway... this is all to say that jazz is pretty hard for us to get, especially if we didn't grow up listening. The major trumpet players that do improve also spent much of their youth listening to [name famous jazz trumpeter] so there's been a lot of ear time hearing tunes. Do trombonists do this? I don't know. I'd love to start listening to trombone jazz improv, and I watched a lot of Lincoln Center during Covid, but I still feel like I don't have much jazz trombone in my head.
If you want to hear something melodic and easy listening that swings I recommend Trummy Young, Jack Teagarden, Al Grey and JJ in that order.

/Tom
My profile on facebook with new videos from concerts: https://www.facebook.com/tomas.hillerbrant

My webbpage: https://sites.google.com/site/brazzmusic

"Do your best and then do better" ttf_watermailonman
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by johntarr » Mon Nov 15, 2021 1:41 pm

Trombones were much more prominent in early jazz when melody and vocal expression were at the forefront. Later, when bebop became the dominant force in jazz, trombone players just couldn’t play those super fast tempos. Sure, a few were and are able to play pretty fast but nothing like the saxophone or even trumpet.

The saxophonist mostly just needs to move her/his fingers to run scales and arpeggios. The trombonist has to contend with long distances (especially when compared to a key or valve), the weight of the slide and the arm, coordinate air and tongue plus balance the ever changing leverage of the slide. The energy it takes to play scales on the trombone is much greater than most other instruments and that makes it harder to get in the numbers of repetitions that other instruments can do. The saxophonist playing a scale at 200 bpm can get double the number of runs than the trombonist at 100 bpm.

Modern jazz favors velocity.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by baileyman » Tue Nov 16, 2021 7:25 am

For speedy playing, that seems to be most of it.

I do think though that there is a lot to learn from Carl Fontana's idea of "the nearest next note". The fastest place to play is in one partial. (Note that this includes notes accessible by "half-step valve" as the next lower note is available at any speed up to maybe 6th partial as a bend.) The next fastest place is to include one partial shifts in the same direction. (I suppose that's Willie Dennis and Conrad Herwig style.) Then there's the set of notes surrounding any note. In the middle of the slide there are eight surrounding notes. (I think these are "the nearest next notes" on the horn. There's also "the nearest next note" in the harmony, and matching these two up is a good path. Miles said something like, if you don't like the note you're on, a better note is always a half step away. On trombone, expand that to include any of the eight surrounding notes.) Slowest of all is to include the other positions and alternating slide movements (aka "sawing wood"). (BTW, this is where almost every transcription from some other instrument seems to reside, and exercises, and patterns. But if you have McChesney's Fastest Shift in the West, then go for it.)

Okay, that's the easy part.

Now take that and confine your aural imagination to hear only the things that lie on the horn in this way. The you can speed them up.

Counter to all this is a guy like Herb Gardner, who I get to play with some. He goes way back, even to the very first New Orleans Jazz Fest. He's not fast, he's not slow, but every note is a great satisfaction.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Pre59 » Tue Nov 16, 2021 8:17 am

If double bass players can hold their own solo wise, surely a trombonist can.
It's a question of creating your own rules and style. Jazz is/used to be a hybrid after all. Pull it off, and the rhythm section will thank you for it, and this from an ex double bassist.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by johntarr » Wed Nov 17, 2021 12:47 am

Something in human nature seems to favor higher and faster. Why are there more famous violin and piano soloists than viola and cello? One could also ask: Why do trombonists suck at being major concert artists?

I teach both beginning trumpet and trombone. Just figuring out how to hold the trombone, manage its unwieldy nature and find the positions while trying to stabilize the mouthpiece on the face is an enormous set of motor skills. And then you have the tongue and the ever changing volume due to the lengthening and shortening of the slide to learn as well. The trumpet is a lot easier for little bodies and minds to get started with and those students begin making music sooner. For most, this head start or handicap follows students into their formative years.

With all the variations in weight, needing to use the tongue in so many differ ways and contending with the slide motion, playing the trombone takes up a great deal of the motor cortex. Other instruments allow for more of the motor cortex to engage in developing velocity and expressive capabilities, it is what it is.

It is also common to dwell on problems rather than solutions, and I’m doing this now. With that in mind, I’m going to start a new thread: What are your best practices for developing your abilities to improvise? I hope to read your words of wisdom over there.

John
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