Ditch Diggin’

I want to continue this month with another thought about legato. I’m always trying to come up with ways of getting across the concept of legato to my students. Recently I’ve been using this analogy in describing how the slide and air should move. Imagine your shoveling dirt from one pile to another,

(don’t laugh, I want you to take this seriously.) You fill your shovel with dirt and you want to deposit it in one specific place. If you fling the shovel toward the place you want and the shovel moves faster than the dirt, when the shovel stops the dirt goes flying in all directions instead of where you want it to go. Now imagine that you move the shovel at exactly the speed it takes to keep the dirt on the shovel all the way to the other pile. You may have moved it just as fast, but you didn’t accelerate it at the beginning, so there wasn’t that equal and opposite reaction at the end, which would send the dirt flying. That is the way I want you to move the slide, so that the air is getting a ride to the next note and not being flung through the air to God knows where. The air isn’t automatically attached to the slide, just like the dirt isn’t attached to the shovel. You have to move them in such a way that both will stay attached by gravity and centrifugal force. It is therefore imperative that the slide and the shovel move in a smooth and constant manner, so that neither get dislodged from their transports.

When I move the slide from 4th to 1st, say from middle G to middle Bb, I feel like I am scooping the air up using the slide as a shovel, adding a little legato tongue to avoid a smear. When going down from Bb to G, I feel like I am carrying the air on a shovel, so as not to let it slide off or get thrown off by jerking the slide and leaving the air behind.

On natural slurs, that is slurs that change partials, I concentrate on rounding off those slurs. By this I mean making as prolonged as possible the actual moment of the change of partial so that the slur sounds as round and fat as possible. Since it is impossible to get a gliss on a natural slur, all you wind up with is a big, fat, round, smooth, resonant slur. Since I blow through the slur with the air instead of flicking the air through it, I do the same thing with the slide. Moving the slide smoothly through the slur and elongating the slur results in a smooth, resonant and totally reliable natural slur.