Living in the Cracks

One of the most important aspects of a great legato on trombone is the way in which we get from one note to another. Sounds pretty important, right? Yet I see very few people pay attention to what happens in-between notes. They concentrate on the preceding note and the arrival note and have no idea how they got there. Many people have been taught to move the slide as fast as possible to avoid a glissando. I think someone originally got a copy of the book “Legato for Dummies,” and the trombone world has adopted that as our default system of approaching legato. How many times have we heard the phrase, “the trombone is the closest instrument to the human voice,’ and then listen to them nail every slur to the wall with a jack hammer. NOBODY SINGS LIKE THAT!!

As I’ve written about before on how to produce a vocal-like legato, is always to play the arrival note before the slide gets to that position. This makes sure that there is an even amount of legato on either side of the note change, a crucial aspect of a vocal-type change of notes. This concept believe it or not works as well for articulated passages too because it makes sure the air gets to the position change before the slide, so that the only break in sound is the actual articulation itself.

One of the most overlooked aspects of legato playing is the type of movement of the slide between notes. Most people accelerate the slide between slurred notes. This makes if very difficult for the air and sound to keep up with the slide movement thereby causing a gap in resonance, spoiling the legato. The way to get the best legato possible is to move the slide at the same speed all the way through a position shift. This will allow a full sound to flow through a slur and the air and sound will not get disconnected from the slide.

One would think I am advocating a slower slide movement; nothing could be further from the truth! What I am advocating is a smoother slide movement that allows the airstream to move with the slide so no interruption of resonance is heard. I use different speeds of legato to fit different types of music. I wouldn’t want the same type of slur for a loud excerpt that I would use on a Rochut or a Bach sarabande. Those two slurs would be exactly the same in every way except the speed at which they occur. I want to move a full sound down or up the slide and this means I never flick the slide and drop the air in-between. As I’ve said before my attention is on the connections between notes. This assures that the actual sound on each note will have maximum resonance and will virtually eliminate blanks. How do you get blanks? Flick the slide from position to position, drop the air in-between and “body english” the next note out. I’m advocating the very opposite of that.