Mind Over Matter-horn

Someone once told me that no matter what trombone I was playing or even trying, I got essentially got the same-type sound. This got me to thinking years later that my concept must be so strong that I make every horn conform to my idea of what my sound should be. Instead of the horn playing me, I was playing the horn. Instead of waiting to see what sound comes out of an instrument that is unfamiliar, I think I am proactive and make my sound happen even if the physical sensation is different.

I think many players have a “wait and see” attitude when first warming up or trying a strange instrument. They want to see what the horn gives as far as sound, instead of making their sound. I call this the “passive approach,” I’m not speaking at all about the louder dynamics, as everyone is pretty pro-active in the louder dynamics. I am speaking of dynamics in the pp-mf range which is most of the things we play. What is the passive approach? It’s when someone blows some warm, slow moving air into the horn, probably below center of that partial, and listening (hopefully) as to what comes out. The pro-active approach is blowing some fast (cool?) moving air into the horn, above the center of that partial, and knowing what sound comes out; focused, pure, with plenty of core, and therefore plenty of overtones.

We let the horn make too many decisions for us! We too often take a wait and see attitude too much of the time! When the horn comes from the factory it wants to be a laser-beam loud and a fog horn soft, and we have to reverse this. What decisions does it make for us? I just said; it wants to be a laser-beam loud and a fog horn soft. Again, how do we reverse this? Make every first note JUMP out of the horn and then relax and let your lungs empty naturally.

I leave you with this Confucius-type thought; and you can write this in felt pen on the rim of your bell: Never, and I mean never, sneak into your first note!