Lately I’ve been thinking about the eternal questions of equipment and the concept of using them. I’ve finally come to this conclusion; play the biggest horn and mouthpiece you can, and then play it as clear and small as you can. By small I don’t mean pinched. I mean pure, lively, focused and again, clear. We want the player to sound big in size and the instrument to sound small and facile. The big mistake is using a large type horn and playing it dull and unfocused, which is the most common type of sound I hear today. How do we do that? It has to do with the use of the airstream. Everyone knows to use more air, but how? Think of the airstream as a garden hose: when there is no nozzle on the end, the water comes out thick and doesn’t go far. When a nozzle is attached the stream of water narrows and picks up speed, traveling farther. That’s what I mean when I say play a big horn small and clear. Since the modern instrument is large in size compared to trombones in previous centuries, it is never a problem to make a big sound: the problem to avoid is making a dead sound. Refer to my article; “Behold the Bright Seraphim.”
Another riddle we must solve with our modern instruments is the tendency for the horn to be a laser beam loud, and a fog horn soft. It is our job to reverse this tendency. I covered this in an article awhile back called “Fighting the Horn,” but it’s worth mentioning it again. There are a few other things that appear to require opposites responses: slurs that want to emerge quick, like those in close slide positions, which I will elongate. Those of very wide distances, which I will try to quicken to match a middle ground slur of supreme smoothness and beauty. Also, lip slurs that want to “wince” out of the horn, I will streeeeetch them to control the airstream to the inth degree. When the slide wants to be fast and the air slow, reverse them. No, I don’t want a slow slide, I want the air and slide to be glued together so they cannot be dislodged. If the slide moves like lightning then the air does too, but never at the expense of legato, which the trombone is supremely capable of.