Posted by my two cents on April 30, 2002 at 14:23:56:
In Reply to: Re: Pat Sheridan Clinic last night posted by can you summarize? on April 30, 2002 at 10:00:59:
OK. (Disclaimer: Here’s a summary OF WHAT I RECALL. I make no claim that this is verbatim what Pat said. I didn’t take notes.)
The easy part:
Brass Instrument Music is AIR à BUZZ à SOUND
The air is your breath:
1. Breathing is done with muscles that increase the internal volume of the chest cavity.
2. The diaphragm is an involuntary muscle, which means no human has direct, conscious control of it. To speak of ‘breathing with the diaphragm is not “WRONG”, but it is ineffective and inaccurate.
3. Likewise, the dictum to ‘never raise your shoulders’ is not useful. There are muscles on your back that come over your shoulders and are used to raise your ribcage, giving you more volume. You should not try to breath by raising your shoulders to your ears, but neither should you concentrate on not raising your shoulders.
4. Maximum volume is achieved when your abdomen/torso/shoulders/throat are perfectly relaxed. If you are concentrating on relaxing all that, you won’t get there.
So, how do you get relaxed? -- by NOT thinking about it. Instead, think about, and practice, breathing through you chops. Drop your jaw and let your tongue lie flat on the bottom of your mouth. Make your lips round and say “OOOOOOOOOO”. Do breathing exercises with your mouth in that shape: e.g., breath in to a count of four and out to a count of four, then in 3 out 3, in2 out 2, in 1 out 1. Then in1, out 2 & 3 & 4. Then in 4, 3, 2, 1, out 1. To practice deep breathing without getting dizzy, work on 1 in, 1 out to see how long you can do it. This is not normal breathing. Normally, you breath through your nose and use not more than ~25% of your capacity. For brass playing, you breath through your mouth and try for ~95% of your capacity.
The hard part:
In every other instrument family, you do something harder to get louder: bow a string; make a reed vibrate, hit something in percussion. In the brass family, you must move more air. To have more air to move, your torso must be relaxed. Do whatever you want above your mouth and below your hips, but between them, be relaxed. You relax by focusing on something else. Put your focus out front where your embouchure is. Practice it. Its not natural, you have to learn it
When you have good air, the rest is skills to learn and practice.
“Music is not hard, just unfamiliar.” Was a quote Pat used frequently. (I forget who said it). If you want to have a skill, plan to get from not having the skill to having it. (jlb aside: I think a good teacher might be useful here). What do you want to do? Form a plan to get to be able to do it. Execute the plan.
On practicing: Pat said when he was a kid, he practiced a lot because he liked it, but he used to be afraid that made him ‘different’ or ‘unusual’ or ‘strange’. Then he grew up and went on the circuit and met other soloists. Guess what? They all put in hours a day in practice. He has a repertoire of about 250 tunes, about half of which are memorized. Also, he likes to rotate in about 25 new tunes a year. There isn’t enough time in the week to practice enough.
On mouthpiece buzzing: Pat said he does about 5 minutes a day of mouthpiece buzzing, to practice breathing with less resistance than with the horn, not to work on embouchure. He believes you use a different embouchure for buzzing and playing.
On what instrument: For solo work, he plays the compensating Besson Eb he helped design because it makes the sound he wants and he doesn’t have to do the left hand trombone to make it play in tune. For large ensembles, he will use a larger, lower pitch horn. Regarding F tuba’s: Hasn’t yet found one that sounds like he wants and plays well enough in tune.
BTW- I picked up DOS AMIGOS at the clinic. If you don’t have it, do yourself a favor and get it. Tasty.