Edge Bracing

It has been a while since I posted on here. Last semester was extremely busy for me and this got put on the back burner for a while. This semester, I’m going to try and post more frequently because I have lots of things to say.

That said, over winter break, I had some work done to my horn. I play on an older Edwards T-350. Because of this, it had the original tube bracing that connects the valve section and bell. I had this converted to the newer edge bracing style. I took it to Merlin Grady in Waterloo and he created the part for it. To make the part, he cut out a plate from a piece of horn tubing. He then used the Shires disconnection part because he likes their design better than that of the Edwards part. The result looks like this:

I think it looks pretty good as it is unique. There probably isn’t anyone else who has an Edwards horn with a Shires bell disconnection. I also agree with Merlin that the Shires part is designed better than the Edwards part. The Edwards disconnections on my horn tend to work their way loose over time, so I have to frequently tighten them. Also, if you tighten them too much, they are hard to loosen because they are 75% smooth. The ridges are also not deep enough to get a good grip. The Shires part, on the other hand, has stayed tight and is very easy to tighten and loosen because it has deep grooves. 
As for the playability, the upgrade has greatly improved many aspects of my playing. The response improved immediately. I can articulate easier and it is easier to start my sound instantly than it was before. My tone also improved. With this disconnection, the bell it completely free, other than the two braces that every horn (straight horns included) has. This allows the bell to resonate and vibrate more freely. My sound has definitely become more open and resonant. I have also noticed that it is easier to play at louder levels without the sound breaking. This is most likely due to the bell being free from the valve tubes. On top of it, when I sound better, I want to practice more, which also increases my level of playing. 
For anyone with an older horn without this style of disconnect, I would suggest considering the upgrade. It has been a great success for me and I would recommend it to anyone.

Spiral Binding

This idea is credited to my current teacher, Dr. Jonathan Allen, but I use it so much that I wanted to share it. Most music books that we buy are just stapled together in the binding. Occasionally, you can get a book that comes spiral bound (the David Vining books are this way), but usually they are not. Whenever I buy a music book that is not spiral bound, I take it to Copyworks to have some work done. I have them cut the binding off and put spiral binding on the book. I always make sure to ask them to cut the book as close to the original binding as possible to eliminate losing any music in the process. I also have them cut a couple clear plastic sheets to put over the front and back covers. This helps prevent bending pages and wearing out the corners of the book.

This whole process costs about $5 and takes about 5-10 minutes, but it is completely worth it. For those very well used books, wear and tear will undoubtedly take its toll. Eventually, you may have to replace the book, resulting in the loss of all your written comments and notes. If you have this done to your books, the clear plastic sheets will prevent most damage. Also, the days of bending your books back to get them to lay flat is over. This is a hassle and damages the binding of the book. If your book is spiral bound, it will lay completely flat on your stand and you will never have to worry about pages potentially flipping back. Spending $5 more to help keep your book in good shape even makes more sense than spending the money to replace it down the road. I do this to almost all of the music books I buy and I highly recommend it to any musician that plays a lot of music. Thanks for the great idea, Dr. Allen!

Practice Mirror

I have always been told that it is a good idea to use a mirror when practicing. This lets you see what is going on with your embouchure and what your tendencies are. Unfortunately, our practice rooms at Iowa do not have mirrors in them, so it has always been a hassle to try and find a mirror with which to practice. To try and solve this issue, I started searching for a good mirror that I could carry with me at all times. Most of the smaller mirrors I found were designed for use in lockers and, unfortunately, were not made of real glass. Many are made with a reflective material instead of glass, which most reviews reported was wavy and chipped apart easily. I did, however, find one locker mirror made of real glass. I decided to purchase this one because it had decent reviews and was relatively cheap. From here on Amazon, it was $2.97 + $3.49 shipping.

This mirror has turned out to work very well for practicing. It is 5″x7″, which is just big enough to give you a good view of your face while you play but small enough to easily fit in a bag or case. I place it on my stand when I warm up, which allows me to see everything my embouchure is doing. I had wondered if the magnets (since it is a locker mirror) would be strong enough to hold it to a metal stand. Unfortunately, they are not. The magnets on this thing might as well not be there because they can’t hold it to anything. I may try to find some strong magnets with adhesive backs to stick on this as a security measure to help prevent me from knocking it off my stand and breaking it. I have already begun to notice some tendencies in my embouchure while I play, which gives me a chance to fix them. It is really helpful to be able to see your face and have a visual of what your embouchure is doing while you play. I highly recommend this mirror to ANY musician.


Excerpt from Saint-Saëns Symphony 3

Most serious trombonists out there know about a website called tromboneexcerpts.org. This website is a great resource for any trombonist, whether you play bass or tenor. The developers of the site have compiled a list of the most common orchestral excerpts called for on auditions. When you click on a link to an excerpt, it displays the excerpt and multiple audio recordings of the excerpt in the orchestral context. Until recently, many people could not take full advantage of this site, however. I always had trouble getting the audio player to function properly. I use a Mac, like many musicians do, but I grew up using a PC. The site always worked well on the PC at home, but it simply would not play audio on my Mac. I tried multiple browsers, like Safari and Chrome, but it always just displayed a small Quicktime icon over the player. However, recently I was just browsing around and discovered that they have switched to a new audio player. This player functions perfectly on my computer now, so I can finally take full advantage of this resource. Thank you tromboneexcerpts.org for updating your site! Now, it is truly a wonderful resource for every trombonist out there.

STS: Southeast Trombone Symposium – Day 6

The final day had come. Today was the day for our dress rehearsals and final concerts. I at breakfast at 8 and went to watch Casey get fitted for his new horn. I had tried out horns earlier in the week, but I was still interested to see the process as an observer. This process is pretty taxing on a player. Nate Zgonc kept having him play Mahler 5 and Bolero. Imagine playing these two excerpts over and over for an hour or more. After about an hour, I went to go warm up for the day. I have started to implement some of the things I have heard this week, and it already seems to be making an impact.

At 11:30, our choir had dress rehearsal. We basically ran our pieces in Legacy Hall and left to eat lunch. I made a sandwich and ate it very quickly, changed into my concert clothes and finished gathering my things to save time packing later. I had little time because the quartet concert started at 1 and our group was first on the concert. We played our two pieces, which went alright. A few things did not go as well as they did in rehearsal, which was a little disappointing, but overall, it went very well. The rest of the quartets played after us, and the whole concert concluded at about 2:15.

The choir concert started at 3. The performers choir went first, choir A (my choir) went second, and choir B went last. We were able to watch the first few pieces of the performers choir, but then we had to leave to tune and such. Our performance went extremely well and everyone was pleased. After choir B performed, all the choirs performed a piece together. I got to stand up on the balcony in front of the organ. I got a great view of the hall and the ~15 people left in the audience (most of the audience were people playing on the combined piece). I also got to play next to Colin Williams, which was pretty awesome.

After the concert, we headed to our room and finished packing up. I got the car and we packed all our luggage and horns into the trunk and back seat. After stopping by the music building to drop off our keys and say goodbye, we were back on the road for the 16 hour drive to Iowa. We ate a delicious dinner in Atlanta near the campus of Georgia Tech. I had the Bobby Dodd Burger, which was a half pound blackened burger dipped in their stinger sauce and topped with cheddar cheese, onion rings, honey bacon, lettuce, and a sunny side up egg. This came with tots, as well. I can’t even describe how good this was. I also got the dessert special, which was cookies and cream cheesecake with a scoop of peanut butter and jelly ice cream. The ice cream literally tasted like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I am definitely glad we stopped here. We made it about an hour past Nashville before we had to stop for the night, and we got up early to drive again. After stopping in St. Louis for some delicious ribs, we made it back to Iowa City at about 5:30. I was glad to be back (and not driving), but I had a blast this last week. I learned a lot and am excited to start using some of this stuff in my everyday practicing. It was especially eye-opening to hear the professionals and the level at which they play. They told us a lot about how they got to where they are, as well. I definitely have a better idea of what I need to do to have a good career in music. STS was definitely worth my time and money. I am looking forward to possibly going again in two years. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone looking for a career playing or teaching trombone.