Masterclass reflections

It is a great pleasure to be invited to so many schools where I meet wonderful people and hear great trombone playing. Going to different countries with different traditions and different inspirations does not really make one place different to another very much within the classes.

Now, in 2015, every student is online and knowing quickly how to hear their favorite players and how to obtain knowledge for free. This is an amazing phenomenon which is of unlimited value but actually is hurting many of the students.

Luckily, we are all very different one to another. However, the students I meet can be categorized into two different types.

The first type of student is simple is a way which a child is when playing the instrument for the first time. There is a happiness and physical sensation that is positive when getting a tone out of the instrument. The natural thing to do here is just to keep playing and getting more notes out. It is simply fun as it continuously improves.

The second type of student is one who is always trying to fix things. They are normally thinking too much but actually not clear at all in their own heads. You see, there is so much online information and different sounds of playing that people loose themselves along the way. These students are also commonly overwhelmed with stress. These people need a clear, simple direction and not loads of knowledge. They don’t hear what they want to sound like before they play and are not usually satisfied with what they hear themselves sounding like.

Yes, the music business is very competitive but the simple happiness of having the chance to do it counts for a lot. You know about the KISS method, right? Keep it simple, stupid! Well, this is the way to go. It is the general mindset that is the biggest problem and holds students back.

When people have a bad sound, for example, they ask me how to get a good sound. It’s already a good start if they recognize their sound is bad. Sound is almost everything. You can make mistakes but if the sound is incredible these mistakes are easily forgotten. Many students think the embouchure is wrong, the tongue is not set correctly, the air is not working properly, or that they need another instrument. Well, this could be correct, but most of the time it is not the case.

The problem is that the ideal sound that they are looking for is not in the head. They do not hear it. It is like a child learning how to speak. Since my children are growing up trilingual, it is a fair comparison to discuss. Just say „Hello“ like me. „Hello“ You see, that is easy. Now play a Bb just like me. Bb…No, that’s not the same sound. Listen again, Bb… Now you. Yes, that is the correct sound! Do you hear it? „Yes!“ Then don’t change anything. Play this sound and remember how it feels.

When I was a teenager, I listened only to one trombone CD. That was Joe Alessi’s Slide Area. It was played in my ears hundreds of times. My goal was to have the same sound as him. I played the same solo pieces and breathed in the same places. Also, I phrased like he did. He later told me that his big phrasing inspiration is Frank Sinatra. Well, I will never sound exactly like him because I am very different but had a very clear sound that I was going for. Later, I did the same with Michel Becquet. They are very different players, but through the copying process, my tone was in my head and my body just did what it needed to get out the sound.

You see, it is really simple.

The person who is like a child in the simple way is mostly always preferred as a colleague too. If someone around you is stressed, it easily make you stressed to. If someone is easy going, is help you to relax and enjoy.

Now I am in the plane between Krakow and Berlin and am really tired because one student today made me really work. His biggest problem was bad rhythm. There is rhythm is most everything. Time is always ticking. We walk in a rhythm. Always have a beat in your body, even on glissando’s and especially on long sustained notes. Practice walking and clapping and saying all different kinds of rhythms. Do it with a partner, it’s really fun!