Brass Buzz

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath is the author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her blog Interlude.

Brass players are lucky to have some of the most gorgeous music written for them. One can’t help but think of Bruckner Symphonies, like the 9th Symphony with 8 horns, 4 of them doubling on Wagner Tubas, 3 trumpets and 3 trombones as well as contrabass tuba; the many brass chorales and Janáček Sinfonietta with four horns, 12 trumpets and 2 bass trumpets!

One forgets the physicality of playing these instruments. Those delicate lip tissues; jaws and necks can be injured. Here are a few hints aimed specifically to brass players.

Warm Up

Spend some time with the mouthpiece alone focusing on the clarity of the tone In other words buzz, play some long tomes and slurs. This can really enhance your sound.

Avoid Forcing

Over time, forcing will take a toll. It will become more and more difficult to keep a steady tone and accuracy will suffer. To learn to play a brass instrument exceptionally well, one must learn how to develop a natural singing tone quality.

Cool Down

Before you put your instrument away for the night, cool down. Just as other muscles in the body, lip muscles tighten after extended exertion. Take five to ten minutes to play low and softly after a performance. Pedal tones are great to relax the lip muscles says Dr. Phillip Cansler of the University of Portland.

Don’t forget to take breaks. Release your lips and jaws by doing gentle “air mouthwashes” or a “fish face.”

Keep reading this article on Interlude.

Playing Less Hurt

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

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