Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The past couple of days I have been doing master classes and working with students into the area of sound. I love working with others to see what they are thinking. It is also so confirming to me how where our attention (consciousness) is located shapes the energy pathways and circuitry that become the acoustical theater of where are sound resonates into and out from.

When asked about where sound comes from or what makes our sound, most people said air. Others said the heart area. I said air needs a vibrating structure to vibrate into. This is called the embouchure. Sound consists of vibration. It is vibration. Air is the movement which moves across our lips causing them to vibrate.

Now, there are many ways to enhance and support this vibration. Here are a few:
Concept of sound
*Three dimensional sound exercises
Vowels and syllable shapes
Speed and temperature of air
Separate breathing exercises
Mouthpiece playing
Focusing the mind on different parts of the body
The nature of the vibration of the embouchure

*When people were asked about what they want in their sound, some of the words that came up were, rich, open, clear, sweet, supported, articulated, broad, relaxed, emotion. I added height, width, depth and projection. Here is where I did some experiments with three dimensional sound exercises having people focusing their minds in different directions. The results were very interesting. Some people's sounds became more alive when they thought of the sound coming from in back of themselves. Others from above their heads and others from the sides.

These are a few things that affect sound. The other one of course is the nature of the music one is playing.
I made a video this summer about playing with sound. You can play with sound like a child plays with play doh. And trying some of the various exercises expands our concept of sound and adds DIMENSION and PRESENCE to the sound.

Sound can be elastic and I understand at first students will want to get a stable and focused sound. It is important to keep in mind that stable and solid do not have to be made out of cement or steel. There are the elements to consider. Some sounds are more water in nature, others earth, others air and others fire. Of course we can all have control to incorporate them all into our music making but we will have a 'natural' inclination towards one or a combination of a couple of them.

Playing outside can be one of the great ways to work on getting a three dimensional sound. Lots of space to fill in all directions!

1 comment:

Scott Bean said...

Great post Norman! I love the statement...

"It is important to keep in mind
that stable and solid do not
have to be made out of cement or

It seems that we are still in the "one sound fits all" style of trombone playing. I think that your post might convince players to adopt a more personal and holistic approach to sound and music making.

Thanks for all of the thoughtful posts.