Any tips?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by euphfanhan, Nov 12, 2005.

  1. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    Since I started playing 3 years ago, I have been told by annoyingly large amounts of people that I play too quietly. It's never particularly bothered me as I've never had to play alone in a large space, but my music teacher has got the idea into her head that it would be 'nice' for me to play a solo in a Cathedral (Lancaster) for a Cafod concert. I can play the piece fine, but no one will be able to hear me! Does anyone have any useful tips on playing louder very quickly?? I have tried practising with mutes and blowing as loud as I can but it just gives me a headache :frown:
  2. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Do what some jazzers do ... mic. yourself up and get yourself amplfied! ;)
  3. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    The first pointer that you need to learn is the one about self belief ;) It really doesn't matter how large or small the hall is, if you believe that the person sat at the back can hear you then that's the first hurdle over with. It does feel a little lonely the first few times you do things like this, but approach it with confidence.

    In terms of the physiology of playing loudly, if it really is giving you a headache (and you're not just being metaphorical), then that suggests that you're putting too much resistance at the mouthpiece end i.e. you may need to open your embouchure a little more.

    The relative volume of your playing is related to how much air you're putting through the instrument. Remember that you need to support the increased air flow with your diaphragm at all times, There are no quick fixes - things like shoving tea towels down your bell and so on can potentially be detrimental to your sound and that (sorry to all the technical wizards out there) is the foundation of a brass band IMO ;)

    Sustained notes, open your mouth, support with your diaphragm...when you're practising anything technical remember to blow your way through it, supporting all the time....but above all believe in yourself!

    Difficult to describe, really - get Mr Read on the case at the youth band...:p
  4. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Mmmmmm! What you're saying cannot be developed overnight though! Trying to keep a good sound with added volume creates all sorts of dilemmas as it affects technique and lip flexability too! I've always had problems explaining that good projection doesn't always equate to pushing loads of air through an instrument. A trial run in the cathedral is a good idea to assess the live acoustic as it might not be as bad as it seems. Advice I have been given over the years is to imagine points in the hall and 'throw' the sound to them! Steve Mead's 'imaginary dart throwing' for basic production is similar in this respect as it prepares the air flow and attack of the notes. Not much help here, but again ... the mic. idea could work, if the sound is not degraded through the P.A.

    - this link is a basic introduction to what I was on about ...
  5. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    An interesting link, thanks.

    You're quite right - there's no quick fix (the PA idea is OK, but is dependent on context).

    I learnt my craft from a guy called Graham McEvoy at Besses in the 80s who, in my opinion is one of the unsung heroes of that time. Everything he did was seemingly effortless, yet you could always hear everything that he was doing - even over massed bands.
  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - There's no real secret that we as brass players share a lot with singers when it come down to the basics of projecting sound. One of the complaints these days are that we play too loud and no longer can play quietly. I feel part of this is the fashion for mouthpieces with large cups and throats to accomodate larger bore instruments. This, and the tendency for bands getting louder over the years, makes it more difficult to control dynamic range and has a direct effect on lyrical playing as well as sustained pianissimos. (my opinion). Because of improved design, we might be able to play loud with undistorted sound but for most of us, we have to compromise dynamic control as a result. :tup
  7. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    As was, for me at any rate, illustrated at the Area with Rienzi ;)
  8. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    (don't get me started! ;) )

    - I'm interested in more views about using practice mutes for increasing volume. I have only found two real uses for them ...

    (1) to reduce any disturbance for family and neighbours
    (2) to improve articulation and clarity of production

    - I've never found that practice mutes necessarily improve tone quality (often the reverse) when trying to increase air flow!
  9. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    In the absence of anyone else :sup I'd agree with that.

    I've found that the people I've come across that have used such devices - mutes, towels, pillows, small people (for BBb players!) - often come away with a hard edge to their tone. That said, that kind of noise seems to proliferate in certain circles and bands, and may be a product of modern teaching. I must be getting old (and also must have Alzheimers as I've strayed so far OT!)
  10. PowerRanger

    PowerRanger Member

    Have a look at this very interesting video by a very famous low brass expert, Arnold Jacobs.

    It may help you a little bit!

    It may take a while to download, but it's worth it!!
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  12. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Definitely agree, practice mutes encourage a hard edged tone. I can't speak for the euph but on the cornet I've found the single best exercise for improving tone, production and projection is playing pedal notes - this is probably easier, and certainly more accurate on the euph. Start on a bottom C and go down the C major scale, trying to keep the pedal tones as accurate and warm as poss. Start each one pp and come up to mf over 4 beats and back down to pp. Then do it again going up to f over 6 beats and down again, then up to ff and dwon over 8 beats. If you do this properly (no cheating) you'll be surprised how quickly you hear a difference.

    If you're playing in a cathedral or any large church you'll have no worries, it's the most encouraging and forgiving accoustic there is. Concentrate on keeping the sound warm rather than razzing; also when you play try to visualise the sound coming out of your instrument and "aim" the sound at a point a reasonable distance away.

    Bear in mind that most players struggle more with the quiet dynamics. If you can play really well quietly you'll have your audience on the edge of their seat.

    Hope this helps, best of luck.
  13. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    Firstly have confidence without it you have got no chance(Sorry about that)

    Right: A good tip is to put down your bell a Towel or 2 towel down (Make sure you ram them down and they are very tight fitted in the bell) so you have to blow very hard to get a sound it sounds awful but take no notice play some thing you know and play it very loud with the towel down the bell do this for 20 mins and then take the towel out play at the same level you will notice a differernce do this for a month every day for 40 mins 20 with towel down 20 with out beleive me it WORKS!!!!
    You might think this is utter mad but it works 100% if i want any of the students i teach to get a bigger and louder soud i tell them to do that i wa sgiven this tip by a well known top player 15 years ago.
    Please try it
  14. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Just because they're well known doesn't meant that the end result sounds good ;)

    It may be nice and loud, but is it good....
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2005
  15. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    Thanks for all the help everyone! Someone mentioned that using a mute doesn't do much good for tone quality...but what I failed to mention is my neighbours are not particularly friendly people. Well, not mr nextdoor anyway, he bangs on the walls, rings the doorbell or turns his music up full volume to drown me out! :eek: I'm not that bad am I?? :( Maybe that is part of the problem, I can only play loudly without a mute when I'm at band so I'm not getting enough practise?
  16. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Absolutely - you need to practice at different dynamics, through all the techniques you use.

    It's very easy to fall into the multipurpose mf :biggrin:
  17. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - This may produce more volume but it is a forced approach to tackle the problem, and other faults may develop as a result. Players and teachers (or clinicians :rolleyes: ) are constantly reviewing how we actually get on with the art of producing sounds out of brass instruments and things are not as simple as some portray. We use an array of techniques simultaneosly to get our unique (individualistic) characteristics of performance and usually learn because of remedial cases (dental, respiratory or muscular damage). What works for one may give cause for concern for another.
  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - You just need freedom to play! I have that same problem where I live, and made more awkward at present because the neighbours in the flat below seem to have the same time off as I have at the moment! Open play has to be quiet and that doesn't help my cause. I resort to the practice mute if I feel my production and articulation suffers as a result. I totally emphasise with you!
  19. just believe that you can play louder, self confidence is a real problem. if you know that you can play the piece and you play it well just go for it.
  20. Flugelmahorn

    Flugelmahorn Member

    Have you tried buzzing only on the mouthpiece? If you can get a nice solid sound using only the mouthpiece then this can form a good base for a solid sound. There are a lot of buzzing exercises which can be found on the net.

    From personal experience I've found that practice mutes can help but only in the short term and if used for long periods can really be damaging to intonation (although the new range of Bremner Ssssssh mutes seem to be an exception to this in my opinion).

    Good luck!!

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