summer 2014 the trombonist
benny’s basics - part 2 BY Adrian Morris
A good legato is essential in your armoury as a trombonist. Whether you are playing a beautiful hymn tune or a Brahms Symphony you will want to play smoothly and produce well-controlled legato phrases. Once you have mastered a decent slide technique it will help you play a smooth melodic line. There are a few things for you to think about as you try this: Soft tonguing. If all the notes in a phrase are on the same harmonic of the trombone, let’s say between F and B, the only way you can join them smoothly is up by using a soft tongue articulation. (Example 2) As you move up or down the slide you must be careful not to produce a glissando or portamento, but endeavour to leave as little a gap between the notes as possible or they won’t be legato. So, ideally you will move the slide swiftly between positions with no jerkiness (as this will disturb your embouchure), playing full value notes with a constant stream of air. When you play these notes on a valved instrument you simply keep blowing through the instrument and press the valves to move between notes. No break in the air flow at all. Easy!! On the trombone there must be a tiny break in the air stream or you will get a gliss, but the skill is in not letting the listener detect this. 14
5 Another legato technique is slurring between two notes on different harmonics, such as F and Bb in 1st position (Example 3). You will have practised this under the guise of lip slurs in your warm up. Just play the F and without a diminuendo or a break in your airflow just relax and drop across the harmonic break down to the Bb. Obviously doing the reverse is just the same, only push more air through and support as you flip gently across the harmonic break from Bb to F. Slurring G in 4th to F in 1st (example 4) requires you to combine aspects of both of the above. You need to move your slide slickly with no bumps while sustaining the airflow. You don’t need to soft tongue the F, because the jump as you cross the harmonic break provides a beautiful legato articulation if supported correctly. Be careful not to diminuendo on the G before you move the slide, or play pear shaped notes. These will both spoil the legato effect. Playing from F to C on the valve (example 5) is similar to example 3 but using your F valve. Simply put down your valve while you are
playing, keeping the sound constant and projected. You may find you need to push a little more air through to achieve a perfect join as the valve opens a longer tube. Just support a little more. Once again no tongue is needed, as the valve provides a good legato articulation. I guess the next thing is for you to recognise which of these techniques you will use as you play a legato phrase, identifying which will produce the most effective and smooth legato.
As you become more familiar and practised at these, it will come naturally, and what seems a little convoluted and complicated will be second nature. You may not always want to slur across the harmonics for your legato, sometimes you might soft tongue instead, it really is up to you, but these ideas certainly work for me.