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Suggested Reading

1. Rehearsal Rooms

Struggling to improve the acoustics in your band room? Check out how the Medan Band did it.

2. Concerned about playing swing music properly?

Check out my guidelines

3. Ear training exercises for bands

Unlike piano players, ear training is essential for wind band performers. But how many band directors bother to give their bands suitable exercises?

4. Intonation problems

While tuning is simple act of adjusting a length of tubing on a wind instrument (often by reference to a single note), intonation is an ongoing process in which a player strives to match the pitch of others in the ensemble during performance. 

5. “Blowing” a wind instrument

A common misconception among wind players is to believe that the air moves through the instrument in order to produce the sound. This is simply not true. 

6. Conducting – suggestions for home practice

The best way for a conductor to improve is in front of a live ensemble. The unfortunate reality, however, is that this is not always possible. Aspiring conductors therefore have little choice but to find other ways of honing their skills.

 

Lip Slurs

Producing a lip slur on a brass instrument involves moving smoothly between two notes using the same valve combination or trombone slide position. In other words, the player moves to another pitch within the same harmonic series using his lip muscles and air support alone. The tongue is not used! Because the embouchure has to tighten when moving to higher pitches, it is usually more difficult to execute a lip slur properly when moving upwards rather than downwards.

Playing lip slurs with the full band makes it easy for players to tongue the upper notes without being spotted.
Practising lip slurs is an important means of building embouchure strength and flexibility. Unfortunately, exercises involving lip slurs are also among the most erroneously played! All too often, students who are asked to practise etudes involving lip slurs simply tongue the upper notes notes, thus negating the purpose of the whole exercise. With the full ensemble playing the sort of etudes found in the standard band method books, it is easy for young players to tongue the notes without being spotted.

Rehearse the brass players in small groups - or one by one if necessary - in order to spot the laggards. Insist that they make the necessary effort to play the exercises properly. While doing this, it is also a good idea to remind the ensemble not to apply more mouthpiece pressure in order to reach the upper notes of a lip slur. A lip slur should be executed by the lip muscles!

Playing lip slurs correctly involves:

 
  • Maintaining a steady airstream throughout the slur.
 
  • Ensuring that there is enough flesh of the lower lip in the mouthpiece to begin the slur.
 
  • Contracting the muscles at the corners of the mouth to obtain the upper note.
 
  • Arching the tongue upwards when moving to higher pitches and flattening it when moving to lower pitches.
 
  • Ensuring that the tone does not become excessively pinched.

Playing lip slurs on a brass instrument is not easy for beginners or even many moderately experienced players. Unfortunately, many standard band method books do not give the subject the careful attention it deserves. The following graded exercises are intended for use with cornet or trumpet players who are having real difficulty. Suitably transposed, they can also be used with other brass instruments. Practise these exercises in consecutive order: open (no valves depressed), 2, 1, 12, 23, and 123. Once they have been mastered, the student should be encouraged to attempt more advanced lip slur etudes.

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