Catie Hickey: Establishing Routines for Stylistic Flexibility Routines - Warm up vs. Maintenance
Warm-up might not be more than 5-10 minutes and cover what I have to do to make a sound and articulate correctly. Trombones all function in the same way - what varies is sound concept (sonic footprint) and articulation style (attack and note shape).
Maintenance is the additional 45-60 minutes I need to cover aspects of technique. If I have a bunch of repertoire to learn, some of this can be covered in maintenance. When ignition is hard to come by, Arbans day of the month or tune learning.
For me, the hardest thing to maintain is a classical (specifically orchestral) sound concept. I need to start with it pretty much everyday or it suffers. Rim buzzing is a substitute when that’s not possible. I need to start with mezzo forte sameness and build my extremes from there. Extremes of register, dynamic level, and articulation are all fair game.
My goal when warming up is to balance the imaginary scales of effort and ease. My personal tendency is too much effort after time off/small horn playing, too much ease when living in low register tenor or bass doubling. I’m trying to focus the center of the sound rather than overblow/get more efficiency for my air.
Most of my early exercises start from from the center of the horn/setup and move around. For smaller setups this might be middle B flat, for bigger tenor setups it feels more like F. I need to get my air to agree with my lips, and balance quantities of air vs speed of air for each horn.
Categories of Routine: Sound, Flexibility, Articulation
Classical exercises: Longs and shorts, connecting one sound to the next. Slide technique. Norman Bolter overlay (sound then slide then tongue). Then mixing slurs and not slurs, dynamic and register extremes. Working in arpeggios and scale fragments. Pedro Carrero exercises. Charlie Vernon slurred/not slurred harmonic series. Addressing the chromatic nature of the instrument in ways that are not solely vertical or horizontal.
Commercial studies: Michael Davis etudes, Jack Gale etudes, transcribed solos and melodies in various transpositions with metronome support are all good ways to
stay engaged with various articulation patterns. Paying attention to time feel, phrasing, harmonic content, accent patterns and contrasts while moving from style to style. Keep it simple!
Endurance built in lots of twenty minute sessions rather than marathons - mimic the kind of chops you’ll need for the gig. Once you’re on the gig, practice in opposites.
Maintenance as a private instructor means maintaining pitch center - check in at the end of sessions as well as the beginning. Drones/play-along. Intonation in context, not just one note at a time or one slide direction is key here. Duets with great players.
Actively dropping the tongue rather than just blowing it out of the way.
Compression is king/which mouthpiece for which kind of commercial sound. I find it difficult to live on lead at the same time as I live on 2nd orchestral trombone chops.
Technique vs. Repertoire
Technique is how you play, repertoire is what you’re playing
Most repertoire can be learned (notes rhythms/style) off the horn
Plan ahead for cycles of teaching/learning/performing - knowing when opportunities for solo performance will be, forgiving busy teaching weeks. Functionality, building endurance cycles similar to athletes training.
Improvising - sing if you can’t play! Most of my improvising practice is not in the horn. Benefit of teaching: I sing a lot of solos and reinforce a lot of tunes with my students. Learning short bits of solos in different styles for phrasing and articulation.
Pitfalls of doubling - sound/support and articulation clarity.
Too much salsa/funk/loud playing - Caruso or Norman stopping and starting the sound again exercises. Lots of tenor trigger register melodies to slow down air speed and get more low register resonance.
Too much bebop noodling - reclaiming tenuto attacks, being really picky about note shape and duration. Beware the “dwah”.
Musical theater pits - playing acoustically and recording myself in decent/large rooms. Days off! Advil after doubles. Non-musical brain challenges.
Trying to play jazz on a large bore orchestral setup - loss of flexibility/too much pressure.
Questions to ask when something is awry
What/who am I trying to sound like?
How are notes starting? How are they stopping?
Is there an intermediate mouthpiece transition that will aid this process (5G on the way to 4G or vice versa)?
If possible, have I taken intentional time off - a day, a week, a month?
Recordings for entry into different styles: Fred Wesley with the Meters
Ruben Blades - Buscando Guayaba
Bennie Green - Bennie Plays the Blues
Leroy Jones - Harry Connick Spoonful of Sugar