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Recruiting and Retaining Trombonists in the Band Program The Basics!. Presented by: Robert Kehle Pittsburg State University At the Kansas Music Educators In-Service Workshop February 24, 2006 2:45-3:35 Century II Room 206 Wichita, Kansas

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Recruiting and Retaining Trombonists in the Band Program The Basics!

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recruiting and retaining trombonists in the band program the basics

Recruiting and Retaining Trombonists in the Band ProgramThe Basics!

Presented by:

Robert Kehle

Pittsburg State University

At the Kansas Music Educators In-Service Workshop

February 24, 2006 2:45-3:35

Century II Room 206

Wichita, Kansas

This program has been made possible through a grant from C. G. Conn.

robert kehle rkehle@pittstate edu
- University Professor of Music @ Pittsburg State University

- Principle Trombone with the Springfield, MO Symphony Orchestra

- Trombonist with the PSU Brass Quintet

- Artist/clinician with C. G. Conn

- Degrees in Music Education and Trombone Performance from:

Washington State University

Indiana University

Studied trombone with:

Mr. M. Dee Stewart (Philadelphia Sym. Orch.)

Dr. S. Thomas Beversdorf (Pittsburgh Sym.)

Mr. Keith Brown (Philadelphia Sym. Orch.)

Mr. Ed Kleinhammer (Chicago Sym.)

the basics


It is how you get better.

Accept no substitute.

breath support
Breath support
  • The alternative to breathing is not very pleasant.
  • This should be a natural process; unfortunately we often make it harder.
  • Never stop talking about it.

In order to improve

the playing of a

student we must

concentrate on the

critical factors of


  • AIR is #1.

The diaphragm works

like a bellows. It

sucks air in and the

result is an expansion

of the lungs as the

diaphragm moves



Centrum tendineum

the chest


at inhalation

at expiration


Do not let the shoulders rise unduly as this just creates tension in the upper body and lungs.

Tension = Tight sound

air reasons we cut back on the air
Long phrases.

Seeing how long we can play.

Super soft playing.

These result in a

reduction of air to

the embouchure;

therefore, the

Embouchure shuts

down and we lose

the pitch and tone.

AIRReasons we cut back on the air.
air proper air
Demonstration techniques:

The Yawn.

Breathe in on “HAW.”

The nose breath.

Normal breathing.

5. A poke in the ribs.


Inhale on a MOE for a 4 count – exhale on TOE for a 4 count.

Do not hold it in!

AIRProper air.

To open the oral cavity:

  • Breathe through a paper towel tube or place 2 fingers in your mouth. The throat is an extension of the tube.

2. Say in a regular beat; “ee, ah, oh, ee, ah, oh” then inhale through the larger oral cavity.


It should be like a circle or swing, in and out.



The inhalation and exhalation should be one complete process.

Do not hold the air in as it creates tension.

air the exhalation
Air – the Exhalation

To help a student

achieve a

continuous full

exhalation try the



Blow at the pinwheel and keep the wheel moving.

breathing problems
Breathing Problems

1. Noisy inhalation (especially a high sound) is a symptom of tension and constriction. Try lowering and relaxing the tongue.

2. Make sure that the student is not using the breath as a chance to change the embouchure in different registers.

3. Air blockage is a common problem. Often we tighten up in the throat or upper chest and in so doing we compensate by forcing the air. In reality what we have done is to constrict the airflow.

4. As a good rule, breathe early rather than waiting for the last second to breathe. Late inhalations are often tight and forced.

5. Breathe in time with the music. One beat or two, depending on the tempo will help relax the drawing of the breath and help you feel the tempo and beat.

  • The shoulders should stay calm and not rise up.

7. Grunting sounds usually indicate that the player is constricting the throat.

air the inhalation
Air – the Inhalation
  • Using inspired volume measuring devices can help measure the amount of air taken in.
  • These are used in hospitals.
air posture
AIR & Posture

When standing, stand

tall with the legs

slightly apart. Not

rigidly at attention as


If you slouch you will not be able to breathe properly.

Playing over the top of the stands can cause incorrect embouchures

Sit up straight, but relaxed.

Not at attention as shown.

air posture1
AIR & Posture

NEVER do this!

For marching band you

may need to tilt back

slightly in order to get

the horns up. It is a

necessary evil, but a

more normal

posture following the

lines of the teeth is


mouthpiece angle
Mouthpiece Angle

Follow the teeth.

The horn is straight out

and look at the

mouthpiece seal, or

lack of proper seal.

holding the instrument it makes a difference
Holding the instrument,it makes a difference

The left hand forms

a ‘L’ or gun.

This is what it

should look like.

the bad slide hand
The Bad Slide Hand

The ‘claw’

The ‘finger’

Hold that bell, NOT!


“There is nothing wrong with your chops, your mind is messing them up.”

Paraphrase from Bud Herseth, Chicago Symphony


Various ways to discuss

the embouchure.

1. Saying ‘M.’

2. A straw in the mouth.

3. Say “Beau-ty” and hold on “Beau.”


Keep the corners


1. Pretend that you have dental floss across the teeth and pull down the corners.

2. Think of an anchor on both sides of the mouth.

The puffy cheeks

Trombonists need to anchor the

corners of the mouth, hold the

cheeks against the teeth, but not

rigidly, and minimize the puffing.

The bunched chin

Keep the chin flat, especially

as you ascend. Look in a

mirror as you practice and be


embouchure and pressure
Embouchureand Pressure

Left-handed embouchure.

“Let me cram the mouthpiece through the back of my face,” says the masochist.

Try pressing your thumb against the lower

edge of the front teeth. Now look at the

indentation in the thumb. Imagine what

this is like to the soft lip tissue.

Ring on the lips.

If the lips become swollen it is a result of poor circulation.

embouchure and pressure1
Embouchureand Pressure

An improper balance between the airflow and the lips.

  • It often results in tension in either the chest, throat, or both.
embouchure and pressure2
Embouchureand Pressure

The smile



a set of “thin” lips.

embouchure pressure fixes
EmbouchurePressure Fixes

1. Make sure the air is there for the lips. Double check the breathing process.

2. Consciously strive to pull the horn away from the lips without losing the basic seal needed to play.

3. Make sure the lips are not thin in the mouthpiece. There needs to be a lip cushion, but too much will result in a stuffy sound.

“Air takes the stress off the embouchure...”

Norman Bolter, Boston Symphony, master class October 2, 1991

  • If the student tends to drop off from one note to a lower harmonic it may be due to not having enough lip in the mouthpiece.
  • The drop off can also be the result of the air velocity dropping in intensity. Use the “block of air or sound” concept
  • The same can be true if there is difficulty in starting the note or keeping on pitch.
embouchure building
Embouchure building

The best way to build up the

embouchure and increase

endurance is to do:

1. Lip slurs.

2. Flexibility studies.

3. Mouthpiece buzzing (in moderation).

tone and the mouth cavity
Tone and the Mouth Cavity

The mouth cavity should not be

closed; rather it should be in a

slightly open fashion.

Try closing your lips and let the

jaw hang; don’t close the teeth.

tone results from
Tone Results from:
  • Proper Air.
  • An open mouth cavity. Remember let the jaw hang open.
  • A solid tone concept.
  • Good equipment. (There are some slides at the end of the presentation that deal with this topic.)

“The horn is a megaphone for us.”

Eric Cress, Co-principle Trombone with the London Symphony Orchestra.


“Attacks are the first thing people hear of your sound.”

Jay Friedman, Chicago Symphony

articulations tongue chart
Tu = a defined start to the note

Do = a soft attack

Thu = a softer attack

Lu = an unaccented articulation. The notes butt up against each other for a very smooth legato sound

This creates a space between notes.

This allows for long notes and less space.

Almost a legato articulation with virtually no space between notes.

The true legato tongue.

ArticulationsTONGUE CHART

Stop tongue

This is where the player ends the note with the tongue. Brass players do not do this as it usually causes a disruption of the tone. It most often produces a ‘toowhat’ sound.

To fix the problem liken it to blowing out a match or candle. You just stop blowing and use a burst of air timed the proper length to get the job done.


The square root sign and/or ballooning the note.

  • Do not allow the air to drop after the articulation like a square root sign.

This will result in a ‘doowa’ type of sound.

b. The balloon is similar in that. The player pushes off the end of the note with a crescendo.


No tongue

This is where the student has learned to play the note without starting with an articulation. Somewhere along the line they didn’t hear and retain the concept of articulations.

To fix this you will need them to do what I call “beat the head against the wall practice.” This is where the student must practice with a ‘tu’ or ‘du’ articulation on various notes and ranges over and over and over and over ... again. DO NOT HOLD THE AIR IN BEFORE STARTING THE NOTE. Remember it is one process of in and out.

It is great TV commercial practice time.


Legato tongue

This is by far the hardest aspect of trombone articulation.

The slide must be very fast. Tell them 100 MPH.

1. The slide must work correctly.

2. Practice by glissing between the notes. Make it so fast that you can barely hear the slide.

3. Use a ‘thu’ tongue to begin with. This is close to a true legato and works well in ensembles.

4. Once the ‘thu’ works then deal with the ‘lu’ tongue.

Make it happen on the note ‘F’ then add chromatic

Add motion.


Multiple tongue

An alternation between:

tu’ & ‘ku’ or ‘du’ & ‘gu.’

Practice saying it, but use the air too.


“In my opinion, the trombone is the true head of the family

of wind instruments, which I have named the ‘epic’ one. It

possesses nobility and grandeur to the highest degree; it

has all the serious and powerful tones of sublime musical

poetry, from religious, calm and imposing accents to

savage, orgiastic outbursts. Directed by the will of the

master, the trombones can chant like a choir of priests,

threaten, utter gloomy sighs, a mournful lament, or a

bright hymn of glory; they can break forth into awe

inspiring cries and awaken the dead or doom the living

with their fearful voices.”

Hector Berlioz, 19th Century composer


- The primary key to range is AIR.

  • The air must be faster and more compact as you go higher.

- One way to speed up the air is by changing the mouth cavity by using the syllable ‘dee’ as opposed to ‘doo.’

- The air column must change like a camera lens reducing in size due to increased lighting.

- Lip slurs are a must in order to improve range.

  • There is no substitute for tuner practice.
  • Train the student to listen for the ‘beats.’

Problem with being flat?

  • If the tuning slide is way out itis usually a symptom of someone trying to play with his or her lips apart. Make sure the air separates the lips.
  • Use easy, but fun music that includes a CD play along to assist in early intonation building.
  • Here are a couple of examples I like.
  • Tons of Tunes published by Curnow Music
  • Double Dip duets published by Club Hip-Bone
warm up

A warm-up to a brass

player is like a warm

up is to a runner. You

do not run flat out

without stretching and

getting the muscles

functioning. The

same is true for the


warm up1
  • Get the air moving! Use breathing exercises.
  • Play semi-long tones. 4 beats at q = 60
  • Use scales and arpeggios for articulation work.
  • Play lip slurs.

5. Try some mouthpiece buzzing as they mature.

warm up fun stuff
Warm-up - Fun stuff
  • Use easy children’s tunes to help warm-up and to begin to deal with improvisation.

a. Mary Had a Little Lamb

b. Old MacDonald

warm up fun stuff1
Warm-up - Fun stuff

Have the students play children’s tunes.

Do not tell them the key. Just let them go

by giving them a starting note. They will

explore and learn new notes on their


This is a beginning improvisation


equipment recommendations
Equipment Recommendations

Most new beginning horns are at least OK.

Things to look for:

  • A slide grip that is not one piece.
  • You get what you pay for.

Used horns:

  • Does the slide work correctly.

2. Are there large dents on the horn. Particularly check the slide and tuning slide bows for dents.

equipment recommendations mouthpieces
Equipment Recommendations.Mouthpieces.

To start on a 12C

(Bach designation) is

fine, but switch them as

soon as possible to a

6½ AL. Middle school

or by high school is a

good time to switch.

The 6 ½ AL will take

more AIR, but it opens

up the sound.

Mouthpiece Trueing Tool

equipment maintenance these are problems
Equipment MaintenanceThese are problems.

Slide width

Stuck slide

Sprung slide


There are lots of

fine and qualified


They should not use

an expander to

remove slide dents.

That is model ‘T’

equipment. Ask

them about it.

I use the Slide Doctor

John Upchurch.

slide lubricants oil
Slide LubricantsOil
  • A great way to slick up a tile floor.
  • Your custodian will love to have it on the floor!
  • Give it to the trumpet players.
slide lubricants 3 good 1 bad
Slide Lubricants3 good 1 bad

Super Slick



thank you
Thank you.

Blee a Blee a Blee

that’s all folks!