Ensemble by wanghonghx


									           Brass Basics
   Brass Ensemble

Every group whether wind ensemble or orchestra should have as one its goals to have a
great sounding brass section. I have included a brass reference page with some of the
best brass ensembles that are around today. Each has a unique style and approach, but
they all have some fundamental similarities. They have excellent musical taste, they
have great sounds individually and as a group that enable them to play all styles of
music, and they play precisely together.

The number one way for us to improve as a brass section is to constantly improve our
individual abilities to make sound. For the most part, this work cannot happen at band
– it happens during your own practice time. Do the exercises I have laid out for you
on a regular basis, and you will see the progress we need to have. The best type of sound
to strive for is essentially a powerful classical sound – this is the most adaptable style for
different types of music. Here are some basic rules that you should be conscientious of:

             1) The easiest way to achieve blend is by having individuals who produce
                           sound in the same way. This is at the root of many of my
                           suggestions regarding air and sound. Working on these
          Blend            concepts will guide you towards a quality timbre on your
                           instrument. Your sounds will have similar characteristics,
                           and will match easily. We will achieve a beautifully blended
                           and warm sound with ease – it will literally just develop as a
         Balance           by-product.

                              2) Besides timbre, there is another simple rule – Everyone
                              must contribute equally. No one sticks out. There are two
                              common problems here –
       Intonation                 - Weaker players do not fill up enough to balance.
                                  - Stronger players play too loud and stick out.
                              Listen carefully to yourself and the group around. Try to get
                              into each other’s sound.
               I have mentioned that humans are attuned more to high frequencies, when
               thinking of balance we need to consider this. Having more bass presence
               gives the listener more of a sense of tonal center, a context or foundation
               for everything else. Believe it or not, this physiological law is actually
               helped give rise to Motown in Detroit. Up to that point in history,
               recordings tended to be very tinny and loaded with high frequencies -
               there was no mixing capability yet. Soul artists in Detroit started

Foothills Brass Quintet – Brass Basics – JKM
              experimenting with recording in industrial warehouses that naturally
              amplified the bass sound on the recording…people really like the results!

              Another reason to project more bass is that it improves the overall sound.
              A single note played on a trumpet, is actually composed of about 4-7
              audible frequencies higher than the fundamental note being played. When
              you mix two instruments, you not only strengthen these higher
              frequencies, but you also create new ones called “resultant tones.” Physics
              proves that the more bass or fundamental frequency, the stronger resultant
              tones happen when mixed with higher, in-tune frequencies. The more
              resultant tones and strengthened “overtones” we get as a brass section, the
              more powerful and massive our sound will be.

              All in all you need to think of balance as a pyramid, with the low brass
              providing the most sound, full middle voices, and lead trumpet line that
              just floats on top. There are times when we’ll adjust this because things
              need to be more present to make the music work, but in general in brass
              choir playing this is what we go for.

Foothills Brass Quintet – Brass Basics – JKM
         Intonation as a group starts with having individuals who are able to play in tune
         with themselves. Beyond that, it requires sensitive listening and adjustments.

                 Unison notes: When you play the same note as someone else (often we
                 have unisons as there as 3-4 people on each part) it is very important to
                 match pitch. If you are out of tune, you will hear beats in the sound. As
                 you get closer in tune, the beats slow, and eventually disappear. Strive to
                 make the unison sound like one player.

                 Chord Tones: As brass players we have an inherent set of advantages
                 over other instruments. Our harmonic series are all the same, and except
                 for horn they even start on the same note. We also have very minute
                 control over where we place our notes intonation wise. Studies have
                 shown that intervals and chords when played perfectly in tune (according
                 to a tuner, or Equal Temperament) they don’t necessarily resonate as well
                 as when some small adjustments are made to make the intervals in tune
                 (Just Intonation). These adjustments depend on what part of the chord a
                 given note is in relation to the root. Here’s a brief list of the most
                 pertinent adjustments.

   •     Equal versus Just intonation:

         Equal temperament is playing 100 cents per half step, like with a tuner. This is the way
         a piano is tuned.

         Just intonation is adjusting to make intervals and chords "beatless." As wind
         instrumentalists we have the ability to accomplish this.

       Here are the places where you should begin to do this (with relation to the root):

                        M3       Narrow by 14 cents
                        m3       Widen by 16 cents
                        P4       Narrow by 2 cents
                        P5       Widen by 2 cents
                        m7       Narrow by 4 cents

               You must know your place in the chord to accomplish this task.

Excepted from: Trumpet Intonation by Gary Wurtz , DMA. Texas Music School Project.
See http://www.tsmp.org/ for lots of great music resources

M3 = major third                 m3 = minor third                 P4 = perfect fourth
P5 = perfect fifth               m7 = minor seventh

Foothills Brass Quintet – Brass Basics – JKM
        Dynamic Range
        Not only must we incorporate the elements of blend, balance, and intonation, but
        we must also be able to maintain that delicate mix over the widest spectrum of
        dynamics. This means every player must have excellent control of his or her
        sound all the way from ppp to fff.

 3 Levels of Listening                  Playing Together
                                          The most important aspect of playing together is
                                          having a unified image of what you want to
   1.   Yourself                          sound like on the piece of music you are
   2.   Your section                      performing. When working on styles of music
                                          that you are less familiar with, such as jazz or
   3.   Brass section                     Latin, you need to make you have a clear idea of
                                          how it is supposed to go. Listening to these
        styles is the best way to learn how to play them. Outside of music image, there
        are four main details to look out for that will help us play together:

               1. Start together – this may seem obvious, but very few groups do this
                  precisely. Breathing together on the pickup beat is essential.
               2. Stop together – again this is very obvious…even fewer groups do this
                  well. Do not use your tongue to stop notes. Stop the sound by
                  breathing in.
               3. Sustain the sound – Maintain a perfectly even dynamic of sound,
                  especially at the end of notes. Don’t ever let the sound die away
                  unless there is a decrescendo. You will often need to breathe during a
                  phrase without causing a disruption in the sound. You accomplish this
                  by stagger breathing.
                      *Stagger breathing – when you need a breath during a phrase, fade
                      your sound out. Grab a quick breath, and reenter at a soft volume.
                      Fade back into the proper dynamic. Be careful that you do not
                      breath when the people next to you are. In fact, during difficult
                      sections it may be wise for section leaders to decided when each
                      person will breath to avoid breaks. Obeying these rules will
                      maintain an even smooth sound even though people are breathing
               4. Change notes together – If even one person does not change their notes
                  on time, it reduces the clarity of the music. We must strive to change
                  precisely at the same time. This often relies on having a good sense of

Developing a great brass line sound takes time and individual commitment. Practice the
fundamentals and learn your music early, so that your time together as a group can be
spent in pursuit of a magnificent group sound!

Foothills Brass Quintet – Brass Basics – JKM

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