A Stylistic Analysis of Jazz Trombone Through Transcribed Solos

The trombone has been an important instrumental voice in jazz since jazz’s origins. Throughout its history many jazz trombonists have made contributions that have had an influence on other performers, including many non-trombonists. This article traces a timeline of stylistic influence from the early styles of jazz to the present day through the analyses of transcribed solos as played by some of jazz’s most influential trombonists.

Tracing these influences through transcribed solos can show a progression from one style to the next. It can be seen how the earlier players influence the later, after which those players develop their own new styles and in turn influence the musicians to follow. This timeline of influences can be a valuable resource for the jazz performer. A performer who knows how musicians from each style period performed and influenced later musicians will know how to perform within all style periods. Knowledge of the musical roots also allows the performer to build upon influences and create new ideas that break the traditional rules.

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Acoustics of Vibration: Brass and Strings

A common analogy that even I often use is to compare the bow of a string instrument to the air on the brass. Just as the bow moves across the string to create vibration, the air must move past the lips on a brass instrument. Usually I hear this comparison to make a point about breathing, such as there is no sound without the air.

It’s interesting to view the vibrating bowed string and compare it with the vibrations of the lips. Here’s a video showing the vibrating string is slow motion.

Video No Longer Available

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Embouchure Dysfunction: An examination of brass embouchure troubleshooting

In the above 2 part video I discuss five unique case studies.  Each of these five brass players has some issues in their embouchure which correlate with some noticeable embouchure features.  I try to show how making corrections in their embouchure form, using basic embouchure types as a guide, may lead to improvements in their abilities to play.

There are a few points I wanted to address with this video. The first was to show that the embouchure is an important part of any brass player’s technique, and is not something to be ignored.  Even very successful performers at the peak of their career can suddenly develop embouchure dysfunction.  Traditionally, brass pedagogy takes the approach that it’s best to disregard the embouchure and focus instead on breathing and musical communication.  Since all of the subjects in my video, and most likely in all the other research I’ve read about the topic, were ignorant of their basic embouchure characteristics they were unprepared to accurately determine what precisely was causing their troubles.

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Easy=True: How ‘cognitive fluency’ shapes what we believe

On the surface, ‘cognitive fluency’ seems obvious.  Simply put, people prefer things that are easy to think about than ones that are hard.  What I found surprising, however, is the extent to which cognitive fluency seems to shape our beliefs.  In his article for the Boston Globe, Drake Bennett writes:

Because it shapes our thinking in so many ways, fluency is implicated in decisions about everything from the products we buy to the people we find attractive to the candidates we vote for – in short, in any situation where we weigh information. It’s a key part of the puzzle of how feelings like attraction and belief and suspicion work, and what researchers are learning about fluency has ramifications for anyone interested in eliciting those emotions.”

Understanding how cognitive fluency shapes our beliefs and opinions has important implications for both music pedagogy. Continue reading “Easy=True: How ‘cognitive fluency’ shapes what we believe”

An Examination of “Paralysis By Analysis”

There is an old story about a frog who sees a centipede moving his 100 legs so elegantly.  Being mystified at how anyone could be able to move so many body parts at once with such grace, the frog asked the centipede how he did it.   The centipede wondered at this question and started to pay attention to how he walked, promptly tripping over his own feet.  Getting up, the centipede tried again to figure out how he moved his feet and immediately fell down one more time.  Eventually, the centipede grew frustrated and told the frog, “I don’t know how I do it and I don’t want to know!”  The centipede ran away (without thinking about his legs) and left the frog to his musings.

The moral of this story is that analysis is bad.  Simply thinking about how you perform a particular motor function (from walking to something as complex as athletic or musical endeavors) will cause a breakdown in your ability to perform that action.  But is this really true?  What is really going on?  Could this be a self-fulfilling prophecy? Continue reading “An Examination of “Paralysis By Analysis””