Browsing through the print music selection at Brass Music Specialists recently I encountered two books from Brad Edwards that I had not seen before. The success of his Lip Slurs: Progressive Exercises (Ensemble Publications, 2006) has been complete: nearly every undergraduate in Australia has a dog-eared copy stuffed in their trombone case, and it has now become a staple text for legato playing alongside the Bordogni etudes. So it was without any hesitation that I threw the shekels on the counter and sped home to play through them.
Trombone Craft: A Musical Approach to Building Tone and Technique (Tenor Trombone) (2012, self-published) contains etudes and exercise patterns of a moderate to very difficult standard, covering many common technical issues. There are etudes in every key, and they are (very handily) cross-referenced to similar etudes by other authors including Kopprasch, Tyrell, Voxman, Bordogni, Blume and Hering. As in Edwards’ Lip Slurs book, every exercise and etude is introduced with a carefully chosen nugget of advice that is extremely helpful in focusing practice on simple concepts. The book contains many new exercise patterns, as well as interesting ideas and solutions for common problems.
Trombone Craft is particularly useful to teachers in providing more sophisticated challenges for advancing secondary and tertiary level students. Edwards explains the basic concepts that build and maintain good foundations of playing in a skilfully simple language. In my own playing it reminds me of things I haven’t worked on for a while and provides fresh perspectives on familiar aspects of playing.
Some of the best features include:
- Etudes in every key and cross-references to other etudes (these might prompt you to explore the library a bit more!)
- Excellent and up to date explanations of when and how to use the trigger, natural slurs, alternate positions, double tonguing and more
- Appendices with a range of suggestions for developing high and low registers, intonation, sound quality, relaxed articulation and more
One of my favourite ideas from this book is the concept of “over-buzzing” as an exercise to work on opening up the sound:
“Keeping the embouchure setting looser than normal (lips a bit further apart), buzz using more air than normal. Place the mouthpiece very lightly on the lips (minimal pressure). If done correctly, you will run out of air quickly while buzzing, making this into a deep breathing exercise. Go fast enough that you can complete each gesture in a breath. Then, repeat on the trombone, playing only at the printed dynamic. Watch out for tension. Loud = relaxed and loose (or it should).” (p.141)
This excerpt exemplifies the simple language that promotes a focused, relaxed, and uncomplicated approach to trombone playing. Put plainly, Trombone Craft is a comprehensive textbook for today’s trombone player, executed skilfully and musically, and it challenges the player and the teacher in all of us to think about playing in simple and clear terms.
Simply Singing for Winds (2009, self-published) is a welcome addition to the repertoire of legato and other stylistic studies. It covers a range of levels from very easy to very difficult, with many of the melodies presented in two different keys for slightly different challenges. Although Edwards’ emphasis is on musical flow, it contains more than just legato studies (but to be sure, there are plenty of those). The book is divided into several sections that encompass different types of music, for example waltzes, marches, melodies for buzzing and even fiddle tunes for practising light and flexible playing.
What I enjoy most about this book is that much of it performs the same function as the Bordogni etudes without actually being a Bordogni etude. Don’t get me wrong – the music is all in a similar “American folk song” tonal style, just as the Bordogni etudes are all in the same bel canto style, and there is nothing wrong with that. Personally, though, I find a change is as good as a holiday.
What Simply Singing for Winds does well is to develop that single style with a seemingly endless number of different moods, such as light and clean, mournful doloroso, gently rolling, galloping pesante, rich and deep (these are all titles of the pieces, by the way). Throughout, Edwards supplies his characteristic well-chosen comments that are immensely helpful in focusing the player’s mind on the task at hand.
Bass Trombone Craft is also available, and Simply Singing for Winds is available in medium bass clef (trombone, eupho), low bass clef (tuba), medium treble clef (trumpet, clarinet, trombone or eupho t.c.) and low treble clef (horn). They can be ordered through your local music retailer or online from the author’s own website, http://www.bonezone.org/ where you can also find plenty of other great videos and blogs.