Blending & Pitch: Recording Ave Maria 11 Years Apart

This month I challenged myself to revisit an arrangement I recorded eleven years ago to find out what a decade of work has done to my playing. I was curious if I'd eliminated any bad habits or learned any new ones.


When I first recorded Chanticleer's recording of Ave Maria back in 2010 I had been playing tuba for less than a year. While preparing and recording I concentrated almost exclusively on blending and a happy byproduct of that was considerably improved pitch. This year I've given it another shot for experiment's sake and found the same thing to be true. In the last 11 years I changed tremendously as a musician and person, and I had to rethink my articulations and phrasing, but the result of focusing on blend and timbre was that my pitch improved.


As a followup to my post about range I have to say while focusing on a clean articulation and steady airstream part of my mind always equates those to things to range. I have had a freakish high range since I was a teenager, but low register has always eluded me. Arnold Jacobs and Ed Kleinhammer studied the physics of waves decades ago and, Prof M. Dee Stewart continued those studies at Indiana University, and I can't wait to get those thoughts onto this blog.


For now though, I have to say that I worked on my nuuu articulation on trombone, bass trombone and tuba for about six weeks before this recording trying to eliminate any bumps at the start of a note. Kind of like learning to drive a manual transmission you have to keep experimenting until it all feels right. Less air, more air. More support, less support. Position your tongue and teeth before you raise your horn, etc. until it feels good, and then you've found one note!


After getting decent takes for the parts on this session I decided to try the tuba part 8vb and got a decent take on the first try! So much of this is visualization. It's so important to listen to music and imagine yourself playing like that.


In writing these blog posts I've realized how many singers have influenced my playing. From my early days I heard a lot of folk and blues singers from my dad's records, as well as Take 6, Chanticleer, Peter Paul & Mary, The Nylons, Josh White, and Ian & Syliva. I'm still amazed at the unique blend a vocal group gets when singing in harmony. Those ringing chords in Chanticleer and Take 6 blew me away, and still do! Not only that, I've always thought that their attention to details like phrasing, cutoffs, and timbre is a great model for section playing. The effect of the words on dynamics and attacks is not completely possible on a wind instrument, but the challenge of trying it opened my mind up to new phrasing possibilities.



Played on an Elkhart Conn 8H tenor trombone and a Cerveny CC tuba.

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