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I have been playing bass trombone for about a year, and my problem is not positions or intonation, or air, but how to get a good big band (jazz band) bass trombone sound? I mean I listen to jazz bass trombonists both solo and within bands. And they have a specific tone, that's blattier than say a bass trombone in a concert band or orchestra setting. Any tips would be apreciated

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This isn't a full answer, but try giving your embouchure just a little more "pucker," and evaluating your sound. (VERY slightly more "pucker," like try just thinking about it at first!) Also, record yourself. The sound is very different on the other side of the bell. As a note, you may want to clarify: is your year on bass trombone your first year on a brass instrument, or did you switch from tenor trombone a year ago? It makes a difference to the recommendations you're likely to get, so I'd modify your question to clarify that. Welcome to the site! – Josh Fields Dec 4 '11 at 23:32

2 Answers 2

Use a shallower mouthpiece. On any brass instrument, a shallower cup on the mouthpiece will allow the player more range (it's easier to switch partials; I'm actually not sure why, but I think it has to do with adding backpressure), but the tradeoff is a "blattier" sound; less mellow, harder to blend in with a large group (because that backpressure makes it easier to "overblow" the instrument), so classical teachers will encourage a deeper cup. Definitely avoid the long cone-shaped "mellophone-style" mouthpieces if you're looking for blat.

Also, try closing your mouth/soft palate a bit. If you've been trained in "singer-style" breath control (where you control the breath with your diaphragm, not by closing off your throat), you get a very nice open sound that's exactly what your classical brass teacher wants. But, your jazz teacher may actually tell you to clamp down a bit for stylistic purposes. Just don't totally forget the good habits of classical technique.

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Hmm... I'm not sure I would agree that the edge to the bass trombone sound is strictly a Jazz thing. Composers will be looking for that in contemporary classical and concert band music. In fact, I would say that characteristic edge is what separates the "real" bass trombonists from the beginners, regardless of classical or jazz. – NReilingh Dec 8 '11 at 3:33
Depends how much edge we're talking, but I'd agree with that. However I do hear additional edge and possibly… spread? to the sound of a lot of jazz bass bone players. I guess I hear a good classical bass trombonists sound as having a good core with a bit of edge, while a good jazz player's tone has an intense core with a very spread edge to the sound (though controlled). I imagine I'm not describing this well enough though, and I'm definitely overanalyzing it. ;) – Josh Fields Dec 10 '11 at 23:39

When I play I have trained myself to use a lot of air. I know you said air wasn't this issue but it really is. Get to a point where you edge out your horn and feel too blatty. Back off a bit, but you're going to feel blatty. It's not a very welcome feeling when playing brass because we're trained to not be blatty, but that's the sound you want. Get yourself a pretty big mouthpiece, I recommend a schilke 52, and learn to edge out. The bigger mouthpiece makes it harder to edge out meaning that you can get more volume with edging out. Learn to follow the thin line between blatty and weak. Think words like "edgey" or "meaty". And start out with getting a really solid low f. Don't be afraid to just pump air into the horn.

Side note: try articulating with a "th" syllable. It will create a great starting backbone for the note to follow.

Side side note: open your throat more. The sound should start around your larynx and it might tickle a little. That gives you a super full core of the note. Try different mouthpieces too.

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