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I am currently playing the tenor trombone and flute. I have been playing the trombone for quite a while and I have recently taken up the flute. I am finding it difficult to sustain a strong tone on both instruments simultaneously. I find it impossible to get a good tone on the flute immediately after having played the trombone.

So my question is is it possible for me to have two different embouchures that I can easily change between even if it means that a break of a few hours would be needed between playing each instrument.

Is there a particular way that I should go about practicing the trombone and flute to achieve this?

Many thanks in advance,
Conor

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    I've regularly switched (without trouble) between flute, recorder, and melodica from song-to-song during my church's 20 minute evening song service. Granted, the last two don't really have any sort of embouchure. I don't find flute embouchure all that tiring (it's a one-keyed Baroque flute, but I don't think that makes a difference), though I can certainly imagine that brass instruments would do a number on my lips. It might take me a while to cool down after playing one, but I don't see why I'd lose the ability to play flute. – Caleb Hines Jan 21 '15 at 23:20
  • Caleb, I also don't find the flute embouchure all that tiring provided I take a break from the trombone for a week. The problem is that the brass embouchure is very different to that of the flute so it is hard to do both. (I play an Irish flute with no keys which I think is quite similar to the Baroque flute.) Thanks – CMB Jan 21 '15 at 23:40
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    It depends rather heavily on your definition of "well." There are plenty of jazz musicians who play multiple instruments. Symphony orchestra musicians double: clarinet and bass clarinet; flute/piccolo/altoflute; bassoon/contrabassoon, and so on. What do you want other than an exhortation to practice both instruments more? :-) – Carl Witthoft Jan 22 '15 at 1:00
  • Look up Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef and Eric Dolpy - you might have your answer. But note that flute is considered a woodwind - different category than trombone, which is brass - a horn - flutes were originally made from wood and the sound is not created in the manner as brass/horns. – Stinkfoot Jan 30 '18 at 20:02
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Absolutely. JB Arban once said that people have the wrong idea about embouchure - that it's a fixed thing like a statue. He said that embouchure is fluid - you need to do what's right and what sounds good.

I am not surprised that you have difficulties with flute after trombone; remember how each instrument works:

  • The flute is like a fickle bottle - you need smooth, round, concentrated columns of air moving through a precise aperture between smooth lips (here is the key).

  • Trombones need lips that buzz in order to make sound.

After playing trombone your lips are swollen (from additional blood, pressure, and constant vibration) and sensitive. Swollen, sensitive, quivering, wrinkly lips are not a flute's best friend.

Advice: Play flute before you play trombone, and see if that makes a difference in your sound. I think that in addition to improving your flute playing, you will notice an improvement in your trombone sound from concentrating on using so much air for the flute. I found that flute playing really complemented my tuba playing.

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Definitely. There are lots of people who play all of the woodwinds (maybe not bassoon) very well; modern musicals almost exclusively call for this kind of doubling. In fact, it's kind of unusual to find professional saxophonists or clarinetists that aren't at least competent at the other, though admittedly those instruments are remarkably similar.

And it's not uncommon to find people who play multiple brass instruments, especially the more closely related they are. Trombone+euphonium is very common and can just about be expected of a pro, and trumpet+horn or trumpet+euphonium (or all 3) is pretty common too. These doublings are far less commonly asked for in any kind of published music, but the instruments are fundamentally the same so it's really no surprise.

Crossing over between the woodwind and brass families is rarer, but still not unheard of. The sound production mechanisms start to vary far more so there's less direct skill transfer. In particular, brass players often struggle with flute because the total lack of resistance causes them to far overblow. But it's nothing that good ol' practice can't overcome.

My advice for getting used to the switch is very simple: just keep practicing the new instrument, you have to give your body enough time to internalize the muscle memory and learn to make the change faster. I started on trumpet and when I first started learning horn, one would totally ruin the embouchure for the other, but now I can switch between them as quickly as I can get them to my face. I've never tried quick switching between brass and woodwinds but I don't imagine having too much of a problem.

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Look up James Morrison. The guy plays an incredible number of instruments, and all extremely well. He has a big band CD out where he plays EVERY instrument in the band except percussion. Piano, Upright bass, guitar, alto sax, tenor sax, bari, the entire trombone section and trumpets. I've even seen him play trumpet and trombone, trading back and forth, with one in each hand, playing each one-handed.

With reference to your comment about your lips being swollen, a little swelling is natural when playing, but should not persist more than a short while afterward if you are doing it correctly and not using too much pressure.

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