Decompress

September 14th, 2016 by Christan Griego

When your leadpipe-to-mouthpiece relationship is correct, a couple of magical things can happen.

The lips inside the mouthpiece can actually relax and buzz more freely since the leadpipe and mouthpiece are providing the correct amount of compression for your body.

This allows the resonance to be more complete and relaxed. Imagine if you could just focus on the music and decompress…

No more sugar!

September 13th, 2016 by Christan Griego

I’m a coffee snob, but I haven’t always been. I used to buy my coffee based on fancy labels. I’d load it down with sugar and creamer, masking the acidity, the lack of flavor, or the burnt aftertaste.

Then I started roasting my own coffee beans. I quickly found that I had a better product than anything available to me in southeastern Wisconsin. I now drink my coffee naked. It has flavor without the fillers.

I never knew that what I’d been drinking for decades was of such low quality.

I think a lot of musicians can experience the same thing with their instruments. When a horn doesn’t work for them, they add creamers and sweeteners, trying to overcome their instruments’ underlying problems. Tension creeps in. Intonation suffers. Sound quality and resonance are less than what they could be.

They’ve never experienced what is possible with an instrument that is completely natural for them.

Our main goal is to fine-tune instruments for our customers. We strive to achieve a balance of sound, color, resonance, and clarity. Many times this can be accomplished in a single visit. But we do have customers that visit from more regularly, staying on top of their changing needs.

It might be time to take a look at your horn and everything you’re adding to it to make it work for you. I’m not saying sugar is bad. Well, yes I am.

First Date

March 17th, 2016 by Christan Griego

I see people having their first date with a new instrument, if not daily, certainly weekly.

From the time an individual walks through the Edwards door you can almost sense their anticipation, for that first look .

Walking into the room can be a bit intimidating at first, until you realize that it’s not a big deal to have this first date. You can always walk away without any emotional or bank account scars.

Now it’s time to play. First instinct is to push the boundaries and see what this new relationship can be, but alas first the customary warm up to find the boundaries of sound and partial feel. Too wide? Too narrow? Too much Compression? Too little and all of a sudden you’re falling into the horn wondering if you’ve wasted your day travelling to all places, Elkhorn Wisconsin.

That is until, you find something that’s intriguing.

“Wait, this feels so natural my face is relaxing”. There’s depth of sound in the low register, while my face is not aching with fatigue in the upper register. Where have you been all my life? Why haven’t I had you in my arms before today?

One of the saddest things, is to see the look on the player’s face once this moment has happened. Often, they will glance sadly at their previous relationship sitting on an instrument stand as it has, so faithfully, in the past. The two try not to look at each other knowing it’s for the best, that this new relationship, that started with this innocent first date, has turned into something more. More that was never possible in their previous relationship.

Introducing the B502

August 28th, 2015 by Christan Griego

B502-I

Our customers have been asking for a Rotax bass trombone for quite some time. After years of development, we’re happy to announce that the B502 is now ready for purchase. We’ve been testing it in the marketplace for over a year. In that time, refinements have been made to our original designs. As we continually strive for perfection, we reserve the right to make changes to the B502 (and all of our horns).

Our goal when building the B502 was simple — to maintain a consistent sound throughout every register. More to the point, we wanted that sound to be “trombone-like”, especially in the mid and upper registers. Gone are the WOOFTONES of the 90’s. This horn has plenty of clarity and sparkle, allowing you to express your musical ideas no matter the setting.

The B502-I has independent Rotax valves, either an unsoldered yellow or rose brass bell, and your choice of a single or dual bore slide. The slide has rose brass outer tubes, a yellow end crook, and nickel oversleeves. The leadpipe is removable to allow you to find the best mouthpiece and leadpipe combination to fit your needs.

B502’s with yellow bells have rose brass valve wrap tubing which provides some brilliance when played at louder volumes. You’ll also be amazed at how resonant this instrument is at softer dynamics. Many times, an instrument can become “small” when played softly. This results in a distant sound for the listener. We overcame this tendency through numerous sessions with the incredible talent we’re fortunate to work with in their home venues. The independent B502’s was designed with James Markey of the Boston Symphony. We started this project while he was still a member of the New York Philharmonic, so we heard the B502-I-Y performed in New York City, Boston, and Tanglewood during development.

Like the B502-I, the B502-D is available with with a yellow or rose brass bell and a single or dual bore slide. Mark Hoelsher (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and Gerry Pagano (St. Louis Symphony) were instrumental in the development of the dependent version. Mark came to Elkhorn every month to work with us until we were completely satisfied that this horn met all of his musical needs. After that, we put the first prototype in Gerry Pagano’s hands. He immediately enjoyed the resonance and character of the sound and helped us to refine the horn even more over the next two years.

Posted in Trombone | 2 Comments »

Trombones of the Kennedy Center Recital

April 1st, 2015 by Joshua Brown

Kennedy Center

UPDATE: The concert video is now available in the Millennium Stage archives.

The Trombones of the Kennedy Center will present a recital on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center on April 4 at 6pm. The event is free (no tickets required) and will be streamed live and archived at www.kennedy-center.org/programs/millennium.

The group features the trombone sections of the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera Orchestra, with special guest Peter Ellefson and guest conductor Chris Branagan. This promises to be a fantastic recital, so be sure to watch it online if you can’t be there in person.

Repertoire

  • Handel, Overture to Royal Fireworks Music
  • Brahms, Fest und Gedenkspruche, Op. 18
  • Bourgeois, Scherzo Funebre
  • Crespo, Etude in the Style of Bruckner
  • Jacob, Trombone Octet

Personnel

  • Craig Mulcahy, Principal Trombone, NSO
  • Barry Hearn, Associate Principal Trombone, NSO
  • David Murray, Second Trombone, NSO
  • Matt Guilford, Bass Trombone, NSO
  • Lee Rogers, Principal Trombone, WNO
  • Doug Rosenthal, Second Trombone, WNO
  • Stephen Dunkel, Bass Trombone, WNO
  • Peter Ellefson, special guest trombonist, Indiana University
  • Chris Branagan, Guest Conductor, Washington Trombone Ensemble

We’re thrilled that so many of the above performers choose to play our instruments.

Trombone Shorty Featured in 60 Minutes Story on Dave Grohl

October 28th, 2014 by Joshua Brown

Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters are traveling the country to discover the origins of American music. The rock band is collaborating with local musicians in eight US cities for a project that will result in a new album as well as a documentary series. The latter, titled Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways, can be seen Friday evenings on HBO.

While in New Orleans, the band worked with Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty. In the 60 Minutes clip below, you’ll catch a glimpse of Troy with his T302. Later in the story, you’ll hear him perform with the band on a borrowed horn.

Dave Taylor Presents Bargemusic Concerts

August 31st, 2014 by Joshua Brown

Bass trombonists don’t usually enjoy the limelight, but Dave Taylor isn’t your typical bass trombonist. After performing Vamps Dance for Violin and Bass Trombone and The Banned Bamboozler (accompanied by the New York Trombone Consort) at Bargemusic, he scored a half page photo and article in the New York Times. The article is available online.

As usual, Dave has been maintaining a busy performing and recording schedule. Next summer, he’s going to be a featured artist at the International Trombone Festival in Valencia, Spain. More details to follow.

Dave Taylor in the New York Times

An Interview with Toby Oft

July 8th, 2014 by Christan Griego

toby

Toby Oft is the principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He recently sat down with me to discuss the BSO section, music careers, equipment, and much more.

It seems like yesterday that we were at Tanglewood fitting the section and you were discussing your yearly schedule (symphony, solo, pops, Tanglewood summers, teaching). How have the physical demands of your job affected the way you approach equipment?

The physical demands of my job in the Boston Symphony are often intense for the flexibility required to produce a very wide range of tone color which, with responsible practice, I can more or less achieve with most equipment on the market today. The effort level involved with tone production is the most important factor for me to manage. With good equipment I can achieve a wide range of tone color using very little effort. Because effortful tone production generally relegates me or anyone else for that matter, to a rather inexpensive sound, it is important that I am able to hear as close as possible, the color spectrum that is in my head coming out the bell of any new equipment that I consider.

I look for an easy vibrance in the response and a gentle transition between the partials that doesn’t railroad me over natural slurs. The vibrance helps me match and fill out the trumpets and horns when necessary, and gentle natural slurs allow me to match the note transition of the string section whenever that is more ideal. It is important to note that the vibrance I require should also include the temperance of the warmer sound characteristics of a large bore tenor so as not to be piercing or one dimensional.

What are your acoustic goals for the section with the additions of Steve and Jim? How has Edwards helped?

The acoustic goals I have for the trombone section of the BSO are choral by default so it helps a great deal for us all to be on the same make of instrument that our voices achieve a good blend without anyone sticking out unnecessarily. The fact of the matter is that the larger the trombone, the later in the dynamic range it fluoresces to brilliant tone colors. Steven, Jim, and I can thus build our chorus of sound in tutti passages like a pyramid of volume with bass as the big bottom and principal on top without competing with each other for brilliance in the sound.

Edwards has helped us enormously. For although the preceding paragraph is somewhat rife with idealism consistent with what most trombone players hope for their section, it leaves out the fact that all three of us have different faces and specific ideas for what we the individual want to sound like. We each pick up a horn with a sound in our mind and look for equipment that will get us there as easily as possible. Then we sit down and play the last page of Symphonic Metamorphosis for the zoom recorder and decide if it still fits within the pyramid of balance indicated above.

You recently made the switch to the T350-HB. I had been beta testing this in-house, but working with the Boston section gave me an opportunity to test this valve section in the field. It was originally meant for Steve, but you fell for it. Can you tell our readers how that happened?

Steve and I have very similar tone goals, which is great because we can trust each other for feedback as we navigate our jobs in the BSO. This fact however, often has us envious of each other’s equipment. When you sent the T350-HB to Steve to try, I heard him play and was instantly in love. I didn’t want Steve to feel like I was stealing a special prototype meant for him, though, so I only said, “If you’re going to play that horn then Christan is going to need to send me one, too.” I waited an excruciating three months before he told me he was finished with it and then I pounced.

I did a great deal of my trombone study in Chicago where much of the answers to any of life’s problems is “more air”. Thus, a Thayer valve suits me much better than a Rotax valve. That I could support my tone production and phrase goals with free air and a beautifully colorful bell is a dream come true for me.

We talk a lot about balancing sound and feel. What is your ideal sound-to-feel ratio? Do you think about it at all when fitting a horn?

Feel is the first place I check when trying a new trombone or mouthpiece. I DON’T EVER want to feel like I have to arm wrestle my trombone to get through a concert with the sound I have in mind for my part. The less resistively I can get to the sound I have in mind for my trombone, the better it feels to play.

The physical demands of your job are intense. How do you recover from the daily “grind”?

It truly depends on the day. Most recently, the best recovery for me has been practicing solo music and insisting on time to exercise at some point in the day. There is a certain amount of self soothing that happens with TV shows, etc., but I find that if I don’t limit what you might consider short term happinesses for activities that garner a more enduring smile like good sleep and exercise, my ability to stay in the game is diminished over time.

The orchestral music scene has undergone a lot of changes in recent years. What career advice do you give your students?

Take as much ownership of your success as possible. Work very hard when no one is looking. Show up for opportunities. Smile & Shut Up.

I was at an audition once in Europe where a fellow candidate had been asked during his audition why he used vibrato on Bolero and he quickly replied, “The saxophone solo that precedes the trombone solo is typically played with vibrato so I chose to build upon that theme.” I remember thinking that was a far more cogent response than I could have mustered which would have been something like, “I use vibrato on Bolero because my teacher told me to and I guess because it’s on my favorite recording?” My fellow candidate had already taken much more responsibility for his success. Thus, he was able to quickly defend his artistic interpretation and ultimately ended up winning the position we all coveted.

There’s a thing that all magicians know, as much as their patrons ask, people actually do not want to know how the magic trick is done. Practice as much as you need to, but do the bulk of it when no one is looking. Either because no one likes a show off or because they really don’t need to know how your magic trick is done; keep things professional.

There are opportunities out there and 90% of getting everything you deserve in this tight career field is showing up and when you do, put your best foot forward with QUIET CONFIDENCE. Smile and shut up because the ability to thrive and adapt quickly is contingent on your ability to listen and learn.

Watching your father teach trombone lessons via Skype at Tanglewood was inspiring to me. Talk about his influence on your life, both musically and otherwise.

My dad, Mike Oft, has made his way in this world with vigor, patience, and endurance. I found a great deal of strength in doing my best to emulate his work ethic and found that on a long enough time scale, I could equalize any lack of talent through diligent thoughtful practice. Exercise has always been a way of life for my father and I observe that because of it he seems to age much slower than all our family friends and also has an emotional resilience most people do not possess.

What are your interests outside Symphony Hall?

I am insatiably curious about the things I love in my life, which makes me a total geek about certain people and experiences I hold most dear to me. Things like clothes, coffee, exercise, single malt, and movies are a distant second in a world that consistently comes back to music.

I’m looking forward to hearing (and working with) you, Steve, and Jim for a long time. Thanks for letting me take part.

Joseph Alessi Interview with the All-Star Orchestra

June 24th, 2014 by Joshua Brown

Joe Alessi is the principal trombonist of the All-Star Orchestra, a group comprised of some of the best symphonic musicians from around the United States. The orchestra meets once a year to record familiar and contemporary works in the hopes of educating and encouraging a greater appreciation of classical music.

Joe sat down to be interviewed as part of the project. Watch below if you’re interested in finding out what instrument he played before switching to the trombone, how he sounds on Mahler 3 with a lazy slide, and much more.

Trombone Delivery Times

June 3rd, 2014 by Christan Griego

We’re getting busier! That’s great for business, but unfortunately, that means longer wait times for our trombone customers. Symphonic tenor and bass trombones now take 60-90 days to deliver. Our straight trombones (jazz, alto, etc.) take 60-90 days.

If you’re looking to make a purchase, be sure to get your order in early. After all, we don’t collect payment until the horn is ready for delivery.

Posted in Trombone | 2 Comments »

Categories

Archives