Pedal Register

Q:
Hello Mr. Sprott,

First of all, I've never done this sort of thing, that is contact a pro with a big issue of mine, but after reading through your site it looks like you would be a great person to come to. Your sight is proving to be a great resource for me, also.

Anyway, I am having trouble with my pedal register. This has not been a real problem for me throughout my years. I've always thought my pedal register was good, until now... I consistently achieve "double-tones" when trying to play them full. I can play them "in the pocket" but really am having problems improving consistency, clarity, and expanse of range down to say F1. Any insights would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Joe

A:
Hey Joe,

I'm glad the site has been helpful to you. As far as contacting pros with your issues, I'm glad that you were open to consulting me. I would encourage everyone to seek out the advice of professional players. I know most of the "big name" guys around, and they are almost all really great guys who are eager to help people with a desire to learn. We're all trombone geeks and constantly looking to learn and improve as well.

Sorry to hear about the pedal register issues. Reading between the lines a little bit... I find two things that you say to be pretty interesting. First, you say that this register has not been a problem for you throughout the years. This makes me wonder what has changed. Did your equipment change? Have you switched to a smaller mouthpiece? Have your chops changed significantly because of increased wear and tear? The reason why I ask these questions is simple. Often times we have a part of our playing that is just fine and then one day it starts coming apart. Being people who are trained to practice your way out of a problem, you work hard to eliminate the issue through hard work. However, this sometimes results in only making the issue worse. There are times when the issue would be resolved simply by leaving it alone for a little while and allowing your body to reset to it's default setting where everything was fine! I often times have to remind myself of this. I play a ton of music and find myself making silly mistakes or having issues in my playing that usually aren't there. The problem is not a lack of understanding, but rather the compounding effects of mental and physical fatigue relating to the issue. 

The second thing you said that caught my attention is that the notes seem to speak fine in the middle dynamics but start coming apart in the louder dynamics. I think you may benefit from further solidifying the center of the sound in the mid range dynamic for a few more months before trying to expand the range too much. Don't go for it all at once. Also, playing this register at a ff dynamic with a standard tenor trombone mouthpiece can be a difficult thing. I you have a really fabulous high Eb and pedal F on the same mouthpiece, I'm guessing your rim is pretty big. If you're trying to accomplish this on a 5G or a 6 1/2 AL, it can be done, but I think the path is more treacherous. Regarding the idea of working to have the most beauty and center of sound in the mid dynamics first, I point you to a great quote from a Boston Globe article on Alfred Genovese, former principal oboist of the Boston Symphony who studied with Marcel Tabuteau at Curtis. Tabuteau's wind class was famous for the profound effect it had on Curtis students. Arnold Jacobs gained much inspiration from attending these classes. 

Soft and sweet, expressive as a voice, the sounds that Alfred Genovese coaxed from his oboe lingered in the memories of audiences and musicians decades after the notes faded.

His approach to playing was formed in part by Marcel Tabuteau, a legendary oboist who trained generations of the world’s best players, including Mr. Genovese, his last student.

“He did not stress volume of sound, but instead quality of tone, something we are in danger of losing as orchestras get louder and louder,’’ Mr. Genovese told the Globe in 1998, just after retiring as principal oboist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “We worked on the oboe like a singer works on the voice, beginning in the middle register; from that you could develop the top and the bottom. And everything else is produced from the basis of a dolce tone, a sweet sound.’’

I love that quote. From a more purely blue collar trombonistic point of view, I would recommend that you work to maintain structure in your corners now matter how low you go. Often times, low range double buzzing results from a lack of structure. Make sure that the airstream is as wide as you can make it while still keeping your corners. Tilting the mouthpiece slightly upward to allow more space for your bottom lip to vibrate can also be helpful. Lastly, take your time and make sure you don't rush your progress. After all, how often does a tenor trombone player need to play a pedal F at FFF anyway? :)

Weston








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