A Discovery about Singing and The Trombone

As a result of how my class schedule worked out for Spring 2014  and the fact that I have been virtually absent from the choral scene for about four years (and have kind of missed it), I elected to participate in Dana Chorale this semester. This is my last semester at YSU, and I decided to get the most out of this semester as possible. However, I am beginning to realize an interesting side effect of this choral participation.

Mornings where I have had the time to warm up, start out with the average result for me, and even when I have played in an ensemble that day, it takes about an hour or two after playing the first note of the day to hit what I feel is my peak function on the instrument. However, after attending Chorale, where we work on breathing and vocal exercises meant to help us relax and produce the purest sound possible from our vocal chords and are expected to sight sing every day, I go back to my horn and playing suddenly feels easier. In fact, my sense of pitch when reading trombone literature becomes more fluid after an episode of sight singing. As a person who is generally considered to be a very strong sight singer, it has always perplexed me as to why I  have difficulty picking out odd intervals when the trombone is added to the equation. In short, I miss far fewer partials and keep a more consistent throat color when I go through and sing through the piece as if I am performing a solo aria on stage than if I do not and just go for it.

Although this may be old news to some, vocalizing, the most primal form of human sound production, seems to be directly linked to sound production and  aural quality of brass playing. Perhaps this is because a vibrating embouchure, a necessary component of brass playing, is very similar to the vibration of vocal chords, which are used to produce vocalisms. Vocalists have the extra double edge sword of words that require the practice of diction. In the instrumental world, our form of diction is called articulation. Singing through pieces with the intended articulations substituted for words is something that I believe can be added to multitask.

To sum up this post, frequent vocal practice, especially that which requires a regimented vocal warm up, breathing exercises and the consistent practice of sight singing, seems to have an extreme positive impact on my trombone playing. Perhaps this type of practice can benefit others, especially those who have their roots in the vocal world who want to learn or improve an instrument, even non-brass, as many of these elements of sound production cross over. My only regret is that, although I’d sing or play through excerpts prior to this to hear the notes during practice sessions, I did not discover the benefits of practicing the music through the lens of the vocalist side of my training and did not  take full advantage of the fact that aspects of the two are closely related much sooner.

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