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scotch
11-30-2005, 07:48 PM
Yesterday a trombone player told me a passage is impossible to play.

These are the pitches: the F# directly below middle C, the G one semitone above that F#, and the Ab one semitone above that G.

This is the sequence: F# G, Ab G Ab G, Ab G Ab, G, Ab.

This is the pace: The pitches are all notated as thirty-second notes, and the tempo is quarter note = 92.

Notice that the F# can be (and must be) taken in fifth position, the G in fourth, and the Ab in third. My first question is: If it is impossible to play pitches a minor second apart in adjacent positions fast, what is it possible to play fast?

When I got home I looked through a book of Chicago transcriptions. In “To Be Free” from the second Chicago album Chicago’s trombonist plays Bb Ab, G, Ab in sixteenth notes at what I have determined to be quarter note = 175. Thirty-second notes at quarter note = 92 are only five percent faster. The Ab and G here are the same Ab and G as in my passage. The Bb can be taken either as the fourth harmonic in first position or as the fifth harmonic in fifth position, and in either case going from this Bb to Ab is skipping a position, which is more difficult than playing adjacent positions. My second question is: If my passage is impossible, how is it possible for Chicago’s trombonist to play “To Be Free”?

Here are some alternative approaches:

1) Use a valve trombone and slur. My third question is: How common are these? Does anyone here own one? (Okay, third and fourth questions.)

2) Use a slide trombone and slur, and turn a deaf ear, so to speak, to the glissando (portamento), assuming that at this tempo the other “horns” playing similar figures will cover for it. Likely scenario or not? Glissando aside, this approach assumes that the chief difficulty of the passage is not the fast slide shifting in itself but either the fast tonguing or the fast tonguing in combination with the fast slide shifting. A valid assumption or not?

3) Use a slide trombone with an F attachment and slur. In this case the G would be played in the third position as the fifth harmonic with the F attachment trigger depressed, and the Ab would be played also in the third position but as the fourth harmonic with the F attachment trigger not depressed. (The F# would be played in the fourth position as the fifth harmonic with the F attachment trigger depressed.) The F# aside, the only trick here is depressing the trigger fast enough which it seems to me should be equivalent to tapping 16ths at q=92, and I don’t find that particularly difficult myself. How common are F attachments? Does anyone here have one?

Chameleon
12-01-2005, 03:59 PM
Sorry, i'm not a brass player, but surely this is just a question of speed?

Is it widely known that this is impossible on a slide trombone, or is it just a "no way can this be done..." type thing?

Bryan Blakey
12-01-2005, 08:35 PM
Learn to double tounge! I play trombone and know that with double tounging that passage would not be impossible by any means. It's, in fact, very possible.

scotch
12-01-2005, 10:46 PM
Sorry, i'm not a brass player, but surely this is just a question of speed? I don't play trombone either (although I do mess around on a cornet--I never practiced double or triple tonguing, however), but I think it's pretty fair to say--not to make too fine a point of it--that it's just a question of speed. Someone who couldn't play the passage in quarter notes at, say, q=120 would not be worth calling a trombonist. I'm not sure how "just" this "just" is, however--if you catch my drift.

Is it widely known that this is impossible on a slide trombone, or is it just a "no way can this be done..." type thing? All I know is that this trombonist in the amateur orchestra I play cello in (not my main instrument) told me it's impossible. The various orchestration books I'd previously consulted did not give me any particular indication there would be an especial problem, but then orchestration books are hardly exhaustive on these sorts of matters.

scotch
12-01-2005, 10:52 PM
Learn to double tounge! I play trombone and know that with double tounging that passage would not be impossible by any means. It's, in fact, very possible.

Just to be clear about this: I don't intend to attempt it myself; I want someone else to play it for me. Not trying to put you on the spot, but do you think you could manage it yourself (hypothetically speaking, that is)? When you say "double tonguing" do you mean that the chief difficulty is the tonguing, as opposed to moving the slide fast?

Does your trombone have an F attachment? How do you feel about valve trombones?

Chameleon
12-02-2005, 11:42 AM
Yeah, I must admit, I never thought the mouth was the problem..after having heard Flight of the Bumblebee played on a tuba in person...

jam9383
12-02-2005, 11:57 AM
Yeah, I must admit, I never thought the mouth was the problem..after having heard Flight of the Bumblebee played on a tuba in person...
wouldnt that be easier because its chromatic than a piece with wider intervals at same tempo

Chameleon
12-02-2005, 06:36 PM
No, I was saying that the mouth speed is not an issue (since i've seen lots of things much faster performed on brass instruments) here, the challenge is in the sliding hand.

I mentioned the FotBB thing because the tonguing speed is faster than this.

scotch
12-03-2005, 10:57 PM
wouldnt that be easier because its chromatic than a piece with wider intervals at same tempo

Easier than what? The passage I quoted is about as chromatic as you can get.

The tuba is a valve instrument of course, and here there are three considerations: 1) tonguing, 2) embouchure, and 3) valve combination.

Let's start with 3): On the trumpet it's much easier to trill between the Bb above middle C and the C above middle C (as played, non-concert pitches) than between the Ab above middle C and the Bb above middle C because in the first case you're merely moving your index finger up and down whereas in the second case you're alternating your second and third fingers in tandem with your index finger. Whether the piece is chromatic or diatonic, whether it involves small intervals or large intervals, is irrelevant as far as valve combination goes.

It is not irrelevant in respect to embouchure, however. The nearer two successive pitches are, the less lip adjustment required to go from one to the other and the faster the pitches can be played.

If the pitches are relatively close together it is easier (and thus faster) to take them as a slur, but if they are very far apart it is easier to tongue them separately.

scotch
12-03-2005, 11:19 PM
No, I was saying that the mouth speed is not an issue (since i've seen lots of things much faster performed on brass instruments) here, the challenge is in the sliding hand.

Have we established this? The more distance involved the harder and thus slower it should be to slide. In my passage all the movement is between adjacent slide positions, which should be the easiest and thus fastest slide movements possible except: the distance between adjacent slide positions increases as you go, so the absolutely easiest slide movement should be between positions one and two. If we were oscillating between A and Bb instead of G and Ab, my passage should be a little (somewhat? a lot?) easier to play.

The chief difficulty might be sliding, tonquing, or coordinating the sliding and tonguing. By analogy with the trumpet the embouchure should be no problem because the intervals involved are miniscule.

Just to be clear: your example suggests that tonguing my passage should not be impossible, but that doesn't mean necessarily that it isn't "an issue". How good was this tubist?--there's a scary term.

I mentioned the FotBB thing because the tonguing speed is faster than this. How fast is "Flight of the Bumblebee"?

Diatonic Dissonance™
12-04-2005, 12:55 AM
Are you sure he wasn't merely exaggerating on how difficult it is to play?

Bryan Blakey
12-04-2005, 01:08 AM
Just to be clear about this: I don't intend to attempt it myself; I want someone else to play it for me. Not trying to put you on the spot, but do you think you could manage it yourself (hypothetically speaking, that is)? When you say "double tonguing" do you mean that the chief difficulty is the tonguing, as opposed to moving the slide fast?

Does your trombone have an F attachment? How do you feel about valve trombones?

Yes, I have been playing the trombone for 7 years and I could play the passage. Double tounging is technique to tounge faster, which is the issue here, moving the slide fast enough is not a problem at all. And I don't use an F-attachment trombone, but I don't have an issue with them, I just prefer straight tenor trombones.

scotch
12-04-2005, 02:49 AM
Are you sure he wasn't merely exaggerating on how difficult it is to play?

You mean rhetorically? I'm sure he meant to convey to me that it is literally impossible to play. I'm not sure his motives were pure. There is a distinct class of instrumentalists who take sadistic pleasure in frustrating and humiliating composers.

Chameleon
12-04-2005, 04:39 PM
How good was this tubist?--there's a scary term.

How fast is "Flight of the Bumblebee"?


Eh, he's kind of famous apparently. His name's Patrick Sheridan, apparently he's Canadian so he's pretty good. FotBB is pretty fast..I guess he played it at about 168bpm or thereabouts....it's pretty much constant 16ths and most of it is chromatic. It was a few years ago I saw him though, so it may have been slower or faster!

scotch
12-07-2005, 09:07 PM
Eh, he's kind of famous apparently. His name's Patrick Sheridan, apparently he's Canadian so he's pretty good. FotBB is pretty fast..I guess he played it at about 168bpm or thereabouts....it's pretty much constant 16ths and most of it is chromatic. It was a few years ago I saw him though, so it may have been slower or faster!

Why does that name, Patrick Sheridan, sound so familiar to me? It seems to me I very recently encountered it....but where? You realize, of course, that 32nds at q=92 is equivalent to 16ths at q=184 which is faster than 16ths at q=168, don't you? On the other hand, "Flight of the Bumblebee" is unrelenting and requires a fair amount of stamina, whereas my passage is short and flanked by several measures of rest.

Chameleon
12-09-2005, 07:38 AM
I'm a drummer, I know all about tempo :lol: Except how to hold it ;)

I wasn't comparing the speed of FotB to your thing, just pointing out that it's phenomenal for a tuba. A tuba requires so much more air to be put through it to give a good sound than a trombone.

Ned
12-11-2005, 12:11 AM
I wasn't comparing the speed of FotB to your thing, just pointing out that it's phenomenal for a tuba. A tuba requires so much more air to be put through it to give a good sound than a trombone.

I don't see how that is relevant.

Zappa
12-11-2005, 09:49 AM
I keep forgetting that scotch and Ned are the same guy.

Amit
12-11-2005, 11:45 AM
They are?

Zappa
12-11-2005, 12:02 PM
Indeed. He has a nasty habit of forgetting to log out of scotch when he wants to post as Ned, so he often ends up deleting scotch posts that are exact copies of posts that Ned puts up.

starless and bible black
12-11-2005, 01:15 PM
Indeed. He has a nasty habit of forgetting to log out of scotch when he wants to post as Ned, so he often ends up deleting scotch posts that are exact copies of posts that Ned puts up.Ha ha mod powers.

Nice avatar, btw.

Chameleon
12-11-2005, 01:51 PM
I don't see how that is relevant.

I see. Well good luck finding somebody to play it.

Ned
12-11-2005, 06:24 PM
I keep forgetting Clark Kent and Spiderman are the same guy.

Chameleon
12-11-2005, 06:34 PM
Maybe you should write it down?

Ned
12-11-2005, 07:07 PM
Not a Marvel or D.C. buff, I see. Bob Dylan is his Chronicles, Volume 1 feels obliged to explain to his readers what a phone booth is.

Chameleon
12-12-2005, 12:20 PM
*positively hates Bob Dylan*

The man may have written some good songs but I think performance is as big a part of music as creation and I can't stand to listen to the guy.

Ned
12-16-2005, 02:45 AM
Okay, but how do you like his trombone playing?

Chameleon
12-18-2005, 08:46 AM
Haha, I wasn't aware he was a 'boneist so I can't really comment.