Mini Exercise: Audacity Slide

(Click on the image to enlarge)


The beauty (and agony) of recording technology is that you can play things back at half speed. At first, this was commonly done with reel-to-reel recordings. Now it can be done digitally.

I haven’t exhaustively studied every program and app out there but one excellent choice is Audacity (Windows or Mac). It’s a free program that can do a lot!

Under the ‘effects’ menu of Audacity, you can choose “Change speed” or “Change tempo.” The “Change speed” option will lower or raise your pitch and is most akin to the old reel-to-reel machines. The “Change tempo” option keeps the pitch the same using an algorithm but your tone on playback will have a jagged quality.  For the purposes of this exercise, I recommend “Change tempo.”

So, record yourself playing the exercise and then listen back at half tempo. Use both your ear and a tuner. When you hear a misplaced note, pause the recording and practice that pattern to retrain both arm and ear.

Do some of this kind of thing daily and diligently and you will see good results.

Here’s a pdf of Audacity Slide.

Go Somewhere

Sometimes long notes wobble a bit. The tone gets a little quiver.

There is a simple mental trick I use that helps with this. I imagine my sustained note as moving forward from my bell through the space in front of me.

It’s almost as if my sound is a column of light moving forward from the bell. In fact, I sometimes like to visualize an entire phrase as a single, unbroken column of light that changes color for the different notes of the phrase.

In lessons, I sometimes use a hand motion where I begin with my hand close to the bell and then, as the student sustains the note, I move my hand slowly away from the bell, giving them a visual image of forward motion to the sound. This often helps.

Playing any note without a sense of forward motion is often a source of trouble. Not only is the note less musically satisfying, the tone is often less resonant as well.

In that way, you can almost imagine a little, nearly imperceptible crescendo as you sustain the note.

When buzzing, it is nice to get visual feedback of the air-in-motion. A pinwheel is good for this. So is a piece of tissue paper suspended in front of the mouthpiece.

Think of this analogy: If you were to drink from a stream, it is better to drink from flowing water…

..than it is to drink from stagnant water!

Just as you wouldn’t drink from stagnant water, don’t subject your audience to stagnant notes.

Slide Leaps

When I’m about to leap out with my slide to a longer position, something like this…

…I anticipate the jump just a bit bit slightly bending my wrist so it can easily snap out to the longer position.

Yes, this can be easily overdone!!

It reminds me of a whiplash move but nothing as violent as this!….