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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: trombone

Intonation is Relative

Andrew Hitz

"It is okay to play out of tune. It is not okay to stay out of tune."

-Michael Davis of (Hip-Bone Music and Former Trombone Player for the Rolling Stones)

This also brings to mind one of my favorite phrases: "Intonation is a social skill."

If two people are playing together and are not in tune with each other it doesn't matter what the tuner says. One is not flat and the other sharp. "They" are out of tune.

Whether you are "right" or "wrong", when you notice you are out of tune, fix it.

Joe Alessi Master Class Quotes from 2008 ABA Convention (2 of 2)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the second installment of quotes from Joe Alessi, Principal Trombone of the New York Philharmonic, from his master class at the 2008 American Bandmasters Association Convention.  Click here for the first installment.


  • After a less than stellar first attempt by a student playing in the master class: "Let's hit the reset button and try again."
  • "In my lessons at Juilliard, you have to play one with a great sound or the lesson doesn't start.  It's like putting on your seatbelt in the car."
  • "When you take a breath don't lean into it."
  • "Really think about the sound you want to play with on the first note of every passage."
  • He had the student "mime" the passage by breathing with the slide: "Get everything timed."
  • "Mime a fast lick very short and slow.  Like getting the timing right on your engine."
  • "Stay in a good stage presence between sections."
  • "Don't think of a note being suspended in the air and you are playing up to it.  Think that you are suspended and the note is below you."
  • "Brass players blow too fast when nervous and our air columns become narrower."
  • "Listen to yourself at half speed."
  • On jaw vibrato: "Move your jaw, not your muscles."
  • "Remove vibrato at the end of a note to produce a beautiful taper."
  • "Louder equals more tongue.  Softer equals less tongue."
  • "Air and tongue can be adjusted like the oil/as ratio in a mower."
  • "Forte is 90% air and 10% tongue."
  • "You should practice with no tongue."
  • "Practice playing really softly without any tongue."
  • "Practice diminuendoing notes down to niente.  It will help with the attacks."
  • "ppp is the essence of your tone right in your face."

Joe Alessi Master Class Quotes from 2008 ABA Convention (1 of 2)

Andrew Hitz

In an effort to clean up my office I just stumbled upon a small notebook with notes from a number of master classes.  One of those classes was by trombone virtuoso and master teacher Joe Alessi, Principal Trombone of the New York Philharmonic.

This class is from March 5, 2008 at the University of Miami and was a part of the American Bandmasters Association Convention being hosted there.  There are some great quotes in here for all musicians, not just trombone players or brass players.  There were enough that I have broken them up into two blog posts.



  • "A low sound like Darth Vader when breathing means there's friction.  I like low-friction breaths."
  • "Auditions are all about time and when you reset your embouchure you will come in late a lot."
  • "Practicing without the instrument, like singing while conducting, is very important.  I sing and conduct through a piece with a new accompanist."
  • "You must have a pulse to conduct and you must sing the right pitches."
  • "I feel like you're reading the music, not playing the piece."
  • "It's a whole different part of our brain if we're not just reading the music."
  • After having the student play from memory to the back wall: "Look at the music but only refer to the music, like a big band.  Bell's up, music down low."
  • "Sometimes we have a good sound and we just don't use it."
  • "Your back should be convex with a slight arch forward when standing."
  • "If you stand healthy you will probably play healthy."
  • "You can tell (in an audition) how someone will play by how they walk into a room and sound."
  • "The breath is like a pitcher's wind-up.  You don't have a wind-up right now."
  • "Get set up earlier with the face (before an entrance.)"
  • "I like to watch the belt area when people are playing to see if they are supporting."
  • "You have a really nice sound but you're not always ready to use it."

Eastern Trombone Workshop Orchestral Repertoire Repertoire: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Here is a clip from the 2014 Eastern Trombone Workshop featuring an all-star low brass section playing through a number of orchestral excerpts.  The lineup:

Toby Oft - Principal Trombone, Boston Symphony
Nathan Zgonc - 2nd Trombone, Atlanta Symphony
Jeremy Wilson - Former 2nd Trombone, Vienna Philarmonic & Vienna State Opera
Stephen Dunkel - Bass Trombone, Washington National Opera
Seth Cook - Principal Tuba, Charlottesville Symphony

They play orchestral standards from Bartok, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Hindemith and many more.  This is an example of great players who are not a regular section molding each of their strong personalities into one cohesive idea.  There are some great insights into playing in orchestras as well as things like auditioning from each of them.


Game of Thrones Theme (Epic Low Brass Version): Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Okay this is awesome! My friend Andy Bove, who I interviewed for my book, "A Band Director's Guide to Everything Tuba: A Collection of Interviews with the Experts", put together one of the most impressive low brass ensembles every formed for this video. So what did he decide to record with this collection of low brass players? The theme to Game of Thrones, of course! Seriously, you have to hear this.  It got well over 100,000 views almost overnight and is already at over 200,000 and rising.  It will rattle your windows.

This is the ridiculous lineup of players he assembled for this recording:

George Curran • bass and contrabass trombone George Flynn • bass and contrabass trombone Matt Ingman • bass and contrabass trombone Jeff Nelson • bass and contrabass trombone James Rogers • bass and contrabass trombone Jack Schatz • bass and contrabass trombone Patrick Herb • bass trombone Mark Johansen • bass trombone Christopher Olness • bass trombone Max Seigel • bass trombone Dale Turk • bass trombone Tim Albright • tenor trombone Demian Austin • tenor trombone Mike Boschen • tenor trombone Thomas Hutchinson • tenor trombone William Lang • tenor trombone Jörgen van Rijen • tenor trombone Andrew Bove • tuba and cimbasso Stephen Johns • tuba and cimbasso Morris Kainuma • tuba and cimbasso Joe Exely • tuba Chuck Kerrigan • tuba Marcus Rojas • tuba

Help support Bove Audio do more things like this by buying this track for $.99 if you dig it.


No BS! Brass: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This past week I was soloing with the Bird High School Wind Symphony outside of Richmond and had the privilege of meeting the tuba player for Richmond's No BS! Brass, Stefan Demetriadis.  I've been a big fan of his and the entire band for a while now.  They are a fantastic brass band in the New Orleans tradition but they've absolutely got their own sound. Any band that describes themselves as "fearlessly combining elements of James Brown, John Coltrane, Michael Jackson, and Led Zeppelin" has got my attention.  Stefan holds down the low end like a champ.  This video is totally kick ass.


Pharrell Williams' Happy - Trombone Loop: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This is a spectacular example of someone starting with a creative idea and through technology and the internet, sharing it with the world.  Trombone player Christopher Bill put together this brilliant version of 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams using nothing but his trombone and his body for some percussion. In a little over a month this video already has over 400,000 views and there's a reason for that: It's unique and it's cool as hell.  This thing made my day.


Monday YouTube Fix: The Lawrence Welk Show Trombone Section

Andrew Hitz

After a brief hiatus for the summer the Monday YouTube Fix is open again for business! I thought we would start light with a little Lassus Trombone from the Lawrence Welk Show. Some of my earliest memories are from watching the Lawrence Welk Show in syndication which ran until 1982.  I loved watching the band play.  This tune features the outstanding trombone section: Norman Bailey, Barney Liddell and Pete Lofthouse in 1956.

You gotta love the slide vibrato! Enjoy!

Wycliffe Gordon: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Wycliffe is one of my heroes.  This five minute live clip off of someone's phone is a masterclass on style, phrasing, style, high playing, style and just about everything else.  Did I mention the style this guy plays every single note and phrase with? He is a musician who happens to play the trombone.  And he happens to play it better than most.  Bebop, swing, gospel, dixieland.  I have yet to hear him play in a style that doesn't sound just as convincing as the last.

What a gift it is for all of us to be alive at the same time this guy is making music.  I've got to go practice now.