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Recently I have faced a problem and it's called slurring. I was wondering if someone has a good tip for becoming better at slurring. As well how to tell if you are slurring. I think I am slurring but then my lessons teacher says it's not slurring and I am confused because I can't tell if I am slurring.
if you are changing those without interrupting the Airstream or using your tongue, it's a slur. The lack of a tongue does not constitute what a slur is, it's more about how smooth the air is
It's not a trick. It's something to be developed and mastered.
sound concept in your head / air-and-embouchure finesse / instantaneous sense of timing
The only difference is that most people in the congregation execute a portamento (slide) between each of these pitches, whereas the $200/wk. ringer soprano in the choir (if the church found a good one) will actually execute "slurs" (no pitch slides).
bloke "The most common slur that I've encountered - over the decades - has been 'tuba-dummy'."
Last edited by bloke on Sun Mar 12, 2017 3:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
When my slurs are good and smooth, I can 'hear' via the 'inner ear' the sound of a fluid. I hear the rush sort of like the sound water makes coming out of a water hose with no nozzle. (wuuuuush) When that 'wuuuuuush' is totally consistent, smooth and without bumps or changes, then my legato and slurred playing is right.
If you're getting 'bumps' between notes, that's ok. The more you work in on legato playing, the lesser the bumps become. You can't improve on silence.
Last edited by tuben on Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
I find that it helps to use tonguing at first, then gradually decrease the use of the tongue as you repeat the passage over and over. First heavy attacks, then lighter, more legato, and eventually you find that no attacks are needed. It might not happen overnight, but keep practicing.
I was taught to blow right into the "bumps" - as bloke said, there is no "trick", but practice of embouchure muscle control is the key.
Obviously, some notes are easier to slur than others - don't practice these (practice the hard ones, that is). A good example of this (for BBb tuba) is the last movement of the Gordon Jacob arrangement of the William Byrd Suite ("The Bells"). Measure after measure after measure of slurring up from low Bb to C, at pianissimo dynamic...
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Simply put, blow thru the notes as if dots connected by a line or perhaps pearls on a string.
What happens between the notes is a beautiful sound created by the connection process.
This often gets exaggerated in dramatic opera singing. The downward connection of notes (usually a 3rd or more) being referred to as a "portamento" where the sound is carried (transported across the interval was a manner in which the slur becomes ornamented. The upward intervals are also extremely colorful when connected with a sweep of sound.
The great oboist, Marcel Tabuteau of the Philadelphia Orchestra (way back when) drove home the art of phrasing, much of which was centered upon his mastering of the slur, but even moreso about shaping the phrase and understanding the subtle effects of how the notes of a phrase are grouped into smaller and larger groups and then having the fantastic control over his articulation, crescendo/diminuend, and a certain liquid flexiblility to shape the absolutely most beautful melodies.
Ah yes!!! The slur, a most artful element of musical style.
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I don't know the piece you are referring to, although probably I should. Not having ever studied tuba per se, all my everything transferred over from horn playing. AND from string playing. I found that my slurs sound more like string slurs and a less like horn "slurs," which to me sound very much like a bit of Wah when the note changes, even if there is no line under the note and only a phrase mark above the series of notes. This is from pros as well as amateurs; maybe it's just a horn culture thing.
A slur down in pitch is usually easy, and a slur up in pitch requires some learning, changing your buzz pitch, the air needed, and when the valve change is complete, all in coordination. When I was taking horn lessons, my horn teacher had beautiful slurs going up an octave and more, and I asked her to show me, just buzzing on the mouthpiece, what she was doing. She slurred up an octave, and her buzz kept going, making a very fast gliss between the two notes, that came out the bell as a beautiful slur. So that was one bit of info that helped me a lot. Even when playing someone else's horn, I found that my slurring was not quite right until I correctly timed when the valve change was complete; different horns actually had discernible differences in when the valve change was complete, due to lever length I presume. (rotors.) With pistons, I have to assume it's the same way, that different instruments will "complete the valve action" with maybe-not-so-miniscule differences in time, that won't matter that much with tongued notes but do matter with slurred notes.
Stringed instrument slurs are notes played without changing the direction or (usually) speed of the bow; the bow keeps moving and the fingers change, or the string you're playing on changes. The equivalent on a wind instrument is the air, but I would add the buzz has to keep going too. I don't know if brass teachers will agree with that, but it is what I aim for.
Since I studied oboe for a while, I'm familiar with what Tabuteau taught; I bought his book and the CD that came with it, and the approach to playing a phrase musically is very straightforward, logical, and produces beautiful results. Well worth investigating for any musician. He was a tremendous influence on players of a wide variety of instruments.
I'm familiar with a good bit of the Tabuteau methodology as well (with a daughter who studied with Dick Killmer et al...and having repaired quite a few fancy oboes for fancy oboe players), but oboe slurs only involve the 1st and 2nd partials and a church-pew-size-pencil-to sharpie-size bore...compared to crossing at least eight partials with a bore larger than most home plumbing.
With the tuba, everything (arguably, the reason that we have tubas) is larger-than-life, including "overcoming technical obstacles"...
bloke "...but it's do-able".
Slurring is actually quite simple. It's physics.
In most embouchures the upper lip vibrates against the lower lip. The upper lip is the drumsticks and the lower lip is the drum head. The upper lip is the worker, but the lower lip is the boss. The upper lip can only vibrate as fast as the lower lip is set to allow it to vibrate. If the lower lip is set soft, the upper lip has to vibrate slowly. If the lower lip is set firm, then the upper lip has to vibrate fast. To slur up, firm the lower lip. To slur down soften the lower lip.
In my personal embouchure I change the firmness of the lower lip by rolling it inward and outward to go from high to low. Inward uses the firmer, outer weathered tissue and outward exposes the softer inner tissue of the lip. The upper has to work in the same way but the lower lip is in charge of the speed of the vibration.
You may begin roasting me now.
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Not at all. I refer to it as an up and down airstream focus but it is exactly the same thing as taught to me by my teacher who was taught the same concept in New York by his teacher, some guy named Bill Bell.
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I won't "roast" Roger, but I think that slurring is even simpler than that. The bottom line is that the lips must vibrate each pitch and the vibration needs to be continuous as you shift from one pitch to the next. In order to have vibration, you must provide the embouchure with a thick, steady stream of air. This thick, steady stream of air is the Wind aspect of Arnold Jacobs philosophy, Song and Wind.
However, Arnold Jacobs taught that one should focus less on the actual physical maneuvers and much more on the sound of each note. He taught that we do not play by phrase, but that we build the phrase one note at a time. As we do this, we are singing each note in our head as we play, and simultaneously strive to imitate the singing in our head. The part of the brain that he called the computer level (some may call it the subconscious) will control the muscles of the embouchure until they create the shape necessary to vibrate the desired pitch.
This is a trial and error process and is very similar to how we learn to whistle or sing. In all three cases, we never really know what we are doing physically, but we do know very precisely whether the pitch is correct and if it matches the concept of the sound we are hearing in our heads. This concept of striving to imitate what we are singing in our heads while playing is the Song aspect of Song and Wind.
When we are first learning a new skill, there will be crudity. This is to be expected. However, as we continue to practice, the new skill is refined through the trial and error process until the errors occur less and less often. During this process, we are developing reflex responses to a stimulus. That is, the lips are learning how to vibate the pitches we hear in our heads. This continues until it becomes automatic, at which time a habit has been developed.
An excellent way to refine our playing, and develop good habits quickly, whether it is slurring or any other aspect of playing, is to play music (melodies) on the mouthpiece alone. The best way to start this is to play simple tunes that you know well, so that all you need to do is focus your attention on singing with the lips. As you become more proficient, you can start to incorporate the legato passages you are working on. If you can slur smoothly on the mouthpiece alone, it will be very easy to transfer that ability to the instrument.
Too often, as brass players, we rely on the instrument and changing the valve combination to give us the pitch. Our focus needs to be the other way around. If we put the desired pitch into the cup of the mouthpiece (i.e., if our lips buzz the right note) all we need to be concerned with is making sure the right valves are depressed so that the tube is the correct length to resonate the pitch.
This brings up onee final point about smooth slurring. If we want the pitch change to be smooth and continuous, the valve changes (where necessary) need to be very fast. We cannot be lazy with our fingers and expect to develop a smooth legato technique.
I studied trumpet with Vince Cichowicz years ago. Day one, lesson one, page one was a book called "flow studies". I encourage you to look that up. I think there is a version for tuba now. For the most part these are a selection of etudes that when you draw the slur across the entire phrase, you get a very valuable set of exercises that should be frontloaded into your daily studies.
Mastering slurring means moving the air seamlessly across the notes as others have wisely recounted. It will take time of course but it will come. For me I just had to get into the mindset of "blowing through the changes" (of the valves) and smoothing it out. Moving between the notes represents a small but noticeable break/reduction in the airflow, so you must be prepared to compensate for those changes.
With sufficient volume and "vivacity" of air movement you will find that the slurring comes very naturally.
Also, pay close attention to what Roger Lewis is saying. I am pretty sure he knows everything. Ask him about the spit valve drill which will definitely get you to the "sufficient air movement" stage you need to be in to slur well.
Lip slurring is another matter completely (slurring between notes without valve changes). You will hate the way you sound doing these at first but it is a great way to highlight your progress. I suggest you look up a book by Max Schlossberg called "Daily Drills and Technical Studies". Yes it is for trumpet but you can learn to read treble clef along the way.
Don't get discouraged! Most of us still work on this stuff often, even after decades of playing.
"Good" tubas offer certain playing characteristics, and "crappy" tubas do as well.
On my PERSONAL list for "good" is "barn-door-wide 'slots' " (which - even with some amazing tuba which offers the centers of most all "slots" as very close to in-tune - requires CONSTANT pitch evaluation by the operator, as the "trade-off" for barn-door-wide slots is "little help from the tuba" regarding any pursuit of "intonation-by-feel"). At least on TubeNet, "slot" seems to mean "how sharp or flat various overtones' pitches can be made made to vibrate nicely, beyond their optimum frequencies".
"Wide slotting" tubas (for reasons which should be obvious, and not require explanation) are easier to slur. "Narrow slotting" tubas tend to be more difficult, as much more precision is required, and almost no subtle portamento (which not only make slurs easier, but usually makes them sound more pleasing to listeners' ears) is allowed with "narrow slotting" tubas.
bloke "not falling into the 'whether lips beat against each other during playing' trap in this thread, and staying on-topic"
When your teacher says you don’t slur, I am sure he defines clearly towards you what a slur is as well as where your playing procedure deviates from being a slur. Preferably by playing a slur the right way as well as your way, so that you by ear, eye, and mind understand the right procedure as well where your own procedure fails.
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