Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for trombone

Dr. Bob Prescribes The Trombone

Yesterday’s Music History Monday post featured the trumpet, trombone, and flugelhorn virtuoso Mic Gillette (1951-2016). In fact, Gillette could play virtually all modern brass instruments, and though he was primarily known as a trumpet player, he was an outstanding trombonist as well. (Gillette was known to switch instantly and effortlessly, back-and-forth, between the trumpet and trombone.  This might not sound like a big deal to most of us, but for brass players it was – literally! – breath taking.  In terms of the nature of the embouchure required, the size and shape of the mouth pieces, and playing technique, the trumpet and trombone are two very different instruments.)  (BTW: for those intrepid trombone aficionados out there, I’d refer you to my Instrumental Outliers post for March 25, 2021, which focused on the magnificent, kidney-rattling contrabass and subcontrabass trombones.)  Back, please, to Mick Gillette and his “bipolar/bi-instrumental” personality. The people who play the trumpet and the trombone are usually as different from each other as the instruments they play.  In an orchestra, the flutes, first violins, and trumpets are considered the “glamor” instruments because they are on top and as such, we can always hear them.  Likewise, the fine people who […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes Christopher Rouse: Trombone Concerto

The great and eminently quotable English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham famously said: “I never look at the brass. It only encourages them.” Jeepers! Whatever would have prompted Sir Thomas to say such a thing? We consider the brass instruments, the most common of which are trumpets, French horns (as they are called in the United States; “horns” everywhere else), trombones, baritones, and tubas. All of these instruments evolved from instruments meant to be played out-of-doors: from hunting horns, signal devices, and military instruments. There is hardly a trumpet player, trombonist, or tuba player alive who didn’t start his/her musical life playing outside, in marching bands. By their very nature these instruments are loud and the people who play them want to play them loudly. Back then to Thomas Beecham’s comment, which is borne of decades of experience. I would tell you that for many (if not most) brass players, a dynamic of piano is beneath contempt, mezzo-piano is an insult, mezzo-forte is uncomfortably limiting, forte is permission, and fortissimo, well, fortissimo might very well be a mistake on the composer’s part. Why? Because, while the brass may be outnumbered 72 to 11 (or so) in a modern orchestra, they are […]

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