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Performance Tips

  1. Octave Buzzes Appearing in your Sound

    Someone recently remarked that he was getting an extra pitch while he played. This can happen when your chops are not set correctly and/or you have not balanced the needs of the pitch (and your embouchure) with the amount of air support necessary. This used to happen to me in college marching band when I was really tired. Now I can reproduce it for a demonstration (but it's very uncomfortable to do so). To do this I place the mouthpiece slightly off-center on my chops, then I can force this to happen. ...
  2. Dealing with Temperature Variations

    Are you aware of the ways that temperature and humidity can affect your performance? Between my experience with rehearsals and performances, I have played on stages as cool as 65 degrees and as warm as 90 degrees. Humidity has also been all over the map.

    Your intonation will be strongly affected by temperature. On a hot stage, you are probably going to be sharp. If you are playing with strings or piano, the effect can be just the opposite on them, so your tuning slide may need to be ...
  3. Recording Your Practice

    Many musicians find it very valuable to record their practice sessions. Your will hear things you had no idea you are doing. You may easily hear tempo instability and intonation problems that are difficult to pick up which you are working on playing. You may notice valve noises, loud breathing, or other distracting sounds.



    The problem is that a lot of portable recorders have poor microphones and use automatic level control to adjust recording volume, which messes up the ...
  4. Dynamic Range

    In the many master classes and lessons I have given, I often hear players who are not taking full advantage of the musical excitement to be gained by using the full dynamic range indicated in music. We all tend to play in a mezzo-something dynamic. It is more difficult to play at very soft or very loud dynamics, but playing at these more difficult dynamics is a skill just like any other skill. Practice it and it will get better.


    Certainly the first part of the process is to develop ...
  5. Proper Hand Position

    You can gain considerable mechanical advantage and make your technique sound easier if you pay attention to your finger position on the valves.

    If you play on piston valves, each finger tip should be on the valve cap. Your fingers should not "hang over" the valve caps.


    If you play rotary valves, your finger tip should be placed so it is centered in the widest part of the paddle.


    If you hang your hand down at your side and relax, you will notice that your fingers ...
  6. Use of the 3rd Valve

    Most brass players learn to use the fingering 1-2, but in many cases the 3rd valve alone will work. Usually 3 is slightly lower in pitch. If you are sharp on a 1-2 note, try using 3 instead. It may take some getting used to because there is a little less resistance with 3 compared to 1-2. It may also be useful to handle awkward fingerings with 1-2. Experiment and see how it works. It should certainly be part of your "comfortable" technique collection.
  7. Fighting Dry Mouth

    This is a serious problem for a performer, and is caused by the various ways that nervousness affects your body.



    I will post 2 messages that appeared on the old TUBA Discussion mailing list. However, first I would also suggest the obvious: that you must drink a lot of water before the performance. I usually prepare 1/2 to 1 hour ahead of performance time by taking sips of water every few minutes. You need to build up a supply that your body can call on when you need it.
    ...
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