Bud Herseth, J.J. Johnson, Velvet Brown, Philip Farkas, Clark Terry, Alison Balsam, Arnold Jacobs, Phil Smith, Joe Alessi, Dennis Brain, Roger Bobo, Tine Thing Helseth … How many of these names do you recognize? These are but a handful of great brass players.
If you recognize the names, would you be able to identify the players by listening to a recording? Imagine what a powerful tool it would be to have all those different sounds in your head!
Whatever you attempt to do, the most important first step is to envision the end result. When you were learning to ride a bicycle, you had a firm picture in your mind of what you were trying to accomplish, based on watching other kids ride their bikes. You knew what you wanted to do—you just had to figure out how to do it.
As you are investing time and energy into learning to play an instrument, you owe it to yourself to find out what the possibilities of the instrument are by listening to as many players as possible, in the process building your mental storehouse of musical concepts like tone, technique, and style.
Fortunately, listening to great players has never been easier, thanks to the emergence of YouTube.
In less than 10 years, YouTube has staked a claim as a great time waster, but it is also a powerful research tool for musicians. For example, I just searched “tuba” and immediately encountered a slew of interesting-looking videos that threatened to derail the writing of this column. The information is out there, and it’s easy to access.
Watch and Be Amazed
So here is your assignment: Take a break from watching videos of fish that eat ducks (that’s an hour of my life that I’m never getting back), and resolve to discover one new player of your instrument each day. The names at the top of this column would be a good place to start.
Make a list of the players you hear, along with a brief note about your impressions. I predict you’ll be amazed.
About the Author
Chase Sanborn is a jazz trumpet player based in Toronto. He is on the faculty at the University of Toronto and is the author of “Brass Tactics,” “Jazz Tactics,” “Tuning Tactics” and “Music Business Tactics.” Chase is a Yamaha Artist.