Schilke note bending exercise

I first got wind of this from Renold Schilke and a little later, in greater detail, from David Hickman (Summit Brass). Since then I’ve heard variations of this routine recommended by many people. I was reminded of it again again and given some perspective by Fred Sautter (Portland Symphony) at the recent NY Brass Conference.

The idea is to bend notes down from low C (Phase I), from G in staff (Phase II), from 3rd space C (Phase III), etc.

In small doses this kind of thing may be a big help with your warming up. In larger doses, this exercise builds strength, brings corners forward and relaxes center pad, changes aperture shape from elliptical toward round, fattens the tone, and enhances ability to adjust pitch.

Get comfortable and accurate with Phase I and II (see below) before adding Phase III–anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the lower Phases. If/when you can play Phase VII (from high C), you have enough strength to play a controlled double C. Most people don’t have the ambition, time, or perhaps ability to go past Phase V; but bending notes well that far up is marvelous practice. It is relatively easy to bend a note just short of half way down to the next harmonic. Apparently few people can bend notes in the remaining range down to the next harmonic or up toward the next harmonic. However, I have heard a strong legit trpt player play an in-tune, open, chromatic scale from low C on up–incredibly strong and stable chops. You may be able to play Phase I and most of Phase II well almost immediately, but practice them anyhow. You may prefer to start on Phase II and run it straight down into Phase I, thereby bending intervals for an 8va rather than half an 8va. No matter how many Phases you master, start from the beginning each day. So, over time, the exercises add up, thus encouraging you to abbreviate the lower Phases somewhat.

Phase I
1. Probably do a little warming up first.

2. With regular fingering (0-2-0), slur low C down to low B and back on one full breath. Make each note a half note at about quarter = 60. CRESCENDO slightly into the second note; decrescendo going back. Rest at least two beats. Hickman recommended playing these with usual fingerings first, thus doubling the length of the exercise. I assume the recommendation was meant to encourage people to play in tune with passable tone. Some players think they are doing the harder ones but are not in tune.

3. Using #2 as a model, repeat but hold the first note’s fingering (open in this case) for the entire little phrase. Make the second note sound as good as you can. Rest at least two beats. I find that I play best when I think of singing the music; thinking of mechanics only makes me sound worse/unhappy.

4. Repeat #3 but transpose it down to B — second valve down for the entire little phrase. Think of SINGING the music. Rest at least two beats.

5. Do it from low Bb. Think of SINGING the music. Rest at least two beats.

6. From low A. Think of SINGING. Rest at least two beats.

7. Etc on down through low Gb.

8. Repeat steps 2 through 7 but bend whole steps.

9. Repeat steps 2 through 7 but bend minor 3rds.

10. Repeat steps 2 through 7 but bend major 3rds.

11. Repeat steps 2 through 7 but bend perfect 4ths.

12. REST a few minutes.

To shorten Phase I, bend fewer portions; play 3 through 7 bending fewer interval sizes.

Add Phase II (may precede Phase I):
1. With regular fingering (0-2-0), slur G in staff down to F# and back on one full breath. Make each note a half note at about quarter = 60. CRESCENDO into the second note; decrescendo going back. Rest at least two beats.

2. Using #1 as a model, repeat but hold the first note’s fingering for the entire little phrase. Make the second note sound as good as you can. Think of SINGING the music, not mechanics. REST briefly after each little phrase.

3. Repeat #2 but transpose it down to F#. Second valve down for the entire little phrase. SING and REST.

4. Do it from F. 5. From E.

6. Etc. on down through Db.

7. Repeat steps 2 through 6 but bend whole steps.

8. Repeat steps 2 through 6 but bend minor 3rds–more difficult.

9. REST a few minutes.

To shorten Phase II, bend fewer portions.

Add Phase III in addition to the others: As before, but from C in staff with half- and whole step bends only. SING! REST. To shorten Phase III, bend only one portion.

Phase IV (in addition to in addition to the others: As before, but from E at top of staff with half- and whole step bends. SING! REST. Whole steps are more difficult here. To shorten Phase IV, bend only one portion. Add

Phase V in addition to the others: As before but from G above staff with half-step bends only. SING! REST.

Add Phase VI in addition to the others: As before but from open Bb above staff. SING! REST.

Add Phase VII (hey, heh, heh) in addition to the others: As before, but from high C. SING! REST.

I don’t teach anymore and don’t play much, but, nevertheless, I will appreciate your suggestions for improving this routine. Feel free to reproduce, alter it, and make it your own.

by Roger McDuffie

Pops

 

Posted in Sound, Techniques.