The Band Post speaks to Matyas Veer, Principal Bass Trombone of Essener Philharmoniker, on becoming a bass trombone player, an ideal bass sound and his daily practice habits.
This interview is part of the coverage for the Singapore Low Brass Festival 2016 organized by The Band World and Music Elements.
TBP: Did you start off as a bass trombone player first or as a tenor trombone player?
MV: I was like 8 or 9 years old when I started with the tenor trombone and then started playing the baritone for a few months, just to learn the fingerings. I have actually never played a euphonium or baritone before in a performance setting. I just wanted to play trombone and it continued until around when I was 22 years old that I switched to the bass trombone. But I continued to play the tenor trombone as well until I got my first big job. Maybe I did not play tenor trombone everyday, but at least a couple of times a week.
I have a tenor trombone at home which I just bought last year. Sometimes back home, it is nice to play something on tenor trombone. Just last week I was doing some Mendelssohn piece and I played the bass trombone part on the tenor trombone, 2nd trombone part on a small tenor trombone, and 1st part on an alto trombone. I think the balance is really good; it is better when a bass trombone player has playing experience on tenor trombone.
TBP: Did you have to change your embouchure when moving from tenor to bass trombone, and vice versa?
MV: Not really, because I made a very smart decision few years ago. I use the same rim mouthpiece on my tenor, bass or contrabass trombone. My bass trombone mouthpiece is quite a deep mouthpiece, a 1G megatone. And I play the tenor with the same rim; it is like a 1G megatone but inside, it is like a 4G. Same goes for the contrabass trombone, where the mouthpiece as the same rim but it is huge inside. Because the rim is always the same, the change between trombones is not a problem for me.
TBP: Do you think there is such a thing as a bass trombone sound? Should the bass trombone align with the tubas, or sound totally separated from the tenor trombone section?
MV: Hmm.. in the last 3 or 4 years, when I was in Europe to work in the orchestras, the tendency is that the trombone section should be sounding together as a section, not 1st and 2nd trombone versus the bass trombone and tuba.
I remembered when I started playing bass trombone, I had the fat and much darker sound, with less focus, and that was actually a style to play it last time! Now after I went to Germany, it is really different, the sound is really light and much brighter, and I understand why.
If the bass trombone sounds a little bit closer to the tenor, the harmonics can be really perfect. If the bass trombone sound is too fat, which is also okay, I feel that there is not much focus of the sound.
This focused sound is really important as the tenor trombone is small. If the tenor trombones play on low registers, the sound will be centered. If one is to play on the bass trombone, the intonation might not match the ideal sound. This is why I prefer to play the bass trombone a little brighter for blending and sound purposes.
TBP: In terms of equipment, how much of an impact does the difference in mouthpiece choices affects?
MV: The most important is the technique or how you play the trombone. I mean, when I play the trombone, it almost does not matter what mouthpiece you give me to use because I will play it so that every mouthpiece almost have the same sound.
I have different mouthpieces of course but I think my sound is generally bright because of a lot of tenor trombone playing. I play on 1G megatone mouthpiece, which is quite a ‘dark’ mouthpiece, but for me it is perfect.
TBP: What kind of music do you play nowadays and how do you practice them?
MV: I have to prepare for orchestra works. Playing in a good orchestra means you have to be good also, to be on par with the orchestra.
What I do daily is some time for warm ups so that I can adjust my air flow and my embouchure. I then play 2 to 3 etudes and some daily exercises. in which I try to control my breath, my right hand, my tongue and my body posture. If I have solo pieces to work on, I like to practice with some dolce cantabile etudes.
If I have no time to play scales or any daily practices, or if I miss a few days of practice, I will feel uncomfortable as if something is not right.
Sometimes if I practice too much orchestra stuff, it is easy to lose the ‘solo’ sound. Hence, I have to balance the orchestra works and solo works to keep myself in a good state of mind.
A contributing editor at TBP.