International Trombone Festival
University of Iowa
July 11-14, 2018
Festival Web Site
David Fetter: Trombone Tone and the Open “Ah” – What Singing Has Taught Me
During his career as a trombonist in the orchestras in San Antonio, Cleveland and Baltimore, in the US Army Band, and as a teacher at the Peabody Conservatory, David Fetter was not alone in his belief that an open relaxed throat was essential for good trombone tone.
Now in retirement (he left the Baltimore Symphony in 1986) he has been singing, wherein he finds it easier to study the role of the throat in tone production, since the evidence is out front in the sound of the voice. The role of the throat in trombone tone is also evident in the sound produced, but it is obscured some by its filtration through the trombone. Thus, Fetter asks his students to breathe and articulate without the horn to try to sense what the internal machinery is doing when they are actually playing. Listening to the air passing through the Ah, the basic open vowel, can be quite revealing. The greatest danger is excess tension in the throat, vocal chords, windpipe, mouth cavity, jaw, etc. Tone, articulation, breath and posture can all benefit from testing them away from the trombone. Progress can be difficult, as it almost always calls for doing not more, but less.