Instrument Maintenance - How to take care of your brass instrument to ensure a lifetime of fun!

Instrument maintenance is perhaps the most often overlooked area by students (and professionals).  I have created the following twelve maintenance videos on my YouTube channel.  They were recorded in hi-def 720p, and I will be working in the next few weeks to improve the sound quality for you. It sounds simple, but if you follow this tenet, it will prove true "take care of your instrument, and it will take care of you."   Playing a brass instrument is hard enough without making things even more challenging by having an instrument that does not play well.   I've spent the last twenty-eight years studying not only how to play better, but also how to take best care of my instrument so it will be "ready for battle."  I've borrowed from colleagues, repair gurus, and experimented to come up with the following advice.

Please take a moment to watch the following videos (get a good cup of coffee first) or better yet, watch one, GO PRACTICE, watch another, GO PRACTICE, watch another, (you get the idea). Please comment below, let me know what you think, and if you have any other advice of things that have worked well for you.  Maintenance is often a lot of religion and mythology- I urge you to openly consider what I say here, and try it out, see what happens if you apply it consistently for a minimum of 2-3 months.

See you at the top!

Dr. J

Maintenance Video 1 of 12 - Introduction & Overview

Maintenance Video 2 of 12- Snakes

Maintenance Video 3 of 12- Slides that Tune & Grease

Maintenance Video 4 of 12- Thirsty Bones

Maintenance Video 5 of 12- Your Trombone needs a Tine

Maintenance Video 6 of 12 - Yamaha Slide Oil

Maintenance Video 7 of 12 - Slide o Mix Cleaning Rod

Maintenance Video 8 of 12 - Bath Time 1

Maintenance Video 9 of 12 - Bath Time 2: Bathing with Trummy Young

Maintenance Video 10 of 12 - Bath Time 3 Scrub it Out

Maintenance Video 11 of 12 - Bath Time 4 Slide Grease & Valves

Maintenance Video 12 of 12 - Application of Slide Lubricants

Where the heck are the videos you promised?

Where the heck are the videos you promised? Hi there!

Sigh- technology is fun and challenging. I'm running out now to play with the Four Tops, and am having some difficulties with the website. All will b fixed by Monday.

Please visit DrJ YouTube Channel to see the videos until I get them, and the sample video up this weekend.

Thanks very much for your patience!

See you at the top!


Summer Lessons!

I hope that you’ve had an outstanding year, and are ready to relax, recharge, and have a great summer! It has been a privilege to assist your child in their musical development this year, and I would like to thank you for that opportunity.

I am available for private instruction this summer, and would love the opportunity to work with you further.

Please check your calendar, then contact me via mail, e-mail, or phone at your earliest convenience, and we’ll get everything set up!

MIX & MATCH SUMMER! - As everyone has an incredibly complex, fun, and exciting summer schedule, the summer lesson policy is a bit different from that in the year. You have the option to create a lesson schedule that suits you best. You may request either a ½ hour or 1 hour lesson time. I will put you in as close to your request time as possible, so act quickly to reserve your desired time! In order to provide the best possible lesson environment, all lessons this summer will occur in Danville, CA (less than 10min from Lafayette)

Thanks for your time, and hope to have the privilege of serving you this summer!

Dr. J

Summer Lesson Flyer

What made me weep like a baby. . . and impressed me to get moving again.

You have no problems.

I have no problems.

It's too easy to get overwhelmed, overloaded, pessimistic, and want to just "check out."

Don't know what I'm talking about? (Must be nice to be an alien)

For the rest of us, it's the daily journey, challenge, and effort to keep on "keepin on" and make progress-- in your life, in your skill set, your career, your marriage, your relationships.

If you know what I'm talking about, and have found yourself "stuck", take 5:18 seconds today to witness a true hero--a champion of the human spirit.
By 3:00 I choked up like a schoolgirl. Make sure you at least watch from the beginning through 3:55.
Now, I'm off to contribute something to the world, and my family.

Thank you Ian Bousfield: I will never play the ride the same again.

I finally get it. One of the best things about playing in the YouTube Symphony was the chance to collaborate and be coached by Mr. Ian Bousfield, solo trombonist with the Vienna Philharmonic.

His constant urging for more precision in articulation and rhythmic accuracy not only helped me with some issues I've had in my own playing, but drastically changed the way that I play, and more importantly HEAR the rhythm in Wagner's Die Walküre (Ride of the Valkyries).

I think that I may have worn out the saddle that he rode me with, but his incessant demand for rhythmic purity has helped me approximately 100% in just two days, and I will continue to use it, and teach it, for the rest of my career.

I took this video during the dress rehearsal at Carnegie Hall to both observe his impressive slide technique and to remind myself of the Viennese style for Die Walküre.

In short- THANK YOU Mr. Bousfield--your passion, time, intensity, and integrity will impact both myself and my students for generations to come.

The YouTube Symphony brass section was impressive, and a pleasure to work with!

Dr. J

How to keep the suck out while on break

Oh No! It's Spring Break/Christmas/Hanukkah/St. Mary the patron saint of Brassologist's Day/etc. and I've got a big gig/audition rich after break! Well friend, let's face it: there's no quick fix, and no magical fairy to having chops--trust me, I've looked.

Here's just a few quick tips to keep you focused and come back perhaps stronger than ever:

1) "Repetition is the mother of all skill."-Anthony Robbins. Face it- if the horn is on your face you have a 100% greateter chance of increasing your strength, flexibility, range, stamina, or your audition piece than if it's in the case until the day you come back (or night before). -You cannot rush muscle building or fast track the learnng of repertoire. Remember what Mom told us about the tortise and the hair? Slow and steady wins the race. -now what? Well, sit down with a blank piece of paper, or better yet, your planner And start blockig out 30-45 minute chunks 1-2 (or more if you're a crazy person like me) times a day. Make sure you get in at least 5x a week, and do not take two consecutive days off if you can possibly avoid it.

2) If NOTHING else, get a good daily routine (if you don't have one, take a lesson with a great coach in your area-- find the top classically trained player you can afford and ask them what they do, and what they reccommend for a player your age, ability, and aspiration level. -"Wait a mintute Dr. J, a CLASSICALLY trained teacher? I study with Bernie Kerschmilowicz and he's freaking AWESOME!". --Indeed, as a regular performer in Jazz, Salsa, Rock, R & B, SOME players really have a good understanding of the fundamentals of the instrument. In truth, they all have some level of comprehension, otherwise they wouldn't be good--however, a highly trained classical artist will have years of study on the expreme minutia of tone production, range, articulation, and more-with a much finer degree of nuance and success. You can literally save yourself YEARS here. I know, be aide I personally have completely changed my philosophies on breathng, embouchure, tone production, and range- all in the last 10 years. Want to guess when I've had the most explosive growth in my results? --If you have no time to practice anything, then practice the fundamentals, as they are constant in every style of music.

3) "But I'm in ______________ and can't bring my horn." -Awesome! Do daily lip fluttering for 40-60 seconds 5x a day, AND bing your mouthpiece. "What do I buzz?" --A) get a good warm up book with a CD accompaniment, buzz your warm-up with that, go have fun, then later that night do 10-15 minutes of the items below --B) buzz simple songs you know by ear (Old MacDonald, Jingle Bells, Mary killed a little rat, etc) --C) turn on the radio and find a pop/rock station you like. (WHAT?!?! Pop musik?) Yes, pop music. The melodies are quite repetative, have great rhythmic backgrounds to work on your internal sense of time, and the melodies are lyric in nature (don't hop around a lot--they're more scalar). --D) if you have a laptop download (SmartMusic and buzz along with one of the 50,000 technical exercises, 15 Method Books, or a Baroque Solo.

As I right this, I'm in the air from San Francisco to New York to play principal trombone with the YouTube Symphoy- a contest I won after not playing for three days.......really. My smartest choice? NO. But, I was forced put of town on business, then upon my return spent two days building my practice studio and moving the office to create space for our coming baby.

Here's the skinny--had I not had several weeks of chops (good warm ups and practice sessions) I would have fallen flat on my face. I did lip flutter and do a little buzzing in the car, but I'll be honest, my face felt like garbage.

So, final thoughts before I wear out my phone by typing this non-stop tome?

Just one: Practice for YOU, not Mom, your band director, your private teacher/etc. By building up your chops and skills you become more as a player, but also as a human. You will do better in band and at in your musical battles, but more importantly, you will develop discipline and character that will serve you in LIFE, and all professions.

Have some fun with it! I suck, you suck. I practice today, so that TOMORROW, I will suck less than I do today! ;) :) :0

Chief Bonehead, Dr. J

Creativity: Inspiration & Perspiration

In a never-ending quest to "suck less" I find myself at times drifting, dealing with projects that "aren't critical or important" but nonetheless have merit--but don't seek to fulfill my purpose, or bring me closer to my destiny.

Without getting mushy & metaphysical, I think we all face an internal battle--doing that which is truly important to US and is doing good--either in the world, or in our own physical, character, emotional, intellectual, or skill set "muscles".

I recently underwent a surgery for a torn meniscus of the left knee and was reminded by a physical therapist of a tenet that I hold most keenly in my trombone playing, a "muscle has only two states- growth and atrophy." Simply, a muscle is either getting stronger, or getting weaker.

I believe that as players, teachers, and humans we struggle with a similar challenge- either being on track, or getting distracted.

I had a young student contact me regarding the outcome of a recent audition. He stated firmly that he was ready to "knuckle down" and "do whatever it takes." With that in mind, I think it important to reflect on the two primary elements to achievement - Inspiration & Perspiration.

You must have the inspiration to get better, achieve, suck less, , or you won't have the desire, or the energy, to get your butt out of bed and get to work! Sure, we have the short term pain of deadlines, job, gigs, school concerts, etc., but the LONG game goal- where do YOU want to be, and WHO do you want to become--that's the real game, which requires a bigger vision and plan.

Second: PERSPIRATION. Simply put- get off your butt and get to work! Have a plan, get a coach, and go gangbusters toward your goal with everything you've got- and then go a little more. Check in, mark your progress, plan your practice sessions (or life/project/work/etc.)


With that in mind I wanted to share two quick things that have spurred on my thinking, then it's back to work:

Gang, Constraints & Blocks: Merlin Mann, a great thinker in the organizational field (and very funny) recently re-fired his defunct podcast with a great 10 minute audio post on blocking time.

Get Inspired: I worked with my friend and colleague Barry Green, author of The Inner Game of Music recently doing some PowerPoint presentations for his recent book The Mastery of Music. In in there's a great anecdote by Dave Brubeck and his inspiration for some of the rhythmic complexity found in his later compositions- astride a tractor in the Central San Juaquin Valley. I found this video and couldn't help but smile.

Bottom line: GET INSPIRED, then GET YOUR BUTT IN GEAR! What am I doing to do this for myself? Well friend, I wrote this article (to publicly put me on the line) and am enjoying a great cup of coffee, listening to my favorite trombonist play the Michael Haydn alto trombone concerto (which I've committed myself to do in a month ) - now that I'm fired up and REALLY WANT to practice- it's on.

I'm headed to the woodshed to practice- what are you going to do TODAY to make yourself more happy and FULFILLED as a human, player, parent, teacher, etc? (regardless of career) - I'd appreciate your thoughts in the comments field below, then GO AND GET YOUR BUTT MOVING!

Best, DrJ "I suck, You suck. I practice today so that I will suck less tomorrow."


Generations in Jazz Audition Help

If you’re a student in Contra Costa County and are working on the audition for the Generations in Jazz High School Honor Jazz Band I’ve put together a slower background track to help you with the piece, and done a quick recording of it at tempo to help you with style.

Later today, I’ll be posting information to help with alternate positions and some tips regarding preparation.

Slow Version: Quarter = 95
Tempo Version with DrJ

San Francisco Conservatory Brass Ensemble & Trombone Ensemble

Rarely do you get to hear a brass ensemble with this quality playing in your backyard, for $FREE$.  The caliber of student at the San Francisco Conservatory rivals top students at any institution in the country, and they are under the leadership of Mr. Paul Welcomer, a world class performer and coach.  If you have the ability to catch this performance, you will not be let down. Location: San Francisco Conservatory of Music

What:  Conservatory Brass Ensemble, Paul Welcomer, conductor

When: Tuesday, November 25, 2008, 8:00 P.M., 

Where: Concert Hall, 50 Oak St., San Francisco, Ca.


Trombonanza Youth Ensemble Music

I have ordered the books for you and will have them available at our first rehearsal. Please bring $5 for your book to the rehearsal. Cash is preferred, but if needed you can make a check out to Jon Brummel. I’ve taken the liberty of preparing the files in SmartMusic so you can practice the parts ahead of time. By using them in SmartMusic you can practice the parts and have instantaneous feedback regarding your rhythm, pitch accuracy, and can practice your part in the context of an “ensemble”. I HIGHLY urge you to download and prepare with these files.

You will need to download, install, and activate SmartMusic for these files to work, then simply download these files and open them up in SmartMusic. I’ll be posting them over the course of the afternoon. Please use these for personal use only, and do not redistribute them. for commercial use.

The arrangements have been done by Mr. Forrest Buchtel, and come from Christmas Time, published by Neil A. KJOS Music Company.  Be sure to right click on the file name, choose "Save As" and end the file name in ".smp" - this will ensure that SmartMusic will open up the file properly.

  1. Adeste Fideles
  2. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  3. Joy To The World
  4. Silent Night
  5. O Little Town Of Bethlehem
  6. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
  7. In Dulci Jubilo (Good Christian Men Rejoice)
  8. The First Noel
  9. Angels We Have Heard On High
  10. Beautiful Savior
  11. Away In A Manger
  12. Good King Wenceslas
  13. Deck the Halls
  14. Jingle Bells
  15. O Tannenbaum
  16. Up On A Housetop
  17. We Wish You A Merry Christmas
  18. Jolly Old Saint Nicholas
  19. We Three Kings
  20. God Rest You Merry, Gentleman
  21. Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light (From The Christmas Oratorio)
  22. Merry Christmas Time
  23. A Song For Christmas
  24. How Glad I Am Each Christmas Eve
  25. The Friendly Beasts
  26. While Shepherds Watch
  27. While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
  28. O Come, O Come Immanuel
  29. What Child Is This
  30. Lo, How A Rose
  31. As Lately Watched
  32. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
  33. The Infant King
  34. Sing Songs Of Joy
  35. The Holly And The Ivy
  36. I Saw Three Ships
  37. Coventry Carol

Andy Martin: Trombone Day Clinic


First thoughts:

        It’s always a pleasure to hear an artist of Mr. Martin’s caliber. Even amongst the Los Angeles studio greats, he sets a high standard with his outstanding mechanics and fundamentals, stylistic flexibility, and innovative use of the jazz vocabulary.

         I was most impressed with his performance of the ballad In a Sentimental Mood, which evoked remnants of the great J.J. Johnson in the first A section, and later evolved neatly into the flowing lines for which Andy is known so well. I greatly enjoyed the evolution and structure of his solo as he increased the rhythmic complexity, density of the solo, dynamics, and pitch to a glorious climax, then handed it over to a delightful chorus by the pianist.

Clinic Notes:

  • Born in Provo, Utah, then moved to Hayward, CA
  • His father taught at CSU, Long Beach, and was a jazz musician
  • Andy has two loves: Trombone and Baseball - he followed his brothers into music as a profession, and was working right out of high school
  • He briefly “attended” CSU, Long Beach, but mostly played in the big band, and combos.
  • His first gig was playing in the Dixieland Band at Disneyland.
  • He prepared for the Disneyland audition by studying Jack Teagarten
  • He studied with Roy Main and Charlie Schumacher
  • He developed his jazz vocabulary by memorizing transcribed jazz solos.
  • Was on the road with Lou Rawls, Paul Ahnka, and Poncho Sanchez
  • Learned “the business of music” while on the road with Paul Ahnka--“standing up for yourself” vs. “getting walked on” When Ahnka asked for a pay cut, they asked for a raise.
  • Plays with the big bands of Tom Kubis, Bill Holman, and Gordon Goodwin. Performs two days a week on Dancing with the Stars, and with the broadway show Wicked.
  • Fitness is essential for both the physical demands of playing the trombone, and keeping yourself mentally focused and centered.
  • Is a big fan of “cross-training”-- if he is playing a lot of loud and low passages on bass trombone, he will then practice soft high passages on the tenor trombone.
  • How to “develop a jazz vocabulary”--transcriptions! -- Listen to trombonists, but also to trumpet, sax and pianists. Take a lick, write it down in its original key (and put scale degrees above each pitch), then work it through the circle of fourths (not ascending chromatically).
  • A jazz vocabulary is essential--we develop it to get to the point of invention in our solos.
  • Trombonists to listen to: J.J. Johnson, Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana. Also loves other instruments: Michael Brecker, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Clifford Brown
  • The point of learning the changes and developing a jazz vocabulary it to be able to keep inventing ideas over many choruses without repeating-- this is exhibited in the playing of Stan Getz.
  • Do exercises like the Herbert L. Clarke studies in harmonic minor.
  • Regarding Slide Vibrato: The quicker the vibrato, and the quicker it starts creates a very “dated” sound-- a more warm and modern vibrato involves holding the pitch longer, then slowly warming it up with a more gentle vibrato.
  • Regarding Circular Breathing: Doesn’t do it, or have a need for it. Likes to develop ideas with increasing complexity. Listen to the playing of Sergei Nakariakov for circular breathing. It can be a detriment in studio playing (anecdote of player whose circular breathing came through in the booth).
  • Frank Rosolino- he believes Frank didn’t doodle tongue, just used the “natrual breaks” of the harmonic series, or “against the grain” to his advantage. Carl Fontana was the best example of doodle tonguing.
  • DrJ Observation: His slide technique is very impressive: He has a very quick, crisp, and “late” slide--he moves it at the last second and is very accurate with his slide technique, regardless of tempo/style. “Stick & Move”

Thanks to Dick Akright, Dave Ridge, and Dean Hubbard for putting this great event together!

Andy's album with Bill Liston is the second album of his that I have purchased, and features not only outstanding trombone playing, but also an exquisite interaction between some highly polished and inventive jazz musicians.  It was through this album that I first heard (and became a fan of) Bill Liston, and got an in depth exposure to John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton.   This is a *GREAT* album for any aspiring jazz musician, and all trombonists.


Andy Martin CDs

Ask J: Tonguing, Articulation, and Airflow

I am having a problem with tounging, especially when I'm playing legato.I feel uncomfortable, I ikeI might have a crappy attack, the note may not speak, or something will go wrong.

Its pretty agrivating sometimes, and it's making progress on the legato movement of the all state piece, and the rhapsody for euph slow.

I kinda feel more comfortable when I toung directly on the back of my teeth, opposed to on the roof of the mouth directly behind them.but when playing above the staff, tounging directly on the teeth feels kinda ackward and like a long strech....but it does kind of make things cleaner.

so, what are a few things that I should keep In mind???

Hi there- thanks for your question!

Articulation can be a funny thing- it’s almost a “Jedi mind-trick” in that, by visualizing (or thinking) the articulations in your head, you immediately engage the appropriate musculature (and tongue placement in the mouth). When I’ve struggled most with articulation, I almost get an obsessive focus on the tongue and the sound that isn’t working, and then everything seems to get worse (as you mentioned, it gets more aggravating).

Here’s the solution:

  1. ALWAYS focus on your air- the tongue is a light (and momentary) interruption (read here- NOT STOPPING, that leads to other problems) of the airstream. When we focus on the tongue, we almost always forget the #1 rule- BLOW THROUGH.
  2. While the air is moving in a non-stop fashion, think “TOH, TOH, TOH” for staccato, “TOH, DOH, DOH, DOH” for legato or “TOH------------------” then non-stop air for valve slurs or trombone glissando practice.
  3. In general, the tongue hits about where the back of the tooth meets the roof of your mouth (or a little lower) and as you play lower pitches, it gets closer to right in-between the teeth. Note: It’s only literally between the teeth on VERY low tessitura playing--down in the low pedal register. The lower you play, the more “quasi-legato” the articulation becomes--it ends up becoming a very light “doh” or even a “noh” or “loh” depending on whom you listen to.
  4. In short- break it down (do all of these at a slow tempo, then after all are successful, gradually increase the tempo)
    • take the passage that you’re having trouble with and first play a whole note on the first pitch of the passage.
    • next, play a series of progressively shorter pitches without sacrificing the CONTIGUOUS AIR SUPPORT (i.e. fully connected) - halves, quarters, etc.
    • then play the rhythm of the passage on a static pitch (maybe down an octave for a high passage, then up in the proper octave)
    • Finally play the passage in an additive process- 1st three notes, 1st four notes, etc. until you complete it.

I suspect the reason it feels “kinda awkward and like a long stretch” is that you are over focused on the muscles of the “tonguing” and not thinking about blowing through the passage, note, and horn- always focus THROUGH the instrument and passage, not “to” it.

Hope this helps- please check in and let me know how it works out!


“I practice today, so that tomorrow, I will suck less than I do today.”

Seeking your input- HELP!

Moving forward, our mission statement is twofold:

  1. Create the best online portal for trombone content online.
  2. Provide outstanding content, information, interviews, and knowledge for students of all ages.

Please, in the comments below, give us an idea what is it that YOU want would like to find here?   

Where have other online resources (in addition to being scattered about the net and not congregated anywhere) fallen short? - what can we do for YOU?

Free Lesson for Beginners/Introduction to Dr. J

Hi there! I truly appreciate you taking the initiative to come visit my page and see this post!  I've had a little server trouble and am about to start a lesson right now- I will update this page later this afternoon.   Please check back, and also feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions, or would like to get started on your musical journey right away!


Dr. J