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John Q. Ericson

Some brass teachers suggest thinking of the beginning of notes as releases instead of attacks. While you could just brush it off as sort of a use of words issue, that they are essentially two terms for the same thing, actually I see some danger in using the term release for two reasons.

One reason is the term is just confusing. For a conductor a release is not the beginning of a note! It is a term used to communicate how notes end, not begin.

The other reason is the bigger reason for me. I see this concept of “releasing” notes leading directly to hesitation attacks. The route from the inhale to the exhale needs to be one uninterrupted motion. That motion includes the action of the stroke of the tongue at the moment where the motion changes direction. The motion should never stop however! The inhale and exhale need to be timed to the music.

Hesitation attacks are a pet peeve of many professional players. Imagine playing in a chamber group where one member takes an extra moment between the inhale and exhale. When do you start playing when you can’t tell when they plan to finally release the note? It can be hugely frustrating in making music.

It is essential to not have any hint of a hesitation attack in your playing. In this respect in my opinion you are much safer thinking of the beginning of notes as attacks that you start in a distinct manner in relation to timing of a continuous motion of an inhale and exhale, not as a release of the air that is holding air back until a moment when you want the note to start. This is the essence of what a hesitation attack is, and must be avoided in any form.

And if you have a hesitation attack problem, this tip also gives the essence of the solution. Attack the notes at the moment when the air turns around from inhale to exhale, don’t resist the air or be afraid of the note. Insist on the timing having no hint of hesitation, it will pay off down the road.

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