One of the main differences between amateur and professional horn sections is note endings.
Last week I recorded at a major Hollywood studio with major Hollywood players for a major label artist. The chart was in the key of F sharp (concert E). No shortage of sixteenth notes and articulations, either.
We had a few minutes to meet and get a vibe. And less than 2 hours to lay down something that sounded like we’d played together for years.
What does this mean? It means you better be on your game and not screw up.
Phrasing well as a section means you pay as much attention to cutting notes off as you do to starting them.
We’re all familiar with note values, entrances and articulations. But how much time have you spent shedding note endings? Holding dotted eighth notes for their complete value? Or the many lengths a single eighth note can be?
More than any other detail, what we spent multiple takes on in the studio was note endings.
When you hear it done right it’s a beautiful thing. It pops. It sounds pro. (Then when you hear it any less precise it sounds sloppy.)
So next time you play with a section think more about where you’re cutting the notes off.
Is it off on four or the and of four? Do you hold to the downbeat of one or is there a short breath before one?
Those little details—along with (of course) dynamics and articulation—separate the men from the boys.