20 Pieces in Changing Meters: A Review

By Donn Schaefer • May 30, 2002 • 2 min read

Davies, Kenneth W. 20 Pieces in Changing Meters for Unaccompanied Trombone. Puna Music Company, 1999. 32 pages.

I remember my first exposure to mixed meter almost as much as the first time I laid eyes on tenor clef. The resulting cacophony during an otherwise civil rehearsal did little to impress the conductor. Like myself, many trombone players first encounter changing meters in compositions written for band. Standard etude books usually stick to one meter in each etude, leaving teachers with a lack of lesson material that can be used to teach the skills needed to negotiate changing time signatures. Fortunately for trombonists, Kenneth W. Davies has written an etude book that focuses on changing meters.

20 Pieces in Changing Meters for Unaccompanied Trombone is a collection of etudes written for students in the 11th-12th grades or first year of college. The music is laid out in an easy to read format and covers a wide range of dynamics, tempi and meters. Each etude has it's own distinct style. One includes a passage from "Ride of the Valkyries," one borrows themes from Hindemith's Sonata for Trombone, and another is based on Dave Brubeck's "Take Five." The etudes are musical and enjoyable to work on.

20 Pieces includes pentatonic, atonal, serial, and whole-tone etudes, as well as pieces based on fourths, thirds or chromatic scales. A notable feature of this book is that none of the etudes have key signatures. As the author states, this is due to the atonal nature or rapidly changing key centers in each etude. Whatever method of composition a given etude is based on, there is always a strong sense of musical logic and phrasing. Davies gives the player plenty of musical challenges in addition to focusing on mixed meter.

Etudes range from pedal B-flat (only appearing once) to B-flat an octave above middle C. All of the music is written in bass clef. Most of the music is in the staff or above; use of an F attachment is not required on any of the etudes. None of the etudes stay in one register for too long, making this a good book for players who are just starting to develop their upper registers.

I have begun using 20 Pieces in Changing Meters with my college level trombone students. The etudes work well with freshmen and sophomores, and may be used as sight reading material for more advanced students. Members of my low brass studio have found these etudes a welcome addition to the standard fare of Bordogni and Blazhevich.

Kenneth W. Davies has given us an exciting new etude book. I would encourage trombone teachers to add this to their arsenal of teaching materials. If Davies expands this book in the future, the inclusion of a few etudes with key signatures would be beneficial. As it stands, this is a valuable addition to the pedagogical materials available for trombone.