Some people call them "Falls". Some people call them "Fall
Offs". They are basically descending glissandos going nowhere. A glissando
usually ends at an ultimate pitch where a fall just ends. There is no final
note. It's one of many jazz effects. A fall is notated as a squiggly line which
angles downward from the note head.
There are three different kinds of falls and the reason I'm writing about
them is to say that, in a section, every player should use the same type of fall or
it sounds terrible.
The first kind of fall is called a "Half Valve" fall. Half valve
means exactly what it sounds like it means. You push the valves half way down to
get a kind of smearing sound which enables you to descend smoothly.
The half valve style is most effective as a longer fall because of it's
smooth sound and it's ability to descend more gradually than the other two
falls. But it's less effective in shorter falls because it's more difficult to
hear. It's a softer kind of fall, which makes sense because you're blocking the
air stream when put the valves half way down.
(The Wiggle Your Fingers Fall)
This is a rough sounding fall. It's the epitome of sloppiness......which in
certain contexts is exactly what the music calls for.
I think the valve fall probably originated as something more
structured....like a descending chromatic scale. To play a valve fall, just
imagine that you cannot play a chromatic scale and instead you are just wiggling
your fingers all the way down.......you know...........the way bad students do
when they're faking it.
It's an ugly fall, full of brutality and aggression. It looses most of it's
effectiveness in fewer numbers. If you use this kind of fall as a soloist, it will
sound terrible. You really need an entire section of players to make this fall
sound good. More players will make it sound like a descending wall of random
I know that this makes the valve fall seem like an unlikely choice. Random
noise? Rough sounding? Sloppy? It's all of these things and yes it sounds bad.
But it's bad in a controlled way. And that makes it good.....whenever it's used
in the appropriate context.
A lip fall is nothing more than a VERY FAST descending lip slur. To play this
kind of fall, you keep the same fingering as the original note, but you fall off
of that note with only your lips. You do it so fast that the listener cannot
hear the individual notes. If they could hear those notes, they would hear every
note of the harmonic series, just like a descending lip slur.
The lip fall is the fastest, loudest and most powerful of the three. For
obvious reasons, it is more appropriate for the upper register where the notes
in the harmonic series are closer to each other. For that reason, it's important
that the lead player of section should know how low the bottom parts are. It
would be inappropriate for the lead player to use a lip fall when the other
parts are too low to match him.
Don't Mix and Match
It is very important for all the players in a section to match the lead
player's style of falls. These different types of falls do not blend very well
with each other. They have entirely different sounds, different volumes and
different levels of intensity.
In that regard, it's the lead player's responsibility to decide which of the
three falls is most appropriate in each situation. It's the section's
responsibility to listen to the lead player and follow whatever he does, in
everything, not just the falls. I'm amazed by the numbers of section players who
never do this.