Airy Tone by Older Beginner

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by glennled, Aug 18, 2010.

  1. glennled

    glennled New Friend

    Jul 26, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2010
  2. glennled

    glennled New Friend

    Jul 26, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    Thanks, everyone. Here's what I got out of your answers: it is a copy of an email I just sent to my student with the airy tone. If you think I missed the mark or simply want to comment further, please do.

    "What causes an airy tone on the trumpet, and how does one convert it into a big, round, fat, full, solid tone?
    I have been discussing these questions with a bunch of other trumpet players and instructors on an online forum.

    In summary, the best answers in terms of defining the problem seem to be this:
    • The airy tone is simply air that gets by the lips and through the horn without being turned into sound.
    • The lips are not vibrating freely and efficiently.
    • The combination of some 5-6-7 things may be out of balance, but usually it's because the chops (lips and supporting facial muscles) and breath support are too weak (says a tutor who's been teaching 30 years). Practicing too loudly makes this worse.
    • One trumpeter (who played in Maynard Ferguson's band) says the lips "blow open" inside the mouthpiece and need to be set closer together; that is, the aperture is too big for the amount of air coming through.
    My Comments:
    • Be sure your lips are properly placed in relation to each other (top one slightly overlapping the lower one).
    • Be sure that your lips are properly placed in the mouthpiece (centered comfortably over your teeth).
    • The slow, long tones give you the opportunity to breathe and blow properly (use diaphragm, chest and back muscles to force air firmly, smoothly and evenly through the lips; imagine squeezing a ball of air from all directions). Play softly. Relax and remove tension.
    • The lip slurs are like lifting weights; they build facial muscles (as the P.E.T.E. does). Play softly. Rest in between exercises to allow the muscles to recover and thus build strength.
    • Pedal tones relax your lips. Your lips tend to "roll out" and loosen more when down low, and they "roll in" as you tighten them and ascend to higher notes.
    • Pedal tones force you to pump lots of air and thus help build bigger lung capacity and firmer breath support for all higher notes.
    We will select some specific exercises when you return from your trip.
    Thanks for your diligent work."
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2010
  3. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
    Bore size has NOTHING to do with whether a horn is a pro horn or not. Most all student-level horns are ML (approx. .459 -.460 ") and most pro-level horns are the same size.

    Student horns are designed to have more resistance to compensate for a student's weak embouchure, and are built for sturdiness instead of being designed for better intonation and mechanical response.
  4. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    Thanks veery. And I LIKE sturdiness!
  5. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Are student horns "designed" to be more resistant, or is that a result of the heavier matierials and lower build quality, which ultimately results in a horn that plays with more resistance? I mean seriously, was the resistance thing something that was consciously thought about during the timeframe where there became distinctions between models? For that matter, look at Olds Ambassadors - student model horns, but I've played some of them that played very nicely. In fact, I almost bought one for my son when he was initially playing trumpet, but it was used and cosmetically wasn't the best, so I wound up going with a nice playing, new Holton instead.
  6. wolfmann

    wolfmann Pianissimo User

    Aug 19, 2010
    Lets not get too complicated here:
    Put him in front of a tuner.
    Let him blow longggg notes.
    If he cant figure it out from there he will most likely never progress.
  7. glennled

    glennled New Friend

    Jul 26, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    Still working on this airy tone problem with my student. His practicing of lip slurs this month has produced a little better range but no significant improvement in tone. Meanwhile, I've read the book, "The Balanced Embouchure," by Jeff Smiley. On page 78-79, he writes about "The Protruding Top Lip," with illustrations. That's exactly what my student has! And it looks just like the pictures on page 78.

    But I failed to mention it to you guys in my initial post. Perhaps this is the prime cause of his airy tone, what do you think? Smiley says that it makes it very difficult for such players to play in the upper register. "They never develop any stamina, volume, or fullness of tone. No matter how hard they try, it's ultimately a dead-end street...Ninety-five percent of the players forced to switch to baritone because of embouchure problems have a protruding top lip."

    Is this what's going on with my student? What do you guys have to say about your knowledge and experience re: a top lip that pops out like a little button whenever the player buzzes?

    If I had mentioned this in my initial post, would you have analyzed this problem differently, stated the probable cause differently, and given me different advice on the most effective solution(s)?

    Still looking for help....thanks.
  8. Keith Fiala

    Keith Fiala Pianissimo User

    Feb 21, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    He has a protruding top lip? Would that be more due to an over bite or more due to a mass amount of lip tissue?

    Bottom line issues tend to due with either lips being too far apart (not creating enough resistance so it's airy) or too close together (creating too much resistance and a pinched sound).

    Tough to tell just by descriptions -

    But I'd look at lip placement inside the cup and adjust accordingly first.
  9. glennled

    glennled New Friend

    Jul 26, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    His upper lip protrudes right in the center, but only when he buzzes, and then a little triangular shaped "button" suddenly sticks out. It disappears when he ceases to buzz. I thought it made no difference, but Smiley says it's very problematic. "As many as 25% of all players have it," he says. In my limited experience, it's more like 10%.

    His overbite is quite normal and would make any dentist happy. His upper and lower lips are about equal in fullness and average in fleshiness - very normal lips, no massive amount of tissue.

    Poor guy--he's so frustrated yet he's so determined, but the higher notes he plays, the worse the tone. His lower notes (below middle C) are fairly solid. The airiness starts to appear around D-E on the staff. Then he struggles up to D on the staff and occasionally squeaks out an E, while the airiness increases all along the way.

    He's working on lip slurs and using Warburton's P.E.T.E. for isometric exercises to strengthen his chops.

    Rowuk (above) says the lips simply are not vibrating freely and efficiently. You seem to be agreeing and saying that the cause is that his lips are either too close together or too far apart when he sets them inside the mouthpiece, is that right?
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2010
  10. ExtraTeeth

    ExtraTeeth Pianissimo User

    Nov 13, 2008
    Perth, Western Australia
    I am not a teacher and I wouldn't presume to be able to teach but I do know stuff that's helped me.
    I have an overbite and a lip such as you describe and have had problems such as you describe that have been a great frustration.
    The overbite has meant that in order to bring my teeth into line, I need to bring my chin forward. The problem is then tonguing. It feels like my tongue no longer fits in my mouth and can only articulate th th. This means that my chin tends to drift back in order to articulate cleanly. I have only been able to overcome this by constant practice, being aware and simply refusing to do it. It is possible to retrain the tongue to articulate cleanly from the chin forward position. It just takes time.
    The lip shape has meant that the most efficient embouchure for me is with the corners SLIGHTLY forward of repose and the jaw open a LITTLE more than seem natural. These changes are very small and more a feel thing. I have had to learn to resist the temptation to close the jaw when ascending the scale.
    I have found that all this works best with a horn with less resistance rather than more.

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