How do we play high notes???

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by NickD, Nov 23, 2005.

  1. joey

    joey Pianissimo User

    Nov 19, 2003
    Here's the problem of thinking about how to play high notes:

    What's the first 'High Note'?

    Is it 'C' above the staff? The 'G' above that? Or maybe the 'A' above the staff?

    Once you start to think that a note is a high note, you separate it from the rest of your trumpet playing. Why treat notes differently because they're higher? If you treat range like anything else you'd want to improve in your trumpet playing (sound, articulation, flexibility), you can practice for a consistency throughout the entire range of the horn, not just how to get out some higher notes.

    I have an exercise I do every morning for range. It starts on low 'F#'. I also have an exercise I do every day for multiple tonguing...and sound...and flexibility...well, hopefully you get the point.

    Range is just another aspect of trumpet playing. It can be practiced in both technical and musical ways to improve it.

    Trust me, once you start thinking that note is high, you've already lost the battle.

    Joey Tartell
  2. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    I think we're missing the point...

    The point of not obsessing about high notes is well taken, but that wasn't really the point of this "exercise" in this post. It was intended as an intellectual discussion about what is happening when a trumpeter ascends in pitch. I personally find it interesting. There are strange things that happen when you get up there.

    For one thing, there should be NO SLOT for a double C, but there clearly is one that just pops right in! Cool, but why? (heh, heh) Also, the different methods folks use to play in different registers is also intriguing (well they are for me).

    Again, I would argue that understanding what is going on should NOT be a hinderance in playing.

    Ostensibly, playing is about "form" in one way or another - well the physical part is, in any case. If one is having a bad day physically, a quick check of form can usually fix things, and then the form aspect can leave thought.

    But don't trust me! ;-) Do what works for you! If that includes not thinking about how the thing works, that's cool! The purpose of this thread wasn't to tell you what to do but to contemplate the physical acoustics of what is going on.

  3. Bear

    Bear Forte User

    Apr 30, 2004
    Don't worry Nicky, I'm with ya, I like a good convo on physical aspects from time to time.
  4. 11thchair

    11thchair Pianissimo User

    Jan 27, 2005
    Evansville In
    Re: I think we're missing the point...

    Just like a physics teacher :twisted:

    But I wished you would have been my teacher (but you are probably younger than me)
  5. W Scott

    W Scott Piano User

    Dec 8, 2003
    Carson City, NV.
    Nick, you made a good point about there being no slot for a Double C---but it's there. We can make all sorts of sounds that are real close to a note--but they aren't. These sounds are called 'partials'. Take your horn, push all three valves down and use your chops to go from F# to around a G at the top of the staff. One of the partials along the way is about (but not really) where the Eb would be.

    The partials sound to my ear, quite similar to the sound I hear in many trumpets when they head into the double register. Why? I don't know. I don't think it's mouthpiece---could it be our leadpipes are the source of partials and the driving force behind the double register? I've seen pictures that show a trumpet bell vibrating, but I'd love to see the same thing done to a leadpipe. Any chance you have access to the equipment, Nick? :?:
  6. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    Leadpipes, mpces, and stuff...

    The notes that we get out of "bugle calling" on a trumpet are approximations. I won't go into the whole shpeal here, but the slots are caused by a "conspiracy of conical sections and cylindrical sections" on a trumpet.

    The slot for the double C is an odd ball. I wonder how much it depends on the mouthpiece and lips in the mpce ring. I also get a real nice slot at double C on the leadpipe.

    As to the laser-speckle photos of trumpet bells (there are also some holograms of bells), they are nice, but tend to indicate some conflict with the ideas of trumpers and physicsts. Check out Thomas Moore's article on this in the ITG Journal a year or so back. In any case, I personally don't have the equipment to do this. Moore does. So does Tom Rossing of NIU.

    The general consensus is that there is very little energy radiating from the bell vibrations o fht metal when we play( compared to the sound coming out of the wind column through the bell itself). This isn't to say they don't effect us, but not in the way trumpeters usually think. Moore suggests that the bell vibrations feed back directly to the lips helping them vibrate a bit better. The bell isn't moving enough to shake enough air to noticably affect the sound we hear, but it does shake the lips and gets into the picture that way. It is another subtle avenue for feedback to the lips.That, too, may help give rise to a slot at double C.

  7. W Scott

    W Scott Piano User

    Dec 8, 2003
    Carson City, NV.
    Nick, I had to go away and think about that last post of yours for a while.

    So, the bell vibrations don't impart much energy as opposed to the air column? O.K., I can see that. If you put a practice mute into the bell and blow, the trumpet vibrates but you don't hear much. Take the mute out-instant sound. So, here's some questions to think about:

    1. If air column is the primary reason for the sound----why isn't the air OUTSIDE the trumpet affected? I would guess because it's not the right shape---i.e., a 'column'. That, along with the huge volumn of air outside the horn as opposed to the small volume inside. The horn then shapes the air. How? Presumably by the twists and turns, along with the type of bell flair. So, interiror shape and volume are two important variables for a horn?

    But that can't be all of the story. If you take your horn out of it's case, it already has air in it. Air flows from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure until equilibrium is reached. So, pick up your horn with air in it and (without blowing into it) push down the valves. What do you get? Nothing resembling a note---maybe a quiet 'pop' from the valves. Why?

    So, we blow into the horn and start moving air through the horn. But wait---the air moves very slowly through the horn. So, even if we blow hard and fast, the notes aren't coming out because of air flow alone. What's going on?

    I'd suspect that the flow into the trapped air column is creating an increased air pressure. Faster air, higher pressure gives the energy needed to form the very short sound waves needed for high notes. The bagpipes work on a similar principle. The piper blows air into a bag that's tucked under his arm. He then squezes the bag to force air into the various parts of the pipes. By controlling how hard he's squeezing the bag, the piper controls the sound of the pipes.

    I feel an experiment coming on. If one were to take a trumpet, put it into a well padded vise; then take a source of air like a fireplace bellows and use that to pump air directly into the leadpipe while someone else pushes the valves down----what would you get? Could you control the sound and the pitch? Could we figure out how high the air pressure/flow has to be to form high notes (assuming that our theory is correct)?

    Something to think about.....

  8. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    Good question

    Good questions, Bill! Let me give it a go here.

    First, the air inside the trumpet is a bounded wind column in the shpe of some cylindrical sections and a few conical sections. There are two "barriers" that constitute the end boudaries: the lips and the bell barrier. Only a bounded medium can resonate because it has a finite size and can actually support reflections. Resonance is a feedback process involving reflections.

    The air outside of the trumpet is just the medium that carries away the sound that gets past the bell barrier. All wind instruments are "leaky resonators;" some of the sound must get out to be heard. If you think it is loud in front of a trumpet, go check the volume at an antinode in the wind column.

    The bell vibrations aren't big enough to move much air (according to Moore's measurements), but they can be felt. If you can feel them in your hands, you can feel them in your lips, and Moore was contemplating the idea that this can constitute an unexpected feedback path. He actually could detect this, if memory serves me correctly.

    Now, as to the air moving in hte horn. There are TWO components in the horn. There is a DC component the air flow. This doesn't contribute to sound in any way. We can hear 0 hertz. It is just the air that we have to flow between our lips to make them vibrate. Then there is trhe AC component - the note we hear.

    There a couple of experiments you can do that are fun and interesting. I do one in which I first play a loud high G for my class. They usually react "sharply." Then I dip the bell of my horn in bubble solution and challenge them to predict what will happen to the bubble. Most predict it will fill very fast and burst in a second. What in fact happens is that it takes me many minutes blowing as hard as I can to fill the bubble up much before it bursts. The note doesn't matter and we only actually move a few CC's of air per second through the horn!

    Another neat trick was publish in the ITG journal a few years a go. They did it with a trombone. The authors took a trombone mouthpiece and sealed off the end of the backbore with a little piece of Mylar, so you couldn't get air through it. However, SOUND will go right throuh mylar. Because it is flexible, it is acoustically transparent. However, you still needed to get some air through the thing to get the lips to vibrate. Well, they achieved this by drilling a hole in the SIDE of the mouthpiece, so air could leak out the side. They could play the trombone just fine, as long as a little piece of soda straw was inserted in the hole increasing the resistance. If the straw was too short, the resistance was too low and all of the sound went out of the side and the horn didn't play well. If the straw was too long, the resistance was too high and it was too hard to blow. Things to make you go hmmmm, when one is thinking about drilling out the throat!

    Lastly, I do that last demo with a trumpet, but I found that covering the end of the backbore with a bit of mylar wasn't very effective for a trumpet mouthpiece. The coupling into the horn wasn't very good. The way I do it is to take a mylar bag and tightly seal the whole bell, so I can't blow air through the horn. I can marginally play the thing as long as the straw is just the right length, as above.

    The point of all of this is that the sound goes through the horn at 340 m/s, but the actual air flow speed isn't that high. It is highest at the throat of the mouthpiece, but slows down quickly in obedience to the Bernoulli principle after it enters the backbore, leadpipe, etc.

    It is the wave that gives rise to the sound, and the shape of the wind column gives rise to the overtones we perceive of as trumpet sound.

    Finally as to your bellows experiment, this is just about what Moore does in Florida. He has a set of artificall lips and he use a compressor to blow air between them into a trumpet mouthpiece to play the horn more natrually that with an old fashinoned salpingometer. However, the same principles outlined above are still in place; it is not the flow that produces the sound, it is the wave and the wave resonance that does. The flow is just the mechanism that result from the need to blow air through the lips to get them buzzing. You don't even have to have the air flow through the horn, as long as the acoustic wave can get into it. The old fashioned salpingometers used little speakers to drive the horn for making measurements and they had NO flow at all.

    I hope I've answered a few questions here. In any case, I have to bounce for now. I'll check back later and see if I need to clear anything up.

    Try Googling artificial lips + trumpet, and see what you get. Pretty cool.


  9. W Scott

    W Scott Piano User

    Dec 8, 2003
    Carson City, NV.
    Well, I'm not sure what a 'salpingometer' is (even after an online search), but I did find several references to Professor Moore. What was interesting was seeing pictures of speakers (much like the little computer ones) being used to power the sound in a horn. There's no air flow there!

    The experiment with the Mylar seems to indicate that, for us humans, some air movement has to occur. The fact that the length of the straw has an effect brings up two questions:

    1. Is the effect of the straw length due to the pressure (or lack of) in the air column within the horn? Indications are that it isnt'....

    2. Does the pressure 'pin' the lips so that they either can't vibrate or can't vibrate effectively?

    3. How, then, do we take this theoretical knowledge and make it practical?
  10. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    More good stuff...

    OK, let's have another go here.

    1.) I'm not sure I spelled salpingometer right, so you moight need to check that. I'm doing this off the cuff in between desparation phone calls trying to replace my drummer who dumped my gig this Friday! Oh well... It'll e cool.

    2.) The effect of the straw is based on viscous drag - dissipative resistance. The longer the resistor, the greater the resistance, the wider the lower, etc.

    3.) I'm not sure what you mean does the pressure pin the lips. As we blow, the lips buzz, but we need to move air between the lips to do that. It needs a place to go, and that is usually through the horn, at a rather slow rate. If the resistance is to high, the DC flow isn't enough to get the lips vibrating. In the extreme case, if the resistance is infinte, no flow, no sound. It the resistance is too low, the slots all get to spread out and we don't have a good responating system.

    4.) Practicality, well let me see...

    For one thing, when it comes to drilling open throats, that is actually a tricky matter. I remember when it got around the Herseth was using a 22 hole, everybody ran out started drilling away, but that can be a bad idea. All of that sort of thing depends on backbores, receivers, leadpipes, etc. The mouthpiece ought to be matched to theo horn AND the player. It's a symbiotic thing.

    Also, the notion of how we mover air can get a bit confusing. "Use lot of air" can be a mantra for many players, and I would be the first to agree that this is imperative. I just find it interesting to note that even when we think we are blowing huge amounts of air, we in fact, are not moving nearly as much as we night think. It is all relative, however.

    For me the air thing comes in this way. I use a lot of air, but I just tank up for the moment. For example, if I am going to just pop a very short note on top of the staff, I won't fill up like a ballon about to burst. If I am going to play a pianissimo secttion, same thing - I'll take a deep relaxed breath, but I won't over-breathe. However, if I am going to try to hammer a high G as loud as I can on a rock gig, I'll take a very deep breath and go into a Shew wedge. Why the deep breath? The wedge really compresses the air (a compressible fluid) and I'll need a lot when I squeeze it all together for the big shot.

    These are just a few ideas.

    BTW, one of my alternate drummers just called and is available! Whew! That was close!

    Bill, great thoughts. One warning... I LOVE to analyze what is going on, but when I PLAY, I keep the "theoretical" to an absolute minimum. I go into making music mode. I only resort to "mechanical thinking" if I seem to be having a "bad night" or if I have to let 'er rip wihtout a warm up. Then i'll get form conscious until I get things on track, and then I let that all go as quickly as possible. In other words, I see the "theoretical discussion" as one frame of thought and the "artistic" as a seprate one. I leave to all of you to sort out for yourselves how much you want to mix. That is an individual thing.

    Keep 'm coming, man! You've got some great thoughts.


    I hope that helps a bit.


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