How to improve tone

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by hhsTrumpet, Aug 12, 2014.

  1. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    My tone tends to drop off (basically go hifi to lofi for anything above low stave) after an hour or so's practice. If I stop at that, it'll usually be back pretty full the next day, but if I push on (I've a lot of stuff to work on just now), I'll have to take one or two days rest sometime for it to recover.

    I can't make up my mind whether it's best to play on and maximise practice time, or limit it to only when I'm happy with the sound.

    Any thoughts?

    (I'm not doing any high intensity range building stuff etc)
  2. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

    Jan 21, 2010
    Great Southern Land
    Do you use a lot of mouthpiece pressure by any chance? I used to, and found I'd thrash my lips during every practice session and need more time than I'd like to recover before playing with any endurance (or good tone) again. If I had a busy practice week the bruising would take even longer to heal up. Thinking about how much pressure I'm applying, and trying achieve the same range/tone effect without mashing too hard, has helped my comfort, endurance and tone control. Recovery time between intense sessions is shorter too.

  3. stumac

    stumac Fortissimo User

    Oct 19, 2008
    Flinders Vic Australia
    I believe that one should never practice to the point where the chops take a day or two to recover, if so the benefit of the last practice is largely negated.

    Recently returned Mon 28th July after 10 days traveling interstate without playing, tues and wed 1/2 hour of low impact was all I could manage, thursday night 2 hour Big Band rehearsal, chops sore after, friday 1/2 hour of low impact practice, saturday morning orchestra for 3 1/2 hours on French horn, chops shot, could not get a note until mon night. Five days of gradually building got me back almost to where I was before break.

    Orchestral concert on Sat 9th, rehearsal in morning, concert in afternoon, all fine.

    Regards, Stuart.
  4. bigtiny

    bigtiny Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 14, 2005
    Sounds to me like you're getting fatigued. In that case, I'd say stop playing. To remedy, a few suggestions:

    1) spend more time doing chop building exercises so that you don't get so fatigued so quickly
    2) always rest as much as you play when practicing. If you work on an exercise for 5 minutes, rest for 5 minutes
    3) make sure when you're playing that you're using your air column correctly and not just using your chops to produce sound. if you're not
    sure what I"m talking about, get a good teacher!

  5. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    No, I'm playing with next to no pressure now and have developed a much richer buzz (for a while at least) than I used to have.

    There's a little voice in my head saying the same thing, Stuart. But then it isn't the same type of fatigue you get from playing high. It's just that a chunk of 'colour' disappears from the buzz.

    Fascinating point you've raised there, Bigtiny. But unfortunately, I'm not going to find that kind of help in Lagos.

    It probably is a chops strength issue at the end of the day.

    Came down with a pretty nasty bout of cholera last weekend so maybe that has something to do with it too.
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    If we play for ourselves (alone in the practice room) there is an overly analytical response from the listener. That is a major tone Killer. We play defensively!

    We do not train our communication skills "alone". Making music is communication. Add public performance to your "routine". Practice in big good sounding rooms as often as possible.

    It is amazing how many members suggest changing something before they even know if there is a problem. Maybe the tone is just fine, but a bit lifeless? Change something for no reason and you are working on fixing something not broke.

    How much of our sound is musicianship? articulation? vibrato? phrasing? manipulating energy? How much of our sound is "emulation"? inspiration? I will even go a step farther: how much of our tone is fine motor activity of the face? How much tone is in a deep relaxed breath? How much tone is in concentration? How much "tone" is in getting a life and appreciating the scent of a beautiful flower? What happens to our tone when someone in the audience smiles. Why is a trumpet players sonic signature independent of the horn that they are playing?

    Can we sound good after laying off the horn for two weeks? Sure we can. Why? If it were dependent on mechanical superiority and muscle tone wouldn't everything fall apart?

    Just what if HHS has a different meaning for "tone" than those posting answers? Would any of the answers provide a framework for knowing when the "tone" got better? This is not devils advocate, it is musician101.

    Our tone and musicianship get better when we play with people better than we are. Even the most consistent of professional players with acknowledged "great tone" would never assign a mechanical skill set to get there. Tunes in a musical context breathe life into every note that we play.
  7. Ed Kennedy

    Ed Kennedy Forte User

    Nov 18, 2006
    Look up Jon Burgess (Ft. Worth) and take some lessons. He'll set you straight.
  8. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    So saying "I'm going to work on developing my tone" is as ridiculous a statement as "I'm going to practise being more musical"?

    Meaning that both are pretty well undefinable quanitities that cannot be even thought about in isolation, but only begin to emerge of their own accord when the nuts and bolts of everything else (air, chops, technique, frame of mind, interpretation, environment etc etc) are in a good place?
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I disagree with this, at least in the way it's written. Tone is a matter of efficient air usage and chops focus, and you CAN work on that in isolation. Employing it in a musical way is another matter, but there was a time when I did work on my tone through copius long tones. I'd do entire practice sessions dedicated to nothing but long tones. (and likewise, I'd do entire practice sessions dedicated to only articulation, and only to flexibilities.) And it worked. My sound got fatter and warmer, more solid, more consistent through my range on the horn - I don't think it's a rediculous statement, and I don't think you need all other aspects to be in place before you do it.

    You can also work on being more musical. Part of it is listening, part of it is working on how you approach and think about phrasing. That's a somewhat mechanical approach but sometimes the mechanical leads in to true expression.

    I think this is another case of trying to over-complicate something that doesn't need to be overcomplicated. When you get right down to it, the only reason we work on tone production and other aspects of technique is so that it's easier to make a connection of true musical expression when we are playing in a musical context - by thinking about those things in isolation in the practice room, we can forget about them and just play when the time comes to make music.
  10. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    I think there's some truth in both points of view, Patrick.

    For someone working from a solid established foundation, I believe you are right. It is possible to develop variations on a theme around your natural sound to suit different musical settings.

    But for others without that firm base - comebackers or raw beginners in particular, I think tone development is more unpredictable, and to a certain extent, appears out of nowhere. My own current tone has come as something of a surprise to me. Less crisp and cold than I remember it being in the old days; more warm and crackly like thick crusty bread fried off in bacon drip. Not a sound I made any conscious effort to attain, but one I'm not unhappy with.

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