Newbie tone

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Jude, Feb 12, 2008.

  1. Jude

    Jude Piano User

    Dec 2, 2007
    As far as reading music and fingering go, I'm a come-backer, but for sound production, I'm a newbie all over again. But this time I can hear my tone (blessedly, as a 5th grader, I never thought about it).

    After almost 4 months of long tones, pedal tones, dynamic exercises, articulation exercises, lip slurs, tunes - at least an hour a day, more often more - I still sound lousy. When my teacher plays, every note starts crisply and is rich, vibrant: alive. My notes sound a little fuzzy, and flat. Tentative. So, teacher's gone to Florida for a month and I can't ask him (again). His usual answer to a question on how to fix anything is "play more" (we're in New England: I'm lucky to get that much out of him). It's hard to play when you're wincing, though.

    So is this tone business something that usually corrects itself over time? How much time? (I've got enough sense not to ask him that, but I'd really like some idea - weeks, months, years, never if not by now....). Not everyone who wants to sing has a voice worth it - what about trumpet players?
  2. s.coomer

    s.coomer Forte User

    Mar 25, 2005
    Indianapolis, In
    What has your teacher said to you about air, support, and air flow? If he has said nothing then I would ask him. If he does not give you any kind of answer and your still unhappy with your progress, then maybe it's time to find a new teacher. I don't mean to be knocking your teacher, as I am a teacher as well. However, some teachers are better suited for some people and not for some others.
  3. Forte User

    Jan 27, 2008
    Brisbane, Australia
    Are you sure you're not being extra hard on yourself? If you're like me, you're a perfectionist and it's really hard to play "in the moment."
  4. Firestas'1

    Firestas'1 Piano User

    Dec 21, 2006
    New Jersey
    Make sure you are using enough air, also try to not have too much tension in your lips.

    Try some lip bends to bend the note down a half step then back up to pitch, many times this will help you center your tone as well as relax your embuchure.

    Listen to some recordings of players you admire and try to emulate their sound. Often just having a concept of what sound you are trying to achieve in your mind can help you to produce it. Think only what it sounds like not what it feels like.

    Here' a quote from Adolph Herseth posted on another site by one of his students; "A trumpeter's life is risky, and you have to be able to take those risks. No great playing is accomplished if a person is afraid of playing. To be timid or favor notes or ranges is running away from that risk."

    The trumpet is inherently a LOUD instrument. Dont wince or be tenative, blow the horn! If you're going to make a mistake make it a good loud one!
  5. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
    What misty says is right on. Relax. Play some of your time just for fun. Record yourself and see if you hear the same thing from out front as you do from behind.
    If you can try some different instruments and see if you still sound bad.
    Take in a big breath, play a long tone, and see if you can manipulate it to sound different. Good steady air is very important. Try moving the mouthpiece up and down, as well as from side to side on your lips to see if it sounds better. Also angle the horn up and down for the same reason.
    Check your posture. Chest open, elbows away from your sides, shoulders back, but not up (shrugged). Take in air as if it is going into your belly, filling from the bottom up. Release it as if exhaling. Don't "push".
    Work with just the mouthpiece, trying to get as clean a sound as you can. 5 minutes on the mouthpiece with the focus on getting that clean sound, then add the horn. More long tones. Forget exercises with fingering and do lots of long, slow tones. Listen!
    Take your horn in the bathroom and see how it sounds in there. You'll get more feedback to your ears and maybe can figure out how to get a better tone.
 likes this.
  6. commakozzi

    commakozzi Pianissimo User

    Oct 30, 2007
    Georgia, USA
    I can only guess at what you actually sound like and what's actually going on with you. However, try this and see if it works: when starting a note give it a good OVERYLY strong attack, but don't split your tone. Don't necessarily try to play loudly either, but just overdo your attacks by a lot... hammer the heck out of them!!! Work with this until you hear yourself getting a good crisp sound off the attack without splitting the tone, and then slowly work yourself down to a normal attack. Do this several times every day, and let us know if that helps any. You should also, as someone has mentioned already, spend a fair amount of time with the mouthpiece before ever touching the horn. Try to get a good solid buzz that makes your face tickle! I can usually feel my whole head buzzing! Start off on low C, and try your best to get a solid tone. Buzz: C, D, E, F, G, F, G, F, G, F, E, D, C. Then go on to B: B, C#, D#, E, F#, E, F#, E, F#, E, D#, C#, B, etc. down to F#. Then play the second line G. Try to play a glissando slowly up to G above the staff from the second line G, and then slowly back down all the way to pedal C. Use a piano or keyboard (if you have it) to check your pitch. Make sure that you're not skipping notes in the gliss and that you're playing a good solid mezzo forte to forte. If you can't buzz up to G above the staff then don't worry about it. Just buzz as high as you can. The most important part about this exercise is getting a clean pitch bend from second line G to G above the staff (or whatever your top end is) and back down to pedal C. Be demanding of yourself, and once you've got that clear glissando with no breaks then take a minute to rest before moving on to your horn. Do this DAILY!!! You will notice an improvement probably immediately, but definately within a week. Still work on those hard attacks too. Let me know how it goes.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2008
  7. flugelgirl

    flugelgirl Forte User

    Jan 20, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    I've taught a bunch of adult students, and one of the wonderful things about it was that they actually listen to what you say, and understand and really try to play everything correctly....i'm betting that your problem is that you simply need to relax and enjoy what you CAN do right now, and remember that the rest will come with time. There's no set time limit - there's a different learning curve for everyone, and you're coaxing muscles into shape that you may not have ever used. It may take weeks months, or years. Focus on small goals - if your current goal is to play a measure right that you always mess up, you can accomplish that in a matter of minutes, and feel good about it. then set another small goal and work your way through that - it's really that easy! Anything you can do now that you couldn't do before is an improvement, and you can take joy in that! That's the only way I've survived this gig, myself, and it's the way I'm managing my current recovery. Excersizes that were at 88 last week are at 92 today, and I can be happy with that. Just let yourself enjoy the small victories :)
  8. Eeviac

    Eeviac Piano User

    Jude I bet you sound teriffic compared to me, I've only been at this a little over a month.

    I get fuzzy tone, "double buzz" etc sometimes but the more I practice the more I get a better tone. I actually took like 3 lessons with Eric Bolvin more than a year ago, when I lived in the San Jose area, and I know what a good tone feels like, it's like the horn/me system goes resonant. Oh he likes ppl to play LOUD too lol. If you're in that area, maybe you could take a few lessons with him, he teaches out of Music Village.
  9. Jude

    Jude Piano User

    Dec 2, 2007
    Maybe I got more than I bargained for? Thank you, everybody.

    "What has your teacher said to you about air, support, and air flow?"

    Hmm, nothing. I seem to have plenty of air – he sometimes holds and holds long notes at the end of a piece when we're playing duets and I haven't had to give up yet (and there's also plenty of spit) - but I've been meaning to ask what this "air support" is that keeps coming up.

    Misty –around here, people generally tend to refer to it as being obsessive, I'm afraid. Thanks for the synonym!

    Many good suggestions, some of which I'm already doing. About playing more loudly – I'm just back from the music store and the guitar guy I ususally bitch to about guitar problems told me the same thing when I started complaining about my trumpet playing for a change. (The sound-proofing there isn't all that great – he's been hearing me.) I may have been over-doing the sotto voce bit. (Which is supposed to be good for the embouchure, I think.)
    "If you're going to make a mistake make it a good loud one!"
    Now there's a slogan to live by!

    About recording: ouch! But I recorded my teacher playing one part of some up-coming duets (for when he's away) and he doesn't sound nearly as good as he did when I was sitting next to him. I was concentrating on his sound as he played, and he was good. The recording – well, it's accurate, but the sound is kind of dead. Like mine. Strange.
    About the mouthpiece: I worked with buzzing while the horn was being repaired (before I'd played a note on it) – Sound the Trumpet recommended it highly, and there was nothing else I could do, anyway. When I got the horn back I gave it up in relief. Maybe time to go back to it, huh?

    Back from playing the bathroom: what a difference! I almost looked around to see who else had come in. It sounded like a trumpet (you know, made out of metal, not a plastic toy with a buzzer). I glanced out the window, half expecting to see the troops forming up, the centurions bawling, Caesar's horse pawing the ground... you get the idea.

    Wonderful, specific Things To Do. I've been working on making my tonguing sound as light as my teacher's (and any decent player's, I guess) – ok, it's not working, I'll try your way.
    Buzzing. Ugh. Ok, ok – I kind of turned against it when I discovered after I got the trumpet back that I'd been practicing the French horn part of the range). I'll use the reference pitches on the tuner/metronome.
    G-on-top-of-the-staff is about the top of my playable range – I'll work on glissandos. (I've been doing Jeanne Pocius' "chopcheck," slurring up by 4ths and getting higher than this, but I can't use anything except the A - sometimes - in a tune.) I've got a feeling this is apt to take a while. Maybe I'll sit on the edge of the tub and see if it sounds any better bounced off the tile.

    "It may take weeks months, or years. " Ok, that's what I was hoping to hear (while dreading the "if you can't do it yet, obviously you're never going to do it" – I'm a slow starter and tend to frustrate teachers. Then the brain kicks in… I've learned, generally to wait.)
    Progress, not performance – I'll buy that; if my teacher gets discouraged, I'll just try to buck him up. Maybe a month away will help his mood (it's not just me – the little girl with the lesson before me has come out looking on the verge of tears the last couple of lessons. And she's better than I am. (Not way better.))
  10. Jude

    Jude Piano User

    Dec 2, 2007
    (Whoops, we were writing at the same time. )

    "Loud" seems to be a recurring theme here.

    Sounds like you got a good start with EB, but I'm on the other side of the country - someday I'll get around to figuring out how to put the location in that little box on the left - so maybe I'll get into Boston to see Jeanne Pocius this summer. (Work's coming in fast, right now.)

    About the double buzz - on TH somebody said that cleaning the mouthpiece may help. I tried it - hard to tell. (Like Misty, I'm paying a lot more attention to horn cleanliness than I ever did as a kid - I am absolutely certain I never, ever washed my trumpet then. It got valve oil, and that was it.)

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