Pedal tone

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by jason_boddie, Feb 23, 2010.

  1. jason_boddie

    jason_boddie Piano User

    Dec 26, 2008
    Jacksonville, FL
    Ok, so I just finished up one of the most productive practice session in a very long time. Out of it came a question.

    I have heard many people talk about pedal tones and the need to practice them. I would love to know the why behind that, however it isn't required as I will take the advice of the many solid players on here.

    In practicing them today I notice that I was never able to make them sound anything other than my room after eating a whole box of Fiber One granola bars.

    The question is, will these pedal tones ever sound good? Should I shoot for pleasant or are they supposed to sound like crap but have a purpose in their less than ideal sound?
  2. willbarber

    willbarber Piano User

    Nov 22, 2008
    Medina, NY
    They kind of sound like crap, but if you do them right with a solid airflow, they should be full and resonant. Like, they'll never be as beautiful as your tuning C, but they shouldn't (at least, eventually) sound like a 3rd grader touching a horn for the first time.
  3. guyclark

    guyclark Piano User

    Feb 28, 2008
    Los Gatos, CA
    HI, Jason!

    Pedal tones are a good thing to exercise as they require relaxation of the embrochure to make them at all. They are occasionally useful in musical situations as well.

    One such occasion is in the Hummel trumpet concerto somewhere around the middle of the first movement (just before the recapitulation, isn't it?) where some players (I think Wynton is one) play a low pedal Eb (on their high Eb trumpets) rather than the written (in my edition, anyway) bottom of the staff Eb.

    I think that there's also a pedal Eb opportunity in the Saint-Saens Septuor at the end of the first movement (then a nice high Eb at the end of the last movement!).

    One of the Mozart opera overtures (Don Giovanni?) has a written (bass cleff!) pedal C (this is from memory now!) on the first or second line of the second trumpet part.

    I get my best pedal notes from my Yamaha rotary C trumpet. For some reason, it responds better down there than any of my other horns, cornet or trumpet. Years ago, I remember playing a Getzen four valve flugelhorn and being able to go from the low F# 123 to low F 1&4 E 12&4 down to low C# 123&4 into the pedaltones low C, B 2 and below! Years later, I tried a different Getzen and couldn't do it to save my life! I think that Sergei Nakariakov is particularly adept at using pedal tones on his Courtois (?) flugel.

    In these situations, an ability to play good pedal tones opens up all sorts of opportunities for the player to make good music. For the rest of us non-trumpet-gods, it's certainly a good lip relaxation exercise!

    Guy Clark
    not a god.
  4. willbarber

    willbarber Piano User

    Nov 22, 2008
    Medina, NY
    Yeah, as Guy said, low notes on a flugel are mad crazy.
    I picked it up, and tried to play a pedal tone, and was like, "Holy crap, that's a note!"
    And played pedal tones, and was like "Holy crap, trombones play those notes!"
  5. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Playing pedal tones in tune on the trumpet usually requires "lipping" them up. Those same muscles we use to lip pedal tones into tune are the same ones that help in the upper register. Low impact training for the upper register.

    And no, just in case some folk were wondering, playing nothing but pedal tones will not give one a double-C.


    I tried.
  6. john7401

    john7401 Pianissimo User

    Jul 3, 2009
    However it is a good excercise to then use with different slurs and other range excercises to help increase it? Or is this something that shouldn't be worked on specifically for range compared to slurs, ect.
  7. Kiddo

    Kiddo New Friend

    Jan 30, 2010
    Would you mind going into the specifics in terms of the embrochure muscles? How the very same ones used to play pedal tones will aid in the upper register? I'm very curious.

    Because...logically it doesn't seemed right to me; pedals are mainly produced through the vibration of the lips while upper register has to do with air-flow (the embrochure strength until a certain point would have very little to do with the frequency of the pitch, and the high notes are more dependent on the air volume.) Hence the two would have little correlation at best. Pls do correct me if I'm wrong.

    However, in reality, I do find that by playing pedal notes first as warm-up, it eases the difficulty of acing the upper register thereafter (I'm able to play with greater dynamics and less tension), contrary to my 'rationale'.

    So please do enlighten me on how pedal notes affect the lip musculature. Thanks.
  8. guyclark

    guyclark Piano User

    Feb 28, 2008
    Los Gatos, CA
    HI, Kiddo!

    All tone production (except for perhaps pecussive sounds) on a trumpet is based on the lips vibrating, modulating the flow of air through the instrument, causing the air inside to vibrate at a particular set of frequencies.

    To produce pedal tones, which in the purest sense are the fundamental harmonic of a particular length of tubing, one has to loosen the embrochure more than it would be loosened for the main register of the instrument. On most trumpets and cornets, the shape of the bore throughout the instrument does not support the fundamental particuarly well. The first supported harmonic is the second harmonic, the low open "C". We can force the air inside of the instrument to vibrate anyway, by buzzing the lips more violently than normal, and tuning the resultant note by ear.

    I can't produce any decent sounding "pedal" notes, especially the fundamental harmonic on my old Bach 239L C trumpet, but I >can< on my Yamaha YTR-945 rotary C trumpet.

    I have also had luck with various flugelhorns, but none on either my Getzen Eterna Bb cornets or my Schilke XA1 cornet.

    I can produce a fundamental note on my Schilke Eb soprano cornet, as well as my Schilke Eb trumpets.

    Trombonists, hornists, and tubists (including Euphonium players) also play fundamentals as part of their daily regimen.

    Anyway, again, ALL tone production on a brass instrument is caused by the vibrating lips transfering that vibrational energy to the column of air inside the horn, which comes out as a series of harmonically related tones, the combination of which is the characteristic sound of the instrument.

    Hope that clarifies things!!

    Guy Clark
  9. ebjazz

    ebjazz Pianissimo User

    Aug 12, 2005
    SF Bay Area
  10. jeff_purtle

    jeff_purtle Pianissimo User

    Jun 7, 2004
    Greenville, SC
    Pedal tones help improve several things in your playing and result in improving the vibration of the lips. Pedal tones will tend to make you move the mouthpiece higher on the top lip. They will also tend to make you more relaxed overall in your playing. If your lips vibrate more efficiently and freely then that results in being able to play longer in one breath, more power, the ability to play softer too, a better sounding attack because the lips respond when you want them too, better sound, and even improved high notes. In and of themselves pedal tones are not a fix all for everything. But, if you put them with other things you will see results.

    Here are some things on my site that summarize Claude Gordon's and Herbert L. Clarke's teachings about these things:
    Brass Playing And Trumpet Playing Articles |
    Trumpet and Brass Playing Sound Files Featuring Claude Gordon and Jeff Purtle |

    It is also possible to develop the pedals to feel like part of your playable range.


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