Practice Rooms

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by chryxz, Oct 21, 2007.

  1. chryxz

    chryxz New Friend

    Dec 25, 2006
    Hello everyone,

    My name is Chris, and though I've been a member and peruser of the forums for some time, I haven't posted that much. I'm just under a month into my new embouchure that my professor has been helping me with. I'm enjoying a lot of success in the switch. Trumpet playing has never been easier or more fun. Well, it's still not EASY, but a lot easier than on my old setup ;-)

    Now to the question. When I'm practicing in the practice rooms (my school has the compartmentalized sound-proofed kind), I think that I blow differently. I know that I sound differently than I do in rehearsals or in larger, not sound-proofed rooms. My sound is a lot more...stuffy I guess would be the word, in the practice rooms. I'm sure this has to do with the soundproofing, but I think I change the way I blow because I'm getting different feedback. When I play in larger rooms, I play relaxed and with a free sound. In the practice rooms I have a tendency to choke off the sound a bit.

    I wonder if anyone can give me a good explanation of how to counter this? Today, I had an excellent practice session in one of the rooms that aren't sound-proofed. I want to make sure I have more of these so I can cement good habits into my new embouchure.

    I finally feel like I can actually play the trumpet, and I want to make sure I keep heading down the right path.

    Thanks for your help,
  2. gchun

    gchun Piano User

    Dec 10, 2003
    Hey Chris-

    I've dealt with the same practice room problem. It's tough if that's the only place you have to practice. Some things to think of:

    1. Don't overblow. There might be a tendency to overblow to get the same feedback to your ears, or to attempt to get your regular resonance. Overblowing could lead to spread chops, swollen chops, hard tone, etc.

    2. Keeping #1 in mind, if you are playing softer, make sure that you are still using proper air support. It's easy to drop your support while trying not to overblow.

    2. Try practicing with earplugs or cottonballs in one or both ears. This can help to internalize your sound. If you can internalize your sound, it might be easier to not overblow. If you can get this to work, it could later be helpful on loud gigs. Bobby Shew recommends this.

    3. Try to find a hard surface to point your bell (glass window, music stand, open piano lid w/sustain pedal down, etc.) Experiment with distances to find a resonant spot.

    4. Always try to remember (muscle memory-wise) the feel of your chops while playing in a normal setting. When you feel yourself deviating from that feel, take extra caution and reevaluate how you are blowing.

    5 Try to check your chops in a normal room to make sure you're not getting too far off base.

    6. Try a few minutes with a cup mute. The mute's sound doesn't rely on the room acoustics. Try doing some soft long tones with the mute.

    7. Talk to your prof. If the school has those rooms, you can't be the first to deal with this. Maybe he can give you suggestions, or find a another place for you to use every once in a while.

    Good luck, (I feel your pain!!)

    Last edited: Oct 21, 2007
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    there is a VERY big difference!
    Our hearing is based on sonic clues that occur over time. The first part is the direct sound produced by an instrument. As this is closest, it arrives at the ears first and we can only judge the "color" of the sound at this point. The first reflections (echo) tell us about how far away the instrument is. This first reflection has to be at least 10 msec later than the direct sound to give our brain a chance to process it. Later reflections > 30 msec give us clues about the sonic nature of the room.
    Sound travels at about a thousand feet per second. This means a room that would sonically react in a natural way has to be about 50 feet long (1000 feet/(1/100th of a second)=100 feet=50 feet to the wall and 50 feet back).
    Anything smaller "smears" this time information and confuses our brain.
    The second problem is the response of the trumpet. High frequencies are absorbed by air proportional to the distance from the instrument. The sound of our trumpet in a great hall is a combination between what we hear directly and what comes back to us from the room. The bigger the room, the darker the reflected sound. In a practice cell, most everything is reflected back, with all of the high frequencies and smeared in time. This gives your brain clues to do things that are not necessary in a "better" room!
    A third effect ist what happens when the energy from the room is reflected back down the trumpet to your lips. To test this, play a long soft tone and have a buddy play some loud short notes - in a small room, you can easily feel the "pressure" on your lips.
    My advise is to play as often as you can in better rooms. That builds the embouchure/ear/brain connection and will give you the best results. When in a small room, remember that loud only succeeds in sending more confusing signals to the brain. Listen to your body, it will tell you what is good or bad!
  4. rdt1959

    rdt1959 Pianissimo User

    Oct 31, 2003

    Although I am NOT going to double check the physics in that post (hey, if I want to do equations, I will do them for my boss and get PAID for it!:lol: ), I do agree with and actually practice Robin's advice.

    And I will add one more thing too it. It helps if you can do a warm up in the room that you are going to play in. This gets our bodies (i.e. ears, brain) and our mental perspective ready to play. Given the venues I play in a week... everything from a small practice room, a church sanctuary, a band room with REALLY bad acoustics, and the stage of a fine arts building...I find that warming up in the room that I will be playing in is a great help, and results in a better practice session (or performance) for everybody.
  5. mahaberio

    mahaberio Piano User

    Apr 30, 2006
    Robin is right on. Something I try to do as often as possible is change the type of room I practice in. Unless you're in a major orchestra you likely won't be playing in the same space the majority of the time; and even they have to adjust quite a bit to the different halls when they go on tour. I know Michael Sachs goes as far as changing instruments between C trumpet and flugelhorn for the posthorn solo in the Mahler 3 depending on whether they're in Severance Hall or Blossom, the orchestra's summer home. If you're in a stuffy practice room then it's probably not adviseable to cater your sound to it, but it can't hurt to practice adjusting your playing so that you sound your best in any given setting. One of the nice things about most music schools is the diversity of venues. Mix it up as much as you can. Does your school allow you to sign out chamber music rehearsals rooms, auditoriums, recital halls, etc.? If so, I would do this often.

    Great to have you here. Keep posting!

  6. TisEkard

    TisEkard Pianissimo User

    Jul 28, 2006
    L.A./Orange County CA
    you should just practice outside. Most of the brass players at my school avoid the practice rooms, and its always nice to play in the sunshine.
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Outside is interesting, but you need to avoid spaces where the sound has nothing to bounce off of. Our ears/brains need clues and they are only available through decent acoustics.
    You can build power outdoors, but never a nice sound.
  8. pipedope

    pipedope Pianissimo User

    Sep 2, 2007
    I am suprised that no one has mentioned the Yamaha Silent Brass with the more expensive audio box.
    You can adjust the box to produce sound like a small room, large room or ???

    The big drawback is the $$$
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I use the Yamaha but it is NOT a good way to regularly practice, even with the box!
    The sound that we think that we have is a combination of that what is radiated off of the outside of the bell plus that what we get back from the room.
    The silent brass has a mic in the bell, the rubber stopper damps any bell vibration and those 2 factors destroy any REAL feedback. In addition, the Yamaha amps have a compressor built in to keep the volume fairly constant. That is great for not blowing your brains out, but is terrible for developing sound.
    The Yamaha is a maintenance device for me when I simply cannot make noise. It works very well in that respect, but more than a day or two is POISON!

    There is no substitute for a good room of sufficient size. The shortcuts YOU take just make the difference between you and the other players getting jobs, winning auditions.............
    Moral of the story: go that extra mile! Find a church, auditorium, cafeteria, whatever. You will reep the rewards and that is the bottom line!!!!!!!
  10. pipedope

    pipedope Pianissimo User

    Sep 2, 2007
    It is true that the big room is best but many of us do not have that option for practice normally.

    I can play daily in a 12' x 28' cabin or outside.
    Right now it is possible to play outside with the temperature between 20 and 35 degrees F but soon it will be below zero.

    I am nuts but not THAT nuts.

    We always do the best we can with what we have available.
    Get the best horn, the best fitting mouthpiece, a great teacher and whenever possible a big concert hall with great acoustics.

    If you can practice in the concert hall daily then by all means DO!
    I must say I am jealous.

    I will continue to push my beater horn in my tiny cabin and jump at any chance to play a real hall especially if I can also upgrade my instrument too.

    One other thing about practicing in a variety of rooms is that you may need to perform in similar rooms someday. It pays to be able to get the best possible sound even in the small, nasty room as well as the grand hall.

    We play an instrument that is not just the hunk of brass in our hands but includes our own bodies, hearts, minds and souls and also expands to include the room and everyone/everything in it.
    It is up to us, the artists to make the MUSIC the best it can be in each and every performance in whatever room that might be.

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