That airy, smoky sound...

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by jjmichael1967, May 30, 2014.

  1. jjmichael1967

    jjmichael1967 New Friend

    Oct 24, 2012
    Ok, I am NOT a great player. Let's start with that.
    I am "coming back" after being a very average player in high school. I have been playing for a few years after a few decades off. I have read all of the silly questions about what mouthpiece to use to hit the high notes etc. Practice practice practice. No question. My question might receive similar responses, but I have to ask.
    Think about the solo in the Etta James version of "My Funny Valentine" or any number of similar, beautiful smoky sounding trumpet solos. What is that? What I mean is that I think I have a relatively good tonal quality. I think I sound ok. I have tried a number of horns just to see what kind of sound I can get. There are times when my band covers things on which I need to punch through. I seem to be able to do that and other things relatively well. But that warm butter, smokey thing is just something that I would LOVE to hear flowing out of the end of my horn. I'm just interested in what others might be able to tell me.
    I have an old (LA) Olds Ambassador that sounds nice with a big, open mouthpiece. It's probably the closest that I come. I don't think my ability warrants spending the money to buy an old Committee or something along that line, but if somebody told me that I would notice a difference using another horn or mouthpiece, I would do what it took to make it happen. I would love to get to that sound or close, but I don't want to be stupid and spend money that won't help.
    Your thoughts?
  2. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
    The solo on Etta's Valentine is a flugelhorn - Ronnie Buttacavoli.
  3. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 5, 2011
    Hi jj,
    You stated:
    "beautiful smoky sounding trumpet solos. What is that?"
    That's easy!! You must develop a good fat spectral sound and learn to maintain that sound at any volume.
    To get an "airy" sound I open the lips more.
    This is one of the things I'll do on soft songs where I allow the tone to disappear and while doing this, the "airy" sound takes over and all that's heard is air. However, someone said it's a flugelhorn that's playing on the song you wonder about. In that case, buy a flugel.
    Hope this helps
  4. Wondra

    Wondra Pianissimo User

    Mar 29, 2007
    What some guys do is drop the jaw and make the aperture as open as possible. Also, use just enough air to softly resonate the note. From there, experiment until you get the sound you want.

    It's the airy sound that Dr. Mark is talking about in the previous post.

    Check out Mark Kelly - he posts many videos of his playing on Facebook, and he's really got it down!
  5. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    I relax the corners and cheeks. Not as good as Chet, but hey--he didn't have to play piccolo trumpet too.
  6. duanemassey

    duanemassey Piano User

    Jul 14, 2009
    As the others have said, lay back and relax. Do not attack the horn or play loudly. It's almost a sloppy feel, something most trumpeters and teachers would not encourage. I've heard numerous players buy a flugel, and then blame the horn when their sound was still too bright. You can't get a smoky airy sound at a loud volume, just doesn't work. Your mindset has to be part of the equation.
  7. VetPsychWars

    VetPsychWars Fortissimo User

    Nov 8, 2006
    Greenfield WI
    All you need is that mid-60s Aristocrat and you'll be fighting off the girls!

    Tom (cheeks very relaxed [don't ask])

    {well you could ask but I doubt you'd like the answer}
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    We very often get questions like this and it is kind of like asking how do I find my dream girl/guy.

    You see, SOUND unlike through the stereo is something that WE create for the moment. The very finest players have committed body functions (chops/breathing/body use) to habit and essentially play directly from their creativity without "doing" anything consiously. Now how can that be condensed into a description for someone that does NOT have that level of routine? Well, it can't - which doesn't mean that you can't start working in that direction.

    The first thing that you have to get out of your head is that you can "imitate" someones "SOUND". It simply doesn't work. Our ears and brains have expectations that we cannot simply overcome. We have to work WITH them and create our own SOUND (which can also be dark and smokey).

    The second thing that you have to get out of your head is that what a microphone picks up can be available without amplification. The real "smokey" players massage the microphone, or play to very small crowds. The BIGGEST mistake is to buy a big mouthpiece because the tone gets darker. The problem with a new mouthpiece is that our brain almost always wins and if your brain gets signals from the ears that "YOUR SOUND" is not coming, it tells the chops to compensate. Endurance is gone, range is gone and the smokey sound is gone.

    My recipe is a bit different for those that have a course that they want to follow: get an image of WHO you would like to play smokey to. Hang a picture up in your practice room and play/practice to them in a VERY intimate way. Seriously backing off on the volume is a VERY good start. As time goes on, you will discover the ability to "wrap" your SOUND like expensive sweets and "present" those sounds as gifts. THIS is how we achieve this goal. If we have the dedication, we will be able some time in the future to play to images that we create in our head.

    It is helpful when you do NOT practice in very small rooms with hard walls/glass. The reflection of the trumpet sound back to your ears is very bright and we tend to start playing more diffuse.

    1) practice softly and intimately
    2) have an image of who you are playing to and why
    3) play dark and smokey tunes with a metronome - nothing worse than mush without rhythm
    4) play dark and smokey scales
    5) do not neglect articulation. Whispering "I love you" unintelligebly and in a voice not your own does not get the desired results!!!!!!!!!!

    That being said, I would also hang some pictures of people that you would NOT want to play smokey to. The consummate trumpeter needs it ALL!
  9. Franklin D

    Franklin D Forte User

    May 23, 2009
    The Netherlands
    Five years ago I started playing the trumpet (sorry, I started with a cornet). Because I played slide-trombone for 20 years I decided to do it on my own. I quickly developed quite a beautiful airy jazz sound, got a lot of compliments.
    Then I heard a classical player who filled up a big hall with the most pure and big sound, all out of such a f***g rotary. I wanted that! I went to a teacher, he listened to my beautiful airy jazz sound and said: play the same without the air. Helas, end of part one. I had to start all over again, lost one year and a half.
  10. Wondra

    Wondra Pianissimo User

    Mar 29, 2007
    I'm going to try Rowuk's imagery approach - sounds like a nice way to access emotion as a guide.

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