the myth of "fast air"

Discussion in 'Trumpet Pedagogy' started by rowuk, May 2, 2008.

  1. Bixel

    Bixel Pianissimo User

    Jan 1, 2010
    Yes, we can easily determine the air velocity, because there is a reliable indicator of the air's velocity: pitch.

    Forget about the trumpet for a short moment.
    Just think about mouthpiece buzzing:
    I have quite exactly the same range on both mouthpiece with trumpet and mouthpiece without trumpet.
    What I can play on my trumpet I can buzz on my mouthpiece (alone), too. And vice versa.
    My body works and feels quite nearly the same way on both playing trumpet and buzzing on my mouthpiece.

    When mouthpiece buzzing the pitch raises by raising air compression and making a smaller an aperture by raising the lip tension.
    At a given pitch (= given air velocity) the loudness raises by raising the flow (air flow per second) which is done by raising air compression and by making the aperture a little bid more open to a degree so that the pitch (= air velocity) keeps constant.

    Of course you don't (consciously) determine the air velocity itself by (consciously) shaping the aperture and controlling (consciously) the air compression.
    It's just the other way round: by (unconsciously in a way) controlling the pitch what you do is control the air velocity.

    The trumpet itself has (almost) nothing to do with it.
    It just resonates when the lips produce something the trumpet likes to resonate to.

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2010
  2. kalijah

    kalijah New Friend

    May 5, 2008
    You can not directly control velocity thru an aperture by size. You can control velocity by pressure. You can regulate flow by size once the pressure is established.

    Pressure is required to play louder on a constant pitch.

    So it is likely that there is a velocity increase as well.

    This would negate any correlation of velocity to pitch.

    Show me how you measured velocity, flow, pressure, apeture size. Did you correlate it to pitch? To loudness?

    Exactly how does air velocity influence vibrational frequency?

    But congrats on two things:

    1. Correctly referring to air flow as "flow" and not "air volume".

    2. Considering air velocity THROUGH the aperture and not thru the oral space.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2010
  3. Bixel

    Bixel Pianissimo User

    Jan 1, 2010
    In my opinion there is only one direct relationship: air velocity and pitch.
    The average velocity of the air molecules makes the impact on the lip tissue: the faster the air, the higher the frequency of the lip vibration, if the lip material functions properly and the tongue is helping, too.

    All other variables (pressure, aperture size, flow) work in a dynamic balance.
    Pressure and aperture size control both pitch and loudness - which makes the system slightly complicate.

    Not only pressure is required to play louder but at the same time there must be a slightly larger aperture, too. Otherwise the tone gets louder and the pitch goes up at the same time, because more pressure rises velocity, too, unless a larger aperture allows more air molecules to pass through in a given time period so that their velocity (= pitch) remains the same as the velocity of the fewer air molecules before playing louder.

    I can't tell, but this is what it feels like for me when playing trumpet.
    And it "feels logical" - this is nonsense in terms of science, of course, but I don't care.
    To me it's a system of thinking that declares all I experience - so far.
    I will not be surprised if science one day will confirm that system.
    Until then I'll take it unless something more logical comes up to me.

    Sorry for my poor English. I'm not a native speaker as you might have noticed.

  4. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land
    Nothing much wrong with your English, mate. Often non-native speakers have a better technical command of another language because they learn more formally, rather than colloquially, like the rest of us. Of course it helps a lot if the language student is very proficient in their own native tongue - I suspect your knowledge of German is excellent.
  5. Tal Katz

    Tal Katz New Friend

    Apr 23, 2006
    WOW... I hope I'm not doing a mistake by posting in this thread as I can see it was started a long time ago, but I've been trying to go through all the 15 pages and get a grasp of all this information.

    The issue for me is dealing with all the technical information. My knowledge in physics isn't that great but I'm definitely wanting to understand these issues as best as I can.
    Too often I get to hear teachers talking with their students about fast air and even worse ideas like diaphragm breathing or breathing down low or belly breathing, and whenever I get to work with these kids I have to somehow break all these myths for them and I try to do my best. Of course they'll start arguing with me about what they've been told. I usually get them to shut up when I ask them to explain those theories for me :) They usually fall into a trap.

    However, my intentions are always good as I don't enjoy seeing students struggling to play the trumpet, playing with tight, choked sounds and doing weird physical things. Efficiency is definitely the key here as Rowuk mentioned many times!

    Now! Thing is, I do believe that saying wrong things is just wrong! I don't believe that one should think about "fast air" to play higher just because it works for them. Because in reality it's just not how it is. I think that after practicing for a long time believing that concept is true and naturally developing your range, you just associate these wrong ideas together as a habit.
    I don't think it REALLY is a matter of visualization, rather just a habit of associating words and physical actions.

    I truly think that all of you that are really knowledgeable in the fields of science (Rowuk, Kalijah, NickD, etc.) should either write a well-written assembled post or a book or post YouTube videos that should somehow be information accessible to trumpet players and especially teachers who don't have a full grasp of physics. I do believe it's important that we'll have a theoretical understanding of how playing the trumpet works so it could help us figure out how to imply it practically. Also, the ability for teachers to explain to an interested student how something works is important.

    For me it's easier to understand some of the complex information when you guys use simple examples like you did a few times in your posts. I was wondering how hard it would be to create artificial buzzing, flexible lips and pump air through them in different velocities and pressure, testing the different relationships between these variables? Anyone who's up for doing that could video-tape it and put it on YouTube for example with test results. A live example like that would definitely be easier to grasp.

    Thank you all for the great information and I hope I could understand most of it someday.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2010
  6. John Mohan

    John Mohan Pianissimo User

    Aug 11, 2004
    Actually, just about everybody on the list you made does acknowledge the tongue arches up (and forward) for higher notes. There are videos of both Maynard and Al Vizzutti on youtube where they talk about it. It's true they don't make it the main emphasis of their teaching, but I don't think any of the people you listed deny it. But it's true, there are certainly many players, both amateur and professional that think they keep their tongues down flat in their mouths when playing, all the time. But:

    In all three of the different University-Sponsored research studies involving Fuoroscopy (X-Ray motion pictures) of the tongue (one by John Haynie, one by Claude Gordon and Larry Miller, MD, and one by Dr. Keith Amstutz), none of the many participating trumpet players were able to play into the upper register without arching their tongues up and forward. Maurice Andre was one of the participants of the Haynie study. He went into the study thinking he kept his tongue down flat in his mouth at all times. When he saw the motion picture of his tongue arching as he ascended into the High C region, his reaction was to exclaim, "Oh my God!"

    As for the issue whether or not the tongue arch creates fast air, that's another issue. I used to be 100% convinced that the up and forward arching tongue creates a thin, fast powerful stream of air, much like a nozzle on the end of a garden hose creates a thin, fast, powerful stream of water. But (believe it or not, Kalijah), I am no longer convinced that is the case.

    In my (current) opinion, the up and forward tongue arch does create a thin, stream of air that is concentrated - meaning its power is concentrated into a very small cross section. It is my belief that this very thin stream of air hits a very small area of the lips, causing a smaller area of the lips to vibrate in reaction to this thin, powerful stream (in other words, it helps to create a very small vibrating aperture area).

    Now, one could try to argue that when playing a G above High C this very thin stream of air is moving faster than the wider, less concentrated stream of air hitting the lips when one is playing a Low C. Or one could argue that the speed is the same. Or one could argue that the speed is slower. I think it is most likely faster, but very thin, so in terms of volume, as we know, there's not much air volume going through. (As we all know, there is certainly far more air volume going through the lips when playing low notes compared to high notes). But am I convinced it is faster? No. Kalijah, wake up, wake up... :)

    What I am fairly sure of, though, is the idea that when playing high notes, the up and forward arching tongue, by creating the smallest part of the air passageway just before the airstream hits the lips, is causing a very small area of the lips to be hit by that very thin airstream, and this helps to create a very small vibrating aperture.

    As a second benefit (at least for me and others I've checked), when the tongue arches up and creates a longitudal channel for the air with the sides of the tongue creating a seal against the sides of the molar teeth, all the air pressure is contained within that channel and therefore, the rest of the oral cavity (the sides of the lips and the sides of the cheeks) is not being subjected to the air power. All the air power is concentrated on the area that needs to be subjected to it. In this way, endurance is vastly improved because one does not have to clamp down so much with the facial muscles to keep the air pressure contained. Claude Gordon told me he had students who had a gap in the corners of their lips so wide, he could see their teeth while they were playing a Double C!

    I devised an experiment where I used a non-collapsable hollow coffee stirrer (like a tiny stiff straw) to verify the above. I placed the stirrer through the corner of my mouth, placing it so that it ended in the area between my molars and my cheek, and proceeded to play. It felt a little awkward but it didn't effect my playing too much. I found that in the lower and middle registers, air would leak through the stirrer as I played. But I found that when I played up above around a G on top the staff, the air would stop leaking through the stirrer because there was no longer any air pressure contained in the sides of my mouth. My conclusion is that when I play in the low and middle registers, my tongue is down low and the air pressure is distributed evening throughout my oral cavity, but when I ascend into the upper register, my tongue arches up and forward, creating a longitudal canal along the roof of my mouth and sealing the air pressure into this area and away from the sides of my mouth and the sides of my lips.

    In summary, one thing we can all agree on is we learn to play by "feel". We develop our ability by developing strenght and coordination. The coordination part is the "getting the feel or knack of it" part. I think the best way to develop an upper register is to do playing exercises that develop the required strength and also exercises that bit by bit, take one into the upper register, so as to help the player get the feel of it. Examples of the strength building type would be the Part 1 Exercises throughout Claude Gordon's "Systematic Approach" book, as well as the Clarke Technical Studies, when they are playing many times in one breath each. Examples of the "getting the feel of it" type exercises would be all the many good Flexibility books, again, the Clarke "Technical Studies" book, and the Part 2 Exercises throughout Claude Gordon's "Systematic Approach" book.

    Best wishes,

    John Mohan
  7. scaramanga

    scaramanga New Friend

    Feb 27, 2010
    What you say about a thinner airstream/small aperture makes sense to me. Also, and this is just a thought (and its late at night) but could the tongue arch be effecting the angle of the airstream as it leaves the lips into the mouthpiece? After all we blow more into the top (or bottom) of the m/p when we want higher notes.
  8. FrenchBesson

    FrenchBesson Pianissimo User

    Jul 2, 2008
    Here is a comment to me from a New York "heavyweight" after I sent the link to him for review

    Too much thinking, the one guy is full of S--T, These people like too
    here themselves BS....Play a loud low c and a loud high C!! F--k that
    guy, go practice douchebag.....the aperture is smaller the higher you
    go.......that's why you can hold a high C longer!!!! GEEZ Still
    thinking about how much to charge you for your ?? Breathe attacks are
    always a good idea , they keep your aperture close , more vibrating
  9. scaramanga

    scaramanga New Friend

    Feb 27, 2010
    Well he may be a heavyweight player but with comments like that hes not much of a teacher, or come to think of it - not much of person either. This is an interesting discussion - how about we keep it positive or stay out of it - ?
  10. FrenchBesson

    FrenchBesson Pianissimo User

    Jul 2, 2008
    He is a fine person, a fine teacher and not many can play in the section with him..just a few on the TM could do that. His points are salient. Some times an over intellectual approach can get in the way. Play the horn, keep it simple. He is to the is about playing.

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