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Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by blackmanhighschooltrumpet, Dec 29, 2011.
How do you produce a better tone?
There are a thousand threads on here with the same question. If you read through even a dozen of them, you will find out that the answer is always the same:
(1) Breath control
(2) Proper embouchure
(3) Practice, Practice, Practice (including lots of long, soft, low tones plus lip slurs)
There is no royal road to better tone.
Practice with a teacher who has a great tone.
Climb up a mountain every morning (like Rafael Mendez did as a kid) and try and make the tone so big that one of your relatives or friends down in the valley can hear it. Climb down and see if they could hear it.
Just kidding about the mountain, though I assume it's a true story.
Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release (ADSR) are the elements of synthesized sounds, along with filters. Our mouthpiece and instrument act as a filter, along with our lips, the one variable. Attack, Decay and Release are mostly air issues. The meat is in the Sustain, and that is why we practice long tones, and long tones are akin to meditation in that they are boring. If we work through the boredom we start to discover all kinds of stuff. The space we play in will begin to vibrate, and we can sense that. (Don't ask me how or why.) We can also practice imaging things: hearing ourselves an octave higher or lower for example.
The other element is to emulate other players when practicing. I like a Gil Johnson sweet, a Herseth secure and a Snooky lead, for example, but it ends up sounding like me. My sound is liked by others, but my sound came from long tones, emulating and listening, listening, listening.
I had two teachers who had insightful views on this topic. The first, Leonard Falcone (I'm a euphonium player) always emphasized hearing the result in your mind. "If you can hear it in your head, how can you miss it?" - well, obviously I did or he wouldn't have asked!.
The second was Byron Autry, trumpet prof at Michigan State in the 80s. He emphasized the proper manipulation of the entire resonant column from the lungs to the lips. Making breath sounds, humming, singing, and otherwise intoning your exhalations can help you shape the chamber through which you exhale. Work to audibly produce clear, centered pitches without your horn. In addition to the basics of muscle strength from practice, good support, and not being too "unique" in where the mouthpiece sits on your chops, this practice will help you be focused before the tone is initiated. That will give you a clean and balanced tone.
How you then richen it will then be decided entirely by how you alter your jaw and oral cavity, the material construction of your horn, and the appropriateness of your mouthpiece in size, cup, backbore and rim edge for you personal needs - which you will have to experiment with until you match Falcone's what you "hear in your head".
Practice, practice, practice. In every facet of your practice, you need to listen make it sound as good as you can, tone-wise, in every range, dynamic level, type of exercise, etc. This, of course, means you must constantly use your ears. Listen to your tone and watch for any bad habits during ensemble rehearsals, etc., too.
But, yeah, as others have said, careful listening to great players, especially live, can help internalize the type of sound you should strive to get.
Use lots of air (take deep breaths)
Focus on opening up your mouth cavity on the INSIDE - like when the doctor tells you to say "Ah". What happens before the air reaches the mouthpiece is just as important as what happens when it hits the mouthpiece.
If the sound is thin, try lowering your jaw just a bit to help open up the sound
Keep the airstream constant - blow through all phrases with good intensity
The airstream will go through either a thin or thick straw (your lips). Make sure it's a nice thick straw.
It might help to have someone listening on the other end of the horn. Sometimes it's hard to tell what's going on from behind the bell. Or record yourself. That works wonders (and can be humbling, too).
There are a lot of excellent suggestions here. One thing I didn't notice on this thread, yet, is, blow warm air. Lowering the jaw, opening the throat and similar suggestions will help with blowing warm air. But, just thinking "warm air" as you play helps a lot to produce big, warm sound. On the other hand if you want a bright tone that cuts through the rest of the band and really "sizzles" then warm may not be what you are looking for.
The key is practice, practice, practice. Try different techniques to see they effect your tone. I recommend you record your practice sessions. Narrate what you are doing and what techniques you are trying and then play with that technique. This will let you listen to what it does to your tone. If you have never recorded your practice sessions I think you will be surprised at how different your tone sounds in the recording.
+1 to Shofar-blast on recording yourself (my suggestion as well).
I prefer to have someone listen, but if you're alone, that's not easy...
Not sure I know what you mean by warm air? Our physiology is built to add warmth and humidity to the air we take in, as early in fact as with the nasal cavity (except in the case of Kingtrumpet where his boogers prevent entry into his nasal cavity). I am guessing you mean by taking in a deep breath, in which case there is much body effect at work on processing this air volume, right... rather than using short shallow breaths that are returned back to the horn once taken in. If this is what you mean by warm breathe, then I totally agree, merely from the issue of breath support that is rule number 1 in trumpet playing.