Using pressure to improve tone.

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by SmoothOperator, Jan 10, 2011.

  1. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010
    I have been practicing with the low pressure and low mouthpiece force for a while. Recently though I have found that the only way to get a consistently good tone throughout the range of the horn is to pucker my lips up and apply a small amount of pressure.

    I can hit the notes above and below the staff, but they just don't sound very good, every time without a little pressure.

    Is this normal, or a slippery slope? I think it is odd, that I need the pressure in the low range too, almost backing off into the high range, also I don't seem to need any more lung force and if anything it seems I need less.
  2. Satchmo Brecker

    Satchmo Brecker Piano User

    Jul 19, 2010
    Very good question. I'm sure some vets will chime in soon. I'm a relative newbie and I've found I do need to pucker a little in different registers. BUT...I'm thinking like you that might not be correct. The pros I've seen close up, like on youtube, always seem to not vary their lips one bit. I was really struck by this watching a Miles video where it zoomed in real close, while he played stuff above/in/below the staff and his chops didn't vary at all.
  3. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    SmoothOperator asks:
    I can hit the notes above and below the staff, but they just don't sound very good, every time without a little pressure. Is this normal, or a slippery slope?
    Yep. Just be careeful to not add a lot of pressure as you go up. We never get rid of pressure, we learn to control it. If you find yourself using too much pressure, STOP PLAYING, blow out the lips like a horse, take a drink of water, and reset the lips onto the mouthpiece and get back to playing.
  4. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Pressure is necessary - just don't overthink it and don't overdo it.
  5. Solar Bell

    Solar Bell Moderator Staff Member

    May 11, 2005
    Metro Detroit
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I should probably have added that while pressure is necessary, you'll know if you are overdoing it because certain things will start to creep into your playing - chiefly a reduction in endurance and range, but also a thinning of the sound, a "pinchiness" of sound, intoniation inconsistencies, accuracy issues, fuzziness in will manifest itself in a number of different ways, but endurance and range seem to be the first culprits I notice when I start turning into Flex Armstrong with the trumpet. I have a tendency to allow pressure to creep into my playing due to the hard, loud, high playing that I have to do with the party band I play with, and every now and again I have to take it back to square-1 in the practice room to bring it back into balance. :-)
  7. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010
    That is some good info. So, too much pressure will cause other tone issues. Something to listen for. I was trying to get a little fuzziness/warmness.
  8. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    I'll again reiterate that all the pressure as is necessary is that as makes a seal of the lips to the mpc. Range is not the required quest ... tone is. IMO, the use of pressure is indicative of lip weakness. I am pondering the correlation between competent whistlers and brass horn players, knowing that whistling also requires strong lips. I still can whistle! As a LEO I seldom used my Thunderer, and found I could call cabs in NYC and DC as well as any doorman without that small piece of brass. I just have to make sure my wife isn't nearby when I whistle, whereas I expect my tone is at least 8va from normal trumpet when I whistle.
  9. JediYoda

    JediYoda Mezzo Piano User

    Sep 25, 2010
    State of Confusion
    Corect me if I am wrong. But as a comeback trumpet player. Returning after 20+ years, playing now for 2+ years I have found that trumpet playing as far as the approach is alot like singing.
    I am a classically trained tenor and I find the word intensity fits real well into this discussion.
    As I sing higher in order to keep the same tone quality it boils down to two different things.
    Breathing properly and maintaining the intensity.
    I not talking about playing louder or straining to hit the high notes with good tone.
    I am talking about the word intensity. You can have the best technique in the world, but if you don`t have the mental approach you will not succeed.

    As a trumpet player when I maintain the mental intensity but I stay relaxed and use very little pressure my tone stays the same in all registers.

    I will admit I am a nut and believer in poracticing pedal tones.

    I do not know if i contributed anything to this discussion.....but peace all!!
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    To be honest, I think that there is hardly a subject imbedded in so much major BS than pressure.

    There are players that can play with low pressure and many of them assume that this is universally applicable to others. HOGWASH!!!!!

    Every one of us is different. Depending on many value judgements that we have to make, we may or may not be suitable for a "lowest pressure" approach. If we don't have our breathing together, we can forget it - no chance.

    I think the major goal is not low pressure - it should be to get the job done. Most of us can reduce pressure enough by EVOLUTION - continued logical practicing with the brain turned on. Many that choose REVOLUTION, usually end up sounding like crap for at least a year and then only if they get lucky, find a way back out.

    I am not saying that low pressure does not work, I am saying that you need to be pretty dedicated if you don't naturally play that way and there is a strong chance that you will discover that it will never work. If you are not suitable, your tone will be thin, bright, endurance weak, consistence below all expectations.

    What is low pressure supposed to accomplish? I can only think of one thing: keep the player from squeezing off the chops when playing high. This assumes that there is enough breath control and synergy of chops, tongue and body use to get the job done.

    My advice, don't take the jump unless there is a real good reason to. Play to sound good today. Practice sensibly and as much as possible the things that you CAN'T play today. Be satisfied with normal progress, don't expect miracles. Earn what you need and you will have it for life.

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