Trumpet Discussion Discuss Scott Englebright. in the General forums; The topic about air this last week got us thinking so we have decided to sit
down and write up ...
Mezzo Piano User
The topic about air this last week got us thinking so we have decided to sit
down and write up a new chapter for everyone to
read about 'faster' and 'more' air. We figured that by posting it on our
page and here, perhaps we can give people some new ideas about playing.
We will eventually make additions to our books, but this goes out to all
of the people who ordered our books and to everyone actually. Hope it
helps!! If you add it to your book, print as 'Lucida Handwriting-14'
Fast vs More
Many people who play the trumpet never seem to grasp the concept of
'faster air' and 'more air'. To most, the two are synonymous. Most of
us have heard others referring to them interchangeably. However, in
order to play well, you must be able to make the distinction between
velocity and volume.
It is well known that faster air creates higher notes. Without getting
into physics, playing high basically boils down to how fast your lips are
vibrating. Remember when you would blow up a balloon, squeeze the open
end, and create that obnoxious squealing sound? Well, your lips
basically work the same way. The greater the tension, the faster the
vibrations and the higher the pitch. Since the balloon isn't concerned
with tone clarity, it's not bothered with getting a tight, squeaky sound.
When we play by creating faster lips vibrations, it's imperative that we
focus on speeding up the vibrations WITHOUT changing the lip tension. If
the lips change, typically so does the clarity of sound. Now, for those
of you who are still in the dark, let's take the next couple of chapters
and discuss the terms 'faster' and 'slower' air.
When you hear people mention faster air when they play, they are usually
referring to higher notes. As stated above, the faster the air, the
faster the vibrations, and the higher the pitch. When you inhale a full
breath and blow through the horn to play, you probably don't think about
the little, important things that can make playing easier and more fun.
If you are going to think one thing, make sure it's the amount of air you
inspire. The less air you have to use, the worse you will sound and the
more difficult playing will be. Now, when you think of faster air, think
of how your face is formed just prior to blowing out a match. Got it?
Now, without changing the resistance you feel when you blow, form your
normal embouchure by reforming your lips. After that, take in enough air
to blow out a cake full of candles and play your horn.
Hopefully that made things a little clearer. Now that you understand
'faster', let's discuss 'more' air. When you breathed as you did to blow
out the candles, you probably realized that there is only one way to fill
your lungs. An important thing to remember is that what is important is
'what' you do with the air you have inside. If you take in a lot of air
and aren't efficient at exhaling to play the trumpet, you won't see
results. Also remember that you usually don't have to think about
breathing at all. You have to think and concentrate when you breathe to
play a wind instrument!! Now that you have taken in air and have formed
your embouchure, try playing the loudest note possible. To play louder,
you have to use more air. Make sense? It should, but that's not the
Since there is only one way to breathe in, isn't there only one way to
breathe out? Well, yes and no. When playing the trumpet, you know how
versatile you can be by playing louder, softer, higher, lower, or any
combination of these. How can this be if air simply comes in and goes
out? Well, it was stated earlier that what you do with the air inspired
is of utmost importance. When you played that loud note earlier, what
would have happened if you used a little more air? That's right, you
would have played a higher note. Let's figure this out. When you play a
note, your aperture (the little hole that air goes through to vibrate the
inner part of your lips when you play) should only vary slightly. If you
don't change the size of that hole and you use more air, that air becomes
faster air. Let's look at your ordinary garden hose for comparison.
When you cut on the water with your garden hose attached, the water may
travel 3 or 4 feet out. If you were to attach an open nozzle with a much
smaller diameter, the water shoots out much farther. Now, think about
playing the trumpet using your air in the same way the water travels out
of the hose. When you cut the water all the way up (force out as much
air as possible), the water travels the greatest distance (your range
ascends). When you cut the water down (use less compression to force out
less air), the water doesn't go as far out (your range descends). Think
of each note that you play having it's own little 'level' or stair. When
you play a constant, steady note, you are on a certain level. If you
keep using more and more air without changing the size of your aperture,
you hop up to the next stair or the next higher note (open, 1st, etc...).
When you use more and more air, your note gets louder and louder until
the breaking poinit (next partial note up). If you use less and less
air, the note gets softer and softer and eventually hops down. If you
use too little air (or not enough air to stay on that certain 'stair'),
you drop down to the next note. What if you wanted to play a softer
high note on the trumpet? Well, the system remains the same, but on a
much smaller scale. As stated earlier, the aperture should only vary
slightly. If you close the aperture slightly (much like the aperture of
a camera or the iris of your eye increasing and decreasing the pupillary
space to regulate the amount of light hitting the lens), less faster air
will travel through creating a softer high note.
From a TPIN email from 2001.
Mezzo Piano User
. The whole idea is to
NOT change the aperture size. You will need to increase the force that
you use when you contract the muscles around your mouth to support the
increase in air speed/volume. But, the end result is that you have
hopefully done everything necessary to NOT change the aperture size. If
someone tries to push you over, you push back (Newton's third law of
motion). The point is you *compensate* to remain standing. The same
thing can be done to NOT change your aperture. Basically you use the
muscles in your face and the abdominal muscles to play the trumpet. The
more you rely on your abdominal muscles, the easier playing will be, the
more power you will have, the higher and lower you will be able to play,
the better your pitch (constant) and you won't get tired. Increasing the
lip tension will usually cause problems (poor sound). I said USUALLY!
So, don't cry and start screaming if you are the one in 1,000 that uses
your face to play and you play well. Again, think of a water hose. It's
the same thing. You can't argue with physics. Air and water work in the
same sort of way. Just don't cut the water down (keep the flow of air
constant as you play). Don't try to rely on your face to do the work!
You will only get *so* far with your playing. Set your aperture, support
the air with firm corners, and blow like crazy! If everything is in
'order', you will see a difference. However, have patience! You must
get coordinated. Count on it not working at first. The more you think
about it, the more it will make sense. Air speed increases the number of
lip vibrations. The faster the vibrations, the higher the pitch. When
you combine an increase in air speed (more air) with even more air (more
air than you need), the sound will get louder. When you tighten the lips
or press, you are also increasing lip vibrations, but that's more work
and it hurt. You can only press so much before your teeth cave in and
you can only push the lips together so much before they close off the
flow of air.
Good post, Dave. Thanks for one more "take" on embouchure. (or should I thank "Scoot"?)
Great post. Coincidentally, when I was practicing yesterday I remembered something I saw on a Bobby Shew website. He was explaining the "Shew Wedge", and how easy it is (for him at least) to go from a High C to Double High C. It's air dependent, as long as the embouchure is set correctly.
I "self-corrected" myself yesterday, because I wasn't taking in enough air...filling "completely" from the bottom up. What a difference it made, especially in tone production..
You are doing a great job Dave! All the best.
PAUL NELSON - Eclipse White Lightning / Getzen Eterna 900 Classic
After "confirming" my self-correction while practicing today, I thought that I would tell you what I had done. I was able to "double" my air capacity/delivery by:
Allowing my abdominal muscles to be relaxed when filling from the bottom up. From a side view, you would think that I had gained weight. But, the increased ability to fill the lungs was significant. Then, after the lungs are filled, the abdominal muscles can be properly used to "speed up' the air flow. The analysis by Scott Englebright (of water in a hose) is right on the money!
After breathing this way for two days, it is starting to become "automatic". My "abs" actually feel like I have been doing "crunches". Notes above the staff are as rich and full as those in the staff. Also, endurance improves dramatically because the air is doing the work and not the embouchure (lips).
I had read this all before, but your post made me re-think it and apply it. I'm glad I did.
Thanks! All the best.
PAUL NELSON - Eclipse White Lightning / Getzen Eterna 900 Classic
Mezzo Piano User
Rules For Ensemble Playing.
1. Everyone should play the same piece.
2. Stop at every repeat sign and discuss in detail whether to take the
repeat or not. The audience will love it.
3. If you play a wrong note give a nasty look to one of your partners.
4. Keep your fingering chart handy. You can always catch up to the others.
5. Carefully tune your instrument before playing. That way you can play
out of tune all night with a clear conscience.
6. Take your time turning pages.
7. The right note at the wrong time is a wrong note (and vice-versa).
8. If everyone gets lost except you follow those who get lost.
9. Strive to get the maximum NPS (notes per second). That way you gain the
admiration of the incompetent.
10. Markings for slurs, dynamics and ornaments should not be observed. They
are only there to embellish the score.
11. If a passage is difficult, slow down. If it's easy, speed up.
Everything will work itself out in the end.
12. If you are completely lost, stop everyone and say, "I think we should
13. Happy are those who have not perfect pitch for the kingdom of music is
14. If the ensemble has to stop because of you, explain in detail why you
got lost. Everyone will be interested.
15. A true interpretation is realized when there remains not one note of the
16. When everyone else has finished playing, you should not play any notes
you have left.
17. A wrong note played timidly is a wrong note. A wrong note played with
authority is an interpretation.
Mezzo Piano User
Article from the Houston Chronicle On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the
violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln
Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you
that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with
polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid
two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time,
and slowly, is an sight. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he
reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the
undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other
forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin,
nods to the conductor and proceeds to play. By now, the audience is used to
this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his
chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs.
They wait until he is ready to play. But this time, something went wrong.
Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin
broke. You could hear it snap - it went off like gunfire across the room.
There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he
had to do. People who were there that night thought to themselves: "We
figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the
crutches and limp his way off stage - to either find another violin or else
find another string for this one." But he didn't. Instead, he waited a
moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again. The
orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played
such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.
Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with
just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak
Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing,
recomposing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was
de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made
before. When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then
people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause
every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and
cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he
had done. He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet
us, and then he said, not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent
"You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you
can still make with what you have left." What a powerful line that is. It
stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the
way of life - not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has
prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of
a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings.
So he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with
just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any
that he had ever made before, when he had four strings. So, perhaps our task
in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make
music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer
possible, to make music with what we have left.
-- Jack Riemer, Houston Chronicle
From an email by Scott.
Rule 18. Instead of warming up, paying attention to the conductor to get those last minute cues, making sure that all your mutes are in the right locations, SPEND THAT TIME POLISHING THE FINGERPRINTS OFF YOUR HORN. That way it will be much shinier when you hit those unplanned 'solos'.
Mezzo Piano User
I'm really not out to disprove what someone says or tell people they are
wrong when talking about air (I'm sorry if it sounds that way). All I want
to do is share with everybody what works for me and what goes through my
mind when I play. I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else, but I am
saying that I am satisfied with the way I play and I feel that if you think
about the right things, you, too, can me satisfied. Also, time is
definitely a factor so I will try to address as many messages as possible
now. If you don't want to read what I have to say and couldn't care less
about air, stop reading now! :)
What I like to suggest is that people play a G in the staff as clearly as
possible. I belive that the aperture size has a lot to do with sound (along
with air). Once you get a nice sound on that note in that register, don't
change anything! Many teachers tell their students to press the lips
together to play higher essentially closing off the aperture. The tissue
inside the aperture is what vibrates. So, if you close it off, you are
basically choking off your 'reed'. This will cause your sound to suffer.
Pressing your lips together will give you a couple of usable note, but
beyond that everything will progressively get tighter and smaller. Once
your aperture is set (G), Blow more and more air (tightening your abdominal
muscles....blowing out a table full of candles). Narrow=faster in physics.
So, your air will be going much faster. Faster=higher. Think about
squeezing the sides of a balloon to get that squeak sound. The harder you
pull, the faster the vibrations/the higher the pitch. Don't emulate the
tension, just the speed of the vibrations. To succeed at playing music you
must have a nice sound. That's why it's imperative that you work on sound
first so it isn't compromised in any way. Now, when you form your
embouchure, you don't want too much tension in the surrounding muscles. Lock
them down, but don't make them rigid (forming a fist vs tightening a fist).
Too much rigidity = bad sound. So, think about saying 'Mmmmm', tighten the
corners, and blow. If you take the work from the face muscles and have them
do as little as possible, you won't have 'bad days', you won't get tired,
you won't have to use pressure, and playing will be more fun. I think
everything is easier said than done. But, with a little practice and
understanding, anyone can play anything with little work. It's really easy
to get confused when thinking about little details. But, if you look at
playing from a distance, everything makes sense. Compressed air creates
faster vibrations. The trick is to get accustomed to blowing a lot of air
through a little hole. That's all there is to playing. Blowing through a
straw the size of your aperture may help. It's a different sensation, but
essential. As I said earlier, more = faster through a small hole. The
water leaving your house doesn't change, but the speed it leaves the hose
increases with a nozzle. I can cover 3 octaves easily by simply blowing more
air (while completely concentrating on what is happening) and not changing
anything about my head or face. So, I know it works. You just have to get
really good at blowing. If it sounds stupid and lame, I am sorry. It works
for a lot of people, myself included. You can play high many different
ways. But, what I am talking about is complete control of the upper
register....and lower register. Let your air do all the work. When I talk
about playing high, I mean soft and clear to loud and clear (i.e.'peeling
the paint'). What is cool about this way of playing is that if you do
everything correctly, a G in the staff feels the same on your face as a G
above high C. Your abdominal muscles are much tighter, but the face pressure
doesn't change. Now, what is also cool is that when you find the best
sounding middle G (i.e.pitch center), nothing changes in your face so the
sound of each note remains as clear as the G. I know it may look good on
'paper', but it really works if you concentrate on what you are doing when
Many beginners play WAY above pitch center. When they lower their jaw a
little, more air can flow through, but more importantly, the tension between
their lips is less leaving their aperture more inclined to buzz freely
giving them a much clearer sound. This is where a mute (e.g. harmon) let's
them find hear where pitch center is on each note. Try playing a note high
on the pitch and sticking the mute in. Then, lower the pitch as suggested
and take the mute out. You will hear a perfect sound if you find that angry
buzz with the harmon mute. This should only be used as a tool, though. The
back pressure is capable of forming bad habits in beginners. Then, they
should eventually get the way that clear note feels and what adjustments
must be made to bring them closer to a more pure sound. Then, they will be
able to hear the difference. Again, anyone's arguments or statements about
air speed having nothing to do with playing are 'shot down'. When I play I
concentrate on what is going on. All I am using is air speed to play. I
used to play the other way (focusing on lip muscles, tension, embouchure,
etc...) and know the difference. I only got so far and could count on 1 or
2 bad days a week If frequency of the vibrations are predetermined and are
matter, how do change pitch? You can only create so much tension in your
lips just like you can only press your lips so tight. What then? Do you put
your horn away and go home? Doing anything to your lips limits your
ability. Think about it. However, the tension created in your abdominal
muscles is more than enough to play anything. Air creates vibrations at
higher frequencies. You can't make the 'lips' vibrate without air. Air is
the one qualitative thing that defines what you can do on the trumpet.
Again, if pitch = smaller aperture....you can only go so small until you
close off. This, without a doubt, is a limitation. Plus, your sound will
change if your aperture changes. Maybe I'm just stupid, but it makes sense
to me...and it works for me. When I play higher, my corners get tighter.
They don't go back, down, up, etc... They just get more firm. This has
nothing to do with lip tension. I have thought about it a lot when I play.
How much tension would I need to play a tripple C and the C below low C? My
face simply doesn't noticeably move when I play the 2 extremes. There are
tons of ways to play. There are also easier ways to play and sound good. I
associate with some of the best players around and the more questions I ask,
the more I find out how similar our ways of playing happen to be. I have
worked with beginners to semi-pro's and their range has gone up (sometimes
an octave) and their sound improves...and their lower range gets better. It
isn't probably that these results are coincidental. I have yet to see a
post definitively disproving the concept of 'faster air'. Instead, I
interpret the remarks I have read as mass confusion. I hope what I have
said helps someone.
P.S. Again, this is what I do when I play and I'm satisfied with the way I
sound. I haven't heard too many people say that truthfully. I may not be
better than____, but I like the way I sound and can play what I want.
Arrogance? No....I don't think so. Self-confident? Sure! You have to be
to play the trumpet! :)
Funny, I always compared "Faster air vs. More air" to the venturi effect, i.e. Brounelli's Principle. I'm a pilot, so I work with Brounelli's principle in airfoil lift and carburator icing. Basically, I've always thought that to play higher, you must move the same quantity of air through a smaller venturi to make it travel faster across the lip membranes, causing faster vibrations, and more air meant to move more and more air across an aperture of growing size or remaining the same size. Now from what I'm reading above, that would contradict my thoughts, being that the aperture remains the same size?
Also, this is unrelated, but I've always been a fan of using the "Big Muscles" in the face to flex the embouchure as one ascends to the higher notes. If any of you have seen Curtis Strange's videos on golf, you'd know what I mean. He said in his videos that in one tournament, I forget what it was, he had to make a critical iron shot onto the green to save a victory, and the moment was tense. He just kept thinking, "Big Muscles, Big Muscles," as in the large pectorial and back muscles, and maybe the muscles in the legs and hips, as opposed to the smaller muscles in the biceps and forearms that tend to tense up easily and cause flop shots. Needless to say, he hit the shot on the green within a couple feet of the flag. Anyway, I've liked translating this to playing trumpet, flexing the big muscles in the corners and down in the chin area like your pecs and hips instead of flexing the small, delicate muscles in the lip membranes, particularily in the mouthpiece area, like the biceps and forearms which will screw up on you causing flop shots on trumpet. That's how I've always took the issue, though I'm probably totally flawed in my thinking. Anybody who wants to tear me apart like a wolverine is welcome from here on out :wink: .
Bach 180LR, 72 bell
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