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Trumpet Discussion Discuss Tone Block in the General forums; Hello, My band director has told me six times, two in front of a class that my tone is absolutley ...
  1. #1
    New Friend Valvefire's Avatar
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    Oct 2006

    Unhappy Tone Block

    My band director has told me six times, two in front of a class that my tone is absolutley horrible and has not gotten any better for two months. He even said "I can tell that you never practice at home because you never get any better." This is killing me, because I practice between an hour to an hour and a half a night (except some sundays I kind of skimp out becasue I am really busy on Sundays.) But I have been feeling really depressed about it and now am dreading my band class, which used to be what I lived for, pretty much the main joy in my life. I seem to have hit a block in my tone production, and I can't figure out how to get over it.
    Are there any suggestions on this? Please, I am really disconcerted over this, and as much as I love my trumpet and playing it, more than anything else, it seems like I can't get it to play well.
    Specifically, my tone is REALLY airy, on both the trumpet and mouthpiece. Other than that, most everyother aspect needs to be improved...its overwhellming.

    Last edited by Valvefire; 01-25-2007 at 05:57 PM.

  2. #2
    Mezzo Piano User Derek Reaban's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    Re: Tone Block


    It sounds like you are very dedicated, but just need a little push to begin practicing the right things to make progress in the area of sound production.

    One of the very best things that you can do is to listen to great trumpet sounds! Knowing what the trumpet sounds like as played by top notch players will allow you to begin modeling your sound to be more like them. Hearing great players live is also very important!

    If you have a few dollars to spend, the album entitled The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli has some of the best brass sounds that you will find anywhere. Listen to this from start to finish a dozen times and you will start putting those great sounds into your head.

    A fantastic trumpet teacher at Arizona State University has a statement about tone production that you may find interesting:

    David Hickman
    One of the most effective methods of developing correct tone production is through the use of breath attacks. Commencing the tone without the aid of the tongue will require the embouchure and throat to be relaxed and efficient.

    Making time for some tone production practice would be very helpful for you. Say 15 or 20 minutes at a time different than your normal practice session. Then after a break, say half an hour, you could practice your other exercises / music for say another half hour or so. Resting frequently will be important make strides in tone production improvement.

    If you apply the idea of breath attacks to the exercises in this 20 Minute Daily Routine, you will target what you really need to work on. Full tone does not mean “loud”. Take a deep breath and simply “let” the air out. Don’t force your sound, just let it speak as easily as possible. Play each long tone for about 15-20 seconds and then rest for about 15-20 seconds.

    I hope these ideas help!
    Derek Reaban
    Tempe, Arizona

  3. #3
    Moderator Utimate User Vulgano Brother's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    Parts Unknown

    Re: Tone Block

    Some great advice from Derek -- keep the sound you want in your head at all times and you will lean towards that. You might want to try out somebody else's horn and mouthpiece. Do you still sound airy? If so, in addition to Derek's suggestions, consider this: often the sound of too much air in the sound results not from too much air, but too little air.

    Keep us all posted on your progress!
    "A tool good enough to be so used and not too good"
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  4. #4
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    Sep 2004

    Re: Tone Block

    My young friend,

    Yours is a common yet easily solved problem. Let's assume that your embouchure is basically sound, no one's perfect and some embouchures just work better than others. However, since no one here can see you, you must heed the advice about sound.

    Go grab a trumpet CD... something with a great trumpet sound. Not screeching big band stuff, not yet (that's for later).

    Listen to your favorite cut.

    Listen to it one more time.

    Now listen to it again by turning your brain into a CD player. I want you to be able to hear that player you like playing the song you like in your head as easily as when you listen to your CD player.

    Go back and forth until you can do it. It may take a couple of minutes, it may take a couple of days.

    When you develop the skill to hear easily in your brain, your tone will improve.

    I promise.


  5. #5
    New Friend Valvefire's Avatar
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    Oct 2006

    Re: Tone Block

    Thank you guys very much, I will get right on it. I bought the album Derek suggested, and he is right, it does sound absolutely beutiful. I will keep all these in mind.
    Thank you VERY much,

  6. #6
    New Friend Drew's Avatar
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    Jan 2007
    Steeler Country, USA

    Re: Tone Block


    Lots of good advice here. Here's some regarding your band director. Don't be afraid to approach him one-on-one and let him know you are practicing and searching for ways to improve your tone. Don't be confrontational, just straightforward.

    A set of well-trained ears can also be of help. Is your director a trumpet player? If so, he may be able to offer some assistance as well. Even if he isn't, a good musician should be able to at least help you evaluate your progress by listening to you with an open mind.

    Try not to take the "I can tell that you never practice at home because you never get any better" comment too personally though. It is probably just a way to motivate you (which in some ways, is working).

    The most important thing is don't give up. Following the above advice and ultimately seeking private instruction will allow you to realize your goals. You have your whole life ahead of you and you won't be with that director forever! Keep your chin up and work hard.

    Keep us posted.

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  7. #7
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    Re: Tone Block


    Dont' be discouraged. You said you love to play, so keep it up. Like the others said, listening and getting that sound absolutely stuck in your head is a very important spect of developing your tone. Do you study with a private teacher? If not, you may want to consider it. A private teacher will be able to help you along that road. Is your practice time quality practice time? Do you work on fundmentals as well as the fun stuff each day? I am just throwing these questions out there because I don't know you or your abilities.

    Again, don't be discouraged. We all have had periods when we were simply stuck, but being down hearted about is the worst thing you can do. Playing Trumpet is a lifetime journey, and if you consider the big picture, there is plenty of time to improve, so don't stress yourself about it. You can only do what you can do at this very moment. For now, do your best, work hard, make music, and please enjoy yourself. You play because you love to play, so love it!

    Maybe you could talk to your Band Director about it, (although from what you said , he doesn't sound like the most understnading guy). Most Band Directors are happy to answer your questions. If he is willing, you could even have a "lesson" after school one day to identify anything you are doing inefficiently and talk about developing that sound in your head.

  8. #8
    Mezzo Forte User ozboy's Avatar
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    Jan 2007

    Re: Tone Block

    An Australian Olympic Swimming Coach , when interviewed said that to get the best out of his swimmers, he makes 5 positive comments for every piece of constructive criticism. He said that you would think elite athletes would be entirely self motivated but, like all of us, praise brings out the best as it establishes a positive framework or mind-set from which to build. With this in mind, your Band Director is way out of line. He should be speaking to you privately. He obviously does not understand the basis of effective education and is way out of line.
    Have a go at this. Whilst standing without your instrument, swing your arms loosely by your sides and breath in, in a relaxed state. Bring your relaxed arms up into a playing position and breath out through an your embrouchure as if you were trying to make a candle flicker but not go out.(Do not Buzz).When you've got that down, try it with a trumpet playing long easy tones. Make sure you are moving air in a relaxed manner.
    I'm guessing that you are either tensing up or not moving air in a relaxed manner. You may be compensating by jamming the horn into your face, tensing your throat or by working your face too hard. Sometimes we get hung up on all the technical stuff to do with breathing but forget about air. The fact that your getting criticised would just make you tense further.
    I have a mate who is a good golfer. He went through a slump and tried to analyse it in a highly technical way. It didn't work. He went to a sport's psychologist who knew absolutely 'Jack' about golf. The psych. asked him what he was into besides golf and my mate said music. The Psych asked him what song represented the perfect swing. 'The Blue Danube' (first 5 notes) Psych said "You obviously have the ability to play a good shot as you've done it before. Next tournament, go out clear your mind and sing the Blue Danube in your head when you swing. He did and has cleaned up just about every tournament since. Many players get hung up on technicalities and do un-natural things.Think simple air production and relax!!!!
    If your Band director says something again, ask him/her for some positive help or tell them to sod off. Good Luck
    Hope this is helpful

  9. #9
    Pianissimo User
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    May 2005
    Essex, England

    Re: Tone Block

    Practice long sustained tones, particularly those below the stave.

  10. #10
    Forte User Eclipsehornplayer's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    Metro Detroit

    Re: Tone Block

    Valvefire; interesting name... Your parents not like you?

    All kidding aside:

    Good tone is something that I've discovered is rare among the trumpeters that I encounter.

    The suggestions you've been given thus far are great!

    I can only tell you what worked for me.

    If you have about 40 - 50 dollars to spend I HIGHLY reccommend that you acquire James Thompson's The Buzzing Book which is available from the website among other places. Once you acquire that then go and get a B.E.R.P. at this website or another other that sells them

    Working through this method did more for my tone than any other thing that I've done. Now your mouthpiece plays into this as well.

    You didn't indicate what your using; so you may want to pass that along.

    If your using a shallow cup small rim Jet-tone well then your more likely to have a thin-less bodied tone than say a Bach 3C or bigger.

    As for your band director; telling you that you have poor tone in front of the class is rather unprofessional of him. Know that better directors don't do that!

    All the best,
    Last edited by Eclipsehornplayer; 01-26-2007 at 07:31 AM.
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