Why do we only understand after we can do?
My teacher talked about the “inner embouchure” and how to focus the air with your tongue to hit the lips, which are basically irrelevant.You do nothing special with them (i.e., no curl), just set them as most would by saying “M”, plant the mouthpiece and play.He always emphasized playing lessons from memory. During our summer break, I found a concrete room where there is a real acoustic penalty for playing loud. First, I had to learn play as soft as possible.I decided to play minor scales from memory.I just closed my eyes and for the first time ever I really played with my ears.I quite unknowingly changed the way I focused my air to make the best sound possible.All I cared about was playing the minor scales as beautifully as I could.I finally understand what the “inner embouchure” means and how to focus my air to play with a nice sound.Memorizing taught me to play with my ears, which then allowed me to connect sound with how I focused my air. This has now been transferred to my regular playing with music in front of me.
I had trouble playing pieces with notes above the stave.My teacher said that I should try to play “squeak tones” a little every day.We don’t play that way but it teaches us valuable lessons about using the tongue, diaphragm, and compression to create fast air.He would demonstrate over and over again.To me, it looked like a magic trick.He would quite easily put the trumpet to his face and play a double high C and above.I would try to play squeak tones periodically.I would really strain, get dizzy, and my corners would get tired and stiff, so I would not spend much time on them.Well, at the end of doing some lip slurs, I heard some faint harmonics that sounded like squeak tones so I thought I would give it some more gas to make it louder.That is when I finally discovered what is meant by fast air. I could feel the jet stream of air past my tongue (which was arched high in the back and close to the back pallet).I really had to push hard from my belly to make the note sound.However, there was no strain in the face or chops like before.
Quite by accident, I learned how to become one of those silly players on YouTube who make the trumpet sound like a teapot.Only now do I really understand what my teacher was trying to get me to do.My teacher said keep trying until you get the “knack of it”.It is all technique.Then, you try to carry those principles into your regular playing.
Even with a great teacher, the trumpet is a mystery to be discovered through countless hours of practice until you get the knack and understand retrospectively. I guess one of the benefits is that the teaching cues let you know that you actually “got it” when you stumble upon it.