enjoy fooling around with embouchures.:) The other day I pushed my lips
together and pooched them out; then lay the mouthpiece over them and
took a stab at an adulterated Maggio approach. It took a lot of air and
some concentration but I was able to play pretty well.
I let my lower jaw recede to it's standard under bite. I made my chops
into a small circle and buzzed a little until I could buzz 2 octaves
without the mouthpiece. Then I took my old Schilke 18 and played for a
half hour or so, and I played pretty well.
The next day
I stuck my tongue between my teeth and let the top lip vibrate against
it. I spit for a while until the ferocious tickling stopped on my top
lip. Then I played up and down scales and practiced some high notes. I played pretty well.
for a few days I moved my lips and the mouthpiece to as many different
positions as possible. I played out the right side, then the left, I
even played with a piece of material behind my top teeth to accentuate
the overbite, and then the reverse. I played pretty well with these too.
Some of my experiments defied physics and were doomed; but for those that came close to sanity I played pretty well.
By pretty well I mean I could play some Arbans Characteristics, and some jazz duets. I could play up to F's and G's and play pretty as well.
The tone did not vary as much as I would have expected, but the overall comfort level was widely different.
all of this may be due to my lip being supple, and trained for 50 years
to vibrate. Plus the fact that I have always had a relaxed power with
Every time I switched I started the new set up with my
mental focus on the chops themselves, and then gradually moved that
focus to the "sound" of whatever I was playing. It was always at this
point that things began to correlate with a decent sound.
The point of all this
is kind of like the guy who climbs mountains: Why? Because they are
there. I have a fascination with the horn because it is there and I
Perhaps this is the defining principle behind quality
performers: The love and fascination with the music, the sound,the
metal, the power under your fingers to make music. The oneness with the
sound that only trumpet provides.
When I find a student with this mindset, I watch them almost teach themselves. The "it" factor for trumpet.
So what if his embouchure looks like a Jim Furyk golf shot. He's relaxed and loving it.
You think trumpet equipment has a lot of combinations to choose from. Try GOLF!
Anderson asked me once if I was making as much money playing the horn
as I wanted. I said sure, I'm happy. He said: "Then why improve." This is a foreign concept to me. The same thing with Maurice Murphey's philosophy.
are each fine players, at opposite ends of the pole - but I believe
they are those very rare examples of people who are just built to play.
oldest daughter is like this with the oboe. She could care less about
playing. She never practiced, and yet was offered a sub's seat in the
New York Philharmonic.
She owns a PR firm in San Diego,
but the San Diego symphony calls her to come play. She doesn't even
practice until the rehearsal - that makes up the equivalent of her
years practice, and then she goes ahead and plays superbly.
These people drive me crazy! If I had that talent I would l-o-v-e it!
any system of trumpet performance there are proponents. Especially the
one that began it - because that was the way they played. The challenge
is to discover what works for your mouth, lungs, and psyche.
tips will give insight into the hidden things. Once you go there, you
can discover your own path to trumpet accomplishment.
Warning - Pictures may ruin your lunch
This shows my lips at rest - not prepared to play - static not dynamic.
As we move through these Pix you will notice small physical changes, however I want you to see how little actual change there is. The concept is a relaxed flow of energy from the lungs through the mouth, and lips creating a natural response allowing the unconscious will to present the perfect "set" allowing whatever the mind is desiring in volume, pitch, and timbre. Chops come in all sizes and shapes - don't make yours look like mine but let them do what I am doing and then see what yours look like.
With an open mouth you can see that my jaw and lower teeth are in a relaxed forward alignment with the top teeth edges - no force here please. Natural thickness of the lips is maintained, simply by not thinking about them:)
Your teeth maybe hidden - bottm teeth showing or top showing - the point here is to align your teeth top to bottom
This shows you the position of my tongue - forward at the front and not tensed or rolled. Note the meat of the tongue has bridged upwards preparing to momentarily close the passage of air just enough to allow whatever attack the unconscious mind is presenting. The tongue is then relaxed back down quickly allowing the air to escape and "sound the attack". The word attack is actually a contrivance of the facts - the proper word could easily be "release" Realize the tone consists of four distinct elements working in unconscious or kinetic sense. 1. Attack 2. Sustain 3. Decay 4 Release or re-attack
Here my embouchure is in position to receive the mouthpiece. Nothing changes when the rim touches them because the lips, teeth, tongue and air are already in place. The rim touches just above the top red lip a micro second prior to touching the area just below the bottom red of the lip. No maneuvering of the chops is necessary after the rim touches. Breath is inhaled at the sides of the rim through relaxed slightly open corners. No air ever comes in through the mouthpiece - this would seperate the lips and move things out of position, and also cause tension there.
Notice that the lower lip does not disappear under the top lip. The top lip is turned in more but not stretched tight. The vibration develops softly on the front of the top lip, as I allow my lips to 'say" B A D The B is a softer roll than a P which tends to smile - if I were thinking TU or Teh as pronounced in French (Arban) my aperture would be open and the vibration would begin on the inside of the chops.
I do not believe a mouthpiece visualizer ever reveals what happens in the embouchure because the visualizer provides no core balance resistance as does the instrument and mouthpiece.
Here I am using my finger to hold the lip at the two points I feel the slight weight of the rim as if playing a G in the staff softly. If you are not sensing the mmm type motion (top to bottom and bottom to top, This contraction always must occur outside of the rim - holding the chops in place but maintaining a relaxed inner reed. )
and instead you sense >< sideways contraction, Then you are not allowing the lip to vibrate freely from edge to edge. This is monitored best by listening for the clarity of your sound as you ascend.If the sound closes as you ascend or loses clarity and sparkle You are adding pressure to the corners by pushing lip mass towards the aperture cutting overtones and circulation. This is the makor source of sore lips, swelling, and fatigue.
Relax! - the lips will not blow open - the rim is holding them top and bottom, Allow the pulse of breath to flow like the tide of the ocean towards the entire lip area - left right and all around. The greater the air quantity the more your lips will resist air and come together MMM in a very surprising Chinese Handcuff type reaction.
The more air the more the lips compress the air colum. This happens because your air is moving in a slightly upwards angle thus holding your lower jaw forward. You will feel contraction at the BACK of the jaw line below your earlobes when it is accomplished properly.
If you were to pivot your jaw backwards, you would feel the embouchure collapse and muscles surrounding the lips would quickly tighten to save the sound.
This is why the pencil exercise is so important to master. Training the air to move up the pencil and closing the embouchure with the air at the same time.
This is a representation of the embouchure playing a soft G above the staff. All in preceding paragraph applies. Note lower lip has NOT curled in but has actually been more exposed!
You will notice this same effect in many fine players. Wynton, Freddie, Rick B.,Cat. They also have large lips and do not squeeze them into the cup. They are relaxing and allowing the air to move "up the pencil" causing the proper reactionary contraction.
My general philosophy of embouchure. Trumpet embouchure set up routine I use:Air-Play DVD shows this in great detail.
1. I Use the same basic “set” on my RS 2 mouthpiece that I have played for many years. Gently place the rim on the lips and feel the roundness. 2. Keep chops closed and teeth open 3. Jaw open and forward - but never tense 4. Think Bulldog - but not tense 5. Breathe - don’t blow the horn 6. Air moves across and around the tongue as in saying B A D 7. 60% Weight on lower lip and area below it. 10. Keep lips gently touching, and plump. Above all retain the natural thickness. 11. Feel the soft round rim of your mouthpiece evenly across and around the entire mouthpiece rim. 12. Set top rim "just" above the red lip edge - with the 1/3-2/3rds feel. 13. Keep lips closed always/ feels like playing with lips closed. 14.
Bring muscles in towards center evenly only in direct response to the
air from back of throat. This happens naturally with the unconscious
will as you see a note in your mind and breath it. 15. Feel the air sit on the diaphragm. 16. Let the unconscious will react to the note you play. 17. No change in space inside of mouth as lips resist the air. 18. Let the note happen - don't shape or move it on the pitch.. 19.
Let cheeks fold forward at corners and secure seal-ooo mouth shape
helps cheeks feel tug downwards on anchor depressors and forward on
mentalis with chin bunching gently out-up and forward – never flat and
pointed. The muscles always respond to the airflow - never pre-set them
for a high or low note. The “unconscious will” is the activator in
preparation for a given note as a direct response to the air pressure
applied 20. Breath soft, and gently to allow the grip to respond to the air and seal. Keep lips in soft position even when loud 21. Keep airflow tunneling over and around the tongue, If you feel the side edges of your tongue lightly touching your top teeth don't worry - as long as you are not compressing the air up against the roof of your mouth back there you're ok. Any compression is towards the front of the tongue, behind the top teeth in the upper range. As you control your air this will fade. 22.
After setting top rim, pull the meat of the center top lip down enough
to slip over the teeth edges. Not so far that the white of the top lip
is the only contact between mouthpiece and teeth. The red of top edge
should still hug the rim from under/not outside the rim. Of course this
is only for players whose top lip is naturally above the top teeth
edges. 23. The air should be continuous from the lungs and move
unencumbered to the aperture. Slightly puffing against
the entire circumference of the rim lying against the lips. Don’t let
the air pressure bubble up into your ears – keep it flowing as if
singing. Sometimes I sing and play at the same time for fun. 24. The slight rolling in of lips must be floated on the air and not squeezed against the teeth. 25. The lower teeth, and or tongue support the bottom rim by moving forward into a set position 26. Last but perhaps most important: You can set your core balance for any range, mode of resonance, or
note, by using your body to shorten or lengthen the length of the
Place your hand over your navel and breathe in -
do you sense the air filling that area? Now exhale with your hand in
the same place - do you sense the air column moving up and out from
Now move your hand up 1 or 2 inches and repeat.
Now 1 or 2 more inches up and repeat.
This simple exhalation with focus shows you what the mind can control with simple visualization.
play a low C while sensing the air column moving from the navel. Now a
middle C sensing the air moving from a spot 2 inches above the navel.
now a g above the staff and sense the air column coming a few inches
The exhalation must always be the result of a deep
relaxed breath, followed by an inward and upward compression from the
This can feel like a wedge anchored at the spine being pulsed back and upwards at each spot in a relaxed powerful compression.
beauty is that the sound will be even in all registers, the tones will
be secure and the tongue will fade into oblivion as you learn to float
the tone on this flexible column of core air.
If you are coming
in softly on an A above the staff, you will have no fear of clamming
when you have developed this sense of core balance placement.
hit a E above high C will not be a guessing game, with arching,
squeezing, and pinching - it will float out on the proper core length
Some players have developed the backwards arch to ascend
- this is not necessary if you learn to breathe properly and allow the
Air to Play:)
This concept of rolling the air from bottom to top is an over- simplification of what Maynard used.
It is helpful to use a plosive attack and maintain a non vibrato tone as you learn this technique.
This exercise allows you to "breathe-out" a mid-range note VERY SOFTLY. Then by telling the
chops to stay together and actually increase the air the note climbs
without getting louder until the very top. The
tone is so soft and the pressure so light it often looses sound! I have
taught 5th grade students to play this identical exercise with good
results. Repetition builds
coordination and strength in the proper facial muscles. The DVD
Air-Play will prepare you to do these type exercises into the double
and triple range.
A comment from a loyal user of Air-Play:
was probably one of your first customers for Airplay. I was just
wondering if there were any updates. Also, I just listened to the
sound clip of the range-building exercise on your website. That's
great! I've been doing this long enough to know now what you're
after--to train yourself to let it happen and to stay out of the way,
and during this exercise the goal is not to sound good but to get the
effortless thing going. Earlier in my pursuit to trumpet excellence I
would have heard that sound clip and said "That guy sounds like crap.
Who does he think he is?" :^) Take care, Chris....
If you have larger lips the temptation is to thin your lips, which makes the rim, feel flatter on your chops - this is not a good thing! If you retain the natural thickness, of your top lip it will be soft enough to collapse a bit around the rim and you can feel the contour of the rim itself. When you thin your lip out it will feel the highpoint on the rim and subconsciously you will either tilt up or down to lay the mid-to-outer edge or the mid - to - inner edge against your lip. You then have the sensation of covering your lip with the whole rim and in reality it is just 50% . When you do it properly you will feel the slight roundness of the rim because your mouthpiece is at a right angle to the jaw line and the entire rim is resting across the entire lip.
A note about proper hydration: drink lots of water every day to keep your chops supple.
You must then breathe a very soft easy tone. One that starts by itself - not buzzed. While playing this long soft vibration notice how the rim feels on your chops. Now this is important! Rotate the rim 1/8th turn, place the mouthpiece, and produce another tone the same way. Does the rim feel better or worse - is the tone clearer or muddier?
Continue this rotation process all the way back to the spot you started. You should have identified two spots that play well and feel great. They will be 180 degrees opposite each other. One will suppress the top lip, and the other will free the top lip. After a few minutes on each, you will find the best one for you. Now mark the spot by eye. Lining up a mark on the mouthpiece with the 3, 6, or 9 o'clock position on the rim. Always play with the mouthpiece in that position.
If you change throat sizes or change instruments you will need to go through the process again. If you improve your mechanics and build your embouchure, you may find it requires not only another spot, but also maybe a new mouthpiece.
The rim is THE NUMBER ONE item for comfortable playing - do not settle for anything less than a great rim that allows you to slur, tongue, and play high or low with ease.
It is interesting to note that many players do not hear the tone in their head before playing – in fact they “see it” on the page, and the kinetic sense of thousands of repetitions produces the tone on the proper pitch. I would go so far as to say that many players should not listen to themselves in the “first person”. They should hear the entire ensemble or accompaniment.
If you whistle a note that you hear before hand in your mind - then you will experience the muscles responding to the unconscious will to play the correct note. This is why it is so vital to let the note play where it is on the horn. Never lip it up down or squeeze it. The best tone is a "free" vibration. Imagine plucking a guitar string while the player's shirt or tie is resting on the string. This is what happens when you tense the lips to shift the pitch.
In order to flatten the mid to low notes on your horn, keep your throat open and your air chamber relaxed, maintaining the tension from the higher notes will really sharpen the lower register
When you must place a note and are not sure of the exact pitch, rely on the memory seeing the note on the page and not the note in your ear. I know this seems crazy, but if you depend on hearing every note you are playing you will be in trouble when you cannot hear yourself playing.
Amplified instruments often drown out your live sound. The person behind you may be blaring or out of tune. When you depend on your hearing to place notes you will find yourself matching every pitch around you, and that can really put the hurt on your chops.
A professional player has learned his instrument and plays the horn in the center of the slots, and tunes them by air chamber or triggers or slides. These become automatic and if you trust yourself the others will end up saying: "wow that guy always plays in tune with a clear sound."
Another thing about tuning is that at 72 degrees you need to know where your slide is set. When you find yourself having to push in it means you are over blowing or opening up too far. When you have to pull out it is because your mouth chamber is closing, for any of a hundred reasons (later discussions)
The last item for now with tuning is to use your tongue in the proper manner. Yes, it will arch - but the arch can never be from the mid-line back. It must always be at the front near the teeth. Whistle and you will see. This keeps the throat open and allows subtle tongue arching to slur, or jump octaves in a natural response to the unconscious will moving the air and the facial muscles.
This is very different from what Roy Stevens taught - but it is what he did. He never said eee when he played and neither should we. However, the front arch is like a TH sound, very discreetly, at the front of the tongue. In my own experience, it kicks in when I am slurring rapidly or on notes above the staff. If you feel tension in your neck or throat chances are you are saying the dreaded "eee."
I have determined that what feels right is usually not. Those with overbites tend to play with the lower teeth receded and then compensation consumes their lives and limits ability.
The same could be said for any number of obvious situations, and many not so obvious.
First of all is the hidden cross bite. A situation that allows the more advanced portion of the left or right side to be more or less advanced than the opposite side. In some, this is true of either the lower or the upper teeth, but in others, the condition may involve both upper and lower teeth. The amount of difference may be very small - more felt than seen, or it can be obvious.
I am using the word teeth here, but you must understand that any movement of the lower teeth must involve the movement of the jaw. Because the upper jaw is fixed, you cannot move the jaw or the teeth attached for obvious reasons.
This means that the lower teeth become the variable when setting a "proper occlusion" for playing the trumpet.
I maintain that more information is always better than a little, when it comes to your embouchure (the way you set your lips, and also the general term for all of the facial adjustments made to produce a sound with a mouthpiece on an instrument.)
Young students may not grasp the advanced terms used, but they have a right to know about the substructure that allows them to play well or poorly, or not at all. How much technical information you give is a matter of how the student receives it.
In my experience a basic understanding of what happens when a tone is produced and the basic shape of the substructure is much more important than the outward appearance of the lips or the chin. A student who practices in front of a mirror in order to emulate a described "look" will often fail to play correctly from the beginning, and that is a shame.
I have always chosen to describe the embouchure in whatever detail I deem the student capable of understanding, and more importantly, repeating on his own by feel and not by mirror.
The general items explained to young students are the following:
1. Teeth must be open the width of a Bic" pen, or an average pencil. 2. The rim of the mouthpiece must rest on the lower lip and fit on the upper lip - with just enough pressure to not allow air to escape, and more importantly to hold or secure the top lip below the top teethe edges. This is paramount to a relaxed, free vibration 3. The bottom teeth must be parallel to, or slightly in front of, the top teeth.
4. The lips must meet and touch in the center of the mouthpiece in a relaxed manner - not thinned out or puckered. Slightly turned in so that the upper lip center red, sits on the lower lip mid-line, where inner moist, and outer dry meet. 5. The white skin above and below the lips is the area that will receive the "weight" of the mouthpiece. It is with this understanding that you prescribe a mouthpiece inner and outer diameter for a student. More on mouthpiece selection later. 5. With the embouchure based upon this set the air is released into the mask of the face and it then escapes between the lips producing the vibration.
With this general understanding of how the embouchure is set I have had tremendous success with players as young as 7 years of age producing notes at the top of the staff on their first attempt to play. This is vital for them, as it shows them the beautiful simplicity with which they can produce a sound.
It is IMPERATIVE that new players not play even one sound until he understands the set up, and is with you in person. I have gone to great extremes to make this happen in school situations, usually by bringing the parent and student to the first lesson.
The exploration of soft easy tone production in this manner will IMPRINT an embouchure that will last a lifetime.
It is interesting to read in a text by Altschuller - Bach's trumpet guru (J.S. not Vincent!) That a beginning student should blow on the horn and if a pleasing sound ensues he should continue. If other than a pleasing sound he should find another instrument.
I have met many great players - almost unanimously, the great ones say they played well instantly. The Condoli Brothers say that when they got their instruments in elementary school they immediately played well - only their musical ideas have improved. Bill Pearce, the great Christian trombone player said that if he had ever had to practice he would have quit playing.
What happened here was that a willing player, with a properly preconceived notion, matched to a fortunate set of muscles and teeth, then matched to a comfortable mouthpiece produces good sounds and progresses.
Unfortunately, some great players failed in the first few weeks of playing as a result of improper instruction, and a faulty mental image of what the embouchure does at the point of producing a sound.
Band directors under the gun to teach many students in-group classes quickly are no doubt the cause of destroying some great musicians before they get a chance. Fortunately the true musicians are not stopped from pursuing their God giving talents, but many are steered to other instruments when what they really wanted to be was a trumpet player.
Of course, there is the fact that some naturally have the vision, and the physical equipment, to play well from the start - unfortunately, many are not musicians. Never the less the band director takes the credit.
Assorted Tips and Secrets of Trumpet Playing.
If you look closely at great lead players you will
notice the lower lip is more visible than the upper.
The thinner the lips the more it will appear the lips
are equally exposed.
The heavier the lips the more prominent the lower lip
Charles Colin Published a volume of photos of Brass
professional’s “Chops” available only through the ITG.
Why is this so important?
The lower lip (LL) is the foundation for the
The LL is the lip that easily rolls into the mouth
over the teeth. A bad thing.
(If you ever watch the movie "Man with a
horn" you will hear Kirk Douglas warn a band leader that one of his
trumpet players is developing a roll; and that will keep him from being strong
If you have large lips that roll over your teeth make
an effort to actually pucker the bottom lip out so that the lip does not cross
back into your mouth across the lower teeth edges. This is especially true if
you have an overbite, crossbite thing going on. Or if your bottom teeth are not
as long as your top center teeth.
You can roll that bottom guy out so that the top lip
actually rests on it. Just like you did when you were a baby and
HERE IS THE EXCEPTION:
Some players with shorter lower teeth and longer
upper teeth, and large top AND bottom will find it helpful to let the LL roll
in naturally. They then use the tip of the tongue to support the LL and
maintain this contact in the upper register. Tonguing is then accomplished by
expanding the tongue up to the top teeth edges while keeping the tip against
the lower lip.
This is the way my father taught me to play – He
said, “George, spit a hair off the end of your tongue.”
I have known players to use variations of this and
some who combine it with the Stevens approach. Others have made a living off
the method called TCE. Tongue controlled embouchure.
My take on this is that it is useful at times, with
special situations. For instance H.L. Clarke used it when he had played all day
and night and still had to play those fiendish solos ending on high G’s. By the
way, good old HLC could play from
double to triple “C” and above when using this approach. If you read his notes
on playing in his many books, he sometimes uses the phrase “ raising the lower
lip” in fact he was eluding to the “trick” as he called it of modified TCE.
I know this because I studied with one of HLC’s
personal students: Bill Pruyn – who in my own estimation was the greatest
cornet- trumpet player in the history of mankind. Bill could pick up the horn
and double or triple tongue from pianissimo to forte in all ranges including
once when I personally heard him double tongue “Varadi” starting on D above
The determination of proper position must be
predicated on the "what plays" principle. The tone must be produced with minimum
effort, The test tone should be mid range, very soft, and above all else, feel
as if the lips are not vibrating, just a clear soft tone appearing by itself.
Some say it feels like a bubble balancing on the aperture. Others call it a
static - no movement - vibration .
From this establishment or base of tonal ascension,
you may let the unconscious will, tell the note to move up in whole tones by
breathing against the resistance of the body and backbore.
important to keep your jaw and lips relaxed and in alignment. The air cannot
balloon up in the front of the mouth. Because of the natural curve of the
teeth, the corners of your chops are usually behind the center. You can use
this imaginary line between the two corners as a plane that divides the mouth
into two chambers that must be in balance - ballooning of your air cannot favor one or the other.
also envision a straight line across the aperture from corner to corner. If you
hold a flat piece of cardboard between your lips it will give you the proper
feeling for this line. Note: over blowing is a trumpet sin. Use the least of
everything to produce the maximum result. This does not mean that you will be a
tranquil paleface when you are playing Lead for MF; it does mean that at high
volume, high velocity you will not be working harder than the minimum required
to accomplish the task.
This “work coefficient” is greatly different from player
to player. I can play very loud in the upper register with little displayed
effort. Another person – take Harry Kim for example, will look as if they are
about to explode. Both are correct within each ones kinetic correctness.
Don't trust a mirror to help you see what's really
going on. Unless you have a glass mouthpiece, you must set up by feel. Now the
beauty of the system is that when you have the right set and the right natural
resistance, and teeth alignment and jaw position - the tiny static tone , clear
as a bell, will appear with a gentle exhalation.
Another note here is that not only are the
differences in teeth according to size, they are also in angle, vertical and
horizontal, and in space between. The latter here is evidenced in some notably
wonderful high note players.
I took a few lessons with the famous
Cat Anderson. He asked me if I was making the money I needed playing the
trumpet. When I said yes, he told me I didn’t need lessons. He equated playing
to money. He never let me see the cup of his mouthpiece, so one day I snuck a
look on the bandstand when in an unguarded moment he turned away. The diameter
was about a 7 C bach but the depth was non-existent, just a dimple.Now here is why this worked for him: He
told me to clench my teeth and jaw closed and blow through my teeth. Easy for
him, he natural occlusion allowed his top and bottom teeth to meet evenly in
the front at the same time as his back molars.
In addition he had a bowling
ball sized gap between his front teeth. In effect he had a fixed aperture akin
to a reed on a clarinet. The two front teeth being the facing and the lip being
the reed. He then could arch his tongue at the front and tongue against his
teeth. The result was, well…Cat Anderson.The interesting thing was that Cat
warmed up every day with a Harmon mute. Usually watching TV and playing the
open harmonics from 2nd line G on up to the stratosphere. Each note
he played PPP for 15 to 20 minutes.
This loosened him up and then set up his
chops so they could remain together in the center as he ascended with the very
high velocity produced by this set up. The depth of the cup was never a problem
because his lips never had a chance to chase the air.I did this routine for a few days, and
actually closed my over bitten teeth naturally. The air somehow found it’s way
to the cup and I produced some stratospheric tones, albeit a rotten sound.Cat never played well in the staff, but
he didn’t need to.
get a buzz, or the sound sticks then pops out, you are too tight, or too
puckered. Learn to relax it all. This is the same athletic relaxation a golfer
uses, or a martial arts master uses. Relax does not mean go limp. It means let
the kinetic sense provide the resistance for the task, as opposed to the “conscious
will” pre-setting the muscles for the expected tone.
Because this is so foreign to many players, you must
trust what plays. If the tone is crystal clear, appearing on the lip by itself
without the aid of puckering, spitting, buzzing, mouth shaping, then you may
move to the next whole step. Do not increase volume - use the air to ascend
Many fine symphonic players play large mouthpieces
and separate their lips. This means they must pre-set and actually produce a
buzz to position the tone.
Renold Schilke was my longtime teacher and advocated this
method. I had to buzz the exercise before I played it on the mouthpiece. I
moved from a Schilke 12 to a 24 mouthpiece over a 3 year span. I could play double
d’s all day long. But my sound was symphonic and spread. It never was a true
lead trumpet sound, and eventually I left the road and the all day playing. My
chops weakened and I kept trying to play the 24. It was too much, and I
developed a lot of left arm pressure, eventually causing me to completely sever
the meat of my lip on the top left hemisphere. The muscle separated and the
skin was all that touched together if I pressed on my chops. This all happened 3 weeks before I
began a two year stint as lead trumpet at the Venetian room in the Atlanta
Fairmont hotel. Roy Stevens saved my career.
You must understand that increasing the air speed may
have more than one result. You may ascend or get louder; or descend or get
softer; or a combination of the pairs determined not by conscious presetting
but by the unconscious will acting from past positive experience.
This is why it is so important to repeat positive
results hundreds of times so they may be permanently imprinted in the
When you practice and repeat a fault it will imprint
as easy as a success. This is why I always recommend practicing slower and
softer, then gradually progress to faster and fuller. I also advocate a
decrescendo as you ascend into your highest range - keeping a pure simple
sound. This will prohibit you from relying on the blast it and attack method so
often used to give the illusion of upper register mastery. Remember to only
allow your tongue to rise towards the front – channeling the air to your top
lip. If you raise it at the back you will be actually cutting off the quantity.
This gets the air hitting the top lip, the jaw goes
forward and opens the throat, it relieves pressure on the top lip, it keeps the
rim from trapping the top lip against the edges of the top teeth and pinching
Remember - Only the lower jaw moves - it is the
rudder that controls tone, pitch and ease of playing. Your teeth must be open
to play well - when you roll that bottom lip in you take up space - weaken the
corner muscles and anchor depressors - and you assist the dreaded
"eee" formation along the length of the tongue. (Your tongue arch is
ONLY at the front of your tongue - keep that back down and relaxed!)
I have discovered that the bottom half of the oral
cavity and the lower half of the rim of the mouthpiece, and the lower half of
the length of the mouthpiece (the section that is inserted in the receiver) is
where the money is. The spread, projection, resistance, can all be manipulated
The Warburton system of tops and bottoms opens up a new world for those
who love their rim, cup, and mass of the top, but are still not happy with the
results on a new horn.
If you are in the habit of changing the throat from
the stock (usually 27) to a 25 or 26
- wait until you've tried a few bottoms. In the Warburton numbers the
123 are very tite - the 456 gradually open (#5 being the most popular) and the
678 are in Symphonic range - like Schmidt.
Now - If you are playing a Bach and usually use a #25
throat try a stock 27 throat with a #4 Warburton. Or if you play a Schilke horn
and want a bigger fatter sound - try a #5 bottom with a 27 throat. While you
can open the throat it is not the same as opening on a 1 piece mouthpiece, and
a little goes a long way.
The Q backbore and the K backbores will give you a
fatter sound, easier, in the mid and low range. This keeps you from spreading
your chops for the lower notes and then not getting a decent set for the upper.
Many players feel like a bigger mouthpiece would
help, but can't handle it. If you use a tighter backbore (4, or 1,2,3)you will
be able to handle the diameter and the depth of one or two sizes larger.
If you play a Schilke 14A4a for lead, but want a
fatter sound, use a 15b with a # 4 backbore. The 4 is similar to the Reeves 692. If you play a Bach 3C
and want to use a 1 1/2 C use a 4
I like to keep my same Rick Baptist Top by Parke and
have a collection of Warburton bottoms. For a fatter solo sound I use the Q.
For lead playing with weaker players - theater - or combo work I use the 4 -
For studio or big band I use the 5.
I also have a Parke Henley bottom that is great for
church or solos or very technical work.
It is also imperative to develop the feel of
employing the front lower chamber of the mouth (fully extended jaw - out and
with the entire skull raised slightly above perpendicular to the spine) This
allows an open channel from the lungs to the mouthpiece, it also clears the
Eustachian tubes of excess air pressure which reduces the clarity and volume of
sound the player hears.
It produces the same demonstration of physics in
action as does the Chinese Handcuff: The more the force of energy, the more the
This is vital - as it places the majority of the
mechanical workload on the air column floating against the "drape" of
the skin and muscles of the face and lips.
Lips in vibration must always resist the air column,
not the teeth or the rim, or by flexion both!
Now moving on.. The brass mouthpieces plated with
silver are darker timbre - more intact lower partials - than the gold -
contrary to popular opinion. The gold also retains warmth.
The Bronze pieces are powerhouses. As you ascend
above high C they maintain the same actual dB's and the lower partials as well.
I have done play tests showing the waveforms of double C are played on a
variety of metals. The Bronze has always shown more consistent volume compared
to the lower three octaves, and more importantly many more of the lower
partials - giving a rich full sound.
I believe a lead player worth his salt should
maintain whatever tonal color he presents throughout the entire tessitura. The
hidden result is less work up high for a full sound, and also the elimination
of the screaming whistle of a pinched embouchure in the upper register and a
blat in the lower.
When I hear Rick Baptist I hear a consistent sound
all the way up. It is also a free vibration, a clear open crystal sound. He
doesn't get the buzz of a Bach, which is in fact built in turbulence that some
perceive as a solid core, but in fact hinders a clear open free vibration.
When you listen to symphonic players you hear a clear
open sound from the C trumpet and a large Teutonic mouthpiece with a Schmidt
type backbore. These guys a marvelous players, technicians, and have solid
endurance - up to a point.
The problem is that only in their dreams could they
last through a movie session playing lead.
The reason is what I call "core balance"
Core Balance is the sum total of resistance from the
horn, lead pipe, receiver, backbore, throat, cup, rim, and metal.
This produces what I call the "flow"
In the Chicowicz Flow studies, or Adam or whomever
else - flow refers to the individual controlling the flow of the air in a
In my Flow I mean the Core Balance allowing a natural
free vibration to flow from the lungs through the instrument.
These are not the same!
Think about it.
The body will unconsciously respond
to two things:
1. The unconscious will of the player as he pictures
the sound. 2. The deliberate, fixed, immovable resistance of the
To play your best it takes both working
symbiotically. When the mind pictures the sound, the body wants to respond, but
is met by Core Balance and compromise is attained. This is a one sided
compromise. In other words the mind and body agree that they will do the best
they can with what they are given: Core balance. CB does not give a hoot how
you toot. It is what it is, and it never changes.
You will have to let your performance-based practice
take a hike in order to achieve proper CB. You must relax, flow, and breathe
into your instrument softly in the low mid register - you know, the notes that
Then you will hear the true sound of your instrument
as dictated by the CB and your physical instrument when most relaxed.
Is this the sound you want? Is it clear, open, free,
Resonant but not buzzy, centered but not one-dimensional?
Can you imagine playing the entire range of the
instrument at all volumes with this same sound and this same level of
relaxation (the plays by itself quality)?
Now you begin to analyze. Are my chops comfortable in
the cup, is the sound going to be more like I want it if the cup is wider,
deeper, shallower, more v shaped, more bowl shaped...
Now you get the picture.
Then you move to rim,
throat, backbore, lead pipe, bore size, instrument brand. Type of metals.....
This is an expensive and time-consuming process.
Those of you living in LA or New York, or Chicago, or Portland, have resources
for trying many combinations.
Here is the order I suggest:
Bore and bell size
If you play a Bach reverse the 2nd vale slide and
play it. Is it more open, clearer but the resistance is different? Do you like
the sound better?
Then you are not a Bach lover, you are a Schilke, Benge,
Yamaha, and some others lover.
Do you play a Schilke, Benge, Yamaha? Then reverse
the 2nd valve slide and notice if it adds resistance and creates a little buzz in your sound. If you like
it, you are a Bach player - or now Yamaha has some Bach like models. Schilke
says the S series is more geared for bach players, but not in the way I am
talking about here.
Next. Remove your second valve bottom cape. Do you
like the fact that you can hear your sound more close up now, or not?
If you like it then you are a "spread sound
person" You need to change your thinking because this sound does not
Try miking it from 20 feet with the cap on and off. See how it loses
its core. If you don't have a recorder just play into the corner of the room
and cup your hand around one ear. The sound that thuds into your ear is the one
with the cap on. Imagine how much better the sound carries!
If you want to try out a Schilke but own a Bach and
don't have access to one. Get a set of Yamaha, or Schilke bottom valve caps and
put them on your Bach - no they won't fit, but they will stick there. If you
like the sound and feel better then you are a Schilke.. (Note that the
resistance will be stuffier)
OK now for a surprising test.
Play a middle G then ascend one octave and back down
at MF. Now rotate your mouthpiece about 10 degrees and do the same. Continue
all the way around and make notes of what feels and plays best,
You will find 2 spots - opposite each other. One will
play a little darker and feel smooth on your top lip, the other will play a
little clearer and feel a little sharper on your top lip. Pick one and stay
there. Put the mouthpiece in the same way every time.
Tighten all your top and bottom caps finger tight.
Try it . Now loosen them to the point where they are just at the start of
holding securely. Try. Which do you prefer? Leave them like this every time you
Swap your first and third valve cap bottom. Is it
more projecting now but stiffer resistance? Or is it more open and flexible
with a little less projection? Choose one and leave it.
Is your open C a different response than a valved
note? Maybe stuffier? Then loosen your spit valve nut 1/4 turn. Does the C open
up, does the sound get brighter? Experiment until the tension is the way you
want it and leave it there.
Now if you ever had Dave Monette build you a horn and
then you went back for an adjustment. This is the stuff he was doing in the
back room, or when he turned his back to you.
Different weight valve caps, tension here and there,
reversing 2nd slides. All these things and more:
Here's one for the timbre of the horn - stuffy sound
- apply gentle pressure upwards on the finger hook enough to actually raise it
a miniscule amount. To bright - then do the opposite.
Keep your horn clean and the slides greased and firm.
The sound is clearer.
I knew one guy that had a bright horn so he poured
milk through it every week - it warmed up the sound but stunk to high heavens-
UGH! This is for real - his name
was Stewart and he played a Besson Cornet.
Here is a word of warning - When you
-plate a bronze piece the gold may thicken on the rim in the outer quadrant. This
can make a piece seem bigger or more rounded than you expect. If you are
spending 2 or 3 hundred dollars on a mouthpiece - make sure you know what the
plating will do on an all bronze piece.
I personally recommend you use at least a screw rim
instead of an all bronze. Then you can experiment for little cost.
Also a bronze piece will usually work well with a 1 #
smaller bottom than you usually play.
More to come…..