|Trumpet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The basic sound of the trumpet is produced by vibrating the lips to make a buzzing sound. Other articles discuss making a good buzz, but here we'll look at how to really support that sound once a buzz is established. Three-pointers that support trumpet players over their entire trumpet career are:
- Keep the corners of the embouchure firm - this is the area that helps control your sound, your tone & your pitch.
- Take a deep breath - stand up straight or sit up straight, breathe deeply starting from way down in your abdomen. - A deep breath supports your tone and range
- Blow all the way through the trumpet - that might sound obvious, but the concept of blowing through the horn vs into or at it makes sure you're providing enough air supply.
These are your absolutely essential tools for playing the trumpet. Trying to play the trumpet without developing these skills is like trying to swim with your street clothes on. It's possible, but you'll work so hard trying to overcome that handicap you've put on yourself. On the other hand, having these simple skills is like getting that super sleek, racing swimsuit that should be illegal. It's not enough alone to make you a great performer, but it gives you a solid base to grow from and supports you rather than holds you back. Learning these fundamental ideas here at the very beginning will make everything come much easier as you progress. So let's take a look at each of these.
Firm Corners -
The corners of the embouchure (the shape of the lips and surrounding muscles when buzzing) should be kept flexed enough to keep a consistent embouchure shape. The tendency for many players is to draw the lips back into a smile when playing higher notes. That embouchure needs to look nearly motionless as the trumpeter plays throughout the range. The jaw might drop a bit in the lower register, but the corners should stay firm. A good way to monitor embouchure movement is by watching in a mirror while playing, forcing a consistent position.
Big Breath -
Air support is one of the most overlooked 'skills' by people learning to play the trumpet. It's overlooked because it's possible to play the trumpet with shallow air support. Developing trumpet players often consider it a success when they can get through a song without missing any notes. However, insufficient air support can lead to a weak sound, inconsistent intonation (pitch), limited range, and poor musical phrasing. A big breath of air is the foundation of a good trumpet sound. Even when playing softly, a big breath will provide the support necessary to control the overall musicality of a trumpet performance.
Blow The Air Through The Trumpet -
This one may seem obvious. "If the air doesn't go through the trumpet, where else could it go?" The phrase is meant to describe the way to take that big breath and really use it to produce music, blowing through the trumpet, not at it. The idea may be analogous to the difference between humming under one's breath and performing an aria. One is significantly more musical than the other. Even at low volumes, the air through the trumpet will be smooth and consistent.
These three pointers are important in really playing the trumpet, and getting past just playing all the right notes in a song. Even advanced trumpet players often step back, resolve to really learn "how to play the trumpet", and take a serious look at their embouchure consistency and air support. Trumpet players who learn these skills and use them habitually are less likely to have to step back later and correct their fundamentals.