Focusing or directing the air within the oral cavity

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    Trumpet Range

    Focused air and embouchure

    There’s a lot of talk in the trumpet world about ‘using efficient air’ or ‘making your setup more efficient’.

    These ideas always struck me as vague.

    What does it mean exactly to ‘use more efficient air’, to ‘make things more efficient’?

    If your car is not running efficiently, then it needs some work doing to make it run more efficiently. But the work could be anything depending on the problem – a tire change, a new gasket, even lost keys. Anything!

    Lately I’ve been working on a few things:

    1. Achieving an immediate response without tongue-starting notes (and 100% no airballs)
    2. Using hardly any air to get this immediate response (so even at ppp)
    3. Getting a vibrant lively tone (not fluffy, not diffuse, not dull) at ppp

    When I get all of this right, it feels like the whole system is running optimally, or ‘efficiently’ so to speak. In other words, I don’t need to force notes into existence, blast, pinch, muscle, or all the usual things I am prone to doing on a bad day.

    So how do I get there?

    I’ve discovered that the best thing to concentrate on (for me) is focusing the air in the oral cavity into a tiny point right at the aperture – not blowing it aimlessly forward in the general direction of the horn, nor directing it ‘through’ the horn as is so often recommended.

    If I think about focusing (concentrating) and directing the air within the mouth into a tiny point right at the aperture, especially the front-most part of the aperture, I get a lively immediate response with far less effort. I can use hardly any air to play quietly and I can add more air to play louder. If I ‘speed up’ the air (a concept I never really agreed with or understood previously) while (crucially) keeping the air focused and small (so no speeding it up in the sense of blowing in a less directed or focused manner), I can ascend into the upper register with much greater ease.

    Of course I still need to do do the other basics: form my embouchure correctly, breath etc. But I find that by thinking of the air in this way the embouchure tends to forms naturally (and optimally), the tongue arch forms naturally (and optimally), my breath support forms naturally (and optimally), and, crucially, all of these things coordinate, instead of working against each other.

    Well, these are just my experiences and thoughts. Give them a try, they may work for you, they may not. It’s trumpet playing after all!

    Trumpet 007

    Thankks TR, this is a good summary. I have been trying something like this for a while, but also rolling the lower lip in slightly over the lower teeth. I think this helps to get the buzz to start faster becuase of the lips being closer together.


    Greetings all.

    I am not one to normally post on such “trumpet rags” but as this is a newer one; I would like to help generate business.

    As I see it there are 3 primary aspects to trumpet (really all brass or even wind instruments).

    -aperture (lip)
    -oral cavity (tongue level)
    -wind/air control breath support (exaltation of air)

    Now there are other aspects such as: Teeth aperture…. Tongue Syllables to direct air stream… And many ways/opinions of how to inhale air the proper way in order to exhale with the right amount of control. Etc etc….

    All of this and more that can’t even be explained clearly in words, take place when producing sound (good sound hopefully) with a trumpet.

    I believe it is a magical balance of those original 3 mechanisms. With various degrees of balance within all of the sub and tertiary systems-(for lack of a better term).

    We tend to argue on and on about what the “truth” within this is, or rather “the real way” to creat this balance. Unfortunately often we miss the mark because “my” (referring to any particular opinion) description of how to achieve this balance, may not work for you. In other words the language I speak to explain what I do, may not “speak” to you, never mind that we don’t all have the same intuitive abilities.

    Foe example; how many teachers have you gone through before you found one that you clicked with and thus helped you reach those “Ahh Ha!” moments?
    -some may take years of study before the student conceptualizes what they wish to convey…?
    -Others teachers have the ability to “speak” many languages or quickly figure out what speaks to their students, these can be the really great ones!

    Any way as I ramble on with no end point…

    Think about my original statement of the 3 primary mechanisms, and how you see or feel they relate. Take special care as to how you describe them to your students, and what language may speak to them.

    Please feel free to correct me or help clarify this. I have no intention of making ultimate statements… Or posting truths that are absolute. I’m just learning how to play and thus teach trumpet, like many of you.

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