Recently, I have been asked to describe what I see as being the "most often observed" problems which plague trumpeters.
Trumpet Player's #1 Psychological Nemesis is:
Failure to understand that our "sound" is created, produced, and determined "internally", BEFORE it is "collected" by the mouthpiece. "Playing the trumpet" is an essentially internal process.
We do not "play" a brass instrument in the same sense that we "play" the violin or piano; hence, the "hardware" plays a minimal role in our success - or lack of it! You will "sound" like you, and I like me, regardless of the equipment! Playing the trumpet is, in fact, little more than "singing" - while substituting the lip "buzz" for the vocal chord vibration. Unlike all the other instruments which require a mechanical source of vibration, "we" are the tone generators for the sound of the trumpet.
There is a widely held belief that "success can be purchased at the local music store". Unfortunately, this belief is especially prevalent among young players who are, perhaps, more likely to be impressed by "glitzy" advertisements and testimonials from "stars", and more likely to be adversely affected by constant experimentation with varying equipment!
And it appears that many players presume that trumpet "paraphenalia" can be purchased in the same manner as one would select a new computer! "why yes- I'd like a 10 gig hard drive, 240 megs of ram, and the fastestavailable processor", becomes, in 'trumpetese', "Why, yes - I'd like a weirdo 39X mouthpiece...no, wait, better make that the 39XER ..so I can get those D,E, and F's above High C". "BTW, when are you going to be getting the new weirdo 39XER-ea extended endurance models? How much more do you think the new "EA" model will cost?
Sure - it is great fun to purchase new equipment - it may even motivate you to renew your practice efforts .... for a few days! But it is a grave mistake to believe that trumpets, mouthpieces, and related "toys" will be of any real benefit for your progress.......especially, without an understanding of the dedication that is required in order to become a world-class player.
The Trumpeter's No. ONE Pedagogical
Excessive external mouthpiece pressure
via the Static Embouchure.
The "partials" or "harmonics" are selected by varying the amount of "forearm" pressure against the soft embouchure. "Mashing" the lips between the mouthpiece and teeth is perhaps a more painful description! The embouchure is actually "formed" by the mouthpiece. As a result, the player finds himself to be more at the "mercy" of the mouthpiece, and related equipment, than are some other players. I describe this as "bringing the mouthpiece to your chops".
Psychology implications: An EXTERNALLY orientated, "trumpet as New years Eve horn" approach - you blow into "it", "it" produces the sound. All things considered, some folks are able to become quite good players using this embouchure - up to a certain point.
However, there are some unfortunate side effects associated with the Static Embouchure.
1. An upper range
limited to D3 or E3 (above the staff)
2. One's "highest" register is limited by the ability to endure pain.
2. A weak low register (tones below middle C - first ledger line)
3. Great problems with endurance.
4. Range is limited to c. 1-1/2 octaves WITHOUT "re-setting" the chops.
5. Relatively poor flexiblity.
Overcoming the Static Embouchure and reducing mouthpiece pressure.
The CONSTANTLY ADJUSTING EMBOUCHURE - the basis for this thinking is the "mouthpiece-less buzz". The functioning of this embouchure is a result of consciously manipulating the muscles that control pitch and airflow/speed. I describe this as "bringing the chops to the mouthpiece". An INTERNALLY orientated approach: Pitch is controlled by pressing the lips INTO each other, and adjusting the airpressure accordingly.Our highest tone is the point where we are (A) Unable to further compress the lips, to effect a "higher buzz" - the air "breaks through" our lips at more than one vibration point, or leaks at the corners of the mouth.or (B) We are unable to supply sufficient airpressure necessary to "breakthrough" and "buzz" the lips. No buzz, no tone!
You may like to experiment with the "balloon" analogy: Blow-up a balloon while holding the neck of the balloon with the thumbs and first fingers of both hands. Now you can run your own series of experiments Re. pitch, airpressure, and compressing/relaxing the aperture or buzz.
My thinking is that there really is NOT such a great diversity as to how the trumpet is "blown" - the REAL differences have to do with how that process is DESCRIBED!
I'll conclude with a quote from the PREFACE of SAIL THE SEVEN C'S. Though written nearly 20 years ago, I have found no need to alter the premises.
"It is the author's premise that all good players play essentially the same way, but due to human variation both physical and mental, no single approach will be effective for all players. I have further hypothesized that the greatest stumbling blocks to teaching ``what to do'' while playing are : (A) A lack of scientific evaluative techniques. (B) A lack of standardized terminology, and (C) the difficulty of trying to externalize, or verbalize, a process which is essentially internal. In other words, most disagreements regarding playing techniques are a result of several differing verbal descriptions of the same process. It is much akin to the proverb of the blind men who gave conflicting descriptions of an elephant, based upon the examination of a particular appendage of the animal".
"The range of the trumpet, as well as that of all other brass instruments, is contingent upon the chops of the player. To this end, we brass players have to devote considerable time to the physical development of our embouchure. I doubt that anyone can promise that any amount of practice will enable everyone to play the above-mentioned seven octave range, any more than we can guarantee that every jogger will eventually be able to run the four-minute-mile. It is not given that all should be able to do so! But I can promise that everyone who seriously and conscientiously follows the regimen prescribed in this book will be able to improve his range and endurance considerably.
The high register will not capitulate to casual practice - but it will yield to those who correctly persist!"
(C) Copyright 1999, B-FLAT MUSIC PRODUCTION