Ideas About Wind in Playing Trumpet
This blog will be largely on video. Yes, it is on my education page, but in the event you haven't stumbled over that, here it is.
I will add some ideas in the text, but by and large my ideas are well outlined in the video.
When I first started trying to expand the "territory of my abilities" on trumpet, I bought books on range, endurance, and flexibility. Here is a short list of the books that I studied.
1.) Claude Gordon's Systematic Approach - A 52 week method designed to get you to double high C and beyond.
2.) Jerry Callet's Trumpet Yoga - another system designed to help you get to a "super chops" state.
3.) Charles Colin's Lip Flexibilities - a very comprehensive lip flexibility method
4.) Earl Irons Lip Flexibilities
Now, I certainly have a file cabinet filled with many trumpet study books - everything from Arban to Walter Smith, etc. Also, the Claude Gordon book included the purchase of Clarke's books, Saint Jacomes and more. It was these four that leapt out to me as the tools I was using to develop my playing to the "next level" at that time.
One of the things that I felt I got quite confused about was the idea of how to use your air in playing extended range trumpet. the CG book had you filling up till you couldn't get in any more air, like a balloon about to pop. As I grew as a player, I felt that this created a great deal of tension.
I also heard many players who had achieved more than I had at that point tell me, "if you want to hit them high G's you've gotta use a lot of air!"
I became aware of Yoga breathing and got ahold of the "Science of Breath," a short booklet on Yoga style breathing.
In my efforts to synthesize all of this into a working approach that functioned for me, I got pretty jammed up. I was playing with a lot of tension. I had problems with my soft palette giving way while I was playing, a very disconcerting feeling. I was also beating the heck out of my chops by trying to get loud high G's to come out by just blowing as hard as I could.
To give a more specific example of my naivete, I felt, based on my readings and conversations, that if I was playing a G on top of the staff, all I had to do was blow as hard as I could and it would turn into a high G. Of course that is over simplified non sense, but that was due to the nature of the instruction I was getting at the time. Certainly the books and my teachers and friends weren't saying that to me, but the way the information was presented, this was a potential conclusion.
Of course, as a trained engineer, I knew that the full range of the instrument could only be developed by a symbiotic relationship between the lips, use of air and the use of the tongue and even the hands an the torso. The air thing was a challenge for me.
It was easy to find examples of accomplished players who displayed two ways of making the use of the air look. You had the Al Vizzuttis and Doc Severinsens and Jon Faddises who made it look easy. Conversely you have the Arturo Sandovals and Manynard Fergusons who always made it look SO physical.
Who was doing it correctly? Well, all of them, of course. It was a mistake to try to glean a whole lot about how they APPEARED to be blowing the horn. Everyone of these individuals could certainly make it all work for them.
In the end I opted into make it look as easy as I could when playing. This was not because I thought it looked cool. It actually probably sells at tune more if you do some histrionics over it. I chose this approach because I personally had to work at make it look easy in order to actually MAKE it easier for me. If I personally try to do the histrionics, I inevitably start getting sloppy in my actual form.
Here, in list form, are the ideas I use in breathing for trumpet.
1.) Don't OVER breathe. Only take in enough air for the job at hand. To fill up like a balloon about to pop is to risk developing unwanted tension.
2.) You don't necessarily need to MOVE more air to play high notes. In fact, volume air flow DECREASES as you ascend in pitch! Intra-oral air pressure increases, but the actual volume of air passing through the horn actually decreases as you go up.
3.) You inhale with the diaphragm, but you BLOW with the lower back and abs.
4.) Sometimes it is advantageous to lift the shoulders a bit as you tank up on air for a necessary effect, volume, note, etc. Just be darn careful to keep everything thing on TOP (shoulders, chest, upper back, neck, et al) relaxed. Only the lower back and abs really need to tense up for blowing harder.
5.) Finally, the underpinning of all your efforts to use "wind power" in your playing should revolve around a gentle but firm and relaxed control of the instrument.
I have heard the following happen with many players. I knew what it was about because it happened to me so many times. See if you haven't had this happen. You are getting ready to come slamming on on a dazzling high G. You tank up with a big gulp of air, you pick the horn up, lift up your shoulders, and just blow your brains out and BAM! Nothing but a big windy air-ball of nothing.
Here is my solution to that. At least it works for me. The next time an opportunity such as this comes around, I deliberately come at it much more lightly. I don't try to slam the note out with brute force. Instead I attack it with more finesse, like I'm playing a piccolo trumpet piece. To put it very simply, I don't try to play it so loud. The note will almost always come out, and then I can add airflow in a more gradual fashion to get the volume up there. This is what I mean by making the sense of gently but firm control the underpinning of your use of wind in playing trumpet.
I want to conclude with a reference. This article was written for the International Trumpet Guild Journal in March of 2012. It is very well thought out and the data analysis is spot on. They suggest the existence of two approaches to blowing the horn: air/wind centered and embouchure centered. I personally advocate for a hyrbridization of these two. Here is the article.
I highly recommend that you read this article if you have any issues about understanding the use of air in advancing your trumpet technique.
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