Today, I had what felt like my “Coffee Moment” of coffee moments…
While I had developed an ability to play a High C and beyond a couple years ago, my consistency and predictability hasn’t been as good as I want it to be. I chalked that up to my not being able to practice as much as I should or lack of structure; and I’m sure those issues were in fact part of my problem.
But, today I realized that I was subtly engaging my lips when playing above the staff at times–and THAT was what was causing the airiness / raspiness of tone.
I’m not talking about clamping down top-to-bottom with my lips like I was doing before, or what seemed like anything extreme. But, even a relatively subtle engagement of the lip tissue was causing airiness / raspiness, whereas when I relaxed it went away.
This felt huge to me, even though I knew I am supposed to play relaxed / open–but I was doing that relatively successfully; I had worked myself up to playing up to an F or G above High C and even beyond that a few times. But my consistency wasn’t satisfactory.
And now, I know exactly what to do when I get that sound.
And it makes perfect sense–that is why an 8 year old kid can pick up a trumpet and play a resonant High C by accident, whereas someone who’s been banging their head on the wall for decades can’t–because our natural inclination is OPPOSITE from what it is that we need to do to be successful.
An analogy I mentioned on another thread came to mind today when I had this ephiphany–when I used to mountain bike a lot, I learned quickly to let go of my brakes when losing traction on a steep rocky descent in order to regain traction (the opposite of my natural inclination, which was to clamp down harder to stop).
The same is true with trumpet–what did I do when the sound was airy above the staff? I blew harder or engaged the lips more.
But, as I said above, Volume is independent of Pitch–it has to be possible to play resonantly with a good sound at PPP and FFF. We can’t ignore the composer’s dynamics and blow harder to improve our tone; that doesn’t make sense and goes against the principles of WindWorks.
I think I understand perhaps for the first time how to play the trumpet–I had a sense of balancing the air and shape and how and where to engage the muscles.
I had the sensation/image of each note being a ball floating on a column of air that I was trying to keep from falling before getting to the next note, etc. And connecting the notes, balancing the engagement of the muscles outside edges of the mouthpiece and letting the lips stay relaxed.