WindWorks Trumpet Academy Forums WindWorks The Physics of "you don't need to blow harder" Reply To: The Physics of "you don't need to blow harder"


Good to hear, Steve–sounds like you’re onto something. I too have been doing something similar to what you describe. I would start with setting the mouthpiece (MP) and horn to my lips, keeping them as relaxed and natural as possible.

I then release a breath attack on a pedal tone–whatever slotted naturally.

There is some inconsistency out there about whether the pedal C is a real note or requires manipulation. For me, I can’t play a true C without using my lip to bend up to it. the note that slots on my horn is more like an A or Bb. None of that really matters, in my opinion, on this exercise as my intention is to simply play as relaxed as possible and obtain optimal resonance on each pitch.

Then I rest a few beats, then release a breath attack on Low C…rest a few beats, release a breath attach on Middle C…

Each pitch, I try not to change anything. I try to just let my lips fall into place in response to the Air and I keep everything open and relaxed, more than willing to miss any note and learning from that failure. The important thing for me is pure process–staying relaxed, open, not the results of achieving a certain pitch and manipulating process to get there.

I then play High C and feel how the only change from middle C is tension in the muscles at the sides of the mouthpiece, the “aperture corners” and I’m not blowing harder I’m releasing the same air as before. Once i obtain the pitch, I open the aperture up slightly and modulate the air to experiment with the right balance of Shape and Air to achieve optimum resonance–when I get it right, the note seems / sounds loud even though I’m not using more air, it just starts to resonate and ring out.

One could alter this by going to the E on the staff, then the G, or whatever note is relevant for them and do the same thing and build up more gradually to achieve that sensation of how little additional tension is actually required to achieve the higher pitches–on good air.

With regards to structure, I battle that myself and I don’t practice what I preach as much as I should. But I believe that is important in general and based upon what you’ve shared with us, I think it’s very important for you. There are so many variables to consider when playing and it’s easy to jump in a hole and lose your bearings–I have done that before, more often than I would care to admit. I could be wrong/mistaken, but I think you’ve done that as well.

Tom Hooten, principal trumpet with LA Phil, has some videos out there about how he battled things himself in college and had a disastrous embochoure change. One thing that he attributes his success to is using an app called “Seconds Pro” which allows him to structure his practice sessions, including rest breaks, on his phone or iPad. I’ve downloaded the app but have yet to have time to structure it. But my thoughts were to schedule certain percentages of my practice time to different attributes of playing, including playing some music and probably some extemperaneous playing.

But I don’t think it’s good or healthy for us to play extemperaneously 100% of the time as I think we lose our bearings on where we really are.

For example, I used to mountain bike a lot. I got into great shape to the point where I was having difficulty finding a hill I couldn’t climb without taking a rest on the way up. Then I slowed down a bit and took it easy for a while, and when I went back to some of those trails again I suffered a lot and couldn’t figure out what was wrong… What was “wrong” was that I stopped riding as much and my endurance was reduced and it was no longer realistic for me to have the expectation that I had about how I was going to ride that trail.

Without structure, I don’t believe I keep a good track in my mind with regards to where I’m at. How long can I hold a note, how fast can I do a harmonic slur, what pitch can I reach today / this week, etc. My memory sometimes jumps back to past peaks and not to recent results–I set my expectations a bit too high. And, sometimes I have great days that exceed my expectations–but those are relatively special and few. I am trying to get into the habit of taking notes during / after I play to note how I did, what I did and what my sensations were (good and bad).

And perhaps most importantly is Music–choosing a piece or pieces of music to work on that you love the sound of, that you want to master, that you can enjoy deep down the sound you are producing…but that has challenging aspects to it, certain parts that you may need to work up to. I have tended to gravitate towards some of the simple/lyrical melodies composed by John Williams, as they’re relatively simple but have challenging aspects to them for me. I often play portions of them extemperaneously during my practice sessions, but make it a point to play them as written with a metronome all the way through start to finish on a regular basis to keep myself honest. I don’t play in any groups currently, so I can lose myself a bit in just screwing around. So I force myself to play start-to-finish and see how it goes. I have surprised myself both good and bad at times. I think this may be the most important feedback we can give ourselves. Similarly, I’ve been working on the Arban Characteristic Study Number 1 a lot lately. I played a lot of Arban when I was younger but never really worked on that due to my range limitation but now have found it useful to solidify my ability to play consistently and with different articulations and dynamics and at an up tempo.

My $.02 FWIW. Best to you–let me know how things go, you might discover something that helps me. My biggest problem right now is time and the fact that I just moved and am focused on all that nonsense / getting settled.

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