When I play low notes (e.g. low C) as relaxed as I can, it is already quite loud. What is the best / most efficient way in your opinion to play those low notes quietly, like pianissimo? I tend to keep the inhaling muscles slightly engaged, which keeps the internal air pressure even lower than in passive reduction, but I guess it might also be possible to just inhale less deeply (but only for very short passages), to slightly pinch the lips and/or to reduce resonance (lower sound quality). What is your opinion?
I think it is crucial to play a low C without any muscle engagement to release the air. You should be able to take a “concert hall” breath and relax into the C. As you described, this can be quite loud.
Controlling the amount of air that is released could be practiced without the horn. Form the embouchure, as Greg describes, focus on releasing a focused stream of air. Do not push the air. Exhale the air somewhat like a sigh. Do this again, but maintain your posture and keep your chest up. Do not tense any muscles. Keep your shoulders relaxed, but maintain your posture.
I would begin relaxed and loud and then back off on the air. The note should get softer. You will feel the lips close down the aperture, not by you pinching the lips. When playing loudly, the air creates a larger aperture. This is letting lips behave like the vocal cords while singing.
You can sing softly or loudly on a low note without manipulating muscles to force exhalation. It is the same principle in playing a wind instrument.
If you have just recently started this course, don’t rush the process. Practice forming the embouchure and release the air into a tissue (do not blow the air, release the air). Try releasing less air using the tissue and the visualizer or mouthpiece. I was already in the Allegro Stage and found I needed to go back to the beginning.
I just began my practice session. Besides playing a few easy Gs and a chromatic scale from C below to C in the staff, I play harmonic slurs. I have a long way to go to play these fast. I mention harmonic slurs because I believe that learning how to use your aperture corners is a vital piece of the puzzle. This is one of the most important exercises for us to practice. You may want to fill in your practice chart completely on Largo Status Stage and then go back and play softly as described. If you passed this stage, you probably should go back to the beginning and use the 1% rule. I don’t know how many people are like me and found that old habits die hard.
Thank you for your insights and taking the time to answer. I agree that we should start from the basics and that’s why I am trying to understand the low C as a starting reference point before going on to the next levels.
In order to back off from a passive exhalation to using even less air, I find that I am using the inhalation muscles, though it does not feel like a strain at all. I wondered if that is the correct way to do it.
Relaxed normal exhalation is a passive process. It happens because of the elastic recoil of the lungs and surface tension. The muscles used in a forceful exhalation are the internal intercostals, subcostals, and abdominal muscles. I think a controlled exhalation would involve not totally relaxing the muscles that are used to inhale. Imagine squeezing a hollow, rubber ball and slowly releasing the grip. Just the formation of the embouchure and the resistance of the trumpet’s tubing keeps the air from being released all at once. The same thing is true in singing. The vibrating vocal cords slow down the release of your air.
The most important key is probably the size of the opening the air goes through. This seems true when air is leaving the balloon. Our lungs and the structures they are attached to are just one big balloon.
I just experimented a little more and found that it seems easier to achieve a sympathetic oscillation using this less-than-passive exhalation, because the aperture is smaller, which means there is less lip tissue oscillating.
But this may also be taken as a hint that my mouth and/or aperture corners are too tight to allow a broader portion of the lips to oscillate freely.
Fantastic! You have intriguing insights: “…it seems easier to achieve a sympathetic oscillation using this less-than-passive exhalation, because the aperture is smaller, which means there is less lip tissue oscillating. But this may also be taken as a hint that my mouth and/or aperture corners are too tight to allow a broader portion of the lips to oscillate freely.”
What is a sympathetic oscillation? I have a guitar in my room. When I play pitches on my trumpet that match the pitches that the strings are tuned, those strings vibrate without me touching them. It is the soundwaves’ energy that sets them vibrating. When Greg discusses the sympathetic oscillation of the lips, I believe he is referring to the leadpipe air-turbulence interacting with the lips to set the lips and the pipe vibrating together. Sympathetic oscillation requires two objects to interact, in this case, the leadpipe and the lips. The medium of this interaction is air reacting similarly between the guitar strings and my trumpet. All that is needed is air to be released through your embouchure with the mouthpiece and leadpipe system. No blowing or “less-than-passive exhalation” is required. It’s the slingshot and release. Your conclusion could be spot on: “But this may also be taken as a hint that my mouth and/or aperture corners are too tight to allow a broader portion of the lips to oscillate freely.”