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 Post subject: Help with Tone Quality?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 2:20 pm 
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I have been playing trumpet for many many years...age not to mention. :) When it comes tone I feel mine is fairly good, clean, clear.

My son has been playing for 2 years now (8th grade). He is progressing very well technically but when it comes to tone quality not so good. His tone is very muffled and raspy...kind of like something stuck in the bell. I have tried everything from more air, relax throat, tongue position, slurring exercises, etc.

Does anyone have any ideas that will improve tone quality? Anything that has worked for you? He is becoming very frustrated as his tone is keeping him from moving up in school band.

Thanks very much!

MS


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:42 pm 
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This is kinda hard to do long distance, but here's what I would want to see and hear to evaluate this...

When he inhales is his gut expanding, or is there no gut movement as he is doing shallow chest breathing? Don't ask him... watch him. Don't correct or ask him to change anything yet, as you check this stuff. Just take notes.

What does his embouchure look like as he plays? Think about his mouthpiece placement and the corners of his lips. Do these look right to you, as they look on other good trumpet players, or is there something unusual or off balance about it?

Ask him to play for you from low C chromatically down to low F#-- slowly-- full tone, mf to f dynamics. Can he do that? Can he do it piano, or double forte? What's happening to the tone as he goes down? How about the upper register? Start him on a G above the staff when he's not too tired. Where does the tone start to thin out? Watch the gut and upper chest again-- where's the air coming from as he inhales and plays in both the lower and upper registers? Ask him to play an A above the staff for a few seconds and then drop down to an A below the staff for a few seconds and then back up high again. How is his embouchure changing? How's he moving his arms and hands as the note changes?

Are his hands and arms relaxed? Are his knuckles white with popping veins in the hands as he plays? When he puts the horn down after playing for five or ten minutes, look at the mouthpiece ring on his lips. Where is it (centered vertically, horizontally?)? How deep is it? Is there blood and ragged skin? :wink:

Does he have braces? Does he need braces?

Ask him to take the mouthpiece out of the horn and buzz a note any note, and for him to be aware and to tell you where the tongue is in his mouth or in his mouthpiece as he attacks the note and where it goes during the note. Ask him to show you. Have him do it a few times until he's sure of the two locations. Is it different for higher or lower notes?

Who's teaching him? How long?

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 6:03 pm 
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Oh, something else to check. What's the angle of his chin to his throat as he plays? What a weird question. Here's why I ask. Demonstrate this one to yourself before you check it on him so you know what I'm going after. Inhale a deep gut breath and lift your nose in the air like a Park Avenue snob. Leave your lips in an open O position and exhale as you slowly drop your chin towards your chest. You'll reach a point where the chin is down and your throat is closing and the air flow is restricted. The sound will change from smooth to a little ragged. The chin is too low for good airflow. Is his chin at that same angle to his chest as he plays? He's sitting up straight with no slouch in the spine or shoulders thrust forward? (You can test out the effect of doing all those things on air flow just as you did with your throat.) Is the tone any different when he's standing vs. sitting?

You know you're on the right track. Bad tone can be an air flow or embouchure problem or there can be too much pressure on the embouchure. There's no one right way to do these things that works for everybody, but there's lots of ways to get off track and we're on to many of them here.

You or another player can still get a very good tone on his horn, yes? (Just on the remote chance there's an air leak in the spit valves or some other horn problem.)

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 Post subject: thanks
PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2005 9:22 am 
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Thanks for the response and the suggestions.

He started out taking lessons in the beginning (someone I knew that was a good teacher). We had to stop for $$ and I have been trying to help me since. His horn is fine. He plays a Bach Omega with 3C mouthpiece. Braces at the beginning but got them off a year ago. Like I said I have been playing for many years but playing and teaching are 2 different ballgames. It's like I want to get in his mouth to see what is going on.

He can play low with no problems going from C down with good tone. Range is the problem. He can only play up to E comfortably but going past middle C the tone gets worse. We have worked on deep breathing, not shallow chest. His embochure looks good from the outside, balances up and down but plays a tad to the right. I do too and I know allot of good players who don't play exactly center horizontally. He buzzes fairly well without the horn. We also looked at the "free buzz" technique.

Last night we did make some progress doing 3 things, (1) taking the mouthpiece further from his lips, (2) letting the air create the buzz other than vice versa, (3) lowering his tongue in his mouth to allow more airflow. The moving the mouthpiece made him use more air to make the notes. Slurring practices would help too because he using the tongue too much/harsh.

The angle of the throat may be the key. I agree since I remember him playing better standing up then sitting.

We will continue to work on it. I really appreciate you taking the time to give the suggestions. I know wont change overnight but hopefully we find the cause. He really wants to improve before high school starts with summer camp.

MS


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2005 12:11 pm 
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OK, this is helpful; you're narrowing it down. There are some things I can think of that can cause a good lower register, slightly ragged tone in the middle register, difficulty playing at all in the upper register and very thin tone there:

Remember they used to teach playing high by going taaa-eeee? The eeee for the high notes, right? But what some people do who are having trouble in the upper register is make the eeee sound by pulling out the corner of their lips, smiling. They blow harder. They use arm and hand pressure to increase the mouthpiece pressure. This does create high notes but dependable accuracy and tone and pitch and control of the high notes is lousy and the range is not good. What works better for most players-- everyone's mouth is different-- is to make no more than a very small corner adjustment in the embouchure and no more than a small increase in pressure with the arms and hands-- these have to stay relaxed-- but to make the eeeee with the center part of the tongue. Raise it up to make a venturi tube with the roof of the mouth. Then use LESS air but move it faster through the mouth, which of course is what venturi tubes do.

Yeah, I'm suspicious about posture here. Rather than telling him "Sit up straight" which players forget as soon as they tire, have him demonstrate for himself what happens to airflow when the chin drops, or the shoulders slump, or the spine slouches. Keep coming back to it. He has to develop that desire inside to get a solid air column into the mouthpiece, and I think demonstrations of effect of posture on airflow work better than verbal reminders on posture, which just makes a trumpet teacher sound like a drill instructor. You know what I mean? When a player gets some benefits from good posture, when they hear it sound better, they're more likely to print it in and go back to sitting or standing straight especially when they're tired, when they hear the tone and feel the muscles droop simultaneously.

It may well be okay if his embouchure is slightly off-center to one side. That may be the best balancing point for his mouth. That works better for some players than dead straight. But what about top lip vs. bottom lip? When you look at the ring mark after he's played awhile, if it's 75%+ on one lip and less on the other, he may need to get the other one buzzing the mouthpiece more too. Getting the other lip into play will feel very awkward. It will hurt more and sound worse ("It's wrong, Dad") at first, but stay with it. Keep a mirror nearby when he practices and ask him to check the ring marks when he rests and go for 50-50. If it's already 66-33 or 33-66, it wouldn't be my first choice to mess with this. But 75-25 or more-- I've seen some really extreme examples with people buzzing mostly one lip-- changing won't work for everyone, but it can be a big help to some players with your son's problem. The endurance is also better when both lips share the load.

I hear you on the money thing. But if all this advice doesn't help, even one session with a good teacher who can see him play may better help pinpoint two or three mechanical things like this that adjustments could improve. Also, dad teaching son something dad was very good at when young and very important to dad-- the outcome can depend so much on the chemistry between the two. For some, it's a bonding thing that works out great. For others, it becomes a source of tension that causes problems outside the skill being taught. You have to judge that and know when to fold 'em. One good inexpensive way to get help with stuff like this is if there's a college nearby. Can you make contact with a student who plays? Sometimes the best players are not the best teachers. You want someone who knows how to communicate and teach (not just demonstrate), who understands the physiology of playing and who can look at your son and see things quickly that aren't right, and who understands that everybody is different and so what works for the teacher may not work for the student.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:10 pm 
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I am admittedly not an expert, but pressure might be an issue. Players that use excessive pressure can have tone problems, though it sounds like he's been taught solid enough that this shouldn't be a problem. Another thing to maybe watch for is space between the teeth. A closed down airway can muffle a sound, no matter how open the throat is.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2005 2:00 pm 
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Btw, one more thing. Based on what I've heard about the technique, it sounds great. However, I might suggest a deeper/wider mouthpiece. I found that opening up my sound was much easier on my 1.25 Curry (TF series) then any 3C on which I've played (Back, Curry, and the Shilke equivalent). If you stick with the 3C, opening the throat of the mouthpiece might be a worthwhile alternative.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 6:55 pm 
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hand him a tuba. that would most likely beef up his airstream. *peers around the room with an evil grin*

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i play string bass too! arco and pizz. electric bass as well.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 10:14 pm 
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Monette mouthpieces help, lol. J/k, but seriously, I marched on a B1-2 all summer and it did wonders for my playing, and that was on lower lead (they moved me up). As Ben Harloff might say "air is the cause of and solution to all of our problems".

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 7:39 am 
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RH. . .great suggestions! Do you play professionally?

I used to have a trombone teacher during grad school that was very off the wall. At first, I had a real problem with some of his techniques, but then I realized they worked.

Anyway, just curious because it seems people don't often enough get into the real mechanics of producing a sound.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 5:55 pm 
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Well, let's see how good those suggestions were in this old, revived thread. BAA-GA, can you give an update?

I never played professionally, and stopped playing for good about ten years ago... and took up photography instead, a far less frustrating artistic endeavor. I was a very good amateur trumpet player at one time. But as a mark of how far I was, still, from being a pro, I had a friend in high school who was from Rhode Island-- he played first trumpet in the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra-- I played second-- he could play circles around me and went on to have a pro career. He's still playing 3rd trumpet... for the Boston Pops. To me, that felt like putting Dale Earnhardt Jr. to work as a cab driver.

I wouldn't mess with somebody's physiological approach to the horn who was happy with his playing, but when a player feels "stuck", that's often the first place I want to look. I agree with Ben and trumpetguy-- the airstream is critical.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2005 12:38 pm 
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Funny I just looked over here.

An update. Well he is improving slowly. He just started marching band (9th grade) and band camp this summer helped him. They had a brass instructor who stressed to him to point his chin down which is basically opening up the space around his teeth...thus better air flow. When he does this and concentrates on it he makes much better sound (clearer..not pinched). He does still play with too much pressure at times. He is playing 3rd trumpet right now which fits his range...up to E & F. (I have stressed to him that ALL parts are important). Has hard time hitting G above the staff. As far as sound goes from C down he has strong dark sound. From C up he then has his troubles with sound and pinching. If you have any more ideas to help range and comfort let me know.

As far as mouthpiece goes he recently switched from the Bach 3C to a Warburton 5M that I have & use for church playing. This has helped him some with producing more sound and some with range.

Thanks for all your help and the posts.

Mitch
BAA-GA


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2005 7:14 am 
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chin down... hmmm...

"Chin down" can be a good suggestion for opening up the mouth and getting a strong air column all the way to the embouchure, if the top of the forehead stays up. Again, I go back to a point I made in my first post in this thread. Demonstrate to yourself what happens if you follow "chin down" and drop the head as well, as some people would do when someone says "chin down" to them: Try it: Hold your head high, take a deep breath, form a small O with your lips, and blow through it... then start slowly dropping your head, as if you're very slowly nodding off... which is one way someone might interpret "chin down". What happens to the airstream? If you're like me, it will pinch off significantly when the head is dropped only, maybe, 15 degrees. <== Wherever the chin is, be sure the throat is staying open, which means, unless you're leaning forward at the waist, the player's forehead has to stay up. Do that, and "chin down" can be a good way to go.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2005 7:29 am 
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I should have said "point the chin down". He asked to him to point the chin down which is opening the mouth cavity and the space between his teeth. The focus here to open up the air movement. His has to play with head up and horn up in the drill sets so he is not dropping the chin and the head. Sorry I didn't explain that right in the previous post.

Mitch
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 9:41 am 
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Ah, range, the fun topic. About the pressure, that'll come in time. When you're marching, you learn not to use pressure, because the more you use the less of a sound you can make. Something that can help is buzzing on a mouthpiece or Berp. If you use a mouthpiece, hold in your non-dominant hand and hold lightly at the end of the shank, etc. That kind of stuff can does wonders, it did for me anyway. In the upper range, I try to think of pulling the horn away from my face. Now, literally, I don't, but by creating that mental picture I usually end up using less pressure. Hope some of that helps.

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