Since we all are teachers, whether ultimately "our own teacher", teaching others privately or teaching the youth in a school setting such as Middle School, High School or College level, I will be gearing FixYourBrass to include teachers and performers. My posts will have various "topics" (Range, for example), with information for development and maintaining these categories as well as problems that may arise. The posts may be followed by my own "comments" and as to solutions to these problems watch for follow-up posts. So please add your own comments as to create a dialogue regarding said posts as well as any "personal problems" that I can help with. Looking forward to this exchange.


Friday, August 27, 2010


There is a distinction that must be made between developing a good high register, maintaining it and then bringing it into the world of "reality". It is so true that playing demands for a professional brass player entail many requirements. One of them surely is loud middle and low register playing.

At the level of beginners up and through high school, where range begins to develop, the speed of this development would be so much quicker if these early times did not consist of loud middle and low register playing, resulting in such a wide aperture. As in my previous post, playing the middle and low registers "with maximum lip aperture" will ensure that the high register is either non-existent or achieved by "smashing the lips" with too much mouthpiece pressure to increase "compression" (the aperture control category)OR using the antiquated approach of "smiling" to ascend.

In the world of "reality" for the beginners in Middle School and on into High School, the music itself is mostly in the low mid-range of the instrument, especially trumpet, and one is caught in between this development stage and performance where there seems be a contradiction.i.e. "How do I develop a range when the low and middle registers require so much energy and air at such a loud volume?" Remember, the upper register requires far less air then the low and middle registers, but more air "force", so where will the energy go if you had the choice?

First of all, a compromise must me made in these early days of embouchure development that the teacher must realize. Dynamics must be stressed! Using the "rule" of CRESCENDO TO ASCEND, DECRESCENDO TO DESCEND, make sure that the brass players don't "blow it all" on the low register. Do not insist that this register be the student's biggest sound or his/her biggest volume of playing. The music may calls for this, but make all registers and volumes(dynamics)RELATIVE.

It has been said that "Anyone can play loud!" and I concur. If we keep the volume of the Middle and Low registers "relative" to any crescendo to ascend, the student's range will increase rapidly and logically, allowing the lip aperture to open and close with purpose and not "struggle" randomly and unconsciously by illogical and foolish use of the middle and low register.

Professonal players take heed: if you are struggling to DEVELOP a good high register or simply trying to MAINTAIN what you have without certain playing demands "cutting into" your present high register, everything said here also applies to you. The category of LIP COMPRESSION is so closely related to LIP APERTURE that further Posts concerning RANGE will have a plethora of information regarding these two "brothers/sisters"...possibly "twins". Stay tuned!


Thursday, August 26, 2010


Thomas said:

1. What doesn't make sense is what one must do if the music demands fortissimo in the middle/lower register and then slurs up to the upper register.

2. How is it possible to maintain a small aperture in the lower register if the music asks for fortissimo?

3. Lastly, if a middle C at mezzo-piano is the same aperture size as a forté top C, what size aperture does a fortissimo high C+ require? I have no problems whatsoever playing softly and performing "squeakers" in the high register. I can do this endlessly. But when the music demands loud, fortissimo playing in that register I am forced to mash, presumably because the louder dynamic demands more air, which in turn demands a wider aperture.

My comment:


Thanks for your questions. In developing a high register what I posted on "How to play the low register correctly" is in the area of DEVELOPING a high register. And of course, a performance or etude requirement will invariably require a loud middle and even a loud low register. So musical demands must be met...however, consistently playing with this wide open aperture to accomplish this is detrimental to going high again out of this. So many loud rock trumpet players have a hard time with the upper register as a result. Their daily practice MUST consist of soft middle register playing "bring the lips closer".

So PRACTICE with this aperture principle in mind, but by all means "let the punishment fit the crime" when the loud middle and registers are called for.

An accomplished player CAN play loud with a "controlled" aperture and that is quite an art. I will certainly have more to say in my next post regarding this and also about the detrismental "dropping the jaw to descend"s habit.

One more answer to Thomas as to the aperture control above high C (C+)...this is controlled by using "lip compsression" which will be addressed fully in later posts.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summary so far to develop RANGE

While preparing the next post, this "summary" of the previous post will emphasize and re-iterate specific points that will assist range development.

Never play the middle and low registers with maximum lip aperture.
Never "tongue" between the lips and teeth at any time in any range (what range?)
Start the beginner on a middle Bb if possible from the HOW TO BUZZ guide (see earlier posting) and for the more advanced player, make this note his/her "pivotal point" in range to ascend and descend from there.

Monday, August 16, 2010

How to play the low register correctly to ensure a good high register

Continuing this thread of RANGE, addressing the low register, where unfortunately just about all beginners are instructed to start with, will bring the "truism" that A good high register can certainly be achieved by a good low register IF THE LOW REGISTER IS PLAYED CORRECTLY into play.

The first note asked of a beginning brass student to be played , in most cases by uninformed teachers, is "whatever open tone can come out", usually the low Bb concert. Many of these teachers were NOT brass players and were given academia's idea of how to teach a brass player with outdated methods and ideas they themselves espoused and in many cases detrimental to embouchure development. Traditional method books start on second line "G" for trumpet and proceed from there.

What follows here is mainly for the Teacher and more advanced players (not beginners with two years or less of playing).

With the lips "just touching" and in a "buzzing position" (see HOW TO BUZZ on a later post)and after mouthpiece placement is enacted, with the proper mouthpiece pressure applied to the lips, the air blown at this "compressed" position of the lips (some say "closed position") an APERTURE is formed. The Aperture is the space "blown open" (not tongued open!)within the rim of the mouthpiece which will be referred to as "the perfect circle".

When the student is instructed to start playing on a low Bb Concert, this Aperture is quite large and the note will sound loud, blatty and unmusical. With all of the demands of the music instructor in our Middle and High Schools to "produce", it is important for them to get the brass players (trumpet players especially) playing the required music as quickly as possible. Here is when the trouble starts! The low register beginnings almost make it impossible to "build" from there by ascending from this huge aperture created now and expecting it to become smaller as required by physics (nature) to be able to play the middle register and upwards. There only choice, regrettable is to apply more mouthpiece pressure and "smash" the lips against the teeth to produce this smaller aperture. As a developed embouchure ascends, the aperture becomes smaller.

Now, starting on a middle Bb concert, the student will have immediately a smaller aperture. Here is a good statement to make regarding the lip aperture: a middle Bb played at a moderate volume (mp) will have the same lip aperture as a high Bb played at a forte! Read this again! When one plays a middle Bb at mp and slurs up to a high Bb at a forte, THE LIP APERTURE DOES NOT CHANGE!

High Register "rule" #1. Always crescendo to ascend, decrescendo to descend.
and it's companion, #2. The longer the ascending slurred interval, the "thinner" the lower note MUST be. As Reinhardt states: "This is particularly essential while range is in the formative stages."

I mentioned that the aperture is "blown open", not tongued open. The age-old fallacy of "spitting seeds" and tonguing between the lips and teeth is perhaps the most detrimental instruction ever given to a beginning brass player. It not only disturbs the mouthpiece setting and makes the mouthpiece "bob and bounce" as will be noticed in players who do this, but the aperture is formed unaturally and "forced" open.
Solution? #3. Teach the HOO no-tongue attack, using just the lips and air to produce the desired entrance. Those low Bb starters get that "thunk" with their entrances and while starting the vibrations and sound, the range of the player is stymied from the very start. The goal is to start beginners on a middle Bb and more experienced players make that their "mid-point" as a note to begin ascending and descending from.

In summary for this post:
Never play the middle and low registers with maximum lip aperture.
Never "tongue" between the lips and teeth at any time in any range (what range?)
Start the beginner on a middle Bb if possible from the HOW TO BUZZ guide and for the more advanced player, make this note his/her "pivotal point" in range to ascend and descend from there.

Next: The detrimental habit of "dropping the jaw to descend".

Friday, August 13, 2010

Welcome Woodwind/Brasswind

Just a short post in introduce and welcome Woodwind/Brasswind Company to my site. I highly endorse the Kelly Clear Mouthpieces for embouchure viewing and recommend that all of my student/teachers own a set of Trumpet/Cornet/Trombone/French Horn and Tuba CLEAR mouthpieces.
Dave S.

The Category of Range

Of all "topics" of brass playing categories, Range seems to be the "burning issue", especially among the young performer. As a first in a series of Categories of Brass Playing I have chosen Range for this very reason - the "burning issue".

What is range? A good question. High notes? I think not. The very word "range" means covering a certain distance, so asking someone "what is your range?" he/she may answer "Oh, I can play a high C." Ah, so what is that person's "range"? One note? A person's range is from his/her lowest note to his/her highest note. For instance, from a low F# to a high C is a range of 2 1/2 octaves.

A good playable range, in today's playing field for trumpet is 3 octaves, say from G below low C to G above high C. A trombone's range is considerably wider, including the instrument's pedal notes [naturally produced on trombone, but unaturally produced on trumpet, due to not being available on the instrument without "lip manipulations" or, in come cases "lip and/or jaw distortions" of some sort - ed.] that may be more like 4 octaves. A trombone player's range is much easier to attain than a trumpet player's range and with a slide assist [a later topic -ed.] there is no excuse for this not to be true.

Certain principals of playing need to be addressed and certain "myths" need to be expelled to make it possible to delve into this subject in depth. Let's start with an established "truth" (myth) that has been passed down through generations of brass teachers and method books, that "A good high register is built on a good low register(foundation, so to speak)." This is what I will call a "half-truth". The correct statement should be thus: "A good high register is build on a good low register if the low register is played correctly." [emphasis mine - ed.]

How to play the low register correctly to ensure a good high register? The topic of our next Post. This "How to..." will definitely apply to the beginner as well as to any brass player struggling with range.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

BRASSolutioins - A Preview

Almost 70 years ago, Dr. Reinhardt printed DETAILED PLAYING PROBLEMS in his "Pivot System - A Complete Manual with Studies". (Now out of print) My new book "Solutions" is not only a tribute to the genius of Donald S. Reinhardt but a continuation into the present of his original "solutions" of the common playing problems of his day. This is what he said then:
I. Fuzz on the Tone
Caused by:
A. An improper mouthpiece contact on the lips due to:

1. Too little mouthpiece pressure.
2. Too much mouthpiece pressure.
3. Too much saliva(faulty diet, natural causes, etc.)
4. Fatigued or swollen lips caused by strain.
5. Improper PIVOTING
6. Tonguing between the teeth and lips
7. Improper mouthpiece placement
8. The vibrating points of the lips having been burned
by eating over-heated foods.
9. Chapped, cracked or feverish lips.
10. Cold sores, fever blisters, etc.
ll. The lips being heavily coated from nicotine, upset stomach,
12. Undeveloped lips.
13. The vibrating points of the lips being too dry.
14. Shaving too closely.
15. A mustache

B. An unsuitable mouthpiece for your type of lips, teeth, jaw,
gums, etc.Remember the back bore of the mouthpiece
must correspond to the bore of the instrument and
the mouthpiece must be designed with proper
proportions of the rim, cup, throat and back bore.

C. An instrument or mouthpiece that is dirty inside.
D. Improper breathing (neck bulging, etc.)
E. Puffing your cheeks, if you are not the type.
F. Improper tongue-level.
G. Improper Posture.
H. A leaky instrument.
I. Contracting the throat (head too far forward).

Corrected by:
Studying diligently and applying all the basic theories
of this manual and studies until they become a natural playing
habit. [Note: you will find The Reinhardt Routines + CD
as the modern version of these studies on my
website www.AirstreamDynamics.com in the Products page.

II. Rattles and Overtones

A. Almost always brought on by some form of playing strain. It is
an uncontrollable involuntary lip vibration. [Note: Very common in
a Type IV upstream performer.-ed.]

Caused by:
1. Too many high notes.
2. Playing fortissimo before warming up thoroughly.
3. Improperly balanced practice.
4. Too much playing without resting.
5. Changing mouthpieces and instruments too frequently.
6. Playing with too much mouthpiece pressure.
7. Swollen, strained, spread-lips.
8. Loss of sleep, etc.
9. Reversing the natural PIVOT.
10. Over-pivoting.
ll. A shifting, bobbing mouthpiece.
12. Tonguing between the teeth and lips.
13. Excessive chin or lip vibrato.

Corrected by:

1. Not practicing too many high notes.
2. Warming up correctly
3. Resting more often.
4. Playing softly the notes that rattle.
5. Pianissimo sustained tones on the rattle notes daily.
6. Balancing the practice period.
7. Adjusting a faulty PIVOT.
8. Avoiding strain.
9. Using only one mouthpiece.
10. Maintaining the anchor-spot when breathing (Note: upper lip in a
Downstream player and the lower lip in an Upstream Player -ed.)
11. Using less mouthpiece pressure.
12. Not tonguing between the teeth and lips.
13. Maintaining a correct diet.
14. Adopting a hand vibrato.

So look for the book "SOLUTIONS", which will include solutions beyond 1940 solutions devised by Dr. Reinhardt to cover
the present-day brass players' mechanical problems and will even delve
into the "psychological" practice and performance stymies that one may
encounter as well.

- Dave Sheetz