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.


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 Many of these teachers were NOT brass players and were given academia's idea of how to teach a brass player with outdated methods and ideas they themselves espoused and in many cases detrimental to embouchure development.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".


Thomas Herne said...

"...a middle Bb played at a moderate volume (mp) will have the same lip aperture as a high Bb played at a forte!..."

This makes sense to me.

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.

FixYourBrass said...

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 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.