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, September 24, 2010

A Success Story

I would like show this to our viewers. It is from one of my students.

I wanted to share an encouraging story with you. As
you know, I teach band from grades 7-12 in a rural community.

Over the past two years, I have been continually refining my pedadogy,

and I am starting to figure out what works and what doesn't with young students.

Today, I started a group of 18 seventh grade trumpet players. Aside
from set-up, maintenance of the horn, etc., the first thing I taught

them was how to wet their lips and how to buzz. We spent about 15-20 minutes
working on this until every student could buzz. I told them to
wet their teeth, mouthcorners, and both lips, and to keep them
saturated at all times. I also told

them to form their lips with the red part of their lower lip hugging
the edges of their teeth, and the upper lip reaching down like saying
the letter "m". We practiced this procedure, and then I had them buzz
long, high notes. I also had them place their thumb and forefinger
on their mouthcorners, and instructed them to make sure that their
mouthcorners were firm when buzzing. After the 15-20 minutes, all
of the students were able to buzz SOMETHING. I would say that about
half of them had superb looking and sounding buzzing embouchures (for

beginners), while the other half could buzz but were still

trying to get the knack of it. Now the surprising part:

When I had them play their first notes on the trumpet, I instructed them to form

their embouchures "as if they were going to buzz" (but not buzz). I
told them that their jaw might be in a different position when they

play than when they buzz and to not worry about this. The next part really
blew me away: about 75% of the eighteen players played middle C (third) as

their first note! Some kids were playing as high as fourth space E

or top of the staff G for their first note!

This completely caught me off guard as I have become accustomed to

hearing the usual low C groan.
Deciding to experiment, I asked the players to try and match a fourth space E

that I played for them. Five or six players could play this note with
little strain.

Going yet higher, 3-4 were able to play the top of staff G

(including two players that were very obviously upstream players). I
had two beginners that were able to match high C. One student was able
to play a high E with higher squeakers (three ledger lines). This
student looked like
an upstream player. I have done many beginner trumpet clinics, and

this has never been the result yet.

However, in the past, I have never been so adamant about getting the
buzzing right before playing.

Thinking that "this particular group of students might be just good with
high range and they will probably have problems with lower notes," I

asked them all to match a low C. All of them could play the low C

without problems. There was nothing special about this group of
students--they represented a typical cross-section of students in an average
grade 7 middle school class.

Not once did I mention the words "tense your lips" or "blow harder." In fact,
I didn't talk about air at all.
These students didn't need to "blow harder" or "blow faster" to get

the middle C...they
just needed to be taught how to form their embouchure in a firm manner
and retain that while playing. In terms of tone quality, I could not
believe what I was hearing from beginners!

I used this same approach with 9 trombone players last week, and all

of them could play F without strain. Most of them could play middle Bb,

and a few could get up to the D and F above that.

I had a tuba player that had incredible high range using this approach

(high Bb and above), but had real trouble getting the low Bb. I will

have to work with him on relaxing the embouchure for the low tones.

I hope that you find these results encouraging. Please know that Reinhardt's
teachings are being used in the school system by at least one band teacher,
and that the results have been remarkable.

By the way: I never mention the pivot except to an advanced student.

This speaks for itself. Thank you, B.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Pivot

Here is the definition as described by Dr. Reinhardt:

The lips and mouthpiece "as one unit" must move vertically on "the track of the inner embouchure (the teeth for trumpet - the teeth and gums for trombone) and whether or not this movement is to be in an upward or downward direction to ascend or descend is strictly based upon the performer's particular physical type.

The name "pivot" was used in connection with brass playing and the sport of golf. Dr. Reinhardt was an avid amateur golfer and took lessons from Ben Hogan at a very early age. Much to his regret, this term made him both famous and infamous. Notwithstanding his bold nature and ability to infuriate the brass community with his criticsm of "tradition" when it tread on the toes of Mother Nature, the term "pivot" was much maligned, mis-interpreted and definitely used improperly from "flag waving" by some and downright "denial" that it even existed at all in one's playing.

How a word can cause so much consternation and uproar is not so uncommon. I remember that when Sister Kenney used the word "spasm" in dealing with Polio that the medical profession refused to accept her work and ridiculed her for such a "non-scientific word" and all too often one becomes "an enemy for a word". I have used a term in my own writings that is more French, in keeping with the use of French in brass terms such as "embouchure". I played with "finesse demarche" for a time, where the movement (demarche) is one of "finessing" the embouchure to achieve what Doc was talking about. Recently, I have been liking the word "inflection", where the ever so slight movement (eventually)is nothing more than a "rising or falling(lowering)" to one degree or another. Perhaps a "finessing inflection" might eventually fit the bill.

Well, "A rose by any other name will still smell as sweet", so call it what you like, I suppose, but know that it does work, is necessary to ascend and descend, and EVERYONE does it.

If one reading this doesn't have The Encyclopedia of The Pivot System, let me quote from it now:
"...a PIVOT is the physical means by which a performer may constantly maintain the all-essential line-up of his lips with his teeth, so that the required lip vibraions for the production of sound are not hampered or impeded in any particular part of his range".

and again "...the PIVOT pulls or pushes the performer's lips into the path of the air column, so that the air column will cause the lips to vibrate over the entire range of the instrument". [Remember that it is the air COLUMN that flows from the lungs, over the tongue and to the lips, and it is the air STREAM that is propelled into the mouthpiece cup]

Sunday, September 12, 2010


To further our development of the upper register and overall range in general, this is what Dr. Reinhardt would call a "sound" drill.

"This is definitely NOT a Warm-up. This group of studies is intended strictly for the performer who has succeeded in developing consistent high register responses, even though the sound in this register has been too thin and nasal to be of any significant performance value. This serves, also, to eradicate unwanted 'transitional spots' while ascending and descending the range of the instrument."

DRILL ONE (Trombonists: play all pitches presented a major second lower.)
Play a good solid high E on trumpet and with the "open horn" descend by slurring "partial-wise" to the middle E (fourth space) and return in identical fashion to the high E (High E - D - C - Bb - G - Middle E descending and return). This must be accomplished on a single playing inhalation. Even though this drill is slurred, each note must have the same difinite core in the sound as the initial high E.Some performers achieve this by utilizing the "college cheer principle" ( a synchronized breath emphasis on each slurred note). If no strain is present, practice this several times.

Conclude the drill with rapid, low, slurred chromatics ( from low C to low F# and return many times) and then rest. Assuming that you have carried this out in a satisfactory manner, play all notes in the drill in a detached, tongued, marcato manner. Wind-up on the low slurred chromatics as before and rest. For the low, slurred trumpet chromatics, the trombonists should substitute four, sustained Bb pedal tones before resting.

Note: The above may be carried out with a good solid High C in place of the E above for an undeveloped embouchure that can make a good solid high C.

Drill Two:
Identical to drill one but this time add the third space C to the study just presented as the bottom of the contrapuntal peak.

Drill Three:
Now, augment the drill by adding the second line G.

Drill Four:
Finally, add the low C to the ever-expanding partials.

Drill Five:
Play a good high E (C?) once more but this time on the same breath" slide down" to the starting note on any contabile phrase (Concone or ballads from The Reinhardt Routines book)and at the conclusion of the phrase SLUR UP TO THE STARTING E (or C as the case may be). Work several phrases in this manner and conclude the entire drill.

Questions are ALWAYS welcome.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


This is the 1st part of this Routine as an introduction to a GREAT way to reduce or totally eliminate the jaw drop to DESCEND.

#1. Play a good, solid trumpet high "C" (MF to F) and slur while descending "partial-wise" to the low "C" - WITHOUT DROPPING OR LOWERING THE POSITION OF THE JAW, EVEN FOR THE LOW "C"...Use your prescribed PIVOT (if you have been given one be a certified Reinhardt Instructor) AND MUSCULAR RELAXATION ONLY, to accomplishs this vital point! This means that the "drop of the jaw" must be extremely minimal or, better still, non-existant to arrive at the low "C"...Initially, the low "C" performed in this manner will sound thin, sharp, fuzzy and stuffy, but with a litte daily work on your part, you positively can achieve this with your PIVOT AND MUSCULAR RELAXATION ONLY! In short, the closer you can arrive at no jaw drop the better. Now, on the same breath (no additional inhalation) ascend partial-wise to the starting high "C" ...REST!

This is only the 1st part of this incredible exercise and a much more advance player only will benefit from the next 4 parts, where Doc says: THIS SERIES OF DRILLS CAN BE CARRIED TO THE DOUBLE "C" AND HIGHER, DEPENDING UPON YOUR STAGE OF PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT.


Any one wishing the complete Routine, please let me know and I will see that you get a copy. This will definitely be in my new book BRASSolutions.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Don't Drop The Jaw, Man!"

In the showcase outside of Reinhardt's studio was a mock cover of Time Magazine. It was a characature of Doc and captioned "Don't drop the jaw, man!" From second line G on the trumpet (4th line F for trombone)descending, the tendency to drop the jaw (widen the space between the teeth/open the mouth/open the lips)is most prevalent in beginners and thus carried on into the player's ensuing years. In many cases, the lack of a high register can be traced to just such a practice.

In the book The Pivot System Manual, Group II, exercise III Doc states "Descend by relaxation plus the pivot, rather than opening the lip formation". The exercises takes a middle Bb and descends to a low Bb and likewise all 7 finger or slide combinations down to the low E (concert pitches). Without going into the "pivot" which would take an all new post to explain, let's just come up with an exercise that will reduce or eliminate the jaw drop to descend. This is a "tried and true" way to REDUCE OR ELIMINATE the jaw drop without knowing or using the pivot.

Play a middle Bb Concert, normal attack, and sustain for 4 beats. On the same breath, slur down to a low Bb Concert and SIMULTANEOUSLY puff the cheeks out to their fullest on the low Bb and sustain with fermata. [Be careful NOT to reduce the mouthpiece weight on the lips when executing this!] Repeat and rest.

Repeat above starting on the A down to the low A.

Repeat all using all 7 valve (slide) combiniations.

The low register will then respond fully without the need to open the lips, drop the jaw, or separate the teeth.

It really works!