O.J.'s Trumpet Page Articles and reviews

Turvat Kuntoon (Brass Chops Manual)

Book Cover
Esko Heikkinen
Turvat Kuntoon
is the name of a method book from Finland, by trumpeter Esko Heikkinen. I asked a person from Finland how she would translate "turvat kuntoon"? "Fix your chops or mouth", she said. Well, not exactly what the english title says. The word "chops" in regards to brass playing has to do with embouchure. To have "good chops" is the same as to have a good embouchure.

When you open the book and look at the exercises you may at first feel dissapointed. Most of them look so simple, and  there are only 6 different exercises. But when you start working on them, you will discover that they are very powerful!

All exercises have a nick-name. The first one is called the “Bear’s Fart”. It is a very simple warm-up exercise. The tempo (60 - 80 bpm) and duration (16 beats) give a good stretch to the lungs, requiring a good quantity of air, especially the lowest notes (low G and F#). All exercises starts on low C and goes chromatically down to low F# (= all 7 valve positions). First long tones (4 whole notes tied together), then whole notes, then half notes, then quarters, eighths, eight triplets and finally combined
quarters, eighths, eight triplets and sixteenths. Over time the player learns to blow through the tongued notes while maintaining the air necessary for the 16 counts. The “Bear’s Fart” develops a variety of technical concepts including, low register, endurance and breath management.

Heikkinen asks: "Why low tones?" Among the answers he gives are:
The third exercise is called "Roller-Coaster" and combines endurance and register development. Like the “Bear’s Fart” it starts with long tones (from low C, chromatically down to low F#). It then adds notes above in the harmonic series, one at a time. After some pages you get to this series:

Roller Coaster exercise
To develop the upper register, you play the high notes as quietly as possible. Heikkinen suggest that you play all exercises even if you are not able to play the highest notes. If this happens, you keep the instrument on the lips, blow and imagines the notes. When you are able to play all the
"Roller-Coaster" exercises, you can use them as your morning warm-up.

As mentioned there are 6 different (long) exercises in the book. It would take too much space to discuss all of them. Since No. 1 and No. 3 was suggested as part of the starting lesson plan, I have used them over some months - with very good results. In my opinion, they provides the basis for sensitivity in the attention they draws to the integrity and quality of the air stream.
No. 3, the “Roller-Coaster”,  is also very beneficial since it  forces the player to maintain his air stream through various registers without additional pressure - as the notes ascend, the dynamic diminishes. The motto seems to be: First sensitivity — then power. By the way, there are also power exercises - No. 6 is called "Heavy Duty" - Power and flexibility exercise.

At Lieksa Brass Week in July 1999,
Heikkinen presented a workshop on his new trumpet method book. Heikkinen offered this overall analysis of his method: )*

The foundation of this approach is exercise No. 1, consisting of long notes in the low register, which takes about 45 minutes to play. Rather than making the lips weak, this gentle approach lays the foundation of power and strength and promotes a resonant sound.  No. 1 is a safe exercise to play even with a concert the same day. One can also incorporate the power exercises into warm-ups according to the needs of the day, but 80% of the warm-up should be spent on No. 1, the remaining 20% on the power exercises. Exercise No. 5, with flutter tonguing incorporated, forces the greater use of air in the upper register. Every person is different  and individual. Balance is a key ingredient. A combination of long tones and tonguing, and soft dynamics, alternating crescendi and decrescendi toward the upper register, all work to improve playing.

I first came across this method in March 2007, when I attended a masterclass with the Finnish virtuoso euphonium player, Jukka Myllys. Myllys bases much of his teaching on this book.

My copy was ordered from Woodbrass Music in Switzerland.


Publisher: Blosari-Edition, Finland
Number of pages: 52
Date publised: 2003 - second edition.

)* Note:This quote was found in a review in ITG Journal, June 2000 - by Michael Tunnel.

o.j. 2007