Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2001 19:30:08 -0800
From: "Scott Englebright" <>
Subject: Re: [TPIN] Re: Air speed, experiment

Hey everyone....

I'm really not out to disprove what someone says or tell people they are wrong when talking about air (I'm sorry if it sounds that way).  All I want to do is share with everybody what works for me and what goes through my mind when I play.  I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else, but I am saying that I am satisfied with the way I play and I feel that if you think about the right things, you, too, can me satisfied.  Also, time is definitely a factor so I will try to address as many messages as possible now.  If you don't want to read what I have to say and couldn't care less about air, stop reading now! :)

What I like to suggest is that people play a G in the staff as clearly as possible.  I belive that the aperture size has a lot to do with sound (along with air).  Once you get a nice sound on that note in that register, don't change anything!  Many teachers tell their students to press the lips together to play higher essentially closing off the aperture.  The tissue inside the aperture is what vibrates.  So, if you close it off, you are basically choking off your 'reed'.  This will cause your sound to suffer. Pressing your lips together will give you a couple of usable note, but beyond that everything will progressively get tighter and smaller.  Once your aperture is set (G), Blow more and more air (tightening your abdominal muscles....blowing out a table full of candles).  Narrow=faster in physics. So, your air will be going much faster.  Faster=higher.  Think about squeezing the sides of a balloon to get that squeak sound.  The harder you pull, the faster the vibrations/the higher the pitch.  Don't emulate the tension, just the speed of the vibrations.  To succeed at playing music you must have a nice sound.  That's why it's imperative that you work on sound first so it isn't compromised in any way.  Now, when you form your embouchure, you don't want too much tension in the surrounding muscles. Lock them down, but don't make them rigid (forming a fist vs tightening a fist). Too much rigidity = bad sound.  So, think about saying 'Mmmmm', tighten the corners, and blow.  If you take the work from the face muscles and have them do as little as possible, you won't have 'bad days', you won't get tired, you won't have to use pressure, and playing will be more fun.  I think everything is easier said than done.  But, with a little practice and understanding, anyone can play anything with little work.  It's really easy to get confused when thinking about little details. But, if you look at playing from a distance, everything makes sense.  Compressed air creates faster vibrations. The trick is to get accustomed to blowing a lot of air through a little hole.  That's all there is to playing.  Blowing through a straw the size of your aperture may help. It's a different sensation, but essential.  As I said earlier, more = faster through a small hole.  The water leaving your house doesn't change, but the speed it leaves the hose increases with a nozzle. I can cover 3 octaves easily by simply blowing more air (while completely concentrating on what is happening) and not changing anything about my head or face.  So, I know it works.  You just have to get really good at blowing.  If it sounds stupid and lame, I am sorry.  It works for a lot of people, myself included.  You can play high many different ways.  But, what I am talking about is complete control of the upper register....and lower register.  Let your air do all the work.  When I talk about playing high, I mean soft and clear to loud and clear (i.e.'peeling the paint').  What is cool about this way of playing is that if you do everything correctly, a G in the staff feels the same on your face as a G above high C. Your abdominal muscles are much tighter, but the face pressure doesn't change.  Now, what is also cool is that when you find the best sounding middle G (i.e.pitch center), nothing changes in your face so the sound of each note remains as clear as the G. I know it may look good on 'paper', but it really works if you concentrate on what you are doing when you play. Many beginners play WAY above pitch center.  When they lower their jaw a little, more air can flow through, but more importantly, the tension between their lips is less leaving their aperture more inclined to buzz freely giving them a much clearer sound.  This is where a mute (e.g. harmon) let's them find hear where pitch center is on each note.  Try playing a note high on the pitch and sticking the mute in.  Then, lower the pitch as suggested and take the mute out. You will hear a perfect sound if you find that angry buzz with the harmon mute. This should only be used as a tool, though.  The back pressure is capable of forming bad habits in beginners. Then, they should eventually get the way that clear note feels and what adjustments must be made to bring them closer to a more pure sound.  Then, they will be able to hear the difference.  Again, anyone's arguments or statements about air speed having nothing to do with playing are 'shot down'.  When I play I concentrate on what is going on.  All I am using is air speed to play.  I used to play the other way (focusing on lip muscles, tension, embouchure, etc...) and know the difference.  I only got so far and could count on 1 or 2 bad days a week If frequency of the vibrations are predetermined and are all that matter, how do change pitch? You can only create so much tension in your lips just like you can only press your lips so tight. What then?  Do you put your horn away and go home?  Doing anything to your lips limits your ability.  Think about it.  However, the tension created in your abdominal muscles is more than enough to play anything.  Air creates vibrations at higher frequencies.  You can't make the 'lips' vibrate without air.  Air is the one qualitative thing that defines what you can do on the trumpet. Again, if pitch = smaller can only go so small until you close off.  This, without a doubt, is a limitation.  Plus, your sound will change if your aperture changes.  Maybe I'm just stupid, but it makes sense to me...and it works for me. When I play higher, my corners get tighter. They don't go back, down, up, etc...  They just get more firm. This has nothing to do with lip tension.  I have thought about it a lot when I play. How much tension would I need to play a tripple C and the C below low C?  My face simply doesn't noticeably move when I play the 2 extremes.  There are tons of ways to play.  There are also easier ways to play and sound good.  I associate with some of the best players around and the more questions I ask, the more I find out how similar our ways of playing happen to be.  I have worked with beginners to semi-pro's and their range has gone up (sometimes an octave) and their sound improves...and their lower range gets better.  It isn't probably that these results are coincidental.  I have yet to see a post definitively disproving the concept of 'faster air'.   Instead, I interpret the remarks I have read as mass confusion.  I hope what I have said helps someone.

Good luck!

P.S. Again, this is what I do when I play and I'm satisfied with the way I sound.  I haven't heard too many people say that truthfully.  I may not be better than____, but I like the way I sound and can play what I want. Arrogance?  No....I don't think so.  Self-confident?  Sure!  You have to be to play the trumpet! :)