Date: Mon, 13 May 2002 13:40:34 +1000
From: Peter Kartu <>
Subject: Bill Adam revisited....

As well as play the trumpet, I get to do quite a bit of audio engineering. Recently I was given  a large number of cassettes to transfer to CD. They were recordings of trumpet lessons with Bill Adam in the 80's. This has been a beautiful and educational thing.

Not only to hear Bill Adam do the routine but to hear the rapid and dramatic improvement of the student concerned (who is a beautiful trumpet player and now professor at the Canberra school of music)

Now there is surprisingly little explanation on the tapes as the "Adam approach" if you will, was one of imitating the sound and "letting things happen" to you. However the few things that were said I want to share with you particularly in light of the rather heated debate on the list in recent days re physics/buzzing etc. etc.

If there was one idea that set Bill Adam apart from all the rest it is this (IMHO)

Bill Adam was of the belief (my words not his) simply that the MOST BEAUTIFUL sound is obtained when there is the MINIMUM amount of tension on the air stream and that this is self evident to the player or to any listener.

By following this simple premise he could take a player of any ability and make their current playing more beautiful and easier by eliminating tensions wherever they may be in the lips, throat, breathing, posture you name it (every student had different areas of attention) and SUBSTITUTING an acceleration of the air.

Low and behold once the player achieved a beautiful relaxed open free musical  sound .... everything else also improved such as range, articulation, tuning etc. !

So it was for this reason that Adam and most Adam students I know, are not very interested in embouchure, buzzing, rolling in the lips, pucker, compression or any of the "issues" that seem so hotly debated on the list- whether these things are "true" or not is actually irrelevant because (if for no other reason) any of these things will increase the tension on the air stream to the detriment of the sound. (this can be self evidently demonstrated)

Adam is famous for his mantra "playing the trumpet is 90% mental 9% air and 1% everything else" ....

Now I found 5 essential concepts that let me conquer that last 10%  Most interestingly there is little tie in with the physics of the horn (as presently understood) for these things. Try them for yourself and see what they do for your sound. In regards to the first 90% stay focused on how you want to sound at all times.

Taking lessons with Bill Adam it's easy you just try and imitate him in lieu of that your will have to imagine a better sound/result than the one you presently have and make that your goal. These 5 things will really help you get there......(IMHO)

1. You fill the bottom middle and the chest when you inhale. When you exhale it's "like you don't have a chest" no collapsing, no squeezing down nothing just "keep it up and blow out"

2. "Lean against the mouthpiece" the subtext of this is that pressure is an undeniable part of trumpet playing and that instead of pretending you don't use it....embrace it and control it. You go to the mpc rather than the mpc go to you in an uncontrolled and probably excessive manner.

3. Somewhere between the roof of your mouth to behind your eyes is where your sound "is" You find this spot that resonates the sound and you blow through it and it NEVER changes.

4 "Something" happens at the back of the soft pallet to assist the changing of the pitch

5.  Somewhere "beyond the corners" of  your mouth there is a firmness.

I LOVE the last one. It's like saying the pot of gold is somewhere at the end of the rainbow! However it really was true!

I discovered over the course of time as I eliminated any facial action that increases the tension on the
airstream.....All I am left with IS a firmness and a GREAT SOUND. It comes as a result not a cause and that is a difficult concept to get across to people who feel they must "make" their embouchure.

Hey but don't take my word for it try it yourself.

Peter Kartu,
Sydney Australia.