Brass Advantage with Wayne Downey
Issue 15

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Welcome back to the land of “All Things Brass.” This installment of Brass Advantage is Part 2 of “Making a Good Sound on the Trumpet” or for that matter, any brass instrument. If you haven’t read Part 1 I would encourage you to do so now. You’ll find it here.

A Model of Good Tone
To develop a resonant tone on any brass instrument the player must have an auditory image of that resonant tone. Having a model sound is important. Live performances by skilled performers are the best way to expose students to a good tone. If attending a live performance is not possible listening to a high-quality recording is a reasonable substitute. Recording of players such as Maurice Andre or Doc Severinsen for trumpet players to listen to at home for example will certainly accomplish this need. Sometimes recordings can be purchased through a library budget, saving your music budget for other needs.

As students strive to copy the model tone, they need help learning to interpret the auditory and kinesthetic feedback they receive while playing their instruments. The goal is to have the ear guide the body when students must make adjustments to the embochure and breath support to produce a resonant tone. They will then learn to make these physical adjustments subconsciously. What must occur is a continuous feedback-adjustment loop, with the students always maintaining a mental model of a good sound, listening to the sound produced and responding with various muscles to make the needed adjustments to embouchure tension and breath support – all at the subconscious level.

The following exercise will help the students find the correct balance between embouchure tension and breath support by linking the physical sensations of playing to the sounds they’re producing.

Tone Development Exercise
Have the student play a second line G (written, which will sound concert F) at mezzo forte. As the student plays, have him or her slowly pull the mouthpiece out of their instrument. Do not insert the mouthpiece too tightly before this exercise. If the breath pressure (controlled by the breathing muscles and the level of the tongue) is in proper balance with the embouchure tension, the student will be buzzing the same pitch that the trumpet was playing. If the buzz is a different pitch than hat played on the instrument, have the student note this and repeat the exercise with the goal of matching pitches.

A few attempts should be all that the student needs to find the right balance between breath support and embouchure tension. You do not need to say anymore than this! Lengthy and complicated explanations about how the muscles of the embouchure or breathing mechanism work will likely result in the student attempting to manipulate the breathing or embouchure without being attentive to the sound produced. Only if the student can’t discover the right balance after repeated attempts should you suggest a physical solution.

If the buzzed pitch is higher than the instrument pitch, it is likely that the student is not supporting the air column and is pinching the embouchure. If the buzz is lower or non-existent, the student may need more air support or may need to firm the embouchure. Do not supply these remedies or explanations to the student if you don’t have to, let the student’s ear guide the response of the body.

The precise balance of breath support and embouchure tension will change with each pitch and with changes in volume. The subtle differences from pitch to pitch and throughout the dynamic range and only be learned to the attention to the quality of sound produced and sufficient practice so the body learns to respond automatically to the auditory and kinesthetic feedback.

Moving Forward
Once the student is capable of performing on second line G the mouthpiece exercises just described at mezzo forte with correct and consistent results, it’s time to develop the correct breath support and embouchure tension for other pitches and volumes. Have the student practice whole notes starting on second line G. Hold each note for eight counts at quarter note equals 60. Start each note at piano and crescendo to forte over four beats and finally decrescendo back to piano over four beats. Rest for eight counts. Play the same exercise one semi-tone down on F# followed by an eight count rest. Play the exercise up one semi-tone from G on G# followed by an eight count rest.

Continue the exercises by alternating one semi-tone down and one semi-tone up until the student reaches the G an octave above and below the pitch they started on. (The pattern would be G, F#, G#, F, A E, Bb etc..) Students must listen all the time to the quality of the tone they’re producing and strive for a centered, resonant sound.

Small Investment, Big Return
Student brass players who spend even a minute a day doing the mouthpiece exercise will notice an improvement in tone quality. The ability to produce a centered resonant tone will better enable students to play with better intonation. Students who spend an additional ten minutes doing the long tone exercise will notice an improvement in range and endurance as well as an improvement in tone. Students who play with a good tome and good intonation are more likely to find satisfaction in their school ensemble experiences and remain in the school music program…

This month’s guest contributor is Thomas Dust, Associate Professor of Secondary Music Education at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Important News…..

Best Field Musical Performance at Bands of America Grand National Championship Finals Goes To…

The Woodlands H.S. from Spring, Texas.

XtremeBrass & Percussion would like to congratulate and salute The Woodlands H.S. band for their educational and competitive successes during 2007 and thank them for using both Custom Band Warm-Up Volumes I & II in their quest for performance excellence!

Lastly I wanted to also let you know about a performance opportunity that I’m real excited about and think any girl brass, percussion or color guard performer would love to participate in.

The production is called “Odyssey”…. “Odyssey” is a Musical Production featuring an ALL FEMALE cast.

The Music: A variety of styles performed with brass, percussion and keyboard & electronic instruments.

The Show: A Broadway musical written as A Poetic Journey of Music and Motion through city streets, on a train, the ocean and in the sky.

This is an opportunity of a lifetime for all talented brass, percussion and color guard female performers. For audition and salary information please e-mail Ray Linkous at raylinkous [at] mac [dot] com?subject=Request%20for%20more%20info%20from%20Drum%20Corps%20Planet.

For more information about the show please log on to www.BrassOdyssey.com .

Well that’s about it for this month, if you haven’t purchased your Indoor Winter Percussion show as of yet log on immediately to www.XtremePercussion.com. While you’re online don’t forget to check out all the new brass and percussion technique books, marching band warm ups, drum cadences, drumsticks, CDs and DVDs on my website at www.XtremeBrass.com. Be sure to send your questions or topics to: AskWayneDowney [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com?subject=Question%20from%20Drum%20Corps%20Planet.

“Don’t Let The Chance Pass You By”. See Ya Soon…

Wayne

Publisher’s Note:
Wayne Downey is the first of Drum Corps Planet’s panel of subject-matter expert columnists – providing our readers with expert information and insight from the best teachers and leaders in the drum and bugle corps activity. In addition to his long-term role as Music Director of the 12-time DCI World Champion Blue Devils drum and bugle corps – where he’s won 20 Jim Ott awards for "Excellence in Brass Performance", Wayne is distinguished as one of the finest brass teachers/clinicians and arrangers in the world. His work has been featured by some of the world’s most-respected drum corps, high school and collegiate bands – as well as the Tony and Emmy award winning show "Blast" and in feature films. In 1991 Wayne was inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame for his contributions to the Drum & Bugle Corps activity as the musical director for the
Blue Devils. Wayne’s latest venture – XtremeBrass.com provides brass players of all ages and skill-levels, as well as educators, personalized lessons and access to his championship-winning techniques and methods. We’re honored to have him as one of our contributing columnists. -jmd

About the Author:
Wayne Downey was the first of Drum Corps Planet’s panel of subject-matter expert columnists – providing our readers with expert information and insight from the best teachers and leaders in the drum and bugle corps activity. In addition to his long-term role as Music Director of the 14-time DCI World Champion Blue Devils drum and bugle corps – where he’s won 21 Jim Ott awards for “Excellence in Brass Performance”, Wayne is distinguished as one of the finest brass teachers/clinicians and arrangers in the world. His work has been featured by some of the world’s most-respected drum corps, high school and collegiate bands – as well as the Tony and Emmy award winning show “Blast” and in feature films. In 1991 Wayne was inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame for his contributions to the Drum & Bugle Corps activity as the musical director for the Blue Devils. Wayne’s latest venture – XtremeBrass.com provides brass players of all ages and skill-levels, as well as educators, personalized lessons and access to his championship-winning techniques and methods.

Posted by on Wednesday, January 30th, 2008. Filed under Brass Advantage.