Glenn’s Trumpet Notes

News & Tips for Trumpet & Cornet Students

  • October 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Jul    
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 38 other followers

  • Subscribe

Posts Tagged ‘embouchure’

My 32nd Trumpet Student Faces Unique Embouchure Challenge

Posted by glennled on May 1, 2017

A 20-some-odd-year-old engineering student at the University of Washington from Saudi Arabia is my 32nd trumpet student—imagine that! His first lesson was on 17 March, and he wants to concentrate on jazz. He simply loves the beautiful sound of the trumpet, especially as played by Miles Davis. Davis’s “So What” is a big favorite of his. Balanced Embouchure, coveEdited

His intensity and enthusiasm are special, but we soon found that he faces two obstacles that never trouble most trumpeters. First, he has what’s called a “protruding upper lip.” People whose mouth is structured this way find that when they form their embouchure to buzz into the mouthpiece, their upper lip suddenly pops outward, creating a little, triangular “button” that causes the soft top lip to roll out and disrupt the air flow. This makes it exceedingly difficult both to sound a good, round, fat, solid tone and also to reach notes in the higher register.

Musicians with this embouchure usually are switched to a brass instrument with a larger mouthpiece, such as a trombone, baritone, or tuba. But that is not always necessary. The Balanced Embouchure (2001) by Jeff Smiley is the only instruction book I have found so far that directly discusses this condition and presents specific exercises for trumpeters who do not want to switch. Smiley’s excellent book is available at http://www.trumpetteacher.net.

To complicate things further, he had surgery on his lower jaw a couple of years ago and was left with no feeling in his lower lip. We determined that he could form that lip correctly to make a proper-looking embouchure, but his lower lip cannot feel the buzz. Imagine having to contend with that!

These two conditions present him (and me, as his instructor) with a unique challenge. Engineers carry a heavy academic load. We’ll see whether he wants to continue with the trumpet under these unique, tough circumstances. Will he eventually play jazz, even if it’s simply for his own pleasure? Well, either way, we know he’ll never stop enjoying it. And that’s good.

Posted in New Students - Intro Posts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

31st Trumpet Student Comes from New Jersey to Bothell, Washington

Posted by glennled on September 22, 2016

picture4Last April, a family from Cherry Hill, New Jersey (just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia) moved cross-country when the Dad took a new job in Bothell, Washington. At Cherry Hill, the son attended Rosa International Middle School, which offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. He’s been playing trumpet since 4th grade and took private lessons back there, starting in the 6th grade. Now that he’s an 8th grader at Skyview Jr. High School in Bothell, he has become my 31st trumpet student. Our first private lesson was on 28 July.

Listening to music at a young age, he especially liked “Star Wars” and decided, “I can play an instrument, too.” He likes percussion—“rhythm is fun”—but so do lots of other kids. So his attention turned to saxophone, flute, and trumpet. Then he realized that the sound of the saxophone usually blends in with other sounds, and the flute isn’t very versatile. On the other hand, the trumpet can either blend in or stand out and often gets to play the melody. It can play all styles from classical to jazz—“It all works!” And it looks simple–only three buttons instead of all those keys. Only later did he learn how the embouchure complicates playing a brass instrument. So that’s how trumpet became his choice, and obviously, he’s happy with that decision.

He takes private lessons because he likes to excel at whatever he’s doing and wants to play in the lead group of the trumpet section. But he has no ambition to become a professional. He will eventually choose some other career. Meanwhile, being in the concert and jazz bands is fun, and he’s looking forward to playing in the marching and concert bands at the new North Creek High School. After that, he’d like to play in college, too.

That’s my privilege and challenge: to help him play well, be a leader, and enjoy doing it!

Posted in New Students - Intro Posts, Skyview Junior High | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Student #27 Readies for Edmonds-Woodway High School Band

Posted by glennled on February 21, 2016

thMAGS9S7MEvery one of my trumpet students is serious about playing trumpet—after all, they’re paying for private lessons. But some are more serious than others, and my 27th student is one of those. She started in fifth grade band but due to circumstances beyond her control, she had to drop out for two years. Now in the eighth grade, she has moved to downtown Edmonds from Des Moines, Washington, and is now in the trumpet section of the Wind Ensemble at College Place Middle School.

trumpet02

She likes the fact that the trumpet has only three keys. That, and its light weight and smaller size compared to a tuba, for instance, are what first attracted her (and me) to the trumpet when we were in the fifth grade. It looks deceptively simple, compared to a bassoon, flute, saxophone, or clarinet, where you must use all fingers on both hands. Then the band teacher starts using the French word, “embouchure,” and suddenly, it’s not so simple any more. You find out you must hold your lips just right to buzz into the mouthpiece correctly, and every note has its own unique slot, and to sound different notes, your facial muscles must be set just right, and the aperture must be just the right size for a given note, and your lips must be flexible to make a good, solid tone, and if you aren’t doing all this just right, your tone will be out of tune (sharp or flat), and you must breathe out of the sides of your mouth using your diaphragm, and to play the different notes in a song, you must learn the music alphabet and symbols so that you can read the music language, and there are a bunch of Italian words you must learn, and to play a song, you must change your fingering and your embouchure precisely at the same instant, and to play fast, you must have trained your fingers and embouchure so well that they can change correctly and quickly on sight, automatically, without thought, and to play high notes softly is not easy, and you must simultaneously watch the conductor, read the music, listen to the other musicians, and play, all the time, and it’s hard to play solo under all that pressure because you and the conductor and the audience want you to play perfectly and beautifully…and so forth.

So, although anyone can learn to play trumpet, you have to get serious about it sometime in order to reach your full potential and “Become Your Best!” Fortunately, my 27th trumpet student is serious. Seeing that quality in her daughter, her mom is very happy to support her with private lessons. And seeing the same in her, I am very happy she chose me as her trumpet tutor. She wants to be ready for high school band at Edmonds-Woodway next fall. Our first lesson was on 6 February. We’re starting to plow into the exercise book, I Recommend (1985) by James D. Ployhar. Here we go!

Please click on any image to enlarge it.

Posted in New Students - Intro Posts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Teacher’s Satisfaction—One Trumpeter Promoted, Another Switches to Trombone

Posted by glennled on April 12, 2012

One of my private trumpet students just got promoted by the band director at Skyline Jr. High in Bothell to 2nd-year (6th grade) elementary band. She’s a 6th grader who just started band this year, so she’s been playing among 5th-graders in the 1st-year band. She’s advanced far enough on the fast track that she now belongs among her own age group. I recommended the promotion to the band director, and he accepted it.

Another 1st-year band trumpeter has been struggling with her tone (airy) and articulation (splatters). This week, I told her that because of her embouchure, I thought she might produce a better tone with sharper slotting on an instrument with a bigger mouthpiece. I asked her to try playing a trombone for me, and she was willing. So in a small practice room, she blew on a school-owned trombone—and out came some big, fat solid tones over a wide range. I called in the band director, and we were all so excited. Given a choice of baritone or trombone, she chose trombone.

And again, I experienced the teacher’s thrill—I helped two students get a taste of success.

Posted in Student Competitions, Honors & Awards | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mercer Island Sophomore Trumpeter Returns to Music Fundamentals

Posted by glennled on February 6, 2011

Mercer Island was my home for 33 years. One of my two sons (now living in New Zealand) played drums in the MI High School Band. And now my 15th trumpet student is a sophomore in that same school and plays trumpet in that same band. Also like my drummer son, she

Drum Major, MIHS Marching Band

has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). It’s easy for her attention to drift from one thing to the next, and it’s hard to stay focused on something for a long time.

She first learned to read music and play trumpet when she was a young girl, but then she transferred to another school and did not play for three years. To her dismay, when she returned to school at M.I. and resumed playing trumpet in the band, she found that she had forgotten much of what she’d once known about how to read music. Now she manages to play ok but wants to improve. Marching band season is over, she’s moved into concert band, the music is more complex and difficult, and she wants to play it well. She realized she must return to the basics and re-study the fundamentals…with a trumpet tutor.

I am the lucky man who is privileged to help her. We started her private lessons on 18 December 2010. She already plays with such a sweet, solid tone. Now all we need to do is help her learn all those notes over a two-octave range, learn all those music notations, strengthen and train her embouchure, and develop her hand-to-eye coordination and muscle memory. As that happens, her confidence and pride will soar. She will play as well as, or better than, most of her classmates. And, in turn, she will enjoy music and her band membership even more!

She  says she had a great time when the 300-member MIHS band went to England a month ago to march in the colossal 2011 London New Year’s Day Parade (see www.londonparade.co.uk), joining some 10,000 performers from 20 countries who marched in front of about half a million spectators along the 2-mile route. The parade, which began in 1987, is broadcast by over 700 TV stations worldwide and is watched for some three hours by about 200 million viewers. This was the M.I. band’s first appearance in this, the 25th annual parade. Roughly 200 M.I. band students made the trip. The kids and community raised about $80,000 in support of those students who could not otherwise have gone. Go to the links below to watch videos of the MIHS band’s performance in London. Other USA bands participating came from Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Almost one out of every four students in Mercer Island High School is enrolled in the band program! The program consists of four concerts bands, the marching band, jazz bands, and the “Animal Band” (see http://www.misd.k12.wa.us/schools/hs/hsband/bands.html). The successes, awards and accolades won by these bands are numerous; for example,  over 50 students were selected to participate in the All-State and All-Northwest honor ensembles during the last five years.

Next year, they will march again in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. Hmmmm….now if only the UW Husky football team can just win enough games next season, maybe they’ll get to play in the Rose Bowl game itself. Go, Huskies! And then she and her fellow M.I. band members can watch our own Seattle team play there. It’s so much fun to be in band!  🙂

There are at least four videos of the MIHS Marching Band’s performance in London on YouTube:

Posted in New Students - Intro Posts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

6th-Grade Soloist Prepares to “Nail It” at Christmas Choir Concerts!

Posted by glennled on November 15, 2010

When you’re chosen to accompany the choir at a Christmas concert, you’ve gotta practice your trumpet and be ready—especially when you’re a 6th grader and the music is written in the key of A (with three sharps) and the ending note is High A above the staff! And that’s how it came to be that I now have my 12th trumpet student. Besides being in band, he’s also a member of the choir at Canyon Creek Elementary School in Bothell. The choir will perform at the 600-seat Northshore Performing Arts Center (NPAC) in Bothell and the Seattle Center on 14 and 15 December, respectively.

At age 12, he’s a talented, enthusiastic, confident, responsible boy with a warm smile and pleasant, happy attitude. His trumpet tone is strong and solid, and he has an excellent sense of rhythm. For the concerts, he simply needs more practice of the right exercises to strengthen his embouchure and extend his range further into the upper register. Since he’s a quick learner, I think he’ll do very well when he plays at the Christmas concerts next month. We have about five more weeks of lessons to prepare…and that’s just enough time to “nail it!”

Posted in New Students - Intro Posts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Challenging Chair Placement for 8th-Grader in Kenmore

Posted by glennled on November 13, 2010

My newest (10th) trumpet student is unhappy with his current chair placement within the trumpet section of his junior high school band in Kenmore. He wants to move up toward the top. (I like students with goals and determination!)

We’ve now had two private lessons, and “we’re workin’ on it.” Now in his third year of playing, he was essentially self-taught. Not knowing anything different, he adopted a very unconventional way of placing the mouthpiece on his lips. As the band music became progressively more complex and demanding, his unusual embouchure became a major problem for him—but he didn’t realize it.  He and his parents were smart enough to seek help. The fact is that he simply was not gonna get to the top playing that way—so “we’re workin’ on it.”

He’s accepting the challenge he’s facing. A wise man said this about challenges—“Every setback is a setup for a comeback.”

Once he turns the corner, catches on, and gains control of the new sounds he’s producing, he should advance quickly because he already has very strong practice habits and, for his age group, he already knows fingering and rhythm. I think he’ll soon be producing a better tone and will extend his range higher into the upper register. Then watch out, those of you trumpeters who are now sitting in the higher-placed chairs—move over, here he comes!  🙂

Posted in New Students - Intro Posts, Student Competitions, Honors & Awards | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

6th Grade Student Earns Quick Promotion!

Posted by glennled on May 11, 2010

My 8th trumpet student of this school year, a 12-year old sixth grader in a Bothell elementary school,  just started private lessons with me in late April. All year long, he had been in the 1st-year band and was struggling with his tone. It had become very frustrating. Most of the other sixth grade band members, his peers, had started playing trumpet in fifth grade and are now in the 2nd-year band. At our first lesson, I heard the tones and saw the problem: his embouchure. We made one simple, easy adjustment on how he should position the mouthpiece. The following week, his tone was twice as good as before–100% improvement! And the following week, after more practice, it was even better. Now he sounds just like some of my other trumpet students. That’s when he told me an amazing story.

He is now in 2nd-year band! How did this happen? Well, he said, the very next day after our second lesson, he went to the band director and asked to audition for 2nd-year band. He played the required music, won the promotion, and now sits in the Trumpet II section amongst his classmates. Wow! I’m impressed with both his spunk and his capabilities. Only one thing was holding him back, and he overcame it. I’m very proud of what he just did–in only 8 days!

Next year he’ll be in the junior high school band. Wonder how far he wants to go with this? 🙂

Posted in New Students - Intro Posts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: