Warming Up

Warming Up

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Practicing: Aperture and Wind Control

One of the problems I have as a trumpet player is that I generally don’t feel like I have enough time each day to practice all of the things that I need to practice. Because of that I have to make the most of the time that I do have so that when I am in a gig situation I will have the skills and stamina that are required. Some of my gigs are long and loud and I need to be in good trumpet shape to have the requisite endurance. Part of having good endurance is making sure that one’s playing is efficient. One way of conserving endurance on a long hard gig is to make sure that one is remembering smart technique – proper posture, drinking water, and using air efficiently. One way to keep the air moving efficiently and to give the lips the best shot they have of staying fresh and supple is to be conscious of one’s aperture.

For me, when I get tired on a gig, my lips get fatigued and my chops spread. The aperture gets too large to contain the air column and then I resort to mouthpiece pressure to push the aperture closed. We all know what happens next. Crappy, splatty sound, loss of range and flexibility, and a quick decline in endurance. Some lip flapping can provide temporary relief, but for when I’m done, there’s not much more left. My best playing of the day is done. To counteract this from happening it helps me to actually think about my aperture from time to time when playing. I remind myself periodically to keep my lips closed (not forcefully but gently) when I start a note, letting the air create the necessary size of the aperture. When I do this, my sound is much better and consistent and I generally have more endurance. Keeping control of one’s aperture is a key component of finding the overall balance/coordination necessary to play as effortlessly as possible, which for most trumpet players is the key goal so that we can actually focus on making music.

So with this concept in mind, check out this cool little aperture “test” I found online (can’t remember where, sorry). The idea is simple, as is the actual music (don't forget to use a metronome). I like to play through this  exercise a few times at the end of a practice session. If I had been playing correctly and efficiently I can play this little tune very quietly, with a soft tongue, and a nice pretty tone throughout. I can’t play the whole thing twice like the note about Herbert Clarke says, but I can consistently get  24 or 25 bars before I run out of air. And it feels good. Playing through this exercise during one’s warm-up could also be beneficial; making sure that one’s aperture is only as open as necessary and that the air column is moving steadily and consistently. I know it sounds simple when playing through this, but the quiet, focused playing really allows the body to do what it needs to do to find the proper balance/coordination. If you practice this, please let me know what you think. It’s not the Grail or anything, but I do think it’s quite helpful.

1 comment:

  1. This is from Roddy Lewis' website - http://www.r-o-d-d-y-t-r-u-m-p-e-t.cc/home.html He's got a great series of books out - the first one entitled an immediate improvement. It's a self-help book and excellent.