Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Emb_Enh, May 25, 2004.

  1. Emb_Enh

    Emb_Enh Member

    Thought I might do something for the library section of this forum! :D


    Any normal body has enough air to play brass instruments well.

    Even young beginners, provided they have the proper coordination between their use of air / chops, can play loud and high with no problems.

    If your natural air is not making the intsrument produce pitches effectively, it is probably a faulty embouchure which is interfering with the air from entering the instrument and resonating in sympathy with it to produce a clear tone.

    Splits/clams, bad note production [attax], poor articulation skills/intonation problems etc., are often exacerbated by bad breathing in conjunction with their basic set up as described above.

    Guys who hold down top brass jobs have their basic set up SOOOOO well down that most playing for them is a cinch. They make it look easy don't they?! ---why?...because for them it IS easy!!!


    POINTS TO PONDER..........


    Size of LIP aperture.

    Position of LIP aperture
    in the mpc cup.

    Mouthpiece pressure load
    equally divided on both lips? [greater on lower]

    Air pockets?
    [maybe used for tonal enhancement for experienced players but not advisable generally]


    Experiment with the inward lip curl [too open players]

    Experiment with RELEASE of the inward lip curl [too closed players only]

    Beware the spread-out embouchure [too open] which has very unfocussed air and a focused embouchure, which concentrates the air stream, to a laser beam [brisbois]

    Beware the clamped tight shut [too closed] embouchure which has very little air flow, although allowing good control over a miniscule range at pp ...but...ff is too great an effort!

    Beware overlap of top lip over bottom lip which hinders successful delivery of air to mpc drill venturi.


    Try increasing or decreasing the size of your aperture.
    [more meat in the mpc if you are too open an aperture / less if too closed] --beware this is only a make a permanent change requires more than an instant physical change [more info in the emb_enh materials]

    Target the air differing points in the mpc cup either in conjunction with or without horn angle pivot.

    Jaw angle/bite distance [playing]

    Mpc Pressure [osmuns gadget]


    Keeping an open throat is not even a consideration if everything is coordinated in the OVERALL INST. EQUATION ie:
    Correct size aperture for the amount of air you are blowing through it, unhindered by the tongue. Playinng trumpet 'throatwise' is best when using normal throat feeling for speech/songs [vocally] blowing out candles etc...

    Air mass + speed /aperture size co-ordination is the KEY to successful easy BRASS playing.

    Don’t expect your range to improve simply through repetition of certain exercises. If you are playing incorrectly with flaws in your basic set up, your bad chop habits will just be reinforced and all the more difficult to remove.

    For change to occur you must change something in your basic set up.

    The AIR must flow freely through the instrument out into the audience at all volumes / ranges. If the air is coming back at you BIG TIME in the form of BACK PRESSURE [some is required for control] then you have an imbalance in your basic set up [too much resistance either in the physiological set up or equipment]


    Balance of air v. chops is VERY important.

    TOO MUCH AIR MASS v. Weak chops is inefficient and blatty.

    CLAMPED TIGHT LIPS v. little air usage, results in thin weedy sounds.

  2. Moy

    Moy Active Member

    Am I pleased we have David James here in our part of Scotland.
    Any probs we have he can sort them out for us........otherwise Roddy it looks like I would need a long read.
  3. Dafydd_Jones

    Dafydd_Jones New Member

    Jesus, if I had to think about all that while playing my head would explode - have you got any tricks and tactics for making your chops do these things rather than the literal approach you are taking?
  4. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... glad to see David has now joined the rest of the tMPers Moy! His Eric Ball reference in his username was easy to spot ... ;) . One of the best musicians I know to date!
  5. Incognito

    Incognito Member

    Ah Roddy

    We are truly not worthy.....

    But the day the average bandsman takes the scientfic thinking from the trumpet world into account will be the day I change the water key on my cornet.
  6. Yes indeed, the trumpet world is far far ahead of us backwoodsmen in the brass band world..... are those circular water keys any good? I know that they do affect the sound production - as opposed to a bit of cork stuck on a nipple type thingy.

    I suppose that when you have mastered all that scientific stuff about apertures, embouchures, breathing, tonguing etc - you would be a player like Roger Webster.

    Or have I got it all wrong?

    ;) ;)
  7. Bob Stevenson

    Bob Stevenson Member

    Well, I owe Roddy a lot!......

    In January I finally had to submit to extensive dental work which included both front upper teeth being 'crowned' with the result that I could just about blow the cornet enough to make a sound like a beginner!....a bit of a 'steep learning curve' after being a principle cornet with various bands during the last 30 years and having had a local reputation for a nice sound!

    In late September after months of struggle with not much success, I went to Roddy with the results of my 'mouthpiece safari' to see if he could be of any help in making some sense of the problems and to sort out which mpc was worth persevering with. Only a DW 3b offered a reasonable range with my 'new' teeth but the sound was revolting with a harsh,gravel like quality more like an astmatic trumpet than a cornet!....and no chance of any control over dynamics etc.

    Roddy is an original enthusiast who has spent all his adult life studying brass playing techniques while being a lead trumpet in various big band and 'session' playing situations. Nowadays he is a sort of 'chops doctor' to the worlds top brass exponents and he quickly got to work on me! In common with a lot of the people that Rod sees, I had a 'too open' aperture and he spent an exhaustive three hours sorting it out and devising a three week plan to close up my lips and correct a few other things, without making any major embouchure change.

    Within 10 days there was a huge improvement to the sound and I could feel some of the control coming back. By the end of the 3 weeks the sound was beginning to be quite impressive,..... not like my old 'signature' sound, but still a massive jimprovement which still continues to develop. I now need to add more endurance and upper range. Roddy's own upper range is incredible not so much for the notes he can reach/play (you need to be a flute player to identify the ledger lines!) but for the fact that there is absolutely NO marking of his lips in the process, this and other areas the man is a genuine expert.

    Postscript; this was my first and as yet only lesson as I am largely self-taught, as is Rod himself,....Last week I was once more able to stand up in front of an audience and 'knock out' a solo with reasonable confidence, was the Ray Woodfield arrangement of "Spanish Eyes" and I'm told it was a better rendering than when I last played this number in 1978.
  8. Incognito

    Incognito Member

    You will be making more of your potential.
    It always surprises me that when the difference between bands in a contest might only be 5% that the players don't do more to optimise their playing ability.
  9. I don't really understand why trumpet players examine everything that they do - and have lessons from pro players. Banders just seem to plough on.........faults and all.......

    I can agree with everything you have said Bob.......... I too have had a number of lessons with Roddy. He is, as you say, just an amazing player - I have heard him play with a band called "Night Shift". All I can say is WOW!!!! He just plays higher and higher and higher........and all that you can see is a slight "push" of breath, then out comes the notes, higher and higher and higher. Double High C really is not a problem for him - he can play on it - not just "hit it".

    Not only can Roddy just play screaming high trumpet - he can play nice low mellow tunes - he is truely a master of the trumpet.

    I have played in his Big Band (4th Trumpet) - It was great just to be there.........

    You mentioned "enthusiasm" - Well Roddy is the most enthusiastic teacher / musician that I have ever met - it occurs to me that his whole purpose of life is to play and teach music.

    As you say, he is self tought (mainly) - but he has written books to let us take the "fast track" to better playing.

    He must be a generous person - most folks, having learned the "secrets" of playing, would keep it to themselves.
  10. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Generous AND enthusiastic for others to learn? (Admitting that you clearly know Roddy better than I!) He could have charged for that advice! We get it for free, whether we choose to encompass it or ignore it! ;-)
  11. Yes Dave, he does often post "tasters" here....... which are, as far as I can see, often go ignored.

    As you are aware, pro musicians have a living to make, as do composers and arrangers. I like his "plugs" for his books.
  12. neiltwist

    neiltwist Active Member

    I think a lot of players don't see their own full potential just because they think some advice above is above them, yet if it was signed 'Roger Webster', or 'Steven Mead' people would take note.

    The emphasis roddy makes is on breathing, and if you look at most good players, you can see why. For those of us who don't breathe correctly naturally, perhaps a little look at our playing (and god forbid it, practice) might be advisable?

    And for anyone who is reading's information, you go to band and you rehearse. You come home and you practice. In your practice you train yourself to be a better player, so that when it comes to rehearsing you aren't thinking about how you play so much as how you make music.

    Practice the technique at home on something you can play, so you use it in band (or in a different section of home practice) on something you can't.

    ps, it is better to do 15 minutes practice every day than an hour (or more) twice a week.
  13. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    the hardest thing is to make a change to your playing that brings you back to basics. Most of us (and this includes me) would much prefer to continue banging out the same old concertos or solos than make a serious change like Roddy suggests that may make us sound pretty poor for a while but will make us far better in the long run. I'm hopefully going to try and change my style over the christmas break, and come back a better player, but it's going to take some determination not to just go back to my old style...
  14. bennem

    bennem Member

    I have bought Roddy's books and I found them useful. I do not own any other brass "theory" books so my measure of useful may not be as valuable as others in this group but nonetheless I would still recommend them as a good thought provoking read.

    Roddy's books made me think about my playing in a different way and my playing has improved. Not as much as taking a lesson with Roddy I suspect but enough for me to feel the investment in the books was worth while.

    Too open an embouchure, pushing too much air and thinking of notes above the stave as high were/are some of my faults.

    The earlier comment by CaharleyFarley re. Why do trumpet players examine everything they do is really pertinient to the brass band movement. Brass banders in my experience don't examine their playing enough. I mean where does the gem of wisdom of starting a young cornet player age 8 on a wick 4 mouthpiece and telling him that will be the only mouthpiece he will ever use come from? I think this type of comment only serves to reduce the amount of thought the young cornet player will put into examining his playing and ways of improving it.

    Does the lack of "advice" from players to other players in bands come from the inherent competition for your seat? Is it seen as a sign of weakness rather than a sign that you want to improve your playing within the band? Or is it simply that there is so little time in a rehearsal that everyone is too focussed upon what they are doing to spend time sharing experience with other players in the band?

    It is really interesting to compare the discussions on tMP with those on say the trumpet players international network board ( where a lot of discussion is focussed upon playing and ways of improving playing. Where as on this board we are generally more interested in the politics of the banding world.
  15. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    Only change things if they are causing a problem.. don't just do it for sake of change!!

    I too have had lessons from a professional trumpet player in the "commercial" field, west end theatre player etc etc similar to Roddy's background. Again, his focus was on breathing, production,sound quality and musicality. His advice to me was so simple, I didn't have to "change" anything as such, I just had to get into "new good habits" and try and remove "bad old habits".

    Funnily enough, Howard Snell said more or less the same thing when I went to him for lessons. He doesn't see himself as a teacher in the traditional sense as in "do this!" , "don't do that" etc, but a "remover of obstacles". If a player comes to him for a lesson, he will point out what the player is doing that is making it hard for him/her to play and just ask them to try and not do it! Simple (when you know how !). The other element of playing and practice that I picked up from Howard is to focus 80% time (or so) on playing skills (flexibilities, double/triple tounging, scales, etudes etc...) and 20% on repertoire (such as test pieces etc). As your playing skills (fitness to play) improves, your time spent on repertoire will be much more productive. Also, practicing "little and often" (e.g. in 30 minute sessions) is far more productive than longer less frequent sessions.
  16. Incognito

    Incognito Member

    In athletics this is known as "interval training".
    I do it for my running training.
    It improves stamina without having to run for hours an hours every day.
    If it works for the legs it will waork for the lips also.

    I think htis is why playin gin an orchstra can be beneficial.
    You have periods of playing at the extremes, followed by periods of not playing at all.
    if you are doing that a lot then its bound to have an effect.

    I have Roddy's first book anf have managed to close my aperture a bit.
    As a result I can get through much longer passages with more fluidity than i could before.
    I may also have got more control over the dynamics as a result.
    I can actually do diminuendos now rather than one bar at ff one at f one at mf one at p etc

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