Cornet Playing: Improvement Techniques

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Matt Lawson, Mar 9, 2006.

  1. Matt Lawson

    Matt Lawson Member

    Hey all.

    Right I've finally put my foot down and told myself that I really want to crack on with improving my overall cornet playing.

    Sitting at 3rd man down at a VASTLY improving band, I need to really get to grips with my playing and improve at the same rate that the band is!

    There are a few key areas which I'd love to improve:

    1) Quality of tone.
    2) Range.
    3) Tonguing.

    To go into slightly more detail...

    1) Quality of tone. Basically, when I'm playing anything above mf my tone sounds alright. Nice and clean and not many blemishes to the overall sound. Anything mp or below however, and the sound shakes slightly and I start to get hissing sounds along with the note. The quality of tone is very low at quiet dynamics. Sometimes, at pp, I can't even produce a sound. I blow but no sound comes out. Obviously this is a problem that needs solving.
    Another area of tone is vibrato. I got told that the easy way to learn vib is to make a "wowowow" mouth action down the cornet and steadily increase the speed.
    I've got a relatively satisfactory vibrato sound but it sometimes sounds very 'sireny'.

    2) Range. Sitting at 3rd man down at a (hopefully now) 3rd section band, I've obviously got to have a relatively decent range. Bottom F# to top C should be the aim really. Anything below a G i'm fine with, but G# and above and I hit major problems.
    My success rate for hitting a top A is probably 50%. Top Bb about 30%, top B about 15% and top C, once in a blue moon.

    3) Tonguing. I always have problems connecting cleanly with a note. I can't seem to strike a note cleanly. It's not terrible, it's just I can't get the precision that other players can. Why this is I don't know.
    I have been learning to double tongue and can now keep it going for maybe 2 bars of 4/4 semiquavers. This is one area which I'm striving to improve and I find myself walking around at home "tukutuku"ing to myself!

    Any general tips (not involving Mr. Arban's Domesday Book!) would be very gratefully recieved. I really want to be a good cornet player. Improving my playing is paramount to my enjoyment of brass banding.

  2. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  3. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    Go and see a decent teacher - listen to what they say - follow their advice - and if they say "use the Arban" - do it!

    The Arban can be used to help just about every aspect of playing, if you know how to use it - that is something a good teacher can help you with.

    If you don't want to use the Arban, you probably don't really want to work - in which case, you are probably not going to make the progress you are wanting to make - improvements take effort.
  4. Matt Lawson

    Matt Lawson Member

    Would you recommend I start lessons with Phillip McCann at uni from next year?
  5. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    If you have the opportunity to, yes! do it!
  6. How can you be asking about lessons with Phillip McCann? He knows how to blow his cornet.
    It sounds to me like you have a too open aperture, therefore your playing below mf becomes hard.
    There is a website by a top trumpet teacher that suggests that 90% of his clients problems are solved by just placing the MP on a totally relaxed set of lips, then nose breath in - then play.
    Bobby Shew suggests an open aperture... take your pick.
    Horses for Courses.
  7. ruthatron

    ruthatron Member

    i know the feeling with this one! i did the same when i was learning to double tongue, and again recently when i learnt to triple tongue! (i told myself i would to be able to play the beginning of "images"!) i wouldn't have learnt unless i had a reason!

    if you get any good advice on how to improve the upper register, that's the one thing i want to improve. i'm comfortable with top A's,but Bb's are really dodgy, as are B's. i know alot of it is confidence, and getting past the psychological barrier.

    As for the playing quietly, i put my ability for that down to years of playing hymn tunes at the SA. i find it easier to practice tone/sound when you're playing something simple. such as a hymn or even just long notes. start mf, then try getting quieter. this is what i used to do in lessons too. (the few i had!) we also get made to do it at youth band.
  8. I was a little short with you on my first reply, mainly because I am sure that Phillip McCann can solve all the problems that you may ever have.

    Closing your aperture, may help you with pp playing - in fact almost certain to do so.

    Re tonguing - there is no "one" way to do it - learn how to tongue from behind the teeth; to almost top of mouth cavity ; touching tips of teath ; and between lips. If you can do them all - you will be able to handle any situation. There isn't just one way to tongue a note. Doubling I think needs the behind teeth to towards mouth cavity mode.

    Regarding range, well that is all about having a decent "chop set". Now that means nowt I suppose. But what it does mean is that you have a musculature around your mouth that will support your vibrating lips. That is quite easy to achieve - it is like pumping in the gym. Just play scales to a note that is high ish (not higher) for you until you feel a "burn" - that is the muscles growing (ask anyone that goes to a gym about this). Make sure that whilst doing this "burn" that you are correctly set re your embouchure!

    On the other hand you can just continue playing at every opertunity, which is what I do - it's the music that counts - until the test pice comes along!
  9. GingerMaestro

    GingerMaestro Active Member


    The key to having a good range is as it is for all the topics of improvement mentioned to have a good solid column of air

    It does not matter how strong your chops are or how fast your tongue can move if the air column is not stable through the instrument it won't work very well Brass Instruments work on air not just technique

    To improve your higher register try playing long notes from G upwards and then get the old hymn book out and play through a couple of hymns but take them up the octave where you can

    Tonguing can be in proved using the hymn book too break the hymn into quavers etc or just play it as written using the diferent tonguing styles e.g. Hard T Tongue or D tongue and build on it each time you have a practice atleast using the hymn book you have a tune to work with

    I hope this helps
  10. Matt Lawson

    Matt Lawson Member

    Thanks for your replies everyone.

    The problem with playing consistantly high notes is that I put too much pressure on my lips and end up with the little "semicircle of doom" above my top lip after playing - a sure fire sign that my technique has gone wrong somewhere.

    I'll try some of the things you've suggested and see if it helps. :D
  11. GingerMaestro

    GingerMaestro Active Member

    Something else you could try is when you fid yourself pushing to hard on the top lip pull the instrument down onto the bottom lip this will help to sustain the the buzz and if the buzz is there and the air to support it the notes should speak quite nicely
  12. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    There is no substitute for getting a good teacher. We can give some suggestions on here, but remember we haven't heard you / seen you play at first hand. A good teacher is worth his / her weight in gold for pointing out things that you are doing incorrectly or could be improved.
  13. GingerMaestro

    GingerMaestro Active Member

    I agree with you but what defines a good teacher is it someone who is known for who they are e.g. Phillip Mccann or steve sykes etc or Joe bloggs from the local music services who might have all the letters after thier name but can't blow for toffee (and yes there are teachers out there who on paper sound really good but in practice couldn't blow thier way out of a paper bag
  14. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    The opposite could be true as well of course. It's not because someone is a knwon name, that he or she is a good teacher...
    Word of mouth is probably the best way to find out who are the best teachers in your area. And have a talk with the teacher about what you want to achieve and what he wants to do with you...
  15. Dawnys_flug

    Dawnys_flug Member

    Hey Matt,
    Well I have some wicked stuff (handouts, tutor books etc.) i've been given since september so you're quite welcome to have a look at mine until you get your lessons with Philip :)

    Dawn xxx
  16. Have a word with "the cornet king" ;)
  17. The Cornet King

    The Cornet King Active Member

    Always good advice ;)
  18. 2nd man down

    2nd man down Moderator Staff Member

    yep, he's gonna improve my tonguing, aren'yt ya CK? :wink:

    Alright alright, enough with the smutty innuendo thank you very much. :mad:
  19. The Cornet King

    The Cornet King Active Member

    Consider it done :tup
    We'll have everyone multiple tonguing in no time...oo err
  20. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Ah well, there's always one advantage to learning cornet than most other brass instruments.............

    It's easier to fit in the bin!

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