What You Should Know In Order To Improving Your Tone Quality (Part #1)

I Never Wanted to Be An Old Trumpet Player-
“And Now I Are One”!

Tone is something every musician should be concerned about for it is the only product we have to offer our listeners. Some tones are small and intimate, such as Miles Davis. Some tones are intensely focused and centered as in the case of Rafael Mendez. To say a person has a beautiful sound seems to be the ultimate compliment but this beautiful sound may not be appropriate for a horn player in a Rock and Roll band. Rather than debate the question of what is a good sound and what is a less than satisfactory sound, I would like to refer to the sound most players should strive for; and that is a more focused sound.

What is a focused sound or tone quality, why is it important and how does a player gain more focus to his/her sound? To more fully understand what constitutes a focused sound, let me share with you some visual/audio aids which should more fully illustrate what we are discussing.

What does a focused sound look like and how does it compare to other tone qualities?

Visual representation of three different embouchure settings.


Example #1

This example was produces with an excessively loose embouchure and is noticeably flat in pitch.

Example #2

This example was produces with an excessively tight embouchure and is noticeably sharp in pitch.

Example #3

This example was produces with a focused sound and is in tune.

Discussion of the same three embouchure settings.

Terms used

Peaks (highest points in each illustration)

Valleys (lowest points in each illustration)

Contours (general shapes of peaks and valleys)

Primary peaks and valleys (the highest and lowest changes)

Secondary peaks and valleys (similar to primary peaks and valleys but with less amplitude- in this case I am referring to increase distances rather than dynamic change)

Example #1 (Too Loose)

Notice that the primary peaks are very similar to those in example #3 although the peaks drop off more slowly than in #3.

The secondary peaks and valleys are also similar to #3 but do not dip as low nor rise as high as those in #3.

The secondary peaks do not rise above the center line and the secondary valleys do not dip as low as in example #3.

Example #2 (Too Tight)

This is by far the most dramatic change in tone of the three.

Each peak is drastically more rounded.

The biggest difference in this example is the action between each peak and valley.

The majority of the tone is centered close to the base line with very little contrast in highs and lows as in the case of example #1 and #3.

Where as in the case of examples #1 and #3 the middle section is relatively constant, in example #2 this is where most of the tone is located which is caused by the overly constricted embouchure and few overtones are present.

Example #3 (Focused)

#3 is very similar to the characteristics of #1 but the difference tends to be in the more vertical drop from each peak and the extended depth of the valley sections.

The peaks of #3 are also higher than those of #1. Some may attribute that difference to the dynamic (decibels) difference in the recording but I was very careful to match the dynamic representation of each example.

Recorded examples-

Now that you have seen what a focused tone quality looks like as well as hear the differences among the three, in our next post we will show you how to form a more focused embouchure and gain its correspondingly focused sound.

I Never Wanted to Be An Old Trumpet Player- “And Now I Are One”!

Many years ago I shared my view of old trumpet players with a friend after watching an elderly man struggle to play his part during one of our rehearsals. The thought of struggling to play a once easy passage deterred by advancing years concerned me.

Now I relish every opportunity to pucker and blow for not only are the hard notes easier but all aspects of playing are easier than they were twenty years ago.

What, you might ask, made the difference and I will explain in full detail……

As I got older, I got smarter!

As aspiring young musicians, we all begin taking lessons from more qualified musicians. Some teachers were helpful and some were a waste of time. Some were able to explain short cuts which changed a small problem into a “no problem”. An example was Don Jacoby’s explanation on how to do a shake. Some were psychological concepts to change ones thought process. A good example of this was my lesson with Arnold Jacobs when he told me to visualize myself playing the standard “Stardust” in a large dance hall. Some were easy to learn such as a lesson I had with Prof. John Beer at the University of Iowa where he showed me how to do an upper octave slur more easily. And some, because of the absurdity of the lessons, I learned that not every teacher is worth the spit coming out of my horn!

Now at my advancing age, I am able to spend more time and energy practicing and doing self-evaluations which are very telling. During my time attending North Texas State (University of North Texas to many of you younger musicians) I was diligently spending four to five hours every day practicing. The thought that “More is Better” rang through my ears at the time. If I had known then what I know now I could have spent my time more wisely. This is true for all of us but until we have been through it and are able to look back upon it, we are sometimes blinded to reality.

At this period in my life I am aware of many truths which I will share with you. Please notice that I said “at this time in my life” for the older I get, the more I realize that I am just scratching the surface of what constitutes the best way to play trumpet.

Listed below are a few areas a trumpet player should strive to improve-

Finger technique
Lip flexibility
Music styles

In our following posts we will address each of these topic and make recommendations as to how you can more efficiently practice and improve each area.

Attention all Music Computer Geeks!

Attention all Music Computer Geeks!

Check this site out today…..

NCH Software

I am not endorsing this company in any way for I just started reviewing some of their software offerings and would like your help in this evaluation. So far I am impressed but what do I know, I’m just a trumpet player in a Rock and Roll band.

Some of the programs are as follow..

WavePad Audio Editor
Edit your audio files and add effects to create professional quality audio files.

Switch Audio Converter
Convert audio files from many different file formats into mp3, wav or wma.

Express Burn
Burn Video and Data DVDs or Blu-ray Discs as well as audio CDs on Windows or Mac.

VideoPad Video Editor
Full featured video editor for creating professional looking videos in minutes.

MixPad Multitrack Software
Powerful multi-track music mixing software for audio production.

TwelveKeys Music Transcription Software
Creates visual representation of notes in any music recording
TwelveKeys is a music program designed to assist musicians as they
transcribe music recordings.
• Create a visual representation of notes in any music recording
• Works with many instruments playing simultaneously
• Slow the speed and loop playback to better transcribe subtle details
• Small download installs and is ready to use in seconds

Carroll Community Wind Ensemble Trumpet Players

Welcome to part of the Carroll Community Wind Ensemble out of Carrollton, Ga.

The ensemble is a community outreach program of the Carroll Symphony Orchestra that began 3 years ago and has performed at many community events. This is their second time performing with the University of West Georgia. Two years ago they combined with members of the CSO to provide the pit orchestra for the opera Carmen.

They currently have 5 trumpet players in their trumpet section. The photo includes, from left to right, Bob Johnson, Jen Houck and Chris Davis. Their other two trumpet players are Terry Strickland and Lee Ritchie.

The Carroll Community Wind Ensemble is open to any musician that previously played a wind instrument in high school or college. Many have not played in an organized group for many years.
2014-10-15 22.18.41(This pic is of Lee, Jen and Terry from Monday night’s dress rehearsal)