The air begins in the lungs and is forced between the lips which creates vibrations and in turn produces the sound which emanates from the trumpets bell. The direction of the air on this path will affect the tone as well as the decibel and timbre which we are concerned with today.
The most efficient path for your air stream would be in a straight line but because of the way we are built, the air must be redirected from a vertical path to an horizontal path as it leaves your oral cavity. After making a sharp turn in the back of your mouth, the air is redirected over the tongue and between your lips. If the air is sent in a straight line into the mouthpiece, the resistance to this air stream in minimal and the least amount of disturbance has been created. If the air is expected to bend again in a downward direction before it enters the mouthpiece, more resistant is created. The angle of the air stream has been changed from an inverted “L” direction to a modified inverted “U” direction. The more bends in the direction of the air column, the more resistance is created.
When addressing the angle of the air stream, we need to visualize its path from the bottom of our lungs all the way out the end of our instrument. Take a deep breath and try to experience this journey. Slowly inhale through your nose to your fullest intake of air. Now slowly exhale this air as if you were blowing out a candle across the room. Force the air into a small and pointed stream in order to get the air all the way to the far wall. Keep the stream going as long as you can. Now inhale in the same manner and this time, keeping your head in the same position, blow the stream of air down to your feet. Again inhale, and blow a stream of air to the ceiling. In all cases, keep your head in the same “face forward” position. In order to blow downward, you must place the upper lip over the lower lip. When blowing to the ceiling, the lower lip is in front of your lower lip. Notice that I instructed you to keep your head in the same position. If your head were tilted downward you could blow a stream of air to the floor and still keep your lips even. Same is true with a stream of air to the ceiling if you had tilted your head upward. By keeping your head positioned “face front”, your air stream has the least practical resistance on its path to your instrument. The least resistance is what we are trying to accomplish in order to develop the most efficient path for the air to travel.
In closing, it is my suggestion that trumpet players should play with their instrument in as close to horizontal as possible in order to keep the air stream as free from resistance as possible.
Now for the exceptions to what I have just stated.
If the player has a pronounced “overbite” (upper teeth positioned in front of lower teeth) I encourage the player to thrust the jaw forward in order to match up the teeth and consequently the lips.
If the player has a pronounced “under bite” (lower teeth extend beyond the upper teeth) I encourage again that the same adjustment be made to get the teeth even.
The most efficient path for your air stream is similar to an inverted L.
Time to review.
To summarize the many elements we have covered so far, let me list them as a reminder.
1. Lips are even with each other.
2. Embouchure is firm in the corners and relaxed in the center.
3. The mouthpiece is centered left and right on your lips.
4. The mouthpiece is centered vertically on your lips.
5. Your head should be positioned facing forward, this produces the most efficient path for your air stream.
In following posts we will address the issue of the tongue position and how it affects tone and range as well as the importance of the open or natural diameter of the throat area.