Brass Players Obsession for “The Sound” Part 3- What Does A Full, Rich Sound Look Like?


When trying to describe a tone produced by any vibratory agent, one needs to graphically represent its elements in a way everyone can see and compare. To do this, I will record three different trumpet pitches and compared each as it is represented on a computer screen. As some of you may already know, I am a strong advocate for a simple and inexpensive (free) program called Audacity. It is with this software that I have record our examples and if you do not already have Audacity on your computer, why are you waiting?

1. Our first examples will illustrate embouchures ranging from normal, too firm and overly relaxed.

• Normal firmness
• Overly tensed
• Overly relaxed

Embouchure Firmness

2. Our second series of examples will illustrate what happens when the players jaw is in a normal position, then recessed and finally in an extended position.

• Normal position
• Recessed position
• Extended position

Jaw Position

3. Example number three compares different mouthpiece pressures.

• Normal pressure
• Excessive pressure
• Not enough pressure

Mouthpiece Pressure

4. These examples represent a normal aural cavity, an overly restricted cavity and a highly expanded aural cavity.
• Normal aural cavity
• Too restricted cavity
• An excessively open aural cavity

Aural Cavity

5. The last example compares a normal aperture between the lips, a smaller and finally a too wide of an opening.
• Normal opening
• Too small
• Too wide

Aperture size

When reviewing these graphs, some conclusions can be made. As I reviewed my examples, most proved what I have always understood and in a couple instances, I had to rethink my original opinions.

Here are some of my conclusions after this exercise.

Effects from too much air restriction and excessive embouchure tension-

1. Too small an aperture between the lips decreases the overall decibel volume.
2. An embouchure which is overly tensed produces an edgier sound but at the same time decreases the overtones in the middle register which tends to give the overall sound an edge but does not sound full and rich.
3. A recessed jaw brightens the tone but does not seem to lose much of the midrange overtones.
4. Too much mouthpiece pressure compresses the overtones in all ranges. I also noted that this was an extreme case in the low range but less obvious in the upper register.
5. Restricting the aural cavity did not seem to make much difference on the low C and G but greatly increased all of the overtones on the third space C.
6. Restricting the size of the aperture between the lips reduced the volume as well as all of the active overtones in all three pitches.

Effects from minimal air restriction and excessive embouchure relaxation-

1. In all three pitches it was obvious that the tone was darker with very little overtone activity when the embouchure was excessively relaxed.
2. In all three pitches it was also apparent that when the aural cavity was overly expanded, overtones were increased dramatically.
3. When playing with a lip aperture larger than normal, the amount of overtone activity seemed to remain constant with all three pitches.

Conclusions made from this exercise-

• This took much more time than I had expected.
• An embouchure which is too relaxed produces a tone which lacks overtones.
• A jaw position which is receded produces bright overtones but lacks midrange overtones which gives the sound an edge but lacks fullness.
• An extended jaw produces strong midrange overtones but lacks the bright overtones.
• Excessive mouthpiece pressure greatly reduces decibel volume and at the same time reduces the midrange overtones.
• Too little mouthpiece pressure boosts the midrange overtones on the G and third space C but has little effect on the low C
• An open aural cavity greatly enhances the overtones on all three notes. The midrange is outstanding on third space C but at the same time loses the brightness.
• Having a more open aperture between the lips seems to be the most consistent tone on all three of the notes.

So….. for the biggest sound-

• Keep the aural cavity as open as possible
• Keep the aperture between the lips more open than you think
• Use firm corners with relaxed center
• Keep your front teeth even
• Use enough mouthpiece pressure to seal the air but no more than is required

Now I will take a couple days off and go fishing. I deserve it!

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.

2 thoughts on “Brass Players Obsession for “The Sound” Part 3- What Does A Full, Rich Sound Look Like?

  1. Justin Chu

    Thank you for your analysis of these different techniques. It has helped me very much in improving my sound when playing trumpet. I especially liked the description of the oral cavity, as that is something that I don’t usually think about.
    Thanks again!

    • Bruce Chidester

      ….and thank you for your support.

      Yesterday I began an in depth study of the embouchure. I think this should be helpful to all brass players. I have always had questions as to how our “chops” work and hopefully I can post a series which will help take the mystery out of this important part of trumpet playing.

      Be sure to check back as I try to embarrass myself with my lack of knowledge.
      Stay well and live long.

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