When approaching breathing as a private trumpet instructor, one only has to look inward. The breathing process is one of the most fundamental and natural processes of the human body and it does this from the minute you are born to the moment you die. So why is it difficult to embrace breathing? For wind players, breathing is tied to the quality of the musical output, that whole lessons, whole months, whole years are spent specifically targeting this area. This is also a subject of much debate since each teacher has their own method of teaching and their own definition of what proper breathing is. This being said I think all in home trumpet instructors can agree on the basic fundamentals which must be in place, if a trumpet student is to execute the perfect trumpet call.
In private trumpet lessons, the inhale is the first part of the breath, and it’s an equal partner to exhaling (even though most of fame and glory goes to the exhale). How you inhale determines the mood, the energy, and most obviously it determines how much air is going into the lungs. Sometimes, in home trumpet instructors see young students inhale with so little energy that it seems amazing that they are able to produce a sound at all. Other times, the student will hunch their back forward in preparation, then flip themselves the opposite way while arching their back and make loud sucking and wheezing sounds before contorting themselves into a playing position. Lucky for in home trumpet instructors, most students are in the middle of these two extremes.
An inhale must be relaxed needs to be similar to what we already do naturally. You cant outsmart nature, and the best way to inhale correctly is to embrace what your body already wants to do. The student is asked to exhale all the way and not to breath for a second, then when they inhale, the trumpet instructor asks them if they got a good breath. Of course they did, because the body wants air! The wind player’s challenge is to always get a relaxed breath, and in that relaxed breath they try to fill the lungs. Exhaling first can encourage this. The other important thing to remember, is that the sounds of the mouth, lips, and throat are not only poor indications of air intake, but also usually tell that the student is not getting as much air. In home trumpet instructors teach the student that a silent breath is best, because the air is uninhibited while entering the lungs. Important to remember and easily forgotten: relax, relax, relax.
The second step in the process is exhaling. A trumpet doesn’t make a sound until the lips vibrate against one another into the mouthpiece, and to make the lips vibrate you need a lot of air to pass through them at high speeds. Trumpet instructors find it’s always good to express this concept to students because often times we forget to explain how the instrument we’re teaching fundamentally works. The air vibrates the lips, so when a student exhales into that
trumpet, they have to really move the air. It can’t be like blowing out a birthday cake, it has be like the big bad wolf blowing the house down. Sometimes it’s good to get the student to step away from the instrument, stick out their hand, and play their music just by blowing the melody against the flat of their hand. The first thing they will ask themselves is: “Am I actually blowing out air, or am I just squeezing my lips together?” In home trumpet instructors have to show them that if they want that beautiful, singing, majestic, trumpet tone, they have to put the (relaxed) physical energy into the sound.
It’s All About the Air
When Trumpet students are learning to play the instrument, the most important fundamental is how the air enters the lungs, passes from the lungs to the lips, and then into mouthpiece. It is important enough that in home trumpet instructors can remind them every in home music lesson that they play a “Wind Instrument”; without air, the trumpet is just a fancy piece of metal. But when it comes down to it, breathing is easy, you do it all the time, in fact, I can almost guarantee you’re doing it right now!
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