As a beginner student learning how to play the trumpet in 6th grade band class or any other instrument that requires air, you’re often most concerned with getting the right notes. You may even think, “If I can get through this song without missing any notes, I’ve done perfect!” While playing the right notes can bring instrumentalists certain pride, learning fundamental techniques is more important to the long-term success than just correct fingerings. Articulation is a great starting example.
The word articulation can be a mouth-full of a word let alone understand what it really means to do. Simply put, it’s how we begin the start of each note. Sure, learning to play the trumpet may already give you a million things to think about and articulation is the last thing on your mind, but at some point you need to develop an ear or the desire for a clean attack on every note.
Proper articulation involves a combination of good air support and the proper use of your tongue. Try this- say the word “ta”. Now think about where your tongue touched the roof of your mouth. Did you find it touching where your teeth meet your gums? If so, that will work for most all instruments except for those with a reed. Reed instruments include clarinet, oboe, saxophone, bassoon, and other forms of those same instruments (tenor sax, English horn, etc.). Tonguing with a reed can be much more complicated so let’s just stick with the trumpet for today.
For a quick exercise, try tonguing a few notes using an articulation style of either “ta”, “da” or “pa”. Do you recognize your sound while you play? Which sound sounded the cleanest? If you guessed “ta” then you are correct! Try again using only the “ta” style with a good breath from your stomach and really focus on the sound at the beginning of every note. Did that sound better to you?
Here is another little exercise that has been helpful. Pick any comfortable note and play only one note with your best attack sound. When you’re satisfied that you’ve played the best you can, try two in a row. If you can play two in a row perfectly, try 3! Make sure that each note has the exact same start and stays clear before adding on more notes. This may sound like a really simple exercise, which it is… but you can spend a really long time with it. If you find that it is hard to really tell how you sound, try recording yourself!
After you are able to do a few in a row, try this great exercise with faster notes-
Even though this exercise starts on G, try repeating it while coming down a scale. They key is to really focus on each line and make sure the articulation stays consistent.
There are tons of ways now-a-days to record yourself playing- you may even have a recorder on your cell phone! A great computer program for recording is Audacity Sound Recording. As you learn to listen and improve your technique, you’ll also become better
at discriminating a sound that may be your best versus a sound that is not what you want to hear.
Importance of Articulation
It has been said that Wynton Marsalis, a famous trumpet player, will sometimes just play.
As you develop your skill, you’ll learn different styles of tonguing to use depending on the style of music you’re playing. Whether you are wanting to play accented, light, or heavy, your articulation style will always play a huge role in expressing the right style of music you are trying to convey. single note attacks for 20 minutes or more. It’s the same idea when Tiger Woods putts hundreds of balls a day in practice. Both of these guys are good examples of how important it is to focus on the fundamentals, regardless of your level.
Get to work!
Now, reading about how to play the trumpet is like talking about how to play football. It is important to listen to yourself and others. One of the best things you can do to improve your trumpet articulation is to get a good teacher.
Our teachers will come right to your home for every lesson, plus we offer virtual music lessons, too. However, our online music lessons are being taught by local music teachers with live lessons tailored to your child! Contact us today to learn more.