Ladies and Gentlemen…It is my privilege and pleasure to be here this afternoon to speak about something to which I have devoted my entire life…the study of, the performance of and the development of brass instruments. We refer to them, of course, as trumpets, cornets, trombones, French horns, euphoniums and tubas but when it comes to their culture, as far as the performance of the music as created by composers, the requirements are all the same.
I will speak to you about three different points of development that are necessary to transform a beginning student to the final artistic professional performer.
..and this is by far the most important because if the foundation which we term Phase #1 is inadequate, the entire which is built upon it will be weak and insecure. With this I mean that no waste effort must be made in performing a tone on a brass wind instrument. True, the function of the human body in its art of performing on a brass instrument must be strengthened in many ways. A fine physical being is necessary in order to perform well on brass wind instruments. The first thought is, of course, as mentioned by many, strong lips…the embouchure itself. However, in reality, the lips of a person who has never played a brass wind instrument before in his life are strong enough to produce by far the highest note capable of being heard if the person producing the note has strong enough air pressure to vibrate the lips. In other words, any one of us here today could hold his lips tight enough together so it is impossible for him to blow them apart, which means then that lip strength is not the complete answer to playing a brass wind instrument. We next think then that it must be necessary to have great breath strength…which is true to a certain extent. Breath strength creates pressure enough to vibrate the lips must in turn be properly directed. By this we mean then that the lips must function in such a manner so the proper frequency is produced when the proper amount of air is directed against them properly. This also entails the proper use of the oral cavity, which includes the hard palate, the larynx, the glottis…all play an important part in controlling the production of the tone on the instrument.
Now let us go ahead and explain these various thoughts that I have given you, not only explain them but as educators, we must be able to explain them properly to the student so the student in turn can produce the sounds. As we all understand, the lips must play the part of the vibrator, the same as a reed on a clarinet or saxophone or the string on a stringed instrument. In starting a student, the first thing I ask him to do is to vibrate the lips.
The first exercise that I request a student to do when finally placing the mouthpiece against his lips is to produce as full and free a sound as possible. I make no mention any time after this about any action of the lips or the process of breathing but demand all these actions by the form of exercises that are given the student. In other words, in order to insure proper breathing, I may ask for correct posture but that is all. Thus, the exercise itself must demand that he use a full amount of breath.
In other words, the length of the phrase is given in such a manner that he can only play it if he has taken a full breath.
The next questions invariably asked are “Where is the tongue placed, how is the stroke of the tongue used in order to start the note properly, in order to give it the proper articulation?” The proper stroke of the tongue varies with every performer, depending upon the formation of the oral cavity and the shape of the teeth. However, speaking from one educator to another, I believe the only stroke of the tongue should be
Up to this point, we have concentrated entirely upon producing a tone on the instrument. Now we have to put this tone into the proper action so as to function as a musical instrument…the dexterity needed to perform the music that is written for our instruments today. We have many books written on this subject. I know many are the fundamental books of techniques that are used all over the world. In the process of teaching velocity on the instrument with articulation, it is necessary to employ at all times the type of articulation that I referred to in the First Phase. Any further articulation then would impede the velocity. In other words, we must start the note with the tongue but never end it with the tongue. Always, the beginning of the following note in a velocity passage will stop the previous note. If the note is played with a t u t or TUT, this would mean for a very slow articulation. We will leave the articulation now to go into the study of the slur. The slur as performed on brass instruments is largely performed in the same way a singer performs it…by the use of the glottis…the only difference as applied to the brass instrument, the action is a little further forward in the oral cavity. In other words, the slur in the brass instrument from a low note to a high note must maintain the same fullness and clarity of sound and not become a TA..eeee
Thus, it is possible to move from register to register with great dexterity and yet maintain the same quality of sound.
Let us return now to the articulation in the multiple form. Usually we start teaching this in what we term the double tonguing or articulation where the “T” articulation is produced in a normal form as we do in single tonguing. Then the second syllable is produced in the manner in which we pronounce the letter “K” or an action of the curve of the tongue…a short distance behind the lip…
Then we have also the French triple tongue which is an alternation of that. In other words, it is very much like double tonguing in triple rhythm.
Not to make the clinic too lengthy, let us move on now to the Third Phase, the actual development of the performer after he has developed the strength to play in all registers freely and control the tone in both fortissimo and pianissimo, and has developed his articulations so they can be used in the many different forms that are required of him. How he must concentrate on the musical interpretation. After all, music for trumpets has been written for many hundreds of years. While it has been constantly termed under the name “trumpet” or in the early days, the clarine, the form of the instrument has changed many times and as a result, a different character of playing must be learned for each composer. In Bach’s time, he wrote for extreme high trumpet parts which were played on the clarine. This instrument was a very difficult one to control and as a result, there were very few performers who could actually play the parts Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for this instrument. The modern trumpet we use today to perform his works is either the D trumpet, G trumpet or the Piccolo Trumpet.
Then we come to Hector Berlioz. He wrote for the natural trumpet…the trumpet without valves…and referred to it in his book as the “true noble sound of the trumpet.” He also would write 3rd and 4th parts for the cornet or cornetto. At this period of time, it was either played with the open holes or with clapper keys. He referred to this instrument as having the dexterity to move around and play chromatic passages but said it had a vulgar sound. This is by no means true of the cornet of the present day which is constructed with valves the same as the trumpet.
I hope I have made myself understood in these various phases of the life of a trumpet player and that you have derived some benefit from the ideas that I have spoken about today. As always, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the people here in Japan whose approach to Western music has been with great sincerity and who in turn are developing a music of their own which is already outstanding and very delightful and which I hope will be incorporated in the traditional music of Japan which is also truly beautiful and inspiring. I will look forward to returning, I hope many times, to Japan.