2/03/2006

Before the Beginning

An often overlooked aspect of playing the trumpet is what to do before the note is started, but I have found that focusing on this part before the beginning can have at least as much of an impact on your playing as anything that you do once you actually attack.

Start by just closing and relaxing your lips. Without changing your lips at all just put your mouthpiece on your lips. Doing this without doing anything to your lips is quite difficult for most people, and I would recommend doing it in a mirror to make sure that you are not moving or tightening. Now just let it sit there. A few seconds of this will probably feel like a very long time, but just let yourself get comfortable having the mouthpiece sit on your relaxed lips. Don't even think about playing at this point. Now you are going to breath, still without thinking of playing. With your lips firmly on the mouthpiece open your mouth and take in a deep breath. You are not thinking of playing, so there should be no urge to tighten the corners, pull the lips back, or anything else that you have a tendency to do when taking a trumpet breath. The lips stay in contact with the mouthpiece the whole time, but when you open your mouth the middle of your lips will come apart. Do this a few times without playing. Now you will actually play a note, and will start off exactly the same as before, so for everything up through the end of the inhale you are not even thinking about playing trumpet. We left off at taking a deep breath with the mouthpiece on the lips, but with the middle of the lips parted. Before you feel like you are done with your inhale spit the air back out. You don't have to think about blowing, forming an embouchure, or tonguing if you just act like you are spitting something off the end of your tongue. In that motion the air will be redirected without the tension causing gap between inhale and exhale, your lips will touch lightly and you will articulate. Focus on the air moving away from you.

This process takes patience at the beginning and trust at the end, but will lead to a much more relaxed approach which will improve all aspects of your playing.

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