Live Stream Trumpet Q and A Scheduled for 4/10/20 at 5:00 PM Houston Time
Steady Tone and Pitch
We received a question today about how to develop a steady tone and a steady pitch.
This question comes from a pastor who is doing missionary work in Turkey. The trumpet for him is a tool for evangelism.
Tone and Pitch are Connected
Even though it seems like getting a steady tone and getting a steady pitch are two different subject, they really are not. Pitch and tone are connected. When you change one, the other changes with it.
That’s why a lot of teachers will teach playing in tune over holding a steady pitch. I personally don’t think it’s a simple as that. While I recognize that these two aspects are connected, that does not mean we can assume cause and effect. Sometimes its the change in tone that effects the pitch, and sometimes it’s the other way around.
So, to me, I would rather deal with both. That way you are covering all the bases.
There is a physical element to holding a steady tone. The trumpet demands absolute stillness in areas of our bodies that effect the tone, and the closer we get to the mouthpiece, the greater the need for that stillness.
Any minute changes in your aperture, in your embouchure, in your teeth position etc. will contribute to shifts in tone. These shifts are perceived as poor quality trumpet playing.
Another part of the body that requires stillness, or in this case, steadiness, is your core muscles. The core muscles are used to create air flow. Anything that interrupts that steadiness will cause timbrel changes in your playing.
As a developing trumpet player, you want to work your way from big to small. Learn to steady your frame first. Then work your way towards the more sensitive area at the mouthpiece.
The most important thing you can do to improve the steadiness of your pitch is to listen to people who play with a steady pitch. I can’t stress this enough. When you know in a very intimate way what that sounds like, your body will begin to make the subtle changes to play that way.
I do not believe this is the only answer. I present it here as the first answer. This is your foot in the door to developing a steady pitch.
One thing I teach to help students improve the steadiness of their pitch is to push the pitch up into the ceiling of the note. If you bend the pitch on each note, you will discover that it’s a lot easier to bend notes down. When you try to bend up, you hit what I call the “ceiling” for that note. If you push any more in that direction, the note will pop up to the next harmonic.
When you lightly push the note into into its ceiling, it stabilizes the pitch. Pushing up into the ceiling is like using a plumb line. You don’t get the same inconsistencies you would normally have without it.
Separating Music and Exercises
Many of you already know that I teach what I call the 50% rule. At least 50% of your practice time should be devoted to working on music.
Let me make this clear. When you are learning music, that is NOT the time to be working on physical aspects of your playing. Work on getting a steady tone and and steady pitch in your routine work, on the exercises.
Sometimes I forget to stress this enough and trumpet players will become extremely frustrated. It slows down their progress. Don’t obsess over this stuff so much that it breaks down your practicing.