Remember the Play-Doh Fun Factory? You pack the Play-Doh in the top of the extruder, then push a lever on the top. This squeezes the dough through a tube with various attachments at the end. The dough emerges as a long strip shaped like a star or other geometric shape. You slice it into little pieces. For best results, the dough must be fresh and pliable, and the factory must be clean.
The brass player’s body functions in much the same way. Healthy living and regular exercise keeps the body functioning smoothly, like a clean Fun Factory. Your air is the Play-Doh, your body is the Fun Factory, your breathing muscles are the lever, and your embouchure shapes and directs the air stream like the attachment at the end of the tube.
To create a long, solid strip of shaped Play-Doh with no voids or air pockets, the extruder must be well packed with dough, and you must maintain continuous pressure on the lever as the dough is extruded.
To produce a full, confident tone, you must fill your lungs with air and maintain a continuous, uninterrupted air stream for the duration of the phrase. Regardless of the volume or range, the forward motion of the air stream must be maintained.
Take deep breaths, so you always have plenty of air supply. Gather momentum with the inhalation, and let the exhalation follow with no delay; don’t bottle up the air. Maintain an unrestricted air passage from the base of the lungs to the back of the lips.
When the Play-Doh reaches the end of the tube, it comes out shaped like a star, circle or other geometric shape, depending on the attachment. When the air reaches the lips, the shape and compression of the embouchure affect the way the air sets the lips into vibration. Small adjustments of the embouchure make a dramatic impact on the sound. Your tongue “slices” the continuous air stream into individual notes.
In my next column, I’ll talk more about finetuning the embouchure. In the meantime, have fun with your shiny brass Fun Factory!
About the Author
Jazz trumpeter and author Chase Sanborn is a session player based in Canada and a member of the jazz faculty at the University of Toronto. His instructional books & DVDs (“Jazz Tactics,” “Brass Tactics” and “Tuning Tactics”) have garnered worldwide praise for their insightful and entertaining approach to playing and teaching music. Chase is a Yamaha Artist. For more information, visit www.chasesanborn.com.