November 27, 2012

Last night a friend sent me a video of a gentleman playing the trumpet by holding it with an elastic band so that he could play with minimal pressure.  I found this funny for two reasons:

  1. He starts on a third space “C” with a two-handed death grip on the elastic band just over his leadpipe.  He shifts up to an “E”, and then a “G”, and each time he changes notes noticeably is pulling his hands backwards, increasing the pressure as much as he can.
  2. When he is “finished” with his demonstration, he plays an arpeggio starting on the “C” above the staff with a completely different sound than he had with the elastic band.  

While I enjoy the, what I find to be, very funny internet videos (thanks John!), there are still a lot of trumpet players that worry that they might be using too much pressure.  We’ve all heard about or seen similar demonstrations by hanging a trumpet from a string.  So let’s start with this:  

These kind of demonstrations are useless, as playing with “no pressure” isn’t the solution.

Trumpet players tend to head to the extremes right away.  I don’t believe that playing with “minimal pressure” is the solution.  The solution is to play with the right amount of pressure. I don’t subscribe to “play the smallest mouthpiece you can handle” or “play the biggest mouthpiece you can handle” philosophies for exactly the same reason.  It’s like saying you should be driving either a Smart Car or a Humvee.  They are extremes that might work for some people.  But for most of us, the answer is somewhere in the middle.  

So let me ask the question:

How much pressure is the right amount?

We need enough pressure so that the mouthpiece remains on the face and the lips remained sealed, but not so much that the sound becomes thinner and flexibility is compromised.  

Pressure is just one aspect of playing that needs to be coordinated with all of the others.  It’s a balancing act.  Minimizing one part won’t necessarily make another part any better.  




  1. Well stated, Joey… I agree. Extremes are fun to talk about, but are rarely the optimal choice. Now I’m curious to see that video, though…

  2. Professor Tartellog,
    thank you for shedding much needed light on this important issue. This is a textbook of example of why one should only play with maximum compression! Ding….delete in 5….4….3….2……..

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