Mouthpiece practice with lyrical melodies

I have recently written some posts about free-buzzing, buzzing with the “visualizer,” and some concepts about mouthpiece buzzing. Today I would like to write about how to make a lyrical melody sound better with mouthpiece practice.

Let’s take for example an arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Siciliano from his Flute Sonata No. 2 (BWV 1031). It’s a beautiful melody that can sound not so good if played without good resonance and fluidity.

Excerpt from Bach’s “Siciliano”

First, we want to remain on pitch as much as possible. From this excerpt it is not obvious, but the tonality is concert g-minor (a-minor for B-flat trumpet). On a drone (for instance the Tonal Energy app), set it to concert G (the one below middle C on piano; Tonal Energy calls this “Octave 3”).

The first thing is to play the melody on the trumpet with the drone to get a feel for how the notes line up with the drone. Next, sing the same melody with the drone, paying close attention to pitch.

After that, try playing the mouthpiece, one phrase at a time, with a breath attack (but allowing legato tonguing within the phrase). In addition to simply buzzing the notes on pitch, you will want to remember to gently “hug” the aperture and endeavor to get a pretty, stable, and compact sound–not too loud or focused in tone quality. Restart any phrase that does not respond the way you want.

As you play each phrase on the mouthpiece, try it out on the trumpet right after. You will find that the trumpet feels different, but you will probably also find that your trumpet playing is more effortless and fluid–perhaps the tone will be more resonant. If the result is not what you want, repeat the mouthpiece buzzing and then the trumpet playing of the same phrase again, until you are happy with the results. Continue on with each phrase in this way.

This process is extremely helpful, and one of the most important parts is the going back and forth between the mouthpiece and the trumpet. This begins to integrate the two concepts.

If you have a “BERP” (a mouthpiece holder that fits on your trumpet), this can be a nice tool for mouthpiece practice, so that you can practice holding the trumpet and doing the fingerings while you play the mouthpiece. On the BERP, you can also change the resistance of the airflow, which can perhaps be helpful.

Here’s a short video where I show the basic concepts of integrating mouthpiece buzzing into your regular practice (in this case, I will use the Siciliano). I don’t use singing or free-buzzing in this video, but these can also help to connect the way in which you think about music and the way you play it on the trumpet.

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