Axes of tone: one more idea about slotting

In yesterday’s post about slotting, we discussed how to get to the “sweet spot” of the slot by doing lip bends on long tones. Today I wanted to introduce a contrasting method for practicing the slot. I don’t know what other trumpeters call this, but, for today, I’ll call it “tuning slide forced-tuning.”

In this process, the student will first tune her instrument with a tuner the way she normally tunes it. Then she will play some slow, medium ranged, melodic material, always checking the tuning. She should have someone listen to her (a teacher would be best), and/or she should record herself as a reference. This is the baseline sound.

Then she will push in the tuning slide approximately a quarter of an inch (about 5-8 millimeters). She should play the same material, always checking the tuning. Again, have someone listen and/or record herself. Many notes will want to go sharp, but she must put all the notes in tune by relaxing the way she slots the notes. Higher notes will be more difficult, so she should save these for later, after she has gotten some success with the lower notes.

After doing this a while, there should be some evaluation: how is her sound different from the baseline? Listen to the recording. Get feedback from the listener (teacher). How has her tone changed? Her tone will sound more relaxed and round, or perhaps too dull.

Then she should do the whole process over again, but this time she should pull out on the tuning slide about 5-8 millimeters from “normal.” She should play similar material, but she should pay close attention to low notes and to 5th-partial notes like 4th-line D, D# and 4th-space E. Everything should be in tune.

Now how is her sound different from the baseline? Get feedback from teacher or recording. She will find that her tone is more brilliant, or perhaps too pinched.

Then she must make a decision. Which performance (tuning slide as “normal,” pushed in, or pulled out) gave her the most interesting tone? Which seemed easiest? Which projected more? This tuning slide position is the “winner” for the day.

Answering these questions can help her orient to a better tone. She should try to keep this “winning” tuning slide position for her ensembles (of course with slight adjustments depending on each situation). How does this new tuning feel on a day-to-day basis?

This new tuning slide placement might not remain her ideal. Listening to lots of different trumpeters can help solidify the concept of an ideal tone with a student, and this ideal can help the guide the process. One good-sounding professional trumpeter may slot differently than another good-sounding professional. There is wiggle room for taste. Some are brilliant sounding and some are velvety and dark. And, of course, some can do both.

She should do this whole process again in a month or so, with a more-refined notion of her ideal tone. Each time she does this, the answer may be a little different, but I suspect she will move the tuning slide in smaller increments. Each time the embouchure adjusts to the new demands. Each time the ideal tone concept refines. She will be zeroing in on her ideal.





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