• 1.Breathing

    A.Why is breathing important?

    Without breathing we would not exist. The way we breathe as brass players determines how we sound on our instrument. If we take a shallow breath then our sound will be shallow.


    B.What is the proper way to breathe?

    The best way to breathe is to take a low breath and fill from the bottom up. Just like when you pour a drink into a glass it fills from the bottom up.

    Example: Exhale all of your air and DON’T breathe in. Imagine you were diving and ran out of air deep below the ocean. You start to swim up. You’re almost there, almost, almost, and breathe in. Did you feel how the breath was low?


    C.How can improper posture lead to poor breathing?

    If you are sitting incorrectly you are not allowing your lungs to fill to capacity. Imagine blowing up a balloon… then blow up that same balloon and put a bend in the balloon. You are limiting how much air the balloon can take in.


    D.How can poor breathing affect our sound?

    Air is a key component to how we sound as brass players. Here are a few examples:

    Shallow breath = thin sound

    Stale breath = thin sound, under supported sound, intonation issues

    Over breathing = Causes Stale Breathing, Poor sound over time

    Holding in breaths = Causes a rapid release of the breath, unfocused sound


    E.What is stale air?

    Stale air is the air that sits in our lungs. This happens when we attempt to put new air on top of old air. Sipping air is an example.  Take a breath in and out. Now take a breath in, let only half out, breathe in again and let only half out. Do you feel the air trying to escape? That is stale air.


    2.Warming Up

    A.Why is it important?

    Imagine that you are about to run a race. What do you do? Stretch!! Warming up is the same as stretching before a baseball game, cheerleading, a race or any other physical activity.  Playing a brass instrument is a physical activity. There are over 50 muscles that form the embouchure, not to mention the muscles that push the valves or keys and hold the instrument. Most importantly, warming up puts your musician hat on and helps you to focus.


    B.What happens if we do not warm up?

    If you do not warm up you can injure yourself, have an unsuccessful concert, practice session, or performance and you may make mistakes that you do not normally make.


    C.Do vs. Don’t


    ·Take your time when playing

    ·Follow the same routine everyday

    ·Start without an instrument

    ·Practice breathing

    ·Practice buzzing

    ·Practice focusing

    ·Play long tones

    ·Play low notes

    ·Play for short periods of time



    ·Just play

    ·Start with an instrument

    ·Practice fast

    ·Practice just to practice

    ·Practice on a stale brain

    ·Play high

    ·Play loud

    ·Play for long periods of time



    Breathing Exercises (see attached handout)


    E.What is the proper embouchure?

    The proper embouchure is one that has equal pressure on all four quadrants of the lips. Imagine you were to split your mouthpiece into four equal sections. When each of the four sections is placed on your lips you want to feel that each part is pushing down equally. The embouchure should be firm but not tight. If we play with too tight of an embouchure our sound will suffer. Did you know that unbalanced pressure is one of the leading causes for students having trouble playing a brass instrument?! It’s like walking with a three legged elephant!


    F.Blocked Buzzing

    1.Buzz on the mouthpiece. Do not use pressure or buzz a high note.

    2.Buzz again at a mf dynamic.

    3.With your non mouthpiece holding hand place your index finger on the end of the mouthpiece.

    4.Buzz the same note you did above using a mf dynamic. You should not have air leaking out of your embouchure.



    Buzzing Exercises (see attached handout)



    Single Articulations

    Breath – Po/Do followed by intense air, only used to start notes or at the beginning of phrases

    Legato – Ta/Da; think of denting a continuous stream of air

    Staccato – Ti; think of denting a continuous stream of air

    Marcato – Tu; think of short puffs of air, each note has a definitive beginning, middle and end


    Multiple (Double) Articulations

    - Playing two notes in rapid sequence

    -Think Legato NEVER Staccato/Marcato; If you think staccato or marcato you will make the articulations too short and become tongue twisted and your tongue cannot move fast enough when using a Ti or Tu syllable


    -For double tonguing there are only a few syllable combinations:

     Ta – Ka or Da – Ka or Ka – Ta or Ka – Da


    - Ka – Your tongue using the arch in your tongue followed by intense air


    Multiple (Triple) Articulations

    - Playing three notes in rapid sequence

    -Think Legato NEVER Staccato/Marcato; If you think staccato or marcato you will make the articulations too short and become tongue twisted and your tongue cannot move fast enough when using a Ti or Tu syllable


    -For triple tonguing there are only a few syllable combinations:

    Da – Ka – Da (Ta) or Ta – Ka – Ta (Da)


    3.How to Play and Practice brass instruments

    a.       Sight read / play through the piece of music that you are working on, playing through one time while listening for mistakes

    b.       Mark lightly with a pencil any spots that did not go well when you sight read the piece of music

    c.        Isolate the marked spots and practice those spots only

    d.       Then gradually introduce larger sections. For example if you worked on one measure, add the measure in front of the measure and after the measure. We are slowly putting the music in context.


    4.The Embouchure and why it is important to take care of it.

    Our Embouchure consists of over 50 muscles; just as a runner takes care of their body a brass player needs to take care of his or her lips. It is the tool that we use to make our wonderful sounds. Here are some tips:

    Always Warm Down; Always Warm Up; Protect your lips from the elements if possible; Stretch your lips; Lip Push Ups


    5.Technique and why it is important

    The more Technique that we practice the easier the music will be. Think of it this way: A repair man has several tools to complete a single job. Technique is our set of tools to complete our job as brass players.


    6.Listening and why it is important

    We should always be listening to various brass players or music in general. Each and every one of you needs to form a concept of sound or have “The Sound” in your head each and every time you play. How we sound as brass players is shaped not only by how we use our air, embouchure, and technique but how we think we should sound.