Friday, February 22, 2019
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Checked Your Sound Lately?

By Dr. Gordon Mathie









If the term is new to you and you have never used one, you are certainly not of my generation and perhaps young enough to learn from this article.

After many years of trumpet teaching, I constantly go back to talking and teaching about sound. When I use the term "telephone booth" I am talking about the basic area of good trumpet sound. Before we can think about our "Mahler sound," our "Mozart sound," etc., we have to be able to produce a pleasing, focused but open sound in all registers. Do you have such a sound? If so, you do not need this article.

WIND not AIR which is all around us (thanks to Arnold Jacobs and Tina Erickson).

Before making a sound, we must think and visualize breath support. I could list many books and articles on this subject but to me the most important sources are the writings by and about Arnold Jacobs.*

Many teachers recommend taking an amount of wind that depends on what is to be played. My personal practice is to always take in the same large amount of wind and then ration it according to need. As a long-time maker of dollars for sight reading situations, one never knows "what is just around the corner.”

The sound should be open and free in all registers. (Please notice that I am not talking about volume.) Is the sound pinched in the upper register? The first thoughts should not be about pressure, tongue position, etc., but about wind. Is the sound pinched? Try this: sit down and play the note with the bell close to the floor. In most cases the sound improves, simply because it is almost impossible to breathe incorrectly in this position.

Before playing, "sing that first note." No, you do not have to sing the pitch externally if your vocal skills are like many trumpeters. Use the keyboard, a tuner and sing internally; what ever. Just have an open, pleasing and relaxed sound in your head. How close did you come when you played the note?

Choose an awkward place in the music to suddenly stop. Stop in the middle of a difficult technical passage, after the seventh note of a scale, after a "problem" note, etc. LISTEN. What do you sound like in comparison to a second line G? Even if you can play the Carnival of Venice faster than the speed of light, the conductor is not thrilled if the sound is bad.

Practicing for sound improvement? Every note we play should be the best sound we can produce. In Mathie, My Trumpet Week** you can find warm up routines that give you exercises for comparing tongued and slurred patterns that should have the same quality of sound. Any of the Concone books, The Golden Book of Favorite Songs, ballads that you know from memory, etc. give you opportunities for checking tone quality. LISTEN—RECORD—LISTEN!









The highest compliment? Not "you have great technique" but "what a lovely sound."

*Frederiksen/Taylor, Arnold Jacobs, Song and Wind






*Nelson, Also Sprach Arnold Jacobs

*Stewart, The Legacy of a Master

** Have your teacher contact me: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


About the author

Dr. Gordon Mathie, retired Professor Emeritus at the Crane School of Music (State University of New York at Potsdam) is a respected trumpet performer and educator. He made his mark as a professional orchestral musician performing with the Detroit and Vermont Symphony Orchestras. He also performed as solo cornetist in the Leonard Smith Concert Band.

Dr. Mathie is a frequent contributor to the International Trumpet Guild Journal, and he has published a variety of works exploring topics such as teaching, instrumental studies, and ensemble works.

He is one of the founding members of ITG and has been recognized for his exceptional contributions to the trumpet community as a performer and educator when he was awarded the first International Trumpet Guild “Award of Merit.”

About the Editor: Lisa Blackmore is Adjunct Professor of Trumpet at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Adjunct Professor of Trumpet and Horn at East Central College in Union, Missouri where she also teaches Music History and World Music. She is a member of “Cadre” at Missouri Baptist University, teaching trumpet and assisting with the concert band. Lisa earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) in Trumpet with a minor in Music History at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, where she received the Graduate College Dissertation Award in Musicology. Dr. Blackmore also holds degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and SUNY-Stony Brook. She previously served on the faculty at Lindenwood University and under her direction, the Lindenwood Trumpet Ensemble performed at the 2007 ITG conference at the University of Massachusetts―Amherst. Her private studio teaching has resulted in students performing in the St. Louis Youth Symphony and various Missouri All-State ensembles.

Lisa is a member of the Stonehenge Brass Trio and Confluence Brass. She was a bugler with the Missouri Military Funeral Honors Program from 2008-2013 and performed Taps at over 350 military services for Missouri Veterans. She performs with the Compton Heights Concert Band, and she is principal trumpet in the St. Louis Wind Symphony. She serves as a trumpet adjudicator for the Missouri All-State groups.

Lisa lives in Wright City, MO with her husband, Mark (also a trumpeter!) and their two cats, Chet and Ella. In her spare time she makes practice mutes and also enjoys reading and traveling.

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