Fretz Music Center

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PLAYING THE TRUMPET IS NO MORE DIFFICULT THAN YOU MAKE IT
by Steve Gratias

The trumpet player Claude Gordon once wrote a book called "Trumpet Playing Is No More Difficult Than Deep Breathing", in which he said there is little more to playing trumpet than breathing deeply. While I agree for the most part, I do feel that there are several other things to consider as well.

The first of these is posture. One should sit upright with a slight arch in the back, and should never slouch forward. The arms should be out comfortably from the sides and never pressed against the sides. Feet should be flat on the floor, with one foot positioned so that the toe can beat time to the music.

Now comes the deep breathing. The student should breathe through the corners of the mouth and not through the nose. One should breathe all the way down to the abdomen (commonly known as the diaphragm), expanding the abdomen and rib cage to take in the maximum amount of air, and then contract the abdomen and rib cage to force air back through the horn. The shoulders should not rise when air is taken in, but should remain as is.

The third thing to consider is the use of the tongue. Each note should be started with a definite "t" sound, unless it is slurred to another note. There are basically three syllables to be used in playing: "too" for the low notes, "ta" for the middle range, and "tee" for the high notes. One should notice that the tongue changes position in the mouth with each syllable, thereby changing the force of the air over the tongue, depending on which syllable is used. These syllables will help produce clearer notes in each register.

Of course, none of these techniques will mean much if the student doesn't practice. Practice sessions should be 20 to 30 minutes each day, depending on level of ability, and could be even more for more advanced students. The practice is necessary to help the student develop the lip muscles. Just as an athlete should develop his/her muscles for endurance and stamina, so should a trumpet player develop the lip muscles with practice.

In summary, if a student uses good posture, breathes deeply, uses the proper tongue syllables, doesn't pull the horn back on his lips, and practices regularly, then trumpet playing should in fact be no more difficult than deep breathing - no more difficult than the student makes it.

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INSTRUMENTS OF THE WORLD

The instruments of the many cultures around the world come in many different shapes and sizes.  They are made of many varied materials, and some are made by better craftsmen than others.  The instruments fall into four broad categories, similar to but not the same as those in western music:  aerophones, chordophones, membranophones and idiophones.

The aerophones are instruments that use air to produce their tones, similar to our brass and woodwinds, either by blowing into the instrument or over a hole in the instrument.  Also, any instrument that uses air to cause a vibration, even if it's not mouth-blown, is considered an aerophone.  Examples of aerophones are didgeridoos, clay or ceramic flutes, wooden and metal trumpets, buzzers and bull roarers.

The chordophones are instruments that make their sound by being plucked, similar to our violins and guitars, although the sounds are not nearly as refined.  Bows may also be used to produce the sound.  Examples of chordophones are bow harps, folk harps, lyres, dulcimers, pianos and guitars.

The membranophones are instruments from which sound is produced by tapping or beating a membrane, similar to drums.  Examples of this type of instrument are drums, tambourines and kazoos.

The idiophones are instruments that produce sound by tapping, rubbing or scraping two different or similar materials together.  Examples of these instruments are bells, shakers, raspas, rattles, glockenspiels and xylophones.

Even though these instruments are "primitive" by our standards, they are very important to people of other cultures.  They not only use these instruments for recreation, but also for many important ceremonies, rituals and even religious services.  The instruments may even be deemed to have certain supernatural powers.

The various craftsmen of the world take great pride in the workmanship, and consider it an honor to be able to make musical instruments and perform with them.  The next time you see a so-called "primitive" world instrument, try to imagine (or actually find out!) what it is used for and how it is played.

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