All of us, at some point or another, deal with an airy tone on the trumpet. Sometimes it’s hard to pin down the cause — and that can lead to a frustrating experience as we try everything we can think of (and often end up spending way too much money on repair and maintenance) without success. I’ve had my fair share of this frustration.
So if you are reading this, you are probably having the same problem I had when I was younger: an airy tone on trumpet. But don’t worry! We will fix it.
The first step to achieving a great tone is understanding what it means. First of all, you have to know how the sound is created. The quality of your tone depends on the shape and size of your embouchure hole—the “O” shaped opening between your lips that creates the vibration needed for the desired pitch. Once you’ve found this sweet spot, then there are many things that can be done to improve it!
Here are some helpful tips:
- Try different mouthpieces until you find one that suits your playing style. A piece with a smaller diameter will create more pressure in order to achieve volume, while larger diameters will produce less pressure but allow more airflow through them.
- Practice at different times throughout the day, you may get different results depending on the state of your lip muscles.
- If you feel yourself pushing too hard which produces an airy tone, try using more relaxed breathing techniques and slightly loosen the pressure between your lips.
- Concentrate on maintaining a round sound throughout your range. Avoid sudden changes in dynamics or tone (too many attacks or releases).
- Maintain lip flexibility with scales, arpeggios and etudes that increase in range.
- Take advantage of modern technologies! There are electronic devices available to help you with your tone production by playing an electronically altered version of the desired pitch; these devices allow performers (percussionists, guitar players, horn players) to tune their instrument before playing and can help an out-of-tune performer find the correct pitch.
If you have an airy tone when playing trumpet, here are a few things you can do to fix it:
- Make sure your embouchure aperture is the right shape. It should be round and compact, not oval or stretched out. This will help you produce a more focused sound.
- Keep your lips together and make sure the aperture is in the center of your mouth.
- Practice playing softly. An airy tone is often caused by trying to play too loudly. so it’s important to practice playing softly as well.
- Play in a relaxed and comfortable position. Don’t tighten your jaw or neck muscles.
- Take a lesson from a qualified instructor.
- Be patient and keep practicing! It may take some time to correct your technique, but with practice you’ll be able to play trumpet like a pro.
Causes of an airy tone
The most typical cause is related to the way the lips are placed on top of each other, or more correctly how they come apart. The larger the aperture between your lips, the more air will escape through it and you produce a breathy sound.
To have a good tone you need to have an aperture with the lips in the right position, so they are equidistant from each other. They should not be too far apart or too close together.
The causes of poor lip placement are typically related to how the teeth are arranged. Problems with teeth spacing can result in one or both sets of lips not opening evenly.
If the teeth are not correctly aligned then the lips may be forced apart or into an unnatural, airy position. You can check this using a mirror to make sure your teeth are in line and that there is an even gap between both sides of your top lip.
If you find that closing your lips like this makes it harder to play, then you are probably pulling the aperture in too much. To fix this, try opening your mouth just a little more than when playing softly.
Other causes of an airy tone
- An inefficient embouchure aperture- this is the most common cause and is where the lips are too far apart or the aperture is of the wrong shape
- Poor air support- this can be caused by incorrect breathing technique or tension in the body
- Incorrect use of the tongue- this can be due to putting the tongue in the wrong place or using too much or too little tongue.
- It could be that you’re not used to playing softly (this is especially common in beginners). If you can improve your soft playing, your tone will probably get less airy. Start by practicing long tones quietly; this will help to tighten up the aperture (i.e. make it smaller) and give you more control while also improving your breath support.
- It’s possible that your airy tone is being caused by the instrument. Spit valves can often leak air, which can cause your tone to be airy. You might want to ask a trumpet player or band instructor to help you troubleshoot this issue. If you’re not happy with your tone, take your trumpet to a music store and try out several different ones until you find one that you like better.
In conclusion, the different ways to improve your tone production depend on many things: how determined you are, what kind of instrument you play, and most importantly—what it means to have a GREAT TONE. Once you truly understand this definition, all that’s left is dedication and determination. Keep trying and practicing, and you will achieve your goal!
One way to deal with an airy tone in trumpet is to practice playing with the aperture smaller, but still producing a good sound. This might take some time, but with practice you will be able to control your air flow more. Try putting a mirror in front of you while you play and watching how small you can make the aperture. Keep playing softly at first and it will get easier over time.
If you practice and maintain a consistent routine, then your tone production should improve greatly! However, don’t expect to see results overnight; only regular and consistent work will allow for improvement. Taking lessons is also a great way to receive feedback for how your tone production can be improved.
Thank you for reading! Practice hard today, and good luck with making a great tone!