By William Muñoz
If you play trumpet, horn, trombone, tuba, or another brass instrument you already know that they are by far the coolest of the musical instruments (says the brass player writing this). In all seriousness, one of the greatest aspects of playing a brass instrument is that they are extremely versatile. A brass player can play all kinds of musical styles including: Pop, Jazz, Funk, Symphonic music, Concert Band, Marching Band, and the list just goes on.
A key aspect of my playing and teaching approach is that no matter what style of music you want to play, you must always play efficiently and in tune, with good rhythm and tone. However, in order to achieve the aforementioned it is extremely important to have good practice habits such as working the basic aspects of playing on a daily basis. These fundamentals include breathing efficiency, sound production, long tones, and articulation among other things.
Here I would like to share some basic practice suggestions that will definitely help you improve your playing very quickly no matter if you are a beginner or an advanced player.
First and foremost: Breathing. This is perhaps the most essential aspect of brass playing. Air is the fuel of brass instruments. Paying attention to the way you are using your air is key to achieve a proper sound. The outcome of properly using your air, among other things, will help you develop a richer tone, better endurance, and facility. It is important to always take full “big” breaths and fill the instrument with sound. When it comes to breathing there are two parts to it: breathing in and releasing the air. The latter should be focused but never tense your body. There are very simple exercises you can do including breathing in and out using a metronome for time reference and simply doing air patterns using the rhythm of the tunes you are playing.
Next: Singing. In my opinion this is one of the best tools you can use to improve your playing. Singing what you are working on will help with intonation, rhythm, and musicality. It will also give you ways to consciously explore musical interpretations. To sing accurately, you must have a keyboard or some sort of pitch reference. It is important to be very accurate with the pitch.
Last: Tone Production. We can discuss many ways of improving sound and tone production. However, I always suggest mouthpiece buzzing. Spending a few minutes a day buzzing your mouthpiece will give you incredible results. Buzz a song, a short melody, or a simple scale pattern. Aim for a free and clear sound in the mouthpiece. By doing so, you will immediately notice a richer and more vibrant sound. Nonetheless, always keep in mind that good air support and pristine intonation are required for a maximum outcome.
Go on and try those simple tips and enjoy the results. The beauty about being a musician is that there is always room for improvement. Always try to sound your best and more importantly enjoy playing music.