Issue: Apr-Jun 2005
Bandworld Magazine Page





logo Trumpet Embou-Sure
by Larry Hudson


It is my basic assumption that you will be teaching this concept to several elementary (or at least beginning) students at one time.  I also assume that, even though you have undoubtedly taken a brass methods class or some preparatory course sometime in the past, right now you have a trumpet (in its case) in front of you and that you will follow along step by step to carefully learn this concept.


With the exception of the mouthpiece, the trumpet is, of course, completely assembled as  it appears in the case.  This one minor assembly job can, however, cause some problems if the beginner is not properly instructed. sure to explain and demonstrate that the mouthpiece shank should be inserted into the leadpipe with a gentle twisting motion.  This will create a firm connection which will prevent the mouthpiece from falling out.  Be certain that the students understand that they are not the strike the mouthpiece with the hand in an attempt to seat it, for even a light tap can cause it to become stuck and require the use of a mouthpiece puller.


Though the problem of misplaced valves is somewhat unlikely during the first lesson, it is important to make students aware of the fact that the valves must be placed in the correct casing in order for air to pass through the horn.  Since each valve is stamped with the number corresponding to the casing in which it belongs, the beginning student should easily learn how to recognize the valve identification.  Explain that #1 belongs in the casing nearest the mouthpiece; the others follow in order.

It is also important to point out the valve guide (the protrusion on the valve) and that it must be turned to engage within the casing.  (The valve cannot be twisted once properly inserted into the casing.)


Now instruct the student to grasp the instrument by the valve casings with his left hand, pointing out that only a firm grasp is required.  Certainly, anything that can be done in beginning stages to eliminate the possibility of tension building is to be encouraged.  All too frequently a student grips the instrument so hard that tension builds up throughout the body, thereby creating numerous other problems.

To develop proper right hand position, bring a tennis ball (or water glass) to class, or at least ask the students to imagine they are gripping tennis balls.  The concept of gently rounded fingers forms an excellent posture for playing the trumpet.  The one common mistake which students make is the continuous use of the little finger hook on the lead pipes.  Be sure to point out that that this hook is to be used as a means of supporting the trumpet only while turning pages with the left hand.  (Posing the little finger on top of the hook is a common practice.  Though the loss of finger dexterity is an obvious reason for not using the hook, the most important immediate reason is that the little finger can easily be utilized to exert excessive pressure against the embouchure, thereby destroying it.)

So, the thoughts to remember in holding the instrument are: 

  1. Secure, relaxed left hand grip.
  2. Curved right hand fingers.
  3. No little finger hook.


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