Today I have three things on my mind. First is air speed as it relates to pitch on brass instruments. I was just practicing a solo I wrote last year that slurs from A below the staff to A above high C, that's 3 octaves. Playing this section is sometimes challenging, but usually goes smoothly when everything is working. Makes sense, right? Things work, unless they don't! Ha ha...such is life.
So why do we sometimes hit the wrong note at the top (or even the bottom) of a wide interval slur? Incorrect air speed is almost always the culprit. Even if your aperture, tongue placement, lip fatigue/tension/durometer/lubricity, valves or something else is the root cause, it still comes down to air speed. Correct air speed is the product of all the components of the embouchure and determines the pitch as it corresponds to the length (and volume) of the tubing and available nearby partials (overtones). In a nutshell, your air speed must be close to hit the right note. So when I slur from low A to the A 3 octaves above, I must increase air speed by 4 times or I will hit the wrong note. Increase air speed by 3.9 times and I'll hit a G!
You can't really gauge your air speed unless you have a really cool sensor in your mouthpiece, which I'm considering offering someday. So you only know if your air speed is correct when you hear the right note. So how do we consistently quadruple the air speed for a 3 octave slur? Simple...practice singing the pitches before playing them or practice buzzing them. AND DEFINITELY always practice "hearing" them in your mind. Using a keyboard is always a great tool for ear training, but when it comes to brass instruments, hearing the note is only half the solution. We must train ourselves to simultaneously increase air speed when slurring up. I'll get more into this another time as I have a full set of exercises I have used over the years to learn this along with ear training.
Next on my mind, Rome...
I've had numerous requests to offer clinics abroad for the past ten years and almost always turn these down as I'm very focused on what I'm doing. Passing up Brazil, Japan, Italy, UK, France, Germany, etc so many times has made me realize something. One person really can't do everything. So I've booked my trip to Rome and Barcelona to offer clinics to orchestral trumpet players. Of course, their main interest is getting to blow on some horns, so I plan to bring a Bb and C. I'm combining this trip with a vacation with my very deserving mother who has always dreamed of seeing Europe. So my question to you readers is this...what should we be sure to see in these cities and what takes up too much time just getting there? I don't want to spend 8 hours on a bus when I could be doing something! Keep in mind, I will be working so I may have a chance to have a private tour or two of these cities from a fellow musician.
And to touch base on yesterday's goals, I finished my sister's cake projects. My sister, Jenn, designs and makes really amazing custom cakes for a living. Her company is Jennuinely Sweet in Billings, Montana and I'm working with her to revolutionize the cake industry. I know that sounds extreme, but I'm serious. Without giving too much away, we're experimenting with support plate systems that I'm designing from scratch as well as custom fondant products allowing anyone to customize their cakes for any special event. The photo above shows a few universal layer supports for high stack wedding cakes. And the photo below shows a two-part aluminum mold designed to create silicone or plastic impression tools. Stay tuned for more interesting projects as I usually have something happening on the side of the latest trumpet creations. Anyone need to custom decorate a cake?
I'll close with a word on hibernation as this relates to my snapping turtles which have been sleeping since November. January in Minnesota can be cruel, but there seems to be some comfort in knowing that we're forced to stay warm inside. For most of the twin cities, it seems some moderate form of hibernation is the answer and that's fine for people who can wait until May to move around. But here's a friendly reminder that we can all get up from the computer or television and create something new whether that be music, a fondant mold or planning a trip. Once you get up and start thinking of things to do, you'll forget you ever sat down to surf the web.
Happy frozen Sunday,