No matter how accurately you play the notes, no one will want to listen to you for very long if you can’t produce a good tone.  We want to consistently produce a sound with attractive ‘colours’. Develop your own sound to deliberately produce a pleasing colour in your tone.

The trombone amplifies the buzzing sound made with the lips. 

The sound you produce is determined by your;

  • embouchure,
  • airflow which produces the buzz,
  • physical make-up and
  • the quality of your instrument.

But above all, how you think about your sound will greatly influence how you develop your own sound.

The Buzz

Exercise: Buzz your lips and then place a finger on the top lip and then on the bottom lip.   Try this as you buzz up and down to feel how the top and bottom lip buzz differently.

Your lips don’t buzz by themselves.  They need air passing over them to produce a buzz.  Changing the airflow changes the buzz.  Changing the buzz changes your sound.

The placement and use of your top lip (the buzzing lip) in the mouthpiece will have a significant influence on the quality of your sound. 

The bottom lip (the controlling lip) also vibrates slightly but functions differently. Think of it as a surface for the top lip to buzz against.

Tip:  A wider hole can produce a fuller sound. However, if the hole is too wide for the pitch and volume of a note, the sound can become airy as non-productive air escapes through the hole.

The size of the hole between your lips while buzzing will influence how you sound.  Going for a bigger hole will open up your sound, while making it smaller can constrict the sound.  

If the hole is too big, it will make high notes much more difficult to play. So a balance is needed.

Having too much lip (particularly too much bottom lip) in the mouthpiece can produce a stuffy, muffled sound.  Placing the mouthpiece higher or lower on the lips will also affect the sound.

Develop your own sound by experimenting with different techniques

To achieve the sound you want across your range, experiment with the balance of how much lip you need to have in the mouthpiece and the size of the hole between your lips while buzzing and placement of the mouthpiece.

Keep an open mouth cavity, letting the jaw hang open with the teeth slightly apart. At all times, support the buzz with a generous supply of focused air.  Practice producing your desired sound reliably so it becomes how you play automatically.

Tip:  To produce great sounding pedal notes (the lowest notes on the trombone), only have the top lip in the mouthpiece and keep it loose. Place the lower lip on the lower rim of the mouthpiece and push the jaw out – shifting pressure from the top lip to the bottom lip.  Then blow!
Exercise: Listen to the sounds of other players (both good and bad) and try to emulate their sound. Take note of what you need to do differently to produce the different sounds and use this knowledge to produce the sound you want when you want it.

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