Projecting sound is not the same as playing loudly. We want to project our sound as effortlessly as possible so the audience can hear the sound regardless of where they are sitting.
Brass players “buzz” their lips into a small cup-shaped mouthpiece. This mouthpiece fits into the tubing of the brass instrument. The tubing of the instrument resonates, amplifies and transforms the raw sound of the buzzing lips into the beautifully complex tone that comes out of the bell.
Projecting sound by finding the sweet spot
Sound Projection is produced by resonance. Centre your note in the “sweet spot” of the instrument by playing in tune with where the instrument is tuned for each note. Technically, this means your lips must buzz at the exact frequency that matches the tuning of your instrument for each note. Therefore, it is essential to be able to ‘hear’ a note in your head prior to playing it.
Producing a resonant note allows us to produce a quality sound with maximum efficiency.
We want the audience to hear the complexities of our sound, whether they are in the front or the back row. Good projection keeps your sound intact while it travels from to the back of the room. We want the sound to remain the same throughout its journey – regardless of the pitch or volume.
|Trumpets and Trombones are directional instruments and need to point the bell of the instrument at the audience. Don’t play into the stand, or into the player in front of you, or into the floor. Doing so will kill your projection and the beautiful sounds you produce won’t be accurately heard by the audience.|
|Exercise: Play to a person standing right at the back of the room, not to the conductor or front row.|
Play each note in the sweet-spot of the instrument.
Find the sweet-spot by pushing focused air from full lungs through a good embouchure. Use all the techniques discussed previously – centering each note. Blowing a note at its perfect resonant frequency will cause much larger vibrations than would otherwise be possible. In a lab, this wine glass was shattered by a speaker producing the resonant frequency of the glass.
|Exercise: While playing a note, pull the mouthpiece out to hear the buzz. Are you buzzing the exact pitch of the note you are trying to play? If not, you are not playing through the centre of the note and the quality of your sound will suffer.|
|Tip: Play through the centre of a note to achieve twice the tone quality with half the effort.|
A by-product of resonance is efficiency which allows a player to use far less air to achieve the desired result. Efficiency is especially critical when playing long, loud and low passages which require a great deal of air. So, projecting sound efficently is the key to economic use of air while producing a fabulously rich tone.
|Tip: Don’t blow “into” your instrument, blow “through” your instrument.|
2 thoughts to “PROJECTING SOUND EFFICIENTLY”
Christian Lindberg pulled his mouthpiece out while buzzing f and heard nothing. He buzzed f on the mouthpiece, inserted it, and got a bad sound. I surmise that the resistance on the mouthpiece alone is less than when inserted in the trombone, and this affects the aperture/embouchure setting, much as longer alternate positions affect it. I know this is controversial, and he has been rebutted on this, but his experiment seems a definitive contradiction of the theory of the supposed benefits of mpc buzzing as a check on proper embouchure settings for each pitch.
Hi David, Thanks for your comment. I agree with what you’re saying. There is no resistance when blowing a mouthpiece without a trombone attached to it—and that DOES make a difference for most players. The purpose of blowing on the mouthpiece in this article was purely to hear the pitch being buzzed. If the buzz is on pitch, then the resonance should happen to maximize the projection of the sound. Back-pressure from the horn helps produce the buzz. Producing a buzz without back-pressure/resistance will be more difficult for most players.
A few points to consider;
1) Resistance can be increased by partially blocking the hole at the end of the mouthpiece with a finger. This should make the buzz more natural and closer to how it feels while playing.
2) If a player only uses very little mouthpiece pressure on the lips while playing normally, a lack of resistance while buzzing will be less of an issue for them. In essence they are ‘buzzing into the mouthpiece’ anyway when they play normally.
3) Most players play with some pressure on the mouthpiece and this will generally produce a fuller sound, but the mouthpiece rim is assisting with the buzz to some extent. The more pressure while playing, the bigger role resistance would probably play in producing a buzz.
4) The embouchure will be different when buzzing into a mouthpiece only vs into a complete trombone for most players, because the back pressure is different. The exception would be for players who use no pressure at all when playing—in theory, it should be no different for them.