Tuesday, July 28, 2009

But Where's the Sizzle?

There you sit in the trumpet doctor's office with your mouth wide open, saying "ahhhh". With his tongue depressor he peers deep inside inspecting for open throat and esophagus. "You're fine. Just checking for unrestricted air flow. By the way, you might want to have those tonsils, wisdom teeth and molars removed. They'll have to go for the sake of your flow."

Next he examines your equipment, piece by piece, first making sure that your deep-cupped mouthpiece is properly bored out to accommodate massive air movement. Your lead pipe also must allow for floods of air traffic. Your rounded tuning crook and the fattest of bells also aids in the mission of huge-is-cool. And why not? Your sound is sweet, luscious, mellow and fat.

Reality often is that in spite of all these very nice adjustments that definitely improve sound and ease of playing, there can be side effects. For instance, you will likely have to deal with flat tops (of phrases), tubby tendency, lack of projection, unstable intonation, less than crisp articulation, and endurance limitations. These usually surface in extended passages, large ensembles, difficult solo works, and high decibel requirements. In short, the horn seems bigger than you are. These problems can be overcome, but at a cost of a lot more effort. Sizzle can happen, but it's hard with a cannon.

In the rush to go for the big sound, be careful not to sacrifice penetration potential, or "pokability". Equipment can be geared for huge sound quality while you shoot for the richest, fattest, most beautiful, gorgeous, velvety sound possible. No problem with that, but make sure to keep it balanced with enough edge. A great sound must have its share of bright highs as well as dark lows and be able to travel farther than a few feet. So whatever your concept or equipment choices, remember you must do it all. Be able to wield the shot put and hurl the javelin, and you're playing is smokin' and sizzlin'!

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