Resonance and Trumpet Playing

By Mark Van Cleave
©2014 MVC

Resonance is one of the potentially strongest forces in nature. You can see in the picture of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse of 1940 when winds started the cables to "sing" or resonate and the sympathetic vibrations eventually brought down the entire bridge.

Triggering the resonance:

Triggering the resonance inside the trumpet is how we produce a trumpet tone. This is done with the lips. Like the wind stimulated the resonant frequency of the bridge that eventually brought down the bridge, we need to stimulate the air column inside the trumpet to produce our tone.

This frequency is determined by which valves are pressed and where the tuning slide has been placed.

If the tuning slide has set the resonant frequency of the air column to A449, you cannot produce a resonant tone at A440. This is not to say that you cannot bend the pitch down with your lips and produce an A440 pitch while tuned at A449, it is just that the A440 pitch that you will produce will not be a resonant one. You will be limiting the ability of your trumpets acoustic properties to resonate and utilize this naturally occurring power.

Without properly stimulating the natural acoustics of the trumpet to resonate, you cannot experience the power of resonance in your sound and playing. You will have to work much harder physically in order to make up the loss of energy in your tone production. Along with degrading the quality of your sound, this will also substantially lessen your efficiency and endurance while playing.

Many trumpet players use just their lips to push the notes through the horn. The lips DO play an important roll in producing the trumpet sound, but trying to create all of the energy needed to produce an opulent, projecting, ringing tone with just your lips or embouchure is impossible.

A muscle bound buzz will create just that: a muscle bound buzzy tone.

The role of the lips is to initiate the vibration that causes the resonance inside the trumpet. This resonance is where the real energy in your tone comes from.

Tuning the trumpet:

Tuning the trumpet properly is one of the most important aspects of developing and maintaining efficient trumpet playing.

If your horn is tuned at A449, THAT is where you will produce the highest quality tone with the most efficiency in production.

It is critical that you tune your trumpet so that the "sweet spot" is where the pitch of the group is.

The Shower Effect:

The Shower Effect is when you are singing in the shower and one certain pitch seems to jump out when you sing it. There is one frequency that seems to have WAY more volume, tone quality, etc. that all of the other notes without working any harder. The same amount of energy is producing twice as much sound!

This is the resonant frequency of the chamber that your are singing in... in this case a shower stall.

When you are playing the trumpet, this chamber is the air column that is inside the instrument. It too has a resonant frequency.

When you sing dead center in the resonant frequency of the shower stall, you will experience the shower effect. The same phenomenon will happen if you trigger the center of the tonal slot on the trumpet with your buzz. More sound, tone quality, overtones, ease of production, etc.

This is why it is so important to tune the instrument properly in the first place. If the center of the tonal slot is not in tune with the group you are playing with, you will either be out of tune or in tune with a poor quality tone. You cannot play in tune with the group and your horn at the same time unless it is tuned properly to the groups pitch.

Jerry Franks:

Jerry Franks always had a way of making the complex understandable. Taking a problem, tearing it apart, explaining how it worked, coming up with a practice strategy that would encourage the correct physical result, and GO!

I named this approach the "A plus B equals DOUBLE C" method.

Jerry always stressed the importance of playing in the EXACT center of the horn's tuned pitch. Finding the center of the slot and allowing the resonance within the trumpet to do the heavy lifting.

"Getting the trumpet to resonate is where the power comes from."



© TPO 1992-2015