Description of Initial Lesson for Beginning Trumpeter
If at all possible, do not let your students take their trumpet home until they have had at least one lesson. This will prevent the formation of bad habits, and students exploring/tampering with and potentially damaging the trumpet. If you have a rental night or something similar, you might consider letting them take the mouthpiece home but not the instrument. They can buzz the mouthpiece until the first lesson. Demonstrate how to hold the mouthpiece: hold it with your non-dominant hand, with your thumb and pointer finger at the end of the stem; curl the other fingers out of the way.
1. Demonstrate good posture and breathing. Communicate that the key to playing the trumpet well is using a lot of air. The way one breathes when playing a brass instrument is different from how one normally breathes. The inhale should be deep and relaxed; abdomen and chest should expand in all directions. On the exhale, blow!
Say “home” silently while inhaling, then blow out birthday candles on the exhale. Demonstrate this, then have your students copy you.
2. Have your students put their trumpet case on the floor with the emblem up. Show them how to oil the valves. If possible, have a rag for each of them to place across their legs. Demonstrate how to open the case and pick up the trumpet (I suggest by grabbing the leadpipe). Oil valves as follows:
a. Put the trumpet between your legs with the bell facing out.
b. Unscrew the valves, and while keeping the end of the valves in the casing, drizzle some oil on the bottom section with the holes in it so it coats that whole section.
c. Twist the valve up and down and back and forth until you feel the oil is well distributed.
d. Reinsert the valve, making sure it is properly aligned. Usually the number on the valve should be facing you. Put the number slightly to your right and turn clockwise until it stops. Screw the valve back on. If the valve is not aligned, it will feel like there is a sock in the instrument when you try to play it!
e. Repeat this process with each valve.
3. Demonstrate how to hold the trumpet. Wait until they have all copied you. Address differences that you see. Left hand ring finger should be in the third valve slide ring, right hand should be shaped as if holding a Big Mac.
4. Demonstrate blowing air through the trumpet with the proper embouchure (your college brass method’s class should have taught you this; if not, observe professional trumpet players, or meet with one). Have them copy you. Go back and forth between you and them, air only. Remind them about “home/candles”. Hopefully at some point some of them will naturally “squawk”. Once they do, copy the squawk back to them, whatever that pitch is. Continue this process, but let the note speak sooner and sooner each time until it speaks right away. Then, if they are not already on second-line G, play this note for them and have them copy you. Hopefully they can find it. If not, hopefully next time. Then, add your tongue to the beginning of the note. Have them copy you. I try to avoid explaining unless necessary because explaining tends to confuse; demonstrate and ask them to copy you.
If they do not squawk on their own after about 5-6 blows of air, let yourself squawk or sound a pitch as you are blowing air, then have them copy you.
5. Take the mouthpiece out. Demonstrate how to hold it (or remind them if you already did )and wait until they copy you. Buzz a G and have them copy you; do this several times.
6. Show them how to put the horn back in the case (grab the leadpipe) and close the case. Tell them to simply buzz their mouthpiece until the next lesson.
Congratulations! You just taught your first trumpet lesson!
Here is a demonstration for you to try (maybe not for your students if they are young but perhaps when they are older; the demonstration is for you to understand how lip buzzing works). Hold two sheets of copy paper, one in each hand at the very top with your fingertips, long ways. They should be about 3 inches apart. Then, blow down through the top towards the bottom. The paper should come together at the bottom. The same principal will apply to the lips. The turbulence through your lips into the cup of the mouthpiece makes the lips come together. You should not have to put the lips together; if you are blowing enough air, they will come together on their own. That is why the squawk will happen; every exhale should bring the lips closer and closer; air + touching lips = buzz. Proof that it really is the air that does the work, so plenty of reason to use more of it!
Best practice is to demonstrate instead of explain (show instead of tell), and address problems and differences as they come up.
If a student is having a problem making a sound, put a little piece of tissue on his/her lips (he/she will have to wet them slightly). Have him/her “spit” the tissue off his/her lips. This should create the proper embouchure and a proper buzz.
For proper tongue position when tonguing, say “hut-tah”. Where the tongue is on the “t” is the proper location for tonguing. A good analogy for tonguing is like a running faucet. If you run your finger under the water, it does not stop the water. The tongue should not stop the air. The air should be continuous when legato tonguing; it should feel continuous when staccato tonguing even though in reality it is stopping. The tongue should only start notes, not stop them.