The “OUT, NOT UP” Gateway to Air-Based Playing

(Excerpts from “Jake’s Method, the Trumpet Method of Don “Jake” Jacoby” surrounded by “**”)

Stan d in the middle of a fairly large room.  You are going to play a middle “F” in the staff. 

**Put your mouthpiece on your lip where it always goes and then, TAKE YOUR MIND COMPLETELY OFF OF YOUR LIP. We are not going to try to play this F with your lip. We are going to put an attack on it and let the air vibrate your lip to produce the note. Remember, think only of the air and about six feet out in front of your horn. There should be no lip movement whatsoever. OK, try it. Try it again. Try it once more until you feel the air making the sound instead of trying to manipulate the note with your lip. When you get that feeling, then let’s do this:

Play the F exactly as before and when you slur to the “G” one step above, don’t change anything but just reach out about one additional foot and move the air just a bit faster. This will produce the “G”. It should feel exactly the same as the “F” and be just as free and full-bodied with no lip involvement. You should feel, at all times, completely relaxed and think AIR, AIR, AIR. Be careful not to use “more” air — just a little “faster moving” air.**

Start on the “F”, and slur to “G” and then to “A”, each time simply moving the air out in front of you one additional foot without changing your lip at all, and just moving the air a little faster. Repeat this until you are comfortable with the feeling of letting the air do all of the work, with no lip involvement whatsoever, then add another note in the “F” major scale. Feel free to use natural breaks of the horn and gliss or use a very lightly legato tongue – just ensure that the focus remains on driving the air faster and “out”, one foot at a time, to make the note change – with NO ADJUSTMENT OF THE CHOPS.

When you reach “C” and higher, **we add JUST A HAIR (no more) of the tongue slightly raised and forward. Remember, no more than a hair of tongue involvement and when it is put into that position, keep it there.**

When you have completed the entire “F” major scale, use this same approach to playing slurs: middle “F” to middle “Bb”, then down chromatically. Then try it with “F-Bb-D” and so forth. The important thing is not to rush through this as if it is a set of calisthenics – it is not. If you lose connection with the feeling of ignoring your lip and letting the air do the work, you must go back to the beginning of the exercise. 

The point of the exercise is that learning to play OUT (visualizing progressive points in space in front of you, adding a slightly raised tongue in the middle register) instead of UP on a simple level and gradually teaching the body to incorporate the technique in everyday playing is a very effective gateway to the very essence of air-based playing, which is a prerequisite for any brass player with aspirations toward becoming a professional. There are many ways that brass players learn to base playing the instrument on air (although some are born to it and have no need of single-mindedly focusing on air), but using air as the primary tool of playing is an absolute necessity for the professional brass player.