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Teaching Brass Instruments -for the non-brass major-

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Teaching Brass Instruments

-for the non-brass major-

This session is for instrumental music teachers/band directors who are not brass majors, and who desire to become better equipped to teach and train brass players more effectively and successfully. It will include essential practical topics, several of which are not covered in standard lesson books.

Presenter: David R. Marowitz, Toms River Regional Schools

teaching brass instruments for non brass majors topics in this session
Instrument handling





Mouthpiece Pressure

Tone production

Tone quality

Projecting the sound





16. Pre-Warm-UP

17. Warm-up-Cool Down

Daily Embouchure Drills

Easier way to start low brass players

Choosing mouthpieces

Instrument Brands

Internet Resources

Other resources

Teaching tools

Role Models


Teaching Brass Instruments(for non-brass majors) Topics in This Session:
opening remarks
Opening Remarks

This session will:

  • benefit band directors of all grade levels
  • cover important topics not addressed in lesson books
  • simplify brass pedagogy for you
  • show how to bypass unnecessary problems that develop due to improper playing habits by establishing a foundation of proper playing habits
  • Give you info. & resources to equip you to develop quality brass players
  • answer individual questions at the end of this session
first things first ear and nerve protection for teachers
First Things FirstEar (and nerve) Protection for Teachers
  • Wear earplugs designed for musicians.
  • Protects you from tinnitus.
  • Also takes the edge off your nerves
  • Westone labs manufactures ear plugs for musicians

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is leaning because the ground it sits on is too soft to support the weight of the tower.
  • The tower started leaning before the third floor was completed in the mid- 1200's, and it has gotten worse and worse slowly ever since.
  • Brass players need a strong foundation that will support advancing skill or their ongoing development will be limited.
prelude to beginning brass instruments
Prelude to Beginning Brass Instruments
  • Solfeggio

-for ear training

  • Singing in a Chorus

-for ear training, time keeping, functioning in an ensemble

  • Playing the Recorder (flutophone)

-to establish foundation in and focus on music fundamentals without having to deal with the technical difficulties of brass instruments.

handling instruments
Handling Instruments

Give students photos that demonstrate proper handling of the instrument, posture, embouchure, etc. to imitate during home practice sessions.

This promotes quick and accurate learning.

(TIP: use pinky ring for holding

the trumpet only-NOTwhenplaying)

[Click on graphics to be directed to photo example on the web}

using a digital camera
Using a Digital Camera
  • Reinforce proper posture, embouchure, etc. by taking a photo of students in lessons demonstrating proper posture, handling of instrument, embouchure, etc.
  • They can imitate the photo of themselves at home thereby insuring proper habit development and faster at that.

Students should imitate posture from a photo

during home practice sessions.

breath support bagpipes analogy
Breath Supportbagpipes analogy

Pipes equivalent to the instrument

Bag equivalent to lungs

Left arm equivalent to diaphragm muscle

(another analogy: squeeze tooth paste from bottom of tooth paste tube)

breath support cont
Breath Support (cont’)
  • The diaphragm, a very thin but very powerful muscle located directly beneath the lungs, flexes and relaxes, helping to cause the lungs to inflate and deflate.
  • The expansion and contraction of a blacksmith's bellows perfectly demonstrates this type of breathing motion.
  • One way to learn this technique is to lie flat on your back, with an object on your stomach, breathe and observe the object as it rises and falls.
inhaling exhaling
  • Establishing proper breathing technique will prevent problems such as tightness in the neck, grunting in neck, and will produce a better quality tone, endurance, and range.
  • slide your shoulder blades down toward the ground – not inward but downward. This causes your shoulders to move down and back. As well, it will raise the sternum which opens up the chest cavity
  • throat muscles relaxed and open (just like when you “yawn”)
  • inhale and exhale in one continuous motion (forming mouth w/ ‘how”)
  • visualize your lungs as balloons that are being filled with air.
  • can breathe through nose for rapid breath when needed
breathing exercises
Breathing Exercises

sit up tall (or stand) shoulders back with your hands behind your head (forces air to bottom of lungs) Don’t raise shoulders while inhaling.

Using a metronome:

  • Inhale for 8 counts, exhale for 8 counts
  • Inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts
  • Inhale for 2 counts, exhale for 2 counts
  • Variation:
  • Inhale for 4, exhale for 4
  • Inhale for 3, exhale for 4
  • Inhale for 2, exhale for 4
  • Inhale for 1, exhale for 4

The above exercises teach breath control

in addition to learning how to breathe when playing

mouthpiece placement
Mouthpiece Placement


  • Mouthpiece placed in the horizontal centre of the lips

-Trumpet: two-thirds of the mouthpiece on the

lower lip and one-third on the upper lip. 

    • French horns: two-thirds on the upper lip and one third on the lower lip. 
    •   Tuba: as high on the upper lip as possible. 
mouthpiece pressure
Mouthpiece Pressure

Too Much Pressure Impairs:

*flexibility *endurance *range.

  • can restrict the blood flow to the lips and this could lead to some serious lip trauma
  • cause a bruised or swollen upper lip.

Symptoms of Excessive Lip Pressure Include the Following:

  • form a “pressure ring” that remains visible on the lips for more than 20 minutes after the student has finished playing.
  • much less endurance than classmates do at approximately the same level of development.
  • thin tone in the upper register.
forming the embouchure introduction
Forming the EmbouchureIntroduction


Take into account that works best for one individual player will not always work best for another. Unique difference in teeth, lip shape and texture, the jaw, and other anatomical factors will affect how the brass player's embouchure will work at its most efficient. Must take into account the physical characteristics of the individual.

forming the embouchure
Forming the Embouchure

1. Flat chin. ( tell students to think of pointing their chins

toward the ground.)

  • Place mouthpiece upon the lips that are moist and firmed keeping all of the red of the lips inside the cup of the mouthpiece. (think “mmm”).
  • Firm mouth corners.Relax your jaw, face and all of the muscles in and around your lip area. When you are relaxed, begin to firm the corners of the mouth
  • Teeth apart (about the same as the width of a mouthpiece shank. Inverting the mouthpiece and placing it between the teeth makes for a good way to check the distance.)
  • The throat is to be open at all times.
  • Bottom lip slightly curled in lips together as if saying the letter “m”. Do not to tense your lips and chin as you play. This will "pinch" the sound.

Click below for: for:

  • Solutions for embouchure problems:
  • Tips for Fixing Embouchure Problems
  • Self Appraisal
don t puff cheeks




practice in front of a mirror to check embouchure, posture and prevent puffing of cheeks

buzzing the lips
  • Lips are comparable to a double reed. A good double reed will have a good crow which will produce a good sound. A vibrant buzz will produce a good sound.
  • Buzzing practice is invaluable in the development of embouchure control, flexibility, and a clear and focused sound
  • Can cause tone problems to improve
  • Make a clear and focused sound when buzzing.
schilke buzzing routine
Schilke Buzzing Routine

1. buzz lips (moisten lips first) lips into mouthpiece:

  • gently place mouthpiece on buzzing lips without

interrupting the buzz at all.

  • If the buzz stops in the process, stop, then start over.
  • Use diaphragm muscle to expel air and hold out pitch until out of air.

3.Repeat # 2 with mouthpiece in the instrument

schilke buzzing routine24

Schilke Buzzing Routine


cause lips to align properly to cause free unhindered buzzing

cause student to find their proper mouthpiece placement on their lips

produce a good sound and will prevent splitting, cracked tones


Too much mouthpiece pressure

Air "Choking" tendencies (closing the larynx and restricting air flow),

which are frequently accompanied by "grunting.

Lips not freely buzzing causing player to twist mouthpiece to bring lips

together to buzz

Bunched chin (impossible to do when buzzing lips without the mouthpiece.

Smile embouchure (stretched lips tend to produce a thin, hard tone,

endurance also suffers)

anatomy of tone production
Anatomy of Tone Production
  • INHALE: through mouth corners w/ lips “just touching”
  • ATTACK: (tongue)
  • DURATION:(open throat, breath support, steady tone)
  • RELEASE:(stop note by stopping air flow, NOT with tongue)
quality tone quality
Quality Tone Quality
  • Develop a strong mental image of good tone quality

(Listen to professionals)

  • Open throat when playing; blow air as if they were fogging a glass (ask student to blow warm air at their hand). The syllable “hoe” will often create this effect
  • In the beginning when students are producing a tone with proper fundamentals give them long tones and rhythm exercises to for home practice to strengthen their lip and facial muscles
projecting the sound
Projecting The Sound
  • Pick a spot on the wall across the room or a person in the back row at a concert, and “aim” your sound there.
  • Always aim to produce the most beautiful sound you can.
  • Learn to project the sound at all dynamic levels
  • Blow “through the instrument”
  • “too” or “toe" middle register)
  • “tee” (upper register)
  • tah or taw (lower register)
  • blow past the tongue
  • do not stop the note with the tongue. Stop the note by stopping the air.

Click here for tonguing exercises

A tense tongue leads to:

late note beginnings,

explosive note beginnings

inhibited speed at which articulation can be executed.

A relaxed tongue:

will prevent excessive jaw movement or "chewing" which results in a heavy, thuddy kind of note beginning.

  • Don’t “attack" any notes. Think instead of "pronouncing" the notes by saying the word "too“ or “Toe”.
  • Lower jaw functions in slurring precisely as it does in
  • strict articulation. It will open or close depending on
  • the register and the pattern of the slur group.
overtone harmonic series
Overtone/Harmonic Series
  • lower pitches loosen center of lips

tonguing syllable: “Taw”

  • middle range pitches

tonguing syllable: “Too” or “toe””

  • higher pitches move lips to the center as if to pucker, lower lip in

tonguing syllable: “Tee”

warm up cool down

To prepare lips muscles for playing and reinforce proper playing habits

Warm up softly and slowly

Include lip buzzing, long tones, lip slurs, tonguing, finger (slide exercises

Pay attention to reinforcing:

proper posture, handling of instrument, breathing, breath support, buzzing, etc.


to relax lip muscles

Pedal tones are a great lip massage and will relax the muscles.

Play long tones softly on low pitches

Makes lip more responsive the next day

Warm Up/Cool Down
  • Break up practice time into shorter periods, resting as much as you play so you do not do more harm than good.
  • “Rest as much as you play”
  • Endurance Exercise

a) Play a musical selection

stop when beginning to feel tired and rest.

b) Continue to play from where you left off.

c) Continue this process until selection


d) Done daily and will enable to play for

longer periods without stopping for rest.

  • Do not erect psychological fears/blocks by telling students that certain notes are “high notes”.
  • To expand in either direction, keep a good sound, a consistent sound, and move slowly, chromatically at first until each pitch has the same good quality sound. Pianos are a good example of consistent sound throughout all registers
  • Gradually expand to wider intervals, arpeggios, then wider. When something is too difficult back up to what you can do, and try again.
  • Must rest frequently when doing range expansion exercises

Click Here for Range Exercise

Range Development Info.

STEP ONE: Stretching Exercises
  • Neck rolls b. shoulder shrugs


STEP TWO: a) inhale (stand, with hands on back of

head), fill belly with air in 8 counts

b) exhale completely, buzzing the lips;

(repeat with 4 counts , then 2 counts)

STEP THREE : repeat STEP TWO except buzz lips into the


STEP FOUR: repeat STEP TWO except buzz lips into

mouthpiece whichisintheinstrument

  • -no tension except in buttocks
  • open throat as in a yawn
  • don’t raise shoulders
  • when inhalingform mouth as if saying “HOW”
Mouthcorner Breathing:

STEP FIVE : a) set up embouchure as if saying “mmm”

b) breathe through mouth corners while

maintaining center of upper & lower lips touching

c. buzz lips*

*(1st time without mouthpiece, 2nd time with mouthpiece)

STEP SIX: repeat STEP FIVE except with the instrument:

1st time: produce a tone with breath *(“haa”) attack

2nd time: produce a tone with a tongue (“toe”) attack



(including long tones, lip slurs, flexibility, tonguing,

technique, according to student ability, then to music)

daily embouchure drills next three slides

Daily Embouchure Drills(next three slides)


Long Tones (for muscle building and tone improvement)

Lip slurs (for flexibility and tone)

Intervals (for ear training and flexibility)

For Best Results:

Play slowly and rest after each line (remove mpc. from lips.)

When student masters Level One, replace with Level Two

for daily warm-up (etc.)

While playing, concentrate on proper breathing, mouthpiece

placement, mouth corner inhaling and attack as done in

“The Bull Pen”. Aim for a quality tone.

daily practice routine outline
Daily Practice Routine Outline
  • Stretching (head rolls, shoulder shrugs)
  • Imitate photo (for posture, inst. handling, etc.)
  • Pre-Warm-Up (breathing/buzzing exercises)
  • Daily Warm-Up (containing long tones, lip slurs, tonguing, and flexibility)
  • Lesson of the Week (include basic skills: rhythm reading development, technique, time keeping [use metronome], song/solo playing, ensemble music)


Low Brass Players

french horn
french horn
  • start french horn students on mellophone
  • switch them to F Horn when they have a command of the fundamentals of playing and the overtone series music

mellophone (bell front)


alto horn (altonium)

  • Begin young trombone students on trombone with F attachment.

This eliminates need to use 6th & 7th positions

  • Special Considerations for Trombone:
  • Slide positions and intonation
  • Slide movement w/ flexible wrist
  • Remington exercises custom modified or your intermediate to advanced trombone student
  • start young tuba students on baritone (bass clef)
  • and switch to tuba when student is physically able
  • Importance of an appropriate size mouthpiece
  • Get better mouthpiece before going to a better instrument
  • When moving up to a better quality mouthpiece, audition several brands and sizes
  • Know what kind of sound, you want to produce and seek the mouthpiece that will help produce that sound

Anatomy of a Brass Mouthpiece

  • RimWide: Increases endurance.Narrow: Improves flexibility.Round: Improves comfort.Sharp: Increases precision of attack.
  • CupLarge: Increases volume, control.Small: Relieves fatigue, weakness.Deep: Darkens tone, especially in low register. Shallow: Brightens tone, improves response, especially in high register.
  • ThroatLarge: Increases blowing freedom, volume, tone; sharpens high register (largest sizes also sharpen low register).Small: Increases resistance, endurance, brilliance; flattens high register.
  • BackboreCombinations of size and shape make the tone darker or brighter, raise or lower the pitch in one or more registers, increase or decrease volume. The backbore's effects depends in part also on the throat and cup.
selecting a brass mouthpiece
  • “How to Select a Brass Mouthpiece”

by Reynold Schilke

  • All About Brass Mouthpieces
  • Mouthpiece Comparison Charts
  • Mouthpiece Brands
  • Mouthpiece Suggestions
use of tone intensifier or heavy top mouthpiece
Use of Tone Intensifieror Heavy Top Mouthpiece

Tone Intensifiers

Heavy Top Mouthpiece

recommended instrument brands
  • Trumpet: Bach, Conn, Getzen, King, Selmer/Bundy, Yamaha.

A working 3rd valve throw ring/slide is desirable.

(Mouthpiece: Bach 7c mouthpiece. Older students

upgrade to a Bach 3c mouthpiece)

  • French Horn: Holton, Yamaha, Conn, Bach, Selmer/Bundy,

(Mouthpiece: Bach 11)

  • Trombone/ Baritone/ Euphonium: Yamaha, Bach, Besson, Holton, King, Getzen, Edwards, Bach, Benge , Selmer, Conn.

(Mouthpiece: .Bach 7C, older students upgrade to a Bach 6 ½ AL)

  • Tuba: Miraphone, Meinl Weston, Yamaha , King

(Mouthpiece: Helleberg  17)


Al Cass (fast),

Blue Juice

or Pro Oil

valve oils

last longer


work better


cheaper alternatives.

Slide-O-Mix and Trombotine

are excellent trombone slide lubricants



  • If we as teachers don’t point students to worthy role models, our first chair player will become the benchmark.
  • Better that they look to renown pros in the field to emulate with regard to all aspects of performing.
Joe Alessi

James Markey


Roger Bobo

Dennis Brain

listening viewing professional recordings
Listening/Viewing Professional Recordings
  • To help develop a concept of a quality tone. (You can't reproduce a sound you haven't heard)
  • Play recordings as students enter/exit their lesson
  • Encourage students to listen to professionals on recordings/view them on
view listen to professionals www youtube com

Maurice Andre : trumpet

Dennis Brain : f. horn

Joe Alessi: trombone

Roger Bobo : tuba


Arturo Sandoval :trumpet

Giovanni Hoffer: horn

Carl Fontana :trombone

Bob Stewart: tuba

View/Listen to Professionals
some virtuoso players to listen to online
Some Virtuoso Players(to listen to online)
  • Trumpet:Maurice Andre
  • Cornet:Herbert Clarke
  • French horn:Dennis Brain
  • Trombone:Christian Lindberg
  • Euphonium:Tyrone Breuninger
  • Tuba:Sam Pilafian
berp device for buzzing practice
BERP Device (for buzzing practice)
  • allows you to buzz on the mouthpiece while you finger the valves or move the slide. Buzz at the exact angle and playing position as you normally play.
  • problems with air or embouchure become obvious.
embouchure visualizers
Embouchure Visualizers

aids to developing greater air capacity
Aids to Developing Greater Air Capacity
  • Tone, condition and strengthen all breathing muscles.
  • Increase volume, exhale flow and exhale velocity.
  • Enhance breathing performance with an abundant volume of air.
  • Increase your performance and endurance.
  • More air per breath.
  • Better ability to support the sound and empty dead air.
  • Better ability to inhale quickly between phrases.


[Click on pics to be directed to website]

  • “The Art Of--------Series”

pub. By Summy Birchard

    • The Art of Trumpet Playing
    • The Art of French Horn Playing
    • The Art of Trombone Playing
    • The Art of Tuba Playing


Brass Instrument Methods

Brass Player Magazine

Brass World

Brass World International

Wind player Online


web resources for beginning players
Web Resources for Beginning Players

Texas School Music

  • Tips For Trumpet Playing
  • Tips For Horn Playing
  • Tips For Trombone Playing
  • Tips For Tuba Playing
professional associations
Professional Associations
  • Trumpet:
  • French horn:
  • Trombone:
  • Tuba/
care of the embouchure
Care of the Embouchure
  • Hygiene: Keep mouthpiece clean
  • The best thing for chapped lips-wind burn-sun burn or lengthy outdoor exposure is Vitamin A & D Ointment (or Vaseline)
  • Use nothing on lips that contains oil of cloves or alum since it has a numbing effect on the lips.
for more advanced brass players
Pencil Exercise

Hold a pencil tightly in your mouth straight out —(this helps to strengthen the aperture and control the embouchure.

Other Off-Horn Exercises

Trumpet Exercises

(applicable to all brass)

F. Horn Exercises

Advanced Trombone Warm-Up (1)

Advanced Trombone Warm-Up (2)

Tuba Warm-Up

Playing Tips

Roy Stevens Isometric Exercises

Caruso Exercises

Cool Down Exercise

Trouble Shooting

For More Advanced Brass Players
for more advanced brass players cont
For More Advanced Brass Players (cont’)


  • play a middle C (on the trumpet), then the half-step-lower B (second valve), then back to C.
  • now play the C, and use the lower lip muscle to push into the mouthpiece, which bends the C down to the B (without using the second valve). As you withdraw the lower lip, the C comes back again.

-each week, as you feel the progress in your lip, you can start on a higher open note to improve range and tone quality.




(the link to this presentation is on my homepage)