The trumpet is known for its strong metallic sound. Although there are three different valves on a trumpet, much of its sound is attributed to lip tension. Playing the trumpet correctly requires strong, well-disciplined lips. Lip vibes can seem very complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, they become second nature.
To play the trumpet, you must purse your lips in a manner very similar to a pursed kiss. Press your lips against the mouthpiece of the trumpet and “smile” slightly. If you blow, creating a vibrating, buzzing sound with your lips, then the air pressure in your mouth will force your lips to open slightly. Air flowing through the trumpet produces a sound. The higher the lip tension, the higher the frequency and pitch it will produce. Moving your lips up and down while blowing the trumpet will also create various harmonious notes.
When practicing the trumpet, or any other brass instrument, a player should start by working through a few scales. This will help strengthen the players’ lips and will also help with finger memorization. Next, the player must move their lips up and down to build strength. Trying to play with the sides of the lips can also help to strengthen the lips. Once a player has strong lips, he can mix various lip positions along with various valve combinations to create beautiful music. These combinations together are key to the traditional sound of the trumpet.
Some songs can be played without even changing any valve combinations, or using valves at all. For example, “TAPS”, which is often played at military funerals or on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, can be played without having to press a single valve. The entire song is played in the “open” position.
Similarly, almost every other song or note played is done with at least a few valves depressed. Switching from one note to another is done simply by moving your lips and pressing various combinations of valves. Each individual note has its own preset combination of valves and lip position. In addition to producing different notes, a musician’s lips and breath can also be used to play louder or softer notes. These crescendos and decrescendos are a vital part of orchestral and brass band pieces. Similarly, if a player moves their tongue while playing, a unique sound is produced.
There are many things that are needed to be a good trumpeter. Practice is just one of them. Talent is another. Learning the ins and outs of playing a musical instrument, any musical instrument, but in this case the trumpet, is something that takes time, patience, work and heart. But perhaps even more so, to produce a full trumpet sound, strong lips are a must.