Is Air Needed To Play The Trumpet



  • This video will be an eye-opener for those that don't know that air is NOT needed to make a sound on a brass instrument. It's actually about exciting air molecules inside the brass instrument. Hope you find it informational and for those that think one must blow hard to shoot the notes out of the horn, here's a little experiment for you to try;
    Place a thin piece of tissue on the top portion of your bell rim so it drapes over the bell opening. Next, blow the highest, loudest note you can and watch the tissue.
    What happened!?! The tissue barely moved if at all !! So, with that said, those people that tend to think that blowing hard is the way to play might want to re-evaluate what they are doing because what they are doing is working way too hard to get the job done. A simple solution? Never force the wind.
    Enjoy the video



  • @Dr-Mark said in Is Air Needed To Play The Trumpet:

    This video will be an eye-opener for those that don't know that air is NOT needed to make a sound on a brass instrument.

    And what do you suggest excites, and keeps in motion, the lips?



  • @Kehaulani said in Is Air Needed To Play The Trumpet:

    @Dr-Mark said in Is Air Needed To Play The Trumpet:

    This video will be an eye-opener for those that don't know that air is NOT needed to make a sound on a brass instrument.

    And what do you suggest excites, and keeps in motion, the lips?

    I would ask the same question, Dr-Mark .



  • Hi Kehaulani,
    You asked "What keeps the lips in motion?"
    According to the University of New South Wales,
    newt.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/brassacoustics.html
    "it is the elastic and aerodynamic forces on the lips that produce the vibration."
    Hopefully without sounding self aggrandizing, another explanation from the physics dept. at The University of Ljubljana;
    mafija.fmf.uni-lj.si/seminar/files/2013_2014/The_physics_of_the_trumpet_(Bostjan_Berkopec).pdf
    "We can think of a player’s lips or a woodwind reed as a valve that is controlled by the pressure that is generated across it. In wind instruments, the player typically places the mouthpiece of the instrument in the mouth (or on the lips) and blows, creating a static overpressure upstream of the reed. This creates a pressure difference across the valve, which causes it to oscillate, creating an acoustic pressure signal at the input to the instrument."



  • The Beach Boys had the answer to this... It takes "Good, Good, Good... Good Vibrations"



  • I found this on TromboneChat.com. It's good information for all brass players.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMmJi6ssErc&feature=youtu.be



  • I wrote about this topic some time ago on another site, and was pilloried for it.

    Your question: is air needed to play? Technically, yes, we humans require air to produce a sound via a trumpet.

    But your reference to the video is not about playing, it is about how a trumpet could make a sound. Sound cannot be produced in a vacuum. Technically, yes, air is required for sound.



  • I've never understood folks that think you can play without air. If one could, there would be no need for breathing exercises. Now I just need to buy an artificial electric drill tongue! Might be inefficient with all the new equipment I have to learn to use.



  • @Tobylou8 said in Is Air Needed To Play The Trumpet:

    I've never understood folks that think you can play without air. If one could, there would be no need for breathing exercises. Now I just need to buy an artificial electric drill tongue! Might be inefficient with all the new equipment I have to learn to use.

    You need more than air... you need vibrations as well... good.... good... good... good vibrations.



  • There is a difference between needing a mass of air - which yes, you need that trumpet-shaped mass to resonate, and you need a room filled with air for the sound waves to reach the audience - and needing MOVING air, which you do not as is commonly demonstrated with some of the spectral analysis tools now available that use so-called piezo transducers at the mouthpiece (little electric buzzers). Schilke told us this a long time ago (his 3rd sentence here https://everythingtrumpet.com/schilke/Practical_Physics.html )


  • Global Moderator

    Well, at least you need massive amounts of air moving through the trumpet to use spitballs.



  • Well, of course air is needed to play the trumpet. I see this as a fairly useless discussion, since the video was concerned with how much air was needed for a person to play the trumpet, not IF any air was needed. Let’s see someone play a trumpet without blowing any air through their lips. Something has to initiate a sound wave, and for a human to “play” the trumpet, air is the initiator.



  • True, WE need air, but not for the reasons people think. The vid below demonstrates this.

    What we perceive as sound is a function of 2 factors; pressure and frequency. Why? Because our ears are evolved so. No movement (ie displacement) of air is needed.

    To produce a pressure from the trumpet, we need to apply a pressure into the trumpet/tube. For most of us, this means we must blow air into the tube. But, the tube must resist the air we apply: else no pressure will result.

    To produce a frequency, we need to apply a vibration to the tube: for us, the source is our lips. For most of us, we need to exhale air against closed lips to produce a vibration/frequency.

    Unfortunately, the science we learn in high school is erroneous, and thus people carry this throughout their lives. Sound is always depicted via 2-dimensional graph as a line to form a 'wave'; this pictorially presents sound to have a frequency we can measure, but excludes entirely the factor of pressure. But here is a simple fact: sound is 3-dimensional and 2-factored.

    What we hear as high pitch from a trumpet is a function of both frequency and pressure: ie greater vibration and greater pressure, from the player. To achieve this, many factors must be combined. One factor is the resistance of the trumpet to help us create greater pressure. Thus, a trumpet requires bends in the pipes; the bends assist to create pressure. If the right pressures are achieved, what we call 'partials' can result. This is why a trumpet having a D-shaped lead pipe will be easier to play for high notes than one having a semi-circular C lead pipe.

    The prof in the vid below is a talented musician, not a scientist. Unfortunately, he cannot explain the science for what he demonstrates. But, he is on the right track.

    For anyone who may doubt the above, kindly ponder why the flame produces a sound exiting the glass tube; when the flame itself consumes air and burns without a vibration.



  • @Tobylou8 said in Is Air Needed To Play The Trumpet:

    I've never understood folks that think you can play without air. If one could, there would be no need for breathing exercises. Now I just need to buy an artificial electric drill tongue! Might be inefficient with all the new equipment I have to learn to use.

    Well I can play the trumpet and I’ve never needed to do a breathing exercise. 🤷🏻♂



  • @grune said in Is Air Needed To Play The Trumpet:

    To produce a pressure from the trumpet, we need to apply a pressure into the trumpet/tube. For most of us, this means we must blow air into the tube. But, the tube must resist the air we apply: else no pressure will result.

    Not exactly. Our embouchure must resist air movement if vibration is to result, but the pressure waves from that vibration perpetuate in air thanks to the inertia of that mass of air, not any raceway resistance to flow. Raceway backpressure just makes it easier for us to produce vibration with our lips.

    To produce a frequency, we need to apply a vibration to the tube: for us, the source is our lips. For most of us, we need to exhale air against closed lips to produce a vibration/frequency.

    Yes, although trumpet tone is the application of that vibration to the air column shaped by the tube, not so much the brass tube itself.

    Unfortunately, the science we learn in high school is erroneous, and thus people carry this throughout their lives. Sound is always depicted via 2-dimensional graph as a line to form a 'wave'; this pictorially presents sound to have a frequency we can measure, but excludes entirely the factor of pressure. But here is a simple fact: sound is 3-dimensional and 2-factored.

    Perhaps over-simplified would be a better term. 2-dimensional representation of pressure over time is not in itself erroneous.

    What we hear as high pitch from a trumpet is a function of both frequency and pressure: ie greater vibration and greater pressure, from the player. To achieve this, many factors must be combined. One factor is the resistance of the trumpet to help us create greater pressure. Thus, a trumpet requires bends in the pipes; the bends assist to create pressure. If the right pressures are achieved, what we call 'partials' can result. This is why a trumpet having a D-shaped lead pipe will be easier to play for high notes than one having a semi-circular C lead pipe.

    Pitch is a function of the periodic frequency of pressure variation. Greater frequency creates higher pitch. Greater pressure creates higher volume (the auditory meaning of volume, not the geometric). The properties of square, D and single-radius slides impact the way in which the energy damping functions of both the structure of the instrument, and the transition from laminar to turbulent flow and back again, require us to add more energy, more intense vibration, to the air column at a given pitch, or as we change pitch. These can particularly affect the ease with which by altering the input spectrum, that pink noise of frequencies produced at the embouchure, we shift the natural resonance of the system to bend notes. The less abrupt the geometry, the easier bending is to achieve generally (but never count on anything as complex as a trumpet behaving consistently in response to a single variable given the intricacies of design)

    For anyone who may doubt the above, kindly ponder why the flame produces a sound exiting the glass tube; when the flame itself consumes air and burns without a vibration.

    The air is not consumed. Oxygen is consumed and replaced primarily with carbon dioxide. The mass and volume of the air actually increase as a result of the addition of the carbon (and heat).



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  • @Rapier232 said in Is Air Needed To Play The Trumpet:

    @Tobylou8 said in Is Air Needed To Play The Trumpet:

    Well I can play the trumpet and I’ve never needed to do a breathing exercise. 🤷🏻♂

    Now that's a breath of fresh air!



  • @barliman2001 said in Is Air Needed To Play The Trumpet:

    Well, at least you need massive amounts of air moving through the trumpet to use spitballs.

    Especially to reach the flute section!!!



    1. It is really tough to get the human lips vibrating at a useful frequency without air...
    2. Yes, we can excite a standing wave in a trumpet with a speaker or piezoelectric device without "blowing air"
    3. An efficient embouchure needs LESS blowing than an inefficient one
    4. That efficient embouchure created an optimal relationship between muscle tension around the lips and the pressure (not speed) of the air that we blow.
    5. The nature of the original question is conducive to a lot of useless posting/arguing semantics
    6. the best players have the best control of their air, body use and embouchure tension.


  • Why is this thread still alive?


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