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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Quotes from Jim Thompson Master Class from the 2011 NTC

Andrew Hitz

On the Friday morning of this year's National Trumpet Competition at George Mason University, former principal trumpet of the Montreal Symphony Jim Thompson gave a master class on buzzing.  Jim literally wrote the book on buzzing.  I had the privilege of serving on the faculty of a brass festival in Mexico with Jim a few years ago and I was immediately taken aback at the efficiency of his playing.  A lot of that efficiency is a direct result of his buzzing. He spoke a lot about buzzing in the class but also ventured into some other topics related to brass playing in general.  It was as good a presentation as I've seen on the physical side of playing a brass instrument.  Below are a collection of quotes from his class.  I hope you find them as helpful as I have!

 

  • "The brass instrument family is the closest to the human voice.  We use human tissue to vibrate on the air column."
     
  • "If you can buzz in-tune and expressively, you can pretty much put that down the pipe."
     
  • "I just love it when somebody makes a mistake and looks at their horn as if 'you betrayed me.'"
     
  • "The lips should be reactive to the air - not proactive to the air."
     
  • "The ability to make glissandi is very important."
     
  • "Part of these exercises is to buzz in and out of all of the registers with very little change."
     
  • "Isometrics is the absolute enemy of good physical performance."
     
  • "The air pressure wants to spread your lips apart."
     
  • "Less head movement (between ranges) means better endurance and more flexibility and technique."
     
  • "(Buzzing on) the mouthpiece requires you to use a lot of air.  When you do that, you take a lot of stress off the lips."
     
  • "I can not emphasize enough starting (your day) as softly as you can play."
     
  • "Strength is not the answer.  I guarantee you that everyone in this room has the strength to play a high G."
     
  • "Lip pressure and air pressure must increase together as you go higher.  Don't lead with the lip."
     
  • "I like to think rather than going up into the high register I like to bring it down to me."
     
  • "Support (in the high register) isn't about playing louder.  It's about maintaining the balance of the lip and the air."
     
  • "Allen Vizzutti can change his air pressure almost as fast as a violinist can change their bow."
     
  • "Volume is overrated.  Volume is increasing and decreasing the overtones.  The fundamental basically stays the same."
     
  • "Please don't fall into the trap of dark and bright.  Your sound is either resonant and clear or not.  And resonant means overtones."
     
  • "When a conductor says you are too bright, check your attacks."
     
  • "Just because you can doesn't mean you should.  Trumpet playing is not an indoor sport.  It is a musical endeavor."
     
  • "Do you realize that in a brass quintet you actually have to play softer and louder than in an orchestra? And more sustained."
     
  • "The tongue is highly overrated in terms of attacks."