I heard that trumpeters in a mariachi band are not allowed to pick up the trumpet until they have mastered playing with just the mouthpiece. How would I go about replicating this technique of mastering playing with only the mouthpiece? Are there any good exercises available?
Practice on mouthpiece alone is an outstanding way to develop trumpet playing. Here are some suggestions for approaching it.
- Hold the mouthpiece as loosely as possible so that you don't pull back against your lips and teeth. I recommend thumb and ring finger if it's comfortable for your hand. You can balance the mouthpiece between the fingers rather than pinching it.
- Start with long tones. Begin at whatever pitch comes out naturally for you, then work your way lower, then higher. There are several aspects to work on over time. a) Sustaining a steady pitch; b) A clean release at the end of the pitch -- if you feel the pitch is about to drop, stop there; c) A clean attack, so that the pitch begins immediately without fuzz, scoop, or a pinched sound.
- Once you can sustain a long tone pitch, add in crescendo and descrescendo. Make them as long, slow, and steady as possible, without change in pitch.
- As your tone develops, work on "sliding" through your comfortable range, both downward and upward. Starting from a middle pitch is best, especially early on.
- When your "slide" gets comfortable, begin to better differentiate pitches. For example, make it sound like a major, minor, or chromatic scale. No tounging at this point, though, just sliding.
- Once your "slide" pitch definition is reasonably solid, start tounging. Make sure that each pitch has the same clean attach, sustain, and ending as with your long-tone practice.
- Interval practice. Both tounging and sliding. Practice intervals of each size, ascending and descending, at various points in your range.
- Practice whatever music you have on hand, mouthpiece alone: Arban, Clark, Stamp, Solo pieces, ..., whatever you have around. If you can make it sound like music on your mouthpiece, you can make it sound good on your trumpet.