This article is intended for brass players who want to improve their sound quality, especially tuba and euphonium players.
Sound cannot be touched, it cannot be seen. Because of this it may seem difficult to work and mold. In this article I am going to give you some tips to help you improve your sound quality effectively.
6 tips to improve your sound quality
In the course of my career I have been part of numerous juries of all kinds: international competitions, professional orchestras, young orchestras, entrance exams to conservatories, and so on.
In all of them without exception, the sound quality has made the difference decanting the balance towards those that have a better sound quality, that is, that have a sound that is richer in harmonics, full, centered and stable.
Of course, tempo, tuning, and musicality are also important elements to consider, but sound quality is, in my view, the most defining element.
There is a quote that I usually say to my students: "Your sound is your business card."
I firmly believe that your sound is what defines you, what you use to express yourself and that the public identifies as something pleasant and aesthetically beautiful.
On the other hand, it is also what makes a court want to continue listening to you and look at you in a positive way.
To improve sound quality you should work several factors at the same time.
If one of them does not work, it will mean that we cannot improve everything we want or that said improvement is slow and unstable.
Throughout my years of orchestra, teaching, my own experimentation, and trial and error, I have identified that series of factors that drastically improve sound quality if they are put to work together:
1- MENTAL IMAGE OF YOUR IDEAL SOUND
Having a clear mental image of the sound you would like to have will make it much easier to know which direction you want to move. For that it is essential to have references to draw inspiration from.
The first reference is your teacher or teachers, but today you can also find references through recordings, videos, YouTube, Spotify, etc. Try to imitate the sound that you like the most without thinking about anything other than the sound.
Learning by imitation is one of the basic and most effective mechanisms in the development of any musician.
2- CORRECT BODY POSTURE
Posture is totally connected with sound quality. A correct body posture is essential to have a good sound with our instrument.
Proper posture allows us to make the most of our lung capacity and at the same time helps us avoid injuries.
Keep your back straight and balanced with a relaxed but toned attitude.
It is important that you do not lose the correct body posture to adapt to the instrument, on the contrary, adapt the position of the instrument to yourself.
By creating more chest space, we will make better use of our lung capacity, that is, we will give the lungs more space to expand and we will be able to take in more air more comfortably and with less effort.
Having more air will allow us to create a better vibration on the lips, which will lead us to produce a richer sound full of overtones.
This type of sound is liked better and is more competitive.
Correct body posture = more lung capacity = more air = more vibration in the lips = more harmonics = richer sound = sound that projects more = sound that you like more = more competitive sound.
3- EFFICIENT AND RELAXED BREATHING
The way we take in the air also has a direct influence on our sound quality.
Take deep breaths without body tension.
Maintain the necessary width of the mouth and throat without losing the correct body posture throughout the inhalation and exhalation process.
On the opposite, if you create tension in the body at the moment of inhalation, you will reduce your lung capacity because the muscles in tension, especially the pectoral, intercostal and abdominal, No. they will not allow the creation of enough thoracic space to make the most of your lung capacity.
And as I have said before, having less air will cause you to produce a poorer lip vibration and therefore a sound with less overtones.
To ensure that our sound quality is homogeneous, that is, that it is the same quality in all registers, it is essential to support ourselves in vocalization.
Vocalizing means giving each note the vocal configuration it needs to make it sound its best.
For example: when we want to play in the high register we adapt our embouchure by vocalizing in a certain way that makes us able to play those high notes with the best quality and in the most efficient way.
Well, if we try to play in the low register with the same vocal configuration as in the high register, our sound will be very closed and low in harmonics.
To get the low register to sound with the same quality as the high register we have to give it the “mouth” it needs, that is, to vocalize correctly.
In the case of serious registration, we will do so by creating a wide oral cavity, ensuring that the tongue is as low as possible and slightly advancing the jaw to help create more interior space.
Summing up, we can say that to sound with equal quality in all registers we must play (vocalize) unevenly in all registers.
5- STABLE AND CENTERED EMBOUCHURE
A stable and centered embouchure will greatly help you to have a good sound quality, especially in attacks. To achieve this there are some aspects, which although they may seem obvious, it is worth remembering and taking into account:
The lips should be inside the mouthpiece cup at the time of attack to get the most out of the vibration. The corners of the mouth should be firm.
The contact with the mouthpiece must be gentle but stable. Excessive contact will make us tire faster, our sound tighter and our pitch go up.
On the opposite, a poor contact will make our sound unstable and off-center, and our pitch low.
Likewise, it is important to maintain contact with the mouthpiece on short breaths. This will help us to more comfortably produce the next attack so that it is of higher quality.
6- QUALITY PRACTICE, PERSEVERANCE AND PATIENCE
The fastest and most efficient way to assimilate and automate all these concepts is to be 100% concentrated and focused during the practice sessions.
This will result in a higher quality practice.
However, any technical change or improvement takes time. We must trust the method we use, be patient and persevere.
The results will come little by little, at first timid and irregular, and then they will come to stay.
I hope these tips are useful to you.
If you want to delve into this or other aspects of your technique or your musicality, You can book an Online Private Lesson with me. I will be happy to work with you and help you continue to grow as a musician.