# Note Bending on a Trumpet

1. Apr 5, 2006

### Ba

For a physics research project I am doing the physics of note bending on the trumpet. Basically without pressing any valves I can bend a middle C to B natural. I am having problems finding any materials that talk about this except in passing mention. Such as, experimentally there are problems with this model such as note bending... Does anyone know of any place in which this is discussed? Or have any explanations for it?

Thanks

2. Apr 5, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

A trumpet is just a loudspeaker - an amplifier - that resonates at specific frequencies, thereby giving the best sound at those frequencies. But a good trumpet player (I used to be one) can, through muscle strength and control, form any note they want above a certain pitch - it gets easier as you go higher because the notes are close together. Spectacular players can form any note all the way down to low-C. This phenomena is easiest to understand without the trumpet - with just a mouthpiece, any trumpet player can generate any note because they don't have to deal with the resonance of the trumpet itself.

Last edited: Apr 5, 2006
3. Apr 5, 2006

### turbo

This is a good way for trumpet players to hone their chops. Put the radio on at modest volume and play just the mouthpiece, doing your best to nail the pitch of each note, maybe tossing in a bit of tremolo. After a while, that ear/lip training translates into much better proficiency with the trumpet. Listening to a trumpet player who is "all valves and no lip" is no fun: BLAH, BLAH, BLAH... When I was running a local blues jam on weekends an older fellow would bring his trumpet sometimes. He might have been good when he was in high school, but he had no lip left, so every note was a poorly-executed legato blare.....agony. :yuck:

4. Apr 5, 2006

### Ba

Yes, but I am trying to explain lip bending including the natural harmonics of the trumpet. All I get are models that don't include this in their explanation.
I want to understand how one can change the harmonics of the trumpet by bending the note. What exactly is one doing? When I'm bending a note down a half step I think I drop my jaw but I'm not sure of the actual effects going on.

5. Apr 5, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

That's kinda the point: you can't change the natural harmonics of the trumpet. They are a physical property based on the structure of the trumpet. That's why it is so difficult: you are playing notes the trumpet isn't designed to play in that way.

6. Apr 5, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

Yeah, we did that: a dozen kazoos playing Shostakovich - now that's good music!

7. Apr 5, 2006

### Ba

So why does a note come out? Why do you get the similar harmonic structure as one would get if you play the same note using valves? So are you damping out the natural resonance with your lips and pushing out the other frequancies. how does one overcome the natural harmonics?

8. Apr 5, 2006

### FredGarvin

The note is produced by your lips vibrating. Like Russ mentioned, the instrument itself is basically a resonator, an open ended tube. You are setting up standing waves in the tube (actually in the cup of the mouthpiece). That is why it is so much easier to play high notes with a shallow cupped mouthpiece; it's easier to set up high frequency standing waves due to the lack of space. To bend notes, whether you realize it or not, you are slightly slowing down the rate of vibration (frequency) of your lips. I had to think of myself doing that for a long time, but that is what is happening. Of course the tuning/playing of the instrument is accomplished by changing the overall length of the instrument. Each valve dictates a length the wave form has to take up inside the instrument.

The harmonics are going to be dictated by the fundamental frequency. Whatever that is, a harmonic is a multiple of that fundamental. Granted, changes in instruments add or subtract to the tonality by adding more or giving less of the harmonics but you don't change them.

Last edited: Apr 5, 2006
9. Apr 5, 2006

### FredGarvin

"Festive Overature" on mouthpieces? Blasphemy!

10. Apr 5, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

Fifth Symphony. The violin part is a real nut-buster for a trumpet.

11. Apr 5, 2006

### quantumcarl

Yes. If you study ombusher you may come across specific details with regard to forming notes in a mouthpiece with the muscles that create an ombusher.

Also, see "bugle". I believe "taps" and other military-type songs are performed using only the ombusher and so would fit the criteria of your research in bending notes.

"Bending notes" is a rather misleading description of the process... its more about the creation of a smooth transition or sonic gradient between major or minor notes.

Try using a trombone as a subject as well. With this instrument you can transit between notes using various tube lengths. Utilizing the ombusher is also an option here in creating the illusion of "bending notes". Also see Harmonica and "bending notes". Good luck with your physics experiment.

12. Apr 6, 2006

### rdt2

You have to regard your mouth and the trumpet as a complete system. By changing the shape of your mouth, stiffness of your lips, etc, you can change the frequencies slightly.

This is most noticable with harp (harmonica) players: they can get a slight bend on a note when blowing ('straight playing') but a much greater bend by sucking ('cross playing') or 'drawing' the air into the mouth and manipulating it.

13. Apr 6, 2006

### turbo

Ba, just so you're searching for the correct word, the spelling is embrasure and it means a narrow opening.

14. Apr 6, 2006

### reilly

I'm a sometimes working jazz pianist, and I have nothing but admiration for good brass players; they have very tough instruments.When I was a student,I tried the mellophone -- French Horn with trumpet valves -- with no success at all. I later learned to play a little alto and clarinet -- in my view easier to play, at least at a beginning level. My sense is that playing a soprano sax in tune might be among the most difficult of musical tasks (Kenny G spends a lot of time out of tune, as Pat Metheney has noted.)

On occasion I've accompanied trumpet and trombone players playing mouthpiece-only solos, for fun, and usually toward the end of the gig.

Let's hear it for music.
Regards,
Reilly

(Just for completeness my favorite trumpet players are Clifford Brown, Dizzy, Miles, and Lee Morgan.)

15. Apr 7, 2006

### quantumcarl

Yes. The air you draw across a single reed (or more) in a harmonica (which produces a note and/or chord) can be done in such a way that the reed is actually "bent"... thus producing a transiting sonic gradient between the note the reed represents and its next major or minor note in the octave/scale. This is probably where the term "bending" a note comes from. Its an historic technique from early blues. See: Sonny Terry and Brownie Magee.

I met both of these blues greats at the Winipeg Folk Fest when I was performing there. Sonny is a master note bender. Brownie taught me how to get the last drop of scotch out of a bottle of Chivas Regal at their after party.

Its actually a physics experiment in itself. But you have to smoke. Once the bottle was empty you blow smoke into it. The smoke adds wieght to the scotch still clinging to the sides of the bottle and the scotch falls under the influence of gravity to the bottom of the bottle. Wallah, one last drop of smokey scotch:yuck:

Thank you for the correction. I googled the spelling and my version came up. I guess its a common mistake.

16. Apr 7, 2006

### turbo

In high school 3 pals and I put together a brass quartet - trumpet (me) cornet, baritone, and tuba. We played some classical stuff at the urging of our music director, although this is something we did independently on our own time, and tended to concentrate on Herb Alpert material, which we all enjoyed. The tuba-player's father offered to pay us $5 each if we would work up an arrangement for his favorite song and play it for him. The song was Muskrat Ramble, and at the tempo we played it, pretty demanding, but we got it down pat and played it for him (in 1968, getting paid$20 to learn and play one song was pretty neat). When time came for the Christmas concert at the High school, the music director drafted our quartet to play some traditional holiday pieces, with me shifted over to French horn. The tuba-player's father said that he would pay us $5 each again if we would play Muskrat Ramble at the Christmas concert, so we asked the music director if we could do that and he said no, that was not appropriate. Well, we were not going to turn down another$20, so when we were about to start a chorale, I quickly ditched the French horn, grabbed my trumpet and we laid into the most spirited rendition of Muskrat Ramble we'd ever played. The music director was beet red, but he couldn't stop us, and the audience roared in approval when we were done. Then we did the songs on the program. Lucky he had a sense of humor after he'd calmed down, which was helped along by some very favorable comments from audience members about our "suprise song".

17. Apr 10, 2006

### Ba

Yeah I play trombone as well but the trumpet is slightly more portable and can then be used for a demonstration. I actually started trombone first, Dixieland is a lot of fun. Unfortunately I'm not in a band right now.

18. Apr 10, 2006

### masudr

I believe the term bending is borrowed from the guitar (which had a formative influence in early blues). The way to achieve notes that aren't on the chromatic scale (i.e. notes in between c and c# for example) is to bend the string. The increased tension provides a higher frequency, thus achieving the effect.

In virtuoso guitar solos &c. one can often hear the player doing over-the-top bends and so on just to demonstrate his/her technical proficiency. As I'm sure many of you know, this sort of playing reached its peak during the 80s, and I'm glad that modern guitar players find other, more subtle, ways to impress their audience.

19. Apr 10, 2006

### Ouabache

Here is a technical reference to note bending or what I would describe as lipping a note up or down. I've done some myself on trombone. As you probably have figured out, this techniqure is typically used in blues and jazz.

Last edited: Apr 10, 2006
20. Apr 10, 2006

### turbo

I am a guitarist and played professionally (well , I got paid anyway) for a number of years. A half-decent blues man can grab a lower note (knowing he wants a higher one) pre-bend the note by feel pretty accurately, hit the note, apply tremolo with the fingers and then bend off the note as it decays-it's a neat effect. I bend by ear, and as long as the strings are going flat instead of sharp, its pretty easy to play blues leads in tune on a guitar that is out-of-tune. Another trick is bending two notes at a time. Country pickers take this to another level (to emulate steel guitar voicings) and bend at different intervals (i.e. bend one string a full stop and one string 1/2 stop at the same time: up from a fretted position or down from a pre-bend). That takes practice, but it is a neat effect.

Last edited: Apr 10, 2006