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Bugle Lessons

Air Stream

Getting Started: The Air Stream

Everything in playing a brass instrument begins and starts with the air stream.  Development of a steady solid air stream along with full control of that air stream will bring you a long way in proper playing of the bugle.  Part of that is staying fit with regular exercise, maintaining a good posture while playing, and not taking up smoking.  The air stream does not have to be excessive, but needs to maintain a controlled flow through the horn.

The tongue is the key to controlling the air stream.  By placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth (not between the lips) a solid air steam can be started and stopped by making a "Tuu" sound (you can also make a "two" sound, a "to" sound, or "too" sound, but that's for advanced players :-) Why not try it now?  Sit up straight place the tongue at the roof of you mouth.  Try to blow air controlling from deep down in your lower lungs and diaphragm.  Then start the note by going "TU"  you can stop the flow gradually by simply stopping the breathing out, or you can stop it sharply by by placing the tongue back to the mouth roof.  Try several short notes by blowing and stopping notes, "TU-TU-TU." When you feel comfortable with your ability to control your air stream, it's time to practice adjusting the SPEED of the stream.

As you realize the bugle makes several notes for the same size tubing.  A trumpet has valves to change notes, but even the valves don't have enough combinations to make all the notes.  The idea here is to vibrate the various HARMONICS of the instrument to get the different notes. 

Start off practicing by sitting or standing up straight.  Take a deep breath and then whistle.  When you flatten your tongue out and make an "Ah-h-h" sound (like when you're at your doctor's office) the whistle will have a lower pitch.  When you whistle and move the pack of your tongue toward the roof of your mouth an "e-e-e-e" sound, then the pitch of the whistle goes up.  Try moving the note up and down by going "ahhh-eeee-ahhh-eeee-ahhh-eeee."  This will be the basis of your bugle playing.  

The last component of our system is the diaphragm.  Normally when you exhale, the chest wall relaxes pushing the air out.  Not good enough to wake up some scouts at 6 am.  Thus you pressurize the system from the diaphragm.  By relaxing the diaphragm the air stream stops.

So try a few exercise to get the hang of things.  Sit us straight, put the tongue at the roof of your mouth just above the teeth, pressurize the system from the diaphragm and go  "TU-TU-TU-TU."  After you get a feel for starting and stopping the air stream, try changing the pitch "TU-AHHHH-EEEE-AHHH-EEEEE-AHHHH."  Working these exercises before even picking up your bugle will help quite a bit in getting you started.


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