To the untrained eye this looks like a toy trumpet, but it’s actually a very sensitive diagnostic tool for trumpet players! For years I’ve had my students contemplate how a baby can easily produce a sound on a toy trumpet. With it’s tiny reed held perfectly in place within the toy’s plastic molding, all it takes it the lightest amount of air to make a sound. There is no need to squeeze, force, or use any kind of pressure. Ideally if a trumpet player can shape his or her lips into the same kind of ideal formation and place the mouthpiece in a way that does not disrupt that position, then sound production could be just as effortless.
One of my students came home one day to find his brother and friends playing a toy trumpet like the one shown above. They had all discovered that if you blew harder the notes would go higher, and so they were having a contest to see who could go the highest (evidently latent trumpet player DNA is present in all humans). My student noticed the boys had reached a ceiling in their range because “blowing harder” meant they were getting tighter and tighter, exhibiting the “grunt reflex” I had discussed in earlier lessons. Because he had already trained himself as a trumpet player to stay relaxed and think blowing faster rather than harder, when it came his turn he astounded his friends by easily playing a couple of octaves higher!
The next week my student surprised me with one of these toy trumpets (purchased for around $5 from the gift shop at the famous Casa Bonita restaurant). I was amazed how sensitive it was to changes in airspeed and within the week had every one of my students try it out. The slightest change in air support produced a corresponding change in the pitch, and if their body tightened up at all the “slur” up was instantly shut down. So, for $5 (of my student’s money, thank you very much) I had a great way of allowing students to analyze their breath control and to develop a clearer picture of what relaxed, efficient trumpet playing can really be like.