I love using analogies to illustrate concepts, but love it even more when a student comes up with a really good one of their own, for it reveals how much they understand the subject material. High school trumpeter (and keyboard player) Conner has a great analogy about the importance of using airspeed for control. While watching the TV show Top Gear, he observed one of the hosts losing control of a Ferrari Formula One car (like the one seen above) because the car entered the turn at too low a speed. This may seem contrary to basic logic until one thinks about the car’s rear wing, which helps to supply the necessary downforce needed to keep the rear tires gripping the road by “catching” and redirecting the passing air. The slower the car goes, the less airspeed, meaning less downforce, meaning less tire traction…resulting in the loss of command.
The trumpet is a wind instrument, and so the air is not only one of the most basic elements of sound production, but also one of the primary agents of control. So many things go wrong when a trumpet player’s airflow is deficient. Symptoms like poor sound quality, missed, choked, and/or cracked notes are all related to poor air support, forcing the body to substitute tension (excessive mouthpiece pressure, tight throat and/or upper body, etc.) for control…at best a poor solution that in the end produces more problems than it solves. But also consider the presence and shape of the Ferrari’s rear wing, which is an upside down version of the airfoil that provides the necessary lift for an airplane’s flight. The cross sectional view shown here reveals the shape that creates a low pressure area (and interestingly a faster airspeed) on the top of the wing, a phenomena described by the Bernoulli Principle. This generates the necessary lift (or when inverted, downforce) needed for control. In a similar way, a trumpet player needs not only a supportive airstream, but also a properly formed embouchure to take full advantage of that air for both control and efficiency.
Speed and shape for successful racing and playing…thanks for the great analogy, Conner!