How to Improve Tone Quality on a Brass Instrument

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Many brass players stagnate after their first few years of playing, and here are some tips that will help a brass player in particular, and sometimes even woodwind players. Some terms may be confusing to newer players. Do not give up. There are thousands of good music dictionaries available for free online.



  1. Warm up properly. This helps more than anything.
  2. Start with a breathing exercise. One that is strong enough to impact your abs is the best. The exercise should include:
    • some inhale 4 counts
    • hold for 4
    • out for 4. At 80 or 120 bpm (beats per minute).
  3. Go down to 3 and 2 in the same pattern. At one, do an inhale of one count and exhale for one count, for a good 40 counts. This will hurt a little.
  4. Buzz (play) on your mouth piece whilst its not in the instrument.
  5. Start playing long tones, at a slow tempo, like 80 or 120. Long tones means a single note for 8 counts at a solid mf, no blasting or wimpy playing.
  6. Have a tongue exercise, at 130 or so a single octave scale is good. You can make your own warm-up for this.)This is good for fingers and slides too.
  7. Without tonguing, change partials. An example of a partial is changing from a concert F to a concert B-flat. Do this - make one up (include mostly one partial at a time jumps, but stick in the occasional two partial jump and try to hit aimed for note without the intermediate partial.


  • There is no secret formula for playing well (the above is only a good start to creating a personal warm-up that you enjoy). The real trick is to really want to improve, so writing stuff down that you think you do well and poorly then working on them both is a good idea too.
  • For the breathing exercise a small piece of PVC is good to breathe through, but this is more likely to cause lightheadedness. An airmax breather, is a good product to use, however it costs about 13 bucks.
  • Always play with the intention of getting better. Never go through the motions.
  • Make sure you do these following things
  • Watch yourself play in a mirror. Ask yourself what does my mouth do when I change notes and partials. You should see a tiny bit of movement if you have a solid em brochure.
  • Record yourself playing, and listen for things done wrong or things that you liked. (This is the hardest thing to do as a musician, because you have to admit your not a pro yet, or not perfect if you are a pro.)
  • Never clench your teeth while you play. No air can get out and your tone suffers.
  • Play as if you have a tennis ball in your throat, hence open throat. With an open throat it is much easier to gain a solid tone quality. Warm air through the instrument.
  • Tip of the tongue to the top of the teeth when articulating. (Just as your gums meet your teeth is a good spot.)


  • During a breathing exercise stop if you feel that you are going to pass out, because you will.

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