The French trumpet virtuoso Guy Touvron
gave masterclasses in Oslo in March 2003. M. Touvron was on the
trumpet faculty at the annual seminar of the Norwegian Trumpet Forum,
which hosted the event, supported by Oslo music shop Schlagerforlaget
and the Norwegian State Academy of Music.
According to Touvron, a trumpeter should focus
primarily on four issues:
4. Homogeneity (vertically and horizontally)
1. ATTACK. "Listen for the tone before
you play it!"
Let your metronome give you 4 beats in.
On the two first beats you inhale (using the stomach).
On the 3rd beat the mouthpiece is placed on the lips.
On the 4th beat imagine the note.
Then start playing - without hesitation.
If you miss a note, Touvron's advice is: "Just
smile and relax." He also said: "Do not change your embouchure
going from one part of the register to another. Just change the
speed of the air." He explained that the reason for counting
before attacking the tone is to combat nervousness by focusing on
the rhythm. This method is described in Merri Franquin's book "Methode
Complete de la Trompette Moderne"
2. SOUND. The quality of your sound is
a very important part of your playing, because it constitutes your
personal musical signature. Search for the beauty of your own sound
by playing long notes.
3. INTONATION. You develop your ear for
good intonation by playing together with others. You really need
accompanying, always, by a rhythmic or chord instrument - but if
you don't have one, then imagine it. In this way you can become
your own accompanist.
4. HOMOGENEITY. Keep the same embouchure
in the entire register (just change the tongue and lips). This ability
can be developed using the Stamp exercises.
Touvron recommended seeking advice from different
schools and trumpet methods. In this way each player can create
his own, tailor-made program consisting of his personal selection
When Touvron was asked about his opinion of the
French school, he said that the typical French school, advocated
in earlier years by teachers like Arban and Franquin, is disappearing
nowadays due to increased globalization.
Touvron's conviction is that the role of the
musician is to disseminate the intentions of the composer. Since
the composer received the music from a higher power or God (not
necessarily bound to a certain religion), it is the musician's responsibility
to research the intentions of the composer. It can help to find
out who the composer was, and also when, where, and how he lived.
Touvron thinks that the ultimate mission of a
musician is to pass on feelings. The musician's technique is of
less importance. He compared the musician's technical abilities
to a writer's vocabulary: a rich vocabulary offers the writer a
more detailed mode of expression, and a musician's high technical
skills can be seen from the same angle.
- Play long notes lightly when you are in the
orchestra - when your part of the score is long notes, someone
else has a more important part to play.
- Push the air when you play staccato. Don't
think about the tongue, just focus on the air and it will work.
- Don't play a crescendo on a single note, but
rather on a musical phrase. On a single note you can utilize a
little vibrato instead, but only at the end of the note. Your
vibrato can be compared to the blinking of car lights to indicate
the change of direction of the car. In the same way, a little
vibrato can indicate the changing of pitch.
- Always use your imagination and "see"
a story or a picture with "the eyes of your heart" when
you perform the music.
- When you perform contemporary music, study
the score carefully regarding the markings of the composer. In
historical pieces by Haydn and Hummel, the performer is allowed
much greater freedom to interpret the music.
- Vibrato is not needed all the time. To illustrate
this Touvron applied an analogy: A really beautiful woman does
not need make-up to appear attractive, but she may choose to apply
make-up sometimes to enhance the beautiful curves and colors of
- It's important to focus on each and every
note, or else you are going to miss one!
- Trumpeters love to practice loud and high
notes. But in the orchestra we are often asked to play softer.
This is what you should practice
It is really important to feel your own aura.
Touvron called it the "bubble". Its mission is to protect
you against intrusion: when you are inside your bubble, you are
capable of being undisturbed and focusing only on the music in your
performing situation in the concert.
Touvron further emphasized the importance of
"grounding" - standing in perfect balance on your feet.
He compared it to a tree with deep roots. The deeper and more widespread
the roots, the larger and heavier the crown of the tree can be.
The musician must be grounded so that the music can move freely.
Chinese tradition perceives humans consisting of a lower and upper
part. The lower part stands for "labor", while the upper
part represents "freedom and vacation". The harder you
work, the freer you can be!
Touvron also told the audience to perceive themselves
as "musicians" rather than instrumentalists. He recommends
musicians to engage in "sports", but nothing terribly
demanding - just enough to keep the body in good shape. Touvron
also talked a lot about "love". To love oneself ("accept
ones own feelings and fulfill one's own needs" - translator's
comment) is a condition that must be fulfilled before one can be
able to love others. A musician's very mission is to be a giver
who expresses and awakens emotions within the listener. Therefore
every musician should be a loving person.
Touvron also thinks it is important to take risks
as an artist. It is OK to fail, but it is not OK not to have tried
to give the best.
1. Press 2 fingers against your forehead. Then
you move focus from your cerebellum, where your nervousness resides,
to the frontal part of the brain where you can focus and find peace.
2. Prepare a ritual which you do before every concert: it gives
3. Think of a positive experience, and then lift your trumpet. In
this way you create positive associations to your instrument.
4. Our way of thinking creates limitations for what we can accomplish.
In the same way that we create our own limitations, we can expand
them. Imagine that your abilities in the higher register are better
than what you experience on a daily basis. You can do it like this:
Point with your hand as far backwards as you can, and play towards
that point. Then imagine that you move the point even further back,
play your high notes again. The result is that you will be able
to extend your register by doing this mental exercise.
As part of concert preparation Touvron also suggested
the use of hypnosis. This way of relaxation needs less time than
sleep to give the person a deep rest. In hypnosis one listens to
positive thoughts and replenishes one's strength.
THE HISTORY OF HONEGGER'S INTRADA:
Touvron told the story of how he as a 20-year-old
struggled with endurance. Honegger's Intrada was especially challenging.
On an extensive concert tour covering different regions of France
through 20-30 concerts, he decided to include the piece anyhow.
The strategy that helped him to combat his endurance problems was
"What happens in the beginning of the piece?"
he asked himself. "Aha, a person is strolling around and suddenly
discovers a monumental gate. He walks through it" (now Touvron
plays the opening of Intrada). "Where is he now? He
is inside a great castle! Here he meets marching soldiers"
(Touvron plays a new motive.) "And who is coming there? Oh!
The queen herself!" In this way the performance goes on.
This story and the characters of the people he
met helped Touvron to create his own interpretation of the musical
piece. But it also helped him to create energy sufficient to play
all the notes up to the last one. Engaging in this imaginative activity
also reduced nervousness.
(The archive photo of M. Touvron by Vera
Hørven was taken at the 2002 ITG conference.)
About the Norwegian
Trumpet Forum in English
Norwegian State Academy of
Music in English
Norges Musikkhøgskole in Norwegian
Verena Barth, trans. Ole Jørgen Utnes, Vera Hørven