Monday, October 19, 2009

Harnessing the Raspberry

By Dr. William S. Ciabattari

A raspberry is a derisive or contemptuous sound made by vibrating the extended tongue and the lips while exhaling. If I could describe how it sounds in text, it could be something like, “pfzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt.” Ah, I bet you are hearing it in your mind’s eye as you read. Perhaps you are dressing your computer screen with the raspberry’s fireworks because you couldn’t resist the temptation. It’s not a pretty sound, yet a certain type of raspberry is exactly what is needed to create the brilliant sounds on brass wind instruments. The raspberry required for playing brass instruments calls for the tongue to remain inside of the mouth (much cleaner for the rest of us) while the lips make the vibration. In essence, it requires the player to harness the raspberry.

The mechanics of making sounds on brass instruments like the trumpet, trombone, French horn, or tuba are the same. The person takes a big breath, brings the lips together in a combination pucker/frown, and then blows the air through the lips causing them to vibrate into the mouthpiece of the instrument. These vibrations are the basic sound of brass instruments. The construction of each instrument helps to determine the pitch range – trumpets and French horns make higher pitches while trombones and tubas make low pitches. Construction also helps determine the timbre – the unique voice or tone color for each instrument. So the actual instrument is a special amplification system that helps to turn an otherwise ugly sound, the raspberry, into a brilliant tone used to make music.

In our efforts to help aspiring instrumentalists to harness their raspberry, viaAcademies just rolled out beginner level courses in trumpet and trombone. The trumpet and trombone courses are filled with valuable resources that include colorful and engaging web pages, videos of real students playing, videos of professional players, demonstrations of all the basic fundamentals, and much more. And to top it all off, we have a staff of State-certified music teachers waiting to work one on one with each student. We’re ready to help you harness the raspberry.

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