Introduction Breathing Posture Emission of sound Lips Pedagogy


Alain Faucher

My name is Alain Faucher, born in 1951, and I am a teacher and trainer in French National Education. Short-term professor at the Conservatory of Ste Genevieve des Bois and at Bretigny/Orge music schools, I teach trumpet. For some years I have been conducting a "breathing-relaxation workshop" for the benefit of amateurs upon a request from Essone's musical federation. The Feeling Musique company, in Paris, provides a privileged space for some master classes on that topic.
This editorial space allows me to share, as a testimony, my experience of 40 years of relationship with the great trumpet master teacher, Robert Pichaureau.
This great gentleman mostly worked in the shadow, so it is pure justice now to shout loud and clear about the fruit of a lifetime devoted to the pleasure of playing trumpet and all wind instruments. His was tireless in his research on the formation of sound, on the implication of the body in the birth and the life of that sound.
There are a few of us, like members of a same family, pursuing his teachings along that path. Among all the musicians who had a chance to meet him for various lengths of time, I feel very privileged like Obelix falling in the cauldron. He was my second father. I searched and hesitated for a long time on the manner of perpetuating his teachings in writing, without leading astray from his remarks, observations and counsel. A certain word, lapidary, can nevertheless be polysementical, and sometimes carry an opposite meaning. Robert Pichaureau was conscious of that and always refused to couch the results of his research in the form of a method, in spite of offers from celebrities, grateful for his work. He preferred a living exchange in a course where listening was as important as talking. Thus he could constantly modify his vocabulary to remedy the difficulty of the student of the moment. The questioning of everything was permanent.

Teaching is a living art and when it deals with the musician's gesture, it is difficult to codify it in an identical way for very different learners, socially and culturally different and with different sensitivities. Under pressure to leave a written trace, but with respect to his will, it is in the form of a written testimony that I will talk of my experience with the master. I had the great opportunity of living close to Mr. Pichaureau from the age of 8 on. I was taught by him only and had the pleasure of playing alongside him for many years. My teaching lasted 40 years and I am trying to continue, alas, without the master today.
Present takes its roots in past history. Thus it is interesting to explore rapidly the genesis of the teaching path opened by Mr. Robert Pichaureau.

Professional musician in the Air Force, in the flugelhorn group, already interested in teaching, he develops himself difficulties in playing. Just after the war, the encounter with transatlantic Jazz, and the ease with which trumpet players play in the very high register attract his attention. That forces him to review the teaching he received and activates his curiosity for American musicians and their method of approaching the instrument. He studies very closely the various writings, and bases his personal research on the conclusions of all the material. He concludes that all that matters happens before the exercise, represented by the musical writing and that is would be preferable to concentrate on the means rather than the results. He takes a closer look at his body and studies himself from head to foot. Observing the outside but above all, discovery of feelings from the inside. He moves forward, step by step, he is even forced to stop playing for some time, being unable to produce a sound. He meets thoughtful colleagues, allowing him to take his seat without taking a part in forced services.
But rapidly his work bears fruit, he is astonished at the ease with which he plays, the sound roundness; very high notes are easy, suffering disappears, playing trumpet becomes a pleasure. He starts to share his research with all of his colleagues who care to listen to him, then in the commercial playing business. His good reputation begins there.
Trumpet professor at the Bretigny-sur-Orge music school from 1956 onward, before becoming for a time its director, he noticed a kid sitting in a corner, waiting for a teacher. "What instrument would you like to play?" "Trumpet" did I answer. That was 1958 and I left Mr Pichaureau 40 years later, through force of circumstances. In a way I am his creation, his guinea pig, representing his teaching only.

This little history is important because Mr Pichaureau has advanced in the transmission of that knowledge as well as on some other points. Many students have come to take lessons from the Master for various lengths of time and at various points in time. For most of them it was therapy. As for me, I had the privilege of witnessing these changes throughout his life.

One of the important moments was the medical staff's conclusion on the efficiency of the "no pressure" method. In 1984, a trumpet student, Jean-Frangois Guyot, student in dental medicine chose for his thesis the medical problems related to trumpet players. I served as patient. All of the study was conducted at the Pitié Salpetrière medical unit in Paris. An extract from these experiments was published in the journal Médecine des Arts, #8 (June 1994). Especially graphics on a comparative test of an arpeggio exercise in C major from the low C to the high C and back to the low C, sixty to the crotchet.
One of the tests was conducted with Philip Jones, the tongue is flat, the pressure of the mouthpiece on the lips varies with the high notes, and it reaches three kilos at the high C.
The other with me, the tongue stuck to the palate, the pressure of the lips on the mouthpiece rises slightly but remains even all the way back to the low C, and it is only equal to 0.5 kilos. The superposition of the two graphs is eloquent.

In this method for the production of sound, the principle of passing knowledge is based on the daily life of the individual. No prerequisite on whatsoever scientific knowledge is required. The feelings and sensations must flow from a consciousness of natural acts. Then we must imitate these same sensations in order to perform the musical gesture, gesture that is not innate. We have within each of us all the needed information to perform this gesture. Our progress toward success depends upon the quality of our introspection. The professor shows the way and raises the inhibitions. After this preamble we are going to investigate in the next pages, the pedagogical approach itself setting up the technique, detailing the different bodily sensations that must emerge from the personal research of each musician.


© Alain Faucher 2006