Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a physical therapist. If you are having serious back issues please see a doctor. While the ideas here do align with conventional medical practice on the spine they do not constitute actual medical advice in any way shape or form. This is written to make brass playing easier, not to cure back problems. With that out of the way. Please continue reading
It may be surprising to hear that I have to teach most of my students how to sit. However, this fundamental idea is very important to how we play the trumpet. The reason for this is the way you sit determines where tension is in your body and what muscles are needed to support your sitting position. If we sit in the wrong way we have to use more muscles than necessary in order to stay upright.
This incorrect muscle use directly affects our trumpet playing. This excess tension makes it more difficult to breath as is required for brass playing. I want things to be as easy as possible. So I worked to make sitting as easy as possible too.
So how do you fix your sitting posture? Sit like you have a tail.
Think about a dog sitting down. How often do you see them with their tail between their legs? NEVER! They always have their tail behind them.
Imagine if a dog tried to sit with his tail in between his legs. It won’t work and the pup would likely fall over. Unfortunately, when many people sit they curve their back so they sit on top of their tailbone leading to the same effect. This posture makes trumpet playing much more difficult.
So stand up and pretend that you have a tail coming out of your tailbone. Then sit down so that your “tail” stays behind you. You are probably sitting different.
When you sit in this way your pelvis tilts which causes your spine to naturally “stack” and it takes much less effort to stay upright. This happens because you are no longer sitting on your “tailbone” (also known as the coccyx ) and are instead sitting on your “sit bones” (also known as the ischial tuberosity). This allows you to eliminate excess tension and fully inflate your lungs for brass playing.
I am not the only person who has used this analogy and if you are interested in reading more check out this NPR article which talks about the same concept in the context of back pain.
If your are a more visual learner check out this TED talk which discusses the same thing.
This sitting position not only ends up being more comfortable but also helps you become a better player by eliminating tension from the body while you stay upright. So plant your behind in the center of your chair and “sit like you have a tail!”
I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions, comments, or any resources you might think would be helpful add them to the comments below!