The Day of Sounding the Shofar
There is normal anxiety when you go to bed the night before and the day of Rosh Hashanah for a Shofar player. This obviously is normal for someone who will play in front of an entire congregation, many of whom you know personally.
After dressing, I usually play the Shofar for the first round of: Tekiah, Shevarim, Shevarim-Teruah, and Tekiah. Then, I stop.
When I attend services that day, I keep the Shofar hidden from the congregation by resting the Shofar under my arm. In this way, I warm the Shofar to my body temperature, a brass instrumentalist technique. I also try to buzz into a pretend mouthpiece, composed of my thumb and forefinger simulated as a mouthpiece. In I can, I may go to a private place to warm up a little, although I find privacy less and less.
When you are ion the bimah, while the Torah and Haftorah are read, take several deep breaths to relax your body. I also will meditate by focusing my eyes on something in the synagogue . In one of synagogues where I play, I focus of a stain-glass window that depicts, two Shofars.
While many Shofar Sounders experience many problems, I treat the major complaints others have experienced and have asked me.
The main problem is mental. Being in front of entire congregation without really warming up to play an ancient instrument one day a year is daunting. The main remedy to achieve mental acuity. Remedies include learning/Playing Paralysis; Zen mastery (Mental Aspect of playing.); claming you nerves; and the power of suggestion (positive thinking).
Poor Attacks– have you ever hear d Shofar sounder blow in to the Shofar only to hear his air without any hint of a tone or note? This is a humiliating experience. Having experienced it myself, I have some suggestions:
1. Act as if nothing went worrying and replay the note again (MB 590:7, Notes 23-36), using another technique of lip placement, move the mouthpiece over your upper lip, change your attack by moving your tongue in another direction, or take a deep breath.
Weak Stuffy Tone
Weak, stuffy tone results from too little air used, too much pressure or a closed throat (when you play your voice box actually closes the back end of your mouth)
Bright Shrill Tone
A bright shrill tone is not a problem. The Shofar acts more like a trumpet announcing something special. The herald effect of a shrill tone satisfies this function.
A Changing Quality of Sound
Changing quality of sound means that you have poor breath support, your is either too tongue arched or you have some other tonguing problem.
You blow but the note is not immediate in perfecting itself. If so, you are using too much mouthpiece pressure or you have poor breath support or your lips too tense.
Avoid Panic When You Miss a Note
You should keep in mind that when your note comes out incorrectly, it is better to know what to do beforehand what adjustments to make so that you can readily adjust rather than panic (and believe me, everybody has experienced this). If your notes are not exact, ignore the mistake and go on to the next note. If you blow and no note comes forth, stop the attempt and place the mouthpiece on moist lips in a different place or on a different angle. If you persist, aim for the fundamental note and just sound it with no other accompanying notes. When your lips get acclimated to the vibrations, you can sound the other notes.
Many, if not most Shofar sounders have a problem of endurance, particularly when they sound 100 notes. (Mishah Berurah 586:23, Note 88) I personally have a p problem when I sound the Shofar at more than three services. The reasons for lack of endurance may be using too much mouthpiece pressure; not sufficient practice; or the mouthpiece too big or deep. (Clint ‘Pops’ McLaughlin)
If your Shofar gurgles, you have spittle in the horn. The best remedy is to use a coffee brush or an aquarium brush to remove the spittle. In fact, after each section of the service in which the Shofar is sounded, you should clean the Shofar to avoid a spittle problem.
Arthur L. Finkle, Easy Guide for Shofar Sounders, Torah Aura, LA, 2002
For more information, we developed three websites
1) Shofar Sounders WebPage
This was very helpful. I played the trumpet in grade school three decades ago, so I figured it would be easy as pie to pick up a trumpet. It wasn’t. I didn’t realize that it’ll take a lot of practice for me to get back a reasonable embouchure and create some decent shofar sounds.