Air Flow Restriction and Throat Tension

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by lowtide89, Jul 2, 2006.

  1. lowtide89

    lowtide89 New Friend

    Jul 2, 2006
    Hi, there, I'm Liz. :-)

    I've been trying to figure out (since the first time I picked up a trumpet) why I have a horrible high range. Most of the topics I see concern people trying to go for a double C (two C's above the middle one, right?) or higher, but I've been playing for seven to eight years and still can only scrape off a G2 (the G just above the staff?) when I'm lucky. Now, I know that something's wrong with the way I'm playing, because that's not normal. I have a great tone with the notes in my range (F# to E2), and great technique, so I'm dreading the idea that there's something so horribly wrong with my embrochure that, if corrected, would ruin my other skills.

    But now I think I've found the problem. My dad's mentioned that, as a music director, a common problem with singers is that they tense up their throat muscles when they try to sing high. And I'm almost 100% certain that this is my problem. How can I teach my muscles to relax so that I won't continue restricting air flow?

    Other little things to note:

    I'm going to be a senior in high school, so people told me I have plenty of time to fix anything like this.

    The throat tension seems to be psychologically induced, you might say. Every time I see a high note while I'm playing a song or an exercise, all the sudden the rest of my notes, even the ones I can play well, sound weak and squeezed out. It's a bad habit.

    Also, to add to my point, when I give up practicing my trumpet for about a week (discouraged and procrastinating), as soon as I pick it up again and play a few notes, I can easily reach those G2s and A2s.

    This problem is hindering my progress in range especially as a trumpeter, so any advice is much appreciated. Keep in mind that I'm 1st chair this year at my high school, and I have certain expectations to live up to, like at *least* hitting a G2! (small high school -- only five trumpeters, so I'm not outstanding; three are incoming freshman, and the junior is really bad).


    EDIT: I do realize that there is the distinct possibility that a question just like this has already been asked, so if I've overlooked a topic along these lines, please let me know where I can find it. (Yes, I did read the topic filled with advice on high range.)
  2. Trumpeters_Lullaby

    Trumpeters_Lullaby New Friend

    Apr 10, 2006
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    When playing high notes it's common to assume that you need to use force and tension to play higher. While it does take some tension to play trumpet obviously, you need to relax your lips and use air. Air is the key to high notes not stress. Now i'm not sure if this helps at all but with the amount of great players on this board i'm sure you'll have this problem fixed in no time. But on the other hand, it's hard to give advice over the internet. If you really want to fix this problem I reccomend getting a private teacher. They could actually hear you play and pick out the specific things for you to work on. Best of luck!
  3. lowtide89

    lowtide89 New Friend

    Jul 2, 2006
    Yep! I've got a private teacher -- he's gone for the summer, though, and I'm too busy with vacations to make anything out of an alternate private teacher, so, yeah. I also just figured out what my problem was, so my private teacher never really addressed the throat tension problem -- and it really is cutting off my air more than it should. I need to relax, but I don't know how.
  4. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    I had the same problem at a point several years ago. I'd read about various breathing "teaching systems" so I tried a trick out of one of them.

    Find a short piece of tubing... "about" the size of the cardboard tube in a toilet paper roll. Wrap your lips around this thing and breath in and out. Concentrate on the feeling of how easily and openly the air flows in and out through your mouth and throat. Kind of like when you lower your Adam's Apple to sing a low (very LOW) note! Think about this feeling of a large, open and unrestricted oral cavity and throat.

    Now... just work with that when you go back to trumpet for a while. Don't worry about high notes or anything else... just concentrate on keeping the tension out of your playing. And remember to BREATH... deep into your gut. Keep the shoulders relaxed. You'll find that after a bit of "tuning" you will have a much more powerful and resonant sound as a side benefit.
  5. lowtide89

    lowtide89 New Friend

    Jul 2, 2006
    Hah, I don't have an Adam's Apple, lol (notice the name "Liz"), but I like the exercise -- so thanks! I'll give it a try. Sounds like it would work well.
  6. trpt2345

    trpt2345 Mezzo Forte User

    May 21, 2006
    Morelia, Mexico
    Along with toilet paper tube I'd try just blowing air into the horn without buzzing. Then gradually bring your lips together and play a note, with the same relaxation you had blowing without buzzing. Think "ah" when you play, like when the doctor says stick your tongue out and say ahh. It doesn't take effort to play the trumpet, it only takes air.

    Michael McLaughlin

    "I wrote a few children's books... not on purpose."
    Steven Wright
  7. ldwoods

    ldwoods Piano User

    Jan 20, 2006
    I am not a pro, or a fantastic high note guy. However, I have had similar problems and suggest two things.

    First: Get rid of the music or exercises in front of you. A lot of the stress is mental and relates to an ingrained anxiety raised just by seeing the written notes above the staff.

    Second: With nothing in front of you (music or exercises) just play very softly and gradually work your way up the scale (any scale). You can even do chromatic and try to think about anything else other than how "high" you are getting. You have to learn to allow yourself to play those "hard" notes. Just think of what the next pitch should sound like and play it. You have to disengage the brain and all the negative thoughts you've etched to memory.
  8. lowtide89

    lowtide89 New Friend

    Jul 2, 2006
    Thanks for all the advice everyone! I think I'll put a couple of these into action today when I'm practicing.

    And yep Idwoods, this would definitely be a problem of mine. My trumpet teacher did give me a few of these tips, but I don't know that I ever realized their potential or how they could be fit into context.
  9. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    With all sincerity,Liz, the internet is not the place to get advice for this particular problem.

    A new look from a well-known or well-regarded teacher in your area would be the best place to get a fresh perspective if your current instructor has run out of ideas (which happens to even the most experienced teachers).

  10. BudBix

    BudBix Pianissimo User

    Sep 25, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    There's no easy fix for this. I have too much tension in my playing too though not as severe as you describe. I know from experience that only a good teacher and hard work can fix this.


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