Avoidance of being too "lip conscious"

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Local 357, Apr 25, 2012.

  1. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011
    Once in a while I find myself in rare agreement with Claude Gordon. Not often but every now and then. He had actually at least three gems of advice. Loosely quoted these are:

    "Trumpet players will buy anything if you tack a high note on it".

    "Trumpet players are generally too lazy to put in the time and dedication necessary to sufficiently master the instrument

    "Don't allow yourself to become too lip conscious" Again my apologies for not having the exact quotes but the general sentiment is there for all three.

    As I listen to and watch most of the brass players I see there is one thing that separates the pros from the hacks. The hacks are always complaining about their lips. They say things like:

    "Am I supposed to play 1/3 or 2/3rds upper lip"?

    "How far out should I set my jaw"?

    "I never had the lip for this instrument"

    "What if I'm playing too far right of center"?

    "What if I'm playing too far left of center"?

    "My teacher says i shouldn't play in the red, what ever will i do"?

    "I don't want to use too much arm pressure on my lip"

    "Should I roll out or roll in my lip(s)"?

    You can increase the list for another half hour. And that's before we even talk about mouthpieces. No wonder they screw up and sound so awful. They've got themselves psyched out at ever turn. "Rigging failure" is another way of looking at it...

    As if the whole effort involved with brass playing ended at the lip. It's the way they think much of the time. These poor cats get so sidetracked and depressed thinking about their lips that they completely forget about what starts the tone: WIND POWER!

    We hardly ever here about BREATH CONTROL and AIR SUPPORT. Not even on this forum. I probably should include "PLAY AGGRESSIVELY" in my list of good advice. Anything to counteract the overdone emphasis upon the poor lip.

    Just for fun go around some of your local amateur bands and observe and listen to their brass sections. Almost without exception you will hear puny tones, cracked notes and melodic lines that fade because the soloist or whole section forgot to blow through the phrase. Worse still the average music director is focused so much upon correct notes, key signatures tempos etc. that he/she forgets to emphasize air support. The director isn't to blame really. We can understand the concern for accuracy. Never-the-less the concept of prioritizing the elimination of playing errors (at least for most brass players) is really putting the cart before the horse.

    I was in a discussion with a very talented young trombonist tonight. A man I very highly respect and with a bright future ahead of him as a music teacher and musician in his own right. He surely plays the trombone with more technique and accuracy than myself. Especially in the lowest register as being a trumpet player it can take me several weeks of solid daily practice to pull my own on the lower trombone parts.

    However I noticed one major distinction between his playing of the low brass horn and my own:

    I sound about 50 to 100% more confident (on the trombone) than he does. Reason? Despite my weaker over all technique on low brass instruments I put more air support behind the thing. My mistakes sound confident. His correct notes almost sound like they're going to fail. Its a tone the audience doesn't hear so much but because I'm a brass player I do.

    So we chatted about breath support. I explained to him that after he gets his degree in Music Ed and finally teaches his first high school or middle school band class he should PRIORITIZE AIR SUPPORT while de-emphasizing the relative value of the lip. To become LESS "lip conscious".


    This the most important quote ever writ about brass playing. From the late Arnold Jacobs

    “The most common problems I have seen over the last 60-odd years I have been teaching are with respiration and the tongue. Surprisingly enough, I rarely find problems with the embouchure. That might sound strange because people come to see me because of problems with their embouchure, but frequently it is the embouchure reacting to a bad set of circumstances and failing – it is simply cause and effect. If we change the cause of the factor, it is easy to clear up the embouchure. The embouchure is not breaking down, it is trying to work under impossible conditions. When you are starving the embouchure for air volume, giving it all sorts of air pressure but not quantity, it cannot work.
    Embouchure Problems « The Breathing Blog
  2. xjb0906

    xjb0906 Piano User

    May 2, 2009
    Charlotte NC
    Achieving this mindset is easier said than done. I just started lessons last week. We talked about 2 things. How to breathe and doing a proper warm up that helps to get me breathing properly. Nothing was said about embouchure.
  3. Satchmo Brecker

    Satchmo Brecker Piano User

    Jul 19, 2010
    Great info thanks! I saw a youtube video of Maynard giving a masterclass (or maybe just talking with some college kids at a concert). One question was, what's that one thing you can tell us that'll help play trumpet (words to that effect). I'm sure everyone in the audience was waiting to hear something profound about practicing this scale or that, or fingering, etc...some technical thing. All Maynard said was "bend your knees". He went on to discuss air support and staying relaxed, as well as trying to play to the back row, even when playing soft.
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Great info!

    Song and Wind by Arnold Jacobs is one of the most important books a trumpet player can own!

    Windsong Press Limited
  5. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

    Nov 16, 2009
    Near Portland, OR.
    My experience is limited but I still see lots of truth there. Less lip conscious, more air support. Sounds good. I don't think that the importance of air support can ever be overemphasized, although it should not be confused with overblowing.
  6. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011

    Agreed. Maynard in his own way was one of the best teachers. He probably didn't give a lot of private lessons but his clinics were spot on. Simplicity and breath support.

    Like others at first (some 30+ years ago) I took Maynard's emphasis on stance and breathing with a grain of salt. He was after all a very gifted trumpet player. His not the kind of chops everyone can expect to achieve. I still believe this. However once I actually started to implement his advice on stance I would never go back to the way i used to blow.

    Unfortunately the best video of Maynard at the 1977 clinic is no longer available. A damn shame. We still have this one here: Maynard Ferguson Clinic: 13. Q&A-Breathing and Stance - YouTube but is less specific and he doesn't play the trumpet.

    In the other video you watch him lean back as soon as he reaches the G top of the staff and so on.

    And like i said: i would never go back to the ordinary stance i used to play from. Nor play the lead book while sitting down. The stance and foot position Maynard describes may not exactly help one play higher notes but will definitely increase the power and endurance one has on his existing register.

    All that talk of "play higher notes with (so and so's system) new system" isn't anywhere near as important as being ablle to increase the musicality and endurance on one's existing upper register.
  7. jtclark

    jtclark New Friend

    Jun 5, 2010
    I was in a private lesson in college (a few decades ago) and I told my instructor (a Yoda-like old jazzer with a sound you would die for) that I had been thinking about changing my embouchure.

    His response was “You need to think less and play more.”

    Like I said… Yoda.
  8. Pete Anderson

    Pete Anderson Pianissimo User

    Feb 27, 2008
    Sometimes this is the case and sometimes it is not... It really depends on the player. If you actually have a dysfunctional embouchure, focusing on air may or may not help.

    As Arnold Jacobs said: "frequently it is the embouchure reacting to a bad set of circumstances and failing".

    "Frequently". Not always, but a good chunk of the time.

    Lips and air are both important - if either one isn't working then you're not going to get anywhere. Hopefully the "hack" has a good teacher who can identify which piece of the puzzle is causing the problems and doesn't just mindlessly parrot the virtues of one or the other.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2012
  9. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    I really haven't worried about lips and/or equipment for the last couple of years (I got a set up that I don't tinker with -- and it works). When I get the "feel", and in the zone (after 10 or so minutes of warmup) -- the lips have their "sweet spot" -- and it JUST FEELS AND SOUND RIGHT. that being said -- the tips of (just tongue and blow - and play confidently with air support) from LOCAL and others -- seem to be the key --- I picked up the trombone 4 months ago --- and give it air!!! is kind of the mantra of playing it. --- Switching back and forth in practices -(between trombone and trumpet) -- I need not think too much!!! -- just play and make it sound good ----- and mostly that takes AIR and AIR SUPPORT!!!!!!!!!!!
  10. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    Close but not quit. This should say... the lips have their ability to find and adapt to the sweet spot.

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