Blown out chops when performing

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by JNUTRPT, Mar 5, 2014.


    JNUTRPT New Friend

    Mar 5, 2014
    On a few occasions, although I practiced a piece with a sustained passage in the high register, over and over and even practiced it after having extensively practiced other difficult pieces, when performing I have been unable to control the high register. In the performance, this has been the loud, rousing closing piece, which during rehearsals, I had been able to play well. Generally, I put in an hour to an hour and a half of practice time daily. Sometimes in the few weeks before a performance, I put in an additional brief practice session early in the day ( about another half hour). This doesn't seem to help.

    I think the loss of control might be due to my tendency to play more intensely during performances than rehearsals and the tension of performing. I also wonder about the effect of intermission and lack of warm up time post intermission. Any advice about how to prevent that from happening?
  2. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    First, welcome to TM. I would agree that the lack of control you are describing appears to be a result of fatigue. You need to slowly build your rehearsal times to increase stamina so you can achieve control of your notes when in the high end of your range. So not play through this fatigue or you will loose the strength in the muscle you already have built.
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    It sounds to me like you've overworked your chops. When you do that, more practice is generally not the correct approach to fixing the issue - the muscles of your chops, like any other muscle that gets overworked, sometimes just needs time to rest and recover.

    Welcome to the TM. :-)
  4. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Welcome to TM, JNUTRPT!

    The break and warmup shouldn't be an issue. I do believe there is a good chance your practice is unbalanced. Endurance is based on many low impact repetitions. Does your practice regimen include plenty of soft playing?
  5. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    Tension, anxiety from overthinking "This is it, don't screw it up "! Been there done that. If it's fine in rehearsal but the performance is lacking, it's mental. If it's just okay in rehearsal, extra work may be causing fatigue and failure. Endurance can be addressed with longtones. Especially when done soft as VB mentioned.
    Welcome to the forum! :welcome:
  6. CornetComeback

    CornetComeback New Friend

    Jan 26, 2013
    Performances can be more demanding on several dimensions. For that reason, and because I know how far my current endurance can take me, I will carefully manage "the gas in my tank" for the program. I may need to take care early in the program to save enough for challenging closing pieces.

  7. jengstrom

    jengstrom Pianissimo User

    Oct 17, 2009
    Rochester, NY
    Right on the money. If I'm the least bit nervous during a concert, the extra tension throughout my body transfers directly to my chops. My endurance suffers greatly. High parts that weren't too hard become very hard and, of course, I use extra tension and mouthpiece pressure in an attempt to make sure the music comes out correctly, which zaps my endurance and range some more, etc. Once the toilet bowl swirl starts, it's hard to stop.

    The key, for me at least, is to stay as relaxed during the performance as the rehearsal. (Stop rolling your eyes.) Yes, it's real easy to say and hard to do. I've been trying for decades. I've made lots of progress, but I'm not there yet.

    Here are some suggestions. I'm sure others can add to this list:

    1. Practice (duh!). Preparation goes a long way. 'Nuff said there.
    2. Perform as often as you can. At one point in my first comeback, I would shake while playing. It was awful. Eventually, I got more comfortable and stopped shaking. Now, for most performances, I don't give it a second thought. Familiarity with the environment breeds comfort. I still get nervous in certain solos or if I know my chops aren't where they should be on the day of the performance, but those occaisions are dwindling.
    3. If you have practice hard (maybe too hard) in the days preceeding a performance, it may be prudent to go easy on your tired, possibly bruised chops the day before the performance. Don't take the day off; just do warmups, quiet technical exercises, gentle slurs - in other words, all the stuff you normally do minus the chops taxing hard work. In my case, I might limit the day before a performance to under an hour. If I do it right, on performance day my chops are fresh and responsive. That allows me to stay more relaxed than if they are stiff and unresponsive (the toilet bowl swirl be a-coming).
    4. Do some relaxation exercises before the performance. I like quiet pedal tones. You might prefer something else.

    Tailor all of this to what works for you.

    Good luck.

  8. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 5, 2011
    You stated:
    "I think the loss of control might be due to my tendency to play more intensely during performances."
    Most trumpet problems can be narrowed down to:
    1. Forcing the air.
    2. Using too much mouthpiece pressure.
    3. *the most popular* A combination of 1 and 2
    1.Watch yourself in the mirror as you play. Does your face get red? Does your face scrunch up?
    If so, then try it again but this time "feel" when your face beings to flush and quit blowing so hard. Also maintain an emotionless face.
    2. When you play in the upper register, chances are you are using a lot of arm pressure coupled with forcing the air. That's what happens when we get nervous. Play the passages again (in front of a mirror) and pay attention to your face. Play the passages with thought and don't go viseral, stay soft controlled.
    Hope this helps
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    It may be something very simple: do you write in ALL breathing marks into the score? If not, start - before you even start practicing the pieces! Breathing and the sense of timing when and how deeply has to be learned and CAN only be learned by repetition!

    The single biggest deficit that I see in lesser experienced players is lack of coordination and integration due to a crap daily routine and practice habits that never result in consistent playing. On stage, we breathe somewhere that doesn't make sense, at the end of the "new", "longer" phrase we have to use more pressure to get through, that limits how our air flows, we get a sense of suffocation, gasp for air in an even more idiotic place, everything gets out of sync and we crank the pressure up to get through until nothing else works. I have seen this hundreds of times!

    We are creatures of habit. If we have a piece to play and practice it 100 times breathing in the same places, the same way, the likelihood that we will perform it the same way is pretty great. If we have 500 repetitions, we almost have a guarantee and after 1000 repetitions, we even can start talking about habits.

    If we just blow through things 5 or 10 times, everything is chance for the player without advanced habits. The more integration that we get in our head and body, the more consistent that we play. The secret is REPETITIONS of prepared patterns.

    We generally do not need to change embouchure, mouthpiece or trumpet. We need to change our attitude and start doing the things that EVERY WORKING PROFESSIONAL has done to get where they are. Dedication to the process of integration always pays off! Start with writing the breathing marks in the score and USING THEM!° Up the amount of repetitions on everything that you use to maintain your playing!

    Repetitions will also help us get better through evolution. On stage, we have no capacity for "compensation" until we have essentially automated the brains, ears, body and face.
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    One more thing, forget the notion of more intensity during a performance. That is an EXCUSE. Anxiety is more during a performance and that will take advantage of every weakness that we have.

    Performances become more intense when we are better prepared. Then we have capacity for "even better" instead of "need" for more "luck"!

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