Burning out

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by gregtrum84, Oct 19, 2005.

  1. gregtrum84

    gregtrum84 New Friend

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    Oct 19, 2005
    Boston, MA
    Hi Manny,

    This is the first time I've posted on your forum, though I've been watching for a little while now.

    You seem to have your head on very straight, so I wanted to post a question that that I've been trying to find an answer to for a while now.

    My name is Greg, I go to school in Boston and there's a lot of great music to hear all the time. I've always been the kind of player that hasn't had too much of a problem practicing steadily and putting the time in. I'm very good with breaking up my practice and putting in 2-3 hours every day.

    I think where the problem comes in is my ability to progress over long periods of time. I never sound how I want to sound, and I tend to get very frusterated when things don't go well. When I get frusterated I go into the practice room and try to work things out, which usually doesn't go so well, leading to more frustration, etc. I've tried countless methods, bought loads of books, taken lessons all over the place, but I feel like despite all the work I put into this there is some quality in my sound or some bad habit that I can't hear or can't get rid of. I feel that with putting in all this work and time without being able to start to rise to the top is really affecting me in terms of frustration and enjoying music...I feel like if I can't find a way where I can start to see some progress to how I want to sound I'm going to burn myself out doing all this work for little perceived reward.

    I look around my studio and I can measure the progress of others, see how they're growing in a logical progression every year, and I don't feel like I'm developing in the same way. My problem is not in motivation, I just feel like bad habits are crippling me. My question to you is this: how can I make the most of my practice time and start to get some satisfaction from playing the trumpet again? How can I take how I want to sound and get there?

    I know these are hugly general questions, and that its hard to answer this kind of question without knowing the person, but any kind of answer will help.

    Thanks,

    Greg
     
  2. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    Greg,

    It's hard to know what's frustrating you. Is it that your fingers move less responsively? Do you have high register/endurance problems? Are you dissatisfied with the quality of your sound.? Do you find your music-making not to be profound enough?

    These are big questions but that have to be asked. If you could think about that a bit and ask some specific questions based on your frustrations maybe I can help out a bit. If you're able to recognize which bad habits are getting in your way, perhaps that's a good sign, no?

    I'll look forward to your next post.

    ML
     
  3. gregtrum84

    gregtrum84 New Friend

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    Oct 19, 2005
    Boston, MA
    Hi Manny,

    Thanks for the suggestion, having someone remind me to think of specifics instead of the big picture has already pointed my thinking in a different direction. I think the reason I have so much trouble with frustration is because these issues all seem to tie together with no clear solution. Here are some of the specific problems I've been having:

    Range:
    This is probably my biggest issue. I was never one of those kids who had "high chops", and playing in the upper register has always been a struggle for me. I've heard from a number of professionals that this is because I am trying to make resonance in my sound by opening up my oral cavity and this is slowing down the air and making it a struggle for me to play in the high register. I'm not very sure as to how to go about correcting this problem, as I've heard many differences in opinion on how to do this. Also, it seems that if I try to physically manipulate my tounge while I play it really stiffens things up.
    I've also had people say that my chops are too tense and that the air not doing the work for me; again I have trouble moving more air just by thinking about it. If I try to blow harder I get really tense and stiffen up and it hurts to play.


    Flexibility and Efficiancy:

    In terms of simply getting around the horn, it has never been super easy for me...I carry a lot of tension when I play, and I'm not sure where tension in the body is supposed to be and where its bad. I do know that I play the easiest when I am the most relaxed. I've been having some success lately with approaching things with more mental work, I find if I can sing through something and then get a picture in my mind of the sound of the notes before I play, then I don't get as tense and things work better.

    Sound:
    I am overall happy with my sound, however I really want to put more resonance into it and I'm not sure how to do that correctly. I do a lot of listening, especially of Phil Smith, and I record myself to try and emulate his sound, and in that regard I seem to be getting closer. On days where I can hear Phil in my head when I play everything seems easy.

    In other words, these problems I think stem from things a teacher can't directly see and fix: tongue position and the shape of the oral cavity. I'm not really sure how to train my body to arch the tounge in the most efficiant way...I've had some success with a more mental approach involving intense conception of the sound and singing, but maybe I've just never been taught a good way to go about fixing this physically.

    I hope this helps, if you need me write more I would be happy to.

    Thanks for all your help.

    Best,

    Greg
    [/i]
     
  4. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    Okay, it's pretty clear now.

    There are several things at play that need to be addressed.

    First, the only and mean only place where there's "tension" for lack of a better word is at the corners of the embouchure and the only reason for that is just to provide stability. How much tension? Well, I don't know how to measure in PSI but I know you wouldn't want to measure it that way. The amount needed is the amount that holds the embouchure stable but allows the vibrating parts of the lip freedom to do what it needs to amplify the music in your head. Otherwise, there's no neck, chest, abdominal, leg, hand, or other "tension" any where else. Let me be even clearer: even someone who is standing in a completely relaxed stance has points of tension in the body that enable that person to stand. Otherwise, he would collapse in a heap, no? So, let's understand that the muscles are constantly providing a stable support in some manner even when you're engaged in an activity that is gentle and relaxed. There's tension and then there's tension.

    Second, your approach of micromanaging your body from within is fatal to music-making on the trumpet if you want to play as an artist. You are trying to program your body to perform physical functions because of mishaps very, very early in your playing career. You didn't get the direction you needed then, so, now you're trying to do it by deep physical analysis. I do commend you, however, for trying to get a model of sound in your head and pursuing it. That's a great start!.

    Yes, I agree that if you're trying to consciously enlarge the oral, cavity you're doing damage by dictating form before function. You want to place your tongue here and produce a sound. That's pure guesswork, it can't be anything else. It's like playing first base and closing your eyes a few seconds before you get the throw from the shortstop. Yeah, you can guess more or less where the throw is going but I wouldn't audition for the Red Sox any time soon. You have to have a clear picture of what you want to happen from a result point of view not a process.

    I know from your post that none of this is news to you but I'm saying it anyway because I want you to have the reinforcement of reading/hearing it so that you are encouraged to continue to let your playing develop as a natural process not a forced one. Forget about tongue levels for now. It's really screwing you up. Just let what happens happen, play for yourself and forget what others are accomplishing for now. They aren't your problem. Let your accomplishments be your own as well as your failures. "He who never made a mistake never made a discovery", you've heard that before.

    Keep singing like you're doing and try, now, to do it as you play but sing a trumpet sound not a vocal sound. And let your body plug into your brain, it knows better than your body but you have to allow it. Allow mistakes, nobody's going to kill you. Go for it and sing the trumpet.


    ML
     
  5. gregtrum84

    gregtrum84 New Friend

    32
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    Oct 19, 2005
    Boston, MA
    Thanks Manny,

    A very concise, accurate and helpful response to just a few words. Its good to hear what you say about tension, I've suspected that was the answer but nobody has said it so clearly before.

    I've found that your advice from other posts about always saying TOOH really helps get the sound i'm looking for as well as keeping my breathing nice and relaxed. I think for a long time I associated blowing more air with blowing tighter and squeezing against myself, and hopefully I'll be able to slowly break myself away from this.

    Thanks also for the reaffirmation about singing, I'm so used to trying to control myself physically its nice to have somebody to remind me that it really does work.

    I feel better already, thanks so much!

    Best,

    Greg[/i]
     
  6. cesium

    cesium New Friend

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    Sep 20, 2005
    Hi, I'm new to this forum but I thought I'd throw in my two cents as well since I've been in the same spot as Greg. First let me say Manny is dead on (as he usually is) about trying to micro-manage your body. Trumpet playing is like riding a bike. When you ride a bike you don't think about which muscle needs to engage at what moment with just the right amount of force to push the pedal down. Your body finds its own way to do it all without a single thought. Same goes with the trumpet. If you're busy worring about tounge/oral cavity position instead of letting your body figure it out you're just working against yourself.

    I also had some really bad tension problems that hurt my playing in ways I never could have guessed. You may want to look into the Alexander Technique. It would take an hour of typing to try and explain what the Alexander Technique is about. You can Google it and find some pretty good information but the best thing to do is have a lesson with an Alexander Teacher. (I'm curious if anyone else here has any experience with the Alexander Technique?)

    When I was discouraged and sick and even thought about quitting (thank goodness I didn't) I decided to find something with my playing that I could just let loose with and simply enjoy playing the horn. For me that was a jazz band where I let it all come out through the horn. Find a playing situation thats fun and where you don't need to worry about good or bad sounds or if you're making progress, something where you can just enjoy being there.

    You're different from me and your ymmv. I hope this helps.

    Ben
     
  7. silverstar

    silverstar Mezzo Forte User

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    Jan 6, 2005
    Greg, I would like to thank you for putting into words my exact frustrations! You're not alone. I am in high school, and I don't have the 'high chops' that everyone else and his dog seem to have. It's frustrating...watching all your friends make loads of progress and you're still sitting there on your little plateau...still trying to get that high C to come out.

    Mr. Laureano, thank you for that post. It was pretty helpful...though, I have a question about the "TOOH" set-up....I've been trying this out, and it makes a huge difference in my tone quality...BUT...my range has died considerably....I can barely hit the E in the staff (above middle C). I don't know if that is supposed to happen or not.

    Anyway, thanks to you both....it's nice to know that there are other trumpeters out there that are in the same boat as I am.

    Lara
     
  8. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    Lara,

    Step one for you is what sounds like a positive change in tone quality. The price of admission is, however, using muscles in a different way than you're used to and that means a temporary loss of range. If you have the courage to stick it out you'll gain later as the new muscles build. No, I don't know how long it'll take but I do know that you should see upward progress from week to week. It'll take consistent practice at staying consistent. Focus on a clear sound throughout your present register, challenge yourself a little each day to ascend but don't abuse your face. Hear each note clearly before you play and hear it as a rich, full sound. Find time at the start of each day for chromatic scales. The first few in the Arban book are perfect for you right now as they are gradual studies meant to expand your sound and range. Also, play the songs from the Art of Phrasing in Arban's. They are in a perfect range to challenge you right now.

    Good luck and stay in touch,

    ML
     
  9. andredub

    andredub Pianissimo User

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    Oct 16, 2005
    Toronto
    The Plague!

    Greg, what you are experiencing is what plagues my trumpet playing always. I struggle to keep my bad habits at bay, many times unsuccessfully. Thanks for posting about this.

    A question for anyone here (Especially Mr Laureano!)
    What do you do on those days where nothing seems to be working, and not playing just seems like a total waste? Yesterday I couldn't play at all. I sort of blew it off as one of those bad days that sometimes happen, but I'm also going through a bit of a rough period where it seems to happen too frequently. When there are days where things just arnt working, what do you do to #1 help fix the problem ( for me the problem is just lack of any sort of range, and my chops just dont produce any sort of sound) and #2 when you finish whatever studies or drills that you do, what do you do to ensure that you dont just take days off and take your playing back another step?

    Thanks for all your help!

    Andre
     
  10. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    Re: The Plague!

    I back off and play very easily and make sure I'm barely using any effort to play. I let the air leak out of the sides of my mouth and play very casually and lightly. Within a few minutes I feel like normal and gradually increase the dynamics. It almost always comes from being tight, for whatever reason, and going all the over to the other side as an exaggeration alleviates that, for me.

    ML
     

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