Clarke versus Gordon - I am confused.

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Dark Knight, Jun 25, 2010.

  1. Dark Knight

    Dark Knight Pianissimo User

    Apr 7, 2010
    I am not sure this topic exists in the archives on the site.

    In my first incarnation as a young trumpet player I was taught the lip curl method and stretched the lips to achieve higher notes. In my recent readings I see that this method is recommended by Clarke. It was effective in my youth.

    In my second incarnation now as a comeback player I have been reading and studying as much as I can and have found conflicting information. I purchased Claude Gordon's book and have also read on the internet that the lips should be contracted towards the mouthpiece to control the size of the aperture. It was also explained that stretched lips creates a "thin sound" and that bunched lips creates "meat cushion" that make more tissue available for vibration. It all sounds very logical, so I have been practicing a good number of months now using this method. I find it effective too. I do not claim to have great range but I can now hit a solid high C with either method, but the pedal tones are much easier using the method of Claude Gordon.

    I do have a teacher and I am progressing with my lessons and can play them using either method with slightly different sets of difficulties.

    Right now, I am confused and neither feels natural anymore. I no longer have that comfortable feeling like I know what I am doing with my embouchure to produce high quality notes. What are the latest thoughts comparing the two methods and is one preferred as we learn more about how to play the trumpet properly (i.e., latest advances). Are both equal as long as I committ to one?

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts on the subject.

    Best Wishes,

  2. s.coomer

    s.coomer Forte User

    Mar 25, 2005
    Indianapolis, In
    Have you asked your teacher? What does your teacher tell you?
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Stretching is generally considered the very WORST thing that you can do to your face. I have all of the Clarke books. My editions are about 40 years old and I find no mention of stretch and curl.

    Increasing the "density" of the lips through compression does make the lips much less susceptible to damage.

    Changing embouchures from a theoretically not so good to a theoretically better version normally destroys playing for a long time until new habits are built (if it work at all).

    I personally prefer an evolutionary approach with a lot of monitoring from the teacher. I use the Irons lip flexibilities book and my eyes and ears for this. I will NEVER cold turkey change an embouchure. I always increase the amount of exercizes that promote better lip use and watch closely to make sure that what I said was understood!
  4. Dark Knight

    Dark Knight Pianissimo User

    Apr 7, 2010
    Thank you very much for your thoughts. I have told my teacher about this and she basically said I was "thinking" too much. She suggested that I was actually not feeling a natural "seat" for the mouthpiece because my embrochure had developed to the point where I might need to move to a larger mouthpiece. I currently play a 7C and she is suggesting a 5C or 3C and just to move on.

    Rowuk, I went back to check my Clarke book "Elementary Studies" on page 22. When talking about playing higher notes, he says that "To play these notes properly the lips are compressed still more, and more power from the chest is needed". So, you are right. I misinterpreted "compressed" to mean "stretched". I guess I have been reading so much that I am starting to get a bit mixed-up. Again, you are correct in that Clarke never mentioned the lip curl; it was just something I was taught as a kid.

    I do appreciate your input.

    PS. I just got back from a two-week business trip to Europe. I had a three hour layover in Frankfurt. I consumed my first German beer in Germany --- it was positively beautiful!!!

    Best Wishes.

  5. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    I feel your concern. I started playing in 1955. My private teacher as well as the school music directors all taught the "smile" method with the mouth corners pulled back and the lips stretched tightly over the teeth. This included free buzzing and mouthpiece buzzing using the same configuration. As far as I was aware, everyone used that method and I had never heard of the "pucker" method.

    Fast forward 40 years when I started my comeback. I found an instructor (maybe 35 years old) who did not question my embouchure. He could freebuzz quite well and his lips were stretched over his teeth while doing that. I did not focus on his lips while playing so I don't know if he puckered then. But, as I started reading different sources, I discovered that the pucker method seemed to be preferred. So, I started practicing it. I also went on a "mouthpiece safari" and have over 20 mouthpieces from nearly trombone-sized to very small. It has taken almost a year but now I can play better with the pucker method and I find that I have better endurance that way (range is about the same). I have approximately 50/50 top/bottom as far as I can tell both ways. But, I cannot free buzz with the pucker - I just spray moisture that way. I revert to the smile method for that - which I do less and less now but I did it a lot when starting my comeback to try and rebuild my chops during times when I was driving in the car and could not practice.

    So, my sense is that if you take is slow and focus on how it is developing, you can effectively change without moving backwards.
  6. Dark Knight

    Dark Knight Pianissimo User

    Apr 7, 2010

    An enormous thank you! It would seem as if we have had nearly identical experiences, even with regards to lip buzzing. I think I am approaching the first year anniversary of my comeback and it has been a bit of a bumpy ride as I try to figure things out. My current teacher is "not" a trumpet player but a band director who has "qualified" on the trumpet. She is great and has done alot to get me started. As, I progress, there are some more sublte questions with the embrochure that I am left to try to figure out myself.

    Best Wishes,


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