Couple of questions on air and embouchure

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Haste2, Oct 30, 2010.

  1. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

    Jun 16, 2010
    Hi, I got a couple questions:

    1)It seems I focus on my "head" area too much when playing trumpet. I noticed when I really try to focus on pushing air from lower in my body (my stomach) my air use improves a lot; I learned this when I was working on one of Clarke's Setting Up drills exercise 14 involving tonguing/slurring fast eighth notes. I was only managing to make it 3/4 of the way through at quarter note = 90 (I can do it faster, but some days I have to slow things down to keep my tonguing and fingering in control) I was only able to make it 3/4 of the way through. Then, when focusing from my stomach and trying to relax my face and neck, I made it through the whole thing... with a little breath to spare.

    Question is: is there a good way to help me be more consistant with that type of breathing? Yoga-type stuff? I'm not sure.

    2)When my lips start getting tired, you would expect me to start going sharp. However, I start going FLAT. This was an issue a few years ago. Then, I worked really hard to not worry about going sharp and it seemed to help. Then, in the past two weeks, I had a very hard week or playing (lots of demands, couldn't take a lot of breaks) and now I'm starting to go very flat again. My trumpet buddies have their slide about 3/4 of an inch out perhaps, while I am at like 1/4 an inch out. Previously I had my slide out about 1/2 inch. Additionally, the more tired I get in a rehearsal or practice session, the flatter I get (well, not always, but frequently).

    Is that something to worry about? You think I should flat out ignore sharpness, and just always pull my slide out when it starts to happen?

    My theory? I think it's because I recognize I am going sharp, especially in the upper register where my lips cannot auto-adjust the intonation so easily due to the close partials.... thus, my lips work very hard to keep the pitch down. Then, that eventually causes me to "permanently" be lipping down, even when I try not to lip down. It just comes like that. :play:

    THanks for any help you can provide.
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Haste, there are a lot of opinions on how much one should "notice" when playing. Equally as much contention on how much one should "push" with their abs. Equally it is questionable how much we can "focus" on relaxing when playing. I don't teach it this way

    Yoga is very good to learn to relax more in everything that we do. I got a lesson from John Henes for the Alexander technique many years ago. That one lesson did NOT turn my playing around, rather it gave me some tools to learn to make some valid posture, breathing decisions BEFORE I started to play.

    I firmly believe that your post is like asking how to learn to swim by jumping in the deep end of the pool. My opinion is that you do not have the required basic body use/breathing skills and that causes the symptoms that you describe. Going flat when tired is a sign that your breathing is pretty weak.

    Do a search here on "Circle of Breath". I have posted this many times, and it is a good START to better breathing. It is free and very simple. No ab "pushing", no unnecessary tension while in- or exhaling. Just the basis for better habits.
  3. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010
    I read somewhere that to be able to play the trumpet effectively you have to be in shape and do cardiovascular exercise 15min twice a week. So I started doing the butterfly breast stroke. It seems to help a bit.

    Also I go hiking, but when I hike I breathe all the way out, taking several steps.

    I think these are the things Mendez recommended to gain breath control, "swimming, walking and playing trumpet."
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2010
  4. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

    Jun 6, 2010

    Me too. When my lips get tired I play flat. However, since I've been warming them up before playing with the loose (horse sound) lip flapping, then buzzing w/o and w/ the MP, for about 10 minutes, my lips feel great most of the time.

    Also, like SmoothOperator said, getting into shape helps, a lot! So, I use the treadmill here for walking very fast for 10 minutes every day, WHILE I'm warming up to play, with the above stuff.

    The loose lip "flapping" is supposed to remove something from your lips, like lactic acid (really not sure if that's what it was).

  5. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

    Jun 16, 2010
    Thanks for the help. The "circle of breath" sounds interesting. However, when searching for circle of breath I kept running into your posts that said "search for circle of breath". It was like going to Bowser's Castle to rescue Princess Toadstool only for a Toad to tell me the Princess was in another castle. =P Yeah, and I'm out of shape (lack of exercise, not overweight).

    I did a little bit of that type of breathing warming up, and I also thought "high" preparing for a college orchestra concert (w/ Alexander Nevsky, movement 5... one heck of a brass piece!). Then, when we played I wasn't as flat. Also, it was one of my best performances I've ever had, actually. Despite having a cold sore, I even managed soft attacks pretty well.

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