Embouchure Change Gone Wrong

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by chopshop3625, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. etc-etc

    etc-etc New Friend

    Apr 29, 2009
    Who said there is only one way of playing on the trumpet ...

    1. Following Timofei Dokshizer, play on the mouthpiece alone, starting with long tones (low, medium, high range) and do scales in all keys. Lips do not play the trumpet: use the same position and tension of lips in all registers, and adjust the note pitch by tongue. Practice articulation, dynamics, phrasing. Eventually, you should be able to play everything you are willing to play on the horn, just on the mouthpiece. For mpc practice, you will need two to three hours a day, on and off (practice - rest - practice - rest). You can do the mpc practice even while watching TV. It will not sound beautiful from the beginning, but neither it will be very loud so your neighbors' ears will be spared. Follow the mouthpiece practice by one hour on the horn (again, rest as much as you play). Record your sound either way and listen while resting. You will come refreshed, with a better feel for the horn and regained embouchure.

    2. Completely different from #1, use Vizzutti's method shown here:
    YouTube- Allen Vizzutti Trumpet Clinic 1 of 4
    No sound on mouthpiece alone, sound only appears when mouthpiece is attached to the trumpet. You may want to find more materials from Vizzutti's school.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2010
  2. RichJ

    RichJ Piano User

    Jan 16, 2008
    Northern Virginia
    You may want to skip a day or two of practicing, or even a week. This can help reset things when you are frustrated at a dead end road, allow your body to recuperate, and enable you to play more relaxed. Other than that, I'd focus on breathing and sound and try to focus your attention away from your chops. For me, awareness of my lips is a sign of delinquent breathing techniques.
  3. euphmaster

    euphmaster New Friend

    May 18, 2007
    There is nothing easy about making an embouchure change, and changing an existing embouchure is one of the most inconclusive debates amongst brass players. As many of the others who have posted a reply to this thread, I understand where you are coming from. I also believe that hearing about other ppls experiences with a subject as emotional as this can be helpful, so here is my two cents...

    I always played off to the right just a smidge, from 2nd grade when I started, and most of the way through High School. My tone was excellent, and I had a pretty decent range too (comfortable up to a high D/Eb). Playing in this 'sweet spot' was where it was at! I knew very early on that I was going to be a performing musician, and you like you, I was in HS getting ready to start sorting out what I was going to play, and to which institutions I wanted to apply and audition at. The summer before my Junior year of HS, I had taken off from playing for a few weeks. I supposed after years and years of consistant and rigorous training, a few weeks off before diving in even harder would be useful.

    My family had been out of the house for the day, the day I decided that I would pick up practicing my horn again (about 2 weeks before school was going to start). To my world-crumbling surprise, I couldn't play anything above second line G in the staff, without the whole right side of my face becoming limp as boned fish, and air pouring out the right corner of my mouth! I freaked the hell out.

    When my parents came home, they found me staring at my face in the bathroom mirror, smushing my face, and trying to make form something that resembled an embouchure, in hysterics, and crying. I told them, and showed them what was happening, and I was taken to the doctor. The doctor said that it was Bell's Palsy, which is caused by a virus that lays dormant in almost every persons system on the planet. Under the right conditions, it can come out, and cause this to happen; he just thought it odd that it happened to someone so young. Freakin' great, right?

    The advice I was given was to go home and practice! That even though the odds were small that I would regain my facial muscle control, that practicing, and trying to make my embouchure would be the best shot I had at getting it back. Who was I to argue? I wanted to be able to play again! Scared to death, I went home and began the struggle. Imagine being able to play the Hindemith Sonata in 8th grade, and now not being able to play a 2nd line G. Yipes!

    I was discussed in my next private lesson that perhaps this occurred because I was putting too much of a strain on the right side of my chops. I agreed. Who wouldn't at this point? My friggin face stopped working! So, out of complete fear, I began playing in the center of my chops. I had no choice but to start simple, and simple is what an embouchure change needs for a long while anyway. This sucked.

    In the coming weeks, my face started to regain muscle control, and my range was coming back. I kept on like this until I was able to play at least where I was before my face decided to quit on me. Something was still not right. The new 'spot' never quite felt 'right' but I was able to perform as I once did (thank God for that). My range didn't 'improve, and neither did my endurance, but I was able to be a terrific player again, something none of knew may be able to happen. I got into several colleges for music, majored in trumpet performance & music education, and continued playing after college while teaching.

    This next bit is for someone who posted about being told to switch to another instrument, because of their embouchure...

    About 3 years into teaching, I decide that I am going to switch to low brass, and took on playing euphonium. Yet another embouchure adjustment. As a performer, I wanted to be really good at this inst. and I knew that this would probably mean having to put the trumpet down. It did. To my amazement, I have much more ability on a euph and bass trumpet, than I believe I would ever have on the trumpet. My endurance is better (by hours), and my range is terrific too. This was the most satisfying manuver I could make as a brass player.

    I guess what all of this means is... If it's not broke, don't fix it, but never give up, and never surrender when trying new things.
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    There is no going back. Period. The geometry has changed, as has your muscle memory.

    Recommendation for embouchure over the internet are even more dangerous than your last teacher. I'll tell you what I do with students that come to me with similar issues and you should take my advice to your present teacher and see if they agree. I refuse to put their work in question because they actually SEE and HEAR you play.

    My suggestion is to get back to basics. I am sure that your breathing is better now than before, but that the stupidity of "zero" pressure causes you to use unnecessary face muscle tension to compensate. That is what kills your endurance and simply, our faces are not designed to work that way.

    I would stop all of your ensemble playing for at least a month. I would let you point the horn at an angle that feels good, I would let you use some pressure to let you relax the rest of your face. You would be playing long tones, slurs and easy tunes until I saw that you could relax while playing. No mirrors or other utilities, just your ears and brains. Pressure decreases through EVOLUTION not revolution. I would give you lessons twice a week just to control your progress. Progress gets rewards and you would get a plan of nice things to do when you reach certain goals (going out to eat, sauna/massage, movies......).

    Assuming that your playing last year was as you say, 4 weeks of concentrated EASY playing should get your confidence back up and give you a stable base to start a real routine without the facewaste.

    Run this across your teacher. It has worked every time for my students, but then I was monitoring their activity.
  5. chopshop3625

    chopshop3625 New Friend

    Feb 28, 2010
    Thanks Everyone. I really wish i could take time off. Too bad I play in a very serious band. God Bless all trumpet players.
  6. Yvo

    Yvo New Friend

    Feb 15, 2010
    I may not be the best or even one to talk in this area, as I've never been taught anything about playing trumpet and have learned everything on my own. But I'd just suggest taking a step back, relaxing and trying something different that feels right, if it sounds like death, probably not the best call, try something else. If it sounds alright, maybe pursue that further.

    My advice isn't going to be nearly as good as a professional's though. I'm just throwing out what I would do.
  7. Nikv

    Nikv Pianissimo User

    Jun 20, 2009
    Santa Barbara, CA
    I haven't read this whole thread, but I just want to post on this statement.
    Playing a ratio of 75:25, top:bottom is actually a pretty naturally good set up. There is no reason that should have been changed.
  8. crazyandy88

    crazyandy88 Pianissimo User

    Nov 3, 2007
    Fayetteville, AR
    Taking time off from ensemble commitments is really hard. Directors...especially non-brass...sometimes don't understand your plight. I went through an embouchure change from a near 15 top 85 bottom setup. Being a music major in college did not allow me to take time off. When I wasn't in ensembles...I was doing exactly as Rowuk suggested...easy. I was playing low, long, and taking plenty of breaks. I had to wipe the constant analysis of my playing away and just listen. One thing I did do was switch from top parts to 3rd and 4th parts. If there is someone that can handle your parts this may be an option. After about 6 months I was in full swing like nothing had happened...except I sounded better and had more endurance. Patience, intelligent practice, and listening to the music from your horn are the rules for for success! Good luck.
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I simply HATE Whiners!

    I quote: "I am a junior in highschool and am in the struggle of my life". Then :"I've consulted many professionals that seem to have no answers. What do I do?"

    I can tell you what is wrong. You are a spoiled brat. You are on transmit and refuse to listen. You get good advice and you write it off because of the moment. You claim to consult but you proved to me that that is simply BS.

    Let me tell you something, if the rest of your life musical or anything else is worth anything to you, you will have to get used to "SACRIFICE". That, Mr. spoiled is THE COMMON DENOMINATOR for ALL great players.

    This may sound tough, but you are your own biggest problem. Your path is self destruction and now that the situation is clear, there is nothing else I need to tell you. Money can buy your way into some colleges. Start saving. With your attitude, that may be your only chance.
  10. Yvo

    Yvo New Friend

    Feb 15, 2010
    I agree with your message, but damn that sounded pretty harsh rowuk. He's just a stressed out kid.

    That said, I do completely agree, father always told me "anything worth while is worth working for".

    If you need to get this change down, you need to step back and reset your aims.

    Screw the teachers, teach yourself, if this is your problem you obviously know enough to progress on your own. That should free up some time.

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