Embouchure Loss

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by tjm127, Jan 23, 2011.

  1. tjm127

    tjm127 New Friend

    Jan 22, 2011
    Hey everyone! Some background: I am an 18 year old freshman in college, who is playing lead in the jazz band. My range (up until about two weeks ago) was a very solid G above high C, with the ability to easily play a double C. Please do not think I am exaggerating, but I was able to even hit that note at the end of charts, not just in practice.

    The reason I say "up to two weeks ago" is because suddenly I've hit a huge wall. Over my winter break, I was easily going to double C and beyond; then one day I woke up and my embouchure felt alien. No matter where I put it on my chops (I'm an upstream player), I couldn't feel comfortable. My tone became airy and low notes refused to come out; my high notes suffered as well. I was regressing. About three days ago, I REALLY hit rock bottem: my range barely touches a high C, only sounds good up to the top-staff G, and I have no flexibility or real tone. There's no lip pain or any pain at all - just an alien embouchure and a terrible decrease in my playing.

    As I said, I play lead in a band which does huge sets. I even have a Doc Severinsen "Stardust" feature which I should be able to nail, but which my chops just won't let me play. I feel like a part of my body has be amputated. Can anybody give me any advice as for what is happening to my embouchure? It's no fun to play when your embouchure is missing and you just can't find it. Any help as to restoring my range and flexibility - or most importantly, my reliable embouchure which I've had for six years - would be so appreciated.

    PS: To pre-empt the questions, when I say "high G" I mean the note Maynard ends his Gospel John solo on. When I say "double C" I mean the note an octave above the high C above the staff.
  2. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    You probably strained your chops. Too much volume and pressure. To get the feeling back in you embouchure, try practicing very soft,about a piano or mezzo piano level ,while using a tight practice mute,the tighter the better. Use as little pressure as possible and rest often. I found this out when I had a early call after a very strenuous gig the night before ,and couldn't warm up with an open horn. I told one of my friends about this, and he told me Bob McCoy had his students do this, he called it "mute therapy". Upon further research I discovered Reinhardt had what he called " the stuffy mute routine" which is very similar. Just remember to keep the air moving.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2011
  3. reedy

    reedy Piano User

    Jul 31, 2009
    Wiltshire, UK
    Take a few days off, play some long notes for a few days and then work your way back up. you've probably just overworked yourself and need a good rest
  4. tjm127

    tjm127 New Friend

    Jan 22, 2011
    1. I don't use much pressure at all - used to, but have been steadily decreasing it. I mean, I use a certain amount up to high C, but upwards after that is all air.

    2. Will a long rest atrophy my chop muscles? I mean, I know it will. But when I'm back in playing shape, will a week-long rest guarantee having to relearn playing above the staff?

    3. I need to do SOMETHING, because holy cow, when I tried to play today, my buzz wouldn't start! At all! :shock: I couldn't even play a tuning note without the first few attempts seizing up. And this was ANY note on the spectrum. Anything above tuning C was out of the question anyway, those didn't come out no matter what. I feel like my chops completely forgot how to do anything - buzzing should not be lost. I gotta admit, this is disturbing and very frustrating for me. Is this par for the course for a shot embouchure?
  5. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

    Nov 16, 2009
    Near Portland, OR.
    Sounds like you experienced a rather drastic change. It could be an injury. I'd say you should go see an experienced teacher, if possible someone who has dealt with something like that before. Sorry if that was of little help. I think also that you don't have much to loose by taking a good rest. Muscles don't atrophy overnight.
  6. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    This type of problem is usually caused by playing too loud. Excess volume has hurt more embouchure's than anything else I can think of. Try the mute thing ,it does work,it might take a couple of days,but most start to feel improvement the first day.
  7. jmberinger

    jmberinger Pianissimo User

    Jun 5, 2007
    Long Beach, California
    TJML: I would give it two days, and then go to middle "c" buzzing on the mouthpiece to mid line "g". Then down the major scale a full octave to low "g". Next the from "b" to "f#, and sequence down as before to low "f#". Continue the sequence down to pedal "c".

    If you do not feel the blood and buzz, wait two hours and then try again. The issue here is to relax and not overblow for the pedal notes. As the sound returns in this range, then increase the range to staff "c" and take it easy.

    When you meet a place where there is no resonance, stop, rest and then continue twice more. If the resonance does not come back in that range after the three attempts, put it way for the day.

    Another thoughts is try Clarke Technique Studies #1 chromatics. Again, very easy and very softly. I would start on staff "g" down to "c#"; and the down up a half step.

    Sounds like you are a very strong player. I suspect that you have been playing too strong, and not having as much opportunity to have many light practice sessions to just move the blood and air around. You are young and that hides the injuries sometimes.
  8. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    as a comeback player -- I have experienced the same problems. I am 25 months into a comeback, and at 46 have a little bit more "recovery time" than you. I usually have a DHC, at least every other day --although it is not wildly clear, or loud, or beautiful -yet!!! Range is a slow process for me -- but I'm at least playing notes, and short phrases in a range that was at least an octave higher than before I quit so many years ago.
    I found Al's advice above to be very good. I, too have had days - where it is like 4 days when I can't get above the high C without effort. In any case it always seems to be the same thing -- going for too much volume -- or too long of playing above the high C.
    For me -- when the air, lips, face muscles, concentration are working well --- it is just awesome, and I want louder, and higher, and longer playing from High C to DHC+. I always overdue it -- or have in the past. Then I suffer for at least 4 days - "thinking" will it ever come back??
    I always end up cutting back on practice 3 hrs to 2 hrs or so, and go back to soft playing, and no high notes above high C for a few days. lots of very soft playing -- which is frustrating -- but it always seems to work.
    And since I am trying to build high range, and musicality, and pedal tones --- and well everything ---- 4 days or so later, IF I DONT GET FRUSTRATED WITH MYSELF, AND I BACK OFF A BIT, AND IF I DON'T BEAT MYSELF SILLY OVER THE LOSS OF RANGE--
    anyways - this long story is that I always seem to come back a little bit stronger --that is all.
  9. Terrizzi

    Terrizzi New Friend

    Oct 18, 2010
    Jacksonville FL
    Well at least it is nice to know this happens to other people also. The pressure of performing in a group that places such pieces must weigh heavily on you. I studied an embouchure video two nights ago, the next day I concentrated on embouchure and was able to play way higher and with less pressure and better sound than I ever could. Today I could not play anywhere near that. I did not push it, but have resolved to rest.
  10. tjm127

    tjm127 New Friend

    Jan 22, 2011
    Wow, thanks for all the advice!

    I do not think it is an injury, because I have absolutely no pain when I attempt to play. It would hurt if I had injured a muscle, wouldn't it?

    And right now I'm trying to just buzz on my mouthpiece. Staying away from the horn right now - too much potential to try to hard, and to want to throw my trumpet into the wall when I can't play simple things!

    And while I do not use much pressure, I DO normally play very high volume when practicing lead charts - once I get my feet back under me, I'll be sure to be more careful!

    One last thing - for those who have experienced this type of problem before - while coming back, did you have to laboriously relearn your range and intonation? Or is this the kind of thing that once you get started back up again (buzzing, etc), you rapidly reach your old capacity again, because your muscles remember? I need some advice, because I need to decide whether to step down for the semester in the band and let someone else learn and play lead for competitions while I recover, or if maybe I'll be able to be back on track within two weeks or so. I don't want to stubbornly hang in there and be a detriment to the program if it will take significant time to get my range and endurance back.

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