Embouchure Loss

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

  1. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

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    Jul 19, 2010
    West Texas
    Your chops are not like your hamstrings. Playing well is fine-motor control, and that doesn't go away in the same way with disuse. That's not to say that NOT playing doesn't degrade your quality, but taking a few days off will not kill you, and you'll not lose EVERYTHING. Think back. Haven't you at some point in your playing career taken a week off to go on vacation, or just because? You didn't have to start all over again did you? No. Go back to basics. Breathe, buzz, do the mute exercises, stay in the staff. Just like an athlete going through rehab, reestablishing the fundamentals is everything.

    Now, as for your lead playing, I have a few suspicions given a similar history.

    I think you use a LOT more pressure than you think you do, especially when you're amped up and screaming. As you get tired, or you're on the fourth run-through in rehearsal, or it doesn't work, you use even more, creating a downward spiral. Your remark that you're practicing lead work at high volumes and that you have to play monster sets tells me a lot. If you really want cast-iron lead chops, you should be practicing those licks as QUIETLY as you can, and not trying to play everything up the octave and loud on every single run-through. If you can't or couldn't play the lead licks at pp then you really couldn't play them at ff, and you were probably cheating somehow with pressure or tension to "make it happen." Also, playing softly and down the octave gets the "sound" of each lick in your ear, and the better you "hear" it the easier and less effort to play it up and loud. Focus on playing cleanly and easily, master the parts down and soft and up and soft, and let everything else take care of itself.

    I can't begin to describe how much easier and more consistently I could play lead books when I started playing them at 50% or less volume most of the time. If you are projecting well and your inflection and intonation are good, then you can do your job without beating the part, your chops, or the audience to death. I would argue that a lead line played at 50% volume cleanly sounds FAR superior to a screeching FF version of the same. Listen to the GRP Big Band, Basie, or Ellington, and you'll rarely hear the lead player "dominating" the ensemble. They are there, laying on top and leading the way, but it sounds relaxed and easy. The third and fourth players are usually playing "louder" to bring the harmony out.

    Scatmanblues
     
  2. tjm127

    tjm127 New Friend

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    Jan 22, 2011
    Perhaps you're right about pressure. I have never had a lesson or teacher, and it's kind of hard to tell if I am using proper pressure or not by myself Although, one of the last things I did before my trouble started was, on a bet, balance my horn in the palm of my hand and play double Cs and Ds, no pressure at all (not possible to use pressure in that setup). Of course, thinking back, maybe doing something silly like that is what messed my chops up in the first place...

    Is there any way to tell by myself if I'm using excessive pressure? Besides obvious things like if you have a MP ring on your lips. Is it all feel, or are there telltale signs of too much pushing?
     
  3. MTROSTER

    MTROSTER Piano User

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    Jan 25, 2007
    Canada
    1)Take a few days off and forget about your horn.
    2) Stop being so obsessed with palying in the stratosphere.:-P
     
  4. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

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    Jul 19, 2010
    West Texas
    You're in college now, and if you intend to take lead work seriously you should absolutely get into lessons. I'm stunned your jazz band director isn't requiring or at least recommending it. For such a demanding part, and working in the upper register, the experience and perspective of someone right there to look at you is vital.

    If nothing else, set a time to go in and talk to your director and the trumpet instructor at your school. Most will give you a lesson or consultation free if you are a student (and you ask nicely enough), and if you like it or them you can enroll in lessons. I'd look to do that anyway.

    If you screw around with developing bad habits to get to upper register playing, you can really screw up every aspect of your playing, and no amount of reading online can help as much as a competent teacher in front of you.

    Oh, and as a note -it is VERY possible to use pressure with the horn in the palm of your hand. A little crease of the palm on the valve caps gives plenty of friction, and I'm guessing you had your other hand keeping the horn upright. It's an awareness thing.

    Markie has some great posts on here about evaluating how much pressure you use, and I'd look a few of his posts up that insight.

    Scatmanblues
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2011
  5. tjm127

    tjm127 New Friend

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    Jan 22, 2011
    Hahaha no obsession :p I work hard on all aspects of my playing...I happen to be naturally better than most at high playing, but that balances out with pretty lousy natural everything else. I blame that on playing upstream. So I've been working extremely hard on my intonation and tone, especially since reaching college. However, because most of the playing I do for school is upper register, I naturally have to devote much time to developing it further/maintaining it.

    And I think the reason he doesn't require it is that I am not a music major or minor. At my school, if you are not a major or minor, you have to pay mucho money to take lessons...not worth it, although if this problem of mine persists, I may have to reevaluate that position! I HAVE emailed the trumpet professor...a week ago...hasn't gotten back to me...hence asking online. Although you guys give very strong insight yourselves!
     
  6. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

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    West Texas
    I played lead for years and wasn't a music major either -and yes I know that makes it harder to access things. But it doesn't mean you shouldn't. I still took lessons (see if you can't enroll in them as a course rather than pay in cash -music programs often provide funding to graduate-level performance majors by having them teach lessons to non-majors for course credit). I still went to trumpet studio sometimes. And I made friends with the performance majors and learned a lot that way.

    While lessons may not seem worth it when everything works, its when things fall apart that they can pay for themselves. It's also like preventative maintenance. A good lesson teacher would have likely caught whatever it was that led to your total exhaustion long before it got to this point (and notice I am implying that what's wrong in your playing didn't happen overnight or as a result of ONE sudden thing).

    It's a question of just how seriously you want to take your horn. Playing lead "for real" in a working ensemble is not something you accomplish on the side or relying on talent. At the college level you can't fake it or coast for very long before flaws in your technique or endurance are exposed. It's not high school where you only have to play a few songs for a concert every few months. It takes a lot of dedicated time and practice to build and maintain lead chops. A lot of that practice is in building a rock solid foundation of basic skills and muscle memory that you can fall back on. Even when I was playing lead in two big bands at the same time, only about 10% of my daily practice was above the staff.

    An over-focus on the upper register leads you to neglect the fundamentals that give you that register in the first place. If you want to play higher, play lower first. If you want to play louder, play softer first. If you want to scream, sing first. Take a theory course and a sight-singing course. Get your ear in order. Go to the gym and get your body in order. Talent can only hide neglect of those basics for so long. Talent supplemented by those basics can soar.

    Scatmanblues
     
  7. jmberinger

    jmberinger Pianissimo User

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    Jun 5, 2007
    Long Beach, California
    One other comment. How and how often do you practice, I mean really practice as opposed to prepare for a performance, the fundamentals of your playing?

    I believe you mentioned you were in high school. What literature are you using to work on normal technical skills and how often (and where) do you practice basic technique exercises?

    Check out Wilmer Wise on this forum regarding the practice issue for a reasonable schedule. Now is the time to get everything under your fingers if you are going to progress.
     
  8. tjm127

    tjm127 New Friend

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    Jan 22, 2011
    Scatman - I know that whatever happened happened over a long period, and I know that it probably came about due to overemphasis on high and loud. It just seemed very sudden - and remains very highly frustrating - that the way I played and practiced worked quite well for years, and then over the course of a few weeks I dropped back to square one. I guess all I can do is bite the bullet and work my butt off to get back into shape, and at least I have a much better idea of how to prepare than I did so this doesn't happen again. And I think I will take your advice. I DO really want to play to the best I can, even if I do not end up playing for a living. After all, we all know good strong lead trumpet players get all the girls! (Rim shot)

    jmberinger - I never really quite understood "really practicing" as opposed to "fooling around and doing what worked" until last spring. Since then, I've been working mostly out of the Clarke book, doing lots and lots of long tones, and slur exercises every day. Also power arpeggios, major and minor scales, etudes from Arban, etc. Most of the exercises themselves come from Clarke, though, as I've been working through it. My biggest problems as a trumpet player are intonation and multiple tonguing, and through working diligently I've improved a lot in those areas. I'm not fooling myself, though - lots still to be done. Of course, from the commentary I'm hearing, my problem is that I would do these things every day - and then every day I would also slam out high stuff. I thought this would be good for keeping my embouchure steady and consistent; I didn't realize it would bite me to practice my range every day.

    I'm not even worried about my DHC; I never needed it anyway, except for Maynard's Tenderly, and I was going to have trouble with that tune regardless XD I just want to work back up to a solid C again within a few weeks, so I can at least be able to rehearse without taking a tremendous amount down the octave. Then again, I'm likely expecting too much with that timetable, given I'm currently trying to reconquer consistent buzzing - I guess I'll have to see.
     
  9. jmberinger

    jmberinger Pianissimo User

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    Just work the problem and don't let the problem work you. Also, find a teacher that is local. Check througn the musican's union or the local or regional symphony. I think that you will find great access to talent that way.

    It is easy to not practice Clarke's studies correctly, and even have then sound good. I know players that have practiced them for 20 years and still return to them when they practice. They are subtle and nuanced as to why they are what they are.

    Anyway, sounds like you are on the right track. And as Wilber Wise said a while ago, he has been a professional for 40 years in orchestras, studio's and in general performance and never once did he see a written double "c". And he is called almost every day to work somewhere.
     
  10. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

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    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    tjm127,
    Of course my other posts said what? --don't get frustrated with yourself!!!!!
    I am preparing for a gig at church on Saturday -- I want to do some high register - up to near the DHC -- just a few lines is all. Actually I have a song that I want to do in 5 octaves - from pedal notes an octave below the low F#, to the high Bb, below the DHC - It may not happen, but I have some other stuff to fill in at only a 2 octave range.
    I can also get overly focused with the High notes. This week I have determined that Wed. will be the last FULL rehearsal for any high notes (those above High C). That will give me 3 full days to recover. At 46, I am not sure the whole body will be working at that point on Sat. (breath, lips, face muscles, and positive and confident attitude) -- I mean it all has to work together to have beautiful sound.
    the whole point between Wed. and Sat. is smooth consistent warmups, reduced practice, long tones, very soft playing, soft lip slurs. --- and that is NO guarantee, at least for me that it will all work right, when you throw in an audience, and nerves.
    I think you have great info in this thread. I also think that working on your low tones - from Low F# to High C will aid greatly in the high range also -- some of this stuff in this thread seems counterintuitive -- play soft to play high, play low (pedal tones, low register to play high, play long soft tones to increase range and endurance) -- but it's the real deal.
    I really think as long as your not injured -- if you can discipline yourself to not play above High C for a few days, and when you do to go very softly above that --- you will see -- it is still there.
    light pressure is needed for pedal tones, the same feeling for high register.
    play smart, play often, play soft -- and don't forget to try to enjoy the whole process of playing trumpet -- the good times, and learning through the "frustrating time" -- it happens to all of us.
    good luck -- you'll be alright.
     

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