Embouchure Loss

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

  1. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

    Jul 19, 2010
    West Texas
    And here again is where a good lesson instructor can help you. I don't want to diagnose over the internet, but given what happened to your playing, do you REALLY think intonation and multiple-tonguing are your biggest problems at this point? Intonation problems often go back to improper breath support and ear training (there's those fundamentals again); not incidentally the same things that have a dramatic effect on upper register playing.

    My goal is not to hammer you into submission. I can tell from your tone that you are sincere in trying to figure out what is going on and how to fix it. What I am trying to do is shake you out of thinking too much in the absence of an informed observer working with you. You've said repeatedly in so many ways that you've had no formal instruction and that your practice history has not been fabulous. Why drive yourself crazy trying to make a diagnosis and treatment plan when you don't have the training to do so? That's what professionals are for. Let a good trumpet teacher look at you and listen to you play. They are much more likely to notice something quickly and have an idea how to address it in a timely way than you can do alone (or even with us over the internet).

    Your playing will come back if you want it to. And if you do it right, your playing will come back better and stronger than ever. It may not be tomorrow, or even next week, but you aren't starting completely over at Square 1. We never do.

    I took over 6 YEARS completely off the horn -only played it once or twice a year. When I picked it back up last summer, it didn't take me six years to go from buzzing to playing at a high school level like it did the first time. It took about two months. Do I still have a ways to go before I'm anywhere close to where I was in college and beyond? Absolutely. But I would wager I'm playing as well now after 6 months (if not better) than I did my senior year in high school.

    Why? I didn't know how to practice fundamentals that well in high school either, and only got serious about it towards the end of my junior year and my senior year trying to get ready for drum corps (You're not the first or only one to come out of high school thinking high and loud was the end all be all). My intonation is MUCH better, I blend in sections better, and my endurance is better. I could play high in high school, but my chops hurt at the end of every game, practice, or performance. Now, I can play for an entire 2 hour rehearsal and go home and play some more and never feel it. It was all the hours I spent in college and beyond drilling the fundamentals that burned the basics into my memory. Also, I know a lot more about how to "listen" to music and practice smartly than I did in high school. I didn't used to think those theory classes and lessons mattered too much either, but my comeback has convinced me that diligent DIRECTED practice pays dividends in the long run.

  2. tjm127

    tjm127 New Friend

    Jan 22, 2011
    Hahaha no no I realize that my biggest problem right now is actually being able to play individual notes :p I was talking more about my problems pre-collapsing, to illustrate my general abilities in case that would help. I have good breath support, incidentally, but a pretty lousy ear, although that has improved with work. And I always have practiced, every day usually since the 10th grade, and basics as well as lead work - I don't want to give the impression that I just blithely blasted high Cs all day. I did what I thought I should to improve as a general player and musician, and I suppose that is why you are completely correct about a teacher - what I thought would do me good probably wasn't what an educated observer would have recommended.

    I truly appreciate your story about coming back after years. It makes me feel much better about my prospects of recovering. It may seem silly of me to worry, I suppose, but let me tell you - I have never felt more frustrated in my entire life than this last week. And I have never, ever in my life tried so hard as I just did about an hour ago, sitting in a practice room, trying to play Gs within the staff - and failing about three quarters of the time anyway. It's pretty sobering, honestly. If I can fully recover, I am NEVER taking playing for granted again. And hey, if I am somehow permanently damaged, I can always take up trombone XD
  3. tpsiebs

    tpsiebs Piano User

    Feb 6, 2010
    Randolph, New Jersey
    Sometimes we don't work to make Clarke studies sound good, we practice them to play them correctly with the notion that sounding good can only occur when they are executed properly. Many teachers assign them for their therapeutic nature alone.

    The most important thing to remember is that your lips are the reeds and the musculature in and around your embouchure supports them. If the reeds are maltreated, there will be a cessation of sound. If the muscles that control those reeds are not properly coordinated, the reeds can't work efficiently.

    Low before High
    Soft before Loud
    Slow before Fast

  4. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    #2- Then he wouldn't be a trumpet player!ROFL
  5. tjm127

    tjm127 New Friend

    Jan 22, 2011
    Gah I just don't understand. I practiced for about a half an hour last night, and all I did was play long tones and scales, nothing going above the staff at all...not only did notes below G barely come out (lips just wouldn't vibrate), but everything sounded poorly and today my lip hurts. I don't know how it could hurt! I didn't do anything remotely hard! Haha. And I'm afraid of taking a day off, in case that undoes any progress at buzzing I managed to recoup yesterday...where I was capable of just two weeks ago seems miles and miles away now.
  6. jmberinger

    jmberinger Pianissimo User

    Jun 5, 2007
    Long Beach, California
    Half an hour is too long. Rest, find the teacher that can physically see what is going on.

    If you do not rest you are just going to create scar tissue, which you will then have to work through to get it to vibrate again.

    Look about 35ish years ago I blew out my chops playing too high, too loud and too often. Then I started lessons with Jimmy Stamp and he helped me work the problem.

    There are many good teachers out there, including some with instruction over the internet. Your condition requires some specific intervention, and that means a teacher.
  7. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

    Nov 16, 2009
    Near Portland, OR.
    From my limited experience, I think jmberinger is giving sound advice. Do some research also on injuries to the orbicularis oris muscle. I understand they are often painless and would manifest in the way you describe.
  8. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    my recent post said what?????????????? DON'T GET FRUSTRATED WITH YOURSELF IN WILL NOT HELP YOU IN ANY WAY.
    play 5 minutes - rest 5 minutes -- Hey if you can only play low C (below the staff) to the middle C -- then that is all you do. BUT MAKE THOSE 8 NOTES THE BEST 8 YOU CAN GET.
    the advice in this thread is really good ---taking a day or two off will not hurt you!!!!!!!!!!!!
    frustation leads to (tight lips, lack of concentration, slacking in the embouchure -- or more or less "cheating" on what you have formed by pinching your lips or whatever ---JUST TO GET THAT EXTRA NOTE.

    anyways -- frustration will not ever help you --
  9. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

    Jul 19, 2010
    West Texas
    Here again, intonation and multiple-tonguing were not the PROBLEM, they were the SYMPTOM. If you had the kind of breath support you think you did, those two things tend to take care of themselves.

    Let me give you an analogy from baseball.

    How many times have you heard about pitchers who "fade late" and don't pitch as well later in the game than early? Why do you think that is? How do you think you fix it?

    If you try to treat the symptoms as the problem, you'd say, "Well, he starts throwing more balls late, and his control (intonation...) and velocity (range...) gets worse. We need to have him pitch more bullpen sessions where we work on control and velocity -over and over -until he gets it "down" so well he can't miss.

    The problem with that approach is that knowing how to throw with control and velocity are not the PROBLEM. If they were, the pitcher wouldn't be throwing strikes at 100mph in the first three innings, either.

    You know what is directly related to how long a pitcher can throw hard and with control? Leg strength and cardiovascular conditioning. Period. If you never throw a single extra pitch in practice working on control or velocity, but spend a few hours a week doing strength training in the legs and running on a treadmill both velocity and control stay better longer into games. Those things directly address the real PROBLEM -a weak foundation.

    The reason the pitcher "lost" control and velocity late in games is because when their legs got tired and they couldn't breath with enough control to get oxygen into those muscles, their body no longer had the strength to support them and "drive" the mechanics required to throw a baseball precisely. They didn't "forget" how to pitch, or "lose" their ability. They got TIRED. And when you're tired, things slip and you lose a lot of fine motor control.

    Just like when you try to drive tired, you start to drift and your reactions slow. It doesn't mean you've "lost" your driving skills, it means you've neglected another area (rest) that is also directly related to how well you can operate machinery.

    Taking it back to trumpet playing, your breathing directly impacts every other aspect of your playing. If you don't have good breath support nothing else matters. No matter how flawless your other technique, if you can't breath correctly, you'll always play out of tune and struggle. Good breathing even impacts your posture and how well you can relax (just try standing in a relaxed way while taking short, gasping breaths...go ahead.......see?).

    I'm not going to guarantee proper breathing will "fix" everything for you, but I will say that's where you should start. That is the foundation everything else is built on.

  10. tjm127

    tjm127 New Friend

    Jan 22, 2011
    Friends! I have finally been able to get to a teacher! What he told me was rather interesting. Apparently, I use proper pressure, and my corners are strong, and all that jazz: my technique is sound. The problem, according to the teacher, is my mouthpiece placement. I've always known I played "low" on my mouth; I was shocked, however, to hear that I play the lowest of any person the teacher had ever seen. I play more or less on the "pink" of my top lip only, with most everything else on my bottom. Apparently, the sound production isn't free-vibrating - I "pin" the pink of my top lip down with the mouthpiece rim and use it to focus the sound.

    My teacher's hypothesis is that I damaged the delicate, fragile "pink" after a given strenuous practice, and then tried to adjust the MP on my chops when the pink didn't work properly. I kept moving it farther and farther down on my chops, subconsciously, in tiny increments...until I had just beaten up the whole thing, and it is no longer vibrating at all.

    Now, here's my question to you all. My teacher thinks that after a week or two of rest, I should be able to come back strong as ever (after a rebound period), with no change necessary. HOWEVER, according to him, if I don't alter my embouchure, I will be struggling with this type of problem for the rest of my life. His advice is to move the MP up to a more 50/50 position. I tried that during my lesson; I got a HUGE tone, but no range. He seems confident that if I move the MP up, and stop "tucking" the pink into the MP, and give it several hell-months of adjustment, I will be better than ever. I just don't know, though. It would be an extremely radical shift, given how low I was playing, and I was playing well with my usual embouchure...your thoughts? Has anybody had any experience/success with this kind of a shift?

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