Embouchure Overuse Syndrome (to Rowuk)

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by cvayda, Sep 7, 2014.

  1. cvayda

    cvayda Pianissimo User

    Jun 9, 2008

    Jarrett (in the Broken Embouchure thread) brings up the topic of Embouchure overuse syndrome and you seem to know a lot of good stuff.
    I have been in contact with Lucinda Lewis, Principal horn, New Jersey Symphony and described my situation and she said I have all the symptoms of Embouchure overuse syndrome. (She has a website dedicated to this topic: Welcome to Embouchures.com ). I was explaining that I had no pain or discomfort and I don't think playing 1-2 hrs a day is overuse, but she said the syndrome need not be caused only by overuse but also equipment change/tweak, which is exactly my situation. I've posted here before about a MPC tweak I had done over 2 yrs ago to close the GAP, hoping to improve things, but instead, everything unraveled. I've since had a duplicate of my MPC made in hopes of reconstructing the original specs but as Lucinda said, "'...even if your mouthpiece were magically restored to the perfect model you used successfully, you would likely not feel it". So I cannot seem to get back to where I was before the MPC tweak. She has provided me with Blocked-Buzz exercises to try to get the "old" feel back and to analyze my embouchure. Not sure if you have ever seen that (it is on her website) but wondered if you could weigh in on this. I think my biggest problem is swelling of the lower lip. Due to a cross bite, I've always played a little off center towards my right hand side (maybe I've drifted off even more, not sure). Well I've noticed over this time that a slight puffiness of the lower lip develops after playing (doesn't take long) and when that happens, everything seems to shut down and playing is a struggle. Range, endurance, control all gone. I'm not sure how to correct this but I think it is essential if I ever want to get back on track again. I thought maybe you could help with some thoughts, suggestions, etc. Darth
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Well, I think the word "syndrome" is generally used when you have no idea what is wrong but want to be able to say something. This is not a criticism of anyone elses work, I just haven't ever run into any mysteries during my 40 year+ of teaching.

    That all being said, I only offer things over the internet that I have personally tried and know work with little or no control instance (teacher).

    Lets start with the mouthpiece. I personally believe that if we have our sound concept, body use, breathing and playing habits together, we can perform well on ANY standard mouthpiece. I play the whole Monette B2 series, but have no issues with a Bach 1X, 1 1/4C, 1.5C, 3C, 7series. 10 1/2C or Schilke 24, 18, 17, 16 series, 14 series, 13, 11. My students also have no issue with different mouthpieces. This does not mean that the results are the same, it means that we can play a concert and we most likely are the only ones that will really notice.

    Within certain limitations, the same applies for our instruments. I can take my 1938 Heckel, 2007 Monette Prana 3, 1972 Bach CL 229H or a borrowed Bach, Schilke or Getzen and play rehearsals in the orchestra, brass quintet, big band and no one will complain more than usual.

    None of the above has to do with optimized anything, it ONLY means there is no psychological dependency on hardware. I firmly believe this is the ONLY way things should be. We pick equipment not to "enable" our play, rather to fine tune a stable base that works essentially everywhere. The hardware can be the last 2% - no more.

    If a GAP change unravelled your playing, it wasn't the gap change. Only 2 things can unravel playing short term: disease/disability or psychology. The first can be diagnosed, the second is tough - even if it is diagnosed.

    Good playing is based on solid body use, good breathing habits and intelligent practice. Even players that I have worked with that had a complete breakdown, were able to play decently in the practice room - once we got them out of ANALyse mode.

    I cannot analyse over the internet why you fell apart. Even suggesting things that come to mind can cause something that I call Cyberchondria - developing a disease that you read about on the internet. There is a thread here "ROWUK is the biggest idiot" that deals with this phenomena. I had a serious condition (that did not affect my playing) and self diagnosed myself away from a doctor for probably 7 years. I was operated on in February and was forced to lay off for 3 months - the most difficult time of my life. Pretty stupid if you ask me!

    The solution for you is probably to start over again. Long tones, easy lipslurs, easy tunes like from the hymnbook. Don't play anywhere where you are forced to do things that you are not ready for. Google my "Circle of Breath". It is free, safe and it helps get things lined up.

    Off the record and only a hunch based on many similar players that I have worked with: I think that you have talked yourself into this state. My hunch is that your breathing and body use suck and that you compensated with manipulation of the face (things like pressure, multiple embouchures). Because you had no stable base, the hunch that "gap has anything to do with playing well" was enough to knock you over.

    This is not a syndrome. This is common and solvable IF you are willing to reorganize your brain and stop blaming external factors. There are those that offer these services online, I know of no success stories.

    My personal teaching path back to playing basically demands reprogramming the brain, right from the beginning. The basic routine that I mentioned above with no comprimise, active help with body use and breathing. No technical studies, no upper register playing, nothing loud, no marching band or big band. Great playing is built on solid not perforated. I believe this is only possible with a one to one student/teacher relationship where I can see what the students body is doing, hear all of the nuances, reduce the intellectual BS that they have collected. I often have to manipulate the way students think to get them on track. I have to trick them into embarassing themselves to let go of the "I know better" resistance. We are our biggest enemies and often only external help is objective enough to get results. No teacher stakes their reputation on students anymore (yes, it used to be different). Still, some get consistent great results because they care about the person instead of getting time slots filled. Those people aren't everywhere and I feel sorry for (the majority of) willing players that don't have access to the "right" people. In those cases, they simply have to do the best they can and pray that opportunities open up to take them to the next level.

    That is about all there is that I can comment on.

    By the way, your original post had no real information that could help anyone zero in on a playing issue. No info what you played before, where you played and how consistent that you practiced. NO info on a typical routine, no info on what changed during the summer. NO info on range, endurance or sound quality. Practicing for 90 to 120 minutes is insignificant if we are not practicing intelligently based on our needs.
  3. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Cvayda, if I recall, you play a Callet 17S, which is a really small mouthpiece (15 cm). It could be that you and your mouthpiece aren't compatible any more, gap or no gap. You might want to try some other mouthpieces to see if the same swelling occurs.
  4. Cornyandy

    Cornyandy Fortissimo User

    Jan 9, 2010
    East Yorkshire
    One question for me If things were working before why the heck did you tinker with equipment. I'm not being awkward but it might be part of the cure even if it is only to define mental state. By the way I can pick anything up from a beat up old brevete flugel with a converter and a Lewington McCann cornet mouthpiece to my new Yammie and a Wick heavytop and with few limitations be hapy with what I am doing.
  5. TrumpetMD

    TrumpetMD Fortissimo User

    Oct 22, 2008
    Very sorry to hear about your problem, Darth.

    I disagree. How much is "too much" is relative. If you're out of shape, 1-2 hours may be way too much.

    Alternatively, if you're beating up your chops when you play, then any amount of time may be too much. (Read the introduction to the first exercise in Clarke Technical Studies about playing in such a way that your chops always feel fresh.)

    With all respect to Lucinda, I doubt a MPC tweak could have caused this problem. This is why returning to your original setup did not solve the problem.

    This suggests that you're playing too much or you're beating up your chops. An equipment change won't fix this. And more exercises are also unlikely to fix this.

    If this was me (and at one time, it was), I'd put the trumpet away for a few days (or longer), until my lips heal. I'd get out of all of my music obligations for the time being. And I'd also lock up my Clarke, Schlossberg, Collins, Irons, and any other books that are unlikely to help while I was rebuilding.

    (Rowuk already gave this answer in his reply. But I'll repeat it here, in my own words.) Then, I'd come up with a daily schedule that includes a basic daily routine along with simple music (maybe hymns, maybe Concone). I'd keep things in the staff, and I'd stick to 10 to 30 minutes a day, limited by making sure my lips always felt fresh (before, during, and after playing).

    Best of luck,
  6. strad116055

    strad116055 Pianissimo User

    May 27, 2014
    a callet 17? very small, no?

    i did an experiment once. without going on too long about the details, i started with the smallest mouthpiece i could play. i practiced normally on it. after a few days, i was swollen. i went to a bigger one. i won't give you all the numbers, but i tried to go gradually larger 1 size at a time, more or less. after several steps, i reached a mouthpiece that i could play on every day, that either produced no swelling, or not that i could tell. that was my baseline...i had found the smallest mouthpiece i could play consistently, doing what i do every day.

    i hate to blame equipment. but...suppose that by messing with your gap, you changed the blow of your set-up, and you were working ever so slightly harder. sometimes people outgrow mouthpieces, or they change something a little bit and what they're using no longer works like it should. maybe, just maybe, you need something a little bit bigger.

    i know, i know, its wrong to talk equipment, mea culpa. but if you're playing something that small, the smallest change could make a difference. for me, .630 is do-able. that's a 10C. a 10.5C is .625, and it will make me swell up after several days. 5 thousanths makes all the difference.

    if this is your problem, maybe you don't have a syndrome. its worth investigating even if i get a little beat up for suggesting it. try it with a brand that doesn't change rims between sizes (ie, not bach).
  7. cvayda

    cvayda Pianissimo User

    Jun 9, 2008
    Sorry, I didn't know what questions you would be asking. Let me try to respond to these. I have been using a daily 1-hr or so practice routine for the last 15 years consistently, hardly a day off. It was 2+ yrs ago that I had the shank turned down to reduce the GAP and that is when the troubles began. Everyone said I sounded great - tone wise, endurance (I could play all afternoon), and range was up to hi-G (4 ledger lines). I was playing with 3 groups (drum corps) and if they all happened to be at the same show, could play the lead book for each (given a little rest in between). When it was getting close to gigs, I would practice my normal 1 hr routine at lunch and 1 hr or so of the material in the evening. Everything was in harmony.
  8. cvayda

    cvayda Pianissimo User

    Jun 9, 2008
    Correct, Callet 17s. Someone suggested that might be the case - that because I upset the apple cart, my mpc no longer fits. My belief is that the swelling was introduced by subtle bad habits.
  9. cvayda

    cvayda Pianissimo User

    Jun 9, 2008
    Silly me thought that since my GAP was > than .5 inch (where the industry standard is around1/8 inch) I though reducing it would improve things, gain notes on the range, etc, etc. Instead, we have the exact opposite. Everything was working fine and I should have left well enough alone - a tough lesson learned !!
  10. cvayda

    cvayda Pianissimo User

    Jun 9, 2008
    Been using my 1 hr routine for 15 years - I don't think I categorize me as our of shape - everything was humming ! Lucinda stated that even if my MPC was returned to it's original state, things would not be right 2+ yrs down the road because I HAVE CHANGED. I don't beleive I am playing too much BUT I might very well be beating up my chops in my attempts to correct this. After this coming weekend, I'll put it down for a week.

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