Embouchure Overuse Syndrome (to Rowuk)

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

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Actually, I can see where some would like to compare singing and trumpet playing, and if we are careful, it can be meaningful.

    The basic wide band noise for speech/singing is created by the vocal chords, for trumpet playing by the lip vibration on the mouthpiece. The vocal chords are two "ribbons" of muscle and thus can respond VERY quickly to changes in tension. The lips are just tissue and have to be manipulated by auxiliary muscles in a relatively unnatural way. Breathing can be very similar BUT while the vocal chords are not in the way for speech or singing, they can screw up/modulate our airflow.

    Articulation occurs AFTER the sound production by the vocal chords, but BEFORE the sound production by the lips. Intelligibility occurs when speech/song is modulated by our bodies, mouth and tongue. This also happens with the trumpet but to a slightly lesser degree.

    There is also some controversy about modulating the resonance in our mouths while playing. This seems to be a technique used on the digiridoo and advocated by some brass players. In any case, this would happen BEFORE tone is produced.

    So, in any case, there is only a limited amount of mechanical stuff to compare, but a world of spiritual/inspirational things to share. A fine soprano can be a model for our trumpet playing.
  2. FireandAir

    FireandAir Pianissimo User

    Aug 12, 2014
    Vocal folds aren't muscle -- they're just thin bits of membrane. They're stretched from their sides and edges. In general though ... singing is striking me as well as very similar to brass playing in that it's an aperture made of your body tissue making the sound, and in both cases, it's a bit of a black art to determine how it works and, when it doesn't, why.

    And in both cases, those particular body parts bleed and age, which is kind of scary. :-( I mean, all body parts do that, and all musical instruments are ultimately manipulated by the body, but WOWZA singing and brass playing really put two rather delicate parts of the body through an awful lot. Hands are meant to be used in such a fussy detailed way; lips are just not meant to carry that sort of load. Sure, we use them to talk, but there is a wide latitude in what's considered acceptable and understandable in shaping a letter W. One millimeter one way or another, and no one really notices. On a brass instrument, one millimeter can make the difference between a note and a fart.
  3. johnande

    johnande Pianissimo User

    Jun 3, 2009
    western Wyoming
    The term “embouchure overuse syndrome” probably predates the present advancing interest in medical issues of musicians and other performing artists. The increased awareness of such issues and their causes and treatments has resulted in a (relatively) new and growing field of knowledge about such issues. At least one peer-reviewed medical journal, Medical Problems of Performing Artists (a sister journal of Science and Medicine) publishes research studies in this area. In a review of literature in that field you will come across a condition known as “embouchure dystonia,” a specific form of “task specific” dystonia found occasionally in musicians. (dystonia is a condition in which muscular control (in varying degrees) is lost. It can affect large muscle groups or small muscle groups such as hand, fingers or lips. When small areas of the body are affected the condition is known as “focal” dystonia; when the condition is basically caused by performing a task (ie, playing a trumpet) it is referred to as “task specific” dystonia. To be labeled as “embouchure dystonia” the condition would have to be diagnosed by a neurologist. I am not in the “diagnostics” business, but rather suggesting that such problems as the one described by the original poster are now drawing the attention of researchers in science and medicine. If you have further interest you can do a web search of “embouchure dystonia” or search the archives of Medical Problems of Performing Artists. I have not run across any cures; however, suggested treatments and activities are consistent with those proposed by previous posters (Rowuk, TrumpetMD, gmonady, and others). It would be great if our medical resources in the TM community would add to (or correct if needed) the above. JA
  4. tjcombo

    tjcombo Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 12, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    Improvements to breathing and the positive impact on trumpet playing from taking singing lessons inspired my trumpet "comeback" (still feels pretentious to use this term :-) ).

    Breathing and body use for singing and playing have close parallels. The concept of a cycle of breath advocated by Rowuk was introduced to me by my singing teacher. The need to support breathing from the lower torso whilst staying relaxed up through the upper chest/shoulders/neck/head is vital for singing and (IMHO) important for trumpet. Proper breathing and body use for a singer can be a matter of maintaining verses destroying your voice - just as improper playing techniques can wreck your chops.
  5. cvayda

    cvayda Pianissimo User

    Jun 9, 2008
    Q1 = 2ish
    Q2 = 63
    Q3 = Ear,Nose,Throat
  6. cvayda

    cvayda Pianissimo User

    Jun 9, 2008
    I tried the shower thing for a couple of days but due to work schedule and other things going on in my life, I cannot sustain that at this time.
    I have adjusted my work PC monitor and used the headrest in the car though.
  7. cvayda

    cvayda Pianissimo User

    Jun 9, 2008
    So now that I'm into the rehab and getting back to some of my old routine, some stuff has been working better. I've been working out of the Dr. Charles Colin, Advanced Lip Flexibilities book and some James Stamp exercises. But I am loosing buzz at a certain point/frequency. You mention octave accuracy. It seems I can (as in the past) easily do this trumpet high D (2 ledger lines over staff). It is at that point that the buzz starts to escape, become airy, not solid. In the past (when things were good and working), trumpet high F (3 lines up) was about the limit of my upper range. Now, there is just fast air and no buzz. It feels like the aperture is too open. I have read that the feedback helps close down the aperture and help sustain buzz. Everyday I retry and it seems to all fall apart right at that point. I do notice there is still a puffiness on the lower lip where I think the aperture should be, hence I feel like I'm trying to blow through the puffiness when in the past, I did not have that situation. How can I keep the buzz going?

Share This Page