Embouchure Overuse??

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by BORTrumpetMom, Oct 28, 2010.

  1. BORTrumpetMom

    BORTrumpetMom New Friend

    Jul 3, 2010
    North Carolina
    Help! My sophomore has had a tough time recently with mouth ulcers and open sores from his braces which made playing really painful. About 4 weeks ago the orthodontist had to fix bent wires which were cutting his mouth all to pieces.

    Shortly thereafter the band director switched practice to right after school which basically meant he was playing nonstop for 3-4 hours--he came in complaining of extreme mouth pain. At a couple of competitions the new band director warmed them up for 1-2 hours straight before they took the field. At the same time he noticed a decline in tone, loss of high notes, and lack of endurance/pain. It has been quite noticeable--suddenly he can't play anything and sounds like a beginner.

    Can anyone tell me about embouchure overuse? Does this sound like a cause? What do you do for it? (His lessons teacher moved out of state so we have left messages asking for help).
  2. bagmangood

    bagmangood Forte User

    Sounds like the band director is a real ...

    This certainly sounds like extreme overuse, and what you do is give yourself a break from playing. In this case, sounds like someone might need to talk to the band teacher about overworking the brass - because I doubt your son is the only one suffering. Breaks are important, and sounds like he isn't getting any while playing at school
  3. wolfmann

    wolfmann Pianissimo User

    Aug 19, 2010
    If the Band director is WARMING them up for a hour or two before a performance he is a idiot.
    You dont leave the performance on a practice field.
    He sounds VERY UNDER-confident with his pupils.

    As to overuse:
    I had braces at that age and if you play ALOT you get mouth sores nothing you can really do about it unfortunately.
    If he is having bent wires etc he is using WAY TOO much pressure and is compensating with tired chops this is a BAD habit to get into.
    He is CRAMMING it in to be able to play thats why he sounds so bad after a little while and the damage he is doing dosnt recover fast in anyway.
    Have him use his left hand OPEN and just supporting the horn NOT gripping it.
    Have him NOT use his pinky on his right hand on the finger ring,using the right thumb for support ONLY.
    It WILL affect his playing but its better to have him learn now rather than doing anymore damage to his mouth.
    Hope this helps.
  4. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    This is a good question but one I've not an answer to.
    However, you may want to check with a dentist to see about the possibility of removable braces or if any remedies exist. Also, you may want to check if any devices exist that can be placed over the braces while he plays. I think there is something out there for brass and braces but I can't remember what it is.
    In addition, if necessary, get a note from the dentist limiting the hours of practice. In fact your son can march and hold the horn like he's playing. That way he doesn't miss out on the routine and can rehab his mouth.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2010
  5. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    Talk to your dentist, explain that your son plays trumpet and his braces are too tight. If you play trumpet you're pushing a piece of metal against the teeth, no matter how little pressure you think your using,there's still some pressure. As for his band teacher , he should go.
    One, if he was doing his job the band should be prepared before the day of the performance. Second,he doesn't know anything about brass instruments.Somebody should talk to him ,because this will affect the way the bands sounds, if the brass are tired .
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I try my students with dental wax around the braces. Most benefit because the wax keeps from shredding the inner lip.
  7. tpsiebs

    tpsiebs Piano User

    Feb 6, 2010
    Randolph, New Jersey
    Just a few points.

    1) The "Morgan Bumper" is a non-wax product that can be reused. No risk of blowing bits of wax into the horn but there are similar positive effects.

    2) Soft tissues need to heal (read, rest) first then, let's start playing again.

    3) Playing well allows players to 'let things work' for them. Playing to the point of failure is OK. Playing beyond that point is a bad idea as one (particularly kids whose embouchures aren't "set") tend to move things around to 'make things work'.

    Your son needs to study with someone who understands embouchure development and the challenges that playing with braces presents to a student.

    The band director clearly doesn't get it and will hurt more students than he helps.
  8. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

    Jul 19, 2010
    West Texas
    To Everyone: While I generally agree with everything, remember that we are only getting one side here before we completely crucify the band director. If he really did require them to PLAY for 2 hours straight before a performance, that was dumb. But "warm-up" does not always mean just play, and a kid saying "warm-up" lasted 2 hours may not mean he played for 2 hours.

    My marching band "warm-up" routine the day of a competition lasted the better part of 2 hours before the first show, and an hour before finals. Longer for drum corps, where we'd have a full 7-8 hour rehearsal day before a performance. That time was stretching, marching fundamentals, light buzzing/breathing, uniform inspection, and about 30 min of playing warm-up. We also did visualization and discussion of performance points.

    To Mom: There are products out there for brass players with braces. Several have been recommended to you. Also, I agree that pressure is even more an enemy with braces, and as we get tired as trumpet players, we tend to use more and more. Maybe your son needs to back way off on the playing volume and amount. If he's totally shot at this point, a few days off can work wonders. So can working with a lesson instructor who knows brass players and their issues. If the braces will be on for another year or more, its better to find a long-term solution to learning to play around and with them.

    It also sounds like, regardless of current outcome, you or your son should have a talk with the band director. Most band directors are reasonable people, and not every run through needs to be high volume or up the octave. Many times my section mates and I would take turns playing parts during long rehearsals to save our chops (say, 2 of 6 of us would play a sustained note or unison melody), or we would all take a part down an octave until the last run-through. If you or your son has a reasonable conversation with the band director about giving him some rest and finding ways to save chops across multiple and back-to-back rehearsals I bet there are solutions to be found.

    While I know you are upset, and want your son to be okay, what I don't recommend is going in with the attitude that the band director MUST be wrong or stupid and expecting things to change immediately. That sort of approach rarely gets any kind of desirable results. You may not be getting all the information from your son, and there may be other things going on. Be willing to listen first, and THEN decide if things need to change to avoid lasting damage (physical or psychological) to your son's playing future.

    That you are here looking for help and advice is both admirable, and an indication that you want to work on more than just emotion. That alone wil take you far in finding a good solution to this difficult and frustrating problem. Good luck!

  9. BORTrumpetMom

    BORTrumpetMom New Friend

    Jul 3, 2010
    North Carolina
    Thanks for all of the advice! He has actually had the braces on for 2 1/2 years, used the wax, worked for a while with the Kissable Kovers (till they affected his tone adversely), and worked at taking turns playing and dropping down an octave. His long-time lessons teacher, who is very good at embouchure development and moved away to further his education, will undoubtedly be able to help once we can get hold of him--we have been trying for a couple of days. I have been in constant conversation with the young band director and he is trying to emphasize rest and recovery. We are hopeful that the braces are coming off soon--the removal had been promised for some time. While the warmup probably was excessive based on what I saw of it at the second competition and what I have been told (would "6 sets of long tones, 5 sets of lip slurs, a couple of chorales and 5 run-throughs of each piece" be considered excessive? It seems that way to me but I was a piano and strings player), the band director has been very responsive to emails and conversations (the problem became more pronounced this week). I don't think he wants to injure anyone; he commented at the game tonight that he doesn't really understand the ins and outs of brass playing. My son wasn't able to play tonight but sat out and rested his lips. We will see a doctor in a few days (the appointment had to be scheduled a couple of weeks out) and hope to find out more soon.

    Thank you so much for any advice you can give and continue to give us! :)
  10. keehun

    keehun Piano User

    Feb 4, 2010
    Yes, piano and string players will see nothing wrong with that kind of 1-2 hour warmup and 5 run throughs of each piece BEFORE the show...

    It is even less of a problem for wood winds, but for brass, resting is as important as playing.

    I've heard this more times than I could count from professionals: Rest as much as you play.

    When I practice, I might practice something for 5 minutes straight, and then give myself a break. During the break, I may be singing* to myself the particular excerpt. Giving my lips a break.

    Also, if the teacher admits that he doesn't know the ins and outs of brass playing, he clearly has no idea that overworking his brass players only makes things worse, really.

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