Embrochure adjust midstream?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by PiperJon, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. PiperJon

    PiperJon New Friend

    Oct 22, 2009
    This may sound like a complete rookie question. That's because it is.

    In going from pedal tones to higher tones, I find I need to alter my embrochure. I don't think that's so weird for trumpet playing, but it is weird for me. (I only played trumpet for one year, beginning band. I played tuba for 5 years, and didgeridoo for 20+. Since you basically cram your whole face in those big bore instruments, I'm not aware of big embrochure shifts.)

    At any rate, at this level of expertise (NOVICE!), I'm having to remove the horn from my face to accomplish this. Is this bad form? Should I be focusing on making embrochure adjustments while playing, midstream? Or am I just being obsessive?

  2. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 24, 2005
    To go from a regular note to a pedal, you shouldn't have to take the horn off and reset.

    However...you say you're a beginner (at the trumpet, anyway). In my opinion, pedals aren't really the best thing to try to work on as you're just learning the basics of getting around the horn. I'd stay in the staff and below for awhile. If you're taking lessons, your teacher may like you to do some excercises that go into the pedal register, but probably not until you've got a pretty good grasp of the ordinary low and mid register. Again...just my opinion...others may disagree.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2009
  3. PiperJon

    PiperJon New Friend

    Oct 22, 2009
    Hm! At this time, I'm playing pedal tones primarily because I can, seems the didge playing has made them pretty easy for me. And in thinking about it, it's more when I'm traversing up the scale, not down. But I see your point. I also seem to find myself having to adjust my embrochure when just playing the good ol' concert Bb scale, but not until I start the 2nd octave, probably around E or maybe F. If I try to just play through it without "resetting," I get double-buzz, sometimes non-centered tone, and occasionally a sound like a '37 Packard with a tater shoved up the muffler. It ain't pretty, regardless.

    In an interesting side, I've found that by smooshing a bit more of my upper lip into the mouthpiece, the double-buzzing goes away. I'm a full lipped cuss, so evidently my horn likes it like that. Insert suggestive remarks here.

    And the point is well taken to find a teacher, I'll be doing that hopefully after the first of the year when I have a bit more time and money.

  4. ChaseFan

    ChaseFan Banned

    Mar 25, 2008
    There is no need for you to ever play pedal tones in concerts, gigs,
    so why practice them at all?

    Some people are not harmed by them,
    but other people like the famous player Bud Brisbois had their embouchures temporarily ruined by practicing pedal tones.
    Donald Reinhardt warned players with upstream embouchures to never do pedal tones.

    So at best pedal tones are a waste of time.
    At worst pedal tones will harm your embouchure because you will start to badly change your embouchure just as you describe.
  5. PiperJon

    PiperJon New Friend

    Oct 22, 2009
    I have a great idea, I think I won't play pedal tones any more. Must be one of those "just because I can doesn't mean I should" situations. :-) I only play them because it feels as though it relaxes my mouth after having been blowing a while, seems to help with the fatigue.

    Upstream embouchures? Like a salmon? Please explain!

  6. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    As a comeback player who has not fully grasped a lot of the terminology, I will ask for some clarification and offer what I have been told by my instructor.

    First, what exactly do you mean by 'pedal' tones and where do you make the embouchure adjustment in the scale? I was told that the pedal tones are those below the F# below the staff. I can play down to F# without a change in embouchure but to play what I think are pedal tones, I have to put my lips on the outside of the rim of the mouthpiece and use the very soft, fleshy inner part of the lips to make those sounds (I won't even really call them tones because they are more like a 'whoopie cushion' sound than a musical note). But, once I start a scale at F# and go up, I do not change my position. So, is that what you mean? From your playing a didgeridoo, you perhaps can make the pedal sounds differently than I do.

    As far as the usefulness, it is true that conventional music does not have written notes in the pedal tone range. However, some players who do certain types of novelty music may use them, or perhaps some types of jazz improvisation. But, as far as practice goes, I cannot see how the way that I do it would hurt anything. In fact, I find that after playing for awhile when my face muscles are a bit tired, playing the pedal sounds has been a good way to relax them a bit and then I can continue practicing. But, I guess you have to decide if there is any benefit for you.

    Now, regarding 'upstream' playing. I have not seen a good definition for this but from reading a bunch of the threads here, it appears to me that this is the term related to the direction of the airstream which emerges from the aperture in the lips when playing. If the upper lip extends further than the bottom lip, the air is directed downward from the lips and this is 'downstream' (that is how I play). But, if the lower lip extends further than the top lip, the airstream is directed upward (toward the nose) and this is called 'upstream'. I don't know if the difference is totally based on facial geometry or if it can be cultivated one way or the other but I can tell you that as much as I have tried, I have never been able to make any sound in the trumpet if I try to redirect my airstream in any way other than the way that is 'natural' for me. So, I don't really know how upstream players control their embouchure or even how they place their mouthpieces to make that work.

    I hope this helps somewhat.

    Good luck.
  7. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

    Jul 28, 2009
    New Hampshire
    While pedal tones may not ever be a real "need" on a gig, I don't think Arturo Sandoval agrees with you on the fact that at best they are a waste of time, as he uses them quite effectively in his solos.

    And Claude Gordon wouldn't agree with you either (just as I don't, even though I'm not in a league with Claude Gordon) -- he preaches the use of pedal tones and makes extensive use of them in his books. I use them because years ago I was stuck in a rut of only having harsh, tough-to-get-out high notes, where high C was a real chore and high D was only a maybe thing. Then a drunk who was a chain-smoking SOB started playing in the community band I was in and he would open his case, play a few pedal tones and then proceed to play beautifully way above high C with very little effort. I thought (to myself, of course) "why should a drunk who smokes like a chimney be able to play those notes so easily when I can't? (being neither a drunk nor a smoker at that point)." So I asked him how he got such an effortless upper register and he told me: "Two words -- Pedal Tones. Get Claude Gordon's Systematic Approach to Daily Practice and follow it religiously and you'll see what great results you get."

    So I did, and within a month my range had extended and the effort to play higher notes was much less and I've been working at them ever since.

    So it's important to give a balanced picture regarding pedal tones -- James Stamp uses them in his warmups, many people make great use of them, and some even use them in performance to great effect.

    So now PiperJon you've gotten the other side of the coin -- I say pedal tones can be good for many people. Only your private teacher could really say for sure whether they are right for you specifically, but don't write them off categorically until your teacher discusses them with you. Many great players have made great use of them.
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    The less you adjust, the better everything works when making music. You should not be "focussing" on the embouchure at all. You should be practicing things that naturally let your face gravitate to its most efficient state without looking in the mirror. Long tones, lip slurs and easy tunes are important! Once you have reached a certain amount of proficiency a lot of things become clear.
  9. PiperJon

    PiperJon New Friend

    Oct 22, 2009
    Ah! Sage advice from our esteemed moderator, what you say makes perfect sense. And in fact 90%+ of my warmup and practice is exactly that, long tones, lip slures and easy tunes. I whup out a pretty tune at the end just because I see it as reward for the work. And so you're pointing out what I felt may be the case, just a bit of beginner OCD. I'm happy to relax now. :-)

    And Rowuk and dhbailey, thank you for the differing opinions on pedal tones. I love this aspect of music, that while not everyone agrees, not everyone disagrees either. I'll see about Claude Gordon's book, too. My daily practice, while it's not chaotic and without form and void, is not entirely "systematic" either, so I think something with focus would definitely aid me. As would, again, a teacher. That's coming soon.

    ComeBackKid, quantitatively, I don't think I'm making the tones too much different than you, although I'm not entirely using the fleshy inner portion of my lips, either. I do use a wider aperture (forgive me slipping to my other passion, photography), but didge playing has given me some control over what I can only assume are fine structural muscles in the lips and cheeks. I wish I had a trumpet right here (shhh, I'm at work...don't tell!), I could be more specific. Technically, I'm not sure where pedal tones are considered as starting, but I'm playing down as Eb with decent sound, and D with not so much so. I felt they were pedal tones because of the sound quality, so my terminology may have been off.

    And in truth, too, I have NO IDEA which direction my airstream goes after it leaves my mouth, I've never really thought of it. When I played the tuba, and when I play the didge, I mentally direct my breath and focus through the center of the instrument, but as for the actual physics of it, not a clue. And since I've been given permission to not focus on my embouchre at this time, I'm going to take that advice for now, and review the "upstream/downstream" thing at a time when I have a bit more proficiency.

    Thank you all for your insights! The more I play, the more I find out how much I missed out on when I was forced to change instruments after so short a time. Mind you, I loved playing low brass, I had some of the best musical experiences from those times, but dang, this trumpet thing, it's a hoot!

    My practice today was really much more relaxed and natural sounding, by the way. No more OCD for me.

  10. frankmike

    frankmike Piano User

    Dec 5, 2008
    my range is from low #F to high C , although I can hit up to high E at times, I cannot really play that notes, I can only hit them, but high C I can play and it sounds full. So my range is low #F to High C

    I alter my embouchure only slightly on G above the staff to play that final 5 tones and thats it

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