Feelings - supported or strained?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by JosephR, Feb 23, 2007.

  1. JosephR

    JosephR New Friend

    Feb 22, 2007

    I would like to thank everyone for their warm welcome. As a returning player, I often find myself searching for a "feeling" during my practice sessions. As I search for these lost muscle memories, I am amazed by how the body remembers things and how much of trumpet playing is about feeling. I experience flashbacks of technique and imparted wisdom, but it's those "ah, that feels like I remember" moments that are the most exciting.

    On that note, I would like to ask what you ladies and gentlemen feel in your abdominal muscles when you play. I was instructed in two mindsets regarding this - the first being to keep everything tight and in a constant state of straining (therefore supporting the air), and the second being to stay relaxed and let the abdominal muscles kick in when they know they are needed. I have tried both searching for that feeling of familiarity and rightness (?) and can't tell that one improves my playing over the other.

    Thank you for your responses.

  2. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    Hi Joseph,

    This is how I like to think of it all. I'm not a professional but a very keen 50 year old amateur. I'm sure others have a different (or not) view.

    I like to keep things free...I sound better than when I'm tensing any part of my body to play.

    On saying that, playing a trumpet is physically demanding so my practice regime includes excercises for training muscles to synchronise with each other, not in isolation as you seem to be focusing on. Air compression is only one component of making a good sound and is more important for some players than others. I think that feeling of 'rightness' comes when you get the balance right, there's no tension and you sound good.

    As an anology a 100 metre sprinter doesn't run a great time because he's spent all his time working on bench presses. He does it because his worked on the whole system and it's synchronised.

    Just my thoughts.


    Last edited: Feb 23, 2007
  3. cleflyer

    cleflyer New Friend

    Feb 22, 2007
    I took some time off and when I put it back on the face I couldn't stand what what coming out! So, I would do quiet Clarke studies while watching TV or listening to my ipod - just to get over the really out of shape awful sounds.

    This probably is not great advice but until I could play for 20 mins without a large break I just avoided the whole "what does it feel like" and "what does it sound like" issues.

    Playing while distracted let me forget about those things and I just concentrated on taking long deep breaths.
  4. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    To be honest, Joseph, I don't know what I feel in the abdominal muscles when I play, and I consider that to be a healthy sign. Are the muscles tight or relaxed? For me the proper answer to that question is "yeah." Like camelbrass said, too much isolation and introspection can be self-defeating when playing.

    What I am aware of, and forgive me please for the weird wording here, is what the Indians (as in India) call a Chakra -- they would know how to spell it correctly, and the name of the particular one I reference. Anyway, it is a feeling like a ray of power (not "RAY OF POWER" like some mystical "LIFE FORCE"); something pushing straight down and straight up from that area halfway between the genitals and butthole (another reason this is hard to talk about). Sometimes sopranos will talk about pushing their feet through the floor when describing the feel of support, which, when I try it, tenses up my leg muscles.

    Somehow, this imagery helps me. Hope I translated it to some degree, and hopefully someone will chime in and describe it more usefully.
  5. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    If you're a good player on the comeback trail none of this is new (well except maybe for VB's 'ray of power'..that's new!!). Air support is one of those vague things that trumpet players agree is really important but can't actually explain well, it's a feeling rather than a process and each individual conceptualises it differently.

    I can't for the life of me achieve anything practising and listening to an i-pod or watching TV. I need to hear what I sound like in order to reinforce the good parts and eliminate the bad.

    Go and have a few lessons with a pro.


  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    When you fill your lungs up with air, the lungs inflate like a baloon and because your rib cage is more or less static, that puts "pressure" on everything else in the lower abdomen.
    Playing in the "normal register" is nothing else - deep inhale and instead of exhaling - playing. Extreme playing, like Maynard Ferguson for instance, is somewhat ( ;-) ) more physical. THAT is a discussion for another day.
  7. dcstep

    dcstep Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    I take this same approach, but think of it a little differently. When the rib cage expands, it puts the air in the lungs under positive pressure. If you have positive pressure then if you just "release" the air you will be able to play. For me the abdomen becomes involved only for accents. For 90+% of my playing I simply release the air from my positively pressurized lungs. I don't "push" the air with my abs, except for accents.

    IMHO, hold the abs tight restricts the ability to "support" your air column. To change the pressure you must change the shape of the chamber. If you're holding things tensed and constant, then it's hard to change the shape of the chamber and have any impact on the air volume and velocity.

    So, my bottom line is to positively pressurize the lungs (you'll feel and see the rib cage expand) and leave the abs flexible and use only as needed for dynamic "punches" or large jumps in range.


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