Frustrated With Playing, Taking Steps Backward

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Brent McBugler, May 31, 2014.

  1. Brent McBugler

    Brent McBugler New Friend

    Age:
    21
    19
    3
    Nov 27, 2013
    Virginia
    Hello TM community, I've been playing trumpet for seven years now, and until about a year and a half ago, I didn't practice everyday. Since that time I have only missed about 5 days of practice, those days were days when I was either really sick or otherwise unable to play. If there are days where I don't have much time to play, I try to play some long tones at least. My frustration is that some days I play and sound great, then other days I go and take steps backward with my range, embouchure, breath control, and overall sound... I sound like crap. Granted, I'm no Wynton, and never have been, but I am always striving to get better. Today I was getting angry as I was playing music that I can usually play and sound great at (a Gershwin medley with trumpet solos) and I felt like I was a beginner.

    My problem with endurance and embouchure is that it feels like every time I put the horn up to my face, something is different, and I think really hard to have to not use mouthpiece pressure (and I don't know how much pressure is too much) when going higher, which means notes above second space C. My tone is very airy and my embouchure feels tight as all hell and it pisses me off to no end. I don't even know if I'm describing it right. When I get like this, I play with a tuner when I first start out doing long tones and try to play long notes and keep them in tune but they still shake just a tad and throw the tuner off, plus whenever I breath, my embouchure stretches and changes. Some days however, I play just fine and don't even think about it, but on days like today, all of the above occurs, and my lungs don't even feel as strong as they sometimes are, as if they won't fill to capacity. My tone is thin and airy and just doesn't sound good, perhaps I'm being too critical for being a high school player but I really want to be better and I am tired of taking these monotonous steps backward. The other issue lies with my chin moving up to play higher and my tongue not arching up in the back. I know about slurring up taa-eeh to get higher notes, and sometimes I can do that really well, but other times I get really tight lips and end up pulling the horn to my face even though I am trying to put more air through the horn and am arching my tongue. Sometimes I can play G on the staff with no problem, and sometimes getting above first space E is a tight-rope walk.

    So what do you think I'm doing wrong, usually I practice for about an hour to three hours a day depending on the time, sometimes even more than that, but on days like today I am fuming like a mad man at the music placed in front of me. It's not the music, I have the rhythm down, it's just my tone, I should sound better for how much I practice. Perhaps am I practicing too much? Do I need to take a day off? What exercise do I need to do to get my embouchure to stay consistent, and for me to not have to think about it when my tone goes south? I consider myself a good player, and have great tone usually, and pretty good range, but I need to build it up, especially since I am going to Europe for the American Music Abroad Blue Tour on June 24th for two weeks where I am first chair playing all first parts, and the other first trumpet player is okay from what I heard on the first rehearsal, but I have to play with the state of mind that I don't know if he's going to practice the music or not so I need to be extra-prepared, but he doesn't want want ANY solos (which I'm fine with, I'll gladly play all the solos if I have the endurance to).
     
  2. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    920
    704
    Apr 5, 2011
    My frustration is that some days I play and sound great, then other days I go and take steps backward with my range, embouchure, breath control, and overall sound... I sound like crap. Granted, I'm no Wynton, and never have been, but I am always striving to get better. Today I was getting angry as I was playing music that I can usually play and sound great at (a Gershwin medley with trumpet solos) and I felt like I was a beginner.
    ---
    You need to keep your frustration in check and clean your horn and scrub the inside of your mouthpiece (especially the mouthpiece.
    ---
    My problem with endurance and embouchure is that it feels like every time I put the horn up to my face, something is different, and I think really hard to have to not use mouthpiece pressure (and I don't know how much pressure is too much) when going higher, which means notes above second space C. My tone is very airy and my embouchure feels tight as all hell and it pisses me off to no end. I don't even know if I'm describing it right. When I get like this, I play with a tuner when I first start out doing long tones and try to play long notes and keep them in tune but they still shake just a tad and throw the tuner off, plus whenever I breath, my embouchure stretches and changes. Some days however, I play just fine and don't even think about it, but on days like today, all of the above occurs, and my lungs don't even feel as strong as they sometimes are, as if they won't fill to capacity.
    ---
    You stated: "On some days, I don't even think about it and play just fine."
    Be sure you are not putting freash air on top of old air. This will cause you to be full of air but suffocating.
    It's impossible to think about things and play well. Instead of focusing on "Projecting" your sound to someone, you're thinking about the mechanics of playing just like Scotty on the USS Enterprise. Don't get me wrong, mechanics are important but not when you're trying to create music.
    ---
    My tone is thin and airy and just doesn't sound good, perhaps I'm being too critical for being a high school player but I really want to be better and I am tired of taking these monotonous steps backward.
    ---
    There's a better than average chance you are not projecting. Try this:
    Get a hot picture of Jessica Alba and glue it to your music stand. When you play, look at the picture and send the sound to her. "Projection"!!
    ---
    The other issue lies with my chin moving up to play higher
    ---
    Think of trumpet playing like a ventriloquist with a dummy. Don't move your jaw.
    ---
    My tongue not arching up in the back. I know about slurring up taa-eeh to get higher notes, and sometimes I can do that really well, but other times I get really tight lips and end up pulling the horn to my face even though I am trying to put more air through the horn and am arching my tongue. Sometimes I can play G on the staff with no problem, and sometimes getting above first space E is a tight-rope walk.
    ---
    Just damned! Quit thinking and play!!
    ---
    So what do you think I'm doing wrong, usually I practice for about an hour to three hours a day depending on the time, sometimes even more than that, but on days like today I am fuming like a mad man at the music placed in front of me. It's not the music, I have the rhythm down, it's just my tone, I should sound better for how much I practice. Perhaps am I practicing too much? Do I need to take a day off? What exercise do I need to do to get my embouchure to stay consistent, and for me to not have to think about it when my tone goes south? I consider myself a good player, and have great tone usually, and pretty good range, but I need to build it up,
    ---
    You may want to think about "what else is gong on in your life" Is this derailing your playing?
    There are some very good free documents that can be accessed from this site. They are:
    *Circle of Breath. It all starts with air. Most problems can be traced to air usage so this is a very good document to learn.
    * The Basics Sheet. Many problems are due to poor mechanics. Be sure to use a mirror when you use this method.
    * VB's Ray of Power. This document discusses how and where the power should come from when playing.
    In addition look up Wynton Marsalis Practice Tips and Routines
    --
    Hope this helps
    Dr.Mark
     
  3. larry tscharner

    larry tscharner Forte User

    1,465
    657
    Apr 30, 2010
    dubuque iowa
    Brent, I certainly dont have the answer for you. All musicians, especially brass players who actually buzz to produce a sound through the instrument, want to be better than they are no matter where they are on the "ability" scale. Im sure there is a grade schooler nearby who thinks your just awsome, its all relative, get it? That being said, your post reads just like you feel, frustrated and trying HARD to get better. Your right when you say that you are pushing too hard and thats what is causing your tone and endurance problem. Whenever I have a performance or even a practice where someone else can hear me and I relax and just own the music it rings out in an amazing clarity. When Im tentative and fearful of my ability, thats trouble. How to get this confidence and consistantly wear it when playing is the trick. I for one have known this for decades but still struggle just like you. Like I said, I dont have all the answers....yet. Never will either, thats what makes the trumpet so frustratingly fun. So always remember to be humble and realize that there are many many players within a stones throw that can play rings around you, thats not the point, you want to be capable and confident in what you are playing. Dont judge yourself by someone else or some standard that you feel you need to be at, progress comes in unmeasurable bits and pieces that you wont notice till well down the road when you look back and see where you were a year or two ago. Your a young guy with a lot of future ahead of you and it sounds like you are selling yourself short with that going to Europe thingy. Having fun will go a long way also. Are you enjoying playing? The main reason I chose the trumpet back when I was in fourth grade is because it is the one instrument that was loud enough to be given the melody most of the time, which is way more fun than afterbeats. Count your blessings, relax and have fun. Watch out, you might get good at it. Best wishes.
     
  4. larry tscharner

    larry tscharner Forte User

    1,465
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    Apr 30, 2010
    dubuque iowa
    PS. What Dr Mark said above is all good stuff. He certainly knows what hes talking about. My point is that there is the psycological aspect that may be overlooked. Im often reminded of the saying "dance like nobody is watching". So play like nobody is listening, takes the stress out of it! Opens the throat, smoothes out the air, relaxes the arms softens the mouthpiece and sharpens the concentration. Then fun can happen and everybody is , as uncle Si would say, "happy happy happy". Best wishes.
     
  5. vern

    vern Piano User

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    103
    Mar 4, 2008
    Michigan
    Hi Brent,

    No need to re-invent the wheel as all the well known studies/exercises address your problems. I might suggest making certain over half your practice time is spent on fundamentals as these are the building blocks for a good trumpet tone that is fluid and flexible. I try to approach my (many!) problems in a honest and clinical (without emotion) fashion utilizing appropriate exercises. A good teacher can get you started on the right foot and eventually teach you how to problem solve on your own. Enjoy the ride and expect it to be up and down!:D
     
  6. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
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    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Brent, I think the problem might just be your chin moving up. Stop it! Watch this video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow0lr63y4Mw&hd=1

    Spend some time in front of a mirror, and fight to keep your chin flat as you ascend. Long tones can be good for this, as can in tune pedal tones. It will be a bit of a fight, but you can do it.

    Be sure you look into getting a good teacher and good luck!
     
  7. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    16,385
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    Dec 22, 2008
    Virginia
    This will either upset or excite you. You never arrive. Plain and simple. Few post about all the crappy days they've had. There are so many tiny things you as a player have to master to be competent on this instrument! Arturo said it best, "Some days I win, some days the trumpet wins"! Take care of all the basics mentioned above and just stick with it.
     
  8. peanuts56

    peanuts56 Pianissimo User

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    Jan 18, 2009
    Are you studying privately? Trying to figure out what is going wrong is very difficult for any player. Doesn't matter if you are a pro or a regular joe. Talk to other players and find out who has a good reputation as a teacher. If you can't find anyone, Skype lessons can be an option. Jean Pocious and Pops McLaughlin are two very well known chop docs, they probably teach Skype lessons. Best of luck.
     
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
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    Jun 18, 2006
    Germany
    WE are creatures of habit. If playing feels different every day - it probably is! That means there is something wrong with your habit building. I do not think that this can be solved over the internet. There is a TON of great advice but no one has seen or heard you play. We can't "see" if you understood what we told you, we do not know if you do the things we say the way we meant them.

    In this case, there is only one solution - lowest common denominator. Google my "Circle of Breath". Start with breathing exercises, then long tones, then easy lip slurs - always maintaining the circle of breath. Do this alone for 20 minutes per day. Try and limit all high and loud playing. If you can take a hot shower before practicing - do it. Your body is relaxed and the chance of you finding a common denominator is greater.

    Marching band this time of year is also a big consistency killer for those without a solid base.


    Inconsistency does not have to be solely trumpet related, Sodium, nicotine and coffeine intake change our bodies in specific ways that also make the playing target harder to hit. Sleep is also a very big factor in consistency. I think you see how an innocent question could be completely off track in finding a good solution.
     
  10. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    920
    704
    Apr 5, 2011
    Hi rowuk,
    You stated:
    "In this case, there is only one solution - lowest common denominator. Google my "Circle of Breath".
    ----
    Hi Brent,
    You've been given a lot of advice and sometimes with so much info, a person is left wondering "how the heck do I approach this!?!" Well, it's done a little at a time. I can't disagree with rowuk's advice. Most (probably 90%) of the problems that come to this site have to do with how we use the air. Once you learn to use the air (which isn't that hard as long as you don't over tihink it) then move on to The Basics Sheet and Ray of Power. All the King's horses and all the King's men will not be able to help you if you use the air incorrectly. Remember, we play a wind instrument.
    Hope this helps
    Dr.Mark
     

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