Fundamental issues

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Doits., Nov 27, 2016.

  1. Doits.

    Doits. New Friend

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    Nov 26, 2016
    Hello all you trumpeters. I have been utilizing this forum for a while now to gain some insight into my playing, and now I have decided that I need some help of my own. I am a high school player, and have been playing for 4 years now. From the beginning of my playing, I have seemingly had natural facility in having a very clear, open tone, and also in developing a broad range fairly quickly. I could play up to about a high A after my first year of playing, a solid high C and D after 3 years, and now up to a fairly consistent double G and a DHC that I can employ successfully about 40% of the time. My range is not ascribable to using excess pressure nor to any improper methods such as smiling or pinching. The problem is, about two years after beginning to play, the only thing I cared about or even practiced was this high range. I remember being happy that I finally "got it" when in reality I was smiling a ridiculous amount to get these high notes out. At that point, my embouchure completely transforms from a downward pucker form to a smiling form. This allowed me to play high very easily, and very loudly. Frankly, it is necessary for me to play very loud simply because I am the only semi-capable trumpet player in my school band.

    But recently, now that I have gotten the Arban's book and begun to really take an interest in my playing, I've noticed that these years of solely practicing high notes has not led to good playing at all. I first noticed that people have described the action of single tonguing as the tongue hitting behind the top teeth. I thought that that was what I was doing. In reality, my tongue is going between my to and bottom teeth when tonguing. My double tonguing is terrible, and non-existent for anything outside the staff. I tried tonguing the proper way, the "tee" with the tongue hitting behind the top teeth, but it feels strange and simply does not work. This explains why tonguing has been difficult for me. Only now that I need to tongue quickly has this become apparent; everything I've played so far is simply melodies. The other main problem is that now I naturally play extremely loud. My mezzo forte is likely your fortissimo. I am unable to play quieter than mf really. I can play ridiculously loud. Another problem: double buzz. I get double buzz nearly anywhere within the staff. Sometimes I play a low C and the pedal C comes out. The sad part is that I had excellent dynamic abilities before I changed. While I couldn't play higher than A or B flat, I could play middle register pieces with unbelievable dynamic control and nuance, and without double buzz and blatty sounds. The double buzz was literally never a problem until I made the embouchure change.

    I tried playing the simplest of passages today. I recorded myself to see how I truly sounded from a listener's perspective. I am a terrific sight reader, but my tonguing is so forceful that when I try to tongue softly, I crack all over the place, and get more double buzz the quieter I try to play. I noticed that I sounded unmusical. How do I fix my tonguing if the way I am doing it is the only possible way? How can I learn to play quietly and expressively like I used to? I play on a rather large mouthpiece if that is relevant.
     
  2. Bflatman

    Bflatman Mezzo Forte User

    975
    1,092
    Nov 27, 2008
    Manchester, England
    I am a bit surprised nobody has answered this. I am not a teacher so my comments are just personal dont take them to heart.

    First you are having major problems but you seem to be recognising that now which is good. It seems that you are doing everything the wrong way. The quickest way forward is with a teacher so get one. You cannot use any excuse to avoid it, you have wasted 4 years of your life so fix it.

    Second. You are doing everything wrong, after a few months you should be able to play softly and musically but you cannot. A lengthy break destroys the ability to play thats why lengthy breaks are bad but you can use this to break your bad habits, a lengthy break might be just what you need. Put the horn down and go watch some movies, listen to singers, listen to orchestral players, listen to good musicians, re-educate your ears, dont listen to any trumpeters.

    Third, after 2 months rest, your old habits will be in the past but easy to replicate again. Now is the time to be strong. Begin afresh as though a raw beginner. Practice as gently and as softly and as musically as you can. begin with single notes but played as beautifully and softly as you can, you must play as soft as a mouse so you cannot be heard in the next room. Then move to playing a scale, make this scale as beautiful in tone as possible and as soft and gentle as a whisper. You must play every note from this point on as soft as musical and as lyrical as you can.

    Fourth obey your teacher even if you dont think he or she is right. If you cannot find a teacher then play as beautifully as you can. Be led by the tone.

    You have given yourself 4 years and failed, give a teacher at least 4 weeks, you should see the benefit.

    Believe me this loud playing is for numbskulls and meatheads. I was recently playing near to a loud player, I play soft and gentle, a movie crew appeared and wanted to film some musicians in the city. It was between me and the loud player, you can guess who they chose to appear in their movie. You must fix this and abandon loud playing.

    You can fix it I wish you the very best, I know you can do it.
     
  3. namatjira

    namatjira Pianissimo User

    101
    108
    Apr 25, 2013
    England
    Bflatman gave you a very good roadmap to getting back on track with your trumpet playing. I'd like to add a couple of things to that based on the relearning I had to do after a double stroke.

    1) if you absolutely must pick up your trumpet during the 2 month break he suggested - forget scales, sheet music etc. Just try playing long notes as quietly as you can. Imagine you have a sleeping baby in the room and if you wake the baby you get to change all its nappies for a week. For the initial long notes pick something in the sweet spot of your range. For most people this is likely to be somewhere around G on the stave. Avoid the very high or very low notes at first as they will be more challenging to play softly. Try to build up to playing to a count of 16 - 20 per note as softly and evenly as you can. If you have a smartphone you can probably get a free sound decibel app that will help you put some numbers on your volume. See how low you can get the numbers. Then try to maintain the notes at an even volume. You will be surprised at how much this will improve your control and improve the sound quality. All without playing a single tune or riff.

    2) strengthen your lips by holding a pencil between them (but not using your teeth). This will help maintain and build lip strength for when your 2 month habit breaker interval is over. The pencil should be pointing straight out away from your face. Ideally try to hold it steady. Time how long you can do it and give yourself a few minutes break between each try, repeat several times but don't overdo it. Maybe 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening will be enough.

    3) light a candle (the size used during power failures) and from about 15 inches away using drinking straw try to bend the flame with your breath and not putting it out. Give yourself high marks if you can bend the flame a constant amount. Time how long you can hold it steady. The end of the straw should be about 6 inches or so away from the flame.

    The big advantage of these exercises is that they will most likely be quite different from your previous ones, they directly help control, and build both strength on your lip and cheek muscles, they can also be the subject of much amusement to your friends until you challenge them to do the same. No relevant bad habits to unlearn and when your 2 month break is over you will be pleased with how beneficial it is towards developing new better playing habits no range.

    Good luck.
     

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