Help for the new guy...

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by ClassicalTrptMike, Jul 14, 2010.

  1. ClassicalTrptMike

    ClassicalTrptMike New Friend

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    Jul 14, 2010
    Hey Guys,

    New to the TrumpetMaster community. Excited to do virtual life with you guys.

    I'm having a pretty huge problem, and need some help. I've been playing trumpet for about 14 years now, and have had no problems up until now. Back in December of 2009 I had a really heavy performance schedule. Played lead in a musical a full weekend, played Bernstein's Mass for a full weekend + rehearsals, recitals, juries, all on top of my normal practice routine. Needless to say I was pretty beat. I took about a week off and after that did some light playing because I felt pretty fatigued and like I needed to rest. During some of the performance I started feeling really stiff in the upper register (G and up). At first it seemed random. Some days were fine, some days weren't so great. But after that it began to happen more frequent, to the point where now it feels like this everyday. My lower register is still fine. I can play relaxed with a good sound, but as soon as I start going up my lips feel really stiff and like they don't want to vibrate. Some have suggested that I'm cutting off the air, and others have said that I need to just relax. I've addressed those as much as I can and nothing seems to help. I'm getting really frustrated because I was working on a performance career, but now I feel like choosing something else.

    Any one have any ideas? All suggestions are appreciated!

    -Trumpet Mike
     
  2. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

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    If you are working on a performance career, you should already know the value of a teacher. All of us who can't hear and see you play can only speculate and your career is too valuable for you to lean on us. Find a good chop doc - Jeanne Pocius or someone of her expertise, and consult them.

    Can this be the first time in 14 years you had such a heavy playing schedule? My guess is no. IMO something happened around that time, either in your life, with your health, or subtly in your playing setup and you need to figure out what it was. So check in with your doctor, your family, and your trumpet teacher.
     
  3. Markie

    Markie Forte User

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    Mike sez:
    During some of the performance I started feeling really stiff in the upper register (G and up). At first it seemed random. Some days were fine, some days weren't so great. But after that it began to happen more frequent, to the point where now it feels like this everyday. My lower register is still fine. I can play relaxed with a good sound, but as soon as I start going up my lips feel really stiff and like they don't want to vibrate.
    ------------------------
    Haa yes! I think I can help you.
    Your problem appears to stem from a mental situation instead of some mechanical problem like poor breathing or too much mouthpiece pressure.
    I sincerely believe that playing in the upper register is "MORE" mental than physical.
    Here's what I want you to try:
    Practice like you always do but when you practice your stuff in the upper range, do something a little different. "IMAGINE" you are playing to a person two blocks away.
    At the present time I'd bet the sound of your upper register feels like its going out about four feet from the bell of the horn and falling to the floor.
    Imagination will help you greatly in this situation. In essance, it appears you've somehow gotten in the habit of not projecting(not an unusual condition).
    Now I don't mean louder, I mean projection. You want your sound to reach the ears of the person that's two blocks away.
    My guess is that if you truely do what I'm suggesting(use your imagination and project your sound like a lazer beam), by this time tomorrow, you'll say to yourself "Alright! All is well and I'm back in the game!"
    Good Luck!
     
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Before trying anything "invasive", a couple of thoughts:

    Take a hot shower and play right afterwards. Any different?
    Take a practice session (30 -45 minutes) and don't tongue. Inhale and exhale with no articulation. Play slurred stuff. Any different?

    My hunch is YES. Why? When we overdo it, our playing goes into protective mode and we start tonguing MUCH more forcefully to keep the lips in motion. That type of articulation does not go away easily or by itself in my opinion.

    If my hunch is right, all you need is 30 minutes a day of inhale/exhale(play) through the horn with NO TONGUING. Once your chops get used to vibrating without the hammering from your articulation, things return to normal, or get even better.
     
  5. ClassicalTrptMike

    ClassicalTrptMike New Friend

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    Jul 14, 2010
    Anyone know where to find a good chop doc in the San Diego area?

    rowuk - testing out the slur only approach. So far not much improvement, but I'm going to stick with it.

    Thanks everyone, for the advice. I truely appreciate it.
     
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Interesting post, and it falls right in line with some of the things I have observed in my own playing from time to time. There are times when I get to a point in my playing where I'm using way too much mouthpiece pressure, tonguing everything hard, and accuracy goes right out the window, along with range and endurance. Typically this occurs after back to back gigging without a lot of good practice in between.

    The worst it was, my "solution" to this problem was several days worth of playing in a dark room - not practicing, just blowing while listening, feeling what was going on with my chops, and consciously working to reduce pressure. When I first started I could barely reduce pressure without the sound breaking down into a harsh double buzz. After several days of doing nothing but soft long tones in the dark room this way, things got back to normal - the focus to the chops was back and I wasn't mashing the horn on my face anymore, and the next gig I played I was on fire - I was nailing everything with endurance to spare.

    Not trying to hijack the thread, but I think that Rowuk probably hit the nail on the head.
     
  7. fraserhutch

    fraserhutch Mezzo Piano User

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    I remember having a similar issue back in college where I went through a period where I struggled to play anything above an A above the staff. This was after having a performance range to F above that.

    The issue turned out being that I fallen gotten into the trap of thinking that I had to work my way out of it. The problem with this mindset is in the two words: struggle and work. The moment I got above the staff I started to tense up thinking it was going to be hard.

    Until I got myself back to relaxing and letting my body play the way it knew how, I kept struggling.

    My teacher at the time got me out of it by subscribing certain flow studies that gradually ascended only over a course of a month.

    What I really needed to to get the old confidence in my range back.
    Nowadays I use Stamp exercises to achieve the same affect.
     
  8. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

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    Did you stop suddenly after your heavy playing schedule? if so your muscles became very stiff, even knotted. You need to play really soft, easy middle register/low long tones. The worst thing right now is to force your chops to play. until things start to loosen up. Even better don't play at all and use warm compresses on your chops as often as possible.
     
  9. ClassicalTrptMike

    ClassicalTrptMike New Friend

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    Jul 14, 2010

    I stopped playing intense things and took a week or two to just do low tones, slurs, etc. Just real light playing.

    I've been reading on different physical injuries and such. I don't think it's entirely mental because it definately feels really off compared with how it use to. It also doesn't hurt, so I'm wondering if anyone has experience similar problems where there wasn't pain, just stiffness?
     
  10. oldgit

    oldgit Pianissimo User

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    If you think it may be physical problem go to your doctor (or dentist) to get your mouth and teeth checked.
     

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