Hesitation in Articulation

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by LaTrompeta, Jan 20, 2016.

  1. LaTrompeta

    LaTrompeta Forte User

    May 3, 2015
    Colorado Springs
    I've been dealing with a problem for some years now, but it has been much worse as of late. Many of my private teachers have tried to help but no aid is permanent. Here is the problem: when I go to play a note (only the first note in a phrase) I will hesitate at the articulation. It's like my tongue gets "stuck" at the top of the mouth and the note is always late, usually at least a beat late. I don't play in any ensembles right now so it only affects me, but I would like to resolve it. It started with just really low notes but now it's on every note except ~A+ above the staff. Horn makes no difference, nor does mouthpiece. It's like I'm "afraid" the note won't sound, but the irony is that the fear causes the note not to sound! Here are some solutions I have tried that worked temporarily:

    - subdividing the rests prior to first note and tapping my foot on subdivs (worked for about a week)
    - using my left arm to visualize a continual breathe-in, breathe-out motion
    - visualizing the continual motion in my mind only
    - forcing the note to come out no matter how bad it sounds
    - using a metronome (sometimes works, but as soon as its gone the problem is back)
    - tapping my foot really strong on the anacrusis
    - practicing buzzing, breathing or lip-only articulation

    The problem is also much worse when I am cold. As I said, none of these solutions have had a permanent effect. If anyone has some ideas for me, they are much appreciated!
  2. kehaulani

    kehaulani Fortissimo User

    May 14, 2011
    Hawaian homey
    I have that problem and had it back in the day, my first playing "era". What I do to compensate, I got inadvertently from reading Vincent Cichowicz' writings about his warm up and flow studies and how he started his lessons. I'm going to skip all that, and jump to how I apply it. I inhale and at the very point when the inhale turns into an exhale, I tongue. There must be absolutely no pause of the breath at the pivot point and no retention of the breath just prior to the exhale, when you tongue. If that's not happening precisely as I want, I also tap my foot and count to myself eighth-notes.

    Another thing to supplement that is to do exactly what I wrote but without the horn, just air.

    Good luck. This can be discouraging and also embarrassing when tuning up in band.
  3. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    This appears to be a mental block. It will take a lot of behavioral training to break it. It appears to me you have the required theory skills to work through the meter and dynamics of the phrase giving you grief, but it is the execution of the phrase when the trumpet is engaged in performance that gives you the problem, right? So if I have this right, the solution would be to sing it over and over, not until you get it right, but until there is little chance you can get it wrong, then play through the phrase.
  4. LaTrompeta

    LaTrompeta Forte User

    May 3, 2015
    Colorado Springs
    You are correct in your assumptions. I will practice more singing, that never hurts. However, the "phrase" itself is hardly a problem; for example, if I'm playing a piece like Legende with lots of tonguing, only the first note of a phrase is difficult, the rest executes properly.
  5. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    You know, my problem has been coming in too early... which I have termed: Premature articulation. And the "blue pill" does not help for that one.
  6. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    You know, I have heard Allen Vizzutti discuss a situation like this in one of his Master's classes. He said what he tries to do is get get the person to actually plan to mess up at a point after the actual problem point. He finds that when the focus is on playing an error further along the phrase, that the point where the error had occurred in the past, gets played through correctly. Perhaps this strategy may work for you. Maybe worth a try.
  7. mgcoleman

    mgcoleman Mezzo Forte User

    Jun 22, 2010
    That's spot on for me. There is something relaxing and reassuring to the lack of any pause between breathing in and then sounding the note. If I was to force myself to breathe in and then pause, I am vastly more apt to crack the note, articulate it incorrectly, etc. It starts not with playing the note, but prior to that it is with knowing the note (hearing it in my mind) and just letting it happen as part of breathing cycle (no pauses). I have to continually work on that and I've incorporated it into my long tones and lip slurs.

    Think of it in the context of a sport. How bad is a break in the flow of a physical motion in a sport?
    Ask former NBA star Charles Barkley:
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Getting the initial sound production is usually where most trumpet players have their problems. Once "air" is moving, everything seems easier. I have found that the secret is to practice with NO tonguing. Get your lips to ignite on a simple exhale and once that works high, low, loud and soft, then add the smallest amount of articulation possible just to shape the note, Normally brass players use the tongue too heavily because the lips do NOT ignite easily enough. Heavy tonguing slows it down!
  9. gunshowtickets

    gunshowtickets Forte User

    Mar 11, 2015
    Tidewater, VA
    Didn't someone here post, maybe about six or seven months ago, about imagining playing three or four notes of a scale up to the entrance note? That would help the mental aspect, which it sounds like you've got. Don't worry, I know all about the mental game. I always have to tell myself I'm about to benchpress 235, even after warming up and the weights are much higher than that.

    However, if yeur mental block stems from a fault in technique, you may need to find the *right* instructor. The singular trumpet lesson I've had in my lifetime regarded articulation and it made the biggest difference in my playing of any technique heretofore attempted by me.
    You've got to think of your tongue like a valve. I don't think I can do justice to conveying the technique is written word and my instructor has an uncanny gift for being able to "hear" the shape of a player's tongue, so there's a feedback loop involved with learning the technique. People have asked him to write a technic book, but he won't. :-(

    Remember, if this were easy, everyone would play trumpet!

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