Hit a new roadblock - throat tension

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by RB-R37297, Jun 25, 2009.

  1. RB-R37297

    RB-R37297 Pianissimo User

    Mar 12, 2009
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    For the last week or so I've been paying particular attention to mouthpiece placement - the top of it used to be down in the red and to my left, and now I've raised it and scooted it closer to centre. I've been working on my lip strength there, and it seems to be somewhat satisfactory - my range is getting back up to a D above high C, but my endurance is still the pits (that'll come with time). However, I've been noticing a disturbing tendency to close up my throat when I run to G above the staff and up.

    I can feel a lot of tension in my throat whenever I play high, and I know that's not good. I have good reason to believe it's been a habit of mine for a while. Here's the deal: whenever my aperture closes up more, my throat muscles up and it creates a strained tone in the upper register (and here, anything above G on top of the staff refers to "upper register" - I sort of suck, in case you hadn't noticed :-P). Am I approaching it the wrong way in regards to closing the aperture a little more as I get higher, or is it throat tension that's the problem? Regardless of whether it's the former or the latter, how can I deal with these problems? I've been making good strides in the fields of proper mouthpiece placement and not playing with pressure, but I believe this is still an issue.
  2. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    It is more likely to be the back of your tongue than your throat. Keeping the tongue relaxed can help in the upper register (and tonguing, too). Try moving the back/bottom of your tongue "forward" and see if that helps.

    Good luck!
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I find such cries for help very interesting. Decisions are made to change an aspect based on whatever with no regard for the big picture and the next ugly inevitably creeps out.

    I have posted it probably a hundred times. Bad habits are the major cause of trouble, and you have TRAINED your tension. I am also pretty sure that changing your embouchure BEFORE fixing the REAL problems is a waste of time. Unlearning habits is a time consuming issue. I hope you are planning years and not days to fix this.

    Wind instruments start with air. I have several posts on my "circle of breath". That is pretty much a 101 on getting first things first. As long as your body use is screwed up, your chops will "learn" to compensate for all of the intonation, articulation and sound issues caused by tension. Even although your chops may look prettier, you really have no advantage and will still have to reunlearn a ton of stuff later.

    Forget about your aperature. Its level of significance is about 0.01 on a scale of 100. It tells you NOTHING about anything. The lips "flap" open and closed. It is most important that they can do this freely. The size of the aperature changes with each note and volume level.

    Rowuks order to "fix" the misled:
    1) body use and basic breathing
    2) proper production of long tones using basic breathing skills
    3) addition of slurs with the teacher monitoring breathing practice
    4) addition of basic articulation
    5) implementation of a daily routine

    I have only had to change 3 embouchures in over 30 years of teaching. All of the rest snapped into shape by getting the body and chops together as described above without ANY further attention. Aperature has NEVER been a topic of discussion with any of my students.

    As long as you only doctor around on the cosmetics of playing, little will seriously improve.
  4. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    I suggest finding a good trumpet teacher wth experience in correcting bad habits. Not all teachers have this experience.
  5. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    Your learning a NEW mouthpiece placement and it takes time to get comfortable with it, your problem could be that your over tensing your embouchure and forcing the air through the lips causing your throat to tighten, try to relax and play a little softer. I went through a similar change, I had to move the mouthpiece higher on my upper lip because of an injury and scar tissue, I worked on playing with a clean tone but at a mp or mf volume , it took me about six months, hang in there.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2009
  6. RB-R37297

    RB-R37297 Pianissimo User

    Mar 12, 2009
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    I wasn't looking to improve the cosmetics of my playing; the top of my mouthpiece was resting in the red part of my top lip, which I'm told can result in severe damage to the lips. And while I'm at it, I figure the best way to prevent falling back down into the red part of my lips is to move it further away, back towards the middle. Cosmetics was the furthest thing from my mind in this move, and I only changed because I've been told many times that I can seriously damage my lips with my old setup.

    I plan on working on the rest of my bad habits, which include excess tension during playing, when I start studying with a private teacher, which I believe will start in August.

    I'm aware of the fact that at the core, it's the air that does the work for my horn. However, I don't want to damage my lips, which was the only cause for the mouthpiece placement move. I went into this move fully expecting my range and endurance to be adversely affected, and I didn't do this because I expected to be able to shoot out double Cs in a month. I did this to prevent damage to my lips, plain and simple. I was merely pointing out the fact that I have some weird problems in the upper register no doubt instilled by a bad habit or two that results in more difficult air flow in the upper register, whether that's because of weird muscle tension that shouldn't be there or some other problem I haven't picked out.

    I have a lot of "real problems" that will be fixed in time. But I'm working on one thing at a time until I can get the ball rolling with this teacher of mine.
  7. RB-R37297

    RB-R37297 Pianissimo User

    Mar 12, 2009
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    The advice is encouraging. Thank you for that. However, I believe this problem was present before, because high notes (read as: anything above a G on the staff) still "feel" the same in my throat.

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