Hopeless trumpet players: have you met them?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by DiaxII, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

    Nov 16, 2009
    Near Portland, OR.
    I always keep in mind that quote about the trumpet from a little organology (the study of music instruments) book I got years ago: "It is one of the most difficult instruments to play."

    As adult learners, we make the terrible mistake of always being result oriented, instead of letting things happen. On top of that, we listen to good music played by the best artists in the world. The trumpet playing to which we expose ourselves comes from exceptionally gifted individuals who followed a long path of perfecting their art. It's good because it forms good taste, and bad because it skews expectations.

    Kids (most of them, let's not consider the exceptional uber-gifted in this discussion) learn a different way: they're kinda pushed to pick up an instrument. They practice a little here and there, often no more than 1/2 hour a day for a couple of years. The development happens gradually, almost without them being aware. Even though there is the band director's expectations and pieces of increasing difficulty over the years, they don't monitor themselves in their way to a predetermined standard like adults tend to. Adults also tend to attach too much of their ego's self perception to accomplishements realized in activities they decide to undertake. All these are psychological obstacles.

    There are some physical ones too. Sound production on the trumpet is a tremendous problem. For some, it comes easily, their embouchure is almost pre-formed. For the others, we have to do a lot of searching, because it's not exactly natural. I can very much relate to your difficulties. My own path has been, as an adult learner, much like what Dale has described for his beginnings. I had to come to the realization that my sound production (the combination of embouchure and everything else participating) was faulty and that I had to evolve my embouchure toward where the higher notes could happen. It's been very difficult, as this way of producing the sound did not feel as natural as the one that was a dead-end.

    But the process is happening. My bad days a couple of years ago had me stuck at E 4th space (the note I could count on no matter what). Now bad days are more like A one ledger line above. A good day will see a clean attack on high C and reach high D or more. The variety of pieces I can play has greatly increased. There is no length of community band rehearsal that will find me out of notes on the 2nd trumpet parts. I've started trading parts with the 1st book players so they can get a break from time to time. I had compliments on my tone from other band members, including a former pro tuba player.

    My biggest obstacle is being always tempted to go beyond my endurance limit on any given day, because I then have to pay for it for 2 to 3 days. I think that is another huge mistake we make as adult learners. The fine motricity and special type of muscle strength needed to play are no more developed in us than in kids who are at the same level of development. The very small and precise muscles of the face also do not give the same kind of feedback as the large ones we use when exercising. Fatigue is most readily detected through sound quality and the difficulty or impossibility of getting a note to come out, not by the sensation in the muscles. When fatigue happens, the worst thing to do is to try to force it. You may have done more harm than good by" trying everything" to make that G come out, making its absence a self reinforcing process.

    Even though we are adults, we can't start by throwing ourselves into 60 or 90 min sessions every day and expect progress to happen. This in fact leads to a never ending plateau. I've had much better results by keeping my practice sessions shorter. Ideally, 3 times 20 minutes, with plenty of time in between, is best.

    I'll add this to conlude: my progress has been associated with lessons taken from a very reputable teacher. He did not seem too interested in my range issues but the first thing he told me was that my sound was all but absent. Ever since, it's been the focus of my learning with him. The difference after a couple of years is huge. I know that most of what I have learned with him (which goes way beyond the sound production) is stuff that I could either have never understood, or that would have taken years of searching.

    Last thing: check out Greg's mystery to mastery video series. It has some of the most useful stuff on sound production I have seen anywhere.
    coolerdave likes this.
  2. Comeback

    Comeback Forte User

    Jun 22, 2011
    Fort Wayne, IN

    I am an adult educator here in the U.S., and I was thinking about your situation a short time ago because there are many players with similar difficulties.

    If you indeed initiate a program where you are trying a couple different mouthpieces for a protracted period of time, I suggest you consider journaling about your experiences. This would not take long. You could describe your playing status as you begin with each mouthpiece and write about your impressions during each trial period and what effect upon your playing each mouthpiece had. When you feel you are done with youir trials, you will have a clear sense of why whatever choice you make going forward is the best one. Further, when future periods of frustration occur, and they always will, you can return to your journal and find assurance about your choice and encouragement for continuing with it.

  3. DiaxII

    DiaxII Pianissimo User

    Oct 22, 2009
    Thank you everyone for your encouragement! Great stories by the way!

    You know this thread forced me to think of what I might be doing wrong. I tell you what: for the last three months or so I've been tucking my lower lip under my upper lip. I noticed it when going to my upper notes and then removing the MP and watching my lips.

    I think this is bad but I somehow decided for myself I'd try to go with this embouchure. This is an easier way for me to go up within my current range. I know I'm doing this and I know it could be a problem but for some reason I resisted to address this. Sort of self-deception. You know why? Because when I tried some time ago over this period to set my lips in one plane with no lip in front of the other I couldn't make a sound that way.

    Anyway, should I experiment playing with my lips set equally against the MP? This is not the easiest way for me because I have a very slight ovebite.

    I tried to move my lower jaw forward today to provide support for the lower lip and it works. After twenty minutes adjusting to this new setting I could go up to middle C scale-wise and I've been able to slur up to... guess what? my favority top line F. The sound has thinned out and it doesn't feel as natural as the lower lip tucked under the upper lip but it's doable. Should I try to go this way?
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
  4. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    Peter, I stated my highlighted years were in the 1950s only to the effect that I was most active playing then ... in high school and also otherwise in the community and church and now and then some gigs. Too, I was even pushed harder with longer sessions by my tutor (Remember, he was also my high school band director.) Too, I could not escape, whereas my Mother would often accompany me on piano. I'm now retired and do not aspire to gigs, but will solo now and again in church or sound Taps when asked.

    DiazII, even having now been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) with other severe health conditions, and now at age 77, I seldom practice less than 2 hours of actual lip time which is play 30 minutes, rest 15 minutes, play 30 minutes, rest 15 minutes, play 30 minutes, rest 15 minutes, play 30 minutes for a total of 3 hours duration.

    Tonight, I'm taking the 4 young boys I tutor to a concert of the U.S. Army Field Band and Chorale from Washington DC who are appearing in Roanoke Rapids NC. I'll host them to supper at Wendy's before the concert. Yeah, too their parents pay me no fee tonight.
    coolerdave likes this.
  5. DiaxII

    DiaxII Pianissimo User

    Oct 22, 2009
    Ed, you are the man!
  6. DiaxII

    DiaxII Pianissimo User

    Oct 22, 2009
    Jim, good idea and indeed it's a good idea to write down the playing experience because I remember I had great days along the way when I needed no encouragement and I thought that I was on the right track. It's bad to be a moody person, you know but it's not my fault. It's simply my temperament I'm born with.
  7. DiaxII

    DiaxII Pianissimo User

    Oct 22, 2009
    I've just re-read this. Thanks for an interesting exercise but I'm not sure I'm getting it right:

    > ...work on slurring from low C to high E with nice, long tones...
    Is it about the E above high C? I can only go up to top line F as my limit.

    > ...When you get down to F#, try to add the next note up. You're just playing a high C# now, but keep on adding that harmonic back as you climb up the semitones.
    This sounds interesting but I fail to decipher it. Is it about high C# above the high C?
    OK, if I play Low F# 1-2-3, the next partial is Low C# 1-2-3, I agree, then what do I do next? Could you please rephrase the instructions if possible? Do I keep going up or add a note to Low C# by dropping the second valve? Sorry for misunderstanding.
  8. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    Any adult in good physical shape using decent mechanics should be able to play a G after a a few months of practicing.

    It's tough to pinpoint what your problem is. If you are really wanting to stick with the trumpet then find yourself a professional
    trumpet instructor that can hear and watch you play in person.

    As for your lower lip, well, I wouldn't worry too much about that. Lot's of people play with a wide variety of how much the
    lower lip is in or out. Do a google search on some really good trumpet players and you'll see all sorts of variations.

    Again, without a pro teacher it's hard to say if you lip setting would be an issue.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
  9. RRVancil

    RRVancil Piano User

    Sep 24, 2009
    Littleton, Colorado
    Okay D, You have gotten a lot of great information and suggestions, and I know this because I've tried most of them. I'm a returning trumpeter (took about 20years off) and when I came back I found that many of the things I had been thought were wrong. I found a teacher that helped me start all over and that is where I learned that the embouchure is everything. Since you are teaching yourself, Google trumpet embouchure and do some research. I think you will find some techniques that will work better for you. I found two that are similar and work for me. They are the Stevens-Costello method and The Balanced Embouchure by J. Smiley. I like the BE, the text is to the point with pictures, lessons and a play along disc. My tone, range and endurance has improved and it's fun to try and keep up with the kids on the recording.

    Like so many have told you, you have got to have fun and give it time or you'll quit. Or should I say you'll try to quit . There are too many people here that aren't going to let you. ;) Another tool you can use since there isn't a community band nearby is the various play along recording such as Music Minus One. Lots of different types of music and with a little excitement as you play you will improve.

    I too recommend use only one horn, one mouthpiece (something like a Bach 3C, 5C, or 7C) make your practice sessions productive (don't go by the clock) and find a good teacher(one that works for you, if they don't find someone else).

    Finally, you said that you play the sax and clarinet, while the way we read the music is the same, the instruments are totally different . You bite those sad things, a trumpet you kiss. :)

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