Horn positioning. Symmetrical or preferential?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by paultandberg, Apr 11, 2008.

  1. paultandberg

    paultandberg New Friend

    Nov 25, 2006
    I have noticed that my ten-year-old beginning trumpet playing kid is holding the horn at a slight angle to the left when he plays. He is still blowing great, as near as I can tell, compared to his peers (and compared to his thirteen-year old sister who is now in high school band, though I do not ever bring this up within ten miles of their ears).

    By a left tilt, I mean that if his face and lips are a line, the trumpet is not held perpendicular to this line, it veers off slightly to the left. Instead of two 90 degree angles at the juncture of lip and horn, the angles are 93* and 87*, or something like that. Additionally, the mouthpiece seems to be placed just slightly off center on his lips as well.

    (To get this out of the way), at this point, there is no qualified trumpet teacher I can call on for help. His school band teacher is swamped, ready to retire, not concerned, and not a brass person. I am trying to line up a qualified instructor for some summer lessons in a city 50 miles away, but that is not now. It is hard for some to understand, as we are now a largely urban nation, but rural areas are different than urban areas. They have their plusses and minuses. Finding good trumpet teachers is one of the minuses.)

    So, I am seeking your advice.

    -Do I ignore Gus’ horn positioning, or do I try get him to center the horn and keep it perpendicular to his face?

    -On the one hand, he is playing well and enjoying it. I know that there is more than one way to skin a cat, or play a trumpet, and no doubt many great players learn by doing what works however it works.
    (Elizabeth Cotton held her guitar upside down, and by doing so has helped turn the guitar world upside right).
    By this approach, I leave the kid alone and let his lips and his horn work out their own deal.

    -On another hand, I gently intercede and try restore symmetry and squareness, without turning my kid off the horn, in order to keep a bad habit from getting ingrained.

    -On yet another hand, maybe it is very common for players and horns to find their own position, positions that are often not geometrically symmetrical to the head but are just right for the individual embouchure.

    If this helps, I have made some gentle attempts to square the horn by drawing Gus’ attention to it, having him play in front of a mirror, and squaring the horn off so he can feel square. And he has been resistant to the changes I have suggested. He likes to hold the horn the way he holds it, not the way I think it should be. He does have a good point.

    Pending good reason to think other, I will go with what Gus thinks is best and just let it drop as long as he sounds good and keeps improving.

    And I will do my best to find a good teacher this summer. And hope the one I find is a good one.

    Last edited: Apr 11, 2008
  2. brem

    brem Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 13, 2007
    Quebec City, QC, Canada
  3. flugelgirl

    flugelgirl Forte User

    Jan 20, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    We are all a little different - none of us have the same face or teeth, so none of us are going to have the same embouchure, either. Just let the kid play - he'll be fine. Usually the most natural placement is the best one, so unless he looks REALLY wierd and uncomfortable when he plays, I'd stay away from a teacher that tries to change this, too.
  4. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    Yes, none of us plays perfectly symmetrically. As long as there isn't any extreme angles and his playing and sound is progressing there isn't anything to worry about.


  5. mrmusicnotes

    mrmusicnotes Piano User

    Nov 11, 2007
    I did have a teacher a few years back that plays quite a bit off center to the the left.He is quite an accomplished player as well a teacher,that is always busy playing broadway shows and the like.I would wait till summer,till you line up a good teacher for him to see if its a problem or just a natural placement for him.
  6. Firestas'1

    Firestas'1 Piano User

    Dec 21, 2006
    New Jersey
    My son places his just about the same way. At first I tried to have him move it but it seemed to be making him regress so I stopped telling him about it. I consulted with his teacher about this andnhis opinion was he is progressing just fine so leave well enough alone, his tone is improving and he has good range for his age (he tags C above the staff with ease most days).
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    If your son is playing at an angle, there is probably NOTHING to worry about. I used to play with a VERY severe angle to the left (due to crooked teeth). I still graduated from music school with honors as a trumpet player. My Prof didn't think it was too cool, but it never slowed me down one bit. There is so much turbulence in the mouthpiece that the angle is insignificant. The only possible detriment would be the slight increase mouthpiece pressure on the one side. If the pressure is minimal anyway, there is no problem. THIS IS NOT A REASON TO CHANGE EMBOUCHURES!!!!!!!!

    How does it happen? With my students (and myself) the most common cause was not having the music stand high enough. This forces the player to move the trumpet aside to see the music instead of placing the stand where we can just blow naturally.
    Another possibility is a posture problem. This can come from a soft bed, chronic slouching, using a chair that is too high for a desk (or a desk that is too low, causing us to hunch over) or one of a million other things. Have your boy walk a straight line and look at his body use, if there is an unevenness. There probably isn't and adjusting the music stand could solve everything.

    Symmetricality is something for cosmetic surgeons............
  8. BlackWhite

    BlackWhite Pianissimo User

    Feb 27, 2008
    i also dont really use the centre of my lips to lay,my placing is slightly left...
  9. paultandberg

    paultandberg New Friend

    Nov 25, 2006
    Thanks, everyone. I wanted some reassurance, and I got it.

    And, good news on the instructor front. I heard back from the top brass guy at the University of North Dakota, and he said he had some slots available and would be glad to work with my kids this summer.

    So both kids will get some summer theater, some summer math, and some summer trumpet. And I will spend my time on some summer golf while they are hard at it. (I got me a new Ping G10 driver, and I can't wait.)

  10. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land
    Just a quick question Paul,

    Do you breathe in on your backswing, or out?

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