How do we play high notes???

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by NickD, Nov 23, 2005.

  1. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    Ok, I wanted to start a nice constructive thread! I feel that I sorta owe that. So let's pose a question: how do we hit high notes? Do we do it by making the lip muscles tight - via tension (force)? Or, is there another mechanisim that works here?

    Lets use a model, albeit a rather oversimplified one, to begin the discussion. Let's assume the lips work like a guitar string. The more tension in the string, the higher the note, correct? We all know how string players are "supposed" to "tune" their instruments! ;-) Let's assume for the moment that the lips work the same way.

    There is an equation for this. f2/f1 = (T2/T1)^.5. f = frequency and T = tension. Ok. Now, let's recall what an octave is. Each time we double the frequency, we hear a new octave.

    Now, let's see what this means for the trumpeter. Let's consider a pedal C. A double high C is 4 octaves higher. So if f1 is pedal C and f2 is double high C, ratio of frequencies is 2^4 which is equal to 16. So the frequency of a double C is 16 times that of a pedal C.

    Now, lets assume we use 1 pound of tension to produce the pedal C. This is a convienient number, and may not be too far off to keep the lips together as we blow through the horn. Well, then T1 = 1. So what does T2 have to be? Subbing in, we get, (T2/1)^.5 = 16 or T2 = 16^2 = 256 pounds!

    Now, I can hit double C's but I'll guarantee that I can't bend over and suck up on a 256 pound barbell with just my lips!

    So what else can be going on? Well there is another equation that descibes string behavior. I'm going to simplfy it a bit, so I'll assume the length of the string doesn't change length. The new equation that applies is, f2/f1 = (m1/m2)^.5, where f = frequency and m = mass of the vibrating ting (lips being loosely modeled by strings).

    Using the same analysis we use above yeilds m2 = 1/256 of m1. THIS is can do! All I need to do is make the vibrating mass of my lips LESS, independent of tension. Now, If some tension gets in there, it can help the frequency go up a bit, too.

    Now ho do I do that? This is where it gets individual. Also, I'm going to add some more posts as ideas bubble to the surface.

    Personally, I strive the "vibrating aperature" smaller as I ascend in pitch. This reduces the vibrating mass. I personally do this by bringing my lower lip up slightly towards the upper lip. As i do so, the lower rim of the mouthpiece tends to follow, in part (there is some slippage), my lower lip. This means, that as I ascend in pitch, my bell goes DOWN. Hence, my pivot.

    There's more, but I'll post this ow and lets see what, if any discussion, ensues.

    Peace, all!

  2. Dave Mickley

    Dave Mickley Forte User

    Nov 11, 2005
    Thanks alot pal - now you are trying to make me think as I play. [lol] Dave :?:
  3. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    Don't do that!!

    Don't think about this when you play! do it later!

  4. Bear

    Bear Forte User

    Apr 30, 2004
    hmmm... interesting start. I was never a math guy but it seems like modeling like this... well, isn't there a strength to where the string will snap? lol. ya need to talk a lil about air, center of pitch, and acoustics too. It always makes me smile when players say they can hit a DHC and when I ask 'em too, it's a tiny squeak or small laser, and not a wall of sound. We should not be dependant on mics for our high registers... unless you are playin' in a rock band where the rthymn sect loves to crank, lol.... ok.. this will be a fun topic, good job nick.
  5. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    Thanks, Bear!

    Great point, Bear!

    Ok, NOW we are getting more and more into the realm of the individual. The inital post is dealing the with basic physical acoustics model of what the lips are doing. Also, the string model is VERY loose! The lips surround the the vibrating lip aperature in a sort of oval, not a stretched out string. So, I see it as a combination of controllng the lip aperature with a bit of tension. However, when I say tension I want to be careful to NOT suggest the idea of stretching the lips (a problem that I struggled with early in my career).

    As to air, I personally have to include lip aperature again and tongue position. As I mentioned earlier, when I play low, I have my lower lip down a bit (bell up) and as I ascend, my bell drops as my lower lip comes up to close up the aperature. But hold on! There is a point of diminishing return for that whole closing up thing. You can close it up all together and stop the sound entirely, so Bear's point is well taken. One can pay very high but with a thin sound.

    I balance with another way of thinking about volume. As I play louder, the lip aperature is bigger as I play softer it is smaller. So I need to balance the pitch driven aperature size with the volume driven aperature size. For example, if I want to play a soft high G on a picc, I'll use a lower volume of air and keep the aperture smaller. However, if I want to scream out a big one on a jazz tune, I move more air and let the aperture enlarge, but at just the right rate to keep the note. One problem some player have wqhen they go for a high note is that they blow the whole thing open and the note quits (airball). If I'm gettin pooped out, I'll go for it a bit mroe softly and then swell the volume up a bit once I've got the grip, and even then I make sure I don't just blow it all away.

    One expression that comes to mind is "pinching the notes out." To me this means severely closing up and restricting the aperature fora hign note, but with a thin sound. You can tell you are doing this if you hit a high G, say, and then try to put a crescendo on it. If, instead of getting a crescendo, you feel like your head is going to explode and the note, rather than growing in volume in a satisfying way, just teetersm and still sounds thin, you're probably pinching. Another aspect of pinching is too much pressure on the lips. You see, some folks (the old me for example!) might set up a small aperture to hit a high note and then just plant the mouthpiece around the aperature and really cram it in there to make sure the hole doesn't blow open when you let it go. However, as the volume is to increase you NEED to let the aperature get larger.

    Now, I haven't talked about the tongue, and I need to to finish this train of thought. Also, Bear mentioned pitch center and acoustics. We'll need to get some ideas there, as well.

    However, my mom is coming by today for the holiday, so I need to get out of my AP Physics lab and home, so more later!

    Feel free to jump in! I have NO doubt there are many realy cool thoughts waiting to come in here from all of you!

    so for now....

  6. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    hey, Nick, fun thread.

    So, here's my question:

    If you don't pivot does that have an effect on the formula or does the formula remain as a constant regardless?


  7. W Scott

    W Scott Piano User

    Dec 8, 2003
    Carson City, NV.
    I don't understand that 'pivot' thing either. For me, I'm either level or slightly down when playing low and pivot up (just a bit) for playing high.

    I also have never understood the tongue thing. According to conventional wisdom, you have to have an arched tongue to make the note. O.K.---so if tongue arch is required to make the note----how the heck do you tongue a high note with your tongue committed to an arch just to maintain the note?

    For me, I do stretch out my lips. I stretch out more (too much, actually) for the really high notes I'm just working on reaching. But, with time/practice and working on reaching the resonant center of the note the lips have to stretch less and less. Which means the note comes into focus and into tune. I use a combination of chops and sir compression to get there.

    What I've found interesting is how little air is required to play up high. I have to be careful not to pump too much air through the horn. If I do, as Nick pointed out, you 'blow out' the note and the sound stops.

    What's my range? About an 'E' or 'F' over high C....
  8. Bear

    Bear Forte User

    Apr 30, 2004
    I wanna take a stab at that one Manny if you'll let a youngster. No sir, the pivot system seems to be another way to reduce/enlarge the grip/pressure and/or airstream entering the horn and holding the note. I do not use the pivot system and my embouchure only very slighty changes from lows to highs. I believe the "formula" in whatever respects that takes to an individual remains constant and the only change comes in the varibables. For example: we know we must have a balance between lip strength and air flow to produce a note. Each individual has their own balance, but we know that if one is over powering the other than the note won't speak... Yeah, go Tim! Yee-HAW!! ok, anyways...

    Nick, another thing ya might want to mention in consideration of the grip is the use of pressure. I try to use as little "pressure" aka armstrength as possible in the higher registers, however, there must be a tiny amount to hold the grip and the volumne changes of air between the inner mouth and the inner cup on the mpc... or is that just going too far? Cause I know a bunch of people who will "overblow" by not understanding this concept, they will either blow so hard that their mpc slips off the face or use enough armstrength to pop a few teeth out.

    Edit: Ya know Nick, another interesting subtopic might be "tricks of the trade" such as shakes (east coast vs west), trills, glisses, rips, growls, mute effects, etc.

    and discuss...
  9. NYTC

    NYTC Forte User

    Nov 1, 2004
    You are all hired!!!!!! :D
    Do you give phone lessons?Any one of you?
    Can you help me design a new trumpet?
    Can I ask any more questions?
    WOW,this is some thread, guys.
    THANK YOU!!!!!!
  10. Clarence

    Clarence Mezzo Forte User

    Jun 23, 2005
    san diego
    :D lose lips and tight but cheeks! ;-)
    you may fart from time to time. :oops:

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