I'm really at the end of my rope. Should I just quit trumpet?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Octiceps, Aug 20, 2010.

  1. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

    Jul 19, 2010
    West Texas
    You may be right, but it's a bit extreme to jump to that conclusion based on a single post and with no direct experience of this young man's playing or the reason for the teacher's recommendation.

    Embouchure changes are big things, just like you mentioned, and the time to be making them is not generally at the point of highest stress and in the absence of several informed opinions with direct knowledge of the specific player. I'd be especially leery of any advice to FIRE my lesson instructor and strike out solo from someone who hasn't met either me or my instructor.

    To the OP: Yes, you should consider if your lesson teacher is giving you the best advice, and it never hurts to get a second opinion if you are worried a piece of advice is potentially not the best for you. You also always have to weigh what they want you to do against your own "feel" of whether something is working or not. That said, often the person with the most intimate knowledge of your playing is your lesson instructor, and that should be taken into account more than any of our posts here on the internet. If you are worried, ask your band director or find another player to take a lesson or two from. They will be able to look at YOU and listen to you play, and thus provide a much more informed perspective on if the embouchure change may be playing a role in your struggles.

    To me, the most important quality any lesson teacher can have is the ability to make you accept where you are and give you hope and a method to get you where YOU want to go. If your instructor can inspire you to practice and work with you to identify what YOU want to accomplish in your playing, then great. If they seem most concerned with remaking you in their image or you find you don't ever want to practice after they get done with you in a lesson, then you might consider a change.

    Either way, don't rush to drastic measures like firing instructors, switching your embouchure, or giving up the horn based on a post or two here. Be patient, build some confidence, and get some more perspectives from people who KNOW YOU and your playing.

  2. Octiceps

    Octiceps Pianissimo User

    May 5, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Thanks for that piece of advice. I will surely get more opinions from people who can see me play.

    That's true, but I genuinely like the teacher and it's a testament to his positive attitude that I haven't already quit. I do think that I should look into someone maybe more experienced than he is however. The teacher right now is a monster lead player but is only in college. Some of my problems dealing with the playing mechanics I feel like he doesn't really know how to help me with or can't really relate to.
  3. Moshe Mizrachi

    Moshe Mizrachi Pianissimo User

    Feb 17, 2010
    It sounds like you could have adjusted your mouthpiece position or your trumpet angle to solve the problem without changing your embouchure type,
    and when the teacher told you to blow straight into the throat of the mouthpiece he really was telling you to play with a different embouchure type. (BTW, almost no player actually blows straight towards the throat of the mouthpiece and such a thing really should not be taught.)

    Without changing your embouchure type from what it was originally, every player should experiment with mouthpiece placement and with trumpet angle to find out what works best for him as an individual.

    While using minimum mouthpiece pressure and playing medium loudness, neither softly nor loudly...

    Try moving your mouthpiece to different positions higher and lower on your lips to find the position that gives the best tone and the best range.
    Also try moving the mouthpiece slightly to the left or to the right to see if tone and range immediately improve.
    The entire experiment should only take 3 minutes or so.

    Then try adjusting your trumpet angle from slightly upward to level to slightly downward to more downward to very downward to see which trumpet angle gives the best tone and range.
    That entire experiment should only take about 2 minutes.

    You were mashing your upper lip so that the mouthpiece should finally touch your lower lip?
    Tilting the trumpet downward would have caused the mouthpiece to touch the lower lip without increasing pressure on the upper lip.
    And moving to a higher position on the mouthpiece so that there was slightly less upper lip and slightly more lower lip on the mouthpiece would have increased contact between lower lip and mouthpiece,
    remembering that as a downstream player your upper lip should either be 50 percent or more while the lower lip should either be 50 percent or less.
    55 percent upper lip and 45 percent lower lip might be typical for downstream players, but it varies from one player to the next.

    Also, the amount that your lower lip curls under the upper lip, and consequently the amount that your trumpet is tilted downward,
    increases as you ascend from low notes to high notes.
    When you see a downstream player like Maynard Ferguson,
    on the low notes his lower lip is only curled under the upper lip a little bit, and his trumpet angle is only slightly lower than horizontal.
    But when he plays higher and higher, his lower lip curls under the upper lip more and more, and his trumpet angle does downward more and more.

    As for pedal tones, you should practice them as much as you will actually be required to play them on the job.
    Which is never.
  4. Moshe Mizrachi

    Moshe Mizrachi Pianissimo User

    Feb 17, 2010
    When the teacher criticized the OP's original downstream embouchure because
    "Ricky said that by doing that I was blowing all my air into the cup of the mouthpiece and not through the horn"
    the teacher was making an extremely stupid statement.

    99.99 percent of all brass players are born with embouchures that direct the air stream either upward in the mouthpiece or downward in the mouthpiece, and their embouchures manage to get the air through the trumpet just fine without the air becoming bottled up inside the mouthpiece.

    If the OP's teacher doesn't even know that basic fact,
    and the teacher is under the erroneous impression that a player's embouchure should blow the air straight at the throat of the mouthpiece,
    then that teacher is worse than worthless,
    he is actually dangerous,
    because his erroneous teachings destroy people's natural embouchures.

    But I won't keep saying it over and over,
    because I don't want to start a flame war,
    so I'll try to let this be my last post in this thread.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2010
  5. Darrien

    Darrien Pianissimo User

    Nov 27, 2008
    St Vincent (West Indies)
    I do not suggest you quit the horn. I expect it is tremendously frustrating to have actually been able to play certain things and cant anymore, but giving up may be premature.

    I struggled with the horn trying to teach myself for years. Began with too much pressure. Got into braces which only compounded the pressure problem and made me want to forget about the trumpet. For years I struggled to get out of the staff...very depressing. I finally was able to get a tutor almost a year ago and making progress. My breathing and support have gotten better, so has my tone, my reading among other things. Finally, playing doesn't feel like a burden anymore. Of course I'm still quite fresh on my journey of progress now (after nearly a decade of frustration) and I'm looking forward to great things in the future.

    I believe you should give yourself some time to make the changes you have; do some analysis of what seems to work through carefully thought out practice sessions. Dont set unrealistic goals, move forward slowly and thoroughly. Get back to the basics as if you were picking up the horn for the first time, work on your fundamentals of breathing, attack, slurs, air support etc. I suggest looking at the Clarke Technical studies, if you are playing low in the register now, then the first few exercises in each study should be playable, work on them and slowly progress through the higher ranged exercises.

    Psychologically, you can remind yourself that you once was able to play at a certain level and that you will again; you are on a journey to become better than you were before and that is why you are taking a step back to tackle things afresh.

    I am far from even being an accomplished player but I know that if you give up, there obviously would be no future for you on the instrument and you need to be playing to progress right?

    So hopefully something I said may be of encouragement. It's gonna be slow going but the race is not for the swift!!
  6. bigtiny

    bigtiny Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 14, 2005
    Based on what you've written, I'd say you're on the right track. From your description, it sounds to me like you weren't going much further with the horn anyway, playing the way you were. Your teacher has shown you the proper way to play (at least from the embochure perspective) and now it's just going to take a LOT of time and work to progress. Remember it took 7 years of playing totally incorrectly to build the skills that you have in spite of it. It's going to take a while to reset and rebuild.

    A little inspiration:

    Terence Blanchard realized in his late twenties or early thiries that his embochure problems were keeping him from progressing on the horn. Now mind you, this was AFTER he'd played with Blakey, had his own band with Donald Harrison and recorded several albums, and AFTER he'd embarked on a solo career and put out several albums. He went to a teacher who recommended a drastic embochure change. It took him out of the game for around 3 years. He actually quit playing professionally during this time and ONLY composed soundtracks for films.

    It's nice that he had the option of composing for films, but that's not the point. Here's a guy at the top of the game who has to do the same thing you've had to do and look what it took him?

    Just hang in there and keep practicing.

  7. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

    Oct 16, 2008
    There's lots of good advice here about things you can do if you're going to stick with the trumpet, so I'll offer a different suggestion.

    Try the saxophone. Or maybe trombone, or clarinet, etc. If you're really a square peg in a round hole as far as the trumpet is concerned, maybe you'll find your place somewhere else.

    Who's to say that you wouldn't make a FANTASTIC trombone player?

    Babe Ruth was an average pitcher in baseball. He was a world class slugger.
  8. ottoa57

    ottoa57 Pianissimo User

    Feb 15, 2010
    Macomb, Mi
    Regardless of what you hear and read; Follow your heart.
  9. Melloman

    Melloman New Friend

    Jul 24, 2010
    Wisconsin, USA
    Try starting with the basics, make an m sound and take that embouchure form and adjust it until it feels good, make sure you are tightening the corners of your mouth and not the middle especially the part of your face right under your bottom lip, and practice a lot, i had the exact same thing happen to me, started in 5th grade, used all pressure suffered from lip bruising and whatnot, i am now a senior and my playing is improving greatly, i started working on my embouchure problems about a year ago, and its normal to lose your range when making a change that drastic at least it was for me but i have come out far ahead now a year later, give it time! Play warm-ups and softly, when your embouchure is tiered take a break, don't over do it. really work at learning to use you muscles in the corners of your mouth, tighten them, thats what i had to learn to do for the first time a year ago. Maybe try the pencil trick, just to get the feel of what tightening your corners is all about. that is what i can offer for, hope it helps!
  10. Octiceps

    Octiceps Pianissimo User

    May 5, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    I think I'll stick with trumpet at least until school ends in June of next year. I've gotten a lot of good advice from this thread and it'll take time for me to chew on all of this. The decision about switching instruments is only my last resort.

Share This Page