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. Octiceps

    Octiceps Pianissimo User

    May 5, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Actually, I am still playing 1st trumpet. I can still hit the range I had previously by applying pressure, which is what I do during school rehearsal. When I get home, I try to practice the "correct" way.

    My band director doesn't have a clue about the problems I'm going through right now and, frankly, I don't want to explain them to him. He's also a (very good) trumpet player and tends to be really harsh and demanding on the trumpet players he has. I've talked to him before about other mechanics related issues and had taken private lessons from him two summers ago (that I neglected to mention in my original post) and he was no help whatsoever.

    I don't know what school you went to, kcmt01, but there is only one band class at our school and it has about 25 people in it and 3 trumpets (including me). Many kids drop the class over the years due to this band director's bad attitude and lack of responsibility. Music in general has been going downhill at my school every year due to his, dare I say, immaturity, since he is the one person teaching everything from choir to orchestra to wind ensemble to jazz band.

    I can already sight-read, articulate, keep time, etc. better than the other trumpets and most of the people in band. However, range is my biggest inhibitor right now and my limited range negatively affects other aspects of my playing, such as improvisation. How can I improv well when I always have to be thinking about what notes I can or cannot play and am worried about not being able to hit certain ones? My fundamentals really need to be worked on right now and I sometimes feel that everything else in my playing is miles ahead of my range.
  2. Dark Knight

    Dark Knight Pianissimo User

    Apr 7, 2010
    Perhaps this perspective may help. I went to the trumpet professor at my university for a “free” hour lesson. The only thing he did was teach me how to set my chops by creating a jet stream of air. This involved doing the very thing you were told “not” to do. That is, very slightly curling my lips over my teeth. Then, with lip “initially” touching, blowing a jet stream of air while I learned to gradually plant the mouthpiece on my lips in a comfortable seat which produced the best tone. While doing this, notes in the higher range were much easier to play without excess pressure. Ironically, range below low C required much more effort and re-learning.

    The professor said that the lips should not touch before planting the mouthpiece. They are slightly apart as if forced apart by the jet stream of air and that is supposed to be the set. He was dead set against buzzing the lips to make the sound on the mouthpiece because he could hear my lips touching the inside of the mouthpiece, which is “not” a clean sound. The frustrating thing here is that I cannot buzz on the mouthpiece alone with this embouchure; I need the resistance of the entire horn. Nor, can I free buzz with the embouchure. I can easily do both by making the lips touch and do so as part of my off horn exercises for breathing and training the muscles of the embouchure. All this aside, I do sense that it was a cleaner sound.

    It has and is still a very difficult process of retaining, but coming along with persistence and patience. WE ALL have to have persistence and patience to persevere through the ups and downs of the learning process. The professor said that if I wanted to go further, I had to use an embouchure which relies on air to get the job. That seems to be what you already had.

    I am not exactly sure how pedal tones became part of this. After reading this thread, I am more confused about what to do with pedal tones than ever before. At present I use them to just warm down, not as part of any exercise. My chops always like warming down with them. Perhaps they are totally unnecessary and I could say myself some valuable lesson time.

    While traveling for business this past week, I brought my trumpet to practice. The Biltmore Hotel in Providence was kind enough to let me use their grand banquet room during my stay. Just me and a completely huge, empty room with beautiful ecoustics. I remembered why I love the trumpet on those days, for sure!

    Best Wishes,

  3. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    Octiceps, I've read all the posts to your OP. I've been teaching private trumpet lessons for 32 years. Here's my 2 cents. You say your teacher is the lead player in the university jazz band. I'm sure he's a very nice person and a good player. I'm sure he's sincere in wanting to help you. But there are a number of problems that I see. In all the years and hundreds of students I taught I've only had to change a students embouchure a handful of times. It's usually not neccessary. I've seen a lot of students messed up because an inexperienced teacher taught to a single rigid method that may have worked for them or that they were taught by their teacher. There are too many ways we are all different. I've never seen one method that works for everybody and I know all of the methods out there. There's much more to an embouchure change that what to do and why to do it. The most important lessons are HOW to do it. With an embochure change the key is for the teacher to have a complete understanding of how the embouchure functions and most importantly how the muscles learn new skills.

    My recommendation is get a second opinion from an EXPERIENCED teacher with a proven record of fixing chop problems. I would be glad to take a look at you via webcam. The first one's free.
  4. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010
    I think it is interesting that Arban recommended a mouthpiece placement with the the top lip 1/3 and the bottom lip 2/3's in the mouth piece, but the later editor put in a foot note that said that this has been proven wrong and that the only correct position is 1/2 1/2...

    I mean Arban.
  5. wolfmann

    wolfmann Pianissimo User

    Aug 19, 2010
    Guess Ill add a few things.
    When I talked about using too much pressure what was taught to me was to be used during practice not while playing.Hopefully I didnt confuse people.

    As Far as RELAX means?
    I dont know what others may refer to the meaning but this is mine:
    By relaxing I mean that sometimes you try SO hard you dont get anywhere.
    Its actually a good thing to care THAT much,it just has its drawbacks.

    Moshe You seem to have your mind set and thats cool but you kinda came off angry in your posts.

    Now as to Maynard when I was around him he used his left hand to cup it under the Third vale slide and only used his first finger above the slide,I have even seen him just cup his hand under the valves holding the horn that way,I asked him about it and he said he did it so he didnt try and pull the horn into him.I have just recently seen some vids where he uses a traditional hold,what that really means I dont know but to hazard a guess Id say ever a great like himself would try new things.
  6. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010
    Also as far as sax vs. trumpet.

    Whatever sound you make with a trumpet sounds OK, better than most sax and guitar and electronic piano these days.

    I had played drums for like 10 years, and had taken some big band and combo courses, but I was getting tired of not being able to play melodies or songs that people recognize. So I decided to pick up the trumpet at the time I was trying to choose between sax and trumpet and playable trumpets were cheaper, used saxophones cost about the same, but usually need work to fix the pads. So I picked trumpet... my plan was to learn how to hit some high notes ( read about the Jet technique mentioned above) then play some auxiliary percussion shakers and such. Anyway later I found deal on a saxophone I couldn't resist.

    I ended up selling that saxophone. They are difficult to play quietly, yet still aren't as loud as trumpet, and many of the notes are really sour sounding. Even if you become really good at playing saxophone it still sounds like a saxophone.

    Don't get me wrong Coltrane sounds great, but after a while the tone is just really stale.
  7. lakerjazz

    lakerjazz Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 10, 2006
    I've been waiting to reply to this thread for a while. I used to have an incorrect embouchure, a truly incorrect embouchure which my teacher gradually got me to change. I'm talking about my entire bottom lip being under the mouthpiece. Forget this 1/3, 2/3, 1/2, 1/2 crap (not directed at you SmoothOperator; I know you're against that and being sarcastic)- if your lips are in the mouthpiece and you are comfortable, stick with that. At this point, the quality of your sound depends on how well you buzz. If you were using too much pressure, all you need to do is use less pressure. You never said that there was something wrong with your sound or anything else. Just keep it simple- you don't have to worry about quitting- do what you WERE doing and use less pressure. Now, your range might drop a couple of notes and note a couple of octaves.

    Addition: If you have been stuck at a low E for that long after changing embouchures, your teacher is asking you to do something that is unnatural to you and that WILL NOT work no matter how hard you try. Do what feels comfortable to you as long as your sound is good.

    Last edited: Aug 22, 2010
  8. calixto27

    calixto27 New Friend

    Apr 17, 2010
    louisville, ky
    I haven't read through everyone eles's comments on this so i am not sure what has already been said, but i have been in an still and in a very similar situation as you are in. I am only a junior, but one of the lead trumpet players at our school because we don't have very many trumpets either. I play in two separate jazz bands, wind ensemble, symphonic orchestra, and marching band. I've been playing since 5th grade too and used to have a pretty good range. I could hit a high C by the beginning of my 7th grade year. Anyway, things started getting worse so i realized i had to make some changes in my playing if i ever wanted to get better. I used to play with way too much pressure to my mouth and was way too tense just like it sounds you did, and i wasn't blowing enough air into the center of my mouthpiece either. As soon as i started trying to get better everything fell apart. I lost all range and all consistency in playing and for about the last 7 months have been miserable and depressed because no matter how much i practice or try i can't get better and at times it even feels like i am getting worse. Recently though, i have finally felt my playing get a little better. Having been in a similar situation as you, here is what i have to say.

    First of all, one of the reasons it may be taking so long to feel like you are making progress is because you are having to retrain your muscles in your face to play a different way than they have ever played before. It is almost like you have to start over with your 5th grade range and slowly work up. But don't give up. I finally, after dealing with the same range issues, can finally hit a top of the staff F again, and for the first time ever it actually feels RIGHT and doesnt hurt. Give it time. Don't give up. It's hard, and it hurts, and at times it doesn't seem worth it but it is. I still have a long way to go, and i am sure you do too, but just give your body time.I am sure every great musician has had a time in thier life where they hit a wall, it may just be weeks or even years, but it is the ones who push through and break the wall down who go on to be great. Your body will figure it out.
    Also, work on tightening your corners. This will help strengthen the muscles and keep a solid and higher pitch without putting excess pressure on your lips.

    For now take everything down an octave. I still have to do this most of the time. But i play everything technically and rhythmically right, and just play comfidently. There are still days that i really struggle, but i do everything i can to not let it get to me and focus on what my eventually goal is. The great thing about trumpet is that, unlike so many athletes and other things, we don't hit a physical peak, and don't have a time limit on getting good. You have the rest of your life to improve. I am in the same boat you are in, but we just have to fight through, and we will become all the better because of it.

    Good luck. :) I hope something at least i said helped, and my aimless ramblings didn't bore you.
  9. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010
    My wife takes violin and guzheng lessons. She enjoys these more than anything.

    She also seems to benefit from having someone there telling her NO NO you are doing it wrong, do it this way so that you can be beautiful.

    She also takes them infrequently. A really good instrument teacher should be able to give you enough to work on for six months or so just in one or two lessons (unless you are a rank beginner).

    Generally lessons are an especially good thing when you are stuck in rut, which it seems that you were.

    I personally have had enough bad experiences with teachers and PhD's that personally did me harm that I am leary of that, and generally I can read the manual, so I don't really have any shortage of "things" to work on. Though some of the details can be tough to figure out, but when it comes down to it who is going to be putting two and two together for you? Yourself.
  10. SFPat

    SFPat Pianissimo User

    Sep 20, 2009
    I had always played with 1/2 1/2 and had limited range, say a useful A above staff. After getting an Arban's, I tried the 1/3 2/3 and my range drastically improved. I now can easily use a C above staff and can probably go higher (I don't have any music I'm working on that goes higher). I think Arban was on to something.

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