I'm thinking I have embouchure problems.

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by BitLion, Nov 19, 2013.

  1. BitLion

    BitLion New Friend

    Nov 13, 2013
    San Diego
    Hello, I'm a newbie to this forum.

    I am a sophomore in high school and have been playing trumpet since the 4th grade; I took lessons briefly in 7th grade through mid-8th grade, then quit private lessons due to a schedule conflict. I have not been in a lesson ever since, for about a year and a half.

    I believe I have embouchure problems, and I came here to see if anybody has any tips on making it consistent.

    My problem (it might take a while to get to the real problem, as I'll try and explain every detail.):

    I start off my warm up every time, except for few moments in school band when I have no time to do my personal warmup. Before warming up, I do some lip buzzes first to warm up my chops a little. My warmup starts with a low C, and then I try and warm up my horn by going down chromatically to the lowest F# and back up again, and repeat it a few times. I then play some intervals (page 125 of Arban's) before going into some flow exercises and the Cichowicz flow. After that I do some flexibility exercises before going into my ensemble and orchestral music work. Overall my warmup is around 10-15 minutes.

    My problem is that the first few minutes of playing an orchestral piece (1st mvt of the Hummel, for example) my chops work just fine, sometimes great. My embouchure structure is fine. But as soon as 10 minutes into my practice, my embouchure seems to "collapse." Literally, it seems to collapse; my upper lip goes into a funny position and juts forward, and I have a habit of pulling my lower jaw backwards when going into fatigue. In that state my embouchure goes bad by just playing long tones on high Es, or the Es on the staff. Air constantly leaks out from the edges of my embouchure and it gets really hard to play.

    Is this just an endurance/stamina problem, or is it something fundamentally wrong with the position of my embouchure? Here are two pics of my embouchure:

    1. Middle G: Normal embouchure, no air leaking, upper and lower lips in "correct" (at least, what I believe is correct) position
    Image - TinyPic - Free Image Hosting, Photo Sharing & Video Hosting (no virus, I promise)

    2. High E: Air leaking, lower jaw comes in and upper lip juts out. Stamina problems.
    Image - TinyPic - Free Image Hosting, Photo Sharing & Video Hosting (Sorry, it is difficult to take front-view photos with a computer webcam.)

    If anybody has any ideas I would very much appreciate it. I will go and ask my band director tomorrow as he is an extremely experienced trumpet player.

    Thanks for any help!
  2. Harky

    Harky Pianissimo User

    Feb 22, 2013
    Lancaster, PA
    The first thing most folks will tell you is that it is very difficult to diagnose anybody's embochure without seeing and hearing them personally. However from what I see your position is good except the photos suggest that you are 'stretching' your chops to make a tone - higher tones especially. Is this true? If it is that may be your problem. If not I would tell you to check for the basics in current tone production teachings. (chops focused in and forward, minimal mpc pressure, air, tongue, and corners of the lips where they meet the mpc tightening toward the center of your set up for going up and loosening when going down). If all that is true and you are still having trouble approximating your lips throughout the ranges PM me. I have a process for developing that. Good luck!
  3. Brekelefuw

    Brekelefuw Fortissimo User

    Mar 21, 2006
    Get a teacher.
  4. Evergrey_rocks

    Evergrey_rocks Piano User

    Aug 18, 2013
    Easiest solution: practice! If you practice outside of school, you'll get better stamina. Another thing, not that it matters too much, what mouthpiece are you using? I always found a 5B to be great for practicing because it's so big that you really have to work for high notes, which builds range, and it really tests stamina.

    Now, I've experienced tone problems this year and the problems were rooted in my embouchure. You want to have firm corners of your lips, relaxed cheeks, relaxed neck/throat/air passage, and air support from the stomach. My tone has never sounded better and playing has never been easier. I encourage you to try playing with those details in mind and see if it helps.

  5. fredthewhale

    fredthewhale Pianissimo User

    Jun 12, 2011
    New Jersey
    Please get a teacher. even if you don't study with them for years. get a solid foundation with someone who can see you in person and is committed to getting you squared away.
  6. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    Something you are doing is straining your embouchure. Sounds like you start out with good sound then something is fatiguing. Without watching you, it is hard to say what that is. It could be the pressure you are putting on you lip by either position in the cup, tightly held horn. It could be the way you are using air, and that has multiple components as well. If not using air wisely, more muscle work will be necessary to sustain a vibration. It could be not aligning the airflow exiting your embouchure into the bore of the piece.

    OR it could be you simply have not developed enough muscle strength to last through a more demanding performance with an ensemble. Do you practice on days that you are not playing a public forum? You will not gain embouchure strength to maintain a specific duration of performance if you do not practice EVERY day at least at that same level. If this is the case, do not just start today to go the full length. Work up to it. Practice DAILY to a point where you JUST START to loose control of tone or hitting notes, then STOP. The next day go to the same point and STOP. Do this to the same point for a week. Then the next week add 20% more time to your practice schedule for another week, then another 20% that subsequent week. Keep doing this until you reach the time limit goal that the ensemble demands from you.

    However: Do you see how much a teacher could help you find the problem and move forward with much more efficiency than any of us here can give you, not being there to observe the exact situation?
  7. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    My advice? Practice. A lot. LOTS of long tones and articulation exercises, and nothing that taxes you out of a comfortable register.

    At your age and length of time behind the horn (especially since some kids think that 20 minutes a day is "enough" - that's about how long it takes me to get good and loosened up) I'd say that you probably just need to spend more time in the woodshed, and that with a fair amount of focused practice, many of those "embouchure problems" will go away on their own.
  8. mrsemman

    mrsemman Piano User

    Apr 8, 2010
    There are many reasons for having the problem you described. Getting a teacher, even for a single lesson, where they can analyze your embouchure, playing, breathing, equipment, etc. will get you onto the correct direction.

    As a comeback player, I realized the major differences in playing now, than when I first began playing. Back then, I was taught to tongue against my top teeth, and to change pitch by tightening my lips (roll the lips inward or smile to tighten them). Like you, I had a major endurance problem. The maximum I could play would be about a half hour, then nothing but air.

    I started this past spring reading a couple of Claude Gordon's books, and now I can play up to four hours on some days and at least two hours every day, to include hitting double high C's. His method starts by lightly anchoring the tongue to the bottom teeth, and arching or lowering the tongue to adjust the pitch. It took me a while to adjust, but, I am now Gordon's most avid fan.

    Does this mean that this is what you should do? No! First, find out what is wrong, check with a good teacher, and then work on the correct action. Take any advice given here lightly until it can be verified by the teacher, and even then go slowly to ensure progress.

    Hope this helps.

  9. Brekelefuw

    Brekelefuw Fortissimo User

    Mar 21, 2006
    If you practice without a teacher, prepare to develop bad habits that will take time for your teacher to correct once you get one.
    A teacher is the single most important thing you can do when first learning an instrument because it is vital to set up good habits from the beginning so you don't hurt yourself.
  10. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    Listen to Trickg - I found long tones in the staff to be very beneficial - long tones like the second line G in the staff for 20 minutes - of course I generally do 1.5 hr practices - although like Trickg, I'm in my 40's, but with age comes wisdom

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