irreparable embouchure damage?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by emjayen, Jun 18, 2009.

  1. emjayen

    emjayen New Friend

    Jun 18, 2009
    (First, I'd like to point out that, I'm new to posting on this site, but I've come to it for many problems before! so thanks for the help! :D )

    I play in my HS band and am first chair for lack of any other experienced players mostly... I've always "gotten by" with my chops, but not having a solid leader has put me in a position where I'd HAVE to push myself in our rehearsals much more than I'd like to, to the point where I'm physically exhausted leaving rehearsals and my lips feel completely dead.

    It hasn't been until recently that I've noticed I am not progressing at all (range-wise). I'm stuck around a High C. So I began studying my playing much more closely, and I know that I use pressure as a crutch to even reach that. I have a ring on my lips from the years of having to fill first part no matter what my capabilities are (usually resorting to ramming the horn in my face in order to appease the almighty band director)... it won't go away, even if I take a break from playing for a while. I've discovered that it even affects my off-horn buzzing; I can't even get a solid non-shaky buzz like I used to when I was a beginner.

    Sure, where I'm at currently will get me by, but I'm just not satisfied with that! I'm willing to do what it takes, I'm just not sure what that is. Is there going back from this point? Or have I damaged my embouchure beyond repair?

  2. Pseudonym

    Pseudonym Pianissimo User

    May 23, 2009
    Irreparable? That word does not exist in my dictionary. (;

    All you need it an embouchure makeover, which yes, will be very hard and time consuming. I had to do this in eighth grade as well, as I was too used pressure a crutch and occasionally catch myself doing it again when I'm not careful. Since it's summer for most of us, you shouldn't have too much problem doing boring exercises that take up your playing time, haha. Just think of how much better you'll be next playing year, ehh?

    Anyway, start on Concert F / G (whatever you call your tuning note); and play it. I'd say you should play it long enough until you're able to bring your horn down to make an angle of 75-80 degrees (if you were to draw and angle where your horn meets your face). Then once you're able to hold that G like that, play an A and do the same, try not to change the angle at all. At first, this will feel very weird, since you've been probably using pressure as a crutch for most all your notes! Keep progressing for each note up in the C scale. If you're not able to make it above an E or whatever, that's fine! Angle your horn a bit more towards ninety degrees JUST so you're able to hit the note and bring the horn back down again, slowly.

    Bringing the horn down to around 75 or 80 degrees will keep the pressure off the oh-so-important top lip, which should cure you of your problem! If you want to experiment on your own to find the right angle, that's perfectly fine. This is just an easy-to-describe-over-the-internets fix. :p

    mmm, a little bit of pressure is needed to play, so don't think you can just take off all the pressure and be fine. I used necessary pressure even to play notes above a High C and down to a pedal C (albeit about 80% less on pedal C) :)
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2009
  3. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 24, 2005

    I've been in you situation; having to play beyond my real ability for too long. It sucks.

    I doubt you've done any real damage, but you've probably developed some bad habits and gotten used to using lots of force and tension to play. There are ways to evolve your current habits into better ones, but without hearing you in person, I'd just be guessing and would probably just add to your confusion. I think it's best to gradually evolve your bad habits into good ones instead of doing some sort of total restart or change to your chops. There are probably some things you do really well, and there's no reason to mess with everything!

    Do you have a teacher you can go to? Hopefully you can see someone to help you become more efficient in the middle register and carry that effiency into the upper register.
  4. s.coomer

    s.coomer Forte User

    Mar 25, 2005
    Indianapolis, In
    I could not agree more with Pedal C. Get to a good teacher and start working on your playing with less pressure.
  5. DanZ_FL

    DanZ_FL Pianissimo User

    Jun 16, 2009
    Clearwater, Florida
    My jr. high/hs teacher, Delbert Dale (s. coomer, you remember him in Indpls.?) -- first thing he did was get my right pinkie out of the ring -- that and some fundamental embouchure good habits.

    I know there's always your left arm still for the pressure crutch thing, but at least that's a start to be conscious about it.
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    range is not a measure of your progress. Pressure is bad, but we use it because it works. When we beat our face up, we have to give it time to rebuild. If we are practicing the right things, we get stronger with time and do not need to push as hard.

    From what you have posted, I assume that your daily routine stinks and that is the reason that you get wiped out during rehearsals.

    You need to start with 20 minutes of very soft long tones and slurs EVERY day. No pressure, as light as possible. If you have a heavy playing schedule that day, that routine will be enough. On the days that you do not have band, the routine stays the same and should be followed by TONS of easy tunes and at the end, technical studies.

    Other probable problems:
    1) bad rhythm - when we "fight" the music, we need a lot more energy. Get used to practicing with a metronome.
    2) Bad intonation - if the band doesn't tune up well, anybody with decent ears gets trashed very quickly!
    3) Unnecessary warm-up before band. The juvenile noise in most school bands that I have heard before the rehearsal starts is simply a waste of energy. Everybody knows how the others play. There is no need to play one note too many.
    4) irrhythmic conductors. In a wind band, the conductor should BREATHE with the band, preferably in time. Not giving the players proper warning can waste the first trumpet player
    5) distractions-the gift of gab only serves to reduce our concentration

    I think that you see some points that apply to you. Don't whine or whimp. YOU are the first trumpet player. Live up to it!
  7. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN

    If at all possible, get yourself a good private teacher.

    In the mean time, check out some of Nick Drozdoff's videos,
    I have them listed here:
    About Bethany Brass
    The flow studies, embouchure and breathing videos are great places to start.

  8. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    I think all people that play trumpet start out basically the same (we suck) and as time goes on, we go through various hurdles and at each hurdle, trumpet players fall off and give up. One of the hurdles (in my opinion) is learning that using pressure to get things done just won't work when it come to keeping up with the pack.
    I was "window shopping" on Ebay one day and discovered this nifty device (about the size of a mouthpiece) that might help you with the pressure problem.
    I purchased it from a guy in the middle east and it has help several of my students.
    Its got the name Joachim Dolling on it and is made in Germany. I wish I could remember the name of the device but it is designed specifically for people who play with too much mouthpiece pressure and wish to change.
    It fits into the reciever of the trumpet and then you put your mouthpiece in the device.
    The way it works is if you use pressure the device moves and the air that would go into the trumpet goes out the side. Its spring operated and the tension is adjustable.
    Its a pretty cool device and it doesn't take long for a person to get the hang of not using excessive pressure.
    Also, if you check the web for Arch Tongue and Hiss, this will help with those pesky high note problems. Hope this helps
  9. VetPsychWars

    VetPsychWars Fortissimo User

    Nov 8, 2006
    Greenfield WI
    I was in your place in high school too. What I wish someone had told me was to stop carrying the whole section and wrecking myself in the process. I didn't even know that private teachers existed, much less that a person could get one.

    I ended up so overworked that as a senior I was lucky to last a whole concert and playing above the staff wasn't something I wanted to even try.

    Might be worth talking with your director and telling her that you're just spent and you're not going to carry the section in rehearsals any more.

  10. mkmtrumpeter

    mkmtrumpeter New Friend

    Jun 17, 2009
    It looks like everyone has pretty much covered the big things... but I would like to address the ring you have. I'm not sure if it's permanent or not, but I'll address it anyway.

    As far as a permanent ring, I wouldn't worry too much about it. After eight years of playing, I've built up a thickness in my lips where my mouthpiece sits. The raised area is clearly visible... even when I had to stop playing when I got my wisdom teeth out, it was still there after days of not being able to play (which was majorly lame, by the way...) and whether I got that as a result of bad habits or not, it doesn't hurt the way I play now at all. I know a few people with a permanent ring like that and none of them have ever complained of problems as a result of it.

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