Isolating facial muscles

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by SmoothOperator, Sep 21, 2011.

  1. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010
    Tensing eye lid muscles seems like a bad habit that I have gotten into. Is there any good way to isolate the chops from the rest of the face and probably neck as well?
  2. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Bill Chase once remarked that he could feel the muscles around his eyes when playing and that his neck bulged out as well. Rather than worrying about which muscles to isolate, most of us have more success isolating our weaknesses, and then practicing to eliminate them. To get the sound you hear inside your head requires you to listen, and practice. If you can do that, just wait for the miracle.
  3. CaptainAddy

    CaptainAddy Pianissimo User

    Nov 14, 2010
    Camden County, GA
    A P.E.T.E does this exactly, and you don't even need a horn. Great device.
  4. study888

    study888 Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 22, 2005
    Darlington S.C.
    Hello, try the Warburton P.E.T.E. Will give all your embouchure muscles a real workout. I like mine. Use it once a day,but not at the time I practice. Plan to later get the Warburton Buzz Master for cornet M.P. These are helpful items to use daily. Getting root canal work done on a tooth tomorrow. Yikes!!!

    If I have to be off my horn for a few days. The P.E.T.E. will keep my playing muscles in shape. Woodwind & Brass may have the best discount price on the Warburton P.E.T.E. or could be Music 123. Have not found any Warburton Buzz Masters on sale anywhere, as of yet.
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Don't waste your time. The problem isn't "tense eyelids" that is only a symptom.

    Except for heart activity, the rest of the body does not work in an isolated way. (well the heart doesn't really work in an isolated way either, but it can be triggered into higher activity through things that we see and hear - not only other body functions) Regardless if we walk, write, go to the toilet or play, our whole body is involved.

    Your real problem is getting ready to play. Your body use approach is not relaxed and I am sure that there is much, much more tense than your eyelids. Raising the level of tension to "FORCE THE EYELIDS TO RELAX, DAMMIT" just makes everything worse. I am surprised that if you notice the eyelids, that you don't notice the tense bigger muscles that really affect your playing!

    You simply need to learn to take that big relaxed breath and exhale through the horn. Forget about all the other BS. If you have prepared your stance (posture) to allow for that big breath, then the rest happens without all of the other symptoms. Stuff like this is the reason that I think internet lessons don't help. If a student of mine came up with something like this, we would have a healthy laugh together, then I would show them that their right hemorrhoid was a bigger pain in the ass than the eyelids, would show them that the problem is that they didn't give a crap BEFORE starting to play and that introduced higher tension everywhere.

    Actually, the tense eyelids may make conductors scared of you. That can be good sometimes.

    You need to make your playing "past tense". Then the rest is much easier.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2011
  6. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010

    I definitely want to be able to get some good eye expressions in while playing, but only when appropriate and in an appropriate way.
  7. Gary Schutza

    Gary Schutza Pianissimo User

    Apr 6, 2007
    Kansas City
    I think you've gotten the right answers from all of the posters. I agree with all of them. If you've got any tension, fix the basic problem—breathing!
    You can fix all your problems one by one, or you can fix the one thing that seems to fix everything else.
    My teacher, Frank Kaderabek, had a great saying: "If the breathing is right, (relaxed) then everything else is easy. If the breathing is wrong, then everything else is hard.
    You can work hours on technique, range, endurance—all the things that are important, but if your basic breathing isn't right those things will only get a little better before they "plateau out" (stop improving).
    OR, you could spend that time working on the breathing and all of those same skills will improve by themselves with much less time spent on them individually.
    If you're breathing right your range gets better, your tonguing gets better, your sound gets MUCH better, your endurance gets better. Everything gets better. It's a much more effective use of your time.
    By breathing right, that's a whole lesson in itself. In short, another Kaderabek-ism: "However the breath goes in, it goes out the same way."
    In other words, if you breath in tight, hunching up the shoulders with all kinds of constriction in the neck and chest, then the exhalation (playing) will be tight and constricted. With all kinds of "tells" like eyelid twitches and swelled out neck muscles.
    Conversely, if you breathe in with a nice relaxed "yawning" breath, the exhalation (playing) will be nice and relaxed. Beautiful sound.
    I know I'm making it sound overly easy, this breathing thing, but it really is just that easy. We make trumpet playing way too hard. We over think all the breathing, making it much harder than it is. You've been breathing most of your life (I assume). Breathing is easy. Don't make it harder than it is, making trumpet playing harder than it is.
    Good breathing is the one thing that makes everything else work right!
  8. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010
    I think there is a little more to it, because I do other excersies, sit-ups, back-bends, swimming, exteneded high elevation hikes, etc... , in an attempt to tone my abs, which I use for breathing while I play.
  9. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    If you are consciously using your abs while playing, that might be a problem--the tensing is a symptom of, not the cause of a well played note. Rowuk has his doctrine of the "circle of breath," I would suggest that you try using what I posted over 20 times here: the good 'ol Vulgano "RAY OF POWER."

    The finicky thing about air is that, yeah, we must learn the mechanics but then forget about them, because under the stress of performance, as tension sets in, our bodies will lie to us, and it will feel like we're moving huge amounts of air, breathing deeply and supporting when in fact, we are not!

    For this reason, I rely on some Vulgano Voodoo and the RAY OF POWER. It involves the Root Chakra, which is located directly at the base of the spine, also known as the coccyx. The chakras have their own mystic qualities, I guess. I don't know for sure, but they do seem to be located in parts of the body where bunches of nerves meet. (The Vulgano version is situated half way between the places we do our number one and number two in the restroom.)

    In practice and in theory, imagine (and feel) a ray of some sort (red is the most common mystic color associated with the root chakra) shooting down into the ground while playing. For high notes, imagine (and feel) a more intense ray. If we practice this sitting in a chair, we can notice all kinds of muscles come into play, which happen to be the same muscles used to "support" the air stream. By taking attention off of the mechanics and experiencing the mysterious, magical and not yet patented RAY OF POWER we can avoid some of the tension involved in "trying hard."

    Nothing mysterious and magical here really, but the RAY OF POWER does permit me to play with a relaxed but working body.

    A good exercise from John Glasel:

    Play a long tone, and while doing so reduce pressure; it will start to sound "bad." With this same pressure, do whatever it takes with the chops to make it sound "better" (not perfect or normal). In a short time you should notice some muscles being worked (a big ring or circle around the mouth.)

    This will allow us to train some muscles that don't normally get worked; when somewhat in shape it should require somewhat less pressure to play.

    Goof around with these, and if it helps, I'll be glad.

    Have fun!
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2011
  10. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    I really believe VB is into something here with his Zen theory. Some may be disbelievers, and think you can't chakra. Not me, I believe Chaka Kahn! Chaka Kahn, Chaka Kahn... Chaka Kahn, Chaka Kahn!

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