Keeping lips in best condition?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by shun, Sep 28, 2015.

  1. shun

    shun New Friend

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    Hi all, I'm a senior in high school, and I've been playing for 6 years, in a way. My trumpet education throughout 6-9th grade was very ineffective, and I didn't even realize it, so I really only started playing seriously since my junior year, or last year, so my skills are most likely not up to par with others my age.

    Anyway, school started about 2 months ago, and my playing was the best that it had ever been. My tone was pretty good (nothing special, though), my range seemed to have been improving every few days, I arguably had the best endurance out of the whole section, as well as control and accuracy over my partials, as well as entrances and articulations, which I need all of to successfully play my part, which is 1st. However, ever since that day, I have been playing for around 5-6 hours a day, occasionally reaching up to 7-8, exceptions being Saturday, where I play for 3 hours, and Sunday, where I would either rest completely or play for about 30 minutes; the reason for this being that I have 2 periods of band, I play during lunch, and occasionally I would play during a third period (hence the occasional 7-8 hour days), and then right after I would have band after-school for a few hours, whether it be marching, or symphonic+jazz, depending on the day.

    My playing has been getting worse every single day since school started; my tone is suffering dramatically, my easy range has been decreased by around 2 partials, my endurance has been cut by an estimated 75%, I can't seem to articulate properly anymore, and my control, accuracy, and entrances are all unreliable, and I find myself getting extremely nervous before an important entrance, such as coming in on a G right above the staff, delicately, for a solo, which before would have been no trouble for me. I often find that my lip simply does not buzz at times, and that I believe this to be the cause of my trouble articulating, coming in correctly, and just overall playing.

    About a week and a half ago, I approached my band directors about this, and my playing schedule was revised so that one of my band periods could be a resting period, and one of the directors, a brass player, told me I should rest completely for a couple days. Over the next few days, I never rested completely, but my playing was reduced down to about 1-2 hours each day, and the next day, I rested completely. On Monday, I came back and played and it seemed that almost everything was nearly back to normal. My tone had improved immensely, almost to where it was before, my range was back, maybe even improved, articulations and entrances were still sloppy, but definitely improved, partial accuracy was near perfect, but my endurance was still pretty much gone, as expected. However, through the course of the week, my lips got weaker, as I was back to playing around 4-6 hours a day, and they're back to the way they used to be again. Just yesterday I was having trouble buzzing on the mouthpiece, and many times notes just aren't coming out at all, and the ones that do, don't sound very good.

    Sorry for writing so much, but I wanted to include as much detail as possible. My question is, how do I keep my lips in the best condition to play? All aspects of my playing are suffering due to this. I'm not sure if a complete rest is possible since we have a marching performance in less than a week.
     
  2. Peter McNeill

    Peter McNeill Utimate User

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    Building a strong embouchure is like building and working any other muscles in the Gym.

    You work on one group one day, then rest the next. Never work the same group - rest is about recovery and strength.
    Muscles build by tearing them slightly - that soreness you feel. Recovery happens the next day. the muscles recover stronger. It you tear them again too soon, then they never really gain the strength that you are aiming for. Playing 5-7 hours a day is crazy - just stupid.

    Performances would only go for 1 to 2 hours maximum. Marching is probably 20 minutes at a time...

    Plan your daily practice routines around some technical studies, that will allow you to work on different areas - tongue - range - intervals, there's plenty to do apart from just blowing your lips to pieces.

    Good luck - Rest and play with a good tone. If it is not a good tone, stop - and rest.
     
  3. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

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    My immediate thought is to mention my overuse of pressure, pushing the trumpet against my lips too hard, and doing that for many years. My endurance improved, but slowly, and my range was clamped at C above the staff, and then only when I was fresh. I am sure if I'd played as frequently as you do (I must admit to only playing every 2-3 days when in high school) my lips would have been in a more constant state of ruin than they were. You didn't mention if you you use a lot of pressure or not but it might be worth considering that aspect if you are.

    --bumblebee
     
  4. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

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    You answered your own question in your post. Less is more sometimes. A teacher/director/forum can give some insight but ultimately, you have to be able to self analyze your problem to progress. You're in high school and imo playing too much. How you play is another matter. You should look at your own cause and effect and know that. It's no great mystery.
     
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    I think that the problem is obvious and has NOTHING to do with your range or endurance. I am not sure if I believe more than 5 hours facetime on the horn, but it doesn't matter.

    We need to play SMART to get in more than two hours a day. Sometimes I will play more than 5 hours in a day - but NOT trying to prove anything the entire time. If it is a gig with rehearsal before, the GIG takes priority.

    So, what does that mean in your case?: you are needlessly beating your face up for some (stupid) reason. There is NO REASON TO PLAY THE TRUMPET AT VOLUME LEVELS THAT TRASH YOUR FACE. EVER!

    My solution: turn down the testosterone. Get compliments for playing softly. You are not going to save the trumpet section on the field by wiping your face out. Just stop at MAX mezzoforte on long days. Don't give a crap about anyone that expects more. Professional attitude means not proving anything, rather simply being the most dependable chops. You have a choice. Now go do the right thing!
     
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    As others have pointed out, there are really two main problems that are likely at work here:

    1.) Overuse of your chops in general
    2.) Playing too hard, thus using too much pressure, which in turn is causing the issue.

    What you've described are classic symptoms of someone who is using too much pressure and blowing too hard. Are you marching, by chance? SO many kids come on here every year complaining of chops issues that are directly caused due to the stresses that marching and playing can put on the lips.

    Something else to consider, would you spent 5+ hours in the weight room going full tilt at the same muscle groups every day? If you did, that would put you on the fast track to get an injury. Anything that is done too much, even with good form and technique, can cause an occupational injury. A trend I noticed among professional working drummers who were interviewed in Modern Drummer Magazine was a period of time for each of them where they needed to figure out how to play smarter, not harder. Once they'd achieved a level of success where they were gigging all the time, they found that they couldn't continue to drum with the same approach because they were injuring themselves by doing so. They usually wound up doing a myriad of things to rectify the issue to include:

    • Rest
    • Rehabilitation/Physical Therapy
    • Stretching
    • Better warm up techniques
    • Refinement of technique
    • In some cases, a complete re-learning or retooling of their technique
    • Learning to do more with less in terms of time with the instrument in the practice room
    • In some cases, surgery was required to repair the injury

    In your case, you probably need to give your chops a chance to heal from the beating you've been giving them. That means taking some real time off - not just a day or two, but likely a week or more, or at least a serious reduction in what you've been doing - and then taking things back to square 1 - soft, easy playing with a conscious thought toward reducing mouthpiece pressure, using proper posture and breathing, and keying in on some other fundamentals.

    For what it's worth, you aren't alone in this - I get in a situation similar to you about once a year where I have to go back to the drawing board and dial things back in, and I've been doing this quite a bit longer than you have. Don't get me wrong, I'm not proud of it, but it is what it is for the kind of playing I do most of the time.
     
  7. gunshowtickets

    gunshowtickets Forte User

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    The "five hours straight in the weight room" can go on for a while until the symptoms of overtraining syndrome set in. At that point, the only thing that can help you recuperate is rest. Total rest.
    Maybe not an option right now, but you'll need take off as much time as possible.
    That being said, overtraining syndrome is VERY difficult to attain, but it is possible.
     
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Still, with an intelligent program, you can "train" 5 hours a day with no bad symptoms. It will not be 5 hours of weights at your limit. It will be 4hours of things good for your body (running, stretching, light flexibilities, balance, concentration, attitude building and of course maybe an hour of heavy work. Just like the trumpet!
     
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    If you train the same body parts for 5 hours a day, every day, there is almost no intelligent program you can use to prevent an injury. Mind you, I'm talking about weights and resistance training rather than something like biking, which can be done, but even that has limits and has to be monitored closely to make sure that the person doing the biking is not getting an injury.
     
  10. gunshowtickets

    gunshowtickets Forte User

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    I could get into this training talk, but let's stay on the topic at hand. Surmising from the posts, *without breaks*, five hours per day would make anyone suffer.
    At this point, his lips are probably swollen, possibly even ruptured.
    Rest, hydration, and maybe some lip balm, too. I really like the burt's bees ultra conditioning.
     

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