Keeping the throat open-AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH(driving me crazy!!)

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by guitarsrmine, Sep 15, 2011.

  1. guitarsrmine

    guitarsrmine Piano User

    Dec 29, 2008
    Franklin, Pa
    Hi everyone. Im sure this topic has been posted here a bazillion and 1 times, but here goes. I read, I see videos of all kinds of trumpet players and teachers(Drozdoff, McLaughlin,etc) who stress about keeping the throat open, especially in the upper range. But, like most numb-skulls, when I get up around "F" above the staff, I can feel everything tighten up,especially the throat. Now, Ive worked hard at not applying to much lip pressure.As a matter of fact, even playing high continously, my lip isnt really bothering me. But, when Im going for notes, as I said, around F or G(above the staff), it feels as if a noose is around my neck. I JUST CANT GET A GRIP ON KEEPING MY THROAT OPEN!!! What should I do?? Switch to banjo???? Im so focused on becoming better, and I do my daily practice regiment, and other things(tone, articulation,intonation) are all going well. Please, I need some advice. Now, Im not looking to becoming the next Maynard...I just want to be the best I can be!! Im in my 3rd year of a comeback, after a 25 year absence, Ive made great strides, and Im getting a new gig soon, switching between trumpet and guitar, along with playing trumpet in my current band(1 song a nite.Woo-WOO) I so appreciate everyone's advice on it horn, oil, or practicing advice, I do value all of you!! And as my work schedule is so overwhelming, I really dont have time for private lessons.....:(
  2. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
    There aren't muscles to control the throat. It is probably the back of your tongue which is where your trouble lies. Think about moving your tongue forward - any arch taking place near your teeth, like when you whistle.

    Another important consideration is posture. Is your head over your spine and is your posture erect? Is the angle of your head such that the air is not constricted as it goes around the corner into your mouth from your windpipe? Try raising and lowering your face/horn with respect to the floor and you will get what I mean. If you are looking down the air passage becomes constricted.
  3. Branson

    Branson Piano User

    Jan 16, 2011
    Two suggestions-

    1. Use a breathing tube to get the feel of an open throut.
    Get a 1 and 1/2 inch diameter PCV pipe about 4 to 6 inches long. Place it in your mouth and breath. This will give the feeling of an open throat and as you play your horn, try to keep that same feeling. I think that one came from Arnold Jacobs.

    2. Use Don Jacoby’s trick-
    As you play higher, think of blowing farther.
  4. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Consider holding your head up more. For example, look at the ceiling and swallow, and compare the feeling to looking at the wall or floor. I used to literally practice lying down (on my back, of course!) until I got used to the feeling of an open throat. Used that technique to provide some Satori for some of my students.

    Hope this helps!
  5. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land
    Try lifting the bell up as you make a tuning note - move your head up too. Listen to see if there is a change in the sound and a difference in the feel of your throat.

    Everything opens up when I do this and the note 'broadens'. You may find that holding the bell in it's normal position for you, and then just lifting your chin works - but lifting the bell works best for me.
  6. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    It sounds like breathing problem. A lot of players think playing high notes is hard ,so they tense their entire body,straining as if trying to lift a tremendous weight.This will choke off your upper register every time.Yes there is certain amount tension when playing ,but it's a controled tension in key muscles only. The player should always play in a relaxed manner.

    If your breathing is correct, you won't tense up, to the point where it hinders your playing in any register.
  7. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011

    Worrying about "Keeping the throat open" is a waste of time. Although it sounds logical you would hear a gargling noise and immediately stop doing it.

    So just use more air. BLOW! and forget about the the old wives tales/B.S. associated with "keeping the throat open".
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Playing the trumpet well is a LEARNING experience. That is different than only "practicing" what someone else says.

    Many body functions are tied together, either through a natural process (eating beans and farting) or a learned process (walking, chewing gum, playing trumpet).

    In your case, you have "learned" to play the way that you do. That includes tension and no amount of "practice" can change that UNLESS you LEARN why you do what you do and what is additionally involved to fix it. I too am guilty of recommending long tones and slurs, that in context work - but does the casual internet reader understand the context? I don't think so.

    Upper body tension (not just throat) is very common when we try to play out of the range that "comes easy". We use this tension to compensate for other things and the only real solution is to take a step back, and work on the problem and not the symptoms. This involves RELEARNING and often is not compatible with a playing schedule. If the "throat" is supposedly tense, I'll bet that quite a bit contributes to that state - not just the throat.

    I advocate a daily routine that allows us to learn about our body and gently moves us forward. During the lessons that I give, I make my students aware of posture issues that cause tension, breathing issues that cause tension and emotional issues that need development to prevent tension. Many times range and endurance disappear first until the correct integration of breath, muscle control, body use and mind are reached. Depending on how awake a player is when practicing this can take weeks, months or years.

    The most important concept is to get the silver bullet myth out of your head. The problem is complex and no "exercize" without the required attention can fix it.

    Body, mind and soul integration is a lifelong process. It goes faster and is often more fun with outside help.
  9. MVF

    MVF Pianissimo User

    Sep 10, 2010
    First off, what rowuk said! Excellent advice that I am barely learning to understand/make use of. Here's my personal experience-

    I have this problem to varying degrees, but having been making progress (1st year comeback player). Some of the things that have helped: long & soft tones (especially long diminuendos), diminished chords (somehow make high notes easier!?- I would love to hear an explanation), concentrate on faster air flow starting with the diaphram (instead of trying to squeeze it out with your throat), and when you get a good "hold" on one of your higher notes, try to hold it and relax a little and pay attention to your body.

    For me I found that some changes in posture and head/neck position made things easier. As has been mentioned, a lot is mental- when you see it as a "high (read hard)" note you tense up, strain and make it hard. My instructor told me to think of them all as on the same plane (flat) instead of "up & down"- she even had me work on aiming down for high notes and up for low notes to change my orientation (and improve my intonation).

    I hope some of this helps!

    Oops- just looked at my post- I guess I'm a 2nd year comeback player now!
  10. JNINWI

    JNINWI Piano User

    Apr 26, 2011
    Heres another vote for Rowuk !
    I have 2 students that are very “High Tension” players in the upper range, and as Rowuk said this is a learned response to the upper range. I’ve worked the tension out of the first student, the 2[SUP]nd[/SUP], well…were working on it. Use Mirrors to watch yourself play, and get MUCH MORE sensitive to your body mechanics when your in your “Tension Zone”. Many players are VERY INSENSITIVE to their Mechanics when they play. For instance, When you hit the tension zone do you squint ! WHY ? Is your brow tensed ? WHY? Do your shoulders come up ? WHY ? Is your upper body tense ? WHY ? None of these muscle groups are needed to play in your upper range so WHY are you using them ? And they are ALL tied togeather. Understand !! Write down all the tension areas that you are seeing. Now, ONE AT A TIME, start reducing muscle groups that are tense that you don’t need to play high. It might take a week or more to get rid of just ONE muscle group. But don’t move to the next group until you’ve accomplished the one your working on. Once you have eliminated that specific group, check it off the list. Eventually you will convince your mind that it really doesn’t need to tense all these muscles in your upper range. And guess what, you will most likely increase your range. You are now re-training your “Trumpet Body Mechanics” and putting the new, GOOD habits into muscle memory !! My 2 cents……and this is how I train the tension out of "High Tension" students.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2011

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