More practice= worse playing?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Mamba21500, Oct 5, 2011.

  1. Mamba21500

    Mamba21500 Piano User

    Feb 26, 2009
    Hi there,

    Around 9 months ago, I posted a topic concerning a huge decline in areas of my playing ability, and I'm posting this to review my situation, as much to help myself as others to help me, thanks.

    Firstly, I do have a very good teacher, who's other students have had huge success, but I only recently started with him.

    My issue:
    My tone quality massively decreases from 3rd space C to 4th space E. At the C, my tone is much better than what it was a few months ago, at E, it sounds whiny and out of tune.

    I think the obvious issue here would is breath support, but I cannot workout why I lack this; I have no issues playing pp or ff, up to C, but upwards from that, with blowing at least as much air through the horn, and trying to maintain the steady airstream that I have below, I still have the issue with the tone.

    The obvious next step from this (in my opinion), would be excessive contact force/ pressure from the mouthpiece onto the lips, but I again can feel no issues with this below C, and when I go above, I resist the temptation to force it, so I don't think this is the case either.

    This leads me to believe that it is excessive tension inside the body which creates this issue, eg. the embouchure being too closed, the oral cavity being too constricted by the through, abdominals being too tense and restricting lungs, etc.

    I'll post my routine, though I don't think that there are any issues with that:

    Lip Buzzing
    2 mins
    Mouthpiece buzzing 3 mins
    Long tones 10 mins
    Lip bends 5 mins
    Diaphragm attacks 5 mins
    Lip slurs 5 mins


    Scored pieces 15 mins
    Improv 15 mins


    Single tonguing 5 mins
    Double tonguing 5 mins
    Triple tonguing 5 mins
    Lip slurs 5 mins
    Lip trills 5 mins
    Major scales 5 mins
    Minor scales 5 mins
    Arpeggios 5 mins

    I also play in a 2 brass bands (total 3 hours weekly) a big band (1 hour), and a concert band (1 hour).

    There're no issues with my equipment.

    Thanks for the help, I hate to have to waste you good people's time, but I feel that the online community can offer a broader spectrum of opinions and advice than the people I know IRL.

    Thank you all.
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    It ain't what you do, it is how you do it.

    Getting better is a learning process. We do not learn by practicing. We learn by being awake when we practice. We learn to listen for important clues that help us decide if we are moving in the right direction.

    We can travel from New Jersey to New York by going south, the trip just takes longer and has a couple of "inconveniences".

    More practice, worse playing should tell you everything that you need to know. No other routine is better or worse if your attitude does not promote learning instead of face time.

    I see a couple of possibilities:
    1) you are not listening
    2) you have a teacher that is not listening
    3) you are not listening

    It does not matter so much WHAT you play as how you play it. Every brainlessly played note sets us back further.

    We can't help your approach from here and other exercizes are of no additional use.
  3. kctrumpeteer

    kctrumpeteer Piano User

    Dec 23, 2009
    I would personally completely scrap the above mentioned practice routine... but actually I would adjust what you have to focus more on long tones to begin with, then lip slurs then scales and then any work that you need to do. So maybe something like caruso exercises or max schlossberg for long tones, and then for lip slurs Irons or also Caruso for the lip slurs. There is a good chance that you are trying to put too much into your practice routine which means that you are wearing your chops out and then your sound starts to fall apart.

    If you can't have a good sounding E then I would not focus any time on double/triple tonguing.

    Half and whole notes may sound boring, but they are probably the mechanism that you need to focus on for improving your sound.
  4. jiarby

    jiarby Fortissimo User

    May 7, 2011
  5. Satchmo Brecker

    Satchmo Brecker Piano User

    Jul 19, 2010
    I'm a relative beginner so my opinion counts less than earlier posters. That said, if you were good enough to get into 3 bands, I'd say maybe you're worrying too much. Plus if *that's* your routine, and you pretty much follow it every practice session then I'd say you're *definitely* worrying too much. Break it up, have fun..."regimented" and "musician" are opposites (which doesn't imply lack of dedication or determination).
  6. Mamba21500

    Mamba21500 Piano User

    Feb 26, 2009
    @Rowuk: Thank you for chiming in, I try to listen to what I'm playing, and if you asked me what was up with a note or phrase, I could tell you what it was, whether it is tone, intonation, dynamic, attack etc. the next time I play the note, I'll pay special attention to playing it better, to the best of my ability, but sadly my ability to criticise my playing, and my playing aren't in line with each other. I know that sounds like I'm ignoring what you've said, or telling you that you're wrong, that's not my intention, and I will endeavour to listen more. Thank you.

    @kctrumpeteer: I set up my routine like this so that I wouldn't be tired for when I play proper music, which I feel is the most important part of the practice routine. I don't want to stop double or triple tonguing exercises; the 10 minutes that they take up is an insignificant amount of time, and I use both regularly, so I don't think that stopping then would be a good idea. Thank you for your input, and I will definitely spend more time on the fundamentals of playing. 30 minutes of my routine is already focused on playing simple notes (scales and the first 15 minutes), and another 25 on my flexibilty, which I thought was enough, but I will heed your advice.

    @jiarby: What a catchy tune, I might listen to it before every practice to remind myself of the moral to the song :)

    @Satchmo Brecker: Any opinion counts as long as it sensible :) I feel the need to regiment my playing like I regiment my life, as, thought I hate to admit it, I'm a quite lazy person, and would not do many of the challenging things that I do, if I didn't plan ahead what I was going to do.

    Thank you all.
  7. jcheze

    jcheze New Friend

    Jul 9, 2011
    Goldsby, OK
    I suspect your tone actually starts deteriorating at 2nd space A... you're just not listening. Do a lot of Clarke 2 and Cichowicz Flow Studies. And LISTEN. :-)
  8. Mamba21500

    Mamba21500 Piano User

    Feb 26, 2009
    No, definitely C, I was quite sure whilst I was playing, so I recorded it onto the computer (a few times, to make sure I didn't have a spurt of amazing Cs), and played it back, and it's definitely C# where it starts to go, therefore C is my last, what I'd consider stage worthy, note.
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    The whole body is involved when playing - either constructively or destructively.

    We buzz into the horn, a tone forms that we feel with our hands first - the first reactions/corrections take place

    then the metal of the horn vibrates and our ears hear the first clues that go back to the brain

    the sound projected into the room comes back to our ears an further clues are sent to the brain

    the brain processes the info that it gets and sends instructions to various body muscles to take additional steps

    We can call these processes cascaded servo loops. I takes a while of careful practicing/listening/feeling to be aware of the sensory issues and to have them automatically modify playing behavior. This is not an intellectual process, it is like learning to walk as a baby.

    If the player is "awake" it is IMPOSSIBLE not to get better over time. There may be bodily challenges (medical/chemical) that slow the process down, but if you are putting time in and not getting better, it is not WHAT you are playing. A player can develop a fine embouchure and ear by ONLY playing out of the hymnbook. Another can have a complete library of the finest methods known to man and simply SUCK. It ain't the gun. "Listening" only works when your DEVELOPMENT turns it into part of the servo - not an external process.

    No servo loop means pure, wasted face time.

    I had a student with a similar problem. It turned out that they had the television on during practice sessions. Every note was brainless - and habits were built on exactly that brainlessness. Turning the TV off made the playing even WORSE as it was part of the servo loop. The player had problems with being alone. No TV caused other things to break. I needed 2 years to straighten that mess out (1 hour per week is not much time for changing basic behavior).

    The thread owner has a broken servo loop not practice material. Changing the routine will change NOTHING. The root is in basic behavior and the solution will only be found there. Bandaids will only make it harder to treat the real illness.
  10. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

    Jun 6, 2010
    Hey Mamba,

    I think you just described most of us with the quite a lazy person comment. We're all like that to a certain degree.:lol:

    To make sure every note in my range is working, I do lots of long tones and lip slurs. They can get a little boring, but that just works on my concentration. My brain is so fully engaged with the trumpet when I play it, because it's so darn hard, that all the other instruments I play are improving (without doing anything with them), because my concentration doesn't just vanish when I turn to them.

    I HAD been getting lazy and sloppy with my singing and guitar playing. But now, it's on the beam (mentally) and sounding better than ever, without much effort. All the effort goes into the trumpet, but spills over to everything else.

    I credit Rowuk. He's the one who keeps saying, "Long tones and lip slurs" (for a variety of ills)... Thanks Rowuk!!!


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