Mouthpiece pressure?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by stecer, Nov 4, 2010.

  1. stecer

    stecer New Friend

    Jul 3, 2009
    Birmingham, England
    Hi All,
    A question for all teachers out there - do you teach students actually to add mouthpiece pressure when ascending in pitch. The obvious answer is probably No - but I have noted the research undertaken in Scotland and published in the ITG Journal back in May 1998 entitled Science Proves Musical Myths Wrong by JOE BARBENEL, JOHN BOOTH DAVIES, AND PATRICK KENNY that demonstrated that significant pressure is actually, and unwittingly employed by top players.
    so would it be advisable to inform students of this - at least once they reach a reasonable standard? It has always struck me that the instruction to use the 'minimum pressure necessary' leaves most feeling that they should use less, yet the experiment quoted above does not support this.
    Any thoughts?
  2. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    To develop a well formed lip and embouchure, no more pressure is required than contact that seals your lips to the mouthpiece. Beyond that consider whether or not you are a "top player" with years of training before you add any pressure and then limit the same to occasions where there is no other alternative. For the altissimo Double C, I've found it very easy with a piccolo trumpet in lieu of my regular Bb trumpet. I still say that 90% of music creates no demand for pressure or contains notes higher than a Bb above the staff. Just because others do it doesn't mean I will and you shouldn't either. Some jump off a bridge, but I won't.
  3. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

    Oct 16, 2008
    I think this is a great point. Because it's difficult to qualtify how much pressure is "too much" there are people who kind of shrug their shoulders and say that "some" is needed, so don't worry about it.

    I side with Ed here and say that the vast majority of the music that I've played tops off at high C, so lots of pressure shouldn't be needed.
  4. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    Please read Mouthpiece Pressure Assessment
  5. stecer

    stecer New Friend

    Jul 3, 2009
    Birmingham, England
    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I have always been taught that the minimum force is best - and since we are dealing with sensitive lip tissue, this seemed to be a sensible view.
    What surprised me about Barenbal et al was the point that players (including members of the best Scottish orchestra sections at that time) were not aware of the pressure they were using and interestingly, could not determine the amount of pressure that another player was using. This is interesting for teachers seeking to advise a pupil. - I have a spring-loaded device that sits between the piece and the lead pipe to help practice low pressure playing, but these devices have not caught on with trumpeters. (I got mine from a shop in Seville) It may be because as Barenbal suggests, we all use greater force than we think and any attempt to practice low pressure in high(ish) registers, high volume (amplitude) or when tired simply will not work and the device is flung aside. James Ford iii writes in A SCIENTIFIC CHARACTERIZATION OF TRUMPET MOUTHPIECE FORCES IN THE CONTEXT OF PEDAGOGICAL BRASS LITERATURE (UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS December 2007) that better players show greater consistency of pressure - although some use consistently high levels - and this stability denotes the better players rather than the actual amount of force employed.
    I am still exploring this subject but the consistency point is one that I can take into the practice room I think.
  6. stecer

    stecer New Friend

    Jul 3, 2009
    Birmingham, England
    Thanks Markie. Where will I find this?
  7. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    just type it in and it will show up.
  8. npulsipher

    npulsipher New Friend

    May 11, 2010
    Greeley, Co
    It may be true that top players use a lot of pressure, but they've had years for their muscles to develop and form a good cushion. Younger players have not.

    I don't think telling them "later on, you can use more pressure" is a good idea either. They may start thinking, "I'm a really good player, now I can start using pressure" and all their good habits go out the window.

    I say don't even think about it and let it all happen naturally.
  9. study888

    study888 Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 22, 2005
    Darlington S.C.
    Since most young players are using a Bach 7C/Bach 3C rim size. The Kanstul CGP or Kanstul CG3 are very good mouthpiece choices.

    The rounder rims are very comfortable and give a good seal on the lips. For those playing the larger Bach 1 1/2C rim size. Marcinkiewicz CGP or CG3 comes in a larger rim size. But still has that nice CG Personel Rim. Good luck
  10. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

    Jul 19, 2010
    West Texas


    Acclimation to the physical demands of playing allows for the use of pressure in ways that someone without the developed chops could not sustain.

    Think of advanced practitioners of karate, football, etc. They can deliver and absorb blows with virtually no physical consequence that would destroy someone not at their physical level. If I hit someone as hard as a black belt hits another black belt while sparring, I'm highly likely to break my hand. If I let a black belt hit me as hard as possible, I'm likely to end up in the hospital. Same for taking a tackle in football. A black belt did not learn to hit and take a hit by immediately going full-speed, full-bore. It is a gradual process, where the goal is to move quickly, smoothly, and without tension all the way through the blow. As habits and muscle strength are built, more and more speed and contact is introduced. If at any point the progression is too fast, injury is likely. One of the most common injuries in martial arts is a broken hand from hitting a punching bag too hard or with improper form during practice. Think of that like the use of pressure in trumpet playing. A professional trumpet player CAN use pressure without the same negative consequences in both physical and habit dimensions.

    I love that you are looking at this in a rigorous and scientific way. You're asking good questions, but I think trying to oversimplify your question. You seem to imply that we either have to teach that all pressure is bad, or to teach that pressure is good once you've reached a certain level. In reality, it's not an either/or situation. Pressure is a crutch that anyone can use to make something happen "in the moment." Think of using pressure like the dilemma of the alcoholic -no matter how good this situation is, it's always better with booze. In the immediate moment, pressure may be "okay" or even "beneficial", but like the recovering alcoholic, the perspective needs to be over the long term.

    Also, I think you are overstating the conclusions of the study. Just because professional players use more pressure than they think they do does not automatically imply that the use of that pressure is positive or should be encouraged. The ideal use of mechanics is just that -ideal. Very few players ever attain true mastery of all of the desirable playing characteristics, and most will have to compromise in one way or another for various reasons.

    Someone with highly developed chops can "tolerate" the use of pressure because of their longer histories of positive habits and stronger faces, but that does not make it "better" to encourage pressure. An example: Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb. They were some of the greatest baseball players of all time. They also drank like fish, ate bad food, and took terrible care of their bodies, but still managed to win world championships and earn spots in the Hall of Fame. By your pressure argument, their example does not support the conclusion that being an alcoholic and not eating healthy foods is bad for you and decreases your likelihood of being a professional athlete. They got there DESPITE those things, not BECAUSE of them.

    ewanmains likes this.

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