New student embouchure help!

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by moozikteacher1, Oct 20, 2014.

  1. moozikteacher1

    moozikteacher1 New Friend

    Oct 20, 2014
    IE, CA
    Thank you ahead of time for any help with my new trumpet's embouchure troubleshooting. FTR I am a fairly new band director, and I play trombone, though I've taken an embouchure workshop with Dr. Turnbull, which was EXTREMELY useful.

    My new 5th grader has been playing for about a month now. Here's physically what we've got going on:
    • very, very full top and bottom lip, with a pointed center on his top lip.
    • moderate overbite
    • moderate gap in the front teeth
    • Playing on a 7C
    • Strong breathing for a beginner

    When he first picked up the mouthpiece to buzz, his first pitch was a high C. I was slightly amazed. He was extremely tense, though. I got him to relax a bit and still, he could only buzz the C in the staff. Putting the mouthpiece on the horn, he was stuck between that C and high C.

    A month in, we've been able to work his relaxation down to get a G in the staff out. He has to relax so much though, that he's leaking tons of air off the sides of his lips. Poor guy is spitting all over. Of course, beginning band books start off with C-E, so he can't play a thing unless he plays up an octave.

    Here's what I've tried so far:
    • a flapping buzz to lower the pitch. He got a low C doing this but the air was leaking out more than going in the mouthpiece.
    • buzzing the pitch first then adding the mouthpiece, he couldn't keep the buzz up once the mouthpiece was placed
    • he tenses up a LOT all over when he's trying to play. I've really tried to get him to relax
    • just let him play in his comfortable octave then bring it down later

    Here's what I'm considering, but I am open to the ideas of actual trumpet players!
    • getting him 1on1 and just cranking out pedal tones and slurs
    • a different mouthpiece (looked at a 5CW or 3CW) though that has its own issues/controversy :D

    I'm going to ask mom's permission if I can post a pic of his face (nose down) to see if we can troubleshoot this thing. Thanks all!
  2. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Welcome to TM, moozikteacher1!

    First of all, it is almost impossible to diagnose playing problems online; you will get both good advice and bad advice, because, uh, it is almost impossible to diagnose and fix playing problems online.

    I've got to ask: Does your student play with their teeth together?
  3. Jfrancis

    Jfrancis Pianissimo User

    Jul 19, 2008
    Hannibal, MO
    Good point, Vulgano. I would add stick with the 7C, despite the urge to go deeper.
    Have him think of the corners of his mouth as two trees, and his lips as a hammock - tension is happening in the wrong spots.
    Once the tension dissipates, look for some normalization to occur.
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    This is not part of a diagnosis, it is how I start every student regardless of age or experience:
    1) circle of breath - google it for details, but in a nutshell it is a big inhale and exhale into and from a prepared body.
    2) I call it M-bouchure. Put the lips together before applying the mouthpiece. With a lot of leaking air it sounds like the student is doing the opposite!
    3) longtones using the circle of breath
    4) lipslurs using the circle of breath

    Lipslurs are the key to evolution
  5. Culbe

    Culbe Forte User

    Jul 25, 2014
    I sometimes leak air after playing for a long time. This is when I'm the most lose because I'm tried, not tense.
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I sometimes leak air after eating Mexican food, or corned beef and cabbage.
  7. neal085

    neal085 Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 6, 2012
    Ft. Worth, TX
    That's really a deplorable state of affairs, Patrick.:shock:
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    There are solutions for this issue. I think that leakage is probably the best solution however - UNLESS it happens when you want to play that last double C at a gig and your body use changes dramatically for a moment....
  9. Glennx

    Glennx Pianissimo User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Interesting challenge. An obvious alternative (note emphasis, please) would be to switch your student to trombone or euphonium. It might also be that after playing euphonium for several months his embouchure would be 'relaxed' enough to go back to trumpet with more typical results. And fingering would be already developed. Just a thought.

    While teaching high school years ago I recall a slim grade 9 student (great kid, smart, personable) who seemed absolutely incapable of taking even a modest breath, let alone a deep breath...and who could not, for any money, project a stream of air sufficient to make a sound on any brass instrument. Blowing up a balloon would have been absolutely beyond him. Dunno how he got through his day. Music class was (for both of us) an...experiential experiment.
  10. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    I've a particular interest in this as I too have quite a marked procheilon (fleshy tubercle in the centre of the top lip, if I understand correctly), and it certainly has an effect on how I play. Every trumpet player I've come across who has this feature (and I do look out for it) seems to play with the mouthpiece a little offset to right or left. The procheilon seems to interfere with formation of an open aperture in the centre, and the additional air pressure required to form one tends to blow air out of either side where there is less resistance. This is particularly so (for me at least) when playing a small mouthpiece on a weak embouchure.

    I find that with the right size rim (1 or 2W works for me), I can centre it over the left side 'natural' aperture, and let the rim help support closure of the right hand side. A year into a new low pressure embouchure, and I don't leak unless I play to total exhaustion. Which I don't.

    You used to hear people say that no one with a 'cupid's bow' could ever play trumpet. That's far from the truth, and once you get past the lip resistance issue, I believe it can give some advantages.

    Got to do something about that tension, though.

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