Old comeback player needs help

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by SpitKey, Dec 3, 2005.

  1. SpitKey

    SpitKey New Friend

    Dec 3, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona

    I stopped playing seriously over 40 years ago and until last May I haven’t touched the horn in 15 years. Well now that I’m retired, bored, and looking for an excuse for getting out of doing the dishes I decided to start playing again.

    I’ve run into a couple of problems that I can’t seem to find an answer for. I have always been an open aperture player. I realize now, (it only took 40 years to figure this out), that this is the main reason for my limited range and my “strong arm†approach to trumpet playing. Lately I’ve been attempting to correct these problems by keeping the volume down and only playing in the staff. The problem is that I can only play for a short while before my upper lip starts to swell and unless I resort to pressure, refuses to vibrate. I’m consciously trying to keep the pressure down but the lip still swells. The other problem, (probably related), is that if I play several bars that requires a lot of tonguing, e. g. scale studies, my embouchure starts to “fall apart†and I start missing notes and the notes I do play have an “airy†quality about them. If I slur this same passage I don’t have these problems. I tried using Jeff Smileys Balanced Embouchure routines for a couple of months but that only seemed to make the problems worse.

    Sorry to have gone on so long but the frustration level is growing daily…almost to the point of doing the dishes instead of practicing.

  2. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    One of the main problems with trying to help folks is that you have to trust their assessment of the concern. I'm going to assume that your description is accurate, that your aperture is far too open for you to play in an effecient manner.

    So, I have to ask myself, if that's the case why don't you simply playing with a more closed aperture? Well, the answer to that is also obvious: it's all you know, historically, and there's no frame of reference to initiate an embouchure that will give you the upper register and endurance. I'm sure it's the reason you stopped playing: out of frustration.

    Where do you sound best? I mean, what register?

    My guess is the lower and lower mid register. The pressure you exert freezes the embouchure so that any pliablity is lost and you can't climb up further because it's like having a rope tied to your waist that won't let you get past a certain point while trying to climb a mountain.

    I'm also going to guess that when you form your lips after you take your breath, that you harden your abdominal area. All these things you've done for years have a cumulative effect that makes playing difficult.

    I think that you need a change of mental approach and talk yourself into how easy playing is. You need to play without a care in the world. You need to allow yourself for a while to produce any sound you like as long as it's the sound you can produce with an absolute minimum of effort. Allow yourself the freedom to toss things off casually. The only maximal effort I want you to expend is inhalations that rivals that of pearl divers. Wonderful, lung and rib expanding breaths that make you feel like a kid again. Then let them go as though you have no resistance from the mouthpiece or horn. None, nothing, zip,zilch, nada. No walls, only freedom and song. Play carelessly, allow mistakes and then don't even give them a second thought. Who the hell cares? Not you, buddy, not you. Waste the air like a billionaire buying fur coats, plenty more where that came from. Put on records and play along for fun.

    Let me know how you're enjoying the horn in a week or so.

  3. SpitKey

    SpitKey New Friend

    Dec 3, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Hi Manny,

    I'm back with a progress report of sorts. Last week I came down with the flu/cold and while that didn't stop me from practicing, the practice sessions were not exactly high quality.

    Your assesment of me was quite accurate. My best sound is in the low to mid-register. I have a problem getting the low g and f# to sound any louder than a mf, and everything above the g on top of the staff is forced. I was taught to not start a note until the abs were tensed up and the muscles at the corners of my mouth were also tensed up. Recently I've been trying to get rid of this habit and usually I will start by playing relaxed. However if the volume increases or if I have to go above a g on top of the staff, everything starts to tighten up. I tried doing what you suggested and today I have noticed some improvement. When I do a Colin flexibility study I no longer feel like I'm forcing and the sound is much brighter. Also when I play arpeggios the notes sound and feel more secure.

    After some self-anaylasis this week I think that what is happening is my embouchure is spreading. I watched myself in a mirror and when I put the horn on my face my upper lip has a tendency to stretch a little just as the mouthpiece makes contact. Then when I take a breath while playing my whole mouth ends to open up a little and the rim of the mouthpiece settles on the middle of my lower lip.

    Again, I'm sorry for such a long post. It seems brevity is not exactly my long suit. I forgot to mention last time I presently don't have a teacher, but afther the first of the year I'm planning on taking a few lessons with Bruce Lee.


Share This Page