Pain in the neck

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Bloomin Untidy Musician, May 22, 2008.

  1. Bloomin Untidy Musician

    Bloomin Untidy Musician Piano User

    Jan 14, 2008
    G'daye ye great gallahs!

    After putting much of the fantastic high register articulation advice into practice from Trumpet master, i have finally started to make significant progress! Whey hey! I can finally fast single tongue up to top C. The next problem i have to overcome is tension in my neck. It is almost clicking after spending time articulating up there. I realise that i still need to work upon relaxing and making my single tongue and air flow work more efficiently in the high register, but i was wondering if anyone has any advice on correcting my tense posture? I think that this is signifantly affecting my endurance.

    Kind regards

  2. screamingmorris

    screamingmorris Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 4, 2007
    "Like others, Reinhardt felt that correct posture was the foundation of correct breathing. In order to accomplish correct posture the student was instructed to keep the head in a position described as slightly backwards and downwards with a relaxed neck. The spine should be slightly arched backwards as well with the arms kept away from the body. This body position is to be maintained regardless of whether the student is sitting, standing, or marching. Reinhardt further warned, "Remember, the word "relax" does not mean collapse! Relaxing suggests a loosening of the muscles, but collapsing indicates an alteration of some kind or other." (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, page 19)."
    - quoted from
    An Introduction to Donald S. Reinhardt's Pivot System

    In case that description is not clear, the chin is kept halfway down, perhaps an inch lower than you would normally hold your chin.
    Just a little; don't strain into an un-natural position.

    The head is pulled slightly back as though trying to position it better over the neck.
    The entire head slides backward perhaps one inch in order to obtain a more open throat.
    Just a little; don't strain into an un-natural position.

    The player leans slightly backward with feet planted firmly under him.
    Maynard Ferguson used to refer to that as a weight lifter's body position.

    When the entire body is thus aligned, the player should feel balanced and relaxed for best breathing and open throat.

    Also, I always tended to tense up when I attempted to play loudly.
    If I play softly and gently, I find it easier to remain relaxed.
    Taking too deep a breath will cause too much tension, and attempting to play too loudly will cause too much tension.

    And, as always, try to use minimum mouthpiece pressure.
    There is no such thing a "no mouthpiece pressure" playing,
    and attempting to do so makes the tone too thin.
    But minimum mouthpiece pressure makes a good air seal while being gentle on the embouchure.

    That article from Reinhardt also stresses (pardon the word in relation to relaxation) that relax in this context does not mean collapse.
    The muscles should be tensed to some degree because they are being asked to do some work.
    The player is trying to accomplish mild tension, just enough to get the job done, while avoiding being overly tense.
    An analogy might be this:
    If you attempt to pick up a glass of water using no muscle tension at all in your hand and arm, it will be impossible, because the muscles need to have *some* tension in them in order to pick up that glass of water.
    But if you tense those muscles so much that you would be able to pick up a 20-pound block of concrete, you are obviously tensing the muscles too much for picking up an ordinary glass of water.

    Reminds me of a TV show that once made fun of the *extremely* relaxed singing style of Perry Como (all you young people in unison: "Perry who?").
    They pictured him as lying down on the stage while singing.
    (I always thought Perry Como sounded and looked like he was about to fall asleep while singing.)
    I can't remember which TV show that was.

    Of course, I left out perhaps the most important thing.
    Much of such relaxation is *mental*.
    Deliberately think of a calm, relaxing picture or thought just before playing, as though you are doing a brief meditation technique.
    Close your eyes, think of a puppy licking your hand, or think of your girlfriend giving you a hug, inhale gently, exhale with a gentle sigh of contentment and with a gentle smile of contentment on your face, then inhale gently again, and start playing gently.

    - Morris
    Last edited: May 22, 2008
  3. Sterling

    Sterling Mezzo Forte User

    Oct 22, 2007
    Marcellus, NY
    Also, look on Dave Monette's website about his approach to playing. Dave stresses yoga and the Alexander Technique. These seem simplistic but make a ton of sense. A kind of controlled relaxation.
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Take a glass of tap water into your practice session. Every time you feel the tension, stop and take a sip. Do not continue-you only train wrong!

    That is a basic rule anyway, if you notice something wrong, STOP, think about it, then continue when you have a solution.
  5. mrmusicnotes

    mrmusicnotes Piano User

    Nov 11, 2007
    The only time I ever had a problem with neck tension was when I was focused excessivly on building up my upper register.Experimenting with different mouthpieces,useing way to much pressure and not practing the right material.I ended up pinching a nerve in my neck which radiated down into my left hand.It nagged me for nearly 4 months.Playing trumpet is probably one of the most physically challenged instruments to play.WE should approach our training like an athlete.We don't want to be warming the bench on injured reserve.
  6. kornork

    kornork New Friend

    Oct 26, 2009
    I have a similar tension in my neck, and I'm feeling pain in my back that I believe is related. I definitely focus on my posture while playing, and I have a trumpet tutor that I've asked to be on the lookout.

    How did you get rid of it? I'm thinking of stopping playing completely until the pain is gone.

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