Physical Tension and Horn Ergonomics

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Comeback, Nov 10, 2014.

  1. Comeback

    Comeback Forte User

    Jun 22, 2011
    Fort Wayne, IN
    I suppose we've discussed this topic thoroughly in the past, but my thoughts returned to it while practicing this evening. At my age and skill level, the ergonomic qualities of my instrument seem to make a noticeable difference in the quality of the music I produce.

    My flugelhorn and cornets do not fit me as well as my trumpets. Among my Bb trumpets, one seems to fit a little better than the others. Location of the third valve slide ring and space between the top of the third slide and the bottom of the bell seems to make the most difference, along with the distance from the valve block to my face.

    The effect I notice is a light quaver that seeps into my tone and fatigue that develops in my messed up right shoulder. Do any of the rest of you experience something similar, and does the instrument you play make a difference?

  2. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    Interesting proposition. The valve blocks on a Martin Committee (that feels "in your face") is so much different than my Recordings (that "stretches out" the elbows). Yet the ease of sound dexterity I get from them are remarkably the same when it comes to fingering effort.

    Interestingly the 4 valve flugelhorns can provide a dilemma. Kanstul make there "standard" 1526 with a pinky ring. Talk about making it awkward to use the forth valve when the pinky ring is in the way. So I asked Kanstul to customize my 1526 by leaving the pinky ring off, and as a result, it is quit comfortable to play.
  3. Comeback

    Comeback Forte User

    Jun 22, 2011
    Fort Wayne, IN
    For me, fingering dexterity doesn't change too much from horn to horn either, nor does ease of producing sound. Pleasing qualities of my sound do change slightly, though, especially as a playing session stretches on. Perhaps one of the trumpets, by dint of its ergonomic characteristics, just contributes less to fatigue in my right arm and shoulder than the others. If this is so, what I experience may merely be related to effects of injury and age. Whatever it is, I'm glad I have an instrument I enjoy playing that mitigates the issue.

  4. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    Yes. And I suspect that as you say, Jim, it's age and old injuries coming back to haunt us.

    The shoulder thing is a particular concern since my last lay-off was precipitated by a frozen shoulder that dogged me for a couple of years. Since most of my work is done at a computer keyboard, it's likely that bad posture is a big factor in this, and I'm now pretty careful about picking a good chair and desk height.

    I've noticed it more since the embouchure change as a more forward jaw position has caused me to lift the instrument to the extent that it's now very nearly horizontal. I've actually found that switching instruments around from time to time helps though I could only guess why. Certainly after an hour on the bass, any of the normal trumpets feel light as a feather for a while at least.

    Of course, I should really tell myself that lifting beer bottles does not count as an exercise regime, and I should think about going back to doing to a few dozen press-ups every morning. Scary thought.
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Actually, no, I don't notice this as the human state is uniquely flexible and only demands thousands of repetitions to train it to do just about any high precision job. Perhaps if I had not made the major investment earlier in my life, ergonomics would contribute to "more" success.

    I know that this doesn't help, sorry!
  6. Tomaso

    Tomaso Pianissimo User

    Oct 2, 2014
    New York City
    Coming from 30 years of clarinet playing you guys make me laugh. Three buttons!
    If I weren't so polite I might suggest that you get a life. :lol:
  7. cdave

    cdave New Friend

    Oct 22, 2014
    Saint Paul, MN
    This may be a bit off-topic, but I notice that if I tilt my horn 10-15 degrees above horizontal, my playing gets WAY better. Could this be because I'm new and haven't learned to make it sound good if the bell points down?
  8. ConnDirectorFan

    ConnDirectorFan Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2010
    United States
    Perhaps - I learned to play with my horn about perpendicular to my face, but as time progressed I was able to play with several different horn/mouthpiece angles.
    In environments like marching band, we were pretty much forced to play with horns angled up a bit; in jazz band, one director taught us to play with the stands down and horns up, looking through the horn bracing to see the music; in pep band, it just worked to have the horn straight out...

    The idea is to play where it is most comfortable/easiest to play for you, as no one is the same [yet some directors challenge that for the sake of uniformity, but I won't take sides on that issue].

    EDIT - your point does have to do with ergonomics - I've seen some angled mouthpieces used as a means of taking a bell-down embouchure and still allowing for the horn to point straight forward.

    To continue my spiel, I find that dexterity is a funny thing when the springs on one horn are ultra-stiff, and the springs on another are rather light and pliable [from stiffest to weakest, King 1117, Conn 15A, Musica 96T/Yamaha 6310Z]...
    Wide wrap [1960s Connstellations] is another cool thing - the left hand "death grip" is another interesting factor, as well.
    Now I realize I don't have much of an opinion on either design...
  9. Comeback

    Comeback Forte User

    Jun 22, 2011
    Fort Wayne, IN
    I can understand why switching instruments around could be helpful for you, Seth. We can observe similar circumstances associated with other human activities.

    My right shoulder and arm were messed up by lots of time spent early in my career as a construction tradesman, and then then after our boys came along, as a baseball and football coach for many years. The results of the abuses were serious problems by the time I was in my early 40s. Major painful rehab helped me get back much of what had been lost. I have maintained a strong commitment to exercise and physical conditioning ever since.

    In spite of the conditioning, though, there is enough difference in the way my trumpets fit for there to be consequences in my sound and physical comfort. For me, at least, the benefits were worth the experimentation with several instruments.

  10. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    I believe it is because tilting at this angle for you aligns and opens up the sweet spot to your embouchure. Not off topic at all, this to has to do with ergonomics.

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