Playing "In the Red" With Big Lips

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trumpetaddict, May 18, 2012.

  1. wilktone

    wilktone New Friend

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    Do you mean a student that has the rim *below* the red of their upper lip? Most brass players place above the upper lip vermillion. Since the vermillion is itself arbitrary and not in and of itself any more part of the embouchure than the "fleshy" part of your lips, does it matter? The anatomical reasons for avoiding placement on the red have been debunked, mechanical reasons depend on the individual, and there are examples of fine players who place the rim on the red of their upper lip. You can see some examples here.

    This again, is partly what I mean by framing your points using your own anecdotal experiences as evidence. For me to respond to your thoughts here I suggests that I feel you're teaching wrong. Let's try to remove our personal stories from this conversation and discuss this a little more dispassionately. I'm not opposed to hearing about different pedagogical approaches and discussing their merits, but talking about your personal results makes this impossible without this topic turning into a flame war.

    I agree with you that these are important points to consider, but you leave off what you think should be correct. Where do you feel the air stream to go after it passes the lips?

    Frankly speaking, I don't think the real issue in this topic is whether or not it's fine for some players to place their mouthpiece on the red of their upper lip. The basic situation we're discussing is a particular embouchure type that most players and teachers are completely ignorant about. Honestly, I don't think many players and teachers seem to be knowledgable about even the more common embouchure types. The actual matter has to do with the tradition of how we teach embouchure. It's fashionable to dismiss and deflect questions about the embouchure and focus instead on breathing or practicing specific exercises. Yes, this can work very well and I'm not advocating we throw the baby out with the bathwater. However, the willful unfamiliarity us teachers sometimes demonstrate regarding embouchure form and function only serves to perpetuate a culture of ignorance. If the only tool you have in your toolbox is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.



    Dave
     
  2. wilktone

    wilktone New Friend

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    Some of my evidence was linked to prior to me even getting involved in this topic. I am writing under the assumption that people have taken the time to read through it and follow some of the links I have there. I also cite sources there that aren't available online. I guess I could copy and paste, but I prefer to direct you to that resource with it's embedded photos and videos instead of trying to add all that here.

    I'm not opposed to discussing current pedagogical traditions and how I think it fails students, but when the evidence that is offered in support of current practice is attached to your personal experiences as a teacher of 35 years I can't address your points without also going after your own teaching. Your personal results don't impress me any more than my personal results should impress you. Instead, I prefer to focus on facts and what we can know for sure.

    Again, the situation you're describing is only partially correct. If you want to take a closer look at the variety of brass embouchures and how they function you might start with the video I linked to in my previous post, then perhaps follow some of the sources I reference on the link Gary provided a couple pages back.

    You don't clarify what your evidence is either. If it's your 35 years of teaching, please consider that your anecdotal experiences are biased and that perhaps you may be using an incomplete model of how brass embouchure function. If you have something tangible that you can post, I'm willing to revise my opinion as new evidence comes to light.

    You don't come to the truth of a matter by looking for evidence that supports what you already believe, you do it by generating a null hypothesis and attempting to falsify your ideas. If it withstands that process, then you might be on to something. How have you tested your ideas here and what were the results?



    Dave
     
  3. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

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    Wilktone,

    As our air passes our lips it cones somewhat and the mpc cup captures it and redirects it, hopefully to the optimum down the mpc throat and not elsewhere.

    In no accepted training materials for beginners, in Standards of Excellence or otherwise, have I seen any reference to embouchure. Admittedly, if any probllems of embouchure are observed, the sooner they are corrected the better, and it isn't as easy to explain this to the very young as it would be to an adult and youthful recalcitrance is the primary obstacle. I seriously doubt if many students encounter Claude Gordon on this subject until instrumental music study in college, and I didin't really then, other than a listing of recommended reading. Still, I had been initiallly taught and tutored by Dr. Walter H. Cameron ( a Sousa cornetist also) and I remember him coming behind me and squeezing my cheeks.

    While the outside of a mouthpiece or outer rim is more often is visually observed above the "vermillion" of the lips, many of these have the inner rim inside the "vermillion". To some extent, this relates to knowledge of the specifications of the mpc being used, viz how thick is the rim being used and the outer diameter.
     
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    What is "partially correct" about the tight aperature? I checked Garys link to your website. Nothing concerning purity of tone, stable pitch, ability to play wide intervals quickly, ability to start from a whisper and crescendo cleanly to a thunder, clear articulation.

    These are all things that my experience with in the red players have in common (actually this can be extended to many others with aperature deficiencies).

    As far as the function of the embouchure, we HAVE to start at the trumpet. The opening and closing of the upper lip like a valve and compression by the lower lip are two very significant factors. My link to the IWK website shows actual high speed videos on how the lips work. The initial vibration gets a standing wave started in the trumpet. The acoustic "stiffness" of the embouchure governs the things that I have already mentioned. That acoustical stiffness requires a great deal of fine motor control that I have never heard from an "in the red" player. I don't know every trumpeter on the planet, but I do get around as my posting here at TM documents and am VERY interested in what gets results.

    As I previously mentioned, I do not reposition the mouthpiece and have never had to. A properly monitored daily routine (attention to purity of tone, breathing, body use, integration of body, breathing, articulation, brain and face muscles allows for a very natural evolution to a more efficient state. When "force" is reduced, the muscles can integrate. This integration in my students without exception has been a net decrease in the visible red when playing regardless if up or downstream and irregardless of the mouthpiece size.......

    I will go so far as to say that most "embouchure" problems aren't even that. The basic dysfunction of a body not integrated forces players to compensate with many undesirable things - mostly in the face and upper body tension. When we spend prime time integrating, most things clear up with no further dedicated action.

    I can recommend a very good and enlightening book for you however. It is called "Teach your body to blow" and is authored by Malte Burba, an acquaintance of mine who specializes in integration in a very extreme way.

    Why do we have to generate null hypothesis with students that come to us for help? Isn't a better musical life evidence enough. If the agenda is to build up the quantity of students or achieve acedemic honors, then I guess the guinea pig concept is OK. I am on to something when my students can't get enough trumpet. I am on to something when they use music to better their own lives. I am on to something when they are able to develop their own audiences. I am on to something when a pro crashes and I help pick them back up.


    I asked you a couple of real life questions. You didn't answer any of them and referred me to pictures that reinforce what I have been saying. You called my understanding "partial" with no evidence. Fill me in:
     
  5. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

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  6. wilktone

    wilktone New Friend

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    Crimony, this forum software is a dog if you take longer than three minutes to compose a post. This is now the third time I’ve tried to post a detailed reply after loosing about 20 minutes of typing each time. This time I’m going to type my reply first and paste it later.

    No, the air stream probably never goes straight through the mouthpiece like you describe. Here’s a resource I put together that demonstrates this, including photographs, video, and citations. I originally typed in references to some additional academic papers or articles that also support this but I’m not going to go through that hassle again just now. You’ll have to take my word that this phenomena has been independently confirmed by a wide range of teachers and players and it is well documented. There is no reason today for any of us to believe that blowing straight into the mouthpiece is “optimal.”



    This is not directly related to any point I was making. Beginners need to prioritize what they work on and it’s probably really not helpful to get too deep into their embouchure until after they’ve been playing for a couple of years or so.

    Exactly one of my main points. Not only do different mouthpiece sizes have an effect on where exactly the rim will be placed, but also the variety in size and shape of different players’ vermillion make the red of the lips a completely arbitrary feature.

    At its core, this discussion isn’t about placing on the red, what we’re really debating is whether it’s appropriate to play with a placement that is low enough that there is more lower lip inside the mouthpiece. From this point onward, I’m going to address comments with this in mind.

    It’s based on the erroneous assumption that all players want to have their upper lip predominate. I'll explain in more detail below, but it's one of the same points I made here.

    Not on that particular page, but the examples I posted there (and elsewhere on my site) speak for themselves. I post more direct links below for you.

    I don’t know you, your teaching, or your students. Take all the following points as rhetorical questions, not criticism.

    Since you admit that players who don’t place low on the lips have similar issues, why do you blame those issues on the mouthpiece placement and not simply on what you're calling "aperature deficiencies?" Have you looked at the students' apertures through a transparent mouthpiece to see what these aperature issues are? How would you describe them, or better still, can you post photos or videos of this? How do you know if actively encouraging a student to maintain the low placement while working on those deficiencies wouldn’t work faster or better? How do you know that a different routine that doesn’t include the result of moving a student’s placement higher (unconsciously or otherwise) wouldn’t work faster or better?

    In this thread you are making inaccurate statements that are drawn from incomplete understanding of the resources you site. For example, you wrote:

    The lips absolutely do vibrate and Bertch’s videos show this. In fact, the names of many of those videos themselves include the term “lip vibrations.” You’re understanding of how the lips vibrate inside the mouthpiece is skewed.

    You mentioned:

    The orbicularis oris muscle group encircles the red of the lips but also runs underneath them. Other than a thin layer of subcutaneous fat (present under all our epidermal layer, not just the lips), the lips are part of the orbicularis oris.

    And you state:

    Again, this is incomplete and only applies to downstream embouchure players. Here is a link to Lloyd Leno’s film. The second video here shows the low placement players and you will see that these players have the reverse situation to all the subjects Bertch used in those particular videos. Notice that on the IWK page there are only players who place the mouthpiece with more upper lip inside.

    Your argument is analogous to teaching all art students to draw with their right hand because you only notice people are right handed. Low placement embouchure type players are sort of like “left handed” embouchures in that it’s correct for these players to place this way and they represent a minority of players.

    Just because you do something a certain way and find it works doesn’t mean that adding something to your approach can’t make it work better in some situations. You shouldn’t be impressed by my own anecdotal experiences if I mention I find something effective, nor am I impress by yours. The plural of anecdote is not evidence and I will not be baited into criticizing your teaching like this, even if you’re doing this unintentionally.

    A red herring. If the student’s issues are integration issues then that’s something different from an embouchure problem. If a student’s problem is in the breathing, correct the air. If it’s an embouchure problem, fix that. Don’t dance around the issue by jumping straight to integration.

    Yes, sometimes you can fix certain issues by helping things interact more efficiently with the whole. Sometimes the integration of everything can be improved by working on the details. It just depends on the student, much like the best mouthpiece placement is individual.

    I didn’t say we need to directly do this at all times with the students we teach, and you probably already do under certain circumstances. My point, however, is that some of us are only looking at resources that confirm our preconceived notions about embouchures and thereby are fooling ourselves into thinking that we’ve got the whole picture. If you want to subject your ideas to a real test, only looking for things that support you will miss important information that will improve your understanding.

    In addition to the evidence I posted above, here are some videos that should help illustrate my points. Here’s a link to a good jazz low placement jazz trumpet player. Here’s a video of a pretty good low placement trumpet player playing Carnival of Venice. Here’s a good horn soloist with a very low placement. There are others, and if you want to see more examples of this particular embouchure type you can poke around here.



    Best,

    Dave
     
  7. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

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    Wilktone and others, may I suggest you compose lengthy posts in Microsoft Word and copy-paste them into threads on TM, however this forum may have restrictions on length which I've not yet encountered except in Private Messages. Such has been a satisfactory solution for me. Also works in reverse!
     
  8. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

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    I believe you've misunderstanding of what I posted. I did npt say "straight" into the mouthpiece throat as if this were true, I'd have a heck of a time getting the optimum results from my double cup Parduba mouthpiece. The mouthpiece cup is the first instrument part shaping the sound that is eventually produced. It certainly wouldn't help if any air escaped to the outside of this mouthpiece, but I've known such to happen ... mostly at the initiation of articulation after a breath when the mpc has been released from the lips.

    Too, I use Kelly crystal clear mpcs and Visualizer to observe student lip issues. I do not believe I am remiss or ignorant of such. I also use the same technique my first instructor used to assess embouchure issues and that is a soft touch of a students cheeks while they sound notes, but I address any such issues without discussion or identifying with name ... by demonstration, an instance where emulation provides corrective results given patience.

    In an aside, when most of the advanced texts, like Arban's, Clarke, Schossberg and others were written transparent mpcs were not known as they had not yet been invented. I don't know if visualizers were either. In the 1940s the Kellys were unknown, but I know my instructor had a visualizer and although he never had me use it, I observed him having others use it. Presently, I believe many instrumental teachers, instructors and tutors employ as many devices and materials as they possibly can to assist their students ... and students are much more varied than all the known automobiles ever made worldwide and just like an ignition key, what we do will not fit all.
     
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Ed,
    don't worry, I'm done on this thread. I have made my point.

    Wilktone is accusing us of the very thing that he is doing himself. He has some "assumptions" that I have never seen work (I have glued the broken pieces back together often enough however). Fine. Everyone can decide for themselves.

    It is interesting that we now are at "low placement" not "in the red" anymore. I made no statement on low placement. As a matter of fact, I only mentioned red and that with a good diet of stuff to play, that we fixed the deficient aperatures shown in every red embouchure that I have ever dealt with.

    I do use visual aids like mouthpiece rims, clear mouthpieces and video techniques. I don't need them for my students however unless I am explaining something like using less pressure.

    As far as lips vibrating instead of opening and closing like a switch, there he has more to learn and study. This is a myth that also will not go away. The lip switch concept with the standing wave is VERY basic brass science. I am surprised that he is not aware of that. The two acoustic ends of the standing wave are very essential to the efficiency of the player/hardware combination.

    The red herring comment is also interesting. I have no statistics on how much time and money has been wasted on embouchure, but have NEVER met a brass player that did not benefit from better integration.

    I guess I have been very fortunate that all of the students that I have did not embouchure problems needing to be solved. I could have made a lot more money.

    He is right about the air NOT going straight through the mouthpiece. There is a high pressure zone in the cup that supports the lips from the front, there is leakage of the DC component through the throat and the AC component created by the interaction of the lip and standing wave is more or less a "brick wall". This is why mouthpiece practice is considerably different than with the horn.

    Here are the links from people that I feel have the necessary background and research to explain what is really going on. I was involved in several of the studies:

    Brass instrument (lip reed) acoustics: an introduction
    http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/reprints/WolfePlenaryICA2010.pdf
    Redirect Notice
    Air Column Use by Musical Instruments
    http://www.veneklasenresearchfoundation.org/research/rdayers1.pdf
    Lecture Notes
    http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/doc...ementsOfRealAndArtificialBrassPlayersLips.pdf
    http://www.phys.ufl.edu/courses/phy2464/pres-files/Pres17.pdf

    There is a lot more available. The main point is that the desired behaviour of the embouchure (sustainability of the standing wave at the desired frequencies at the required volume and with acceptable tone quality) is dependent on the integration of breathing, the fine motor activity of the face, tongue behaviour and the flexibility of the lip in response to these factors. The actual lip tissue has much less to do with this than the balance of the previously mentioned parameters. It is very easy to get hung up on embouchure and miss the boat entirely. Enabling the lip switch is fundemental to proper brass playing. Playing in the red in my experience creates a handicap, that perhaps can partially be compensated for. There is no need to artificially change most embouchures if the proper daily routine is diligently followed. Evolution is far easier than revolution.
     
  10. wilktone

    wilktone New Friend

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    Why don't you teach your students to understand their embouchure and put the advice they will inevitably get from elsewhere (such as an internet forum) into proper context? Take our original poster, for example. He needs to learn from his teacher if he is an upstream or downstream embouchure and how he should practice and develop his embouchure in such a way that works with his embouchure type, not against it. Secondly, when your teacher go on to offer advice (such as on an internet forum) or become teachers themselves, they won't benefit from your personal experience.

    Then I misunderstood when you wrote, "As our air passes our lips it cones somewhat and the mpc cup captures it and redirects it, hopefully to the optimum down the mpc throat and not elsewhere."

    There are studies, by the way, that have used membranes over the mouthpiece shank and a valve to allow air to escape just inside the cup. The tone of the instrument wasn't affected because the vibrating column of air/standing wave inside the instrument interacted with the vibrating membrane, rather than the vibrating lips. Once the air passes the lips, it's largely superfluous. There isn't an ideal place for the air to move, but it will eventually end up going down the shank (under normal playing circumstances). It will always do so in a general upstream or downstream direction, however, so I don't feel that discussing the air as moving "down the mouthpiece throat" is a useful description. Nor is a completely accurate description.

    Yet we still rely heavily on those authors, who were largely ignorant of basic embouchure features. This isn't to say those method books aren't helpful, but don't you think that we should adapt to the improved understanding of embouchure form and function?

    And many (perhaps even most) of those teachers don't understand the variety of embouchure form and function to understand what they're analyzing and put their student's into a proper context. And I feel that much of this ignorance comes from the fact that teachers tend to dismiss the embouchure as you describe, making corrections without telling their students what they're correcting and why. When these students go on to teach themselves, they rely on the same method books their teachers assigned and teach the same instructions that happened to work for them.


    Dave
     

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