Playing Low

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Grillnola, Mar 14, 2008.

  1. Grillnola

    Grillnola New Friend

    Mar 14, 2008
    Hello Everyone

    First let me say thanks for having me here on TM. I have been a lurker for a number of years and I have always been impressed with the the level of knowledge and maturity present on the forums here.

    Let me preface my query with a little background info. I had an embouchure change(my third and final hopefully:-)) about 6 months ago that really did wonders for my playing. The only thing that I felt was lacking initially was the ability to play clearly in the low register; a problem I was hoping would correct itself. Unfortunately it hasn't become THAT much easier over the time I have spent to play in the low register. Around low c things become a little more "airy" or "fuzzy" and sort of lose the characteristic trumpet sound that I feel I have from g in the staff on up, with an inability to play below low A.

    In a trumpet world filled with people who want to play higher, higher, and higher this may seem like an odd request, but how can I play lower!!


  2. commakozzi

    commakozzi Pianissimo User

    Oct 30, 2007
    Georgia, USA
    It's not odd at all. I've had a pretty good range throughout most of my playing "career". However, I've gone through an embouchure change as well. Mine is probably different from yours, but I'm experiencing a similar problem. Down to low Ab I have a great sound, but G and F# are hairy a lot of times!!! My upper range suffers now too, but only when I'm tired. When I'm in good form (rested and warmed up properly) I have a wonderful sound throughout my limited range, but still... low G and F# bother me. I'm trying to remedy this by ending every session I do (no matter what kind of session it is besides warmup) with some pedal tones. I'm not sure who popularized this pattern, but it goes: G, F#, G, A, G, E, C.... F#, E#, F#, G#, F#, D#, B... etc. down to pedal C. I'm finding that when I'm getting that "bite" to my notes below F# then I know that I've got F#. It's hard to explain while typing, but essentially, play a low C# and really push it without spreading the tone and you'll hear this kind of sharp sound in the tone. A really brassy sound. That's what I'm looking for on the G and F#. It's best described as being a "full buzz", but it's best heard than described. Another thing you might want to consider is that you may not have found a good warmup for you yet. I know that I've found mine, and it took a long time to find. You might thing you're getting warmed up but aren't able to do what you need to do afterwards. Maybe you should experiment around with some different warmup routines. Hey, the best thing you can do (in my opinion) during a warm up is just play quietly. The more quiet the better. Do some "semi full range" lip buzzing at fortissimo. Then do some mezzo forte mouthpiece work between low C and middle C (and lower... I do). Then do some long tones and scale exercises (nothing that puts you over middle C). Then rest for 30 mins and come back to the horn. Also, play low notes as much as possible, but don't neglect everything else. Geez, this is starting to sound like my day "what do I do? Do I do this, or this? or this? I don't have time for all of that!!!!" Ugh. Sorry.
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    this is a very common problem. As we can't see you play, we can only guess, but a couple of things come to mind right away:
    breathing not relaxed. I have talked about a circle of breath a couple of times here. the left side of the circle is inhale, the right exhale. At the top and bottom of the circle there are no bumps or angles. Your breathing should behave this way too - smooth transition from one state to another. Practice that until your breathing is round, then replace exhale with play(without tonguing). Forget about diaphragm breathing and other tension builders for a while. The goal is to get a clean start in the middle register without using the tongue. This could take a couple of days!
    Once this works in the midrange, practice playing higher and lower, still without the tongue! You will find that the lowest octave will become much more powerful when the tongue is out of the way! So now you have a couple of relaxed octaves and now you add a bit of tonguing. This is not easy as you need to learn to place the tongue at the top of the circle! You also need to use as little tongue as possible. Once this is repeatable, your breathing is probably squared away!
    The next low range killer is too much tension. Chop builders can wipe out your low range. As you have gone through an embouchure change, it is very possible that your face is working VERY hard and that can limit your low range. Anything that beats your face up will raise the level of tension and prevent relaxed buzzing.

    As I don't know what your teacher had in mind with the embouchure change it is impossible to recommend a fix. My students divide their practice time into 3 equal parts: first is breathing, longtones(mouthpiece and horn), then slurs. Part two is tunes or repertory and last is chop builders, technical studies and etudes. This time allotment is very important to build proper habits! No one facet of practice gets the upper hand. The first part reinforces the body use, the second is the reason that we even play and the third is to get better. It is critical NOT to practice music when you are tired, that is why I put the tunes second.

    You need to play detective and figure out where the tension is coming from. It could be as simple as modifying your present routine into the 3 equal parts that I described. If you are a trumpet major, you may have to give up an extracurricular ensemble (or two or three) to give your chops a needed break.

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