Playing through pieces

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by john7401, Feb 18, 2010.

  1. john7401

    john7401 Pianissimo User

    Jul 3, 2009
    I've noticed at my trumpet lessons alot of times if I'm playing an Arban excercise that is page length, maybe about 1/2 way down the page my tone starts getting a little airy. This is what happened with my solo at solo+ensemble. I'm not sure if it is just my lips being tired from playing things before these pieces or if it is endurance, but are there any thoughts as to how to best go about being able to keep my good tone I have throughout the piece?

    My instructor just stops me some in the middle of these excercises for a little bit and continues on, but I don't feel like this is helping improve my abilities at all.

    Edit- I feel fine most of the time getting through these passages, just the tone gets lost a bit sometimes. It could very well be endurance issues too, because sometimes when this happens it grows untill the end when my lips just feel like crap and can't realy play anything well. However, a fair number of times I don't have any problems getting to the end, just somewhere I loose some of my tone for the 2nd part of the passage.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
  2. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 24, 2005
    Check your breathing. Is it as full and relaxed in the middle of the tune as at the top? Tense or shallow breathing will start to infect your sound as you go on.
  3. TrumpetMonk

    TrumpetMonk Pianissimo User

    Jul 22, 2009
    West virginia
    I have this problem as well. I find mostly it's because I play inefficiently. I find that breathing correctly and relaxing as well as keeping a good mental "picture" of the sound really helps me :)
  4. Keith Fiala

    Keith Fiala Pianissimo User

    Feb 21, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    What tends to happen is that the aperture is being "over used" and fatigues. A good solution to this is to keep your "embouchure" firm and your aperture (the hole that the air comes out) small and focussed but not tight. To help focus the aperture, think of pushing your corners toward the mouthpiece...

    Airing out, pinching off, and loss of sound all together are some of the affects of over use of the aperture.
  5. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    Hi John7401,
    Here's something you might want to check out. It's under Mouthpiece Pressure Assessment:
    Without a doubt, one of the most common questions Trumpetmaster gets are questions about “PRESSURE”. Hundreds of questions are asked and hundreds of answers are given. This got me to thinking. Why not come up with a way or find a way (or assessment) that a player can use to help determine if they are using too much pressure. Kind of a “home assessment” for the person who isn’t blessed with a good teacher but has a cheap recording device. With relative ease, a person can record themselves and assess the likelihood of using too much pressure. In addition, excessive mouthpiece pressure may be something the individual isn't aware of, especially if they started playing the trumpet using too much pressure and never corrected it. The crux of the biscuit is to stress the negative impact of pressure and the importance of a good instructor.
    I wish this was my complete idea but the majority was gleaned from a famous trumpet text (pages 19 &20). I’ll give a bright shiny quarter to anyone who can guess the text(which I highly recommend to any brass player).
    The fastest way to obtain a notes on a brass instrument is to adjust the amount of mouthpiece pressure against the lips. Very little pressure for low notes and a lot of pressure for high notes. It makes sense and, it works!
    Since it seems to be human nature to follow the path of least resistance, we find the average brass player (who isn’t blessed with a good instructor) obliged to develop their own PRESSURE SYSTEM of playing. The only advantage of this system is a “quick start”, let me point out the disadvantages of “strong-arm trumpet playing as I have seen them:

    FAULTY INTONATION (playing out of tune)is the most common failing of this method. This type of player tends to move sloppily up and down to notes instead of striking the center of the intended pitch.
    WEAK LOWER REGISTER Continued pressure causes the lips to swell or thicken to the point that they will not vibrate at the low frequency required in the lower register. The tone in this register is usually “windy”.
    COURSE EXECUTION An inability to play delicately. There are short and detached and have a sharp, ragged edge to them instead of being light and round as a bubble
    BLIND NOTES Notes that fail to sound out, often happening in soft passages.
    UNEVEN SLURRING Fails to get a smooth, flowing sound and pitch usually suffers.
    SPLIT NOTES When the player attacks a note, then flies off to the partial above or below the intended note.
    NUMB LIPS This is when the lip become numb from cutting off the circulation. An often asked question on TM.
    DAMAGE TO LIPS After years of playing with extreme pressure the tissue will become damaged not unlike feet after wearing too tight shoes.

    If you suffer from any of these symptoms, assess yourself by playing a scale (two octaves if possible) up and down and ask yourself “am I pressing the mouthpiece harder against my lips as I go up and then ease up on the pressure as I go down?”
    If your notes are dictated by the amount of pressure you use, then work to reduce the pressure with exercises and while doing this, play close attention to what the lips and mouthpiece are doing.
    Hope this Helps
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2010
  6. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    From your post you say that your teacher stops you to let you rest and then you continue. But they offer no instruct about working on the problem. If this is the case and you feel no improvement have you considere getting a second opinion. They do it with doctors don't they! There are several different issues that could be causing this. without seeing and hearing you play it would be a shot in the dark.
  7. sass

    sass New Friend

    Apr 7, 2008
    nelson b.c. canada
    My approach would be to play softer in my practice. All the time. Not just as a part of my practice but every thing done as softly as possible. This was some thing I learned here on this forum.
    This does a few things. It gets me away from tension where possible and allows me to feel more of what my lips and air have to do ,or not do, to vibrate. It has increased my range,endurance and tonal consistency.
    When it come to pushing it out in performance I find every thing is more relaxed and in control.
    I have found this to be one of the most important aspects of my practice and very helpful in figuring out for my self what I should be doing with my aperture.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2010
  8. john7401

    john7401 Pianissimo User

    Jul 3, 2009
    As for the pressure assesment the first and second are true for me only when trying to play louder in my higher notes. :/

    Practicing quiet is an idea that I like and want to start doing, but previously my brass band and jazz band directors wanted me to practice playing louder because I wasn't playing loud enough. I believe that now I am at the point where I'm better about playing out and being able to play louder in all notes of my range, however, now they want me practicing alot of using lots more air on higher notes. Obviously I think this would be a little hard to do quieter, and sometimes I can play those notes softer, but I just can't add volume to them without dropping to a lower pitch so I think I'll have to still practice these loud, but now do the rest of my practicing softer.

    Thanks for all the responses. They are much appriciated.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2010
  9. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

    Jul 28, 2009
    New Hampshire
    The issue may well simply be one of endurance -- in order to play a 3-minute piece all the way through with no problems of airy tone and sagging endurance, you need to be able to play a 5 or 6 minute piece all the way through. Or, as my college trumpet teacher taught me, work up to where you can play the piece through 3 times in a row, non-stop, and then you won't have any issues with playing it once. John, you mention that you wondered if it was from being tired because of things played before the etude in question or was it an endurance issue -- they're the same thing. If you're tired because of music already played, then you lack endurance. To build up endurance you have to play longer, but do it wisely. Practicing softly is great, but make sure you're practicing long enough to be able to last during your playing situations, whether it be a solo&ensemble festival or a jazz band rehearsal or a gig or whatever. And once you start to feel that you can play for longer than currently, then you need to practice with normal dynamics for the playing situation you will find yourself in. It does you no good if you *only* practice softly if on your gigs you need to play loud -- you'll get worn out fast and not make it through the gig if you haven't built yourself up to being able to play that long *and* that loud.

    Same goes for the high notes -- you have to have a reasonable and constant routine worked out to not only help you play ever-higher notes, you also need to work to be able to play your current highest notes with enough volume to be heard without cracking the notes.

    It's an ongoing battle for all trumpet players -- staying in playing shape to be able to handle all the playing situations we find ourselves in, for both range and endurance.

    Physically taking care of yourself is important in all this -- take long walks at a brisk pace to build up your body's physical strength. Eat properly (cut out the junk food and empty calories and eat a properly balanced diet for your body size and structure) and stop drinking so much soda (if you currently drink a lot) and have water instead.

    Get your body in great shape and the trumpet playing will improve, too.
  10. GB in Japan

    GB in Japan New Friend

    Feb 21, 2010
    As dhbailey said above but I also recommend:

    Running for building up your physical endurance.

    Playing your warm-ups softly, for working on your embrouchure endurance.

    Blasting out your favourite songs in practice - just for the sheer hell of it.

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