Playing too high on the pitch

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Kevin Hilman, Feb 4, 2005.

  1. Kevin Hilman

    Kevin Hilman Pianissimo User

    Jan 24, 2005
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Dear Manny,

    My good friend Dwight just purchased a beautiful old Chicago Monette C trumpet serial# 669. While play testing it yesterday Dwight observed that he may be playing a little too high on the pitch. Do you have any suggestions on how one can learn to play lower on the pitch?

    Thank you,
  2. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004

    I will assume he's playing on a Monette mouthpiece.

    Playing lower on the pitch is part of the mysterious acclimation process that takes some people longer than others to get the most out of those mouthpieces.

    Player lower on the pitch requires two things:

    1) a proper vowel


    2) a proper concept of support.

    The Vowel

    The vowel is what carries the sound to the ear and will, relative to the instrument quality, render the color. If you play with a an "Ah", "Oo" (rhymes with "Boo!"), or an "Oh" vowel through the compass of your range, you will start the process of playing lower on the pitch. If you tend to switch to an "EE" aproach, you will change the stability of the embouchure and that's the last thing you want to do when you play Monette equipment. The horns and the mouthpieces are heavier and more stable and the player needs to become more like that.

    My suggestion to your friend is to play easy, one octave chromatic scales while maintaining whichever lower vowel he can. If he does so in a stiff, inflexible way, he's going to get double-buzzes and become discouraged. Don't freeze the embouchure; just pretend to be a singer vocalizing on a solfege vowel all the way up and down the scale. Then, you go to the next half step higher and so on. Go to the first page of Arban chromatic studies.

    Proper support

    Proper support is motion not stiffness as too many people believe and some, unfortunately, teach.

    The vowel has to work in conjunction with a nice steady airflow that is supported by a steady movement inward of the abdomen. It's like a slow-motion sneeze (a good, hearty sneeze not a stifled one).
    Take a big, full breath and allow the belly and chest to expand naturally and fully. Now, release the breath and freeze your belly into that expanded position as you blow out. As you get to the end of the breath, you'll feel a lot of pressure around the throat and neck area.

    Not good.

    Now, repeat that procedure except that this time your going to tuck in your abdomen concurrent with the release. As you expel the breath, imagine trying to make your navel touch your spine! Now, the feeling around the neck comes much later.

    So, that's it, Kevin. Tell him "lower vowel and proper support" and make sure he reads this text I prepared here. If all else fails, aim for the lower half of the mouthpiece cup but all the time!

    Now, in case the Vowel Police are getting a rope ready, simmer down and let me clarify something:

    Do I acknowledge that biomechanics demands that the EE vowel is used in trumpet playing? Well, of course I do.

    Do way too many people inititiate this kind of activity too low in the range and in an artificial, contrived way? Indeed, they do.

    Are we talking about helping a player who clearly is interested in orchestral playing as opposed to playing lead in a big band and are those two different approaches? Again, yes.

    The EE vowel is a natural occurrance that accompanies one into the higher register. To initiate it in some arbitrary part of the register that someone else decided it should begin is to exaggerate that natural process. I say, keep the lower vowels in play until absolutely necessary. If you're using EE and you're not yet out of the staff you're going to be in trouble if you have to play the 2nd Brandenburg. I believe everyone has a different threshhold for what is needed to play in the upper register.

  3. Kevin Hilman

    Kevin Hilman Pianissimo User

    Jan 24, 2005
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Thanks so much Manny! I will make sure he gets hold of this information.


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