Playing with an open throat to fight sharpness

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Learningon, Jul 27, 2010.

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  1. Learningon

    Learningon New Friend

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    I need some advice. I'm a freshman in HS and have been playing trumpet since 3rd or 4th grade. And I've always played sharp even with my slide out at least an inch. I asked my privet teacher about this past spring and he said it was because I was still young. I wasn't satisfied with his answer and the way he seemed unconcerned, but I was busy working out the rhythms and fingerings on my solo piece so I switched my sharpness to the back burner.
    Recently I untended a bandcamp at a college nearby. The trumpet guy who lead the sectionals pushed in my slide and told me I wasn't allowed to pull it out and my goal was to play intune by the end of the week. He told me to play much more open which worked. So, I've been playing with my throat open but I find it much harder to tounge. Am I doing something wrong or is it just going to take more practice to get my tounging back? I also find it harder and easier to play higher. I think I'm just ging to need to keep up with the open throat but I keep finding myself want to close up to play high. But yet when I can play high with openness it's easier. Anyway, I would love any advise, advisories or anything that could help me in anyway.
     
  2. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

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    Jul 19, 2010
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    There's a lot of info in your post, and a lot to talk about, but I'm going to try to keep it simple.

    Your camp instructor had the right idea. Playing in tune is a matter of training your ear to both "hear" the correct pitch before you play it, but also to "listen" to the ensemble around you. You need to be confident in hitting notes cleanly, but able to respond to where the group is playing. When he pushed your tuning slide in, your instructor was forcing you to listen to the ensemble and to "hear" the correct pitch rather than relying on your horn to play the note for you.

    I've had the best luck learning correct intonation by spending 5-10 minutes a day with just my mouthpiece and a piano/keyboard/tuner. I start by playing a note on the keyboard and then buzzing my mouthpiece to match the pitch. My goal is to be in tune on the attack rather than having to "bend" the note into tune after I start buzzing. That's hard initially, but you'll find that pretty quickly you can buzz the correct note in tune just by hearing the note played. I do that for the tuning notes (low C, middle G, middle C), and then turn away from the keyboard and hit keys without looking at the keyboard to force me to listen to and match "random" notes. I'll even play games where I pick up a mouthpiece and try to buzz tunes as I hear them on the radio, or I'll put on a CD and buzz the melody along with the song.

    Next, I start by buzzing notes, and then introduce the keyboard pitch. For example, I buzz a low C, and then, while still buzzing, play that note on the keyboard. My goal is to be able to buzz the note in tune so that when the note is played on the keyboard I don't have to change anything to be in tune. Eventually, you want to be able to buzz any pitch in tune just by "hearing" it in your head before you play. I will buzz scales, lip flexibilities, and even songs just to get the notes in my ear. This step takes a lot of work initially, but when you can do this, your ear will be well-developed and you should be able to play in tune even with a tuning slide all the way in or out just because you "hear" the right pitch before you play it.

    I use the mouthpiece buzzing as my initial warm-up, and it doubles as good practice for training the ear. You really can't do too much of this type of ear training work, and its a much quieter alternative to late night and early morning practice than playing the horn. It's also a lot easier to carry around a mouthpiece and buzz during breaks or while watching TV, etc.

    All this teaches your ear to recognize pitches and keys, and you'll be amazed how much easier playing the horn in tune gets when you do more of this.

    As for the throat and tonguing issues, those are breathe control and repetition issues. I've found that when my air flow is well-controlled and I am relaxed the articulation takes care of itself. That said, developing good habits takes time, and if you are working to improve your articulation after making a change in how you are pushing air and managing your air flow, you will notice some differences.

    There are some really helpful threads on here about breathing exercises and playing with a relaxed, open sound (for example, see Rowuk's threads on the circle of breathe). I don't want to re-type all the good advice there, and I recommend that you look through a few of them. In a nutshell, practice playing without tonguing initially, and play long phrases slowly and softly. Building good playing and tonguing habits must come from a solid base. Soft, relaxed, and musical playing is that base. You then gradually expand the range and dynamic level as you get more comfortable, all while staying relaxed. Tension is the enemy here, and that tight throat you described is tension. I'm sure many other people on here can offer more detailed advice that I did.

    You're young, and its impressive that you are seeking out good instruction and advice. Just remember that you won't get anywhere on the horn overnight, and establishing good habits early can make it a LOT easier to get where you want to be later.

    Scatmanblues
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2010
  3. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

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    May 30, 2010
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    Just a random thought .... have you got an adult sounding voice yet? Your playing might lower in tone as your body matures .... until then, why not just use the slide, that's what it's there for.
     
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    The throat is ALWAYS open. It is made out of cartilidge which is hard and non collapsible.

    An "open throat" is only a visualization for a relaxed, low tension upper body. To get that you need to pay attention to body use. Key words to google here are: Alexander Technique, Yoga, Body Use, circle of breath.

    Why have so few trumpet teachers looked at an anatomy book? The human body is so well documented and the truth can be dealt with much more quickly.
     
  5. jongorrie

    jongorrie Pianissimo User

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    May 9, 2010
    Exactly - I hear this "open throat" misnomer quite often too. I'd like to add that it is of course physically possible to use the back of the tongue to block the airstream, or close the glottis (which may be preceived as having a closed throat) but technically speaking, the throat itself does indeed stay open.
     
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    I actually suspect that besides tension, that the vocal cords curse many stressed players. They have the power to limit air power - how many grunt when they play............
     
  7. jongorrie

    jongorrie Pianissimo User

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    May 9, 2010
    I think you might be right - do you know if locking the vocal chords is also related to the valsalva manuveur?
     
  8. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

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    Come for the advice, stay for the Rowuk!
     
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    I think the valsalva manure really doesn't apply to "sensible" trumpet playing. Those that try to blow their brains out, probably don't use what little that they have.

    If we lock the air up tight, we produce no sound at all. While we are playing, air is moving and therefore can't be valsalva. There was an incredibly long thread on this ages ago and there was no proof, just one guy with a monolog. I really don't want to go there again. But if this was really a problem, we would have players dropping by the thousands. I would venture to say that most players play with WAY too much tension - and regularly enough so if there was an issue, we would have some statistics. Where are they? Non-existent.

    I am pretty sure that the vocal chords can be VERY powerful.
     

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