Problem with frail lips - I try to take it easy, but it's not helping much

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Haste2, Apr 5, 2011.

  1. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

    Jun 16, 2010
    Here's all the details I can provide, thorough but also concise enough, I hope.

    I’m a college level trumpet player, and I’ve been really frustrated with having frail lips since November of last year. I just feel like my progress with technique, etc. is really being hindered due to this, not to mention I have to stop playing after a much shorter time due to pain...(not severe)

    To condense the story as much as I can… from 2004-2006 I played in college groups including marching band, 3 other ensembles, with fairly high parts, too, and my chops never felt pain…. just about never! I admit I played pretty hard, but considering the next day I was almost always fresh again, I don’t think I actually "overplayed" that much, from what I could tell. Then from 2006-2010 I play rather sparingly as I took college off.

    In the summer of 2010 I began practicing again in preparation of going back to school in the fall, and I think that all is well. I take on a decent load of music (jazz combo, wind band, orchestra), but without marching band this time, and around September I feel a bit more discomfort on my lips than normal… “slight” pain if you will, so I try to take it easy on pressure and such. But it’s not that bad. Then, come November, and I get a zit on my lip… and I have a couple of concerts I have to play. Inbetween concerts the zit pops and turns into a bleeding sore. I force myself to play through the next concert. Then, for the next couples of weeks my lips feel pain really super easily when I try to play, even after the sore “healed”. I literally had to pull the mouthpiece away from my lips all the time in order to play, and things weren’t going so well. The pain reduces somewhat by the end of the semester in December, but it was still not good at all. Finally, at the end of the semester I take 8 days of playing the trumpet.

    Then I go back to practicing for a week or so before school started again in January…and my lips were feeling as good as early in the Fall semester. But, it didn’t take long for the pain to come back. Now, it’s not quite as bad as it was back in November/December, but it’s still troublesome. If one looks at my practice routine and when I play in ensembles, nobody would never say I’m “overplaying” or “overpracticing”. When I start feeling pain, I take it more easy and I lay off a lot when playing in band. But, even on days with pain, I still try to do a fairly light practice for half an hour, including a lot of soft playing, because I’m devoted and really want to get better. (maybe that’s a bad idea?)

    So, basically, some weeks have more pain than others, particularly the weeks where I have to do a concert or whatever. Also, sharpness in the upper register has been a bit of a problem lately. I even demoted myself voluntarily to 5th part in Jazz Band, and have taken a break from orchestra over the past month, too. I’ve taken a few 2-3 days off of practicing, too, but it doesn’t take long for me to feel “beat up” again, even though I don’t play that hard.

    Any advice? My teacher’s helping what he can. Basically, my practice routine is like this:
    10-15 minutes – lip slurs, generally mezzo forte as instructed to do
    5-10 minutes – soft Clarke exercises
    5 minutes – tonguing exercises, either scales or Clarke
    30 minutes – solos I’m practicing, ensemble music, etc.

    And I take short breaks frequently, too. (i.e. I play a little, pull out my music, play some more, oil my vales, play some more, get out my metronome, etc.) I could probably do a bit better with resting on my “good” days of practicing though. I tend to mess around a little during my routine, playing random pieces of tunes and stuff, and I often do a couple of attempted ppppp long tones at the start, since it feels good and helps keep my sound warm.
  2. Anonymousiv

    Anonymousiv Pianissimo User

    May 29, 2010
    Youngstown, OH
    What mouthpiece are you playing on?
  3. coolerdave

    coolerdave Utimate User

    Nov 7, 2009
    San Pedro
    The dreaded zip .. I still have a scre fromt lancing mine before a paid gig 35 years ago.
    Did you look in the mirror to see if you have moved the mouthpiece placement?
    This is a really touchy post to comment on. I am glad you have an instructor.
    I can say that you need to take the resting seriously ..... that can mean play 15 15 seconds ... the screwing around thing really does help.. and yes it is boring sitting there .. I run over the next section just using my valves to keep from going stir crazy.
    perhaps the forum can suggest some other ideas.
    it could be the "zip" or it could be something else that happened that you aren't noticing.
    Did you have any dental work done?
    Did you start smoking?
    Did you start dating an Amazon Woman who is ravaging you 24/7? just sayin'
    Did you change trumept intructors?
  4. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

    Jun 16, 2010
    I'm playing on a B2 Monette mouthpiece. I've been playing on it for several years.

    I have to add that the zit was at the very top on my upper lip, I think a little off center... I can't remember for sure exactly where on my lip. The Pain on my lip is actually a bit more than just where the zit was... it's kind of all over the parts of my upper lip that touch the mouthpiece. However, one part of my upper lip, near the center of my embouchure, gets more of a "sharp" kind of pain if I start playing too much.

    And, good point about the rest. I'm still working on doing a good deal of rest during practicing ALWAYS...

    ...yeah, one thing I like to do is practice fingerings while I'm resting, in order to make productive use of that time. I have not changed my embouchure or lip placement, I have not changed teachers, and I am not using more pressure than before. No smoking, no dental work, either. (I keep myself in pretty good shape!)

    I don't think my pressure is very excessive, considering I only get a small of "imprint" on my lips after playing a while. Even players who don't use much pressure still get a little imprint, right?
  5. schleiman

    schleiman Piano User

    May 12, 2010
    Austin, TX
    Ingrown hair?
  6. TrumpetMD

    TrumpetMD Fortissimo User

    Oct 22, 2008
    Hi Haste2,

    Sorry to hear about this. It sounds like you're doing your best to figure things out and get better. And I wish you all the best.

    Based on what you're saying, it doesn't sound like the zit was not the cause of your problem. Although the problems you had with the zit definitely complicated things.

    You took time off. After you started your comeback, the pain appeared 2 months before you noticed the zit. The pain today is in a broader area than just where the zit was.

    Based on this, what stands out to me is the 4 year break between 2006 and 2010. You're less than a year into your comeback. Have you talked to your teacher about playing too much too soon? Your chops were feeling great during the winter break, but the pain returned after you got back into greater playing demands when the semester started. In addition, have you talked to your teacher about the possibility of bad habits that may have crept in since you started your comeback?

  7. Anonymousiv

    Anonymousiv Pianissimo User

    May 29, 2010
    Youngstown, OH
    I haven't seen your embouchure, but....

    Are you keeping the corners of your lips forward so you have a bit more lip in the mouthpiece? Its important not to stretch your lips tin while playing--it will decrease endurance and may cause pain further into your practice session.

    Maybe also try a smaller, very comfortable mouthpiece for a while? I always thought that schilke mouthpieces were comfortable.

    I'm just taking a few shots in the dark.

    My guess is after you came back after the 4 year break, you're doing something different with your embouchure than you used to. You just need to identify what it is and switch back.

    Easier said than done.
  8. coolerdave

    coolerdave Utimate User

    Nov 7, 2009
    San Pedro
    Haste2 ... it does sound like you really have reserched this out... The ingown hair is a possibility. I wonder if you have a cyst or something... and I cringe even saying that.
    Keep us posted... this is a tough one
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2011
  9. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    I am concerned that you may have sub-mucosal scaring (or a reactive lymph node) from the previous infection. Do you feel a nodule on the mucosal surface (the surface on the underside of the lip? If you do, placing pressure on this will cause an inflammatory reaction (that will come and go as the level of irritation changes). If this is true, a very good oral surgeon can remove this tissue (or cyst as noted in the above post), and in short time, the inflammation should resolve.

    Do let me know if you feel a nodule on the undersurface of the lip, and if you do, get a referral to an oral surgeon. Good luck.

    Gary M. Onady MD, PhD
  10. coolerdave

    coolerdave Utimate User

    Nov 7, 2009
    San Pedro
    I am sooo thankful we have a doctor in the house .... I absolutely hate talking about that stuff
    thanks Gary !!

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