Recovering embouchure after braces?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by ABCgirl, Dec 28, 2006.

  1. ABCgirl

    ABCgirl Pianissimo User

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    Nov 10, 2006
    Maryland, USA
    I got my braces off about 2 months ago, which completely changed the shape of my mouth, and with it my embouchure. At first, I had brilliant range (for me), great tone, and few struggles with control. However, about a week post-braces, I lost all control (trying to play low C and resulting in top-space E, for example), my range became shot to the point that a G sitting on the top line became a "PFFT" of air, and my tone became wobbly and fuzzy. I haven't figured out how to get it back yet. I can play higher range, but only for a few notes, then it's gone. The control has improved slightly, having relearned the shape a little.

    Honestly, I used to LOVE playing. I looked forward to my practice everyday and didn't want to stop until I had reached the end of my endurance. Orchestra rehearsal was the highlight of my week. Now, I go into practice with dread, finish with almost tearful frustration, and want to quit after barely half my normal time. Rehearsal is a struggle, and I feel like I'm being humiliated by the other players I used to be on level with and that I'm ruining their playing with my own. Of course my frustration is probably exaggerating that, but I'm at the end of my wits. :bash:

    Any tips at all? :dontknow:
     
  2. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

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    It sounds like your chops are "confused" without the braces. We get used to automatically doing certain things to achieve certain sounds and then "WHAM!" everything stops working and it feels like the world is coming to an end but not fast enough to suit us. Sometimes, anyway.

    The Vulgano approach would be to confuse your chops even more, on purpose. Borrow a baritone or french horn (or mouthpiece) and play a few minutes. Go back to your regular mouthpiece/horn combo for a few minutes. Switch to a big mouthpiece (like a 1C) and switch back. Do the same with something small. Rest your trumpet on a slick surface and play without holding it. Hold it upside down. Clean your horn and your mouthpiece, and do anything else you can think of that is different than normal.

    After a while, your chops will surrender, so to speak, and you'll give up trying to play. Now is the time to approach the horn with a fresh attitude -- keep the sound and the results you want in mind and just play. Consider the results to be feedback, rather than failure. Consider the whole thing a big experiment, and in due time, without stressing, your chops will "recover," and you'll be light years ahead of everyone else because your body will have lots of experience in knowing what not to do. We call this knowledge wisdom (Wow, I guess I'm a wise guy, huh?)
    Have fun, and be at peace.
     
  3. trumpethack

    trumpethack Pianissimo User

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    Jun 1, 2006
    Massachusetts
    Here's a "quick fix" drill without getting into a whole book about working on fundamentals...

    find sometime in the day separate from your "practice", pull the tuning slide out of the horn and just play the mp and leadpipe. Stick your right index finger on the end of the pipe, blow, then remove your finger. You should get the sound to just pop right out. experiment with blowing softer and harder, find where it works the best. Don't be in a rush to move your finger. Very important to blow, THEN move your finger. Then add some tonguing after a minute or two. Just doodle around on the leadpipe, always starting the first note with your finger.

    Just doodle around like this for about 5 minutes or so, never keeping it on your face for too long at a time. This should feel like a really "easy" exercise, it should.... You aren't working on endurance, or strength with this exercise. So don't even think about those things. Just blow and make the sound. Then put it away and come back later to practice. Then when you practice I would spend a minute or two doing similar things on just the mouthpiece (get a b.e.r.p...) doing simple songs as well, since you can play more notes on the mouthpiece...

    A little bit each day will have you back better than ever....

    Matt
     
  4. Blazing Asian

    Blazing Asian Pianissimo User

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    Nov 10, 2006
    I'm sorry I can't give some advice since I still have my braces on, but while you had your braces, did you ever use a lip guard or wax or anything at all?
     
  5. Young Trumpeter

    Young Trumpeter Pianissimo User

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    Jun 10, 2006
    i know exactly the situation you're in ABCgirl. i just got my braces off in june. it took me a good two weeks of practicing 24/7 (luckily it was finals week and other than tests i had all the time i needed) just to get my sound back to somewhat normal. even to this day my range is not what it was because i learned that with braces it was too easy to use pressure. don't worry about range. my teacher had me play lots and lots and lots of long tones which helped my lips get used to the simple act of buzzing without lying against the braces. take everything slowly. it takes time, lots of time. my private teacher and band teacher STILL mention me "getting used to playing without braces" and it's been a good six months. as long as the other people in orchestra understand you're getting used to this then don't worry about them. take it easy in orchestra and don't overwork yourself. take lots of quick rests while you're practicing, and in time you'll be better than you ever were. in the long run braces only hold you back.

    i'm no professional and all of this was based on my own experiences...in case that affects anything lol.
     
  6. ABCgirl

    ABCgirl Pianissimo User

    79
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    Nov 10, 2006
    Maryland, USA
    I discovered, with braces, that using a guard or wax just inhibited my playing. Despite the cuts I had in my lips, I played a lot better without wax/guards than I did with them.

    Well, Young Trumpeter, that's encouraging. I feel a little better about it.

    I'll definitely try all the advice I was given. I'll have to see if I can find a few mouthpieces to borrow.
     
  7. Hypnorm

    Hypnorm New Friend

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    Dec 26, 2006
    Gloucester, UK
    I remeber how you feel, i played with braces for about a yr, it messed me up having them on and was sooo frustrating having them off, i was over compensating as my chops had got used to workinh hard with the braces on that suddenly when they came off, it made everything close up so that even a middle C was a fusty fttt! i was in tears everytime i played, but i just carried on playing every day, i reduced my practice time from 45 mins to 30 mins for a couple of weeks and did tone practice with long notes and lip slur exercising and eventually got my toine back.. dont worry you will get there.

    I used wax over the front of my braces otherwise it would dig in to my lip.
     
  8. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

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    Jan 24, 2005
    I had braces in high school, and I used white teflon pipe tape from the hardware store. I think I took a couple inches, folded it double, maybe even doubled it again (it's been awhile) and then cut it the long way so that was just the right size to cover the metal and not hang off my teeth. It took a little experimenting, but I never cut myself playing and it only took a few seconds to put on or take off each time I played. I did it on the top and bottom, other people I know just did the top. It's cheap, so maybe worth a try. Good luck!
     
  9. Blazing Asian

    Blazing Asian Pianissimo User

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    Nov 10, 2006
    I regularly use wax, although my playing with nothing is not to terrible, but what was it like when you got your braces off? Since I usually put that much wax as you did tape.
     
  10. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

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    Jan 24, 2005

    I tried the wax once and that was enough for me. The sharp stuff just poked through and it was different every time. Uh, hated it. But if it works for you... Also, the tape simply feels like you've smoothed the metal, not added mass to the front of it.

    Anyway, I developed some very bad habits when I got my braces off. I tried to go right back to playing and just did "whatever worked" to get the notes out. I started using lots of tension and physical manipulation. It sort of worked, I happened to have a nice sound and some decent musicality, so I progressed to the point of getting music degrees, but it's been a long struggle recently to finally un-learn some of the stuff I used as a crutch. It stood in the way of a decent high register and endurance.

    So, as for getting the braces off, if I could do it again, I'd take a week or two completely off the horn, then start with a little mouthpiece playing, always with a full breath and no hesitation before the attack (another hard habit to break). Then go back to the horn and breathe big, think good musical thoughts, and not expect to regain your range and endurance overnight or in a week. Your face needs to learn how it feels to exist without a bunch of metal, and the coordination between lips, air, tongue will take a little while to come together. It changes more for some and less for others, so be patient. The thing that screwed me up was trying to do everything I did before (high G's playing lead, etc), without giving myself time to re-adjust. It's possible, in the short term, to regain range with physicallity and manipulating the chops, but in the long term, good breathing, GENTLY pushing yourself and letting the range come back over time will lead you down the right road.
     

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