Reducing Mouthpiece Pressure?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by RoccoNut16v, Oct 11, 2005.

  1. RoccoNut16v

    RoccoNut16v New Friend

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    Oct 11, 2005
    Texas
    I have a feeling my biggest problem right now is simply one of pressure. I've tried reducing it, but it seems as if every time I do I drop my range and a bit of my tone. I have to apply significant pressure to play at an A or above, which I expect is unusual.

    What are some tips for relaxing my reliance on pressure? Is it simply a matter of building chops?
     
  2. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    The simple answer is yes.

    I like to use an analogy that David Hickman uses (I must admit that I've adopted it as my own with apologies to Prof. Hickman).

    In order to play a note on a trumpet you have to use 4 tools:

    1. Air pressure (Power if you like)
    2. Embouchure (Pucker)
    3. Mouthpiece pressure (Pressure)
    4. Tongue level (Placement)

    The 4 Ps. Different players will use each of these tools in different proportions to achieve a given note at a given volume, their own balance if you like. What's happening is that in order for you to play above that A you have to compensate for poor development of the other 3 Ps in order to play what's required of you.

    It's not just a matter of developing your chops (pucker) but the others as well. I personally use Caruso's 'Musical Calesthenics for Brass' for a variety of reasons not least being that it forces you into synchronising the 4Ps without having to be analytical but there are many other valid ways of building the whole system.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,

    Trevor
     
  3. RoccoNut16v

    RoccoNut16v New Friend

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    Oct 11, 2005
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    I had a feeling this was an air supply problem, which I've faced before, but thought I solved. Though I suppose excessive pressure might interupt the air supply, snowballing the problem. Thank you for the input, I'll check that out.
     
  4. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    Dubai, UAE
    There are thousands of posts on this and other sites that address all of these issues (the 4Ps), all with different opinions as to their relative importance. You need to discover your 'balance'..that takes time, effort and a great teacher.

    You're right..just blowing harder is going to aggravate things. The harder you blow with no result the more you mash that piece of metal into your lips. I think that it was one of the posters here (correct me if I'm wrong Billy) who posted recently that when it comes to air it's 'quality instead of quantity' when playing on a trumpet. I like that a lot...think I'll adopt that as well.

    Regards,

    Trevor
     
  5. RoccoNut16v

    RoccoNut16v New Friend

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    Oct 11, 2005
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    I suppose some experimentation is due then, which I'm currently in the process of doing. Is there any sort of standardized pressure? Curious what I should aim for, considering there are 4 variables.
     
  6. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    Again if you ask 10 players you'll get 10 answers. Some guys have highly developed embouchures and can play with absolute minimum pressure other guys have developed tongue placement to a fine art and can compensate in the extreme registers by using that 'tool'.

    On a scale of 1-10 a beginner will probably be using both 1 and 10. I, personally try and aim at a range between 3 and 6..that's simplifying it incredibly and, as I've said there are very, very good players that use 2 all the time but they have a different balance of the 4 Ps than I have.

    Regards,

    Trevor
     
  7. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Oct 26, 2003
    Baltimore/DC
    Always take what I say with a grain of salt, but I have a thought or two I would like to add.

    Go ahead and take steps to reduce pressure when you play, but keep in mind that you are probably going to have to use a fair amount when playing higher, to varying degrees of course. The idea for me when I take steps to reduce the amount of pressure I use is to get to where I don't need to use lots of pressure for general playing, so that way when I do need to use some, I'm not doing it on chops that are already buckling under too much pressure. Does that make sense? For me, it's a matter of relaxation and balance, but I do still crank it up pretty good when I'm playing in my upper register.
     
  8. dcstep

    dcstep Mezzo Piano User

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    Nov 27, 2003
    Denver
    Rocco, we can't see you or hear you, so it's really hard to get too specific with help. This calls up the classic response, "Get a good teacher and take lessons." If you've got a teacher already, then discuss your concerns with he or she. (It's amazing how often a question will get asked here before asking the person best positioned to help you).

    Now, for some concrete advice on reducing pressure, no matter what "method" of playing you're using. You already know that you can't just pull the horn away from your face. I tried that for decades and got nowhere because no one gave me tools to move me out of the compensation I was using to get by.

    Whisper-quiet practice will help you gain control of your embouchure and reduce your reliance on pressure. Start on the middle-line G, playing as quietly as you possibly can. The tone may be rough and the note may start and stop as you try to control it, but DON'T add pressure to clean it up. Keep blowing the note for several minutes (breathing as needed, but taking full, complete breaths), trying to clean up the note with small adjustments to your embouchure and getting a feeling of playing with no stress. Do this as the very first thing each day. Try to remember that feeling of no stress.

    After a week or two you'll be able to play that middle-line G whisper-quiet with tone that clears up within a few seconds of starting it. It will feel totally stress free. When you get to this point, then start doing a G-C-G-C slur, keeping it whisper-quiet and stress free. The next step is an arpeggio up to G on top the staff and back down, keeping it stress free and whisper-quiet. That top G will be just as easy as the middle-line G when you've gotten the stress out and you're controlling with your embouchure rather than pressure. With a few weeks of solid work (really just a few minutes daily) your should be able to arpeggiate up to your highest notes at whisper-quiet levels with no stress.

    Ok, I'll risk extreme flames and give you one more concrete tip. If you're a "true" pressure player, then you may not pass the pencil test. Can you put a #2 between your lips without using your teeth and hold it parrallel to the floor for 60-seconds, using just your normal playing embouchure? If you can't do that, then you've likely been using pressure to achieve your range rather than developing your embouchure. Many people (including me just a few years ago) can't hold the pencil for even a few seconds. If you can't hold the pencil at all, start with half a pencil and hold it as described for as long as you can, up to one minute. After you can hold half a pencil for one-minute, move to a whole pencil, doing the exercise three to four times per week. This exercise will awaken unused muscles and show you the feel of how your embouchure should work. Check http://www.bbtrumpet.com/ for more in-depth discussion of the pencil exercise. Try it despite any flames you see. So long as you don't overdo it, it will not hurt you and it might totally transform you playing.

    Good luck,

    Dave
     
  9. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    Sep 29, 2004
    USA
    May I suggest...

    The question of too much pressure comes often from bringing the mouthpiece to you in a way that 1) cuts off blood flow and 2) cuts off vibration so that the sound is non existent or flawed.

    One of the many reasons that I talk about pronouncing "TOOH" as a source of curing so many ills on the trumpet is because it encourages several physical occurances without a lot of physiological thought from the player.

    If you were to articulate each and every note with a TOOH or DOOH if you have to play a legato passage you would find a very nice natural cushion that occurs when you articulate. The trick is to maintain that without changing irrespective of the register you play. People often talk about Bud Herseth's legendary accuracy and consistency. Well, that came from two things: singing while he played and an almost catholic devotion to consistency of approach.

    You'll find great relief from reducing this problem to a childlike approach of merely saying TOOH when you play with that kind of attention.

    ML
     
  10. RoccoNut16v

    RoccoNut16v New Friend

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    Oct 11, 2005
    Texas
    Well this is going to sound incredibly stupid, but I figured out my problem. Let me start by saying I'm one of two first trumpets (of 20 total trumpets) in our marching band. It's a sophmore and me, that's it. The other day one of my instructors finally got fed up and told me not to lead so much. Like a trained dog I did exactly that, and was pleasently surprised. My endurance nearly trippled, mouth piece pressure fell, and my tone improved slightly (frankly it never was far short of great). Looks like I just had a good ole fashion case of playing "hero."

    Not that I've ever had a problem balancing down, but it is definatly a neat experience to be marching on the field, hear your own echo, and marvel at the fact that you're the only one playing it (our sophmore was sick a couple of times, so it was just me, like I like it).

    Anyway, I learned my lesson. Maybe somebody else will read this and avoid the embarassment :lol:
     

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