Reducing Mouthpiece Pressure?

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

  1. oj

    oj Pianissimo User

    Sep 9, 2005
    Great advices here!

    The Hickman 4P's can even be reduced to two basic factors (or building blocks) ;-) Let me quote Hardenberger (from a seminar some years ago):
    Reducing pressure can (if emphasized) move you into a negative way of thinking. It is much better to think positive:

    What do I need to be a better player?

    1. good tone (or sound)
    2. good endurance
    3. good range

    Too much pressure will of course hinder all 3, but no pressure will perhaps not give a good sound? :?:

  2. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE

    Well done!!'ll kill you.


    I'm with you..MY 'balance' is very sound-centric.


  3. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    Think of the use of pressure as in balance with the use of wind.

    You'll find that in order to reduce the pressure against one's face, that pressure must be replaced by something else: wind. If you have wind and no pressure you also get no sound other than that of a lovely autumnal breeze, perhaps, but nothing that is usable for us.

    What you're looking for is a balance of wind and pressure, two things that are needed to create sound. We run into problems when we ascend into the upper register and give in to the idea that we have to push harder in order to continue to produce sound. This is where the mouthpiece buzz can be very helpful IF you have a proper concept of what a mouthpiece buzz should sound like. It should, believe it or don't, sound rich, full, and reedy... like a new type of musical instrument. Since you don't have the benefit of the resistance of the instrument it's harder to produce a buzz on just the mouthpiece than a sound on the instrument.

    Develop that ability to buzz melodies on the middle register. Play simple melodies that you don't have to think about much in order to play them. My favorite is "Maria". I also like "On the Street Where You Live". You get the idea? Here's the other piece; people often buzz without hearing the pitch they want to play first. That's not good because you are allowing the equipment to deliver the tone without any thought from you other than just physical effort. While doing this buzzing, a clear mental picture of the sounds you want to make MUST be there. This buzzing business must be a musical event, not a physical one.

    The sound you DON'T want is a smallish mosquito tone, even up in the higher notes. Strive for as full a tone as you can in all registers. You'll fnd that if you can produce a well-buzzed sound throughout the range of the mouthpiece, in tune and with a full sound, you'll do so without the excess pressure that you're talking about. And that, of course, is what we're really discussing here: excess pressure.

  4. carltonsstudent

    carltonsstudent New Friend

    May 2, 2007
    Richmond, VA
    Reducing Mouthpiece pressure,

    The first step to take to reduce mouthpiece pressure is to lighten up on the way you hold your horn. To do this I recommend first of all to not using the finger hook while playing. For me it is only to be used while I am putting a mute in the horn or taking it out while playing, or while reaching for a mute or turning the page while playing.

    Secondly, grip the horn with the left hand very lightly and in such a way that you can work the slides - for me the first slide is most important. This means that I have to leave some distance between the palm of my hand and the horn. To do this I actually balance the horn on my left index finger with my small finger under the third slide. This helps direct what little pressure I use to the bottom lip not the top lip which must be left free to vibrate.

    Next thing is to know that the only thing that creates a sound is an airstream passing through the lips causing the lips to vibrate. To play higher notes the lips have to vibrate faster. Here is where people resort to the ineffective measure of pressure to compress the lips. A better alternative is to compress the lips forward toward and into the mouthpiece. This automatically compresses the lips and forms a smaller aperature. The next thing is to increase the air stream velocity which is done by 1- reducing the size of the cavity in the mouth by raising the tongue in the mouth. The use of syllables is of great help here and should be practiced and utilized in your playing always. Step 2 - increase the airspeed by blowing harder if necessary.

    The last thing to know is that the trumpet is a wind instrument as Carlton use to tell me. Breathe and support your playing from the bottom of your lungs using your diaphram. This is where the true and correct pressure is applied to compress the air behind the reduced aperature and mouth cavity. The throat is simply a pass through. Throat tightening is the surest and simplest way to defeat this whole mechanism. To detect throat tightening I recommend practicing with a loose necktie. If you are engaging your throat you will feel it pressing against the necktie. A second signal of misuse of the throat is grunting.

    And finally work on air flow. This means to learn to breathe properly, compress the air, and release it into the horn, always remembering to blow through the horn and not into the mouthpiece. One of the best studies for air flow is the Herbert Clarke Technical Studies. Charles Colin also has some great books such as 1 - Extensions, Range with Relaxation, 2- Close Interval Exercises, and 3- Jazz Trumpet Technique Vol 1, Flexibility by Tony D'Aveni. Also Claude Gordon's book "Daily Trumpet Routines" is excellent and brings in from the getgo the use of tongue levels and the diaphramatic rush of air caused by the impulsive 'Ho', 'Ha' , 'Hee', and 'Hich'

    And finally, Relax. There should be no tensing up before blowing. Carlton's triplet was: "Breathe, Relax, Blow" This was to done quickly as a triplet. Notice the absence of 'Tense up'.

    And my final recommendation is very important I think and it is to get regular cardio vascular exercise such as sustained rapid walking, bicycling, or swimming. In all of these you automatically practice deep breathing and relaxation. I take a walk everyday of approximately 3 miles and I consider it to be an essential part of my practice that improves everything including tone quality, breath control, breath capacity, etc., and most importantly my cardio vascular health.

    These ideas should help. They are what I do anyway.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2007
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    your discourse is interesting, but a couple of things:
    The finger hook applies no pressure: it is inert - the hand attached to it CAN apply pressure and the player has a choice. We have enough examples in the trumpet world of fine players with and without hook use so we do not need to lie to ourselves that this is a source of any problem. It is our CHOICE to play with pressure. Taking the finger out of the hook may increase awareness by adding discomfort - maybe a last resort for the non-resolute.

    Moving the lips forward "into the mouthpiece" may work with a very deep mouthpiece, but especially if you are playing lead with a shallower mouthpiece, you will discover that the compression is NOT forward, rather circular, around the aperature. A pencil held between the lips (without the teeth) parallel to the floor will demonstrate which "muscles" are required very quickly. By the way, this circular approach works equally well for classical players and makes switching mouthpieces (for instance when you need the picc for a couple of bars) much easier!!!!

    The concious use of the diaphragm is something that I do not teach (except for extreme lead playing, but that is a specialty situation). Any "pressure" "applied" by to diaphragm leads to a non relaxed breathing cycle! Playing is no more work than filling up and then exhaling!

    There are probably as many recipes for reducing pressure as there are fine teachers and one thing has become clear to me over the years: NOBODY HAS A PATENT RECIPE FOR SUCCESS! Any embouchure considerations are individual to the player and what is required are habit breakers, psychologically tuned to the individual. Trying to paraphrase a fine teacher results in leaving seemingly unimportant things out or stressing things actually only intended for onesself. The internet reader interprets yet something else into the method and chaos is complete.

    I maintain that embouchure change is not self help. The CHANCE of success is not even 50%. This does not mean that failure is immenent - but probable.

    The first step (unless you are a lead player...) in any case, is getting your breathing together. Inhale and then exhale with no hesitation or tension in between. I use a circle to describe this inhale is the left side and exhale the right - a smooth transition from the one state to the next. Once we are breathing deeply and correctly, we replace exhale with play. At first we use NO TONGUING. This insures a relaxed production of sound. Once this works reliably we add the tongue, very softly separating the tones.

    My students learn rangebuilders like slurs without using a tongue attack. This shows the quality and quantity of the airflow process. I have never needed to take a fingerhook away for success as it simply does not matter. Stealing a tongue attack (and giving the gift of a circular breathing process as described above) for 4 weeks can often turn around a screwed up embouchure VERY quickly! Like any habits, they can return to haunt the player and strategies must also be in place to deal with them. Kind of like weight watchers - a community of people can help keep us on track!!!!!!!!!
  6. robmassive

    robmassive New Friend

    Sep 12, 2007
    Pressure isn't all that bad...
    A recent study done in the UK tested heaps of lead and orchestral players to see how much pressure they use in high register playing. On average, when playing above a C above the stave, players anywhere from about 5kg per cm2 , to around 18kg per cm2.
    These may not be the exact figures, I'm remembering this from 2nd hand infomation...
    Either way, this is like putting a bag of potatoes onto the surface area of your mouthpiece, then onto you lips...
    That's alot of pressure.
  7. trumpetnick

    trumpetnick Fortissimo User

    Nov 16, 2005
    Vidin, Bulgaria

    Pressure is necessary but excessive pressure is dangerous and useless. The excessive pressure would obstruct blood circulation in lip muscles, limit vibration and eventually may even damage them. Moderate pressure , however, is needed to get a proper seal to avoid air leaks.
  8. Miyot

    Miyot Pianissimo User

    Jul 22, 2007
    Under pressure. I like this thread. My 2 cents. I try to use as little pressure as possible. Use your embouchure strength and use air for support. Again plenty of air support. As I play and begin to tire, I begin to use a little more pressure. Only what is needed. If its practice, I take a break. Always thinking of pushing it a little to get stronger.

    I think some pressure will always be needed. But not in excess. Get stronger. The breathing thing is important to me. Plenty of air support. I can say at the end of an hour of lead playing I am using plenty of pressure. But I am trying to use only enough as necessary.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2007
  9. carltonsstudent

    carltonsstudent New Friend

    May 2, 2007
    Richmond, VA

    Thanks for your review of my entry on Reducing Mouthpiece Pressure. You make many good points and I especially like your comments on the breathing circle of inhale then exhale with no stoppage of the air. This is kind of implicit in Carltons "Breathe, Relax, Blow" without an interruption in the triplet of actions and is very helpful to get the idea of not stopping the air with the throat.

    My comments on the Finger Hook were actually an extension of Carltons instructions to me. The real reason he told me to not use it is because its use impairs movement of the forth finger next to the small finger. This can be easily demonstrated by putting your fingers on the table and then move the fourth finger with and without the small finger being down on the table. When the small finger is up, the forth finger enjoys much more freedom of movement.

    Often I see a new student who is using the finger hook to help exert pressure. The first step for me is to tell him to simply stop using it. I have never used it and see no advantage to using it. Its purpose is to facilitate holding the horn when the left hand is otherwise engaged in my opinion.

    With regard to the use of the tongue, I know there are differences of opinion here as for example Mr. Jerome Callet who does not use tongue levels. I have not really investigated his way of playing. I have talked to him several times but I usually avoid the whole issue because I know he has a way that is different than the Maggio way. He is the very nicest man and will talk to you at length with out ever imposing his views on you.

    For me movement of the tongue using syllables is the simplest thing which requires practically no effort and is consistent with the physics of the problem of increasing the airstream velocity using the Venturi Effect. Compressing the air in the lungs with the diaphram is also consistent with the physics of the problem and it seems to me that we have been wonderfully endowed with these attributes which are easily and painlessly used for playing the trumpet.

    Carlton was a lead player with many name bands such as Woody Herman, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, etc. He naturally taught me to play the Maggio way. There has been some talk in these threads of what the sound should be like - whether the sound should be a shrill sound or a big projected sound. When you play in this way the high notes literally jump out of the horn in a big effortless sound that do not actually sound high.

    Regarding pressure I want to paraphrase Allan Vizzutti. He said that when you finish practicing your lips should feel used but not abused. If you have indentations in your lips caused by them being pressed against your teeth then you are almost certainly abusing your lips and using too much pressure. Some pressure is necessary to form a seal but watch out for the telltale signs of abuse.

    For me, I usually start practicing about 9:30 p.m. and go until 1:00 a.m. It is straight through practice with 2 or 3 rest sessions of about 5 minutes. Short rest session are thrown in throughout. I try to keep Allan Vizzutti's observation in mind and will stop early if I feel I am starting to slip into abuse.

    Thanks for reading my messages. I do think that it is certainly best to get a good teacher who can directly address problems, but for many, a good teacher is hundreds of miles away. Maybe our observations may be some help to them.
  10. Patric_Bernard

    Patric_Bernard Forte User

    Oct 25, 2007
    Pressure is something that may be needed if you dont have the right equipment or have a very big appeture. If you play with a big appeture and are trying to play loud with a deep round cup, your gonna get a ton of resistance and will need some pressure to keep it in. Not a ton of pressure, but just enough to keep the air from escaping. over blowing will kill you alot faster because you are trying to keep your embouchure tight with a ton of resistance. If anything, I'd listen to what Manny says because he gets a marvoulous tone and sound in any register I've ever heard him in.

Share This Page