Reinhardt's advice for range: "Don't fall in love with your lower register sound"

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Local 357, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011
    Am not sure if Donald Reinhardt wrote this in his books but it was a common saying he gave to his students interested in connecting and mastering their upper registers.

    "Don't fall in love with your lower register sound"

    It's a good piece of advice. And while I can't speak specifically to Reinhardt's intent I can explain what it means to me. So please excuse if I don't perfectly describe Dr. Reinhardt's methodology. Going to mention only what it means to me.

    At the beginning of learning how to play high notes some 41 years ago I was one of those students who needed to hit the High F's loud at first. Early on they didn't come out softly very well. In fact the reason why some cats find their high ones loud at first would make an interesting thread all by itself. Anyway it wasn't until becoming a college music major and studying the Clarke Studies SOFTLY that I began to gain the understanding of the value of playing softly in all registers.

    By taking the volume and sound down a notch or two it makes register connection much easier. Conversely when playing the middle and lower registers loudly it tends to leave the mouth corners too loose and unfocused. That and there is the marked tendency to drop the jaw. Or recede the jaw/teeth unfavorably in those persons who might be better advised to keep their jaw forward. I play with a receded lower jaw myself just fine so it doesn't matter to me specifically if I "drop my jaw" but this advice is a variable matter in each player.

    I also play with another chop setting which requires a forward jaw. So as such I can see the wisdom of not dropping the jaw in certain applications.

    Another advantage of softer playing in the middle, lower, and upper registers is that it is a great way to reduce arm pressure on the chops. One of the more interesting discoveries I made some five or so years ago was that arm pressure doesn't correlate with high note production. You can prove this to yourself by playing a note well below your highest limit and then adding only arm pressure. Even if you blow a little harder the tone won't rise very much. A major second is about average. Try it? Play a High C, blow a tad harder while adding more arm pressure but apply no muscular contraction to your embouchure.

    Guess what? If you're average The note won't rise above the D natural. Instead the rule is that arm pressure correlates with volume production NOT register increase.

    And within these words lies a clue: By learning to play your upper register softly you can remove excessive arm pressure from much of the game. Thus this kind of development lets you play a High E with only normal placement arm pressure. About the same pressure that gravity gives your horn when it is placed upon the palm of your hand.

    See Roy Roman's video here: Roy Roman plays a double c with no pressure - YouTube

    Hint: You don't need to work your chops up to a Double C as Roy does. He plays a specific chop setting known as the "Stevens-Costello Triple C Embouchure". Upon this setting it is fairly easy to blow with minimal pressure even well above Double C. Most trumpet players however will not be able to make the conversion to Stevens-Costello. I use the video only as a reference on how to lay the horn on your palm to attain only slight contact pressure...

    For most of us "human" trumpet players (ie not especially gifted with the ability to play settings like Stevens-Costello) we can still derive much valuable help from laying the horn on palm and playing with the mere contact mouthpiece pressure allowed by gravity alone. In time you can take that squeaky High C and turn it into a mezzo forte C. Later a forte and then double forte.

    I'm not particularly gifted naturally in the upper register. Meaning that like most of us I can't play Stevens-Costello as described in the system. However I was still able to build a decent High F and G at least at a mezzo forte volume with just the horn resting on the palm. If I want a little more volume? I can crank the pressure up a bit. Keeping everything within acceptable levels which won't blow my chops out in the short or long run. And of course if it is the last set of the evening and a few High F's or G's are necessary? Well at that point I may jam it good and hard. However this isn't my whole way of playing like a lot of cats blow.

    Some lead players will use heavy arm pressure all the time when blowing above the High C. Maybe even notes as low as G top of the staff. For these type pressure is a way of life. "Five minute heroes" a humorous term to describe them.

    So by all means experiment with keeping the volume down in the middle and lower registers before you ascend above the staff. Concentrate on minimal chop muscle motion too. Use the same setting from low to high and you''ll soon find that High E with only minimal arm pressure. And at that point its pretty much impossible to run out of chops on a gig. At least up to the High F to G or so. And if you have that ability?

    You're definitely among the minority on this forum. Very few trumpet players who post here can play a solid two to three sets of a standard lead trumpet gig. Most of them won't admit this is so but you can bet money on this being true.

    Caution: Until playing with less arm pressure above the staff gets well grooved into your ability don't trip too much on reducing pressure while performing. Just concentrate on the music. In some ways the above advice may seem to contradict my suggestion to preach the "Just tongue and BLOW" simple ideology. Not really though. "Just tongue and blow" is a very valuable way to develop good air support and a positive, aggressive, confident lead performance style.

    In short use as much arm pressure as you need to fulfill your required music. Use your head though. If you really can't play thirty High C's (or similar) on a gig? Take the notes down an octave or delegate them to the cat playing second or third etc. He needs the experience too.

    But in practice and in most band classes? Don't use undue arm pressure very much. You're just "rehearsing your mistakes". Play with your head, not the ego. As Maynard said:

    "Your own hands are directly connected to your ego". A reference to using excessive arm pressure on a gig.

    In fact I will post that video too. The quote is at about 1:11 here: Maynard Ferguson Clinic: 05. Upper Register - YouTube

    And have fun. Enjoy yourself!

    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012

    JNINWI Piano User

    Apr 26, 2011
    Great Advice !! Thanks !
  3. kehaulani

    kehaulani Fortissimo User

    May 14, 2011
    Hawaian homey
    Thanks for sharing that, Local. I've just got two comments.

    - - I've read a little bit about Costello-Stevens, but "not enough to hurt me none". Could you tell me why you say that most of us can't play Stevens-Costello as described in the system and that we have to be especially gifted to do so? What's the disqualifier for most of us? Since I've just recently been reading a little about this, I'm really interested in what there is about the system that makes you say that. Thanks.

    - - also you might find it interesting to know that Philip Farkas later remarked that he had only one regret about his "Art of French Horn Playing" book and that was the inclusion of the exercise photo of him playing the Horn, which was resting on a shelf, and without his touching the horn with nothing other than his embouchure.
  4. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011
    While I probably can't prove this to everyone's satisfaction the best hypothesis is that the elasticity of the upper lip varies between one player to the next. Those with very elastic flesh NEAR THE BOTTOM OF THE UPPER LIP? Should take a stab at Stevens-Costello.

    Otherwise you will play some variation of a receded jaw embouchure set-up. Reason? When playing receded jaw the inner gum membrane (which is ALWAYS more elastic than the outer flesh) will be forced to vibrate and carry the playing load. Check it out for yourself lest there be any doubt:

    In the receded jaw setting the inner flesh of the upper lip receives and delivers the air through the mouthpiece. It might be helpful to observe this in a mirror while buzzing.

    Unfortunately for the receded jaw trumpet player the dropped jaw and inner flesh of the upper lip can not be well supported by the lower lip when playing in the upper register. So typically they peak out around a High G. Assuming they have no major liabilities physically otherwise. ie counter-productive muscle function.

    More later gotta run!


    The Roy Roman video is interesting*. Again;

    Note the straight out to upwards angle of the trumpet compared to the location of his head. Roman has fleshy lips. When first starting out on Stevens-Costello he played with a dry lip setting. Later through the years I'm told that he re-learned it with wet lips. Deciding that its far easier to maintain a consistently wet embouchure. Especially when the pit or stage gets warm and perspiration takes its toll.

    Another element peculiar to forward jaw playing is that these type are not only prone to play with dry lip settings but that they actually ca do it all.

    I mentioned that receded jaw players tend to top out at G above High C and this is true. they may play a fine lead but seeing them do tricks like Mark Zauss is rare to impossible.

    I play with a receded jaw setting and can even use my Double c from time to time but that's just what it is; A cap note or end of solo showboat things. Played the B natural in rehearsal just last night. It is however not a place where i regularly "live".

    What may help these receded jaw types play more scream without busting their teeth is by gradually working down to as shallow a piece as physics limits them. And to be patient in the experiment. Avoid prejudging the new experience until a few months after bringing the shallow piece into play.

    Usually the solid receded jaw trumpet player's High G is far fuller and louder in tone than the forward jaw cat. So changing position shouldn't be an issue for him. very little music is written for the High A and above.

    * Does anyone else here find Roy Roman's voice similar to Congressman Barney Frank's lol HEE HAW!!
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
  5. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    I don't have the cult following of Doc Reinhardt (don't get me wrong, his writings are worth reading, meditating and chewing upon; digesting and turning into wisdom) but will posit the following: "Don't fall in love with your upper register sound."

    I consider playing the trumpet an under-appreciated Zen Art.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
    coolerdave likes this.
  6. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    It saddens me to look back on all those years I wasted working on developing a good sound in all registers,not just one.
    As far as the quote you claim is Reinhardt's ,I couldn't find it in his "Encyclopedia of the Pivot System",maybe you could tell us what page it's on.
  7. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    I've read his stuff too and don't recall that quote either. I also have the Roy Roman cd and found it difficult to watch. What I noticed from the "no pressure" approach was the higher he played, the more his finger pointed upward! :lol: What bothered me most about the RR cd was him "poo-pooing" the normal way to develop one's embouchure. Glad the cd was a gift and I didn't shell out big $ for it!
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  8. JediYoda

    JediYoda Mezzo Piano User

    Sep 25, 2010
    State of Confusion
    I found in my experiences that the above is very true.
    But perhaps the OP has left out a very tiny minute variable.....

    I do a lot of liturgical trumpet playing. Maybe as many as 7 masses a weekend.
    In my practice and real world experience sometimes the Priests and other musicians just want me to be heard and NOT the show or as we say a distraction from the Mass.
    I have found that even though I have a strong in tune C above the staff. When playing above the staff softly I need to focus and concentrate and set the notes before I play them as opposed to just blowing and upstaging the rest of the musicians. Which I do on certain songs because the assembly and the Priests love my trumpet playing!

    The short version is when playing softly above the staff it take more focus and concentration and thought....

    I am sure that is the case with the rest of you who play in venues where you are appreciated but need to play softly!

    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  9. JediYoda

    JediYoda Mezzo Piano User

    Sep 25, 2010
    State of Confusion
    -- I am going to use that as a quote!!

    At times I have to agree with you.
    I have many people who follow my musical endeavors and will even follow me from parish to parish.
    We have a tremendous amount of visitors who show up at out masses. Almost once a week somebody will come up to me and say -- "I use to play the trumpet many years ago!"
    To which my response in a loving way is -- Why did you stop?
    Then quite a few times the response is -- I got tired of playing the trumpet or I was never very good.
    Of course being a music educator my response to them is always -- If you still have a trumpet in your closet or where ever you store it, take it out and blow a few notes.
    My experience has always been that if they are older as I was when I started playing again, then perhaps that spark will get lit and they will keep going!

    Peace to all of you!!

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