Replacing the Corners/Aperture/Embouchure Thread - Why I Use TM

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by neal085, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. neal085

    neal085 Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 6, 2012
    Ft. Worth, TX
    As the OP of the above mentioned thread, I'd been following that thread off and on over the weekend, and it's been very interesting. I've really wanted to respond, but haven't had time. I've had a lot of thoughts on this particular thread, and they somehow are entangled with other thoughts that are maybe only partially related, but I'm going to dump it all off on anyone who's interested, because this is what has been going on in my head the last several days.


    First of all, my post was not to identify a silver bullet or quick solution. Let me expound. I think any endeavor we embark upon should be built solidly from the ground up, as Robin has stated about 4,978 times on that thread alone. I also believe it's a mistake to try to create an environment for learning where no one ever makes a mistake. In trumpet playing, as in life, there are things that I have grasped lucidly only after Doing It Wrong and falling on my face, and having to start back over. For me, there is knowledge that I've been taught, and knowledge that I've learned. Knowledge that is taught, if accepted and implemented will help you avoid pitfalls. For me, some knowledge just had to be learned the hard way, even if it was a concept I'd already been taught. But when you learn it the hard way, you OWN that knowledge in a very personal way.

    Example: I picked up my horn in July of 2012 for the first time in 15 years or more. I told my very startled wife that not only was I going to play the trumpet, I was going to play it very well, and that this would probably be going on for the rest of my natural life. She asked why, and that is another topic entirely, and I won't digress. After fumbling around and getting frustrated out of my mind (my Junior High teacher in Lubbock had taught me to pucker-smile to form an embouchure, so that was what I was working with), I found the TM forum, and the overwhelming counsel from members at all levels was GET A TEACHER! I got one, and things progressed. I was taught proper breathing - lots of breathing exercises. I was taught that lips should buzz/vibrate sympathetically with the flow of air. There should be no conscious attempt to buzz. I think we can all agree that is sound and fundamental. We started moving the ball forward. I got interested in equipment and mouthpieces, because I'm a male, so I need gear to complement any endeavor I undertake. Everybody warned me against a mouthpiece safari. Said it would be unproductive and wouldn't help my development. I agreed and understood......and then went on a mouthpiece safari, albeit a brief one. I ended up with a Stork Vacchiano 2B, and it may not be the ideal mouthpiece for my embouchure, but it's a good one, and I like it, and I haven't used anything else since then. Looking back I realize I didn't have to do the safari, and it was likely a waste of time, but I will say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would hazard that almost everyone who warns against a mouthpiece safari has been on one.

    Someone posted an interview with Arturo Sandoval a while back, and I watched it through a few times. Of the many things that stood out to me about that interview, one thing he said really summed up where I was at in my thinking. He played several different styles of music, with a wide variety of range and dynamics, then pointed out that he'd used one horn and one mouthpiece. At the time, I'd been using the same horn and mouthpiece for a while, because by then I had decided that I was going to focus my time and energy into learning to play trumpet, and not messing around with gear. My B&S Challenger II and Stork mouthpiece could both probably be exchanged for a better combination, but the truth of the matter is, they constitute darn good equipment, and we all know that the player is what makes the difference. I decided it was time to really overhaul the player.

    So, with that out of the way, I've been trying to focus on building a solid and intelligent daily routine, and that brings me to why I posted the aforementioned thread, and why I think TM can be a great tool. For various reasons, it has become increasingly hard for me to work with a teacher - mostly time constraints.

    My personal commitment to trumpet playing right now, February 25, 2014, is to establish an intelligent daily routine that develops my fundamental abilities technically, mentally, and musically, and I'm committed to going to go to war with the weapons I currently own. Now, I know that I can lose focus, fall into bad habits and make mistakes, so when I post questions like the Tighten the Corners/Aperture/General Embouchure Struggles thread, I'm not looking for a shortcut. I've worked on enough things in my life to know that with a very few and rare exceptions - THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS!!! Rather, I'm trying to identify errors in my thinking or methodology that I need to eliminate or alter. In this case, I needed to be told to get back to basics and stop messing with irrelevant stuff, and y'all collectively did a tremendous job of that.

    There is a verse in the Bible that I firmly believe that states, "In the multitude of counsel, there is safety." Now that doesn't mean to accept and implement all counsel irrationally. That doesn't even mean you have to use any of the counsel. That just means that it is wise to get many perspectives on an issue or problem - get viewpoints from many angles besides your own, and then you also consider the sources. I've also been around long enough to know that good input can come from unlikely sources, so I don't discard anyone's viewpoint out of hand, but I do balance it with everything else.

    Good gosh, I hope I'm making sense.

    So when I get a myriad of answers to this (or any) question, I weigh it all. There are members here who have very much commended themselves to me, either because they obviously put a lot of thought into what they say, or the sheer weight of their trumpet playing credentials, or (usually) a combination of both. The PM tool on this forum is there for a reason, so I'll PM them with questions for clarity or on items I'm not sure of. I always kind of do it while hoping I'm not wasting their time, but so far they have all been very gracious.

    I think it's a mistake to assume that this forum will replace good private instruction, but I do think it's an excellent tool, and I'm personally very grateful for it. There are members here who have accomplished incredible things in music with the trumpet, and if they are willing to use their time to let the rest of us tap their brains...... I honestly can't express my gratitude for that.

    I'm not posting this to agree or disagree with anyone - it's just an expression of my current thoughts.

    There, I think I got it all out. Hope this post was clear, and I'm very interested to hear anyone else's thoughts on any of what I just said.

    Regardless, make it a good one, boys.
  2. Hugh Anderson

    Hugh Anderson Pianissimo User

    Sep 18, 2011
    Hear, hear!
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Hi Neal,

    thank you for the refreshing post. I wish that we had more members that took the positions that you have. It surely would increase my enjoyment! There were a couple of points however that I think are critical (not wrong) however and I would like to comment briefly:

    I teach the opposite. It IS possible to BREATHE perfectly (babies do it all the time), barring a physical disorder - it IS possible to have superior posture while playing. The basics of sound production need no advanced training as I have often posted in my circle of breath. So, while no one is perfect, that does not mean that we have to accept a "flawed approach". We can have so much more enjoyment by removing "force" and "tension" from our playing step by step. The important part is to focus on what is truly important and to build stone by stone. Perfection is not the goal ever, rather good habits of integration that continuously modify themselves as we are capable of more. If we focus on the habit building, the results coming out of the horn become predictable and guide us to the next steps. If our playing/practicing is NOT a process, rather chaotic, then so are the results. A good process makes a mistake a perfect learning experience - no process makes a mistake a train wreck.

    Yes, bad habits learned become hard wired in our brains and are committed to long term memory. If we lay off for 15 years - the original (hard) way that we learned to play comes back - regardless if we "unlearned" before laying off. This is why I think so much of trumpet playing is not suited for DIY methods.

    I have my trouble with Proverbs 11:14 in this context, primarily because I believe it refers only to divine counsel (everyone at the table on the same page we would say in the 21st century, in the Bible - counsel is a term used when referring to "Elders") and not the usual secular interpretation of "getting" help by analysis of as much info as possible. I mean look at lemmings - there is no safety in secular multitude. With the advent of the internet we have so much garbage "published" and very little means to sort it out. Many times the information could be applicable if the poster understood anything about "context". Google "Cyberchondria" for a classic example of the power of suggestion from and to the masses.

    Thank you again for a great post!

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