SERIOUS Range Deterioration - I'd really appreciate any suggestions

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by surfingmusicman, Jul 24, 2012.

  1. surfingmusicman

    surfingmusicman New Friend

    Nov 17, 2011
    Sorry for the long post. I thought it would helpful to give some background before asking about my issue. If you can make it through my rambling, I’d really, really appreciate any advice anyone might have.


    I’m a bit of a comeback player. I was fairly serious about trumpet when I was younger (I’m 33 now)---got a music major in college and all that jazz. But I ended up pursuing a different career path and I set the trumpet aside for the bulk of my 20’s.

    I started playing again casually a couple years ago. Then, I’m not sure what happened, but about 10 months ago a real fire started in me and I’m hitting it hard again.

    Range Improvement

    Earlier this year I finally admitted to myself that my range needed work. For basically my entire life, my playable range topped out at a high C (two ledger lines above the staff) or D. So, I took a couple lessons early this year with one of the top guys in town to work on it.

    He showed me some techniques and, to my surprise, my range exploded! I’d always thought I wasn’t trying hard enough or that my body wasn’t built for high notes. Turns out, there’s a technique to playing high and I’d just never learned how to do it.

    I started gaining serious ground every few weeks. As of about two or three weeks ago, I was consistently playing double C’s and higher as part of my daily warm-up, and my playable range was flirting with double G’s (two G’s above the staff). I even hit a triple Bb once (three Bb’s above the staff). It wasn’t loud, but it was there.

    Recent Range Deterioration

    But about two weeks ago, I started going backwards. It’s to the point now where I can hardly play a Bb above the staff. My range has deteriorated past where it was when I started working on it earlier this year. In fact, it’s worse than it’s ever been since I was a kid.

    I’m absolutely flabbergasted. I can’t figure out what’s going on. I haven’t changed anything in particular in my practice routine. Everything has just stopped.

    Description of Problem

    Part of the technique I was learning involved achieving a feeling of resistance while simultaneously puckering and pushing more of my lips into the mouthpiece. It felt almost effortless compared to what I’d been doing my whole life.

    But now when I pucker and try to find that feeling of resistance, nothing works. Sometimes I can’t get my lips to vibrate, or when I do, there is a sort of double buzz. My chops feel tighter than they should be, but when I relax them, I can’t play above the staff. Sometimes my bottom lip starts curling in in a weird way, but when I correct my embouchure and pucker my lips like I was doing before, the double buzz starts up.

    FWIW, I’m not using excessive pressure and I don't think I'm practicing too much.

    I booked an “emergency” lesson this past Friday with the guy who originally helped me earlier this year. He thinks I’ve subconsciously picked up a bad habit, and that I need to get back to the basics. He’s got me doing long-tone exercises and slurs in the medium and low registers.

    Has anyone ever come across something like this? It’s really disheartening.
  2. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

    Jan 21, 2010
    Great Southern Land
    My usual disclaimer: there are better and more insightful people than I in this forum so you should get better responses after this one.

    You may have inadvertantly strained a muscle or something, in which case some total rest might be good - a week or so perhaps.
    Also, do you clean your horn regularly and often?

  3. D.C. Al fine

    D.C. Al fine Banned

    May 8, 2012
    I agree with the above.
    bumblebee likes this.
  4. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Try creating that same double buzz at will in the lower register, and when you can do that, do the opposite in the upper register. I suspect that lowering your jaw slighltly and pushing it forward will halt the problem, but that is just a guess.
  5. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

    Oct 16, 2008
    Getting "back to the basics" sounds like the best answer. Focusing too much on hitting "high notes" at the expense of the rest of your playing can be problematic.

    You'll get a truckload of random and contradictory feedback from the internet, so stick with someone who can work directly with you.
  6. RustoleusMaximus

    RustoleusMaximus Pianissimo User

    Feb 1, 2008
    I don't know that any of this will help but here goes: As a trumpet player of 42 years who can play a pedal C to a double C I have learned over the years that great range is a combination of the following:

    (1) Learning how to practice so that you BUILD rather than destroy your embouchure! ... I learned this from 32 years of Power-lifting Competition. You have to follow a sensible plan and BUILD ... not over tax and destroy. This means pulling back on your intensity within your practice when you are overly tried or your chops are tight and tired. Learn to listen to your body and know when you can play all out and when you need to play softly for a short period of time and call it a day.

    (2) There is absolutely such a thing as efficient equipment. I play a relatively shallow mouthpiece; however, I get great tone on it and it is NOT shallow to me. Furthermore, I have a very small mouth and very thin lips ... so, again it is a big mouthpiece to me. I have zero lip intrusion into the cup so my lips do not actually make the cup smaller through lip intrusion as would be the case with a player with big lips etc. I can play the same notes on a 3C; however, they are weak and it takes a ton more effort to do so. My Monette Prana mouthpiece has a #24 throat and an open back-bore so it does take some effort and skill to play as it isn't a #27 or #28 throat. As Bobby Shew has said, why use a shovel to dig a ditch when you can use a back hoe. Use efficient equipment for what you are doing. Now, I realize there are trumpet players out there who can scream on a 3C mouthpiece such as Arturo Sandoval and Charley Davis; however, again you wear the shoe size that fits YOU. I also found that I like a freer blowing horn as opposed to a horn with a lot of resistance.

    (3) Rest as long as you practice. I use a metronome and after playing say Clarke's Technical Studies lesson number one and exercise number one ... I rest for an equivalent number of beats. Again, building the chops up systematically instead of destroying them.

    (4) There is absolutely a skill to playing high. It involves developing strong chops; however, it also involves learning how to harness air compression or air speed. This involves learning how to fill up with an adequate amount of air and then compress it via the diaphragm. This took me some time to learn as it involved a lot of coordination and learning what body parts to tense versus what body parts to relax.

    (5) I believe in the Pedal Register and learned them way back in high school. I believe that they relax the chops and also are formed by learning to relax while also blowing etc. Other than the usual music played all through high school and college and post college ... I would say that all of my practice time has been devoted to Claude Gordon's Systematic Approach which is 52 weekly lesson laid out for you. I have also spent considerable time with Herbert L. Clarke's Technical Studies for the Cornet. Since I have never taken any lessons, I value the Claude Gordon book for laying out lesson for me.

    I believe that if you are particularly tired or stressed out ... it helps to just take a day off from practicing here and there. As a result of following the above for years, I can actually play in the high register loudly ... not just screech out high notes here and there. I hope some of this helps from a player who has never had any lessons.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2012
  7. frankmike

    frankmike Piano User

    Dec 5, 2008
    WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????????

    this technique is BS
  8. RustoleusMaximus

    RustoleusMaximus Pianissimo User

    Feb 1, 2008
    I agree with Frankmike. I have never heard of that. My description would be the embouchure is like your grip on the mouthpiece. You strengthen that grip through practice and also learn to compress your air stream for the high range. I have never heard of actively trying to push more lip tissue into the mouthpiece. I have close to zero lip intrusion as I have very small thin lips.
  9. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

    Nov 16, 2009
    Near Portland, OR.
    By respect to the OP and the approach of trying to form the embouchure in a certain way in order to obtain a certain result, I feel a need to pipe up.

    Disclaimer: I am no expert, this is an opinion based on my experience, which is limited and in flux. I might think different in couple of years. I'm now 3 years into a come back from being already an adult learner in the first place. I don't think I am significantly more or less gifted than most but theory, and the problem of reading music, have definitely made things even more difficult (there is such a thing as an ideal time in human development for language acquisition). High notes do not come easily to me. Progress has been sometimes fast (at the very beginning, a hallmark of being an adult learner), sometimes stalled, included dismal days, good ones, but mostly steady, albeit slow.

    I can confidently say that I am playing better now than when I stopped practicing regularly a bunch of years ago. Overall, what I am experiencing is quite encouraging, but 1 year, or even 2 into the come back, I wouldn't have said so with the same confidence.

    Like probably every trumpet player I tried to twist my mouth this way and that to try to obtain easier sound production, higher notes with less effort, etc. Sometimes I thought I was on to something. Every time I came back to Earth in a manner not too different from what the OP descibes. I am now convinced that trying to form any specific embouchure as explained by someone else is the wrong approach at my level of skill/experience.

    Embouchure is not really something that we can succesfully "make." It is something that naturally happens when we do sound production the right way. For most of us, we get there by practicing a lot, as it tends to cull down all the wrong ways of doing it, which are more tiring and do not produce as nice a sound. This does not mean that we can not build bad habits, but that well guided, abundant practice will likely lead to correct sound production, and correct sound production happens only with a correct embouchure.

    I believe it is much more productive at my level to concentrate on sound and let all the mechanics of the lips/mouth happen without trying to force it into a preconceived configuration that I may well misunderstand anyway. My teacher does talk about embouchure but only to give me little pointers to orient the one I already have so it will evolve the right way. The focus in lessons is 2 fold: mostly on music and how to make a succession of notes be more than just that, and producing a really good trumpet sound. Keeping this in mind throughout my practice sessions has led to more steady progress and better consistency than any kind of "trick" or external approach.

    Now it is possible that in 2 or 3 years from now, I'll be given, or discover something that will make a difference, but then it will happen on a terrain where the seed can grow. By the same token, it is very possible that people who live up there above the staff all the time have recipes on what to do with their mouths, but first they built the chops to get there. So, for the vast majority of us, trying to emulate what they describe is a futile pursuit.
  10. chierholzer

    chierholzer New Friend

    May 31, 2012
    I have never heard of that technique for range development. Firm the corners and blow fast focused air. Any time you contort muscles you can really damage them, whether it be trumpet playing or any physical activity. Rest for a while and try something different. Books I have taken good info from: John Lynch, Tastee Bros., Pat Hession.

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