Some variations on Carmine Caruso's Approach

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Sabutin, Aug 24, 2009.

  1. Sabutin

    Sabutin Pianissimo User

    Aug 7, 2009
    New York City
    I just posted this on the Trumpet Herald in response to a question about Carmine Caruso's stuff and "lip settings". (Go here if you wish to see the original thread.) I thought that it might interest some other people so I am reposting it on this site as well.)


    May I suggest integrating into Carmine's studies several different approaches to "setting".

    #1...and most important...time in all of your preparatory motions no matter what they may be.

    By that I mean:

    A-Identify your three most common ways of holding the horn when you are not playing.

    A1-When sitting.

    A2-When standing.

    A3-When pausing briefly in performance.

    Practice from those positions, making sure that you are in good, internal time and tapping your foot before you move a muscle. The complexity of preparation that is necessary for a so-called "simple" attack is off the charts and certainly cannot be consciously controlled. How many muscles, how many nerves, how many separate motions have to come together to produce that "simple" middle G? i personally give myself at least two beats of conscious time during which I move my horn into place and start any note while practicing, and I use aleatoric (chance) operations to determine from which of those three aforementioned positions I am going to start on every exercise that I do.

    The result of years of such practice?

    In performance my horn glides up to the proper place(s) on my chops, my air intake and support reach the proper level at the proper moment...just before it's time to chops assume the proper position to produce the coming note (again, not too early, not too late), my tongue hits the right place at the right time,, there's the note. Just where it's supposed to be.

    Envision the classic sci-fi film moment where the space ship unerringly glides into the docking bay of the mothership. Like that.

    Foolish conductors? Bad drummers? Badly coordinated sections? They cannot discomfit me (not on my good days, anyway) put it in golf or baseball terms...I have found my backswing.

    You can too.

    Your backswing.

    Time it in and then...fuggedaboudit.

    This works. Like magic.

    Bet on it.

    #2-I do not mean this as a heresy, but Carmine's "Leave the horn on your chops and breathe through your nose" idea? For any kind of advanced player...there's more to be done.

    More to be learned.

    Much more.

    First of all, identify the several ways that you can take a breath. For me, they are:

    B1-Through the nose. (If you have trouble breathing through your nose...clean your act up if you can. A good, clean diet and avoidance of certain popular poisons like tobacco can do wonders in this regard. If that doesn't work, I highly recommend the use of a product called "Breathe Right". You can find it at any pharmacy. It's a little plastic strip with adhesive on each end and it is marketed as a sleep aid for people who have sleep apnea problems. However, lots of athletes use it as a performance aid. It opens up the nasal passages some 20% or 30%, and I sometimes even use it on the gig if I have a really strenuous set of parts. Try it.)

    B2-Through the corners of the mouth.

    B3-Through the aperture.


    B4-Open mouth. (Which also draws some air in through the nose as well.)

    Then use aleatoric procedures...I use a deck of cards, decide how you are going to breathe during exercise.

    Again...I recommend this only for people who are fairly well along in Carmine-type studies. Beginners should do them exactly as Carmine recommended. Only you know where you stand in this department.


    #3-Combine those practices with the three basic ways that you can treat your embouchure when not playing:

    C1-Completely set, corners tight etc. Just as if you were playing a note.

    C2-Corners relaxed but lips meeting at the same angle and setting as they were when you finished the preceding note.

    C3-Letting go of your setting entirely. Corners loose, lips open.

    #4-And while you are at it:

    Either leave your m'pce on your chops or (...duh...) take it off.


    Now...several of the "B" and "C" combinations are of course mutually exclusive. You cannot take an open-mouthed breath while maintaining tight corners, for example. Experiment with these ideas and use whatever works for you.

    Try all the possible combinations of the above ideas.

    Try everything; use what works.

    The basic idea behind Carmine's "leave the m'pce on" idea was to stop...or to at least minimize...the reliance on shifts to get from one range to another, and it was (and remains) a very good approach.

    But as I said above, for the advanced player...there's more. Carmine's timing-in methods work to time in everything and anything, including the movements that are necessary to be able to play through 5 or 6 octaves. I have used Carmine’s timing techniques to good result not only as they relate to brass playing, but in teaching martial arts and baseball hitting as well. ( 5 or 6 octaves? No, that’s not a misprint. I can play from the D three octaves below the bass clef through the D above the treble clef on any and all of my trombones. Do all of those octaves sound “good” or offer much in the way of practical musical uses? No. Of course not. But the extremes inform the middle. Bet on that as well. And my “middle” has become a good, strong 3 ½ to 4 octaves through years of this kind of practice.)

    Try some of these variations in concert with Carmine’s approaches.

    You be bettah off.

    And...have fun.

    I am.


    Sam Burtis
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2009
  2. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA

    Just so you don't think that this thread is being boycotted because you first posted it on 'that other site' (well, OK, maybe some are), I am posting a preliminary reply here.

    I spent a lot of time reading the exchange between you and NickD regarding your ideas on embouchure breakthrough. In fact, I downloaded the entire thread into a Word file and have been going through and editing the content into a cohesive and logically sequential form so that I can digest all that the two of you (and the others who contributed) had to say about this matter. This one will be added to the final product and then I may be able to say something about all of this.

    I am approaching the matter from two completely different points of view:

    First, I am a physicist so I take a very analytical look at everything that I see (my wife still, after 42 years of marriage, refers to herself as being 'an experiment'). The problem is that I was involved in particle physics, not acoustics, so I have difficulty effectively applying physics to this entire matter and I am starting to come to the realization that trumpet playing - or even trumpet design for that matter - transcends physics or any other rational approach. It truly is an art and may never be reduced to calculations.

    Second, as a comeback player, in my 60's, who does not have the physical traits that I had when I was playing in my teens and 20's, I am looking for an effective, efficient way to gain at least a respectable (not to even hope for an advanced) level of competency. So, I continue to hope that somewhere in your suggestions/ideas I will find something that will seem that it fits my situation.

    I learned to play initially in 1955. I was taught an embouchure method that, I guess, is now referred to as the 'smile' method. It seems that it was the accepted method at that time. No one ever suggested anything else to me or to anyone else that I heard. My impression was that the technique was based on the idea that the lips behave like a guitar string where the tighter the string is stretched, the higher the pitch, so by pulling the corners of the mouth back (hence the 'smile' reference), the lips would be drawn more tightly across the teeth, resulting in a higher frequency of buzzing and resulting higher notes from the trumpet. It seemed to work so I never questioned it. Now, in my comeback attempt, I find that my face becomes tired very quickly with this method and I have read that others use a 'pucker' method. I tried to pucker and I could not buzz my lips at all, alone or in the mouthpiece.

    So, I played around and tried a method which is more like 'pursing' the lips - not as pronounced as a pucker - which I describe as preparing the lips to spit out a watermelon seed (some may not get that in this modern age of seedless watermelons). I find that I can play and my face does not get as tired but I still have a ways to go to figure out is this really works. One big difference I note is that with the smile method, the larger mouthpieces seemed to work better. With the pursing method, I cannot hit high notes at all with a large mouthpiece. I use a 10 1/2C now and it seems to work a lot better.

    So, I guess my point is that I will go through this post and all of the other posts in the previous thread and see if I can adopt the principles that you are presenting, along with what my own experimenting is showing, to try and figure out a system that works for me. I will give feedback when I have sorted it out.

    But, in the meantime, thanks for your input. Obviously you have spent a lot of time on this. Hopefully it will be of help to me, and other returning players - or even new players - who need a better approach.

    Kris (Still on the comeback trail)
  3. Huggy Bear

    Huggy Bear Pianissimo User

    Aug 18, 2007
    Berea, OH
    Fo' Shizzle!

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