Something wrong with my playing

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by PwnageSoul, May 4, 2009.

  1. PwnageSoul

    PwnageSoul New Friend

    Oct 15, 2008
    I have recently discovered that my current playing technique is flawed, according to my high school teacher and my private teacher. I do not know why, but I cannot "whistle" on my trumpet. Whistling is when you just kind of hiss lightly into the trumpet and a whistling sound will come out, and it's not a note. Anyway, I cannot do that and apparently it is needed in order to play in the higher registers. Also, the sides of my mouth never get sore after practicing or playing, as it is supposed to. Instead, in order to play in the higher registers, I use a combination of tightening the center of my mouth and tightening my throat (it's totally involuntary). Also, when my head is directly straight, my embourchure makes it so that my trumpet is tilted around 10 degrees upward instead of the 30-40 degree downward that all trumpet plays do. What can I do? Can I work with this if I want to get better and go pro?
    Last edited: May 4, 2009
  2. s.coomer

    s.coomer Forte User

    Mar 25, 2005
    Indianapolis, In
    The first question that I have for you is what does your private teacher say? If he is not working with you and giving you things to help correct the problem then find someone who can. It is impossible for us here to diagnose your problem and work with you to correct it without seeing you. Off hand as far as your throat is concerned I would work with you playing long tones and relaxing the air. When it comes to your embouchure many things can cause this problem. We do not know the stucture of your teeth or your bite. This could be a reason, but without examination it is impossible to tell.
  3. Heidi

    Heidi New Friend

    Mar 27, 2009
    Southeast, GA
    I agree that we don't know you and haven't seen you play, so all of our advice may be moot, but I'll throw some things out there.

    The head tilt: Do you have an overbite? I have a slight underbite and my head tilts way back when I play with my trumpet parallel to the ground. It doesn't bother my playing and I think it would be detrimental for me to try and fix after playing for fifteen years. If you're just getting started you can try pushing your lower jaw back and forth and see how this changes your trumpet angle and then start playing that way. It will be a difficult adjustment and I personally have never thought it necessary.

    Throat Tightness: How long have you been playing? It could just be that you are not quite ready for the upper register notes. Just pay attention to your throat and upper body when you play. Try to relax. Now that you know there is a problem that can go a long way to solving it. Just be aware of what your body is doing when you play and make adjustments.
  4. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    Whistling huh?
    While I think your teacher has good intentions, I think your teacher may have misread how whistling and trumpet playing correlates. I don't see how making the trumpet actually whistle is going to improve any facet of playing. But, I'm always game to learn. Please ask your teacher where he read this and get the site so I can learn more about what he/she is talking about.
    With that said, may I suggest checking out a site called "Tongue Arch and Hiss"on how to play high notes. It talks about the different placements of the tongue and the oral cavity.
    Also, when correlating whistling and trumpet playing do this:
    a) whistle a scale and notice how your tongue behaves. The higher you whistle, the smaller your oral cavity gets due to the tongue.
    b) play a scale on the trumpet, notice that the tongue changes the oral cavity very similar to whistling as you go higher.
    The throat thingy? you might want to avoid this.
    To understand what I'm talking about, do lip slurs "bugel calls" and don't whistle, "think whistling". In other words pay attention to the tongue in your mouth and how it changes the pitch.
    After doing this for a while, you'll appriciate the tongues' roll in trumpet playing as it pretains to changing notes. In time you'll know what a note feels like in your mouth. Sounds weird I know but whistling and trumpet playing have a lot in common when it comes to changing the pitch. You probably won't get the idea of "thinking whistling" at first, but once you get it you'll approach the trumpet differently. As for making the trumpet itself whistle? I don't get it. The similarity is how the tongue changes the oral cavity, that's all. However, if your teacher likes whistling, may I suggest Ron McRoby, he's from my area and was just scary good at whistling. His version of Cherokee is out of this world. Good Luck
    Last edited: May 6, 2009
  5. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

    Oct 16, 2008
    This may seem obvious, but have you asked them for suggestions on improving your "flaws"?
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Sorry if this sounds like I am rolling on the floor laughing (I am). Man, as if trumpet wasn't hard enough the way it is. Now we need to whistle too. This has NEVER been part of anything that I taught, or want to teach.

    I advocate getting back to basics: relax, apply mouthpiece and blow.

    From your description, it sounds like you are an upstream player (trumpet pointed more up than down). That is not a problem, unless you have a teacher that wants to break your face (and playing).

    One thing to immediately get out of your head is that you involuntarily do anything pertaining to the trumpet. If you are aware of something, you can change it. The hard part is knowing whether you should or not. YOU ALWAYS have a choice. ALWAYS

    You claim to observe throat tension, nothing that breathing exercizes and long tones can't cure: inhale deeply then exhale immediately. Try to make the transition between the two states as smooth as possible. Once you can inhale and exhale with low tension, replace exhale with a long tone - NO TONGUE ATTACK! That is my cure for throat tension. Has worked every time.

    Getting back to the whistle, this is simply a visualization to get your tongue arched and a bit more forward in the oral cavity. Some teachers advocate this to make high notes easier. It doesn't work with everybody and can be counter productive for some.

    Becoming a pro is maybe 30-40% playing, the rest is your ability to figure stuff out, get along with the people that would hire you and your dedication to preparation. That means killer players need killer personalities or they are dead in the water.

    Becoming a pro means finding opportunities. That is easiest when you have a pro teacher with gigs. If you can get your teacher to bring you along as a second trumpet, you have a great start! Most successful players that I know had a mentor like this.

    Some links on body use:
    David G. Monette Corporation
    ITG 2004 Trumpet Yoga
    ITG 2006 - Trumpet Yoga

    good luck!

    I think you have a pretty good read of yourself. The flawed ones are those that try and get you worried about stuff that might not even be broken. I go to a teacher for ANSWERS not a list of things that I am doing wrong. There is no talent involved in pointing fingers.
    Last edited: May 4, 2009
  7. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    Some teachers think the whistling sound will eventually grow into real notes, I've never seen this happen , players who could get the whistling sound 20 years ago never did develop real notes up there only whistles. Not everyone has the same shaped mouth, lips, teeth,or tongue,so the tilt of the bell will be different for each individual, be it down, straight, or up, Donald Reinhardt wrote an entire book on these differences called "The Encyclopedia Of The Pivot System".As far as your throat tightening ,take in and release your air as if you were yelling [no hesitation] it doesn't have to be loud.
  8. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    It may be that your teacher is simply wanting you to be able to move more air through the horn. Instead of using your spit-valve, try emptying water by blowing it through the bell--if you succeed, the whistling noise will be there. Doc used to empty water that way, and could move a whole big bunch of air through the trumpet when playing.

    Have fun!
  9. RUFocused

    RUFocused Pianissimo User

    Apr 26, 2009
    Cedar Rapids, IA
    You also mentioned that your chops never wear out. not really an issue. GIGS ARE LONG!!! However, what embesure are you using? Tilt up of your horn could be a result of this. Also, what is the highest note you can play warmed up?
  10. Cleveland600 1974

    Cleveland600 1974 New Friend

    Apr 27, 2009
    Houston TX

    I agree with Rowuk totally--I have friends who have been doing pro gigs and teaching for well over 30 years and NEVER heard of this whistling business!

    Like Rowuk stated, breathing exercises and doing long tones will solve the throat tension problem (it worked for me!)

    Why can't people stick to the things that WORK every time over time??

    Good Luck!

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