Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by dbacon, Dec 21, 2003.

  1. dbacon

    dbacon Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 24, 2003
    Scottsdale, AZ.
    Pressure Buzzing/Compression - 2 Basic Physical Types

    It's been my experience that there are two basic "camps" of players. This alone came as a revelation to me because, having been schooled in the classical approach, which leans towards controlling the aperture (as opposed to controlled pressure) it was initially hard for me to "allow" for the validity of an approach based on pressure. Yes, this was undoubtedly snobbish, but more importantly it was ignorant. It took me many years of observation, and interviewing every player I came in contact with, to realize that for as many different physical types of player that exist, about as many different physical approaches are being taken. Certain approaches grow out of specific physiological "givens" that player brings with him.

    This is logical and natural. It is a fundamental error in our thinking and certainly in our pedagogy to insist that a particular player fit into category "a" or "b" based simply on the proclivities of the teacher. This flaw in our method is, as it was in my own case, the result of a lack of overview (i.e., my teacher used thus and such method, that's what he taught me . . . that's what I'm going to teach you). Fortunately, I fit that physical mold. Unfortunately, there were others that did not. These players had no recourse. There were no guides for them, in the context of the educational system I came up through (H.S. of Performing Arts, NYC, and The Juilliard School). Their teachers, being very well meaning, tried to force them into the prescribed mold, the paradigm that they had been made to follow on the path to achieving all those goals of fine classical playing that we were trained to aspire to. The result was that these "other" players fell by the wayside, frustrated and discouraged. But . . . back to the two basic camps.

    These two camps fall into two physically opposite types. The first case to address is those players employing a given method successfully. Players who employ the compression, aperture control method tend to have muscular lips, but not overly fleshy lips. The inner red portion of their lips will look like the classic lips that would be shown in a cartoon illustration of a "kiss". By contrast, players who base their playing technique on pressure, tend to have fleshier than average lips. Their inner red portion tends to look as though someone has taken the classic cartoon lips and rolled them up towards the nose. The inner red portion of the top lip is, generally very large. To cut right to the quick here, teachers who ask players with this type of lip structure to roll their lips in, compress them, or in any way play in the style of an aperture control player, may just as well put a gun to their heads. After seeing enough of these cases, it is painfully obvious to me that this type of lip structure does not lend itself to this type of playing method, to say the least. What these players do instead is to use the pressure of the rim to control the aperture opening for them.

    It follows quite logically that players with fleshier lips are able to use the pressure method with success. To a player with thin lips, pressure is anathema. Without the extra flesh to protect the muscle and the blood flow, endurance suffers greatly (not to mention poor sound quality and all that nasty cutting and bruising that can occur).

    The finest player that I know who uses the pressure method is Philip Myers, principal horn of the New York Philharmonic. When I was first piecing all this information together, Phil expounded his physical approach to playing for me. I remarked, in my naïveté, how fortunate it was that he had been given a thick lip that could withstand a pressure approach to playing (not realizing at the time that this attitude put the cart before horse). Anyhow, Phil reinforced the bond between the thick lip/pressure approach by quickly responding "Don't kid yourself; I ate myself into that lip!"

    The thick lip/pressure approach generally brings other consistently observable elements with it. One of these is that the aperture tends to be more open. For this reason these players will not experience the same sensation when buzzing as a compression player would. For the most part these players do not feel the need to buzz with their lips together, nor do they place a great deal of value on the ability to do so. What these players do is to use the pressure of the mouthpiece to hold their lips close enough together to vibrate. Naturally, with the aperture being more open, these players make greater use of aspects like the arch of the tongue, degree of throat opening (syllables), inherent air capacity and resistance of the mouthpiece/instrument set-up to help create velocity.

    There are two sub-categories of players who use a pressure approach less successfully. Both of these classifications represent players who do not fit the physical profile belonging to this group, but are being forced into this method of playing by using equipment that doesn't fit their physical needs. The first of these sub-groups are players who are playing on mouthpieces that are too small inner diameter-wise for them. These players, due to insufficient room across the cup of the mouthpiece to accommodate their lip structure, have wound up playing down either in the inner red portion of the lips or just on the border thereof. The problem with this is that the mouthpiece is set in such a way as to pin the obicualris oris out of the mouthpiece. With this type of placing they have rendered this muscle inoperable. With the mouthpiece set just below the ridge of this muscle, the muscle is kept from effectively being able to move down to compress against the lower lip. These players have created the same set-up for themselves as players whose lips naturally fall into the category, without the physical resources of those players. With their aperture pinned in an unnaturally open way, they adopt the use of pressure to try to control it. This is not a workable situation over the long haul, and produces very limited results over the short. The bright side is that this situation can be remedied by having these players switch to a mouthpiece with a larger inner diameter and move their setting up.

    The second group of players is drawn into misusing a pressure approach by either using a mouthpiece whose inner diameter is too large for them or, a mouthpiece/instrument set-up with an internal volume that is too great for them. The former group can be explained by understanding the dynamics between the size of the inner diameter and the lip structure. The larger the inner diameter of a mouthpiece, the greater the surface area of lip that will be exposed. The greater the surface area being exposed, the more musculature required to keep the lip from being blown apart uncontrollably, especially when the air is being moved with great velocity (i.e., forte playing and in the upper range). With more lip surface exposed than a player has the musculature to support, the player must resort to the use of pressure. From here there is usually a spiral down effect in that the more pressure the player uses the wider the aperture is spread, leading to the use of more pressure. This is the classic example of players who when playing high or loud will experience a kind of "ripping" sound. My best description involves the image of baby elephants being tortured. This sound is the result of a distorted aperture.

    Players using equipment with internal volumes that are greater than they can support are forced into a similar situation. The greater the internal volume of your equipment, the greater the force of air it will take to excite the air to reach maximum velocity (yielding maximum resonance from the horn and maximum vibration from the lips). The harder you have to blow the more musculature required to keep the lips from being blown apart. The use of equipment that requires more sustained air pressure than you are set-up to deliver leads to quicker tiring of the lips, and pressure playing.

    The long and short of what I've been trying to say here is that there are real reasons why people play the way they do. Good and bad. It should also be understood that there are endless permutations that interact between all of the variables I've mentioned among players. Subtle differences among any of these variables can make the difference between a player who is being successful at what he is doing and those who are paying a big price everyday for what they are able to accomplish on the instrument. In any case, knowing more about what you are doing and why you do it, especially for those players who feel that they are struggling, can help you to correct those things that you can and better understand and control those things you can't.

    John Stork.
  2. dbacon

    dbacon Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 24, 2003
    Scottsdale, AZ.
    Sore Lips, Swelling, and Injuries - Email Correspondence

    "I play large bore horns because I can't seem to be able to stand the resistance of ML trumpets, if that makes any sense to you."


    Let me pass this concept by you and you can turn it around in your head for awhile.

    Pressure causes swelling. Everyone presses to some degree. Pressure is used most when the player is blowing hardest, i.e., when playing in the upper range or just plain playing loud. Why is pressure used most in these instances? Because pressure aids in helping to keep the lips from being blown out into the mouthpiece. If the lips become blown apart, the aperture becomes distorted and the sound is less pure. If the lips get blown apart by a lot, no vibration occurs and no sound comes out. Or, the lips hit against the cup producing a "ripping" sound.

    The alternative to pressure is to use the musculature of the lips to compress them, withstanding the force of the air with the strength of the embouchure. However, using excessive tension will cause the sound to become less vibrant. Indeed, many players, depending on their natural endowment (muscle/fleshiness-wise) prefer to use controlled pressure over muscle tension or a wise combination of the two as the pressure can help to extend the muscles load bearing ability (extra endurance/purer sound).

    Other factors that enter into the use of pressure is the size of the inner diameter being used. The larger the surface area of the lip to be exposed, the greater the musculature (or pressure!) needed to keep the lips from being blown apart. *ALSO* the larger the internal dimensions (overall volume) of the equipment being used ***large bore Bb with a 1-1/2C with a 23 bore!!!!*** the harder the player is going to need to blow (all the time!!!) in order to fill the horn enough to achieve resonance, good intonation and pitch.

    Any alarms sounding here?
  3. musicalmason

    musicalmason Forte User

    Dec 14, 2003
    I use the "pressure" meathod, always have. and I use a larger size mouthpiece (normally 3c, but also up to 1c depending on what I'm playing, just because the beauty of the tone with the bigger mouthpiece, and there is a very simple solution to train yourself away from having your lips blown apart, practice on baritone.

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