Strength is my enemy, weakness is my friend.

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by kctrump, Jan 17, 2007.

  1. kctrump

    kctrump New Friend

    Nov 6, 2005 should we apply Arnold Jacobs statement "Strength is my enemy, weakness is my friend" to our playing?


    I couldn't let this one slip through the cracks.

    How does your statement apply to our playing?
  2. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    Thanks for doing that, Walter!

    Anyway, much of the work Arnold Jacobs was known for had to do with teaching proper breathing AS PERTAINS TO BRASS PLAYING. I highlight that distinction because there's breathing and then there's breathing when you play an instrument that has inherent resistance.

    He understood that many, many brass players play with great tension thorughout the abdomen both on the inhale and exhale. What he souhgt to corect was that the abdomen should be "strong" while breathing. Rather, he wanted it to be loose and supple ("weak" by contrast) so that the lungs wouldn't be hindered from taking maximal breaths. He wanted to encourage expansion of the lungs by relaxing the abdomen so that could happen.

    He also understood that brass players tended to tighten their abdomens while blowing out. Some of this was caused by the back pressure or resistance of the mouthpiece and instrument combination but much of it was caused by poor instruction. Being told to stiffen the gut while playing is poor instruction. It's completely unnecessary for a great majority of the playing we do. It's like putting a wall in front of a wall.

    So, the phrase refers to allowing the gut to expand and contract as nature intended even though nature never intended for us to blow into trumpets. We do so in spite of our design and must adapt to that desire by becoming more efficient.

    Does the gut get stiffer? Of course it does but only under specific circumstances like playing in the extreme upper register where you're lips are forming the tiniest of holes to blow air through. There's no reason to stiffen ones gut to play in the middle register or low register. To do so is to create a greater impedance than aready exists from the equipment.

    Support is movement, not stiffness. Arnold spent his teaching career teaching people to make music in the most relaxed, artistic way available to each person. His influence on my playing was a godsend, truly.

  3. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    This is going on my wall! You have summarized this so perfectly. Thank you!

    In addition to what you’ve written here, I’ve gathered some additional quotes that fit perfectly in this post:

    Manny Laureano – Principal Trumpet Minnesota Orchestra

    Jay Friedman – Principal Trombone Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    In the article by Jay Friedman entitled Winning trumpet audition strategies he has a very intriguing comment about air:

    Great stuff!!
  4. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    I once attended a workshop being given by a guy who wrote his DMA on trumpet-playing physiology. He told us that he gave a rather ridiculously difficult test involving range and endurance to some of the top trumpeters (Wynton, Faddis, Smith, etc.) and simply observed them during the performance of the test requirements. One of his observations in particular is pertinent.

    In all cases he observed that they sat upright and with their thighs apart at about a 30-40 degree angle (ie, not parallel and straight out in front). Why? So that their lower "gut" had room to expand easily on the inhale. So loosen up your belt and think about drawing your breath down into your belly "below" your navel and keep the shoulders down! Let those internal "bits and pieces" get down and out of the way to allow the lungs full expansion.
  5. kctrump

    kctrump New Friend

    Nov 6, 2005
    I had a lesson with "Pops" a while back 2005.

    He had me playing arpedios and as I ascended he noticed my stomach pushing out as I ascended. The highest not being "high C". He recommended I pull the stomach in and up. It made the playing much easier but I'm not sure how this would relate to Manny's comments.

    Am I moving in the right direction? (no pun intended!^)
  6. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Let us not forget that support is a byproduct of good trumpet playing, not a cause. If we are playing well, getting a good sound and moving air through the instrument, support happens automatically.
  7. djm6701

    djm6701 Pianissimo User

    I would say no, in that you should be concentrating on airflow at the lips and the musical concept of sound in your mind.

    You can completely contract your stomach without expelling virtually any air, by the way. Try it.
  8. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004

    Pops is absolutely right. Pulling the stomach in concurrent wth the articulation is support in action. Anyone who has observed Maynard Ferguson or a singer who wasn't overweight could see this method in performance.

    The non-trumpet-playing version of this happens when we sneeze or cough. We were designed to have the abs (when loose) to expand as the lungs fill before the sneeze and then contract as we expel the air as a sneeze. If you were to try to hold your gut in place while you sneeze, you wouldn't have much of a sneeze. The purpose of a sneeze is to expel foreign matter from the body. The same goes for a cough. Holding the gut firm is antithetical to the process of exhalation whether fast or slow. The same goes for wind playing.

    Lots of people play with their guts tight and do okay. Lot's of people play basketball and enjoy themselves. I'm talking about efficiency and an optimal situation. The fact is, I was one of those folks that believed that you could hold your gut still on the exhale and it almost ended my career when I reached my thirties. So, I've been on that side of the mountain and don't care to visit it again. It's way too much work.

  9. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
  10. A.N.A. Mendez

    A.N.A. Mendez Utimate User

    Oct 25, 2005
    Sunny Ca.
    Two things, is there any way to approach this concept with a "new" player? Or is it too complicated until later on in their studies?
    Secondly, my wife just looked over my shoulder at this thread and walked away shaking her head......(she isn't a musician)
    Great stuff! Thanks Manny et al

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