Teaching question

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by jdshankles, Apr 9, 2007.

  1. jdshankles

    jdshankles New Friend

    Nov 28, 2005
    Rochester, MN

    I have a couple of teaching questions and wanted your thoughts. I have a student who is in 8th grade and is wired to the max. What is one to do when a student has some bad habits and his patience and attention level don't help in working on changing them. He seems to be using pressure as he ascends past middle of the staff B and is not keeping his corners tight. The only way he can reach notes above a B is to BLARE. I've talked with him about tightening his corners and using the syllable "tooh" but he either can't seem to make it happen or else it happens throughout the lesson but he "forgets" to do it when practicing during the week (even though it is written on his assignment sheet). And I'm conscerned that he has pitch problems because he cannot vocally match pitch or sing back a melody. Thoughts???

  2. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    jD: Maybe have him just play soft things for a while. No high stuff. Make him play everything soft in the middle, comfortable range. All on the staff. This will teach him to play relaxed and open and focus on sound quality above all else. It will also promote good habits, and eliminate or prevent pressing. Further, impress upon him that anyone can play blaring loud high notes. But it's the ones who can play softly and with control up there that get the gigs.

    Inisist on singing in every lesson. Sing with him at first, as he'll be a bit self concsious about it and it will help him stay on pitch better. If he's a private student, he'll do it your way or find someone else. If it's a public school lesson during the day, make it part of his grade.
  3. Luis M. Araya

    Luis M. Araya Pianissimo User

    Jul 24, 2005

    Probably he is also blocking the air so it won't get out, right? if so, try to make him keep his corners tight while blowing air through the nose in a very relaxing way in and out.

    I have found that for young students is difficult to make the mouth muscles to work independently from the abdominal muscles, so when they want to firm the mouth muscles to play higher, they also tighten the abdominal muscles blocking the air to its way out, acticating the valsalva manuveur. I hope this information helps, if so please tell me abut your results.

  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    The reality is that an 8th grader perceives himself as "indestructable" and you may get his cooperation during the lesson. The rest of the week it's back to other habits.............
    For building the corners, I have the kids buzz everything on the mouthpiece first and then play it on the horn. I don't tell them why. After a week or two, the mouthpiece playing gets better - and so does the embouchure.
    You have to make a game out of deep breathing. Blow a piece of paper against the wall, make a bet that you can hold a tone (loud and soft!) out longer than your student (lose every once in a while to keep them interested). At that age it is not necessarily intellectual so tricks can be useful!
    Pressure is used because it works (for a while anyway) - range and control for those that don't practice enough! Proper breath support is the key to reducing pressure. You only get cooperation if you offer something that works fairly quickly.
    No kid from the nintendo generation is willing to do exercizes for a year in hopes that things will get better. They would rather download a cheat...................
  5. jdshankles

    jdshankles New Friend

    Nov 28, 2005
    Rochester, MN
    Thanks so much! These are great ideas:) I love the idea of having them tighten their corners and breath through their nose. I let you know how it works out!

    Rowuk, any ideas on him not being able to match pitch or sing back a melody? It just sounds like a drone that is all over the place and guessing.

    Thanks everyone!
  6. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Some kids can have good ears and still not be able to sing, so I prefer to let the kids buzz on their mouthpieces. If they don't have listening skills, tuners can provide good feedback in a lesson. If your tuner doesn't transpose while naming the pitches, play in concert keys.
    Play through a scale (do re mi fa so la ti) and let them play the final "do" on their mouthpiece -- if they have "bad ears" the visual feedback of the tuner will confirm what their ears are telling them (but that they are not paying attention to). This takes a bunch of time, and is something they won't practice at home. Play long tones and have them match it with their mouthpiece. Play some unisons and let them listen for the beats as you move in and out of tune with them. You might even want to turn them on to resultant tones.

    It is not uncommon to have what I always called a "Pharisäertrompeter" (pharisee trumpeter) who would fulfill all the legal requirements of playing the horn but sound like crap and not care. It's mainly an awareness issue -- they don't notice how bad they are, and recording them can be extremely useful and fun and tax deductable.

    Until they agree that they have a problem, we can't fix 'em. This is true in the trumpet studio and also here at the mission.

    Have fun!
  7. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    Maybe this is a case where a student isn't suited to playing music? It's not for everybody and there's no shame in that. If he really likes music, maybe he could learn piano and express himself that way. Maybe he's a good candidate for percussion if he has good rhythm.

  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Only one. Try and find one note that the kid can reliably match (there is always at least one - if it is a boy in puberty it could be a very low note and 10 minutes later a not so low, but embarassing note....). Once you have found it, move in half step intervals up and down - slowly.
    The drone often comes when the voice is much lower than the horn pitch. Use a piano an octave down or so.
    Tone deaf is often diagnosed when it is not true. It is often a lack of exposure to quality music of any genre or an ignored 24 hour background noise at home from the TV/nintendo/radio. If your life has no musical differentiation, 30 minutes of trumpet lessons a week can only partially compensate.
  9. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 12, 2005
    Saint Paul, MN
    That probably explains one thing I have been wondering that I have been seeing more of the past couple years with brass players that they can't tell that they sound like crap and that they are playing the wrong partial (or as I put it in kidspeak pushing the right button down and playing the wrong note) even when I am playing it next to them. In singing I think a lot of general music teachers have given up on that, when I would go into general music rooms, I would have a h--- of a time getting them to match pitch and sing in the correct range.
  10. trumpethack

    trumpethack Pianissimo User

    Jun 1, 2006
    This sounds like a stereotypical, textbook case... haha.

    Here's a few quick things that I have found to work with my students in a similar situation.

    First I never tell them to do anything with their embouchure, I especially stay away from the word "tighten". While from a very analytical view of someone who has been playing for a long time, one might experience that happening, but telling a kid who doesn't really know what they're doing to tighten something I have always found to have a negative result. In fact often times I will tell a kid "try to play that note with as loose an embouchure possible, so that only air comes out of the bell" a lot of times the note comes out sounding bigger and better than they had ever done before. Now this is totally conceptual and I'm not trying to get into specifics of embouchure function, but in certain cases this works... From a practical stand point, I would rather have a kid try to go to the extreme of "too" relaxed and get nothing but air to come out, than have the "right" note come out but with a ton of tension. The former is much easier to work with I think...

    If the kid actually does any of the things you assign him, without giving him more to work on try making these subtle changes. If you give him scales to work on, have him start at the top and go down. The range of the scale stays the say, but the approach is much different. Think about clark 1 for a second. If you play them as written you only every have to play an entrance in the range from F# below the staff to the one on top of the staff. If you play the exact same study, but instead start every "lick" in the second measure (so the first one on a low C), you now cover entrances up to high C. This also accomplishes the age old idea of setting for the top note and going down. An extremely usful embouchure development "tool", and the kid doesn't even have to know what is happening, you just tell him, "learn this starting here instead of here..." If you are doing any sort of lip slurs always start on the top note and go down. And if he can't make the entrance on a note then it is too high... Learning to work downwards instead of upwards is a great help to most people of any level... It's not that going up is bad, because you need to do that to, obviously. But because of the books we tend to use, it's easy to neglect this obvious idea. Most scale exercises in our method books start at the bottom and go up, so you might do a lot of practicing and really only practice it that one way, when there should be a balance of both.

    And lastly, I think that if he isn't working with the mouthpiece he should. I don't mean hours and hours of buzzing... but the mouthpiece shows you what you're doing right or wrong. Doing a little bit throughout time spent with the horn, when done properly, will go a long way. Playing the mouthpiece should be approached the same as playing the horn, blowing relaxed air. It is better to have white noise (air) than a pinched/forced buzz. I see the biggest problem with players who "don't like" mp buzzing is that they use way too much embouchure tension. They try to actually "buzz" into the mp. If the player learns to blow just like they do into the trumpet it is possible to get a good sound on the mp. At first it may just be a rush of air, and that is fine but eventually it will turn into a good sound. It is when that "eventually" is skipped over and in an impatient rush to get a noise out of the mouthpiece the player squeezes their lips together and blows harder just to make a noise. that is when all the "problems" and cliches attached to mouthpiece playing show their ugly heads... Learning a simple tune on the mouthpiece will help with the pitch recognition you mentioned...which will take time...unless you get the cheat code...I'll sell it to anyone who's interested (playstation 3 version only)...

    Wow, I didn't mean to ramble on like that. Good luck with your student!


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