Tension in neck?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Myshilohmy, Jun 13, 2010.

  1. Myshilohmy

    Myshilohmy Pianissimo User

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    Jan 6, 2009
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    So I want to start taking lessons again after taking a break but I can't until I get a job. That might be a while now since a lot of college kids are back in town and have taken a bunch of jobs. I just graduated high school and am not going to college this coming year, but I want to continue playing and I figured now is a great time to sort out some problems I have playing.

    My main problem is tension in my neck and sometimes embochure. Whenever I notice I'm using pressure I use one hand for a bit to help a little. One of the brass guys in drum corps told me instead of thinking 'breathe dah' to think 'bra dah' because when you think 'breathe' your tongue raises and can get in the way or something like that. I've tried using these syllables when I play and I think it helps, but I still have tension in my neck. He also says when I notice tension I need to breathe more. I always have tension in my neck though, what can I visualize to help minimize that on my own since I can't get a private teacher just yet?
     
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Thank you for an optimally written post! You have looked at the situation, given us some stuff to go on and have made it clear that you are looking for solid basics not a shortcut.

    I don't believe that your main problem is tension in your neck. I think that is a symptom of something else.

    My guess is that your brain is not turned on before you start to breathe. Your breathing is rushed because of this and not relaxed. Tension creeps in to compensate for your lack of support (otherwise you would probably play flat).

    My offering for a solution is called the circle of breath and I think that I told you about this before. Envision your breathing as a big circle - the left side is inhale, the top is a smooth transition to "exhale/play" and the right side is playing. At the bottom there is a smooth transition to inhale again. I start my students with long tones and this circle of breath. They "exhale the notes". Taking a half circle to inhale deeply but in a relaxed manner. They play those long tones with NO TONGUING - ONLY AN EXHALE! Once this is down, we move to lip slurs the same way. Eliminating the tongue means that our breath support must be able to sustain the tone without the help of tension. This exercize is part of the daily routine. In lessons, I check up on it every week. I can't think of a more significant exercize.

    When my students get in a situation like yours, we return to the basics. Eliminate the tongue to get the focus back on breath. Then we add the tongue, not with a Dah, rather a Toooh. The articulation has to be extremely light and infinitely fast and a T uses a smaller area of the tongue than a D, ooh lets the air flow much more easily than an ah where the tongue is higher in the mouth.

    Get the tension out. Take a glass of tap water into the practice room. When you notice tension, stop and take a sip. I don't know why, but it seems to ALWAYS work.

    Good luck!
     
  3. Ric232

    Ric232 Pianissimo User

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    Maybe it's what you're sipping? Care to share?

    Seriously though, I like the circle of breath concept and I try to use it in my practice. I have a question, however. When you're playing actual songs, how do you apply the "circle" (and the associated smooth transitions) when you have places where you need to take a quick, large breath? I don't mean to hijack the thread. I think this is a question that could help everyone, including the OP.
     
  4. Markie

    Markie Forte User

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    Jan 4, 2009
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    The human body (or mind) is intresting in that if we sometimes form behavioral associations. Examples: When I blow hard my eyes hurt, or when I play soft, my lips won't work, when I play a certain note it always cracks, ect,ect, ect,.
    The list of counterproductive behavioral associations are endless. These often occur because we are fundimentally doing something wrong. When you play you must make sure you ready your mind and body BEFORE you play. I've seen many people strain to play and sound bad because they didn't :
    1)Have their body set and ready to play.
    2)didn't have their mind set ready to play.
    3)both
    ---
    1)Rowuks' Circle of Breath is excellent and worth checking out. Its helps more people than I can count. Another successful technique is the Hole in the Small of the Back.
    When you breathe, imagine a hole about the size of a tennis ball in the small of your back. When you inhale, imagine the air being drawn into that hole. This will cause the belt buckle area of the stomach to come out.
    2)After breathing, when you play, "project" your sound. Imagine you are playing to the bleachers across the field or to someone two blocks away. This doesn't mean louder, it means you are actually sending (projecting) the sound to a point far away.
    If your tension is the result of lack of projection, (which isn't unusual) This should help.
    ------
    Right frame of mind, body is set and ready, breathing is good, Project the sound.
    It sounds like a lot but it isn't. I've read your posts before and you appear to be a fairly intelligent trumpet player. You'll get it in no time flat. You will probably notice (for lack of a better term) flair ups where the tension comes back. Stop, take a drink of water (which will break the cycle) and then continue.
    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2010
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Ric,
    my circle is the way that we practice and get into the habit of relaxed. Generally speaking, when we breathe when we should, we won't have to breathe when we have no other choice.

    With practice, it is possible to get a quick big breath with VERY low tension. It will not be "perfect" like when we have unlimited time, but "perfectly" acceptable. We have to start somewhere and that is easiest in a controlled environment. A hint: we can change the size of the circle depending on the phrase to be played. That requires us to know how much circle that we need to get through - simple preparation!

    The most critical part is getting the chops to work without the tongue. Once we can play our range without an "attack", adding light tonguing to form the beginning of the note is a piece of cake. Fast tonguing too!
     
  6. Ric232

    Ric232 Pianissimo User

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    Makes a lot of sense.
     
  7. Phillydawg

    Phillydawg New Friend

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    Jul 14, 2009
    SoCal
    Hi...I realize this is an old thread but what about drumcorps hornline instructors teaching trumpet players to say "dah" on everything including high notes? I'm dealing with a baritone/trombone guy who is insisting that there's no tongue arch despite the xray video to show it, and is denying trumpet players to say EEEEE on the high register. He condems Arban, Claude Gordon and every trumpet method book that's ever come out showing the 3 main syllables (taw-tay-tee or dah day dee),etc. He thinks Lynn Nicholson is disgusting on the "Happy Birthday" video and says Lynn's sound is "tinny". I'm in charge of a returning corps and am trying to convince myself I'm not going nutty,heh. I'm a pro player also, and been playing since 1968.
     

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