Thoughts on playing higher

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Glennx, Jul 28, 2010.

  1. Glennx

    Glennx Pianissimo User

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    At ease, folks, this isn't for screamers - I just want to share some thoughts about building a high(er) register.

    Forty years ago I played trumpet in high school and for 1 year in university, then switched to the bass trombone (sublime to the ridiculous?) which I played for 8 more years. After about 25 years off I decided to come back to trumpet because that slide-thing was just too much work...and I love to play melodies.

    Way back then I never even had a useable/tuneable top-of-the-staff G. Alas, our high school music teacher was a viola player. :dontknow:

    It's now been a year of comeback practice (1+ hours/night) and the range below that G is pretty solid, ie. a million times better than it ever was and getting better every week. I'm playing in a community concert band and covering 3rd in a working swing big band.

    But G and above was just not happening, until things came together from reading TM and undertaking some intelligent reflection & experimentation. And this is what I now understand: all things being equal, playing high notes mainly comes down to only 2 things: (1) sufficient air pressure; and (2) a smaller aperture - that's it, that's all.

    What seems to be working wonders for me is to focus on the lower lip and make it very firm, in order to give the upper lip something solid & supportive to vibrate against (never had that before on trumpet, and the chin would always collapse, etc.). I also do some very soft free buzzing every morning on the drive to work to gradually increase the ability and strength of the centre portion of the upper lip to control and close down the aperture.

    It's now been 2 weeks and the G is very solid after a 2-hour rehearsal, the A-flat and A have both appeared (at last!) and I'm closing on the B-flat. So part of the change is using the muscle set in a slightly different way (lower lip/chin) together with basic strength training to be able to close the aperture. Multiple sets of crunches and increasing numbers of pool lengths are working good things on the air pressure, too. And at age 55, those things bring other bonuses.

    I figure the rest is just a matter of time. Will I ever be a screamer? <laughing> Not very likely! But if I can work up to a dependable D or E-flat above high C in the next year or so, I'll be one happy trumpet player.
     
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Glennx, just try and keep the big, relaxed breath up and the pressure on the upper lip down and you should be just fine. When you get the urge to mash, take a bigger breath, angle the horn down a bit, keeping your head angle where it is.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2010
  3. Glennx

    Glennx Pianissimo User

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    Thanks, Rowuk! No worries there, however, as I've never been a pressure player. And it's always somewhat reassuring to have the mouthpiece slip easily out of the receiver at the end of a 90-minute rehearsal.

    Without seeming to unduly 'butter the popcorn', I'd just like to say that the sharing of your advice and views on trumpet playing here on TM is much appreciated.
     
  4. Myshilohmy

    Myshilohmy Pianissimo User

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    Just out of curiosity, what does angling the horn differently do for you and how does it help?
     
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Stand up and play a G on top of the staff as loud as you can - notice how much pressure is on your upper lip? Now keep your head at the same angle but point the trumpet down a bit. Instant less pressure on the top lip - perhaps a bit more on the lower lip.

    I am not advocating pivoting the trumpet all over, I am suggesting relief when the going gets tough.

    Get the pressure off of the upper lip by EVOLUTION (a bit at a time).
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2010
  6. Dark Knight

    Dark Knight Pianissimo User

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    Glennx,

    We are living parallel lives in many ways. It is good to know there are others out there have the same experinces, challenges and observations. It is good because we all need reasurrance that we are on the right track.

    Best Wishes,

    David
     
  7. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    The upper lip typically is the one that does the work when playing the horn. A lot of people put an undue amount of pressure on their upper lip and as a result they struggle with various things like sound, endurance and range. By making sure to keep pressure off of the upper lip, you keep from restricting it from what it's supposed to do and by doing a slight downward pivot (and I mean very slight) it will anchor the mouthpiece on the bottom lip and release undue pressure on the upper lip.

    There are some people who advocate an etire grip change with the left hand because the end result is that it promotes a gental pivot and/or keeps the pressure off of the top lip and on the bottom lip. The grip change is essentially putting the middle finger in the 3rd valve slide ring rather than the 3rd (ring) finger and dropping the fourth and little finger below the 3rd valve tubing, and some grip even lower, puting only the pointer finger above the tubing.
     
  8. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

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    This.

    The greatest success I have achieved with my range and endurance has come from a gradual (very gradual) reduction in the pressure I use on my upper lip. It's made a huge difference.

    It's been a frustrating "three steps forward and two steps back" evolution, but it's made a big difference...
     
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Just imagine if someone had told you this about 2 years into playing..........

    That is why I am so critical of all of the lies and myths being told about embouchure. The truth is so easy. We just need to know it and then do it.
     
  10. Glennx

    Glennx Pianissimo User

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    Patrick...

    Your comment is great re changing the left-hand grip. I came to adopt the same grip you describe, although not to reduce the amount of upper-lip pressure (I've never been a pressure player) but to be able to work the 3rd-valve slide more efficiently. Despite the many photos showing very capable players using it (Maynard & Buddy Rich's trumpet sections come to mind, and many others...) it felt very strange at first - but now I wouldn't go back, and it feels like the horn is just sitting there almost gently, lightly, in the left hand.

    And Rowuk, you're dead right about getting the best instruction right from Day 1. With all due respect to my high school band teacher, string players just don't do justice to young brass players. Ah well...as long as I'm back on the path and moving forward, right?
     

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