Throat closes as tongue raises or...?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by dalek42, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. dalek42

    dalek42 New Friend

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    Oct 20, 2012
    So, I'm an 11th grader that's been playing since 7th grade. I played principal in band last year (10th grade). Towards the end of the year I realized:
    As I go higher, my tone thins, I get quieter, I have not-so-good endurance, and I press. This was very clear as we were doing Holst's 1st Suite in Eb and while I did well, I was definitely working too hard. This became much more apparent when I had to play pieces such as Slavyanskaya by Kozhevnikov for All-County.
    I was principal in band really because the other good players had the volume, but not the focus, care, nor technique (Everything else).

    Now, November of 10th grade I got a really, really good teacher. He's an extremely knowledgeable, kind, insightful, and competent guy with a degree from Crane. He got me a 100 on my solo (Riisager Mvts 2 & 3) and I went to All-County on Tpt 1 (Last chair) (Didn't go for All-State). The issue of my tone and volume got pushed off to the side, worrying about the solo festival, and solos in concerts, and the music I got to play in a youth orchestra tour this summer.

    When we reconvened late August, I presented him with the issues, he tested me, and agreed that there was something wrong. His initial assumption was that I wasn't putting enough air through and was holding back. After some time and work involving lip slurs, mouthpiece work and such with a focus on really pushing air, getting a complete breath, and using it, not too much had changed.
    He knew there was some disconnect between the air being in me and then getting to the horn. The lips were ruled out. He had me borrow a baritone horn from the school. We both discovered that I play it pretty well. I got up to the high Bb and C on it with relative ease. D was tricky. Funnily enough, we agreed that on trumpet that E in the staff (High D for Baritone Horn) was where the problem really started.

    Next lesson, he had me take my mouthpiece and I blowed, starting on a thin concert Bb (Tpt C in staff). I slurred down to concert F (Tpt G in staff) and very quickly, I felt a rush of air and could feel the air going through properly and that concert F had a good buzz and a good amount of airflow. We transferred this to trumpet, and could easily tell that that Tpt G in the staff was getting all the air properly. As we moved up, on mouthpiece and trumpet, we noticed that even starting at C in the staff, there was less air. He made sure, as much as he could, that I was properly using my tongue and concluded I was. Tongue was ruled out. I put my hand on my neck and there was a definite difference between a concert F on the mouthpiece and a concert Bb on the mouthpiece. Same on trumpet.

    I was using my diaphragm/lungs/stomach/whateverYourPersonalTermIs correctly, tongue was fine, lips were fine, so we concluded: As I go higher, I'm trying to get the requisite air out to support the note, the tongue is trying to move into the right position, but as it does, the throat is closing, cutting off air, which makes me want to press to get the higher notes out because that circumvents the issue, which makes my lips tire out, which causes problems in the endurance department. My teacher, who has been reaching for over 40 years, thought about this again for the week, and couldn't figure out why this was happening, so we're trying to find a way to stop this from happening.

    I probably wrote several of the details in there COMPLETELY wrong so please don't analyze that thinking the answer is actually just an ignored elephant in the room. But the issue IS: As my tongue raises and air goes through, my throat is in some way tensing, stopping a portion of the air, not letting me support notes as I ascend.

    Even stranger and just more confusing: About two weeks ago, I started doing just a lot of lip slurs. A couple days later, the day before break starter, the problem just didn't happen. It didn't slowly improve over the days I was doing the slurs. It was suddenly, that day, not a problem. All the air I was putting in wasn't being stopped and I could feel the air just flowing. I played through a solo and it sounded damn beautiful. As I ascended things worked just great, my volume increased, I maintained support, and yeah, pedal tones were beautiful as usual as well. Played some of Messiah and I did our famous 16ths in the Hallelujah Chorus just perfectly, which under the the problem were quiet with poor tone (Don't worry, at the concert I was playing 2nd trumpet (and btw those jumps towards the end for 2nd are very annoying)). Unfortunately, over the next 4 days, the problem crept back and now I'm back in the same situation (Insert the underlined text from above). It's not like I overplayed, I kept relatively the same amount of playing each day, knowing that overplaying would probably destroy this beautiful playing. Nevertheless, the problem is back.

    So. None of my friends, educators, or colleagues know whats up. Do any of you know why this is happening (insert underlined text from above)?

    P.S. Sorry for writing the Odyssey hehe!
    P.P.S. Notice I don't say the throat closes, I'm aware that that's anatomically impossible. I think you understand what I mean.
     
  2. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

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    Welcome to TM, dalek42! Ask your teacher if he can emulate your problem. If he can, he can pinpoint exactly where the problem is. I think the devils in the details is this whole tongue arch thing. I was goofing around, trying to emulate your problem by concentrating on tongue arch, and surprise! if I let the "back part" of my tongue (sorry--I have no way of measuring objectively) arch, I could cut down on the amount of air that went through the trumpet.

    So, forget your tongue arch. Yep, totally forget it. Tongue arch may be a symptom of our playing, but it isn't the cause. Just play. You might want to work on long tones, moving up chromatically, all at the same volume. Focus on the richness of sound and volume. If you start to wimp out, stop. Try it again. Focus on the volume and sound but not the tongue arch. That is not your friend, but at this point your enemy, like Brutus was to Julius Caesar.

    You can add to your long tone workout by performing a crescendo and decrescendo on each of the long tones.
     
  3. Cornyandy

    Cornyandy Fortissimo User

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    May I suggest a couple of singng lessons it sounds to me as though your larynx might be rising as you arch your tongue, I agree with VB ignore the tongue arch it can cause more issues if you think directly of it. A good voice teacher will do several things especially if you explaing your situation.

    They will if not help your breating technique they certainly won't hinder it, help to make you aware of how to sing/play the line, and above all you will become aware of just how "open" you can get your throat with a low larynx and a high soft palate. This won't directly apply to your playing but it will give you an awareness ofthe mechanics of your throat.
     
  4. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

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    Totally agree with the above posts. I took voice lessons for several years and was taught too move the sound forward or backward in my mouth/throat. Forward was thin, bright and airy (tongue arched). Backwards thick, dark and full (no arch). VB beat me to the punch on LONGTONES. The longer you do them, the better your breath control will become. IMO, tongue arch should not really be needed for what you are doing. I associate TA with being a high note technique for a more advanced player looking to increase range with fast air.
     
  5. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

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    Apr 5, 2011
    So, I'm an 11th grader that's been playing since 7th grade. I played principal in band last year (10th grade). Towards the end of the year I realized:
    As I go higher, my tone thins, I get quieter, I have not-so-good endurance, and I press. This was very clear as we were doing Holst's 1st Suite in Eb and while I did well, I was definitely working too hard. This became much more apparent when I had to play pieces such as Slavyanskaya by Kozhevnikov for All-County.
    --------
    This is a common problem and fairly easy to fix. Go to a mirror with your horn and play the C scale starting with low C and go as high as you can and back down. What did you see? Did your face go red? Did you scrunch your face? I'm guessing yes. Now, play the scale again but this time:
    1. Quit Blowing so hard
    2. Maintain a calm emotionless face.
    ----
    Now, November of 10th grade I got a really, really good teacher. He's an extremely knowledgeable, kind, insightful, and competent guy with a degree from Crane. He got me a 100 on my solo (Riisager Mvts 2 & 3) and I went to All-County on Tpt 1 (Last chair) (Didn't go for All-State). The issue of my tone and volume got pushed off to the side, worrying about the solo festival, and solos in concerts, and the music I got to play in a youth orchestra tour this summer.

    When we reconvened late August, I presented him with the issues, he tested me, and agreed that there was something wrong. His initial assumption was that I wasn't putting enough air through and was holding back. After some time and work involving lip slurs, mouthpiece work and such with a focus on really pushing air, getting a complete breath, and using it, not too much had changed.
    ------
    We never force the air. Do not push or force the air. Using compression is something you can learn later. Right now you need to learn the basics.
    ------
    Next lesson, he had me take my mouthpiece and I blowed, starting on a thin concert Bb (Tpt C in staff). I slurred down to concert F (Tpt G in staff) and very quickly, I felt a rush of air and could feel the air going through properly and that concert F had a good buzz and a good amount of airflow. We transferred this to trumpet, and could easily tell that that Tpt G in the staff was getting all the air properly. As we moved up, on mouthpiece and trumpet, we noticed that even starting at C in the staff, there was less air. He made sure, as much as he could, that I was properly using my tongue and concluded I was. Tongue was ruled out. I put my hand on my neck and there was a definite difference between a concert F on the mouthpiece and a concert Bb on the mouthpiece. Same on trumpet.
    --------
    Blowing through the mouthpiece can be tricky. Why? Because the slightest bit of pressure can change the pitch. I think you'll find that as you lift your tongue in the upper register, the tongue is blocking the air.
    -----
    There's a document called The Basics Sheet which you can print out for free. If you copy the bold words and paste them to the advanced search (you might have to look around a little) you can find it. Make two copies. One for you and one for your teacher.
    Dr.Mark
    P.S. Learn to play calm and very soft. This will help get rid of the mouthpiece pressure problem.
     
    tobylou8 likes this.
  6. Cornyandy

    Cornyandy Fortissimo User

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    I'll second Dr Mark's referance to the basics sheet, it is very very good, I've got a copy somewhere
     
  7. Cornyandy

    Cornyandy Fortissimo User

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  8. dalek42

    dalek42 New Friend

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    Oct 20, 2012
    Thanks for all the suggestions/advice, all of you. I'll report back in a while or if I have questions.
     
  9. mike ansberry

    mike ansberry Forte User

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    Sometimes trumpet players confuse arching the tongue with pulling it back into your throat. Maybe this is your problem, maybe not. Try keeping your tongue forward against your lower teeth. See if it makes a difference. Check out "K tongue modified".
     

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