Throat swelling

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Kiddo, Jan 30, 2010.

  1. Kiddo

    Kiddo New Friend

    Jan 30, 2010
    Hi I’m new to this forum, thanks in advance for any advice.

    I have this problem; whenever I play high notes (for my range) from B just below the high C to above, my throat will swell considerably, about 1 to 2 cm outwards; it occurs at the part of my throat below my jaws, just above my adam’s apple. Or rather, the area known colloquially as double chin; except that I’m really really skinny, have a very sharp jawline and have no semblance of fats below the jaw.

    It’s gotten to the point where my band-mates are pointing out to me that I’m over-exerting my throat; using the wrong method of playing, instead of using diaphragm to push out the air, I'm straining my throat to push the air out. However, I’ve tried to rectify this problem by attempting to play using my diaphragm, ‘squeezing’ out air using the abdominal area; I no longer feel strain on my throat except on really high notes. (Am I supposed to strain my stomach when I’m playing high anyway? And just how does it feel when playing if one is using the diaphragm correctly?)

    Anyway, the problem has gotten worse in recent times; even at a mere middle C (an octave below high C) my throat/chin will start swelling already; by watching myself using a mirror.

    My question is, is throat swelling considered to be normal in the course of trumpeting? (With regard to my swelling of 1-2cm). And how does one know if he/she is using diaphragm blowing correctly?
  2. s.coomer

    s.coomer Forte User

    Mar 25, 2005
    Indianapolis, In
    It sounds to me like you are not relaxing your chest and neck when playing. It also sounds like you may be using way too much pressure. We can tell you to relax and back off the pressure. However, you really need to find a private teacher who can monitor your playing directly and give you much more help. No one here without seeing you can give your really sound advice without seeing and hearing you.
  3. Phil

    Phil Pianissimo User

    Jun 7, 2009
    It sounds to me like you are trying to force the air out. Frank Campos talks in his book, Trumpet Technique (a great read for any trumpet player), that one way people try to force the air out is by closing the vocal chords creating tension in the throat often causing grunting and vocalization while playing. He discusses other poor breathing techniques trumpets have used and believed in for years.
    Gabriel Langfur, a professional bass trombonist for the Rhode Island Philharmonic and Vermont Symphony orchestras, was just in residence at Tennessee Tech this past week. One thing he discussed in his trombone masterclass was an emphasis on the relaxation of the breath. He had all of us (myself included who was merely sitting in to hear what the trombones are up to) simply breathe in without paying attention to how full our lungs were and how we were breathing for a total of 4 counts, and the other 4 counts were simply letting the air fall out for 4 counts, repeating these two steps over and over again. Another exercise we did with Mr. Langfur was inhale for three (in the same manner) and exhale for 6 (in the same manner) except that the exhale ends before one has to push the air out and resting for the rest of the 6 counts before the inhale returned again. This is a great way to get the air flowing in a relaxed manner.
    I've been fighting with myself over diaphragm breathing because the diaphragm for the most part is involuntary; however, I have been told by my trumpet professor, Dr. Charles Decker, former cornet soloist for the US Army Field Band, that the air velocity can be adjusted by tightening the abdominals. This works because when you inhale, the diaphragm pushes the abdominal area including the stomach down and out, so by tightening the abdominal region you are bring the abdominals in and up thereby forcing the diaphragm to move a bit quicker pushing the air out of the lungs.
    If you are having this problem starting with that C, I would suggest trying simple breathing exercises at the start of your practice followed by mouthpiece buzzing. Mr. Langfur stressed mouthpiece buzzing on simple little melodies in whatever key you feel, and trying it in different ranges, as well as buzzing exercises. This was all backed up by his former college buddy, Dr. Joshua Hauser who is now the trombone professor at Tennessee Tech, who said that he buzzed things like John Williams his entire 2 mile walk to high school every day and is now able to play really higher because he used to buzz high notes for many years walking to and from high school.
    Hope some of this helps!
  4. Phil

    Phil Pianissimo User

    Jun 7, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2010
  5. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

    Oct 16, 2008
    This is not normal. You should be able to play everything up to (and even above) high C without the kind of strain on the throat/neck that you describe.

    I think Wayne Bergeron once spoke that he used to do that when he was younger and developed some serious (career threatening) problems as a result.

    Getting advice for this over the internet will be difficult as we can't see what/how you're doing and you can't visualize the feedback you receive.

    If you have a college or university nearby you could reach out to the trumpet professor(s) there for guidance. They should be able to get you back on the right track with a couple of sit-down lessons. Obviously you'll have to pay them, but if you don't change something about the way you play you're going to wind up hurting yourself...
  6. Kiddo

    Kiddo New Friend

    Jan 30, 2010
    I realised I may have exaggerated a little regarding the extent of the swelling; it's more so like having a double chin sticking out when I'm playing high. Nevertheless, I've had 5 brass mates commenting on that within the span of a month, plus I've seen videos of virtuosos ranging from maynard to doc sev going crazy high with all the veins sticking outta their neck but none having the problem as I do, so it's a grave issue I have to look in. Plus it's really ugly and scary to have a big swelling double chin all of the sudden; so I'm pretty convinced it's a technical aspect gone wrong...instead of 'natural born physique'.

    Problem is...I've tried relaxing and playing it out in the most 'peaceful' manner. I do not have any professors, but I do have a good trumpeting friend in a reputed conservatory whom I look up to as a teacher; I've followed his advice, good posture, buzzing (as phil as aforementioned) holding long notes, inotation (it's very good according to my teacher despite the problem).

    I do not feel straining at all on my middle ranges, it's very easy to play those notes at any mere whim yet the 'double chin swell' persists. I feel I've come to my wits end. It seemed as though I need to go back and relearn all of my basics now after coming relatively far, don't I?
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    It is not grave. It does not change your embouchure geometry and if your playing is OK, I would not pay any particular attention to it. Keep working on all aspects of your playing and you will be just fine.

    I know of no muscles that are in that area that have ever been mentioned in any studies that I have read, and none that should be of any concern.

    Your teacher can look seriously at your playing and see if any tissue is being strained. If they see nothing, ignore it!
  8. Irensaga

    Irensaga Pianissimo User

    Feb 3, 2010
    Manchester, UK
    I have just found this thread and I have a similar thing happen when I play above top line F. I have been told it could be from using equipment that is too tight for me but I have not found it to be a problem. It does look weird in the mirror though. As others have already said, I wouldn't worry about it if you are relaxed when playing and sounding the way you want to :-)

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