Trouble playing long tones

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Trumpeter3197, Jul 16, 2014.

  1. Trumpeter3197

    Trumpeter3197 New Friend

    40
    5
    Jun 30, 2012
    Hi all,

    I will be a senior in high school this fall and have been serious about the trumpet for the past several years. I am a lead player as well as a jazz soloist, a tough combination I've been pursuing for quite a long time, and am working classically as well. I started (yes I know, only started) doing long tones regularly about 3 months ago because my tone was not where I wanted it to be and I was having trouble sustaining pitches for a long time. The problems I ran into when I started were straightforward; my breath ran out after what seemed to me as an unusually short time (about 15 seconds on each note, 18 if I was lucky), and my tone would quiver quite a lot, especially later on in the long tones session, even though I had good control over my intonation.

    The problem is I never stopped running into these problems. My tone has certainly improved since I started doing long tones, no question about it, but my lungs give out after no more than 18-20 seconds on each note and the quivering has not gone away or even lessened at all. Is this a normal problem to persist? Clearly I am getting something out of long tones, but my breath supply has stayed mediocre at best (in my opinion) and my tone still quivers. I make sure to be as relaxed as possible when breathing and playing, take as full breaths as possible, and rest for exactly how long I played between each note. What else could I be doing wrong?
     
  2. Ufachotchin

    Ufachotchin Pianissimo User

    57
    32
    May 19, 2014
    Youngstown, Ohio, USA
    You might try stretching out your lungs before you play. I do this before I swim competitively. I start out by inhaling as much air as possible, then (without exhaling!) taking a few small, shallow breaths. I take these until I feel like I'm going to cough. Then I release the air in a steady stream. I do this 3 or 4 times. I feel over time it has increased my lung capacity and may help you if you do it before every practice session. Obviously, stop if you experience extreme discomfort.
     
    Vulgano Brother likes this.
  3. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
    60
    12,460
    7,037
    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    There are all kinds of long tone exercises. Some call for playing as long as possible, some with a crescendo and decrescendo, some in meter....

    How are you practicing your long tones, Trumpeter3197?
     
  4. Ufachotchin

    Ufachotchin Pianissimo User

    57
    32
    May 19, 2014
    Youngstown, Ohio, USA
    Another issue you could be facing is your lungs don't have room to expand. If you eat shortly before you play, your stomach will be pushing your diaphragm up, restricting room for your lungs. Just a thought.
     
  5. s.coomer

    s.coomer Forte User

    1,827
    43
    Mar 25, 2005
    Indianapolis, In
    Breathing and support can be a very common problem for many players. I would suggest that you get in contact with an excellent teacher who emphasizes air and air flow. If that is not possible then get some of the Arnold Jacobs books about air. Jacobs had all the answers and even worked with oboists as well as brass players in regard to breathing and air.
     
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
    61
    16,616
    7,962
    Jun 18, 2006
    Germany
    The prerequisites for long tones are basically very simple: we exhale through our lips into the horn with as little body tension as possible. If your tone is not steady, something is tense. That can be forceful breathing, it can be bad posture it can be the tongue moving in the mouth, it can be pressure on the lips, it can be the lips being stiff due to diet/hydration.

    I often talk about the "prepared body". This means that we stand up straight, shoulders back a bit, chin tucked in a bit. Then we inhale slowly and try to determine when our body starts fighting back. When we can predict where this point is, we can review our posture to see if we can fill up a bit more without forcing the air in. Then we practice exhaling (without the horn). We should get to the point where we can get a reasonably low tension big breath. At that point we PLAY instead of EXHALE - Very important is the transition from inhale to exhale: it should happen without holding the air in. I prefer to visualize breathing as a circle. The left side is inhale, at the top there is an infinitely small point where we switch to exhale and the right side of the circle is exhale WITHOUT PUSHING THE AIR OUT FORCEDLY WITH THE ABS!. Long tones should be equally low tension.

    Of course it is essentially impossible to play lead without substantial air pressure, but you seem to have the "bad" pressure caused by unneeded tension and that is in the way of getting better. I think you simply need to slow down until you get a better handle on body use.

    You can google my "Circle of Breath" there is quite a bit more than I mentioned above.
     
  7. Trumpeter3197

    Trumpeter3197 New Friend

    40
    5
    Jun 30, 2012
    Thank you all for your suggestions. Vulgano Brother, I practice long tones by breath attacking each note, holding it as long as I can (which, as I mentioned, is not long), and going up from low F# to top of the staff F#. I start them around mf, decrease to mp and try to hold it there, then get as soft as I can for the last few seconds.

    Rowuk, I agree that it is probably a tension problem, but I am breathing as relaxed as I can possibly imagine. Is there a certain way to breathe without tension that I might just not be getting? I inhale first through the bottom of my stomach, letting it expand, and then letting it "move" up to my lung area, what people usually call the "bottom up" breath.
     
  8. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    5,010
    1,802
    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
    Read the Science of Breath: http://www.arfalpha.com/ScienceOfBreath/ScienceOfBreath.pdf

    Practice breathing away from your horn. There are many exercises - check out Claude Gordon's Brass Playing is No Harder than Deep Breathing: Brass Playing Is No Harder Than Deep Breathing: Claude Gordon: 0798408028701: Amazon.com: Books

    I am in my 60s, smoked for 20 years, and am just an amateur trumpet hack, but I can play a long tone for nearly a minute. You need to be able to play efficiently and breathe in a relaxed fashion. You already know how to breathe or you wouldn't still be here. Don't make it more complicated than it has to be.

    I am also wondering about your equipment. Is it possible you are playing into a high resistance setup? Get a didgeridoo and work at it. There is NO resistance there and you will learn to breathe better just by playing it.
     
  9. Trumpeter3197

    Trumpeter3197 New Friend

    40
    5
    Jun 30, 2012
    Thank you for the link.

    Not particularly, no. I play a good condition Bach Strad #37, and a Bach 1.5C for jazz/classical playing and a Bobby Shew 1.25 Marc. for lead playing.
     
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
    61
    16,616
    7,962
    Jun 18, 2006
    Germany
    I described the "prepared body". That is all that there is. We cannot relieve years of tension in one sitting. First of all, I would stand up reasonably straight and forget about what your body does. Just inhale as much as you can without "forcing" air in. Concentrate on low tension - not where the air is going. Your air in reality is top down, not bottoms up. Count on spending a couple of months to straighten this out.

    I get an allergic itch when I hear "breath attack". All we need to do is EXHALE. Attack sounds like we need force to jump start the lip vibration! That is exactly what we do not want.

    The Science of Breath is an excellent book. Thank you Veery for mentioning it!

     

Share This Page