Trumpet Stiff Lips

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Xelex, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. Xelex

    Xelex New Friend

    Nov 19, 2008
    Ok, so I'm a High School Trumpet Player (extremely cliche by now, I know), and I've recently found out my problem with playing high notes... It was linked to my corners, because I was pulling them down and back, which stretched my upper lip and resulted in a lack of range and loss of endurance ( I could only play to a high A-C consistently, and my High D's were rare ). I now simply say Mmm (Not sure if I should roll my lips or not) and pull my corners towards my GUMS.... And I honestly think that's a common misconception for a lot of trumpet players because they hear tighten your corners and immediately there are multiple variations to tightening them, and by tightening them in the wrong direction or way you can hurt yourself... (But then again, this works for me, not for everyone obviously).

    But anyways, back to my point.
    I recently made this change and I can play to a strong E/F with a weak (in terms of volume) high G (as in however many ledger lines above the staff that is, six I think.) HOWEVER, after doing this Tuesday morning (I just learned how to fix my corners Friday and I was taking it slow, working on range building exercises and long tones to get used to my new corner setup; however I diverted from this take it slow method horribly on Tuesday) my lips were EXTREMELY stiff by fifth period (Jazz Band) and I lost my ability to even play a high C. I'm 99% positive I'm not using any pressure at all really, because the first thing I noticed that morning was how painfully easy it was when you do it RIGHT...
    I think the reason my lips are so stiff is because I have never played a high G before in my life, and I was doing ALOT of arpeggios... Up an octave. I got that sort of adrenaline rush where you start playing high notes and you don't want to stop.
    I carried on for about 30 minutes, and lo and behold, wednesday evening, my lips are STILL feeling like cardboard.
    I did not warm down (major mistake I presume) after that little session, either.
    Is there anyway I can help my lips.... "un"stiffed?
    Any help is much appreciated, thanks!

    I have big lips in my opinion, if that detail is of any use. I also can't play pedal tones; I can play a good, fat F#, but I can't play any lower. My director is going to help me tomorrow with learning it, because I don't really understand the way my private lessons teacher explains it.
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    results are measured in months and years, not days. If you got "immediate" results somewhere, you got lucky - and luck is not consistent.
    There is pretty much unanimous agreement with pros that a warm down is useless.

    From what you described, you beat yourself up and are now paying the price. Even although a change has made some things "available" you have not earned them and until you do, you will have problems with consistency. If your range is strong to a note and then essentially stops (as you describe), you are using to much pressure and thus squeezing the lips off. If you are doing things right, your sound just keeps getting thinner (over a fifth or so) until no more sound comes out.

    My advice is to practice balanced, mostly softly with more focus on breathing than on mechanics. Get a daily 20-30 minute routine for the rest of your life: Long tones, slurs all with no tonguing, then add the tongue to the solid tone (all at pianissimo). 20-30 minutes of soft are the best building blocks that I know of. Range exercizes come at the end of a session, AFTER you have the routine and tunes covered. MUSIC should NEVER be practiced when your face is wasted!

    Just cut back on the range stuff. Not much is proven with one day on and 4 more for recovery.
  3. Xelex

    Xelex New Friend

    Nov 19, 2008
    That's just it....
    I do long tones...
    I do slurs, I slur pretty well, to be honest, and I do exercises out of Arban's...
    The only thing I DON'T do is practice tonguing, which is probably a big fault, but I haven't ran into issues tonguing pieces, may it be a technical piece of a swing chart.
    I've been building my lips gradually, I just noticed an extreme change when I had proper use of my corners, and I take it the range increase is due solely to the fact that I'm not pressing anymore because I'm now using my corners to make the aperture smaller versus pushing my mouthpiece into my face.
    It's just the sheer fact that playing high stiffens the lips and I have no idea to relax them - I've acknowledged the fact that I shouldn't have tried to do something I wasn't ready for.
    I just want something that will help my lips relax so I can actually go back to playing, or else I'm going to end up reverting to bad habits to play with stiffened lips - especially with all-region coming up.

    Thanks for the advice, though =)
  4. TrumpetMD

    TrumpetMD Fortissimo User

    Oct 22, 2008
    I can relate to your story. I was using Clarke's First Technical Study to extend my range. One day in college, I realized I could play a high Eb consistantly. That day, of course, I played it a lot. A whole lot. The next day, my lips were shot and my range was gone. It was a couple days before a 2-week jazz festival, which I never fully recovered for. I spent the 2 weeks playing 3rd and 4th trumpet parts because I could barely hit an F at the top of the staff.

    Unfortunately, I don't think there's much you can do after this type of injury. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a physician, board certified in internal medicine and with interests in the medical issues of instrumental musicians. Think of an athelete who pulls a muscle in his back. There may be symptomatic treatments that can provide some relief - heat, ice, massage, physical therapy, medications like ibuprofen. However, none of these will speed up the healing process. The best course of treatment is strict rest for 1 or 2 days, followed by gently using (but not over-using) his back, and give it time to heal before resuming full activity.

    The same it true of pulling the muscles in your lips. You can try some symptomatic treatments like horse lips, pedal tones, massage, vasaline, ice. This will provide some symptomatic relieve. But again, this will not heal the injured muscles any faster. You might want to skip playing the day after an injury of this type. The next day, you might want to gently practice. Play soft in the low/medium range for a few minutes twice a day, ie, gentle long tones from low G to C on the staff. Do this for a day -- maybe even a couple days if you need to. Once you're feeling better, you can slowly work up to your normal routine. However, don't make the mistake of trying to play your normal routine until the injury heals. You'll just prolong or worsen the original injury.

    In addition, if the injury doesn't improve in a few days, if you notice other symptoms, or if you're just not sure, you should see a doctor (preferably one with a background in performing arts medicine or sports medicine). Your primary care doctor can recommend someone.

    Finally, the best "treatment" is prevention. It's possible to permanently damange these muscles. Your lips should always feel good and flexible. Rowuk makes some good points. As Clarke says, your lips should "... always be fresh and under control."

  5. Xelex

    Xelex New Friend

    Nov 19, 2008
    Thanks a ton Mike, I really appreciate it :D.

    I'll try and take it easy...
    Unfortunately, I'm not sure my saxophone director will completely understand the situation, or enjoy the idea that his lead trumpet player will be out for a bit.....

    Sounds like I've learned a very, very valuable lesson.
  6. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    Your using muscles you haven`t used before and over did the high notes , just practice softly and give them a chance to strengthen , playing with a tight mute such as a harmon also helps.
  7. Sofus

    Sofus Forte User

    Jul 26, 2008
    Hi, Xelex!

    If you promise NEVER to tell anyone else about this, then I´ll reveal my secret of warming down;
    I STRECH my lips after playing! :shock:

    This is how I do it: I put my littlefingers in the corners of my mouth, then I VERY GENTLY pull them apart. Pulling them apart must be at a speed low enough to feel that the lips are actually given time to be streched, not hurt or ruptured. This speed is so low that it is next to standing still. If I at any point feel that there is any pain in any part of the lips, I quit!
    At some point I reach the level where I can feel that the lips have reached their maximum lenght, and trying to strech them further will only hurt them. At this point, pulling them apart further feels like trying to pull something rigid apart. This is the time to STOP!

    I have been doing this for some time now, and I do believe that it helps in the same way that it helps athletes when they strech their muscles. After all, muscles are muscles.

    So, I do this AFTER playing my last set for the day.
    However, to my experience, doing it PRIOR to playing is NO GOOD!
    I have, of course, tried that too, and I must say that playing after streching doesn´t fell good at all!

    So, Xelex, try this if you will, be VERY CAREFUL, and don´t tell ANYONE I said this!

  8. Xelex

    Xelex New Friend

    Nov 19, 2008
    Thanks guys, all the advice really helps :thumbsup:
  9. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    As to your director not liking his lead trumpet to take some time off. OK What if he was your say football couch and you were his star quarterback and you have a serious injury. Sure he's not going to like it but he'll live. his main concern should always be for the health and well being of his students. How he reacts to this will tell you alot about his character
  10. Xelex

    Xelex New Friend

    Nov 19, 2008
    Thanks, Bob.
    I told my director, and he cut me some serious slack...
    We were playing I've Got You Under My Skin, song by Sinatra, and lo and behold after two play throughs I could no longer hit a B consistently....
    TGIF, I'm taking a break Saturday.

    But, should I not play on Sunday, too?
    I've had my lips like this for about four days, and since I've never had a real break, I've gotten use to having my lips like this, and I don't really know how it feels for them to NOT feel bad...
    I'm having to use twice-three times as much air to get a note out as I normally would, which I'm guessing is a sure sign that my lips are totally shot...

Share This Page