Why wait until the end of the night to pucker up?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Local 357, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011
    I can think of at least three ways to "pucker" the lips when blowing a brass instrument. There's probably more actually. Here:

    1. Stuff more lip flesh into the mouthpiece. Kind of a crude way to manipulate the chops for better register but perhaps useful in the early stages of high range production.

    2. Roll out more lip flesh into the mouthpiece.
    Similar to number 1 above and probably almost as crude. Again possibly helpful depending upon individual variances.

    3. Make the lip flesh THICKER against the mouthpiece.
    The subject of this thread.

    So what does "thicker against the mouthpiece" mean you may ask?


    A. Walk over to a mirror or pick up a hand held one.

    B. Put your face about a quarter inch away from the glass.

    C. Make your lips in the position where you would normally call your setting embouchure.

    D. Without moving your head at all PUSH your chops FORWARD closer until they touch the glass.

    Also there are probably several ways of accomplishing "D" above and any or all may include some part of 1, 2 and 3 above.

    Anyway if you can learn to blow this way (its an easy trick to learn) it ought to add miles to your endurance. You will also unwittingly bring more of your facial muscles into the game. Add to this the idea of limiting your arm pressure to only the most demanding moments of your gig and your general playing ought to benefit tremendously.

    In fact I'm surprised that I don't read this idea more often here. Simplest and easiest idea around! A true no brainer... Sure I've seen it written other places over the years. "Colin Lip Flexibilities" probably one of them although that ancient publication didn't illustrate the idea as much as i expanded upon it above. But it's there. Probably in Maggio too though he stresses the cruder versions of it ala 1 & 2 above in his "Maggio Monkey"

    And to some extent I'm a hypocrite though less and less these days. I tend to forget to push my chops forward early on the gig or rehearsal. The likely reason is that over time I've been drawn to using the concept mostly as a last gasp life preserver in the sinking boat of four hour gig weakened endurance. But it needn't be limited to just the ninth inning.

    Then again in some ways it doesn't matter a heck of a lot to me if I pucker early on a gig or not. I get exactly the same sound, range and volume regardless of playing with or without the forward lip push against the mouthpiece. And I've been doing it for 48 years next autumn.

    But its still a good idea.

    So why wait until the end of the night to pucker up?
    patkins and jbkirby like this.
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    yes, yes, yes!
  3. jbkirby

    jbkirby Forte User

    Sep 10, 2009
    Dothan, Alabama
    This is EXACTLY what my teacher taught me...stated crudely: Put more meat in the mouthpiece. Great post!!!!
  4. RHSbigbluemarchingband

    RHSbigbluemarchingband Mezzo Piano User

    Jan 17, 2009
    Well I've gotten that yelled at me by a good handful of trumpet players lol............You know whats weird? When I do it, it works...How strange..
  5. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011
    Sure you could do that. Main idea though was a variation of the pucker you describe.

    I've felt that just packing more meat in the m/piece to be inefficient and a little crude. While initially it can be a real world opener for range at times too much lip flesh will block the tone and reduce the full spectrum of harmonics. Maggio was a heavy meat pucker system and was noted for often producing a lot of air in the sound at soft volume. Also too much meat in the piece can make it difficult to get a true fortissimo.

    Instead what I'm recommending is to BALANCE the pucker. Not to roll out or "pooch" the chops excessively but to coordinate the chops while pushing FORWARD against the mouthpiece. So try rolling in your chops a tad while pushing out towards the mouthpiece. A little tricky at first but worth the effort. Sort of a "puckered roll" which at first glance may seem an oxymoron but it isn't really.

    When you feel the mouthpiece becoming farther away from your teeth you're catching on.

    By making the lips thicker against the mouthpiece you will prevent much of the cut off of blood circulation. Aids endurance and reduces the damage/soreness/stiffness in the subsequent days following a heavy performance. Also this will prevent the cutting of the lips from either the mouthpiece inner rim sharp edge or the teeth (usually the lower jaw teeth).

    Think of the puckered roll to be like the filling a bicycle tire with air versus one that is flat. A perfect analogy actually.

    When flat the tire gets torn by both the wheel rim and road. The ride is bumpy, slow and turbulent. But fill the tire with air and you go over the bumps with little noticeable discomfort and the tire doesn't get torn to shreds.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2012
  6. patkins

    patkins Forte User

    Nov 22, 2010
    Tuscaloosa, AL.
    This sounds definitely a natural anatomical solution. Thanks
  7. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

    Jun 16, 2010
    A trombone professor gave me this exact advice this morning. Maybe I'll experiment a little with this after my recital.
  8. zorrosg

    zorrosg Pianissimo User

    Jan 30, 2011
    What a timely post. As a beginning trumpeter, I've been working on consistent production of sound in different registers. I did naturally find myself puckering out against the mouthpiece as I try the higher notes - the mouthpiece seems to be moving further away from the lips as I ascend. So it was really useful to read this post from Local 357, which sort of confirms that I'm at least headed in the right direction.

    Another thing which was really helpful is learning how to set the tongue at different levels for low, medium and high notes. I can't quite figure out how to pucker out without rolling out the lip though, much less roll it in, as Local 357 suggests, but I'll try to figure it out. Thanks again for sharing the valuable advice!

    I do have a slight question though. In puckering out into the mpc, the pressure on the lip does increase. Is this in effect another way of jamming the horn against my face, which I've read is not the way to do it? I guess the difference could be that the lips are away from the teeth in the pucker?
  9. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    This proves how important having a good daily routine is. A good daily routine of long tones,slurs,scales arpeggios,etc,reinforces correct playing habits,such as embouchure,air,body use and posture. When we get on stage we should be able concentrate on making music and not on the mechanics of how to play our instrument.This should be automatic,if it isn't there is something missing in our daily routine.
  10. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011
    Naw. Maintaining enough mild pressure that would allow putting more lip into the mouthpiece shouldn't increase the backwards mouthpiece push much.

    I did however want to try and emphasize the difference between just packing more meat into the sup and cushioning the lips.

    Cushioning the chops between the mouthpiece and teeth is the priority and differs slightly with simply packing more lip flesh into the thing. Yes you can do a puckered roll. Essentially a "puckered roll" produces the same lip aperture as a non rolled and non puckered setting except that the puckered roll increases the thickness of the chops. A better cushion to wards off circulation loss and cut chops. Either cuts and abrasions from the mouthpiece, teeth or both.

    With a puckered roll you can get away with more time spent in the upper register even if you use a lot of arm pressure. But be careful regardless.

    We do not need to eliminate arm pressure but need to keep it within an acceptable threshold. Both while on a gig to avoid losing your chops towards the end of the night and in the subsequent days in the future.

    The goal for every lead player should be to develop a solid High D with only mild contact pressure against the chops. You may if you wish play a few higher notes with heavy pressure but these ought to be only for a minority of the time on a playing engagement. lets say you have that solid High D with little arm pressure. OK so now play a few High E's and F's above and jam a little but don't really slam it hard.

    Next: When you can play a solid High e to F with minimal contact pressure? OK then jam a little more to play the High G, A etc.

    It's a matter of proportion, common sense and personal limits. Don't try to play Double C's like Maynard unless you have a decent High G for most of the evening. A G with control and fair ease that is. Even Maynard used a fair amount of arm pressure but he didn't survive the whole evening this way. He used it on the very few last notes of his range and/or late in the evening. It wasn't a way of life for him.

    So figure your real range. ie, what you can play all night without excessive pressure. Then add a perfect fourth or major third to that as "cap notes" at the end of a tune or accented high notes every once in a while. Keeps everything musical and within acceptable physical limits.

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