Once in a while I find myself in rare agreement with Claude Gordon. Not often but every now and then. He had actually at least three gems of advice. Loosely quoted these are:
"Trumpet players will buy anything if you tack a high note on it".
"Trumpet players are generally too lazy to put in the time and dedication necessary to sufficiently master the instrument"
"Don't allow yourself to become too lip conscious" Again my apologies for not having the exact quotes but the general sentiment is there for all three.
As I listen to and watch most of the brass players I see there is one thing that separates the pros from the hacks. The hacks are always complaining about their lips. They say things like:
"Am I supposed to play 1/3 or 2/3rds upper lip"?
"How far out should I set my jaw"?
"I never had the lip for this instrument"
"What if I'm playing too far right of center"?
"What if I'm playing too far left of center"?
"My teacher says i shouldn't play in the red, what ever will i do"?
"I don't want to use too much arm pressure on my lip"
"Should I roll out or roll in my lip(s)"?
You can increase the list for another half hour. And that's before we even talk about mouthpieces. No wonder they screw up and sound so awful. They've got themselves psyched out at ever turn. "Rigging failure" is another way of looking at it...
As if the whole effort involved with brass playing ended at the lip. It's the way they think much of the time. These poor cats get so sidetracked and depressed thinking about their lips that they completely forget about what starts the tone: WIND POWER!
We hardly ever here about BREATH CONTROL and AIR SUPPORT. Not even on this forum. I probably should include "PLAY AGGRESSIVELY" in my list of good advice. Anything to counteract the overdone emphasis upon the poor lip.
Just for fun go around some of your local amateur bands and observe and listen to their brass sections. Almost without exception you will hear puny tones, cracked notes and melodic lines that fade because the soloist or whole section forgot to blow through the phrase. Worse still the average music director is focused so much upon correct notes, key signatures tempos etc. that he/she forgets to emphasize air support. The director isn't to blame really. We can understand the concern for accuracy. Never-the-less the concept of prioritizing the elimination of playing errors (at least for most brass players) is really putting the cart before the horse.
I was in a discussion with a very talented young trombonist tonight. A man I very highly respect and with a bright future ahead of him as a music teacher and musician in his own right. He surely plays the trombone with more technique and accuracy than myself. Especially in the lowest register as being a trumpet player it can take me several weeks of solid daily practice to pull my own on the lower trombone parts.
However I noticed one major distinction between his playing of the low brass horn and my own:
I sound about 50 to 100% more confident (on the trombone) than he does. Reason? Despite my weaker over all technique on low brass instruments I put more air support behind the thing. My mistakes sound confident. His correct notes almost sound like they're going to fail. Its a tone the audience doesn't hear so much but because I'm a brass player I do.
So we chatted about breath support. I explained to him that after he gets his degree in Music Ed and finally teaches his first high school or middle school band class he should PRIORITIZE AIR SUPPORT while de-emphasizing the relative value of the lip. To become LESS "lip conscious".
This the most important quote ever writ about brass playing. From the late Arnold Jacobs
“The most common problems I have seen over the last 60-odd years I have been teaching are with respiration and the tongue. Surprisingly enough, I rarely find problems with the embouchure. That might sound strange because people come to see me because of problems with their embouchure, but frequently it is the embouchure reacting to a bad set of circumstances and failing – it is simply cause and effect. If we change the cause of the factor, it is easy to clear up the embouchure. The embouchure is not breaking down, it is trying to work under impossible conditions. When you are starving the embouchure for air volume, giving it all sorts of air pressure but not quantity, it cannot work.
from: Embouchure Problems « The Breathing Blog