I was a self taught player in HS and didn't really touch my horn until about 20 years later when my kid began showing interest. I suppose that story is fairly common.
Since, I have been playing with some regularity and some lessons here and there. Happy to say that I'm getting much better. I am in a community band now and some of the players are excellent, so they serve as inspiration and motivation. Over the past 6 years or so, I feel that I have developed in the following ways:
- fingering and sightreading
- range (I can now hit g sitting on the top line reliably and a and b-flat after warm up and before I get too tired) (don't laugh kids- playing high has always been hard for me. Each new note is a mountain it seems!)
- double and triple tonguing
- relying less on pressure
The band takes a two month break after the Fourth of July hoopla. During that break, I took it upon myself to work on my endurance so when the band plays that show stopper at the end of the concert, I can play the last 8 bars that are usually pretty high in my range. For the first month off, I worked very hard every day. In short bursts of about 5-15 minutes, probably playing a total of 1-1.5 hours a day. About half my time was spent with long tones and the Earl B. Irons books the exercises 5-8. Once I was thoroughly warmed up, I worked on some higher stuff like arrangements of baroque fanfares and some jazz transcriptions that had significant components above the staff.
After a month of that my range and endurance improved. I didn't have that pinched sound so much. I was quite pleased. I even began to work on vibrato, it started to come naturally through my diaphragm and I am working on controlling it more. I don't know if this is an accepted method or not. I know lots of folks who shake their horn a wee bit.
Any how, I noticed a raised whitish ring on my lips exactly where the mouthpiece touches. Sort of like a thickening of the skin, not callus, not blister, I hope it isn't a scar. It doesn't hurt or feel bruised. I took a week off, and it was still there, now 3 weeks later and it's still there and just as prominent! I may not have noticed it before, so I don't know how long it has been there.
I need to start up playing again since band starts up on the 11th (about 2 weeks from this post), and I am not certain what to do about my chops. My occasional instructor laughed and said it looks as if I was practicing enough, but I am not certain this is in the realm of normal.
Picking up my horn over the past couple of days, I can tell that I haven't played in 3 weeks, but I seem to have retained the new-found range, but my embouchure feels, well - loose - for lack of a better word. Maybe it's that I am not squeezing the horn against my face any more, but I feel like my connection to the horn is not as solid as it was. My tone feels kind of floaty or fluid, and has a little bit of a life of it's own. It's not the vibrato, I think it's the relationship between my face and the horn (ie - embouchure). I can't tell if it's a good or bad thing yet.
Sorry for the rambling nature of things in the post here, but I was wondering if any one had similar experiences with bursts of playing and development, or perhaps if someone could steer me into a better direction if I am doing things incorrectly.
Thanks so much!