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Trumpet Discussion Discuss Face tension when playing on the upper register in the General forums; Hello everyone, I have a litle question for you trumpetmasters. When working on my range, I have noticed that my ...
  1. #1
    Pianissimo User just's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2013

    Face tension when playing on the upper register

    Hello everyone,

    I have a litle question for you trumpetmasters. When working on my range, I have noticed that my facial muscles have to work a lot to get the high notes (everything above the A above the staff) and I see the good players play relaxed like they play in the middle register. How can I work on that? I can get the notes out up to the high F but without any power or volume, just a tiny note (above high C) and I believe is because of my facial tension when going higher. What exercises can I try to get my upper register more relaxed?

    Thanks a lot!!


  2. #2
    Pianissimo User
    Join Date
    Mar 2008

    Re: Face tension when playing on the upper register

    I might suggest looking at James Stamp's Warm Ups as I have heard some respected artists discuss how these are great at getting a relaxed upper register (among many other things)---I believe Malcomb McNabb refers to this in his interview on "Bone to Pick" with Michael Davis. Good luck!
    just likes this.

  3. #3
    Moderator Utimate User Vulgano Brother's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    Parts Unknown

    Re: Face tension when playing on the upper register

    Dare I say it? Long tones, lip slurs and pedal tones. Concentrate on airflow--our chops (cheeks and chin, for example) serve to form a stable framework for the lips, and it sounds as if you are "muscling" the upper register. The Stamp book mentioned above is great, but it works best under the tutelage of a first, second or third generation Stamp student.

    Don't forget your middle and lower register too!
    tobylou8 and just like this.
    "A tool good enough to be so used and not too good"
    C.S. Lewis That Hideous Strength

  4. #4
    Forte User
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    Nov 2009
    Near Portland, OR.

    Re: Face tension when playing on the upper register

    Try to play and look at yourself in a mirror. You'll see a lot of tense muscles that are not actually involved in shaping the embouchure for sound production. They're facial muscles that we normally use to express how we feel. When things get more difficult, they show it. Focus inward and try to release all muscles that are not needed for sound production. Things will start to get better. Tension creates its own feedback loop. Another source of tension is the feeling that we're running out with the muscles used for sound production and we try to recruit other muscles. These can not, however, do the proper work. VB above describes it best. Other thing is, do not play to the point when you feel the tension developing. It you're there, you're playing above your means and working against yourself. Long term progress can not happen if you do this regularly. Finally, proper body use is indispensable to reduced tension, look up what's available on the subject on this site and elsewhere.
    just likes this.

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  5. #5
    Utimate User tobylou8's Avatar
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    Dec 2008

    Re: Face tension when playing on the upper register

    Aaaannd ... relaaaaaaaaax while playing!
    just likes this.
    Knowledge is freedom, and ignorance is slavery - Miles Davis

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  6. #6
    Mezzo Forte User
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Re: Face tension when playing on the upper register

    Concern yourself with the physics of the upper register. Lower notes require a greater volume of air to produce sound. But higher notes require less air volume but a higher velocity of air...

    In order to get the precision of notes the opening of the lips needs to remain relatively constant. Forming a small tight pinched opening of the mouth and using mouthpiece pressure can squeeze out notes and in theory there is less volume of air going at a higher velocity, but this is a habit that needs to be destroyed.

    Try to learn that the notes are closer than they seem. All the exercises mentioned will help the muscles relax and get the job done. But if have a tight opening of the mouth, force and pinch notes you get less sound quality and less upper register control.

    I would recommend watching the Jason Harrelson explanation of Aperture Controlled Embouchure. He makes a heckuva lot of sense.

    And then there is Dizzy Gillespie who made the rules... :) DOn't puff your cheeks, don't do this, don't do that. I'm fond of the Harrelson explanation of demystifying the register issues based on the physics of the instrument itself.
    just likes this.

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