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Trumpet Discussion Discuss Getting Worse? in the General forums; Hello Everyone, I am a freshman in college this fall and have been playing trumpet since I was in the ...
  1. #1
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    Oct 2010

    Getting Worse?

    Hello Everyone,

    I am a freshman in college this fall and have been playing trumpet since I was in the sixth grade. I still practice every day, doing long-tones, scales, clarke exorcises, slurs, and then my etudes.
    About a month ago, I came to the realization that I was using WAY too much pressure. After doing some research on this site and talking to old instructors, I went about trying to reduce MP pressure just by simply paying attention and pulling the horn away from my face (not drastically, just enough to take the pressure away). Instantly my tone got airy, and my range went way down, but I just figured that was to be expected with such a drastic change. I tried applying a tiny bit more pressure in an attempt to ease myself away from it instead, which seemed to work great.
    My concern now though is that after about a month of easing myself away from mp pressure, my playing seems to have gotten MUCH worse. My tone remains extremely fuzzy and shaky and my register is limited to a G above the staff. Could I have done something wrong that is messing up my embouchure? I knew that some pressure was needed to play correctly and I thought I had found the right balance for MP pressure. I was doing my normal routines and could finally feel the muscles in the corners of my embouchure that my directors and lesson teachers always stressed working out. I thought I was doing it all right!

    I appreciate any responses! As of now I am declared as a Finance major so am not able to audition for any ensembles until the spring and can't get an appointment with the trumpet professor for a few more weeks. I was REALLY hoping to switch to a Music Education major later this year, but am feel extremely discouraged because of my playing :/

  2. #2
    Moderator Utimate User rowuk's Avatar
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    Jun 2006

    Re: Getting Worse?

    it is basically very simple. Changing your embouchure has a cost of business.

    You have trained habits for a very long time and I would suggest that your method is not an effective one for solving something that may or may not have been a real problem.

    Pressure is often portrayed as something evil and the opposite as something wonderful. It is not black and white like that. I am convinced that you did not have the pressure problem that you thought. Think back, when you picked the horn up for the first time every day, you probably did fine. When the chops started to get tired, you compensated with pressure. Starting at that time maybe 20-30 minutes into play things started to go down hill.

    I believe that the solution for almost all players is NOT to pull the horn away. It is to build proper body use and breathing habits first which allow the player to extend the time before pressure is applied. The second challenge is then to PRESERVE the feeling of the first half an hour of playing by using the newly trained breathing habits. an additional 10-15 minutes should be quick in coming. Finally, a deeper understanding of the music that we play helps us to find its flow, its groove and then play with the music instead of conquering it.

    I also think it is pretty naive to change something like this at the beginning of a semester. It pretty much kills any chance of getting into the top ensembles. Fixing major things belongs in the summer when we have time to work out tough things and do not have the pressure of having to perform on a daily/weekly basis.

    So, at the end of the day, self diagnosis did not really take into consideration what reality is like. You have a choice, continue to experiment or go back to what worked for you and use other methods to extend the lower pressure playing time. I think this approach makes better sense and has ultimately better results. Most players that I know that tried cold turkey embouchure changes ended up spending a year of musically non-productive time before things got reliable.

    Good luck.....
    Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.

  3. #3
    Pianissimo User sonicgeo2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    Grand Rapids/Philadelphia

    Re: Getting Worse?

    YOU NEED PRESSURE! As long as you're not consciously shoving the horn into your lips. I completely agree with Rowuk in saying pressure increases as you fatigue, so here's what I've done and still do since I first encountered this three years ago... Breaks! I always thought that when you go practice for an hour that you do just that, practice for an hour. The only break being when you change books or things of that manner. The amount of time and frequency is up to the player. For me, I play 15 minutes and take about 5 off. When practicing C trumpet, I fatigue a bit quicker so say 12 on and 4 off. With Picc I take a break every 10 minutes. And when you take a break, you can finger through difficult passages, get a drink of water, etc. Try to keep your mind in a practice zone though. My very long two cents.

    Happy Practicing! NEVER GIVE UP!
    "When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win." -Ed Macauley

  4. #4
    Fortissimo User SteveRicks's Avatar
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    Aug 2009

    Re: Getting Worse?

    Most of my private lessons were in the 60s and early 70s. EVERY teacher I had required that I take breaks every 7 or 8 minutes of playing -if only for a minute or two.
    Olds Supers, LA (1953), Ful. (1962)
    Olds Recording, LA (1952)
    Olds Studio, LA (1953)
    Olds Special, Ful. (1964)
    Olds Ambassador, LA (1954)
    Olds Ambassador, Ful. (1973)
    Bach Strads 37-(1967, 1970, 1974, 1982)
    Bach Strad 72 MLV (1973), 72* (1982)
    Kanstul 1500 (2002), 1502 (2008), 1503 (2002)
    Kanstul 1537 (2007)
    Kanstul Chicago (2000)
    Kanstul 1510 C
    King Liberty (1929,1929)
    King Liberty 2 (1938, 1944)
    King Liberty 2b (1950)
    J.H. Darby 45 USA
    Holton (Revelation) 1924
    Kanstul 1525 Flugelhorn

  5. #5
    ska is offline
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    Sep 2009

    Re: Getting Worse?

    You need pressure enough to seal the MP hermetically shut. Overuse of pressure will decrease the time you can practice.

    Tbh I THINK you are a victim of a common misconception - the higher you go the more pressure you need - no, it doesn't work like that.

    The trick lies within the corner support. Your lips have to be loose enough to be able to buzz effordlessly and your corners , well they don't have to be rock hard, but they need be solid so there won't leak any air. It is veeeery difficult to train, cuz like you, I too used alot of pressure the higher I went - then I realised that my tone is not as beautiful as my teacher's - he didn't tell me right away what I need to do, he let my figure it out- and I did and from thereon out he explained me the same thing that I just explained.

    I cannot say that re training will help you, maybe that style of play doesn't suite you. It's very difficult to pinpoint exactly what each person should do, nobody knows you better than you, you have to test , experiment - draw conclusions, eventually you will be able to decide upon what's best for you.

    I say this because - you gain as much from trumpet playing as you put into it. If you're just looking for concrete directions to enhance your playing - then I'm sorry, but trumpet playing and Life for that matter, doesnt work that way.
    Last edited by ska; 10-05-2010 at 02:24 AM.

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