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Trumpet Discussion Discuss How to eliminate excess tension? in the General forums; Mr. Laureano, One of the most difficult things (atleast for me) is learning how to relax. I recently started doing ...
  1. #1
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    Jan 2004

    How to eliminate excess tension?

    Mr. Laureano,
    One of the most difficult things (atleast for me) is learning how to relax. I recently started doing more physical training (bicycling, weightlifting, etc.) and my once moot tension-issue has become a massive problem for me. Now, I just have to try to relax and keep my mind on not adjusting. I am the fortunate owner of an earlier Monette Prana B993 (it's actually only marked with a P on the valve casing!). Do you have any suggestions that will help me focus on keeping a steady "blow" and a clean air-stream throughout my playing? Or maybe some suggestions as to how I can lower the amount of stored tension I use while playing? Thank you very much for your help!
    "Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian." - Dennis Wholey.

  2. #2
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    Sep 2004

    I'm going to assume that you do what most players do and that is you start loose and tension gathers as you play through a few phrases.

    There's no way to change this by thinking of "not being or getting tense". You must focus on staying the same. You must focus on what it sounds like when you're loose and energized. Go for sameness of sound quality. Obviously, in music the sound changes for musical, stylistic, characteristic reasons. That has to happen by design not by accident.

    It means you must be very discriminating about what sounds good and what doesn't. Sound good on each and every note not most. You're not a ballplayer playing for average. Each and every note.


  3. #3
    Mezzo Piano User Derek Reaban's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    I really like your comments on this question. I went through something very similar to this in my own playing and wanted to add a few things that made a big difference for me in reducing tension.


    It sound's like the tension that you are experiencing is there from the first note now that you have modified your work out routine. "Loose and energized" is clearly where you want to be, but getting to that point is the big challenge.

    I discovered years ago that a breathing bag is a great tool to address reduction of "general" tension before I begin playing my instrument. While the breathing bag has many uses with respect to the breathing mechanism (i.e. visualizing the breath, warming up the breathing mechanism, etc.), one of the wonderful side benefits of spending two minutes using the bag before a practice session is the immediate reduction of "daily" tension. This side benefit is in itself worthy of investigating adding the breathing bag to your daily routine. For details on breathing bags see the Wind Song Press website and select breathing devices. I use some very simple exercises from the Charlie Vernon book while breathing into the bag.

    Another big aspect of tension reduction in my own playing was related to the exhale. When exhaling, release the air or LET THE AIR OUT, don’t push it out. It will come out on it's own. Blowing is fine, but don't push. Consider this (from Arnold Jacobs): Take a full, relaxed breath away from the trumpet. When you take a full breath, the pressure in the lungs is greater than ambient pressure. When you let the air out the pressure in the lungs returns to ambient pressure (he calls this the zero pressure line). At this point you can "push" more air out of the lungs, but now you are going below the zero pressure line and entering what teachers call negative air. When you find yourself "pushing" the air out you are introducing tension into the exhale. This should be avoided. Play on positive air (i.e. above the zero pressure line). Shorter phrases will also aid in staying in the positive air range.

    Chris Gekker targets this concept in an article that he wrote called Summer Practice. While discussing the Clarke Technical Studies he says that by playing extremely softly you are "connecting with your instrument on an extremely relaxed level." He goes on to say, "Form follows function. If, on a daily basis, you establish a very efficient, relaxed approach to playing the trumpet, you will eventually become a trumpeter that can, on a daily basis, play the trumpet in a relaxed, smooth, and expressive manner."

    All of these things have helped me. In combination with being "very discriminating about what sounds good and what doesn't" I think you’ve got some great tools to release this tension.

    Hope this is helpful.
    Derek Reaban
    Tempe, Arizona

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