While ruminating over some p/m's I had sent to a couple other members earlier today it occurred to me that the info might be helpful to the general community here too. None of this stuff is hard to understand at all. And I think that perhaps that is an important point as well:
Most good ideas are SIMPLE.
To quote myself from a letter:
What bugs me is when i read or hear all this crap about "lip compression". Some muscles do need to firm up but NONE need to compress within the mouthpiece. In fact this kind of compression RUINS high range and keeps the trumpet player perpetually confused. A significant depression related to his musicianship can then easily set in.
Lip compression isn't enough. Not without properly segregated muscle usage. This could be the reason so many trumpet players find that most excellent pencil exercise unhelpful. Surely they increased the strength and power of the facial and embouchure from the pencil exercise. Those muscles necessary for strong endurance and range that is but they did not learn how to divide or segregate the muscle usage according to the proper task each group is assigned*.
The problem wasn't that the pencil exercise didn't help them increase strength. Not all all! The strength gain was very necessary. The pencil exercise is FANTASTIC!!! However they did not learn to SHUT OFF the tension of the lip flesh they left within the mouthpiece cup.
Instead when they went about applying their strengthened muscles to upper register performance they squashed all their lip flesh so tight that no sound could emanate from the horn. Unintentionally sabotaging themselves from the very start.
Think about it: If all you do is mash your lips hard against each other then what sound can come out? In fact you can push your lips so hard against themselves up to a point where no air can even pass through the horn!
So clearly lip compression isn't enough. That if used without channeling the muscle usage "lip compression" could actually be counter productive. The pencil exercise DOES increase strength and identify muscles very necessary for high range and endurance. However due to the nature of holding the pencil between the lips the exercise (by itself) can not teach the mind to differentiate between the two groups of facial muscles that simple MUST SEGREGATE their tasks.
However the exercise following at the bottom will help you do this. Oddly when we try this trick we do not use our lips or even the mouthpiece at all. What I describe is the segregation of muscle usage in the fingers, hands, wrist and arms to make a comparative analogy.
1. While standing let your right or left arm hang down by your waist in its natural position.
2. Tightly firm up EVERY MUSCLE IN YOUR ARM. From your little pinky up through the hand, wrist, forearm, biceps, triceps and shoulders. Every finger should be very taught. Your whole arm is now tensed. Tighten every muscle almost to the point of slight discomfort.
3. While maintaining ALL muscle tension in the rest of your arm, wrist and shoulder RELAX all your fingers! Yes hold the rest of the arm tight as can be but keep the fingers hanging loose as a goose. Wiggle them a bit while holding the rest of your whole arm taught as can be.
Its a little tricky to do this isn't it? OK so what does this have to do with embouchure you may ask???
The tension you've put in your arm is analogous to the firm mouth corners and facial muscles necessary to control the RELAXED, supple lip mass within the mouthpiece cup. The loosened fingers represent the RELAXED lip flesh within the mouthpiece cup!
Our fingers, hands and arms are by necessity appendages which are intimately understood by our mind. They have to be as survival is at stake. Not so much with the embouchure and facial muscles. These were designed for talking, and chewing mostly. Playing the trumpet takes your chop muscles miles past their original evolutionary design.
So practice the finger, hands and arm exercise a few times and then apply this same concept to your embouchure and facial muscles. In other words hold all your facial muscles very taught but RELAX all lip flesh within the mouthpiece cup. I'm pretty certain most everyone here with range, endurance and/or tone concerns will be pleasantly surprised. Fairly soon after trying the idea too I'm willing to bet.
Then after you have learned to effectively segregate the muscle usage in your chops you might consider coupling the idea with a very slight jaw closure for that last perfect fifth or so of your high range. Conventional wisdom generally says we keep our teeth apart about 1/4 inch most of the time when playing the trumpet**. However if you can keep your inner vibrating lip flesh very loose within the mouthpiece cup you may be able to squeak or play another perfect fifth to an octave higher just by closing your jaw a tad and blowing the air a little harder. Seen it happen a number of times. Really.
The point: Your LOOSE FINGERS ARE ANALOGOUS TO THE SUPPLE LIP FLESH NECESSARY TO GET THE BEST TONE AND HIGHEST RANGE ON THE TRUMPET!!!
I actually have a term and abbreviation to apply for the segregation of the described muscle usage. For today I'm leaving it out though. An idea that isn't copyrighted yet. I don't intend to make a whole ton of money in marketing/promotional efforts. My main goal is to distribute these easy to understand ideas to help some poor kid somewhere work things out. Or to help an old timer who has found high range on the trumpet ever so elusive. That's my reward: to prevent some poor schmuck from spending five decades without ever playing a solid High F or thereabouts...
However the term and its abbreviation I will keep to myself. For now anyway. "nuf said and I suppose one shouldn't worry. Because as per Howard Aiken:
Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats.
Good luck with this!
*Incidentally, if you want to know a lot of what it is that makes for a gifted trumpet player range wise? Like those disgusting cats who learned to blow FAT Double C's halfway through junior high? Well it was that their chops (for various reasons) automatically properly segregated those facial muscles which stay firm and those that stay loose. They were able due to nature and luck of the draw to subconsciously adapt the concepts illustrated above. In fact what most of these type tend to do is play with dry lips. Now before you go out and try this take note that a lot of us simply can not play with dry lips. So forget about that unless it works for you. Also there is more to the game than just blowing dry. However with the strong grip the dry lips create in the embouchure of a gifted trumpet player it allows the TOTAL RELAXATION OF HIS CHOPS INSIDE THE MOUTHPIECE!!! Playing with such supple chops the air passes through easily. Unencumbered by this tension he often gets a HUGE FAT BIG SOUND this way but with less than half the work the rest of us commonly employ.
Thus the reason he tells his students to "just relax your chops". Except that for these students (unless they adapt something similar to the ideas listed above) the directive to "just relax your chops" can not possibly work unless supplemented and combined with proper muscle segregation. Again, not a difficult concept and just common sense. Good ideas usually are simple.
And the dry grip the gifted, natural phenom typically uses on the outer side of the mouthpiece cup mimics the strength the rest of us are attempting to gain through isometrics like the pencil exercise and the PETE.
**A concept from Stevens-Costello. Oddly I've found that my best low tones on the trombone come out with my teeth touching! Go figure?