Trumpet Discussion Discuss Throat Tension in the General forums; I took trumpet in school (2 years) where the only thing I learned on technique was 'don't puff your cheeks'. ...
I took trumpet in school (2 years) where the only thing I learned on technique was 'don't puff your cheeks'. I started up again about 8 months ago after 7 years. I've realized that I don't use enough air to play and also through reading these posts that I probably apply too much pressure. If you know anything about the trumpet in mariachi music, you know that it requires lots of wide vibrato (which I do with my jaw) I'm finding that I play with too much tension in my throat & high notes are nearly impossible. Any tips on correcting these bad habits?
Get a teacher asap
I'm glad you're playing trumpet again. Way to go. Get a private teacher as soon as you possibly can.
I'm not familiar with the Dallas area but I know there are some great teachers down there.
Don't let money be an issue. Many teachers will barter or give you special rates if the need is present.
By working one on one with a qualified teacher, you'll be making progress very soon.
Best of luck and keep us posted with your progress.
Your thoughts that you don't use enough air may be that you are just delivering the air in the wrong manner. Usually throat tension is a symptom of this rather than the cause. You really need someone to listen to you as self analysis is very difficult. There should be some Don Jacoby students in your area who could be helpfull to you.
deepen your throat as you play. while your playing, think of exhaling like you're fogging up a mirror. as you ascend in the register, imagine someone is holding a candle in front of your horn and you're trying to blow it out, the higher you play imagine the candle farther away. really let the air go!
also, make you're keeping your head above your shoulders and you're not stretching your neck to try to play higher
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The dichotomy of playing mariachi is one that is hard to reconcile because on the one hand there's a goodly amount of compression that is neded to play with the kind of articulation that is characteristic of the style yet if that compression transfers to the throat it makes it impossible to play!
With throat tension almost always comes a certain amount of immobility of the body. One thing you want to do as an exercise is away fom the trumpet. Without the horn, do a bit of mimicry of a tune (by going "tooh-tooh-tooh", etc) that has a fair amount of rapid tonguing and notice what your body does from the neck up and also your back and abdominal area. My contention is that musically you can get the "pop" in the articulation you need and have your body be loose. Are you stiff or are you loose while you pretend to play without your horn?
While you're doing your "mariachi trumpet song and dance", notice if your neck area is getting tense. Does it happen right away? Is your back stiff and making it hard for you to move gently? Are you abs tight while you blow out? Can you loosen your back? Can you disengage and loosen the tightness in your abs?
I advocate this sort of nonsense because a body that is immobile is not going to offer you the freedom necessary to play efficiently. Get a good sense of where you begin to tighten and you can begin to chip away at the body parts that are impinging your ability to play with freedom.
When your body is free to move without robotic stiffness, your breathing will be fuller in and out. When that happens, your sound is fuller, you get less tired and your tongue moves faster. When you drive, even that is a good time to see how your body deals with trumpet mimicry. You CAN articulate in the true mariachi style and have your neck, back, and abs loose. Your throat will follow.
Stay in touch.
Jeff Smiley is a very well known teacher in the Dallas area.
Here's his web address:
Stop acting like someone shot your dog.
“Throat Tension” is almost always actually caused by the tongue arching improperly toward the back of the mouth, closing off the airway and choking off the sound (note that the throat cannot close and cannot tense up – the esophagus is not a muscle).
Once this habit develops – the habit of incorrectly grunting or otherwise tensing the back-middle portion of the tongue up toward the back area of the oral cavity – it tends to be a very difficult habit to break.
You need to learn to arch your tongue up and forward in the mouth as you ascend into the upper register. The position of your tongue when saying the word “sea” is a good example of what I mean when I say “up and forward”.
Learning to tongue in the manner used by Herbert L. Clarke, Claude Gordon, and just about every other virtuoso player would be very beneficial to you in keeping your tongue moving in the correct manner (up and forward) as you ascend in register.
Clarke describes this method of tonguing on page 3 of the text in his book “Characteristic Studies for the Cornet”, published by Carl Fischer. Claude Gordon describes this correct method of tonguing in his book “Brass Playing Is No Harder Than Deep Breathing”. I believe Jeff Purtle and Matt Graves both give excellent descriptions of it on their websites:
Hope this proves helpful to you!
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I think the secret of trumpet playing is to approach it like singing.
This is basically what Dave Monette proposes in his publications, although he gives it all fancy names.
Its about having good posture and relaxing. Especially relaxing the back of the throat as this not only affects the flow of air but the sound you produce.
Singers learn to relax the back of their throat by yawning and being able to simulate that large space at the back of the throat which is produced when you yawn.
Try this with your turmpet and you will be surprised the effect it has on your playing.
The thing that turned me on to this technique was when I had a lot of throat surgery. They had to remove lots of tissue from the back of my throat and the result is i have a much more open airway there (it can;t close down as easily as an intact person!). When I recovered from the last surgery my trumpet sound hasd opened right up.
It was a huge improvement.
One way to train the muscles at the back of your throat is to do a bit with a tight practice mute every day. The Denis Wick is the one I use. This prodices enough back pressure to make those muscles work.
The part about throat surgery is interesting. I had a student a few years ago who had severly infected tonsils removed. This actaully caused some some problems closing the epiglotis. The doctor recommended seeing a speach therapist but upon hearing that she played the trumpet stated that trumpet playing would solve the problem and it did. I agree with Mohan's description of what happens with the tongue, but I think the problem is better solved in a passive manner. In other words, instead of trying to control the muscles, use sound and imagery to acheive the desired effect. Singing ahh will give you an open throat and move the tongue forward, but trying to open the throat and move the tongue forward can produce a great deal of tension. Imagining the sound to be in the front of your mouth will cause the tongue to arch to the front but trying to do it manually can again produce tension.
A wealth of knowledge and wisdom from you gentlemen! I sincerely appreciate your advice and have been working on applying many ofyour tips. Believe it or not I feel like I have improved over the last week. Thanks again!
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