I’m glad you posted an update, I’ve been thinking about you / wondering how you’re doing–which is odd, because I don’t know you but I care and relate to what you’re going through. While I may in some ways be farther along on my discovery than you, I’m just an amateur / comeback player and I have limited time to devote to practicing.
And I’m frustrated too–it comes and goes, but I’ve been in and of a funk this past week or two. I’m fighting some frustration and doubt myself, but I do feel better / more confident this time. Last December/January, I dropped to a new low and almost gave up for good and throught about throwing my 30+ year old Bach Strad across the room. I’m sure my wife and daughter wouldn’t have mind my giving it up in some ways.
Thankfully, I stuck it out and found my way again.
I’m actually encountering a lesser version of that setback–the engagement of the aperture corners is a very subtle thing. I’ve realized that I sometimes slightly revert back towards clamping down top-to-bottom rather than squeezing the aperture corners from the sides and leaving the middle free to oscillate.
What’s helping me get out of it is:
1) I’ve gone back and am watching “Greg’s greatest hits” (i.e. Largo, etc)
2) Patience – If I am not approaching my practice session in a good state of mind with ZERO expectations, I stop and put the horn down and walk away. Had to do that this morning, actually. Caught myself in a bad mindset and kept my session short. Will try playing some music tonight, just mellow/lyrical stuff, no high notes.
3) Relaxation – I ran across an exercise online that I kind of made my own and it’s done some interesting things for me. I start on a low C, then relax my aperture slowly and “land” on whatever pedal I land on. That exercise, along with my first ever read of Claude Gordon’s Brass Playing is No Harder Than Deep Breathing” has helped me realize I wasn’t playing pedals right before, I was manipulating my lips a ton to get them in tune. For this exercise, I just land and let my air sigh out till I’m done. Then I take a good relaxed breath (BCH), start back on the pedal for a couple beats then slowly begin tightening the aperture corners inward and ascending up through my range. This has resulted in my playing with a more open / resonant sound and apparently a more open aperture–it’s made me realize that I was clamping even though I didn’t think I was anymore.
4) Playing music–stuff that’s more lyrical, no high notes. Malice Toward None and stuff like that. Just going for purity of tone, resonance. That helps me think about how what I’m doing is either helping or hurting the sound and helping me refine from there. The 1% rule–the guiding principle on all we do should, for the most part, be purity of sound. Obviously fast harmonic slurs sound like shit, but that’s ok because the ends justify the means. I’m talking about the setup we use and basic aperture engagement/movement, tongue level, etc.
5) Really focusing on the whole Less Is More thing–at the end of the day, I have a tendency to overthink playing and we’re just putting our lips together and blowing and there are people out there who are doing it much easier than I am. It’s just a matter of figuring out the puzzle and putting my lips into roughly the same formation as they are; I don’t believe it’s about talent or strength, I believe it’s a coordination thing and I believe I can do it–I no longer doubt that I can. It’s just a puzzle that I’m working on, but I am much farther along than I was in March 2018 when I started and couldn’t even play a high C, or even an A above the staff.
My progress hasn’t been linear and I still get “surprised” myself with little or big setbacks. I enjoyed a long time before my last one, so I was due and now I’m in a bit of one. But I’m learning from this setback and I’ll probably wind up better for it.
I know it sucks, but hang in there you’re not alone and the deeper the valley, the better you’ll feel on the summitt. You’ll get there.
I’m sure Greg will respond to your questions and I think the video is a great idea.
I do think 20-30 minutes is too little, in my humble opinion. I would try to devote an hour to it–but the key is a patient hour and I would try to structure that as much as possible to make it productive, although I think you need to really open your mind and own YOUR experimentation yourself and just try little tweaks to hone in on the most efficient setting possible. Lately, one thing that’s helped me is to think of the fact that I want the notes I play / my sound to be “round” (Oooohhhh) not just to help me engage the aperture corners but the shape of my aperture into kind of a round shape to open the aperture and avoid clamping the middle. That’s helped me a bit, FWIW.
As far as sound goes, I struggled a bit with my sound too at first getting an airy sound; I think I was overdoing the pucker a bit here or there and that’s where paying attention to the sound / resonance is key. My personal goal is not to screech out high notes, I want to be able to play high with ease/flexibilty and good tone/quality. I like classical music and enjoy playing that, as well as jazz/other stuff, etc. I’m just doing this for fun and to play stuff I like.
This isn’t going to take years to get your coffee moment. I believe you’re on the verge, but it always takes longer than we want it to. But once you have that experience, you will be well on your way.
Hope that helps–hang in there, I think you’re close. What really started me was doing octave intervals with minimal movement–I didn’t move my head back or my lips at all, I just tightened and I played an A on the staff to an A above the staff, which was above my effective range at that time. I played around with that and found WindWorks and realized what the heck I did and took off from there. Eventually, I got to where I could do that on high C, D, E.
I recommend during your experimentation time with engaging your aperture corners, you try that focusing on less air the higher we play and all the other WW guidelines and be willing to crash and burn, miss the note or have no sound come out. Observe the result, then try again and again… For a bit.
My $.02–Sincerely hope that helps. Can’t wait for your inevitable post that you’ve figured it out!