Thanks Bill, I would be thrilled if something I posted was helpful to you or someone else on here and I’m sure Peter would feel the same way. I have found Peter’s posts very helpful. I’m sure your Skype with Greg will be very helpful; Greg’s gone through exactly what you’re going through.
“I have no idea what my lips are doing inside the mouthpiece.” – I know what you mean and have felt the same way, even recently.
You may want to try closing your eyes and, with your normal setup, play a C on the staff with passive air at MF and hold it for a bit while you focus on your embouchre, which muscles are engaged, etc. Then slur up to the E without kicking the air; which muscles engaged to do that? Did you feel as though it was more of a top-to-bottom clamping in the middle, or was it a tightening inward from the aperture corners towards the center hole in the mouthpiece / the air column? You may want to slur back and forth from C to E several times as you focus on sensing what you’re doing.
Then, ideally, try again using the same setting as your “normal” setup; but this time think Oooooooohhhhhhhhh as you place the MP on your lips. Don’t say Oooohhh and then place the MP on your lips while they’re puckered; just think Ooooohhhhh and sense the muscles on the sides of your mouth–engage those muscles and keep them engaged like your finger on a trigger, but not tightened–keep as relaxed as possible, stay open, good breath (BCH) then squeeze those muscles inward and the E should pop easily/quickly, in fact the G may come instead.
This just worked for me and got me out of the funk I was in the past week or so–I had subtly moved back to clamping in the middle and overblowing to try to hit certain notes, instead of backing off and focusing on process and letting the note come out. Thankfully, I had great sensations today and feel like I’m back on track.
The Harmonic Slur challenge video today was very good; I listened on the way home and Greg covered some great things in it. I think you might find it helpful even just listening in.
I was thinking today that if I had just been participating in that challenge the past 2 weeks, I probably wouldn’t have had my setback the past week or so. Oh well, it’s over and I feel like I’m back in a groove and better for having the setback. I’m going to try to participate the next couple weeks though as I think the harmonic slurs are key to progress and solidifying an understanding of the sensations we’re after.
“John, you mentioned that if our corners are not burning or tired then we’re probably clamping in the middle. Yep, this is me. I NEVER feel tired in the corners, and I’ve heard so many guys say that but I’ve never understood it. I’ve heard the description of lips squeezing the airstream and the statement “My lips ‘grip’ the mouthpiece, the mouthpiece doesn’t grip me. My lips pinch, then I add more mouthpiece pressure, then slowly (or not so slowly), it’s GAME OVER. I feel the brunt of this in my top lip.”
I don’t play enough to get tired in the corners as often as I should, but I do feel that when I’m doing harmonic slurs consistently and am using good form. From your post above and other posts you’ve made, I believe that when you tighten your aperture at the top of your range, you are clamping down your lips top-to-bottom, inevitably eventually cutting off the vibration of your top middle lip–the oscillator. That is what I did and what Greg described as being his problem previously as well. Instead, if you engaged the aperture corners more and tightened the lips towards the air column/center of the mouthpiece from the sides, it does feel like you are gripping the mouthpiece and the more you get used to that and it seems that the more efficient we become, the more secure that feels. When we tighten the aperture from the sides, leaving the top middle lip relaxed, it helps keep the top lip vibrating and from touching the bottom lip and cutting off the vibration / sound. It also seems easier and like the harmonics are closer together.