WindWorks Trumpet Academy Forums WindWorks Low-level plateau Reply To: Low-level plateau


You’re very welcome. I am very grateful for what progress I have experienced and hope I can pay it forward.

I can relate to struggling playing above the staff. I started playing at 8 and despite countless lessons with reputable teachers and countless hours of practice, I never really learned how to play properly and didn’t even realize that. I didnt understand how the instrument really works. I chose to major in business instead and stopped playing for decades. A couple years ago, at 48, I started again and found myself on YouTube–which had just helped me with some home projects.

I saw Greg and some others show and talk about how playing above the staff is easier than we’re making it, that we tend to overblow, etc.

The bit about how less air is required the higher we ascend and how the notes (slots) are closer together the higher we ascend resonated with me.

I played a G below the staff, followed by a G on the staff and noticed the difference in difficulty. Based upon the fact that less air is required the higher we ascend and shape changes pitch, I experimented with engaging the aperture corners to tighten the aperture and achieve the pitch above the staff. I backed Off the air, playing softer above the staff as demonstrated on YouTube. Greg and the other(s) seemed to barely move playing octaves, where I was lowering the bell / leaning my head back to roll my lower lip under and thin out my lips, tightening my throat and clamping my lips–that wasnt working.

I was willing to miss the note by a mile, in fact I thought it wouldnt work. Instead, the note came out, then the A above the staff (after playing the A below and on the staff) which was a note I only ever occasionally could reach on a good day in ideal conditions.

It was soft, but not a squeak; it was clearly a note and part of my range.

Part of it too, was mental. I did not believe that Greg or the others had some sort of physical difference that made them able to achieve those higher pitches; I believed it was merely coordination. I tried to sort of mimic what I saw them do (I.e. barely move).

Based on what you describe above, I think you may not be relaxing the lips enough. I think you may be slightly engaging / tightening the lips, which we can get away with in the lower and middle registers (but the sound isnt as good /resonant, and it doesn’t feel as good / efficient).

That could be why you’re finding it difficult to play harmonic slurs quickly / efficiently. That is an important key to it and an indication that we’re playing efficiently, or not.

Have you done the thing where you pull the horn away from the mouthpiece as you play to see if there is a buzz or not? I did that often in the beginning and feel it helped me stay on track, keep me from going back to old habits, trying too hard, clamping, etc.

The other main thing I did early on was focus mostly on Passive air–achieving pitch changes in harmonic slurs with a Passive Release of the air. This is key as well, as I was used to using my air to kick the higher harmonic once I got towards the top of the staff. I spent months primarily focusing on using Passive air released into the horn. It took a lot of focus not to kick the air. I mainly did harmonic slurs on the staff, but did some slurred Clarke scales as well.

Just watched the Moderato Descending Double Harmonic. Good stuff. I think I only got to 92 or so on that. I didn’t linger, I moved on to see what else was in store, figuring I could / would come back.

Ran across a great video in the course–in Allegro, called Fear Factor Forcing and the one after that, Expectation Kills Experimentation. These were key to me. Some days I did better than others. The problem often was I would diligently focus on Process, have a great day then subconsciously set Expectations for the next day and torch everything, overdo it, “gladiator trumpet”, etc.

I focused a lot on sound and feel too–does it feel and sound as efficient / resonant as possible? Could it be better (“1% rule”).

Hope that helps Peter; I know you can do it if I can. You just have to experiment open mindedly and observe the successes and failures– we learn more from failure, so try to embrace that when it happens.

Playing involves much more indirect engagement of the lips rather than direct flexing of the lip tissue; it may feel a bit different at first and insecure, but in time it feels more secure as you build confidence from successfully engaging from the outside corners of the aperture to change pitch, like the ligature on a reed instrument or a drum head. We want the only tension to be outside the air column at the edge of the mouthpiece, the middle of the lips needs to be as relaxed as possible to vibrate as fast as possible.

Dear John, I truly wish every trumpet player dealing with issues could read this post of yours. Your insight is wonderful, your experiences are real and well explained and your effort in helping others is truly heartening. Thanks is not enough. Best Wishes, Greg

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