Greg’s course is brilliantly laid out. I did multiple laps and understood more each time, I still do-I’m still very much on this journey myself, learning more each day how small changes make a big difference.
It’s impossible to put in a nutshell what the difference is as we’re all different and have had our own difficulties. Greg’s done the best job I’ve seen laying out the typical problems and what to focus on. I won’t repeat those as they’re scrolling at the bottom of the main screen.
But what really opened up the notes above the staff for me was the concept that less air is required the higher we play and less air is moving through the instrument the higher we play and that we typically over-blow. The other thing was to play softer and focus on playing open and relaxed. I would play a G below the staff, G on the staff and notice how little difference that is. Then a G above the staff and notice how little difference that is between the G on the staff if I played softly and stayed open. The concept of the lips interacting with the air like they are the vocal chords was huge for me as well, you don’t tighten your vocal chords to sing higher–that doesn’t make any sense.
We tend to do too much and get in our own way. We engage our lip muscles, which deadens the vibrating surface like we were tightening our vocal chords or putting our hand on a drum head–we must stay relaxed as possible for our lips to vibrate as fast as possible, which they need to ascend to a higher pitch. Being as relaxed as possible helps our sound be better and more resonant as well.
The course is pretty brilliantly laid out in that it helps us separate the concept of Air from Shape (pitch) and get used to that and to focus on all the different articulations and both Active and Passive air.
One of the things I do a lot is focusing on staying open and relaxed to the point of being willing to miss a note by doing too little. I rarely miss the note, what usually winds up happening is the note sounds better and sometimes I still skip the note and play even higher.
Today, I was playing a technical study and my sound was kind of raspy on the G above the staff as I was articulating an ascending scale. I realized I was tensing up / engaging my lip muscles and not staying relaxed. As soon as I focused on relaxation, to the point of almost trying to miss the note by doing too little, the note lost its airiness/raspiness and became more resonant, secure.
I find that a lot. Less is more, the 1% rule, etc.
We all have a tendency to overdo it, over-engage as we ascend. But that makes it harder, not easier, then that makes us blow harder, etc. and it’s like a negative feedback loop.
We need to engage the corners/sides of the aperture to support the embouchure / keep air from escaping, get a good sound, have control, etc. But it requires less than we think.
It’s a paradox–you have to kind of let go to gain control. If you engage the muscles in the lips themselves, you make it harder. Kind of like when I whistle and tighten / engage my lips, the note stops. Greg has covered the fact that whistling and playing trumpet aren’t the same exact activity, but that was something that helped me visualize the concept a bit. As was when you pull the sides of a balloon to make it “sing” a note…you grab the balloon from the sides a ways down from the opening, not at the opening itself.
Being patient is very helpful and I wish I followed a much more structured path on my journey–I would be farther along than I am and would have saved myself a lot of frustration and time. But don’t be afraid to experiment a bit; however, Expectations make Experimentation Useless. Think about it, if a Scientist has a preconceived notion/bias of what’s going to happen when he’s conducting an experiment and doesn’t remain objective, unbiased, it makes it difficult to conduct a good experiment. And the Scientist isn’t using subtly different engagements of muscles that he can’t see / can barely sense, in combination with subtle changes in tongue level, air, etc.
But, if you are successful in separating Process from expectation of Results, experimenting can in fact be very productive and provide useful information regarding what impacts sound, resonance, range, control, articulation, etc.
I tend to be most successful in playing well and learning when I use a less-is-more approach, stay relaxed–to the point of almost trying to miss the note. At times, it has seemed incredible how little i have had to do to ascend when playing softly.
I used to have the problem you describe with harmonic slurs above C. I had the same or worse issues with Clarke 1 (ascending chromatic scales) as I crescendo’d as I ascended and used more air and tensed up.
I literally stopped playing Clarke for many, many months as I didn’t trust myself–I had played Clarke 1 for 40 years the same way. I was banging my head against a wall, expecting a different result…insanity…
Playing octaves (higher note relaxed, softer, less air) helped me relax more and Greg’s Singing C exercises. Breath attacks with passive air, playing softer, staying relaxed, open, surrendering to the Process, being willing to fail–which is how we learn the most, not when we manipulate and use Bad Process and hit the note (but in a strained, inefficient way that doesn’t sound good / which will reduce our endurance, etc.).
Hope that helps, FWIW. Best of luck to you–it’s easier than you think it is.
I am not a great player and am still figuring it out, but never played a High C before 2018 and now I never miss a high C, that note doesn’t even seem high to me anymore–I can play it softly and with as much resonance as I want and I can play it on a Big mouthpiece and a shallow mouthpiece. I’m not really focused on Range per se, but have worked myself up to about an F and G above High C now. I’m trying to work on my consistency, control, dynamics, articulation and ability to play musically. I just write this to provide perspective to what is possible by relaxing and opening up, playing more forward and open then tightening up and over blowing.
Today, I was screwing around and was playing soft long tones / scales above the staff and was experimenting with opening up the aperture up there and felt completely relaxed in the throat and in control. As I opened the aperture up, the resonance of the sound improved and the note got louder and I wasn’t using a lot of air, I was playing relatively softly.
But at times, I too catch myself tensing as I’m ascending a scale or harmonic slur exercise–it’s something we have to become aware of and overcome. It takes time and patience.
Once you start having those “coffee moments’ and realize it’s easier than you think and get a success or two, that helps–but we are human beings too, so it makes it harder as I tended to expect to be able to play that note again everytime I tried from then on and progress doesn’t work that way, it’s not a linear path upwards like climbing a stair case. It takes time, perserverance and learning from failure. But, gradually, we fail less and less and playing becomes more and more enjoyable.
I believe Greg is right–that anyone can play anything they want to on the instrument, any range they want to. I can’t yet play a Double C as I haven’t figured out the coordination of the air and my embouchure, but I’m a lot closer than I ever have been before and I’m confident it’s a matter of when, not IF. Heck, I’ve hit an A above High C more than once–that’s only 1.5 steps away from where I’ve been before, and the harmonics are closer up there than they are on the staff or below.
I believe you can do it too, we just need to figure out the coordination a bit more and be patient, persistent and relaxed / focus on the sound, resonance, efficiency.