I have done a number of rounds through some of the lower levels of WindWorks (i.e. Largo) and found it incrementally beneficial each time I’ve repeated it.
The videos are very helpful and inspiring as well–there are a lot of kernels of wisdom in the videos.
I’ve gone up through some of the highest level exercises (Diamond), but had some time limitations due to work and wound up doing my own thing / playing music for a bit. I have had the realization for a while now that I need to repeat some of the WindWorks lessons again as I need to work on my consistency and dynamic control. And Greg’s exercises seem to very brilliantly focus concisely on the very issues I’m facing now:
1. Using Active AND Passive air–the exercises have you play the exercises using each separately and some transition from one to the other.
2. Playing high Softly AND Loudly (Active air)
3. Playing high with the various different articulations (Pu, KMT, Tu, etc.)
In order to figure out how to obtain the pitches I was after, I devoted my playing almost entirely to Passively released air to understand how Shape produces Pitch–to be sure I wasn’t kicking with my air through an inefficient Shape. But now it’s time that I build by Active air support, as well as work on my Articulation in my newfound range. I had the luxury of that as I have no playing/performing commitments, I’m just an amateur comeback player doing this for fun / personal development.
My plan is to work on solidifying the range I’ve developed thus far first, then work on increasing range again from there.
I think it was 2018, after about a 25 year hiatus, I started playing a bit again and stumbled across Greg and others’ videos on YouTube. My range when I was young, in school and taking lessons was effectively limited to about a G above the staff. Occasionally, I’d get an A or even a Bb or B, but never even touched a high C. It seemed impossible for me and no amount of work ever solved the puzzle.
I’ve gone from never touching a high C to playing that note everyday and it not really seeming high to me anymore. I haven’t been focused on building my range per se as I want to make it a useful range, but I can slur to E above High C relatively easily and can play a High E and D musically. The F is there as well, but I just don’t tend to play that much.
What’s better than hitting particular pitches though is that I have gotten rid of the tendency to strain or close off my throat when I go to play above the staff. What’s more enjoyable is the fact that I am learning to sense the balance between Air and Shape and the resonance of my sound has improved. I enjoy this and the feeling of playing now more than I do the range. It still can be a struggle at times–it’s not all a straight-line upwards.
I saw a video the other day of Christopher Martin saying that a trumpet player has to learn how to play each day, or something to that effect–that is how it kind of seems. I think it was an interview on “Brass Junkies”. There was a good one with Tom Hooten as well.
I try to start off on middle G and just produce a tone with a breath attack, sensing how my lips are responding (or not…) to the air. I work up and down a bit from there, trying to patiently sense how things are going–not pushing things, just being patient.
I like the sensation of taking a big breath (“Body Concert Hall” breath) and then releasing that breath and allowing the weight of that breath flowing through the aperture to produce the tone, rather than Blowing the air through the aperture. Obviously, we need to do that for Loud or Long tones, but it amazes me how I can play above the staff now softly and in control with just releasing air through the aperture.
You mention above focusing on harmonic slurs–that is very smart; those are, perhaps more than any other exercise, the key to it all. My take on all of this is that the bottom line is efficiency–I think Greg explained somewhere that Resonance is the optimum balance of Shape and Air. In other words, my understanding is that optimum Efficiency is also Resonance–so if it feels Great, it sounds Great. That’s been my experience–when it feels good (relatively effortless, open), it sounds great.
When I was younger, I thought I was good at Harmonic Slurs. I did them a lot. I knew the tongue arch, thought I was a pro at that… I could do them fast, my flexibility and articulation was above average. I was good at double and triple tonguing. But that was when my range was limited to G above the staff, so obviously something wasn’t right.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of Harmonic Slurs, but have been taking a different approach–I have been doing them slowly, paying close attention to the quality of the sound on each pitch and pausing on the pitch until it sounds / feels good, then moving onward. This seems to be paying big dividends to me as it seems to be helping me realize the ideal Shape for each pitch AND the movements I need to make to move from each Shape most efficiently. This is helping my speed of harmonic slurs, but even better–the freedom of them and the feeling of them. I’ve been enjoying that quite a bit lately and feel it developing me further.
I think this is why Greg focuses on harmonic slurs so much in WindWorks and why he did the “International Harmonic Slur Challenge”–because how we change pitch from one Shape (pitch) to the next is key, as is how we manage our air–but we can’t change pitch effectively by kicking air, like many of us do or used to do.
My understanding is that reducing the size of the aperture is what determines pitch. It only takes subtle, slight movements to ascend a 1/2 step. My understanding is that we are gradually reducing the aperture inwards towards the center of the mouthpiece or air column. But we need to do this in a way that still keeps the lips in a good position to interact with the air like the vocal chords; and this is different for each of us given our teeth structure, etc. We must figure the details of this out ourselves through experimentation–what feels / sounds the best.
Greg’s advice to separate Shape and Air is what did it for me–without that, I would still be playing countless scales / exercises, expecting a different result…(a/k/a Insanity).
Best of luck to you / Godspeed!