Sorry to hear that, Kzem.
My journey hasn’t been a straight line. I stumbled across some trumpet YouTube videos, including Greg’s, a few years ago–I think it was early 2018. I didn’t subscribe to the course till late 2018. As I shared above, I could never play much above G on top of the staff for many years despite countless hours of practice through Clarke, Schlossberg, Arban and lessons from some great teachers.
My approach when I was young was to persevere, work hard and I would be successful…I wasn’t…
The way I was playing, I was tearing myself down very quickly each day and not allowing myself a chance to recover. It was an endless spiral that never got anywhere; the definition of insanity–repeating the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.
After not playing for many years (probably a handful of times between 1995 and 2018), I found myself screwing around / experimenting after watching some of the videos in early 2018, I attempted to play an A above the staff after playing an A on the staff, with little to no apparent change in the tightness in my embouchure. I think I expected it not to work and to put my trumpet in the case for another X years like I had several times before. But this time was different, I had no expectation or emotional attachment to what happened when I made the attempt; I literally didn’t care. And, for some reason, after watching some of the videos I had a new feeling that there’s nothing physically different than other players that is preventing me from playing anything i want on the instrument. For some reason, I believed that.
Anyway, the A came out loud and clear, better than perhaps any I ever played before. Soon after, my first ever High C and beyond that.
I subscribed to WindWorks later that year, looking for something with a bit more structure to guide my progression.
In the early days, I was very excited and pleased with my newfound range. I was happy just being able to play up above the staff and spent way too much time on harmonic slurs and non-music stuff.
By December, I was doing the entire Clarke 5th Study up to the High F above High C. I couldn’t control my range as much as I would like or play it consistently, but I was progressing and happy.
I took less than a week off for a family snow trip between Christmas and New Years shortly after. When I came back, something was different and my range started going down. Ironically, that was the lowest point of all my years playing; I literally almost threw my horn across the room. If I had, that likely would have been it for me. I wouldn’t have bought another horn. But, I didn’t. And I’m glad for that.
I asked Greg what I should do and he simply said that I had gotten to where I was before and that I could get there again–if I focused myself on what got me to that place before.
So I did–I refocused myself on the WindWorks principles, spent a lot of time focusing on playing relaxed and learning the difference between Shape and Air.
I’m an amateur with no playing commitments, so I had the luxury of going all-in on my experiments, completely changing the way I played with no regard for consequences or failure.
In the early days, in hindsight, I was making way too much of the “aperture corners” thing and doing an extreme fish pucker thing at times. I have a tendency of being a linear thinker…
I went on a mouthpiece safari for a bit, trying shallower mouthpieces and big symphonic mouthpieces (which worked better for me) then wound back on my Bach 3C–the same piece I played through high school and college and didn’t get anywhere on, but which feels like a good all around MP to me.
Lately, for the past few months, maybe longer, things have been better than ever–increasingly so, actually. Lately, I feel like I’m progressing in a more linear way–just about every day is better in at least one way than the last. I’m very satisfied.
I think what solidified things more for me was Harmonic Slurs and slowing them way down, paying attention to each pitch at first–finding the optimal Shape for each pitch, THEN (secondarily) focusing on efficiently changing from one shape to the next–not necessarily focusing on SPEED, but efficiency–trying to move as little as possible. I figured if I did that, it would be faster.
To be honest, I haven’t paid attention to how fast I could do them as I got distracted by a huge improvement in my playing, especially the ease and consistency of playing above the staff.
My range didn’t increase, I’m not even really trying to play the High F or push my range anymore, but I’m playing musically in control and playing things up to High C# and High D with an ease I never before thought was possible. I think basically I found the optimal “Shape” for each pitch and, secondarily, how to efficiently move from one to another (every interval is different, hence practicing music, scales, flexibilities, etc.).
Everyday, I sort of “check-in” with myself by playing certain musical passages to get the sensation of ease I have when playing some pretty big intervals in some of the things I play, and every day it’s there again.
It’s hard to say what you may be doing, or not doing, that’s getting in your way. My only advice would be to own it–each of us has to figure it out on our own. WindWorks is a great set of guide posts to follow, but the exact path is different (I think) for each of us as we are all different.
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time…”
Or, as Greg puts it–the “1% Rule”…
I thought I understood WindWorks a couple years ago, and I suppose I did (at least partially) as my range did shoot up quite a bit back then, but I can’t tell you how many “coffee moments” I have had from repeated times through Largo, etc.
And I’ve applied the WindWorks principles / mantras playing other exercises, etc.
I had to not play Clarke’s First Study for my first year or so back as I tensed up and started blowing harder as I ascended from years and years of doing that when I was young.
Anyway, that’s too long of a post…but you asked… 😉
I hope there is something useful in that.
My advice, not to contradict anything else (not my intention) would be to follow the sound and the feeling.
The truth is that the optimal setting may not be much or any different than how you’ve been playing.
For me, it wasn’t as much about the setting of the mouthpiece on my face, but what I was doing when I was playing–I was rolling my bottom lip under and blowing straight down, tightening my throat, clamping down the aperture like a clam, etc.
Now, I am playing much more forward than even when I first started WindWorks. At times, it still doesn’t make sense that it should work or the notes should come out above the staff. But the horn works different than how i thought it did and it’s much easier to play above the staff than I ever thought possible. By screwing around with reckless abandon, caring more about the purity of the “experiment” (process) than the result, I stumbled onto how to play the instrument finally.
I’m still just an amateur hack, but I’m playing things I never thought I could play and it’s sound better than I ever thought it would and, even better, it feels better and easier than I ever thought possible and everyday it’s like I’m forming more and more memories (“neural pathways” or whatever Greg says) on how to play this new way and growing more and more confidence.
And, lately, I have been practicing things a bit more towards building range and endurance and it feels good–like I am in fact building on something that is worth building, and not tearing myself apart everyday.