I’ve been thinking how important sensations are in our figuring out this mystery for ourselves.
I wish there was a reliable way of explaining what it feels like when “it’s working” but that’s difficult.
I like hixsta’s post above and I agree about folding in / tucking under the bottom lip–something to be avoided.
At times, it does feel a bit like the air is pointing upward and I’ve heard other players describe that as well, but some great players describe the opposite. I think it’s hard to really know what the air is doing inside the mouthpiece, which direction it’s going. But, like anything, if that visualization works for the player then it’s effective.
While you don’t want to roll your bottom lip in, your bottom lip must be inside the mouthpiece and when we ascend the lips should move forward towards the mouthpiece (by engaging the muscles surrounding the lips); to me, the bottom lip feels like it juts into the mouthpiece a little–I recall Greg using a “milk spout” analogy in one of his posts/videos.
For me, what I cling to is paying close attention to what happens when I release air through the aperture–is the sound optimal? Can I effortlessly ascend when pressing the valves down, chromatically upward riding the air stream upwards? I look for optimum efficiency as I’m warming up.
Then I work on intervals–what Shape can I form with my embouchure that makes it so that when I am playing a middle C and I press the first valve down, a D sounds rather than a Bb?
It feels like a pent up energy that I’m releasing through the horn, not that I’m actively producing / blowing through the horn.
It feels like I’m letting it happen, not getting in it’s way.
Sort of like riding a bicycle–if you’re properly balanced, you can take your hands off the handlebars and the bike will almost ride itself.
That’s what I look for, and it’s amazing how easy playing is when you find that. I have to find it everyday and there are times when I am having difficulty and I now catch myself and realize I’m fighting the instrument, not cooperating with it / “letting it happen”. Then I refocus and find my way again.
I have the luxury of zero playing commitments, so I don’t have to keep time with other players, I can focus on playing at a tempo that suits how I am feeling–it is absolutely critical to spend time everyday, especially when warming up, not sticking to a tempo or rhythym, but going with the flow of how you’re feeling, only changing pitch when you’re ready, etc. That helps me be hyper focused on how things I do effect the feeling and sound of playing, find optimal shape and efficiency, etc.
Hope that helps. While it’s true we must focus on Process, not Results, we must objectively observe how our experiments effect the sound and feel of how we’re playing and look for minor tweaks that we can make to improve both. We must own our playing and not stick to someone else’s description of how to play, having too much faith that progress will come. We must be patient, to a certain extent, but the truth is that it’s much more simple than we think it is–IF we don’t get in our own way by engaging muscles we don’t need to engage, etc.
The flip side to the fact that it’s so simple is that it’s also very, very easy to stop playing effectively and go back to old habits. At times, it seems that it’s almost a razor’s edge–on one side, efficiency/optimization, the other–inefficiency, forcing things, limited range and endurance, etc. I think that’s why I focus so much of my attention to ease of playing / how it feels; if it doesn’t feel good / free / relatively easy, I look for a tweak I can make to improve–whether that’s better air of minor tweaks to Shape.