WindWorks Trumpet Academy Forums WindWorks Muscle Tension Dysphonia Reply To: Muscle Tension Dysphonia


Hi Eric,

You’re very welcome–stick at it and you’ll figure it out.

I understand you’re point about the approach. Unfortunately, there’s not any specific videos that I can think of that I can point you to that would give you a “coffee moment” abut a specific embouchure for you, etc. But you could and should definitely watch Greg’s videos as they are very helpful.

Ultimately, you are going to have to figure out what all of the various mantras scrolling across the bottom of the screen and the various tips Greg (and others) give; what they mean for You.

Personally, I would have a “coffee moment” and think I understood it, and would achieve progress (sometimes substantial), only to later have another “coffee moment” and realize that I only had begun to understand it the later time.

“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…”

What worked for me in figuring out the setup/embouchure that works for me is the following:

1. The tissue / visualizer test Greg demonstrates.

2. Putting my lips in the mouthpiece such that the red part of my lip tucks just inside the rim, resting on the inside of the bottom rim of the mouthpiece. Again, this is what works for me–with my physical structure. Note: My teeth meet in the middle, no over or under bite, and my lips are medium-thin. This leaves my top lip most of the room in the MP.

This isn’t a “rolled in” or “rolled out” embouchure, I don’t think. It’s just a natural feeling setting which gets my lips into the cup of the mouthpiece and is not the unfurled, rolled out pedal feeling that you get if you say “Oooohhh”.

I can separate my lips inside the cup and release air through my lips with no vibration. My understanding is that this is important–the ability to release air through the lips without vibration; it only takes slight engagement to bring the lips into the air and they interact with the air column like the vocal chords do when we talk, sing, etc.

3. PASSIVELY releasing air through the lips after taking a good breath (Body’s Concert Hall Breath). My lips are pretty relaxed, only perhaps a slight engagement in the aperture corners. I observe what note sounds (typically for me, it’s a G on the staff 99.9% of the time). Then I slightly engage the muscles in my embouchure to improve the intonation and sound of the note.

Lately, I’ve been playing with a tuner as I realize that I’ve been playing very sharp. What’s interesting, is that I’m more in tune when I am warming up (just noticed this/learned this today).

I then focus(ed) on branching out from there. Sometimes I play Stamp, sometimes I spider out chromatically up and down from G on the staff to middle C on the staff and low C below the staff.

4. Other things that helped me a lot were:

a. A video on YouTube that a player demonstrated easily playing an A on the staff and an A above the staff. They called it the “straight line” approach. This, coupled with the fact that “less Air is required the higher we play” (not more) got me experimenting successfully with large intervals and playing softly above the staff.

Max Schlossberg Ex. 31 on Page 8, played very softly and slowly, helped me as well learn how to balance Shape and Passive Air to create pitch and learning the sensation of playing resonant notes above the staff with little air softly and the feeling of efficiency and freedom.

There is engagement in the embouchure when we play high C and above, but it’s in the “aperture corners” outside of the air column–the center of the lips are free to vibrate in the air column as fast as possible and there is a feeling up to perhaps High C of the air doing the work, we’re releasing the air and letting the “weight” of that air escaping through the aperture produce the pitch–we do not actively buzz our lips together to produce the sound.

b. “Checking In” and removing my mouthpiece from the instrument as I ascend to ensure there was no Active buzz while Passively releasing air into the instrument as high as possible helped me for a while.

c. Lately, I’ve been playing with a tuner as I’ve realized that I’m playing certain pitches very sharp and thus am working too hard, being inefficient by doing so (not to mention out of tune).

d. Harmonic Slurs / Lip Drills – Slowing things down, at first, and trying to get an accurate pitch on each note in the harmonic slur (no air pockets, fuzz in my sound, etc.), THEN speeding up and seeing how efficient I can be on a good Shape on each pitch with good air.

e. Setting my lips in the mouthpiece relaxed, then thinking “MmmmAaahhhOooohhh” after my lips were already in the cup and relaxed. I think this helped me avoid the hang up that many seem to have with the initial setting. This may be wrong, but it worked for me and I’m happy with my progress.

f. Repeated laps through Largo, etc. I always learn something new each time; still do.

g. I had to avoid Clarke Technical Studies #1 as I had played it for years tensing up as I ascended chromatically and blowing actively more as I ascended. Now, thanks to WindWorks, I can play it again and it’s now a very effective and important exercise I play almost every day.

Now, when I play Clarke I, I play it as soft as possible with a good sound but with a big good breath (“BCH”) and I let the “weight” of the air produce the sound as I open the aperture, I am not producing the sound Actively, I am letting it happen. When things are going right, it feels to me like the next note that sounds when I press down the valve(s) is the next higher note chromatically–without my doing anything to produce the pitch. I certainly am reducing the size of the aperture by SLIGHTLY engaging the aperture corners as I ascend, but it is VERY subtle and the sensation I have is that I’m just riding the air and the notes are just speaking on their own.

As I get above the staff and start getting close to High C, the sound does get slightly louder and there is a feeling of “supporting faster” with the air, but no engagement from my abdominals to support the air and I’m not blowing.

And, thankfully, now when I ascend, there is no inclination to tighten my throat or tense up as I ascend, it feels like the air is doing the work and I’m merely keeping my lips centered in the mouthpiece, keeping my lips in the air column and reducing the size of the aperture and the note(s) speak.

h. Focusing on breath attacks and taking Articulation out of the equation of sound production helped me a lot in honing in on the right setup and how to optimize the balance of Shape and Air.

i. Perhaps MOST IMPORTANT of all–a pure, sincere willingness to FAIL when playing any exercise while focusing on PROCESS. We must rewire our brains such that success is defined by playing the way we want to play, the way we think will be most efficient, and objectively observe how those experiments play out with little to no emotional attachment to the outcome. The fact is that human beings and all animals learn from FAILURE. If we manipulate something to achieve a note and don’t follow good process, then we’re not learning anything, we’re just reinforcing bad/old habits and won’t progress any further.

Each day, we must reach/strive for more efficiency, less unecessary engagement of the body and allowing the air and the instrument to do what they can optimally and not getting in the way.

Hope that helps, my $.02 FWIW.

I’ll try to find a video, but I think it’s more about “eyes closed” objective experimentation for what works for you. Keep at it and you’ll get there.

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