You’re in a good spot. Like you, I took a long break from the trumpet, 20+ years as well. I came to find WindWorks, and various videos on YouTube, in 2018 and have found the WindWorks content instrumental in my ability to play like I never thought I would be able to.
I have experienced what you have described–regressing and having “interference” in my sound at times.
I used to play a Bach 1.5C as well, briefly, but moved to a 1.25C and 3C for most of my time. Recently, I moved to a Yamaha Bobby Shew Lead mouthpiece as I’m focused on developing my range and and that type of playing this year.
I don’t think the mouthpiece is your issue, but you mentioned the mouthpiece so I wanted to give you some context. I will say that when first coming to WindWorks / coming back to the horn, I started out on my ancient (1970’s) 7C that I started playing on. In hindsight, I realize now that I (at first) overdid the “MMmmAaaaOoohh” thing and the “aperture corners” thing and overdid it to a point that I was doing an extreme pucker that caused my lips to protrude into the cup of the mouthpiece.
I believe this is why, for me, my range and ability to play actually increased when I went to a Deeper cup mouthpiece (i.e. 7C to 3C, 3C to 1.5C, to 1.25C, etc.). It gave me more room to work in, which I needed due to my inefficiencies of “Shape” at that time.
I couldn’t play a shallow mouthpiece before, as I bottomed out in it. Now, the Bobby Shew Lead feels great and I can play everything I could play on the 3C and 1.25C, but the sound obviously is brighter and it makes it easier, in a way, to play above the staff. It hasn’t really increased my range, but it’s a higher compression mouthpiece and it allows me to be more efficient up there. It’s a bit more volatile, I have to be more precise with shape and articulation (I think); it allows greater flexibility, but with that comes less “slotting” of notes–my “Shape” has to be more accurate, etc.
My understanding of what I am experiencing is that my sense of “Shape” and the balance of that Shape and my Air, is becoming better and better–more and more refined over time.
What helped me do this is a lot of time experimenting with harmonic slurs, the WindWorks exercises, flexibility and “flow” exercises (i.e. Clarke Techn. Ex #2) and feeling the sensation of riding the air. Some time with Stamp as well, trying to be more and more efficient to the point that just pushing the valves down causes the next note Higher to sound without feeling any change in Shape.
One thing that helped me a lot, was Slowing things down and not using a metronome and not playing exercises strictly as the rhythym written, but pausing a bit on each pitch before moving to the next pitch and really focusing in on each pitch, making sure each note was a quality sound before moving forward. Then I might play the exercise(s) again, focusing more on speed but still trying to hit good pitches on each note.
“Interference” – My understanding is that when we experience “interference” in our sound, a “fuzziness”, it’s basically due to poor Shape usually–I believe that often it’s because our lips are a bit too close together and/or we’ve got “air pockets” which are causing inaccurate production of the notes.
When this happens to me, I stop on repeatedly produce that pitch with a breath attack and play some different articulations until the “fuzziness” stops. This, I think, helps me refine the “Shape” that I was using for that pitch and learn from that experience and move forward. Nine times out of ten, this does it. Sometimes though, it’s because I’m tired and have over done things and have gotten stiff, etc.
“Regressing” – As far as “regressing” goes…I can totally relate to this. I can share with you my experience, which you may or may not relate to, FWIW.
As I progressed and experienced meaningful changes in my playing ability, my focus would change from the Process which got me to that new level to my newfound Results. The next day, or sometimes during that practice session, I would excitedly use my newfound Range or other abilities to play things, or try to play things, I never could before, etc.
Then, I would try to play the next higher note, play louder, or whatever it was that I was working on, forgetting the Process(es) which got me to where I was before.
This was very frustrating–to the point that my lowest point of playing throughout my entire lifetime was actually AFTER my comeback in 2018, about a year or later into it–when I had gone from never being able to play effectively above G just atop the staff (and never even touching a High C before), to increasing my range to F above High C (i.e. Clarke’s Fifth Study), then starting to slide backwards. I literally almost threw my horn across the room, which would have been the end for me–I wouldn’t have bought a new horn and started again. Thankfully, I didn’t; and I’m glad I didn’t, as I did progress from there, by re-focusing my attention on the things that had gotten me to where I was–good Process.
A key point to this, for me, has been Music–that’s what this is all about. The key things that focusing a certain amount of my practice time playing Music has been the following:
1. Motivation – Enjoying myself, getting some enjoyment from playing; not just focusing my time on endless harmonic slurs, range exercises, technical studies, etc.
2. Focus – By focusing on music, especially more lyrical melodies which require purity of sound and softness, it helps me avoid reverting/regressing into “gladiator trumpet” mode in which I power through endless harmonic slurs, range exercises/exploration, etc.
3. Honesty – I have realized that my focus and memory can become very skewed/inaccurate. There are days that I pick up the horn and have great experiences playing things, but then flub a few exercises / musical pieces during practice and start feeling down / telling myself that I’m having a “bad” day, not feeling good about my progress, ability, etc.
When this happens to me now, I catch it pretty much right away and I’m usually able to manage myself effectively. Sometimes, I know I just need to stop playing for the day and start again tomorrow.
Playing trumpet is mostly mental; if our minds are not in a good place, we can’t play well.
Often when I’m having a “bad day”, I catch myself and I pick a piece of music that I’ve been working on and I try to play it–in rhythym, at tempo, with dynamics, musicality, etc. I try to play it as best I can, as musically as I can. For me, I’ve found greater success at playing more classical/lyrical type music; I’m not sure Jazz or commercial type music would work as well for this.
Anyway, what I have found is that often times on those “bad” days, I wind up playing the Music as good or better than I ever have played it before. This not only gives me some postive feedback, which is welcome, but it corrects me–I wasn’t “regressing” or not moving forward, my Expectations were just progressing faster than my abilities.
I was not being Fair to myself.
The reason we are here is that we are highly motivated to improve–which is a great asset. However, it can also be a great liability if we aren’t honest with ourselves and we focus too much on our Expectations and not on Process.
Playing Music helps me stay focused on Process and keeps me honest–when I start getting carried away with myself thinking that I’ve developed past a certain point, playing music that challenges me helps me have some healthy humility and learn areas I need to work on, etc.
Playing music helps me put my current ability into proper perspective and not be overly hard on myself for not being where I want to eventually.
On days where Playing Music doesn’t work and I feel that I truly am having issues and “regressing”, that it’s not just a mental thing (it usually is), then I rest (if I’ve been playing a lot and think I may have overdone it), or I refocus on Production – breath attacks, producing pitches on Passively released air, using a tuner, focusing on balancing Shape and Air, and I spend some time playing Clarke First Study and Second Study as softly as possible on passive air.
And I’ve done multiple “laps” through Largo and am always better for each time–I’ve never not learned something new each time.
Hope there’s something in there that helps you, Graham, for what it’s worth until Greg or others can chime in.
Godspeed to you and your comeback!