WindWorks Trumpet Academy › Forums › WindWorks › breath support
Tagged: breath support, harmonic slurs., passive reduction
I have been through the first section of the course, through Moderato, now a few times, and I have developed a fundamental question.
Is it intended that when playing the harmonic slurs, that there is basically NO breath support? Greg speaks of no abs kicking and I’ve been honestly trying to do that. But I’ve found if I REALLY, REALLY, try to do this with NO ab kicking then the upper note is much quieter than the lower note.
If, however, I form the embouchure more (not sure I want to say tighten) and start with a louder volume, this generates higher ‘breath support’ or ‘abdominal pressure’. Then I can do the slurs WITHOUT ab kicking easier. but this is at a higher initial level of ‘breath support’ although it does not increase when slurring to the higher note.
Is there any recommendation for the initial amount of breath support when starting the slur? Should it be zero? This makes it much more tricky/difficult/hard to do, is this the right way to do it? Greg speaks of passive reduction but do you think this means ‘no initial breath support’ or ‘no initial abdominal pressure’ at all ??
G’Day Steve, thanks for your post. You raise important points.
Depending on which exercise you are doing, the degree of body support will change.
Some exercises use PASSIVE reduction meaning no engagement other than what the body naturally provides after a good breath.
Some exercises allow for body activation at the start but want to avoid any engagement throughout the exercise other than supporting volume throughout; meaning for example, no kicking on harmonic slurs higher notes.
Some exercises intend the upper note to be softer esp Singing C exercises and others want constant volume throughout.
I hope that makes sense.
Good to see you posting again, Steve, I was wondering how you’re doing. Glad you’re still at it.
FWIW, my interpretation and experience is that:
It’s really important to separate air support from shape change.
That may be the single most important key to it all, as we have a tendency to use more air than is required to ascend.
For me, I focused for several months on using almost exclusively every time I played passively released air. I have the luxury of being an amateur player with no performance commitments.
I played a lot of harmonic slurs and focused on zero abdominal support, passively released air only. I didnt trust myself with being able to flip back and forth between active and passive air and wanted to really understand how shape alone changes pitch and was worried I would use more air to manipulate through an inefficient embouchure/aperture, etc.
I recommend really separating the air from shape, it is probably the only way to ensure you’re not manipulating too much vs staying relaxed.
I was listening to some of Gregs videos on YouTube on my commute this morning and thought of this thread. Here is one:
Here is the other:
Very interesting discussion. I’m one of those people who have to deal with dystonia, from years of pushing, clamping and manipulation. The dystonia is not always present, in fact I’ve noticed that if I catch myself actively blowing or “supporting” unnecessarily, as opposed to simply releasing the air(Greg’s slingshot) the dystonia tends to show up. Of course I would love to completely free myself of dystonia (it’s such a pain!) but at present it seems to be an indicator of when I am engaging too much. I love how John talks about taking the time to learn to play with passive reduction only. I’m not a pro either, but I do play in 2 excellent community bands. Sometimes I have good rehearsal nights when I can stay calm and focussed on music. On those nights I seem to naturally use the appropriate amount of engagement for sustain and volume. Other nights things aren’t happening as easily and the instinct to manipulate is stronger. Then the next day it’s back to the “Largo Stage, passive reduction drawing board!” More and more I realize what Greg means when he says that the psychology of playing is so important. I’m learning to let go, experiment and not panic when the results aren’t there. A little mantra I’ve developed for my practice time is that regardless of results, I can always be calm, creative (ie. audiating beautiful sound ala Arnold Jacobs Song and Wind) and simply release the air. I’ve realized how much of my mental process was engaged in monitoring (like a judgemental teacher) as opposed to creating.
Thanks E.h., I hope my posts and Gregs videos are helpful.
I’m still on this journey myself and figuring it out, but found that when I let go of my expectations and made it a point to be an objective Observer with no focus on the result–not caring about whether I successfully hit the note I was aiming for but caring more about making sure I was using passively released air, which still provides strong support, it really helped me focus on relaxing my throat and embouchure and observing how solely the change of Shape impacted pitch and allowing me to separate Air (needed for Volume and Duration) from Shape (which determines pitch).
I spent a lot of time doing harmonic slurs with passively released air and No abdominal support. I focused on speed, efficiency /ease and resonance of sound and did some harmonic slur exercises at soft volumes up to High C (Schlossberg Ex 32, I think). The concept of less air being required the higher we ascend and letting go of whether or not I hit the note and just focusing on Process, not Results helped me.
Many times, I had unexpected success and would get excited and carried away with my newfound range and ease of playing and focus my next session not on the Process which had led me to where I was, but on my increased Expectations and desire for even higher Results, which ironically but (in hindsight) logically failed.
Playing trumpet is a bit of a paradox, it seems. I saw a YouTube video of a trumpet player for NY Opera, I think (brass chats?) and he mentioned the paradoxes and how the only way to get control is to let go–I like that a lot as it does seem counterintuitive to me as well.
I used to tighten up my lips and blow harder, tightening my throat and fighting against the instrument.
Now it feels more like I relax into it and ride the air column upward, opening up the aperture as much as possible to increase the resonance which is surprisingly loud with minimal air above the staff. There is more back pressure at higher pitches, but if you don’t fight it and try to blow down the brick wall and instead cooperate with that pressure and sort of use it to your advantage (I.e. shallower / higher compression mouthpiece), its amazing the volume of sound you can get up there with less air than what would be required at lower pitches.
Don’t get me wrong, its not always roses and sunshine and unicorns, I have bad days and I’m not consistent with my practice and time is limited, but I’ve been on a good roll again lately and feel as though I’m reaching another level of understanding how this instrument works. It feels more of a cooperation than a battle lately and the results are better.
And the guideposts Greg has laid out have been the key for me–the course, but also:
1. Less air is required the higher we play
2. We want the air to interact with our lips like our vocal chords do when we sing ( we don’t tighten or engage our vocal chords to sing higher). If we do, its harder and doesnt sound good
3. Passive oscillation – checking occasionally as I ascend to see when I went from passive vibration of the lips with passively released air (mezzo forte or mezzo piano) by pulli g the mouthpiece out of the horn while I was playing.
I think the main thing I have going for me that has gotten me to where I’m at is that I have separated in my mind the difference between Shape changing pitch and Air, which is used for Volume and Duration (playing louder and/or longer).
Not tensing my lips or throat when I play higher is key too, as is not caring whether I miss or not–which i rarely do anyway.
Good luck, hope that helps FWIW.
Thanks John, helpful indeed!