WindWorks Trumpet Academy Forums WindWorks Challenging question on Shape

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    • #36268

      So I have been practicing the foundation exercises and singing c in the beginning of the largo stage.
      While it is pretty straight forward for me to understand the concert hall breath and the slingshot air release, I confess I still struggle a lot to understand how the shape has to change to change pitch.
      While practicing the singing c exercises it is quite easy for me to understand whether I am pushing or kicking air (I can easily feel if there is any abdominal contraction) versus releasing it (body is just reducing slowly as the air comes out).
      But when it comes to changing pitch, in the absence of a mouthpiece camera it is really difficult for me to understand what my lips are doing… Plus I don’t quite understand what it is that the aperture corners have to do to change the pitch (despite the fact that I have watched each video several times), so I just do something with my lips which might be correct or not…

      So here’s the challenging question:

      When playing the singing Cs, provided the following conditions hold:
      1. Air is being released
      2. No abdominal kicks occur
      3. No abdominal pressure exists

      and the notes speak, can it be concluded that necessarily there is no pinching in the middle of the lips?

      If it sounds confusing I am happy to rephrase! I am not a native English speaker so trying to express my doubt the best way possible.

      Thanks,
      Miguel

    • #36277
      johnelwood
      Participant

      Well worded question, Miguel.

      That is the “$1 million” question. It cant really be answered any more clearly than Greg outlines in WindWorks, it just takes time for each of us to realize it our own way–as you noted, its impossible to really know what our lips are doing in the mouthpiece precisely.

      But there are clues that we can pay attention to and observe during our practice, experimentation, etc.

      The notes speaking arent necessarily an indication that theres no clamping. Its a spectrum, really, that we’re dealing with–on one extreme, there is no clamping and a resonant, easy/efficient sound and at the other end, there’s a strained, tight/thin, inefficient sound that is nearly cutoff.

      Pulling the mouthpiece away from the horn as we’re playing is a good clue–are we getting a sympathetic buzz when releasing passive air into the horn, or is it an active buzzing on the mouthpiece.

      Its a spectrum we are on and we constantly want to improve our efficiency and effectiveness.

      And we have good days, great days and bad days and awful days.

      Those 3 points above are key, youre on the right track. Focus on releasing passive air and engaging the aperture corners just enough for the next pitch to speak.

      We need to gradually tighten the aperture inward towards the air column / hole in the center of the mouthpiece while keeping the top and bottom lips as relaxed as possible so they vibrate as freely (fast) as possible, but only as much as necessary. By focusing on the aperture corners, engaging them inward horizontally from the sides rather than clamping down top-to-bottom like a clam, we play more efficiently and get a better sound easier.

      My $.02, FWIW, based on my experience / interpretation, etc.

      Hope that helps, best of luck!

    • #36358
      Ronald Carson
      Participant

      Shape consists of several different factors:

      1. Tongue position – the tongue arches as you ascend. Here I am afraid of giving bad advice, but it feels like the middle rises and slightly. I think the arch goes somewhat toward the teeth in the extreme high register. Our jaws are tied to our tongues and as my tongue goes down my jaws pull it down because I slightly drop my jaw. The jaw slightly closes with higher pitches as my tongue arches up.

      2. Aperture corners – This is a slight tension at corners of the aperture. Which is different than clamping the middle. An aperture is formed by doing the AAH – OOH and you see this large opening, a great size for playing low notes. As you ascend the aperture gets smaller by the lips slightly tightening from the sides and not in the middle. For me, this is so tied with the tongue arch. My lips seem to respond to the tongue arch. I like the way John describes it as tightening toward the air column.

      These factors work together. Changing the aperture size and changing the oral cavity’s shape will change pitch. The back of your throat needs to stay relaxed and opened.

    • #36503
      johnelwood
      Participant

      Great post Ronald, you cover some important points clearly.

    • #36710
      Ronald Carson
      Participant

      Thank you, John.

      Miguel, I am not sure we have addressed the question: “can it be concluded that necessarily there is no pinching in the middle of the lips?”

      Short answer: if you sound good and you do not feel choking or straining, you are most likely not pinching. Remember the 1% rule. Trying to play more efficiently by eliminating unnecessary tension in your body can include facial muscle tension and too much tension in the lip corners (not the same as aperture corners) is a long term commitment. Unnecessary tension can be found everywhere: such as the neck, shoulders, stomach, etc.

      great video on shape and resonance:

      Now longwinded stuff:
      One of the ways you know if you are pinching is sound. When the “notes speak” do they sound like Greg’s examples? Greg is trying to teach us to play efficiently, which is to play each note with resonance and the least amount of necessary tension. You should have a big open sound and be able to play notes softly, loudly. Your shape matches your trumpet tubing length and it “sings”. As you ascend, you should know that c below the staff and g in staff have the same length of trumpet tubing. How is this possible? This is where your aperture corners, tongue arch, and jaw all work together. The pitch produced is a product of the body – trumpet system making the lips vibrate to make the note sing. The body part is what we are learning to use efficiently. By the way, since we are all different facial shapes, the shape I create for resonance may be slightly different than yours.

      Watch this video:

      CAUTION: THERE IS MORE TO PLAYING HIGHER ON A TRUMPET PLAYING VELOCITY OF AIR! You have lips that are vibrating and energizing the air according to the properties of the mouthpiece and trumpet. Many people say playing higher requires “faster air”. This leads to people muscling air through their horns by overblowing. Instead of talking about airspeeds, it is better to focus on shape!

    • #36711
      Ronald Carson
      Participant

      Thank you, John.

      Miguel, I am not sure we have addressed the question: “can it be concluded that necessarily there is no pinching in the middle of the lips?”

      Short answer: if you sound good and you do not feel choking or straining, you are most likely not pinching. Remember the 1% rule. Trying to play more efficiently by eliminating unnecessary tension in your body can include facial muscle tension and too much tension in the lip corners (not the same as aperture corners) is a long term commitment. Unnecessary tension can be found everywhere: such as the neck, shoulders, stomach, etc.

      great video on shape and resonance:

      Now longwinded stuff:
      One of the ways you know if you are pinching is sound. When the “notes speak” do they sound like Greg’s examples? Greg is trying to teach us to play efficiently, which is to play each note with resonance and the least amount of necessary tension. You should have a big open sound and be able to play notes softly, loudly. Your shape matches your trumpet tubing length and it “sings”. As you ascend, you should know that c below the staff and g in staff have the same length of trumpet tubing. How is this possible? This is where your aperture corners, tongue arch, and jaw all work together. The pitch produced is a product of the body – trumpet system making the lips vibrate to make the note sing. The body part is what we are learning to use efficiently. By the way, since we are all different facial shapes, the shape I create for resonance may be slightly different than yours.

      Watch this video:

      CAUTION: THERE IS MORE TO PLAYING HIGHER ON A TRUMPET PLAYING VELOCITY OF AIR! You have lips that are vibrating and energizing the air according to the properties of the mouthpiece and trumpet. Many people say playing higher requires “faster air”. This leads to people muscling air through their horns by overblowing. Instead of talking about airspeeds, it is better to focus on shape!

    • #36712
      JuttaC
      Participant

      Hello Miguel,
      I should say up-front: I’m by no means an expert, so my answer may not be accepted wisdom, but your question rings a very loud bell with me. One of my recent “discoveries” when armed with Greg’s magnifying glass may just help you, too.

      I have been experimenting, watching and, frankly, pulling my hair out for some time wondering about shape, aperture corners, pinching, clamping. What has really helped me is not thinking about tension in the aperture corners, but looseness at the centre of the lips. I know it’s mentioned in various places, including in this exchange, but I don’t think it is really stressed enough. You have to (somehow!) tighten the corners to change pitch while at the same time NOT tightening the centre of the lips. If you don’t leave the centre of the lips loose, you need to blow an awful lot harder to get them to vibrate, and all that backpressure and choking starts. One of Greg’s exercises I’ve found really helpful is putting two fingers between your teeth and then doing the “aah ooh”. (Sorry, can’t remember which video it is.) You should feel the corners of your lips tighten, but you should not feel the centre of the lips pushing up/down on your fingers.

      I hope this helps, but please don’t take my word as gospel. As I said, I’m only a fellow traveller, not a tour guide!

      Good luck,

      Jutta

    • #36735
      johnelwood
      Participant

      Awesome posts, Ron & Jutta!

    • #37039

      Hi all,

      Thanks a lot for your posts!

      Whistling for me is an effortless activity and I don’t need to think about what’s going on in my oral cavity nor lips in order to change pitch.
      Nevertheless I have decided to spend some time analysing what’s happening as I change pitch when I whistle. I have realised that actually very little change is happening to the size of my lip aperture. In fact I only need to open it a bit to produce the lowest notes I possibly can. What is really driving the change in pitch is what is happening inside my oral cavity. I have noticed my tongue is always arched, no matter the pitch. However the tip of my tongue is in constant motion. For low notes the tip is well bellow my lower teeth, and as I ascend it moves up. On the highest note I am able to produce the tip is in-between my teeth touching the lower lip. Also, the movement of the tip of the tongue is in tandem with the jaw which moves forward for higher notes and backward for lower notes. Interesting is also the fact there is always in a U shape in the tongue, where the curve is very tight on high pitches and very large on low pitches.

      Regarding the aperture corners I am still confused.. Should I use the tension in the corners to bring the lips forward as in a kiss filling the mouthpiece with more meat as I ascend? I am actually trying not to think about any of these things while I practice right now with the lead pipe. Trying to do as I whistle, effortless and no thinking.

      The reason why I posted the challenging question is, I thought that lip clamping is a synonym of very tight lips. And for very tight lips to vibrate we need to Overblow. So my thinking was that if we don’t Overblow and just release the air, if there is sound, then it must mean the lips are are freely oscillating.

      Very curious to see how this will go!

      Thanks,
      Miguel

    • #37055
      johnelwood
      Participant

      Excellent, Miguel.

      There was mention on another thread about whistling. Greg provided some explanation on how that relates to playing. I believe he indicated it wasnt a direct parallel, but there are some commonalities.

      I too have always whistled easily and have used that to think about playing. I like your points above. Less is more with most things, I believe, with playing trumpet. Its important to not over think what the aperture corners are doing or need to do to change pitch.

      If we dont change shape or reduce the aperture at all and just blow more air, it will just get louder.

      There are times when it feels as though I’m not changing the shape of the aperture and just thinking higher and the upper notes speak, but the movement is subtle and the most efficient is the least movement necessary.

      When I ascend and reduce the aperture by tightening the corners inward horizontally from the sides (not clamping top to bottom), my lips do push against /into the mouthpiece in a forward motion. The jaw lowers a bit as well which helps make room a bit / allows for an opening wide enough to maximize resonance / volume of the higher notes and helps keep the aperture centered on the mp/air column I think.

      Some describe the aperture corners as the ligature on a reed–we need tension at the outside of the lips to seal the mouthpiece, the rest of the lips need to be relaxed and in the air column to vibrate as freely (quickly) as possible.

      I used to thin out my lips and clamp them down, tightening them to try to secure a note. That can work a bit in the lower and middle registers, but your lips will only vibrate so fast that way. So just because youre getting a vibration, doesnt necessarily mean youre not clamping.

      One thing I used to do a lot in the beginning, was to release passive air into the horn then pull the horn off the MP as I played to see if there was an active buzz. No buzz with passively released air can be an indication that youre not clamping, and vice versa.

      I think Greg recommends seeing at what point things cutoff for us and working there–thats the point that we are tensing too much, etc.

      Keeping the tongue tip behind the lower teeth is referred to by some as “anchor tonguing” or modified KMT and has been employed by some of the greatest players in the world, including Greg Spence and Herbert L. Clarke.

      My $.02 FWIW.

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