Tagged: Downstream playing
Hello everyone, Reijer here again. I’ve been working the Largo stage at the moment and i heard Greg talk about getting the airstream straight forward. Now i’m a downstream player because of my huge overbite. You can see it on my profile picture. Do i need to adjust my jaw position as well in order to get the airstream straight? If that is so i have an extra challenge to cope with. Are there any downstream players here who do the course and maybe have any advice?
Great post and question, Reijer! I know others are struggling with this as well.
It would be great to get Greg’s response to this, but my recollection is that Greg himself pointed out that he played for many years by blowing the air downward towards the floor and that he attributes much of his difficulties playing to that issue, etc.
I, myself, did the same for many years and would push the bell downward towards the floor, tilt my head back and run out of bottom lip eventually as I ascended and clamped down my lips top-to-bottom (like a clam); those muscles are strong enough to cut off the air everytime.
Do you have the book “The Art of Brass Playing” by Philip Farkas? In that book, FWIW, Farkas explains (Page 7-10) that we must adjust our jaw in order to align our teeth and lips and blow the air column straight through our lips (the aperture) into the mouthpiece, leadpipe, etc.
Do you do the visualizer setup thing with the tissue, or better yet with your hand in front of your mouth? Does it feel like you’re blowing the air downward or more straight?
Hope that helps, FWIW. I believe this thread will help a lot of players.
Hi John, thanks for your reply. I do the tissue breath without the visualise (I don’t have one) and I haven’t read the book. If I want to forward my airstream I have to extend my jaw about one centimeter. I will try this and see if I can hold it there while playing.
I dont have a visualiser either, I use my wedding ring–works for me.
I have a old rim from my modulair mouthpiece, i can use that as a visualiser. Tried to play more upstream today and it’s a strange feeling and air escaped from my bottom lip because of the broken seal.
I think the key is to ensure that the air stream is relatively straight out of the visualizer and blows up the tissue as Greg demonstrates in the video.
Perhaps you should try to only adjust as much as necessary to blow that tissue up, etc.
I’ve used the old rim and the tissue folded twice and i can steer the air towards the tissue to make it move. What i do (looked in the mirror) is lean back a little so the airstream is straight ahead.
Have a nice weekend,
I’ve been watching Greg’s video about Overcoming a negative psychology when playing the trumpet and in that video Greg said that to get the apature work good the airstream needs to be straight. So there is the answer i think. I have to learn to move my jaw forward during playing to get the restult that i want. If someone has an other way of thinking i would love to hear that.
You may need to if you dont feel that the air is coming out straight through the visualiser and is blowimg the tissue up as much as without it (straight).
My teeth just so happen to meet in the middle; no over or under bite ( still have my wisdom teeth).
But I used to blow downward towards the ground and roll my bottom lip under; if I recall correctly, so did Greg. I believe that may be a common problem.
Even now, I occasionally catch myself with an incorrect aperture/embouchure (not as extreme as before) and have to adjust.
One thing I’ve been doing lately that helps me is to visualise the air column that comes up from the bottom of my lungs, through the aperture and into the leadpipe. I look down at the leadpipe as I play and imagine the part of my lips that form the aperture, the fleshy part that touches the air and interests with the air like the vocal chords.
Of course a couple guiding principles to our experimentation are:
1. Sound – How does it sound? Is it resonant? Does it seem as resonant as possible?
2. 1% Rule – Is it efficient as possible? Could we make minor adjustments which make it even more efficient and more resonant?
Also important to remember that less air moves through the instrument / is required the higher we ascend and overblowing (and pinching in the middle) is a common problem.
Hope that helps, FWIW.
So, to change your airstream, you’re essentially changing your embouchure, correct?
How do you prevent your bottom lip from rolling in and still maintain a good sound?
I wasn’t sure it was a negative thing since I know a few pros that have zero range issues that roll in their bottom lip.
Some of us have had issues with over manipulating our lips, including rolling under our bottom lip.
But there are great players, Dizzy Gillespie comes to mind, who play all sorts of ways successfully.
If someone has the range, sound quality and endurance they desire and they roll under their lip, then so be it–good for them.
I had issues where I was rolling in/under my bottom lip and the air was going down towards my feet. I had no endurance or range despite lots of practice, lessons, etc.
I have moved towards focusing on blowing straight forward and tightening the aperture from the corners and my range, endurance, sound have all improved significantly.
I consider myself a downstream player, even though my teeth meet in the middle exactly (no under or over bite). My bell still goes down a bit as I ascend, but not as much and I appear to be progressing well.
I try to think about the air column and I look at the leadpipe as I play, focusing on tightening the aperture inward from the sides inward towards the air column, rather than tilting the bell down / head back and lip under while clamping my lips down top-to-bottom.
Not sure if I’m not rolling my lip under at all anymore, but I’m primarily tightening from the aperture corners.
Hope that helps, FWIW.
Thanks for your feedback.
I’m hoping that working on aperture corners through this method and sticking to the process will help.
You’re welcome. For me, what worked the best is when I try to keep the most natural feeling and take a less-is-more approach and focus on getting the best sound, most resonant, possible. Also, the exercises involving changing pitch on the leadpipe with a slight inward movement of the aperture corners (i.e. think oooh) and doing harmonic slurs with PASSIVE air–not using your air to kick to the higher harmonic, but in a disciplined way releasing the air and using shape change through engagement of the aperture corners is key to my gaining a better understanding of the movement I needed to make.
Early on, I overdid it into an extreme pucker/fish face type thing–which actually worked up to a point, but I could tell wasn’t ideal or necessary.
Lately, the movement seems more and more subtle to the point lately where I feel I’m barely moving at all to move from C or E on the staff to G above the staff, it almost seems as though I’m just thinking higher and somehow using lighter air and the note just speaks and when I have that, the note is the most resonant, open, etc.
I struggled with structure in my practice, so I would kind of swing from focusing diligently on process and not having expectations of results (most important, especially in the beginning…) to getting good results, then thinking “I’ve got this all figured out now…” then focusing on results the next few days, to the point that I started subtly manipulating to go higher and higher and losing focus on process, which ultimately inevitably resulted in my sliding backwards, etc.
It seems stupid now typing this and recounting it, it’s obvious I know; but I also know there are lots of others out there who have done the same thing.
Following Greg’s advice closer would have been better–doing the WindWorks course, then separately just playing music and other exercises, etc. I’m just playing for fun, a complete amateur / comeback player; I don’t even play in a group, just at home for fun. I played in groups when I was young, and sometimes think about doing so again, but I’m busy with work, family, etc. Who knows.
Experimentation is the key, but it’s wasted time mostly without a complete abandoning of expectation of results. Without that abandon, we’re not really experimenting fully. It would be like a scientist using a rigged experiment. We must observe the results of our experiment like an objective 3rd party in order to glean the most out of it. If we’re too emotionally attached to the results, it would be better to just play some music, take a break or do something else entirely until we’re in the right mental state.
Having said that, I have no regrets. I’ve come farther than I thought possible, and still have a long way to go working on making my range as useful as possible with articulations, dynamic control, technique, etc. And while it seemed at times frustrating, like I wasn’t progressing or even going backwards, that was all just part of the journey. I doubt many people walk a straight line upward like they’re climbing stairs; it’s more like a rocky mountain with hidden valleys, etc. And I’m confident I’m better for the experience.
I’ve been experimenting a lot with this lately and was wondering if anyone else tries to push out their jaw while ascending to combat the lower lip from rolling in. It does provide a bit of tension, but feels like another part of the “shape” at times.
I havent noticed that, but I’ll try to think about it today / tomorrow and let you know.
I’ve heard people describe the opposite–lowering the jaw as they descend and raising it as they ascend, kind of goes along with the tongue movement aaahhh eeeeee. I think Greg touched on that in one of his videos.
I think the movement(s) I make is simple now. There is tongue movement, but I try to keep my lips as relaxed as possible (especially the middle) and sort of squeeze inward horizontally from the sides the aperture tighter around the air column going through the aperture like a drawstring bag being cinched around a can. I try to employ a less is more approach with playing and feel thats how I achieve the most resonant sound and efficiency, etc. The lips do get a bit scrunched up in the middle at the limit of my upper register, but it seems to be working and it appears thats what Greg is doing when he gets up there. The way I think of it is that I need some meat in the mouthpiece to interact with the air column. Before, I think I used to stretch out my lips, clamp down top to bottom and use pressure while over blowing. Now its more of a cooperative coordination between the air and aperture and tongue like driving a manual transmission.
I didn’t mean opening/closing the jaw but more protruding the jaw out, to combat a slightly receded jaw. Perhaps it’s more tension inducing, but it sure takes a lot of pressure off the top lip and improves my endurance a lot.
If it feels good and you’re getting a good sound, playing feels more efficient / natural, then it’s probably a good thing. The Farkas book, which I think is referred to above or in another thread mentions its important to align the teeth; my teeth happened to be aligned, I don’t have an over or under bite. So it might be different for me. We all have different dental structures, different sized lips, etc.