In the spirit of making mistakes and trying things that are beyond you, I’ve just started on the Allegro stage and it’s truly eye-opening– I’ve learnt so much more by being utterly out of my depth.
I do have a recurring problem though. It stems from the fact that the techniques I’m learning are so vastly different from my old embouchure. Previously, pretty much everything above my neck was wrong, and got worse around the actual embouchure. So while I’m more than happy to embrace the strangeness and put my faith in the process, I have no yardstick to know whether the latest changes are making things better or worse.
I’ll give you the latest example; now that I’m starting to play higher with my new technique, my top lip sometimes rolls out, giving me a bit of an “Elvis lip curl”. This makes playing the higher notes easier – a LOT easier – and my flexibility is also better. However it also pushes the airstream downwards, which I don’t think is right.
The alternative is to keep my top lip tucked under my lower lip, which seems to work pretty well for many of the top players, e.g. James Morrison. With this embouchure, when I do the Allegro Singing C exercises I can produce a clear, effortless sound (sometimes!) and having tested it with the slingshot exercise, the airflow stays in the same place as my corners move together. I don’t currently have the range or flexibility with this setup but with time, I’m sure it would improve.
So what should I do? Allow the Elvis embouchure to sneak in, which gives me better range and flexibility, or stick to the Morrison embouchure, which is currently not as reliable or flexible but might possibly (?) lead to a better technique.
More generally, when faced with very divergent new sensations, how do you choose which is the right one to progress with?
Thanks for the speedy response. I will try and get some video examples of the two settings. Before that, a couple of things I’d point out:
I always set up my embouchure the same before playing. As I play into the top half of the stave, my top lip settles (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) to one of the two positions. Since Elvis gives me better range and flexibility, the temptation is to allow this to happen so I can play more. Morrison is probably a slightly better/bigger sound but I struggle to control the corners.
It’s very hard to say if there’s any difference in tension between the two settings. Allegro is right at the edge of my ability so both settings can at times be effortless. I can play the moderato Singing C exercises on either setting with no discernable difference.
Videos to follow – watch this space!
Great video Greg, and great question Philip.
I’ve been working on M2M for just over a year and am cycling back to the fundamentals as I could tell that whilst a lot was starting to fall into place there were still aspects that weren’t correct. Note that until the last couple of years my playing was principally about doing a couple of weeks blowing prior to any upcoming (infrequent) gig. Work/travel and kids etc. preventing much focused time. My technique had everything wrong. Very focused on lots of pressure from chest and squeezing the lips together in a vertical plane only. i.e. No attempt to create an aperture. High notes were all forced out.
You may have seen my post from around a year ago about asymmetric embouchure. And I’ve since noticed that I had also developed horizontal jaw movement in the upper register (above the stave). I’d ‘learned’ lots of sub-conscious ways of sorting out the issues caused by this, but that was all heavily wired into my neural pathways, so was fortunate for lack of gigs to enable a complete rewiring (still work in progress).
OK; so the above is mostly irrelevant, but I wanted to note a couple of things Greg says that have helped this time around:
1. embouchure formation focused much more on the shaping of the aperture around two fingers placed in the mouth as demo-ed by Greg. A horizontal muscle focus before bringing the top lip onto the bottom, makes a huge difference to forming the aperture. This horizontal muscle strength is new to me and so I think this technique just wasn’t available first time around, so this focus didn’t stay in my routine.
2. The jug “spout” as in the above video from Greg was something that was beginning to happen from focus identified in 1. above, but this description is an enormous help.
When this works the passive breath harmonics fly out way past high C. But I have yet to get the technique to control or use that range without reverting to old habits.
Now to the contentious part: I have continued to be blocked by fundamental weakness in my facial & jaw muscles and so unintentionally I’ve progressed with some bad habits still around. But I’ve felt that to assist progress Ive had to add some explicit (strength) exercises. I can feel Greg’s wince here so note I’m hoping to be able to reduce over time:
1. I’ve developed a small tool to help the horizontal muscle focus (a light spring made from a couple of paper clips and narrow straws). Just used once a day.
2. I incorporate extended free and mouthpiece buzzing exercises to prevent any reliance on the mouthpiece and any arm strength assisting (killing) the embouchure (i.e. to build strength in muscles where pressure might hide issues).
3. pencil exercise – with jaw closed and pushing out lower lip (which assists in developing the strength for the “jug spout” I think).
Interested to hear any other examples or horror stories. Thanks for reading, Paul.
It sounds like you and I are facing similar challenges. I keep checking back to the horizontal squeezing of two fingers and it does result in a bigger, more relaxed sound. Throughout the Moderato stage I understood well enough what my embouchure and corners were doing. In Allegro, the horizontal movement has to be more pronounced to move to the higher harmonics, and unless my set up is exactly right it all goes pear-shaped. Now that I’ve realised that, I too am taking a step back to revisit the earlier exercises.
I think purely from a practical perspective your comments on strength also make sense. I’m certainly using muscles in a very different way to my old embouchure, and as I’m trying to play a lot more, those muscles are struggling to keep up. I suppose the caveat is that having stronger chops is pointless if you still don’t develop an efficient technique.
Yes agree and recognise that. Success does not progress in a straight line and I’ve had a few weeks of almost despair. But by following the ‘process’ manage to keep landing at a different level, eventually. Though I still think that my first time around I wasn’t able to create the right formation physically and now coming back again I’m finding it taking shape. So I’m not convinced that simply by progressing slower I would have got where I am. Its ****** painful (mental) at times though.
Keep it up.
Absolutely! I must be on about the tenth iteration of my new embouchure. Each time I go back to Largo my first reaction is “I’ve failed – again!” but really it’s just a refinement of what went before, and it always takes a couple of days for that to sink in.
I’m always hoping that this iteration will be “the one” – that big breakthrough that opens up all those notes I used to be able to play with my old (tension/pressure) embouchure, but as you point out, progress is never linear. There are definitely improvements in my new technique and the exertion and sound quality are much better than they used to be. I just don’t have the range – YET!
Great video Greg,
I recently started the MTM course.
I am playing trumpet for more then fourty years.
I talked to a lot of teachers etc…… but i couldn get any further.
Greatest problem was my embouchure/endurance. When i played live gig’s i was struggeling with the embouchure and was working to hard:-) and felt a lot of tension, especialy in the higher parts.
I read a lot of embouchure settings and have tried different approaches (rolled in embouchure from Jef Smiley, puckered lips etc.), but i couldn get beter.
After recently starting the MTM cours en beginning from scratch i realised that i put to much tension on my lips en that my embouchure setting wasn´t wright (maaaooohh, apperture corners etc.).
After a few weeks of following the course and trying to implement little steps of Greg´s approach and i think that i am finaly on the good road on getting a better trumpet player.
But i realise that it is going to be a bumpy road.
What i have learned the last weeks is the important thing of your MINDSET and FEELING.
Never realised that this was so important.
Kind regards from the Neterlands.
Sorry for my bad English 🙂
stick to proces and the approach and you wil get better 🙂