First of all – let me make a commitment: after this post I’ll shut up. As Greg commented in another thread of mine I’m destined to write epic posts on forums. I agree – it’s pointless and is a waste of time.
However – I’m trying not to find excuses for my poor trumpet results but possibly some real physical barriers that contribute to my inability to play trumpet up the range.
I often find that my muscles that take part in forming an embouchure tire up pretty quickly – regardless of anything else: it maybe a good or bad day, etc.
For instance, today in the very beginning of my practice I experienced very nice resonant, free blowing Low C up to middle G “Largo stage” notes. They were literally poring out with unprecedented ease and were full, ringing, rich and free blowing.
I spent 15 minutes on the largo exercises and had a 10 minutes break. – Everything promised a long happy practice session.
When I returned to practicing after 10 minutes break I found that I couldn’t get the middle G out with a proper SHAPE formation. That is when I took the first after the break nice deep breath and set up my embouchure for the middle G I got a miserable fluffy and dead sounding Low C out.
To get the middle G out I had to make a considerable effort in forming a more pronounced ‘UUUH’ shape that I would normally prepare for playing middle C or even E.
I immediately recognized this condition – for unexpected (as it always happens for me) reason my lips were already overtaxed after initial nice and easy start up. I got somewhat frustrated BUT – after my 10 years of “playing” I of course knew this condition.
I’m trying to relate my weak embouchure muscles strength to my overall physical setup.
– First of all as I remember myself from the childhood I always had weak musculature. For instance when we did pull-ups on a bar during sports lesson in the 5th school grade (around 12 years old) I was one of the weakest guys in our class. While everyone without any additional training was doing from 7 to 12 pull-ups on a bar I was able to do only 3. Running, jumping, etc, showed I was lacking in inherent physical muscular strength as well. It was real and confirmed.
Now, very important: why shouldn’t we relate deficiencies in overall person’s physical set-up to his ability to maintain proper muscular SHAPE for playing higher notes?
You may immediately say that these factors are unrelated. – However, “Have you ever walked in my shoes”?
I often feel that when I play above middle C that I lack muscle power in my embouchure. I sort of intuitively know where the higher notes are but I’m unable to use that additionally needed muscle strength to make the aperture suitable for sounding higher notes.
I’m not talking about anything beyond human power – just some additional minor step in embouchure muscle tightening. I work from the corners! – That’s what I consciously do.
I have a feeling that the lack of my embouchure muscle strength of proper muscles leads to an ill compensation that results in closing of the middle of my embouchure.
Anyway, can you see what I’m getting at? There are people who can run 100 meters for 9 seconds, 10 seconds, 11 seconds, 12 seconds and as I remember from my own experience we had a guy who couldn’t surpass 16 seconds barrier no matter how much he exercised. Oh, my results weren’t as bad as his but anyway…
I foresee many of you will say that any human’s muscle strength potential is unrelated to trumpet playing. In addition I expect this phrase coming up: “I’m absolutely sure that anyone’s embouchure muscle strength is potentially capable of delivering at least high C”.
I often experience this embouchure muscle weakness that doesn’t allow me to play above middle C. You can trust me or not but again – “Please try walking in my shoes”.
One more point which is actually much more related to what I say above.
I once mentioned my happy sax playing long time ago. Yes, I was able to cover the whole alto sax standard range, however: I was never able to progress beyond a rather closed MP in a combo with a #2 reed. In addition I was never able to play that “girlie” set-up longer that 1 and a half hours.
In comparison: the other guys who I knew were progressing rather quickly to much more open
mouthpieces and much stronger reeds and they could play for hours.
Can this be related to trumpet and my personal range and endurance problems?
Your post has triggered a number of thoughts I have on the subject.
1) You’ve done a lot of comparison to others which is futile. You will always find people that are stronger naturally and seem to play with ease. I would ask myself, Am I doing enough physical conditioning ( running, walking, swimming, etc. ) to be able to play at my optimum?
2) Are you obsessing about the lips? I would recommend Claude Gordon’s book ” Brass Playing is No Harder Than Deep Breathing”. I’ve read Gordon used to say “Forget the Lips” to students quite often. And don’t forget Greg’s quote “The lips respond to Airflow.”
3) We’ve all experienced the horrible feeling of an overtaxed embouchure. There’s nothing you can do at that point except put the horn away and get a good night’s rest. I’ve been doing Greg’s routine for quite awhile and I’ve experienced improvement’s in range, endurance, and consistency. I attribute a lot to emphasis on relaxation (releasing all unneeded tension) and aperture efficiency (concentrate on aperture corners not embouchure corners). Those Singing C exercises are incredible if you do them properly and consistently.