WindWorks Trumpet Academy Forums WindWorks Jaw position and moving aperture corners inwards


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    • #58917

      Hi, Colin here, I’m a comeback player who joined up ages ago and wondered off experimenting with lots of different methods. I eventually realised that the ‘Windworks’ way is the most logical approach. Apologises if this has already been covered in detail – I have been revisiting all the material several times looking for answers.
      I have successfully lowered my jaw, opened up my aperture and getting a good sound with passive air in the bottom register. As I ascend the sound starts to get a little thinner as I rise above the staff. I am moving my aperture corners inward but appear to be raising my jaw a little so the whole movement is a little more like a drawstring where the horizontal movement is greater than the vertical.
      So the main question is: should I try to keep the vertical opening the same throughout so that the aperture stays as open as possible (more like an oval)?
      A small supplementary question possibly linked to the first: Obviously physically it is only possible to move the corners in so far. At the moment I am getting to the first D above the stave giving as much inward movement as I can and not tensing up, contorting myself in any way or kicking from the abdomen. Is this normal and where I have to employ other tools to raise the range without losing the full sound?
      Thank you

    • #58927

      Hi Colin,
      I think your drawstring analogy is probably a more accurate way of describing what should happen. Think of the size of the oval, as the difference between a pencil and a windstick.
      As for your second question: At some point you need to experiment with tongue arch. Letting the tongue float up in the oral cavity in the “ee” position. I would also recommend thinking about releasing the airstream in an upward direction. This helps to keep the aperture open and not to collapse into a pinch. Good Luck!

    • #58933

      I think the drawstring analogy is a great example and think Brian’s post is very good.

      Precisely WHAT we should be doing is dependent upon our individual physiology; however, the way I understand it is that we are reducing the size of the aperture gradually as we ascend to create a higher pitch.

      The tongue arches as well, but I believe that Greg says that’s more of a secondary factor and helps with resonance/tone than a primary factor in determining pitch itself.

      Lately, I have been having some newfound success focusing on my harmonic slurs and really focusing intently on the quality / resonance of the tone of each pitch before moving on to the next, rather than just hammering through them bluntly.

      I’ve been experimenting this way to identify the optimal Shape for each pitch–what size aperture, how tight are my corners, where is my tongue, etc. I make small adjustments until I’m satisified with the sound then move up and down and back again, trying to make each tone as good as the last throughout my range and try to find the easiest way to achieve the pitch as well (less is more, efficiency, etc.).

      It is very important to separate obtaining the Pitch from the use of Air (needed for Volume and Long tones).

      If you have done this well, then your tone should be good above the staff and should be able to play with somewhat relative ease up to High C and a little beyond (we’re all probably slightly different).

      But my understanding is also that starting around a D above High C, the trumpet starts to become an amplifier of the mouthpiece buzz; we move away from a sympathetic vibration, which is important up to that point to maximize resonance/efficiency, towards a vibration directly created by the lips buzzing together within the mouthpiece.

      And there is more and more resistance the higher we ascend. It’s important not to over-blow. To maximize resonance above High C. At some point beyond there, I do think actively supporting with air is important to the sound; we’re all slightly different. I believe this is consistent with what Greg describes in WW off the top of my head, but anyone correct me if I’m wrong here.

      Bottom line is that Objective Experimentation (experimenting with no pre-conceived desire of the outcome or emotional attachment thereto) of Shape with Passively released air helps us determine what Shape is needed to achieve each Pitch.

      Then, we combine that Shape with good quality Air, depending upon what we want to play (i.e. Loud, Long tone).

      We need to avoid the common trap of using our Air to play higher–powering through an inefficient aperture/embouchure, etc. We should continuously strive for an optimal sound and feeling of playing. When things are going well, it feels very easy even above the staff and the sound is optimal then.

      One thing I’ve been doing lately is looking at the mouthpiece and noticing how small the inner rim is (I play a 3C, not a very small mouthpiece); we have a relatively small area to work with and we can’t see what it is we’re doing.

      It helps me to think of things being compact. It doesn’t take a lot more energy to form a smaller aperture than a larger aperture. We don’t need to squeeze the aperture tight; that cuts off the air–as Greg says, our lips win everytime.

      Lately, and I could be wrong, but I’ve been getting the feeling that the tightness in my corners are actually to push open the aperture / keep the roof from collapsing rather than trying to close the aperture. I think this is correct. I think when things are going well, I’m actually using the muscles surrounding the lips and not engaging the lip muscles themselves–I’m keeping those loose/relaxed to interact with the air column and vibrate as fast as possible (higher pitch). So I think it’s kind of a tug-of-war motion with the muscles where I’m reducing the aperture while I’m pushing back to keep the aperture from collapsing.

      This reminds me of a video I saw a couple years ago from Doc that talked about this. I don’t think anything in this contradicts WindWorks or anything Greg explains but will let Greg/others respond.

      This is just what I’m experiencing as I continue to refine how I play and become more and more efficient and capable, etc.

      At times I have struggled and have not been happy with my tone or ease of playing. Usually at those times it’s because I found that I was doing too much to try to obtain the pitch. I was tightening the corners inwards too horizontal into too much of an unnatural pucker, rather than keeping the aperture more rounded and centered and/or tightening my throat a little or tensing a little, taking away from the resonance. A drumhead with your hand on it doesn’t resonate as much as one that’s free to vibrate.

      My $.02 FWIW, hope that helps.

      • #66569

        Lately, and I could be wrong, but I’ve been getting the feeling that the tightness in my corners are actually to push open the aperture / keep the roof from collapsing rather than trying to close the aperture. I think this is correct. I think when things are going well, I’m actually using the muscles surrounding the lips and not engaging the lip muscles themselves–I’m keeping those loose/relaxed to interact with the air column and vibrate as fast as possible (higher pitch). So I think it’s kind of a tug-of-war motion with the muscles where I’m reducing the aperture while I’m pushing back to keep the aperture from collapsing.

        This is precisely the approach James Morrison discusses in this video:

    • #58935

      Sorry, here’s the link to the Doc video I was talking about above:

    • #58965

      Thank you Brian and John for your well thought out replies.

      I have done some playing around with tongue arch and notice that when I use the ‘ee’ vowel (without the trumpet) the lips tend towards the smile which I want to avoid. If I try the ‘tsss’ (with trumpet) the note normally stops immediately.

      I have learned so much from the forum and appreciate all the questions and answers. I will keep experimenting and hopefully join in to the discussions more frequently. It is amazing that sometimes a simple comment made by someone can make such a difference.

      Enjoying my journey – it is all great fun although very frustrating at times.


    • #59052

      You’re very welcome, Colin. Glad if anything I shared helped you.

      Playing the trumpet can be very frustrating and it’s easy to get discouraged and lose perspective.

      My “bad days” now are way better than my best days when I was young, playing in school and taking lessons, etc.

      It’s hard sometimes to remember where I’ve come from and to remember to be grateful for what I’ve accomplished so far.

      I want to be better, even more range, more control/power/consistency, but I’m progressing and thankful for the map that Greg’s laid out for us. Which reminds me, I need to practice more Wind Works lessons and spend less time screwing around with whatever exercise I feel like I should do that day. I need to focus more on structure.

    • #59071

      John, your approach sounds very similar to my own. I need focus and be more structured. I came back to playing just over 3 years ago and at school was a mouth pressure lad. A 40+ year break did not get rid of memories of how I used to play.
      I have got rid of most of the old ways but they still creep in especially when I am in exposed position.
      I do lots of research and experiment for hours. Fortunately I have plenty of time to practice but do tend to mess around. I have decided that Greg’s way is the one that works for me. Everything is getting better and more consistent. I used to struggle switching between trumpet and cornet but that has gone away now that I am focusing on passive air. I nearly gave up on cornet about 2 months ago but now will be carrying on with brass band.
      I originally signed up for MM and have not yet subscribed to Windworks. I feel that I am not quite ready for next phase in my development. I want to nail lip slurring and working to outdo the fastest time on metronome!
      How far have you got and how long has it taken?
      Kind regards

    • #60174


      I have done a number of rounds through some of the lower levels of WindWorks (i.e. Largo) and found it incrementally beneficial each time I’ve repeated it.

      The videos are very helpful and inspiring as well–there are a lot of kernels of wisdom in the videos.

      I’ve gone up through some of the highest level exercises (Diamond), but had some time limitations due to work and wound up doing my own thing / playing music for a bit. I have had the realization for a while now that I need to repeat some of the WindWorks lessons again as I need to work on my consistency and dynamic control. And Greg’s exercises seem to very brilliantly focus concisely on the very issues I’m facing now:

      1. Using Active AND Passive air–the exercises have you play the exercises using each separately and some transition from one to the other.

      2. Playing high Softly AND Loudly (Active air)

      3. Playing high with the various different articulations (Pu, KMT, Tu, etc.)

      In order to figure out how to obtain the pitches I was after, I devoted my playing almost entirely to Passively released air to understand how Shape produces Pitch–to be sure I wasn’t kicking with my air through an inefficient Shape. But now it’s time that I build by Active air support, as well as work on my Articulation in my newfound range. I had the luxury of that as I have no playing/performing commitments, I’m just an amateur comeback player doing this for fun / personal development.

      My plan is to work on solidifying the range I’ve developed thus far first, then work on increasing range again from there.

      I think it was 2018, after about a 25 year hiatus, I started playing a bit again and stumbled across Greg and others’ videos on YouTube. My range when I was young, in school and taking lessons was effectively limited to about a G above the staff. Occasionally, I’d get an A or even a Bb or B, but never even touched a high C. It seemed impossible for me and no amount of work ever solved the puzzle.

      I’ve gone from never touching a high C to playing that note everyday and it not really seeming high to me anymore. I haven’t been focused on building my range per se as I want to make it a useful range, but I can slur to E above High C relatively easily and can play a High E and D musically. The F is there as well, but I just don’t tend to play that much.

      What’s better than hitting particular pitches though is that I have gotten rid of the tendency to strain or close off my throat when I go to play above the staff. What’s more enjoyable is the fact that I am learning to sense the balance between Air and Shape and the resonance of my sound has improved. I enjoy this and the feeling of playing now more than I do the range. It still can be a struggle at times–it’s not all a straight-line upwards.

      I saw a video the other day of Christopher Martin saying that a trumpet player has to learn how to play each day, or something to that effect–that is how it kind of seems. I think it was an interview on “Brass Junkies”. There was a good one with Tom Hooten as well.

      I try to start off on middle G and just produce a tone with a breath attack, sensing how my lips are responding (or not…) to the air. I work up and down a bit from there, trying to patiently sense how things are going–not pushing things, just being patient.

      I like the sensation of taking a big breath (“Body Concert Hall” breath) and then releasing that breath and allowing the weight of that breath flowing through the aperture to produce the tone, rather than Blowing the air through the aperture. Obviously, we need to do that for Loud or Long tones, but it amazes me how I can play above the staff now softly and in control with just releasing air through the aperture.

      You mention above focusing on harmonic slurs–that is very smart; those are, perhaps more than any other exercise, the key to it all. My take on all of this is that the bottom line is efficiency–I think Greg explained somewhere that Resonance is the optimum balance of Shape and Air. In other words, my understanding is that optimum Efficiency is also Resonance–so if it feels Great, it sounds Great. That’s been my experience–when it feels good (relatively effortless, open), it sounds great.

      When I was younger, I thought I was good at Harmonic Slurs. I did them a lot. I knew the tongue arch, thought I was a pro at that… I could do them fast, my flexibility and articulation was above average. I was good at double and triple tonguing. But that was when my range was limited to G above the staff, so obviously something wasn’t right.

      Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of Harmonic Slurs, but have been taking a different approach–I have been doing them slowly, paying close attention to the quality of the sound on each pitch and pausing on the pitch until it sounds / feels good, then moving onward. This seems to be paying big dividends to me as it seems to be helping me realize the ideal Shape for each pitch AND the movements I need to make to move from each Shape most efficiently. This is helping my speed of harmonic slurs, but even better–the freedom of them and the feeling of them. I’ve been enjoying that quite a bit lately and feel it developing me further.

      I think this is why Greg focuses on harmonic slurs so much in WindWorks and why he did the “International Harmonic Slur Challenge”–because how we change pitch from one Shape (pitch) to the next is key, as is how we manage our air–but we can’t change pitch effectively by kicking air, like many of us do or used to do.

      My understanding is that reducing the size of the aperture is what determines pitch. It only takes subtle, slight movements to ascend a 1/2 step. My understanding is that we are gradually reducing the aperture inwards towards the center of the mouthpiece or air column. But we need to do this in a way that still keeps the lips in a good position to interact with the air like the vocal chords; and this is different for each of us given our teeth structure, etc. We must figure the details of this out ourselves through experimentation–what feels / sounds the best.

      Greg’s advice to separate Shape and Air is what did it for me–without that, I would still be playing countless scales / exercises, expecting a different result…(a/k/a Insanity).

      Best of luck to you / Godspeed!


    • #60253

      Thank you John for another very full response.
      It is all making good sense.
      I have been concentrating on separating air from the pitch and it is slowly sinking into my rather old brain. Clearly differentiating between passive and active air and the smooth transition between the two is starting to work.
      However, my articulation from the top of the stave is not very good at the moment. If I do a simple arpeggio F, A, C to F (top line) and slur the top F is spot on in tune. But if I tongue the top F goes sharp – really irritating.
      Your advice on concentrating on shape is working although I still revert to the old way.

    • #60309

      You’re welcome, Colin.

      I’ve noticed too that obtaining a pitch with a breath attack or slur is different than articulating it.

      I havent come up with a concise explanation, but WindWorks covers this better / more concisely than any method ive seen. And I’ve seen most methods, I believe.

      Patience, experimentation while avoiding kicking with the air seem to be the key for me.

      I typically do some articulation scales while warming up and try to keep things light above the staff, back off the air slightly.

      And WindWorks has great exercises transitioning from Passive to Active air using every different articulation–very useful.

      I was experimenting with Active Air today; it was fun, I got some very high notes relatively easily. Amazing what’s possible if we don’t tense up / choke off amd get in our own way.

    • #62444

      Hey Colin & fellow trumpeters

      Nice to see so much positive advice! I recognise the issue with the corners inwards, I myself did not get the results I expected so I still was missing something… When I raised in the staff, my tone became crunchy and unstable. I decided to take a little break from Windworks to search on the internet for other approaches.

      A couple of weeks ago I (re)watched a video by Charlie Porter on how to form an embouchure. I had seen it years ago and had tried out his 4-step set-up for an embouchure, but at the time I didn’t stick with it.

      Now I have and in about 3 weeks it really changed the way I approache the trumpet (and embouchure set-up). I forced myself to repeat these 4 steps again and again (took me some time to really incorporate it) just on the visualiser and realised it brought me to a set-up that must be similar to Greg’s aaa – oooo based set-up. So you could say: nothing new till this point, but a little bit further there came a passage in the video (around 34:20) that really hit me. It gave me more details on HOW to move the muscles (shape) to get into the high register. Not only should the corners move towards the center of the lips, but the upper lip also needs to make a movement UP simultanuously and I realised I didn’t do that at all. So the movement up makes sure the aperture stays open and when I concentrate on that movement the tone clear while ascending.

      I really don’t want to confuse anybody with an additional approach, but I post this because I believe it could provide an extra angle to those who need it. Just as Greg Spence, Charlie Porter is a very open and respected trumpet player who is able to explain things in a clair way.

      Now I apply the 4-steps approach every time I lift the horn, and concentrating on te movement UP from the upper lip (beside the inward movement) I get to experiment with a complete new feeling. I’ll give this a couple of weeks extra (it’s really fun to experiment doing larger lip slurs) before getting back on the Windworks-horse.

      Anyway, this could be helpful for some! For me it feels like a game-changer 😉
      Please let me know if any of you watched this or another Charlie Porter-video and how you experienced it.

      Have fun!

      Video Charlie Porter

    • #62623

      Hi Tom
      Interesting that you have revisited the Charlie Porter embouchure. I went through the same exercise earlier this year having bought his booklet about 2 years ago and watched the video several times. I also tried the ‘closed’ aperture approach discussed frequently by Pops McLaughlin. Both seemed to make some sense although I struggled with the concept of a ‘closed’ opening. The closed aperture made a big difference for about a week but then it all off and I felt like I was fighting the trumpet. I found Charlie Porter’s embouchure setup approach a little too convoluted and now I have settled down to Greg’s simple but very effective method – I realise that it is the one for me.

      I found your comment about UPward movement of the upper lip very interesting. I remember a video in which James Morrison mentioned that he used the up and down direction for volume control – something Greg has also mentioned. I had an experiment with the upward movement today and I can see what you mean – I will keep trying. Instead of that, I have been making sure that my jaw does not come up as I ascend. This has been working for me. The ‘Ahh…’ bit of the preparation does make the jaw lower but I noticed that I started to raise it quite quickly when ascending.

      On the volume control aspect, I have been fascinated how much this has helped. I mentioned to my trumpet tutor last year that my bottom F# was at a fixed volume. He told me not to worry about it and it would come. I started to open the aperture up and down as per James Morrison and all of a sudden I have a very variable volume control. When messing around I have my tuner in front of me to make sure that I do not change pitch. It has really opened out my sound without distortion. Every day I go chromatically from bottom F# to G above the stave just flexing the up/down lip action for volume control. I can now see why many beginners books start off with long tones and volume control. I am now back to the beginning of the Arban – yet again!

      It is all great fun. Fortunately, the ups are more than the downs at the moment. I put better consistency down to the in/out pitch control. In the last few days, I have found that I can start off my practice by playing a few Cs above the stave. Probably not a good way to start my warm-up but as it is now effortless it does not seem to be causing any problems. (I quickly change to my low and pedal notes for the true beginning to my warm-up.)


    • #66641

      Fascinating analysis, thank you. I will experiment some more – with eyes closed. It is all so complex.

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