what do you think about the Larry Meregillanos Compression Training System? The idea of shape changes pitch is the same but in a thinking system of building strength. What are your thoughts?
Hey Stephan, thanks for posting.
As you would know being a subscriber, I endorse players looking at all methods in the spirit of data collection and process of elimination; there in no 1 way to play.
The word strength can set a problematic psychology as it usually creates unnecessary tension in the system; that is not to say that there is not strength required to play. If you were to tell a junior golfer that club head speed determines distance, then everyone will be hitting as fast as they can with complete disregard of efficient and balanced technique which will ultimately lead to disappointing results.
The same can be said from compression, I went down this path for many years with lessons from several famous teachers. Here is my take: from the Ruby Status Stage in the Ultimate Level – https://player.vimeo.com/external/311590369.hd.mp4?s=eb66536dbafbb12dec978fd17ae3dc445cae96e8&profile_id=175
I urge mindfulness and awareness of efficient PROCESS when exploring all methods and take from them what you find beneficial.
Here is a little quote sent to me from my sister from a nutrition coaching course she is doing and thought it summed up my teaching 🙂 “True mastery involves doing ONLY WHAT MATTERS AND NO MORE. Mastery means stripping away needless complexity and ineffective, inessential action.”
HERE IS MY OVER APPROACH TO LEARNING THE TRUMPET #ifitworksandsoundsgoodjustdoit:
Have a great day!
Ha, I love that “Ear Technique” video, that’s great fun.
The video Greg posted the link to regarding compression is great, I remember this from the course: https://player.vimeo.com/external/311590369.hd.mp4?s=eb66536dbafbb12dec978fd17ae3dc445cae96e8&profile_id=175
Greg’s post above is great, of course, and spot on. I have watched countless hours of videos on YouTube and have enjoyed Larry Meregillano’s videos–he is clearly a “monster” player, is very accomplished, has studied personally with some of the all time greatest players/teachers and has forgotten more about playing trumpet than I’ll ever know.
But, FWIW, my $.02 is that it depends on WHY you want to compression and build strength and where you’re at as a player and what your goals are.
If you have already developed a keen sense of awareness of the balance of Shape and Air and can play with relative ease to your desired range, but are looking for a way to increase your ability to play louder, longer, etc. then perhaps it might be a good idea.
If you are like I was, not satisfied with range, experiencing poor endurance, limited control of dynamics and clearly fighting against myself while playing, then I think it would not be a good idea.
Larry appears to play rather loudly–he’s clearly very strong and powerful. But he’s also probably very efficient and is compressing air through an efficient aperture/embouchure–which is a separate matter.
If one were to rely on a system of developing power to achieve range, that would be problematic in my opinion–like putting a bigger engine into a car that doesn’t have the proper infrastructure to go as fast as the bigger engine can go, etc.
I have been tempted to focus more on my range but have resisted that and have focused on my ease of playing, sound and how things feel (freely, open) and I am thankful for having had the patience of doing that. I can’t play like Larry, but the freedom I feel and the ease of playing up above the staff is even more remarkable than what I first experienced a couple years ago.
The other day, I was playing an exercise in Schlossberg that was new to me, #38 (page 11) which alternates intervals starting at mf below the staff to pp above the staff, up to a High C and D. When going for the D at (PP), I focused intently on keeping my throat open and keeping relaxed–I didn’t care at all what happened, only that I played it the way I knew I should. Interestingly, I felt the “weight” of the air I was releasing through the aperture and experimented a bit with compression using the embouchure and tongue and I skipped way past the D and wound up probably at F#, G or even higher and the note was resonant and although I was aiming for playing it softly (pp), the note sounded loud as it was open and resonant. It was kind of a coffee moment for me, but I need to go back and play that exercise again and spend some time with that and figure out mouth compression. Less Air is required to achieve the pitch the higher we play; the aperture is smaller and tongue arch helps / is important.
Lately, I have been having great experience starting my day exhaling through the trumpet first with my lips around the outside of the mouthpiece, feeling the resistance that the horn gives back against the air. Then again, with my lips in the mouthpiece, but now with an embouchure formed to produce a note but to be as close to that as possible while trying to avoid the lips from vibrating / producing a tone–it’s actually kind of hard, which is probably a good thing, but it’s even more resistance than blowing through the horn with your lips on the outside of the mp.
I’ve also been focusing a bit on “getting comfortable” playing above the staff, focusing my attention on staying relaxed and keeping things open, the only engagement in the corners of the aperture/embouchure, outside of the mouthpiece / away from the vibrating surface.
I’ve been taking some of the Clarke exercises up an octave (i.e. Clarke First and Second technical studies). I try to form the aperture necessary to produce a pitch but avoid any extraneous tension. I try to focus on quality of sound and play softly, letting the weight of the air passing through the aperture (passive compression) do the work for me. The higher I go, the more aware of this “weight” of the air I can feel and thoughts about experimenting with the compression of that air using my mouth have been entering my mind, but that’s not what the exercises I have been playing are about so I haven’t done much with that yet.
Eventually, I will focus more of my time/attention on compression and Active Air, but lately I have been achieving some rather loud, resonant, full / free notes above the staff without a lot of air as I have realized that I still had unnecessary engagement / tension going on.
For me, I found certain musical passages that I played were, for some reason, very efficient; so I started using those each day to check in with myself as I started the day to see if I could still play it that way, then try to connect that way of playing to other passages / exercises I was struggling more with. I think this has helped me quite a bit to become more and more efficient, consistent, etc. It has been feeling more and more like I am kind of singing up there and can do just about anything I want–I’m not saying I’m screaming out super high notes, but I can play musically and with dynamic control higher than I thought I would be able to.
I think playing is more about efficiency than strength or compression. It’s more about coordination.
I recall when I was young, taking lessons from some reputable well known teachers / players, the approach was repetition to build strength. Granted, in their defense, this was over 30 years ago…I’m not blaming them for my failure.
But I wouldn’t want you to experience what I did–trying to power through inefficiencies by building strength / using more air, as I was told.
THAT doesn’t work, nor does using someone’s “system”. That’s what I love about Greg’s approach / WindWorks, is it’s not a series of exercises that you play then suddenly you’re playing a Double C…it doesn’t work that way.
We all must figure it out on our own, how to balance Air and Shape and do so in the best way possible to optimize efficiency and sound.
Also, doing exercises to build strength with an inefficient embouchure is not a good idea–players have cut their lips and had all sorts of awful physical injuries from trying to power through things.
Personally, I realize now that the way I was playing when I was younger was so inefficient that I was literally tearing myself down in a short amount of time and didn’t allow myself ever to fully recover / build endurance. I was working against myself in so many ways. I wouldn’t want you, or anyone, to go through that.
My advise would be to proceed with caution. But I am sure Larry has a lot to offer students and I enjoy reading / listening to other players’ thoughts, recommendations, etc.
Anyway, those are my thoughts FWIW–good luck, I hope that’s helpful. Let us know how things go either way, it’s helpful to the rest of us on this journey of discovery!
Wow, thanks for that (Greg and John). I appreciate that!! I’ll give it a try, only for experimentation and have your thoughts in mind. And for sure set the efficient process at first. Open it up and let go. That’s great. Don’t want to go back! See you and have a nice day!
You’re very welcome, glad if my thoughts were helpful to you.
I am experiencing first hand how new experiences / sensations from my experimentation with the WindWorks principles are creating new wiring in my brain and giving me a new/improved sense of what it is to play the horn and it is vastly superior to anything I’ve done before or thought possible.
The basis of it all is quite simple, but as we all know it is elusive as what precisely we are doing with our embouchure is obscured by the mouthpiece and even things we are doing within our bodies, some of which we don’t even realize we are doing, impact our playing as well.
But I am enjoying the journey more so than ever before, admittedly because I’ve been at a new level of playing and am getting results from my efforts–that poses an interesting challenge in and of itself, as I have time and time again altered, subtly/slightly, how I am playing because of my newfound results and increased expectations, which usually sends me on a new path to less efficiency.
Lately, I’ve been successful avoiding that trap/temptation and have “checked-in” with myself at certain guideposts I’ve identified along the way, certain passages that I play–I remember a sensation of how it feels, sounds, etc. that I want to replicate. This gives me a basis when I am playing other things, a goal to aspire to, and the goal is rather open, forward, relaxed with a free, open, resonant sound and a direct connection to what it is I’m trying to play, rather than muddling through inefficiency / blowing/powering through. It feels more of a release of energy, like I’m singing and obtaining a balance with the instrument. It is an ideal to aspire to that I don’t always achieve, but I have been experiencing it more and more each day in my playing and am hopeful that will continue if I remain focused on striving for that freedom/openness feeling when I play.
Watching the Compression Depression video linked above is making me wonder about something that I noted and forgot about the first time through the course (I am new since Nov 20). Greg demonstrates “mouth compression” and produces decent-sounding notes at various pitches, several above the staff. When I use strictly mouth compression–not adding any air at all, just what can be held in the mouth cavity–I get a noisy squawk. I can make it sound at C4 (middle c), E G and E in the staff; above that just air. Greg’s mouth compression sound seems somewhat like his stab notes in the Ruby exercises. My stab notes sound close to his at Ab, A just above the staff, but am using a burst of “lung and throat air” held back by tongue and then released for the short note, not just mouth air. I am wondering if my understanding of mouth compression is off the mark, or if there is something to be learned to make the “mouth compression” notes sound closer to the “stab” notes. Any thoughts?
It’s possible that your “Shape” is not optimal and that is causing more air being necessary to produce certain pitches. As you increase your efficiency, it will probably be easier to produce pitches higher in your range with less and less air.
If I understand your post correctly, you’re saying that you are using a “burst of lung and throat air” to play notes above the staff. Are you able to achieve pitches above the staff with passively released air, not actively supported air?
That was the key for me–separating Shape and Air by experimenting with Shape using only Passive air for quite a while. Then, once I learned Shape, I went back and focused more on my Air. That’s not the way the course is laid out and I probably wasted a lot of time, but it worked for me.
@johnelwood I may have misled regarding using “burst of lung and throat air.” This only refers to my efforts at stab notes. The question in my post is focused on Greg’s demonstrations at 8:08 to 9:20 in the Compression Depression video linked above. Otherwise, I think I am good with passive air above the staff, within my current range constraints. I am working on Ruby Singing C at Ab and A and can get thru #1, 3 and 8 reliably. Inconsistent when I try to add volume in the other exercises. I can feel myself resorting to mp pressure too often. Need to work on this. BTW, I think your commments are on target regarding optimizing my shape. I need to continue to work on this too. I have read a good number of your posts and am appreciating your insights and attention to detail. Thanks.
Thanks mau.bowen, If I understand you correctly you’re saying that you can use mouth compression for notes up to about E on the staff but only get air above that, not pitch sounds. Is that correct?
If so, I believe what the issue probably is is that your “Shape” is not optimized such that a small amount of air can produce a pitch above the notes that you can successfully produce a pitch. That’s my best guess, FWIW.
Glad if any of my comments / ramblings have been helpful to you/others. It helps me to jot my thoughts down and I’m so grateful for how far I’ve come the past couple years, nothing would make me happier than if I’m able to help someone else have that same experience.
I’ve been on a great run lately.
BTW–the main topic of this thread is the Larry Meregillanos Compression Training System. I just bought that system myself to see what it was like. I sent in a question about it but didn’t get an answer but thought I would just splurge and buy it to see what it’s like.
I haven’t used it much yet to endorse it or conclude whether it’s useful or not. It’s basically a dial that measures air pressure (“Torrs”) hooked to a rubber tube that you slide into your mouthpiece. The dial shows the level of air pressure you’re achieving when you blow into your mouthpiece (and the tube, etc.).
I also have been messing around a little with the “pencil exercise” that Larry demonstrates that he learned from Roy Stevens, etc.
I think it may be helping me to develop a little more endurance-type strength in the aperture corner muscles. I think something like this could easily be overdone and cause more harm than good, especially if a player were using an inefficient Shape when playing above the staff, etc.
It seems to me that trumpet playing is much more about coordination than strength. Only lately am I starting to get the sense that I would benefit from a little more strength (but I would describe it more as endurance-type strength, not power) as I feel that I’m playing pretty efficiently above the staff and very consistently as well.
The amount of pressure it takes to move the dial much at all surprises me–I find it very doubtful that it’s necessary to obtain the ability that Larry demonstrates achieving with the system. But he does not state that you have to achieve the level he does, nor does he appear to state that you need to achieve a certain strength level to achieve a certain desired pitch, etc. It’s really more of a muscle building tool that can be used away from the instrument.
It could be more effective to practice harmonic slurs and lip slurs and Clarke technical studies to build the muscles in the aperture corners. However, if a player were playing incorrectly to begin with, it’s possible that they would never build up their strength in the right muscles–which perhaps is Larry’s point. Again, I only just received it and haven’t used it much at all.
I plan on not jumping in with both feet as I’ve been playing better than ever and had things detour sideways a bit after overdoing some long tone exercises trying to build my strength/endurance/range.
I’m going to try to incorporate a small amount of isometric exercises, probably at the end of my practice session after I’m already tired just to get a little extra stimulation. And probably not everyday–especially if I don’t feel good the next day, I’ll probably stop.
I also plan on going back and working on Clarke’s Fifth Study (Technical Studies)–I had worked up to playing all the way through to the High F above High C my first year of WindWorks, but wasn’t able to use my range above the staff to play musically in a consistent, controlled way with different dynamics. I could slur up to it relatively relaxed, but struggled as I started articulating, etc.
WindWorks is designed brilliantly by having us cycle through all of the various articulations for each not, BTW. If I would have stuck close to the WindWorks course and less time on unstructured personal experimentation, I would have probably saved a ton of time… But, no regrets–I’m happy where I’m at now and I feel like I really know what I’m doing and can recognize what I’m doing wrong when that occurs.
Thanks. I, and many others, can identify with your experiments on the side. I’ve really liked how Greg has developed MTM content to present strategies, how-to, encouragement and reinforcements to help us stay the course with his core approach, while being thoughtfuland realistic about how other ideas are considered. I’m trying to devote more time to understanding as many dimensions of this as I can.