Was dealing with feeling like I was sliding backwards, losing ability for a bit.
That used to really bother and frustrate me and it’s still not fun, but each time it happens I feel more and more confident of the outcome–that I’ll find my way again, and usually am the better for the experience. We learn from failure, they say, and I’ve learned a lot the past couple of years… 😉 I’ll let you do the math…
The past week or so, I’ve been working myself back out and today had great sensations, resonance, range and remembered what “great” felt like.
I realized I was doing what I have done so many times before, focusing too much on Shape and neglecting the Air.
I used to overblow, and one way I got out of that was by playing softly and using less air / focusing mostly on Shape with Passive air.
Lately, I’ve realized I’ve been on the other side of the spectrum, not releasing enough air or consistent air.
Today, as I tried to “lead with the air” and keep the air flowing through a phrase and only changed shape in response to the air, my consistency improved and sound opened up above the staff.
I wasn’t playing loud at times, but I could and did (which was fun) at times.
I felt / though of the air behind my lips as supporting my embouchure, kind of like a ball floating on a column of air, my lips relaxed to vibrate freely inside the mouthpiece.
At times, it felt more like I was pushing my lips forward and outward towards the rim of the mouthpiece and shrinking the inner diameter of the aperture, which interacts with the air column. It felt like I was using the ring of muscle surrounding the lips while keeping the lips relaxed.
A balance between Air and Shape. It felt and sounded great, whereas I had been struggling with consistency at different dynamics, articulation, etc.
I realized I was doing too much with Shape and not focused on good air (BCH), which I was taking for granted.
When the air is there, and I am merely responding to the air, then all is good.
I suppose you could have a Ferrari, but without gasoline in the tank it’s not going to run very good. Not that I’m a Ferrari…
And, by the way, its not lost on me that WindWorks lays this all out for us…that is my point. It’s easy to lose sight of things, but it gets easier and easier to find my bearings.
I love your posts John, they are always very instructive and encouraging!
Thanks E, glad if my ramblings are useful.
Really feeling like I’m on a roll with my renewed focus on air.
I was feeling like I was having an epiphany or coffee moment yesterday and today.
I feel like the genius of why harmonic slurs, Stamp and Clarke are so important and effective is that, when done right, we are effectively and efficiently coordinating Shape and Air, leading with the air through the aperture and responding only as much as necessary.
It occurred to me that I at times was oversimplifying things by giving more air or clamping to much when trying to play higher or softer (above the staff).
But, it must be possible to play soft and loud above the staff, obviously, and the air required soft and loud is obviously different. But the quality and resonance of the sound should be just as good loud or soft.
I was inconsistent playing above the staff. I was playing easily and resonantly above the staff right after warming up, then having an airy/raspy sound later.
But when ascending back up in a scale, the airiness /raspiness was gone. And I wasn’t tired.
I realized I wasn’t leading with air and was slightly over engaging, or just engaging before the air or not releasing enough air.
When re-focusing on the air or starting /leading with air, the raspiness /airy sound disappeared.
When keeping the air flowing through Stamp, Clarke and harmonic slurs, or a musical phrase, we can feel the balance between Air and Shape like wind through the sails on a sailboat and (when things are balanced) achieve optimal resonance / efficiency.
Today, I had what felt like my “Coffee Moment” of coffee moments…
While I had developed an ability to play a High C and beyond a couple years ago, my consistency and predictability hasn’t been as good as I want it to be. I chalked that up to my not being able to practice as much as I should or lack of structure; and I’m sure those issues were in fact part of my problem.
But, today I realized that I was subtly engaging my lips when playing above the staff at times–and THAT was what was causing the airiness / raspiness of tone.
I’m not talking about clamping down top-to-bottom with my lips like I was doing before, or what seemed like anything extreme. But, even a relatively subtle engagement of the lip tissue was causing airiness / raspiness, whereas when I relaxed it went away.
This felt huge to me, even though I knew I am supposed to play relaxed / open–but I was doing that relatively successfully; I had worked myself up to playing up to an F or G above High C and even beyond that a few times. But my consistency wasn’t satisfactory.
And now, I know exactly what to do when I get that sound.
And it makes perfect sense–that is why an 8 year old kid can pick up a trumpet and play a resonant High C by accident, whereas someone who’s been banging their head on the wall for decades can’t–because our natural inclination is OPPOSITE from what it is that we need to do to be successful.
An analogy I mentioned on another thread came to mind today when I had this ephiphany–when I used to mountain bike a lot, I learned quickly to let go of my brakes when losing traction on a steep rocky descent in order to regain traction (the opposite of my natural inclination, which was to clamp down harder to stop).
The same is true with trumpet–what did I do when the sound was airy above the staff? I blew harder or engaged the lips more.
But, as I said above, Volume is independent of Pitch–it has to be possible to play resonantly with a good sound at PPP and FFF. We can’t ignore the composer’s dynamics and blow harder to improve our tone; that doesn’t make sense and goes against the principles of WindWorks.
I think I understand perhaps for the first time how to play the trumpet–I had a sense of balancing the air and shape and how and where to engage the muscles.
I had the sensation/image of each note being a ball floating on a column of air that I was trying to keep from falling before getting to the next note, etc. And connecting the notes, balancing the engagement of the muscles outside edges of the mouthpiece and letting the lips stay relaxed.
I’ve had good success using the F-sharp and G double octave harmonics in the Presto Status Stage, but I continue up chromatically to High C, incorporated into my daily warm-up. It’s great for working different dynamics and achieving the balance you refer to. In working above high C I try keeping a mental picture of the bar straw between the lips. The clearer the mental image the clearer the sound for me.
Have a good day,
Thanks Brian! I’ll give it a shot. Amazing how much our mind appears to influence things. Visualizations seem very powerful.
Brian, I’ve been loving that bar straw between the lips trick…thank you! I’ve moved from the 1.25C MP that I went to back to my 40 year old 3C (maybe not quite that old) and have been on a tear the past couple days…I think I made it to “11”… 🙂