Hi Greg, back at it again. WELCOME BACK BUDDY!
I’m like a bad rash you can’t get rid of. I started rewatching the videos today. I’ve been really thinking about this point of difference. What if you can’t figure out where that is or if there is one?
Okay, this is where CLOSED EYES is ESSENTIAL. Firstly, if your take the BCH breath, is that a familiar feeling? Secondly, when you hum PASSIVELY, does the feel of the air pressure behind the lips and the ease of singing feel like playing?
Why is playing not fun for you? Since we are putting it all out there, what issues are you having? For people reading, Bill is a KILLER player and perfect example of everything I am talking about.
Probably my biggest strength of playing is my sound. If you think there is no audible or physical indicator how do you know what to fix?
Again, if you sense no difference from the PASSIVE hum to the PASSIVE play in the low register, then you are either not noticing it OR it is not there. SO, if it is not there, then the next step is to ask WHERE do your issues arise?
In my mind I take a big, relaxed backswing, I do the slingshot without any pushing (except at louder volumes), and I even play higher notes and do flexibility acrobatics without any abdominal activity.
Based on this I can’t ascertain what problems you are actually having! 🙂
I do think that I play with an “M” lip setting. I probably clamp as I go higher which is why my range is limited above high C. Ultimately I don’t know what my problem is, I just keep spinning my wheels with not much or any improvement.
So we are talking about limited range development?
I desparately try to keep my playing from getting worse, which from time to time, I think it is.
What do you mean by this? How worse?
I’ve told you my struggles of getting a vibration to happen with the open setting but I will patiently stick to the process even if I can’t get to results practice since no sound will come out.
Again, I need to know what we are working on based on the issues you are experiencing.
A couple questions on that: if you play with such an open aperture, won’t it be necessary to breathe way more often because you’re releasing air so much faster?
There is a thesis in this question!!! When you say “such an open aperture” what are you meaning? As I say in the Largo Videos, I am developing a feeling/recognition of freedom and exposing the Aperture Corners. “Do I play all notes all over the range with that setting? No!”
All we are doing is creating a sensation that can be referred to as range or volume increases.
And yes, as you play louder, more air/energy is lost due mostly to friction and keeping the sound wave active, NOT BLOWING THROUGH THE HORN. Apparently only about 5% of the energy that we use is emitted in sound. Again, we are simply displacing the air in the instrument and the amount of displacement is determined by the flow which is controlled by the size of the aperture.
Also, you say that you don’t play like that all through the range of the instrument – can you elaborate on that?
Okay, what I mean is the SHAPE changes BUT the feeling of freedom of airflow and the free and easy response of the lip oscillator remains the same. Yes, aperture corners, embouchure/face muscles work more because of the added air pressure but because we have eliminated the clamp/pinch of the middle of the lip, there is still a feeling of freedom
REMEMBER, there is far less air moving on a higher frequency than a lower frequency and problems arise when people overblow the air tightening the lips up and getting a build up of pressure in the throat.
Opening a can of worms. I have read so much information from so many people, I have watched so many videos of people trying to explain what works for them, and I have had quite a few lessons from many pros so I have heard practically everything that’s out there. To me, your concepts seem somewhat similar, at least with lip formation, to what Larry Meregillano teaches. He pushes 4 concepts and I want to know your thoughts about these:
1) Pencil exercise – not the typical clamping the lips over the pencil and holding it. Put the pencil between the teeth. Then blow air “through” the pencil. The idea is that the pencil diameter is roughly the same as what you want the aperture to be.
Cool, I love the psychology of this. My issue with the pencil and other similar gadgets is psychologically it can suggest you must BE STRONG in the lips to grip down on the pencil THIS IS BAAAAAAAD and physically it just encourage the pinch.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying the aperture is as wide as the circumference of the pencil and of course the aperture is different for every pitch and/or volume HOWEVER using the teeth should help with not clamping the lips. This exercise would encourage an isometric exercise for the facial muscles.
BUT AGAIN, whilst there is muscle conditioning in the face required to play, an emphasis on strength can trigger force and manipulation. An emphasis on freedom encourages efficiency and purity of sound.
2) Hermetic seal exercise – Plug the end of your mouthpiece with a pencil. Pucker your lips forward like you are saying boo. Attempt to play the mouthpiece. Obviously nothing comes out but he believes this will build the necessary muscle around the mouth corners required to play, especially in the upper register.
I think I answered this above. I am not really a fan of resistance training; imagine the back pressure that this exercise is encouraging! You can develop the conditioning you need from playing the instrument. I would keep any of these isometric activities to sitting in on the beach when on holidays.
3) Cat Anderson whisper G. Bring front teeth (incisors) together lightly. Purse lips forward. Play a very soft G. Repeat forever. Concept here again is building that forward motion of the lips and creates a vibrating surface in front of the teeth, causing an aperture tunnel for the air to travel through.
I absolutely love this exercise BUT people generally do it incorrectly. It is the harmonic of the note in the air, not the lip engagement that was intended (from my research, I may be wrong here).
If this exercise (I’ll do a video) is done correctly, you are planting a sensation/feeling that is desirable when playing. This is a perfect example of doing something basically unrelated to playing but the benefits flow through.
4) Palm exercise. Rest trumpet on palm of hand and play a low C. Attempt to slur up through the harmonic series as high as you can. Use no pressure. Again the lips have to meet the trumpet and not the other way around.
There is air pressure required to play the instrument so to create a seal at the aperture corners, a little arm action is required.
It depends on the intention of the exercise but generally I am not a fan.
It sounds awful and can encourage all kinds of manipulation to get it happening. I agree of course that excessive arm pressure can be damaging but this is demonstration is misleading.
Don’t worry I have seen dudes doing demos of this but it sets a terrible psychology and is misleading to the student.
Any merit to these or should I not waste my time?
I hear guys say that when they get tired their corners hurt or get sore. This never happens to me. I play with an M formation against the teeth.I don’t think that I use excessive pressure but when I get tired I feel it in my top lip.
You will notice the difference once we get you happening.
It seems to me that because you make a beautiful sound, you have been reluctant to let go of what you are doing already and is already “working”. You mentioned that no sound happens when doing the WindWorks exercises and that is because you haven’t “let go” yet.
It can and will work for you when the frustration/surrender equation gets to the point, which I suspect it has now, where you are prepared to let go of:
I am writing this as much for readers of this post as I know you are there and totally get it Bill.
I have a funny, true but controversial idea “I don’t care if it sounds good, I want it to be right!”
After a while my response goes, my range goes, and then before long I can barely get my lips to vibrate past an A without extreme overblowing.
NOW WE’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE!
This is symptomatic of inefficient playing of course. So to save a million words, I will just say that you will be able to make the same sound (or even better) making the transition.
This is how I get through gigs, on a wing and a prayer.
If it is of any consolation, you are not alone. There are pro players across the globe dealing with these issues and I thank you for being so open and candid about it on this forum!
Often I’m done before the gig is. My range sucks. I’ve got a show coming up next month that has E’s and F’s all over the place. There’s no chance of me doing that. Guess I’ll be taking things down an octave a lot like a little boy. I want to be a big boy. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of being afraid of going into every single gig wondering when my chops are going to crap out.
You need to consider the gear you are using too…”
I’ve tried many, many other approaches. I’ve had lessons with pros, chop docs, lead players, orchestral players in person and online. I have pumped thousands of dollars into lessons, clinics, conferences, courses, books, equipment, you name it. I have almost hung up the towel several times. My mood is always tied to how well I’m playing and when I play like crap (in my mind) I feel like crap. I just want to be a happy trumpet player who can successfully do the job I was hired to do.
OMG, I mentioned to you on youtube that I am about to do my most important video trumpet chat ever and it is directly related to all of the above. You think you have it bad?! You should see some of the things I have seen recently… stand by!!!
I’m putting my trust in you, buddy. This may be my last stop on the train. I hope it is, with a successful outcome. If not, maybe I can be a 3rd trumpet player the rest of my life. Heaven forbid!
All I can say is that I will help you however I can. As you may have heard me say, I got to the point of wanting to give up but then hit the science books to figure it out.
Mate, this takes time, emotional calmness and repetition of pure process, far more repetitions than what people appreciate; take it from me and my left handed golf endeavor as well as my own playing/learning experiences.
I am going to post under this an email reply that I sent to a person with some Musicians Focal Dystonia issues.
We will get there mate. Greg
Here are parts of a reply to an email I recently sent:
Some answers for you:
What is your motivation for playing trumpet, pleasure or proving something? Yes a question can be an answer haha
Accepting not fighting the beast That’s what we were doing the other day making your stare it in the face Smile
Acceptance of the new approach I think you are there
Interrupting the automatic response
Give in and listen to your body
Your body is you ally not your enemy and that goes for your trumpet as well
Remove negative emotion and unwanted tension Easily said and actually easily done physically, just not psychologically
Ignore what you considered to be THE way from years gone by I’m pretty sure you have got this!
Tick those boxes and explore your trigger points then create a “non-default” pathway to find the beautiful sound you want to create.
NO emotional attachment to the immediate RESULT
NO false expectations
SIMPLY a love of playing the trumpet for the joy that the sound can bring.
Stew on all of that haha
Over analysis leads to paralysis.
Take a break.
Personally I don’t get the obsession to scream over high C ever was or is in the first place,
May as well get a piccolo and learn how to play C to F# below the staff for all the good it does to tear your hair out over the inability to play beyond what the instrument is designed for.
What I’m really getting at here is that once you get wound up too tight because you can’t do whatever feat you are trying to pull off you are finished until step back , take a break ,clear your mind , relax and understand that ultimately, the ultimate trick to the whole 9 yards , is time with the horn on the face, not days, not weeks, not months ,
YEARS and more YEARS. It’s the nature of the beast and that is exactly why I love it, what say you ?
I saw the original post and related a lot to it. I imagine everyone on this site does and Greg certainly does and has personally made it through to a successful resolution of the exact problem you’re facing.
I love the videos Larry has posted and he’s clearly a monster player. I found some of his videos helpful, but felt that the pencil exercise might be a risky diatraction–what it I did it wrong and caused more harm than good?
I’m not a pro, I dreamed of that in high school and early college but came to the realization I just didn’t have the skill and moved on 25 years ago.
I never, ever hit a high C. G above the staff was the top of my practical range. I do recall squeaking out a b natural a time or 2 in high school / college, but never touched a high C.
In early 2018, I began playing again and thanks to the “University of YouTube”, I have mastered the range through high C and even have D and E pretty well I’m control. I’m touching Double G but am avoiding focusing on range right now. I want to master the range I have than try to expand it further, for now.
My main problem, physically, was clamping down the middle of my top lip as I ascended and pivoting my head back and tucking my lower lip in–I recall a well respected teacher I studied from telling me to roll in my lower lip–oh well, no regrets. I’m happy.
I credit Greg / MTM / WindWorks with the bulk of my enlightenment in playing and helping me understand, for the first time, what many of the method books I used to practice a lot actually mean.
I’m no master and probably never will be; I don’t have a lot of the time to practice but I have made it to a point on this journey where I’m confident that I finally understand a lot more about playing than ever.
A lot of the journey for me when I was younger and even now, is mental.
I recognize in your post the frustration I have felt many times over many years.
The challenge is to let go of that frustration and any expectation of success or failure in trying the method as described and approach it with an open mind without any pre-conceived notions, except that less is more and focus on a resonant sound.
The mental letting go may be the hardest part; it certainly was for me and I suspect it was for many, many others.
I believe you can play a double C and I believe that takes more coordination of aperture corner tightness and air control and support than strength or natural talent.
I believe I can too, and that I will; in time. I don’t know when or frankly care. I have enjoyed this journey so far and am looking forward to wherever it takes me–even if it is no further than as far as I have come.
When I focus well, the ease and efficiency of playing, quality of sound and range I have experienced is like nothing I have ever experienced or thought possible.
The saying “Whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t, you are right” comes to mind.
So much of this is mental, even spiritual, and both can help and can hurt our ability.
Keep the faith. You can do this. It’s not as hard as it seems. We just make it more difficult for ourselves.
Greg, thank you for the response and the huge amount of information. I’ll try to address each question.
I believe that the BCH is a familiar feeling. However, there are times while playing when I feel rushed to take a breath. I’ve read this before, which I belive in – the first breath is always the best. I don’t see how it is possible sometimes to take the same relaxed BCH breath when you have a split second to do it in. I just do the best I can to get as much air into my body as I can in the time I’m given.
I’ll elaborate more on my issues. Endurance first, range second. I usually start each day feeling fine. I don’t need a double C. For some shows, I could use a G but I won’t be heartbroken if I can never get that. But why the hell not go for it. I need a high D at the end of the gig. During my first practice session I slowly get fatigued. Depending on how much effects the rest of my day. Many guys can rest a few hours and be back to square one on stamina. Not me. Each successive session is like draining gas from the car’s gas tank until eventually it’s empty. Game over. Fortunately, each new day usually fills the tank up again. There’s ALWAYS a feeling of fear and doubt on gig day. Am I going to make it? At this point I know the answer is always going to be no. In symphony I’ll rely on my assistant, in a show I’ll start taking lines down an octave, in quintet I hang on for dear life. My chops give out every single time. And I should be able to make it. Range development is non existant. In warm ups and 15-20 minutes into my first session I can probably play up to an F, maybe a G but it is typically thin. It’s much easier to slur up there than it is to tongue and it’s much easier to get up there by scales that by large leaps. Your comment about not being able to ascertain what problems I’m having makes it all the more frustrating. EVERYONE says this when they hear me play. But I know there is a problem. Otherwise I could play like you!
OK, here we go. The “open” vs. “closed setting. I’ve read TONS on this and have talked to countless people about this. I understand the concepts yet am confused all the more about how to actually play. In the end, I don’t know 100% for sure what I am actually doing since I can’t see inside the mouthpiece cup as I play. Even if I could I’m not sure I would know. I was always taught to form the lips as if saying the letter M. Gently touching. Put the horn on the lips, take a big relaxed breath and away we go. That is what I THINK I do in a nutshell. I demonstrate to students sometimes how it is possible to play without buzzing the mouthpiece. I form my lips that way, start moving air through the mouthpiece, put the mouthpiece into the horn while still blowing, and voila, the air turns into sound. But that’s with my lips in the M formation. I cannot do it with the MAAAOOOHHH setting. I’ve tried and tried. I will keep trying, but this is a huge frustation. You said you were able to fix your playing issues while maintaining your performances. I have to be able to do this. But when I go back to picking up the trumpet to learn music for the next gig, I have to go back to the only way of playing I know so that the notes will at least have a chance of coming out! I tried another method where you do these unorthodox exercises and then when you are done you go back to your normal playing method. The ideas is that these exercises would gradually morph into your playing. I did that stuff for a straight year with no benefits. I can’t do an embouchure change. I don’t have the time, or more importantly, the courage to leave what I have built (albeit fragile) to go into the unknown with no guarantees. My desparation is such, however, that I almost did try an embouchure change when I had a 3-month lull in gigs one summer. In the end, I chickened out.
In thinking more about my playing, when I ascend doing flexibility exercises I do close the jaw somewhat which also brings the lips together more. I know that I do not with the mouth or aperture corners inward. I understand this feeling and can do the initial MAAAAOOOOHHHH with visulizer, mouthpiece, and leadpipe. I will keep training the brain and body to do this. I do believe in it and am willing to do it for as long as it takes. I’ll devote a portion of my practice time to do it, but I obviously can’t devote all of it, and when I do go back to playing I have to again, go back to the “wrong” way so I can at least play. I am going to stay at Largo stage indefinitely. Maybe this is the one tweak for me which will make all the difference. It seems so simple yet so far away. I send your friend Dan Quigley a bunch of questions and probably bugged the s&#@ out of him. He was very kind. He said it took him a long time to figure it out. I am not good at analyzing problems in my playing (DUH), but I am fairly certain that I pinch my lips together when I ascend.
I will not bother with the other isometric exercises I mentioned and just do these Largo concepts.
Another issue – I simply cannot play loud enough in symphony. The conductor is ALWAYS asking for more sound from me. This has led to overblowing. I don’t know how to get any more sound.
It does give me some comfort to know that other players have the same struggles. I so often feel very ineffective as a teacher, which is really my main gig. I really want to be able to help my own students battle these demons and have them succeed. So failure in two arenas as a teacher and as a player over years and years is starting to get old. It makes me think that after 35 years of playing this piece of plumbing that I still don’t know the first thing about how to do it.
Mouthpieces – ugh. I don’t enjoy the mouthpiece safari. I will readily admit that I don’t experiment with them for two reasons: I’m not educated on the millions and millions of possibilities, and the expense. Oh, one more. I don’t want to give up practice time to fiddle with mouthpieces. I have noticed something strange however. For years and years I played a Yamaha 14a4a on my piccolo just fine. Played all the Bach pieces, Baroque solos, etc. and range was not a problem. I never did have the range to play the Brandenburg, however. Anyway, a few years ago, that mouthpiece stopped working for me. I would get to a certian range, maybe high C, and I would feel my lips bottom out in the mouthpiece. No more vibration. Is that a clue? I can’t figure out why that changed. I had to started playing my 3C on it just to get higher notes. Isn’t that the opposite as to what should happen? Shouldn’t the shallower pieces help with range? By the way, I play a Picket 3C on everything else. I do not switch mouthpieces for styles, switching between B-flat and C horns, nothing.
Thanks again! It means a lot and I hope we can connect online soon. I’ve got to re-read Zen and the Art of Archery. That was over my head. It was like the results came from magic or something. Maybe my dumb brain just can’t handle letting go.
HERE IT IS! Be patient, watch it all, all the way to the end. There is a lifetime of work in this video and it is by far the most important video I have ever done IMOHO! 🙂
Beautiful, thanks Greg. God bless you and your mother.
Today is my daughter’s 10th birthday–amazing how time flies faster each year. Puts things in perspective.
Your video was very helpful to me and I’m sure will be helpful to many more.
I ran across focal dystonia and Phil Smith’s experience. I wonder if I experienced a sort of focal dystonia in a way, in a positive way; I wonder if focal dystonia can be experienced by us as a way of unlearning old, bad habits.
Been making it a point to play more music lately–I think that’s important. I have limited time so it’s tempting to just work through things quickly and move from warm up to flexibility to range, etc. and never play music. Seems I play better when at least a portion of my practice / playing is musical.
Thanks for your generosity.
I think you and the original poster and all who teach who go through this struggle are better teachers for it. The more you struggle, the better teacher you become.
I think those I took from were natural players who didn’t realize what I was going through.
I will be watching this one over and over…resonated with me at such a deep, emotional level. This is healthy playing psychology…this is healthy playing physiology…balance. Thank you for making this one (including the ocean :-), and the passion and effort you put into teaching and learning. This video should be shared far and wide. It will be helpful to so many.
Thanks so much, my friend. I feel extremely special to have warranted an entire 46 minute video addressed to me! It truly means a lot. So, what do you suggest I do now? Should I just stay on the Largo foundation for a while, just practicing the breathing and Maaooohhh tutututu with visualiser, mouthpiece, and leadpipe, or should I also move into the Largo Singing C series? If I do the singing C series, I will have to play my standard way which is not with a true Maaoohhh lip setting. This is kind of where I got confused before, thinking, well I’m just doing what I normally do so nothing will change. I suppose I can really focus on not using any exertion or abdominal push, but I do believe that I don’t use that already until perhaps above the staff.
Best wishes to your mum.
“…If I do the singing C series, I will have to play my standard way which is not with a true Maaoohhh lip setting. This is kind of where I got confused before, thinking, well I’m just doing what I normally do so nothing will change…”
For me, the majority of the benefit of WindWorks has been the “Maaoohhh lip setting”.
That is, in my opinion, the cornerstone of this whole thing.
I am not a pro player, my livelihood is not dependent on my playing so I have the luxury of letting everything go and trying new thhinngs–I had nothing to lose and yet it still was hard to let go because of ego, history, etc.
I think you’re right, you’re not going to get much benefit from using your existing setup and just focusing on taking the BCH breath, not kicking air, etc.
In my humble opinion, for me, the BCH is all secondary to the concept of not clamping in the middle and not kicking air to go higher. Shape determines pitch, air determines volume. However, less is more–it seems I have the best sensations when I tighten only as much as necessary (which seems to be logical).
Greg has recommended to pro players to play their gigs on their current setup but try the Mmmmwwwwaaaaaahhhhhhooooooohhhhhh setup when doing WindWorks. Again, it’s easy for me to make a suggestion as I have nothing to lose. But it works. I’m still on this journey as well and am still learning, but I am using a much more “forward” lip position than I thought possible–I had always thinned out my lips, clamped them down and pivoted as I played; eventually running out of lip and I had no endurance and could never rely on my chops. I always seemed to have the least endurance even though I practiced more than the guys around me in high school.
I have limited time to practice and am just an amateur/hobby player doing this for personal satisfaction, but I feel like I finally get it and I don’t get too tired to play a note anymore. I do get tired toward the end of my practice sessions, but I usually go up to at least high C towards the end just to make sure it’s still there, and it always is.
I don’t have that old sensation of only being able to play the notes I want to (top of my range) for a limited time, then it going away; that doesn’t happen anymore.
The sensation I have now is that I’m playing much more efficiently and if I put more time in I would get more out of my practice than ever before and I am.
Other key things that helped me mentally was the fact that notes are MUCH closer the higher we ascend, that less air is required the higher we go and octaves–I realized that I had years of Clarke 1 in me in which I would tense up as I ascended chromatically.
Focusing on octaves and noticing how little effort difference there is between a G below the staff, a G on the staff and a G above the staff, helped me do octaves to notes I never could hit before simply by tightening the aperture and relaxing my throat / being willing to miss.
Then, once I gained confidence, I began doing Clarke chromatics again and feel like I know them for the first time now.
It’s easier than we think, the notes are there–we don’t have to do as much as we think, just a subtle tightening of the lips from the corners and not overblowing.
Also, harmonic slurs have been a big help–starting with F# (123) below the staff, I can ascend in control to C# above high C now and can do that until 1st or 2nd valve before I start realizing I’m overblowing/kicking. I’ve touched double G a number of times and even have hit double A accidentally but I’m trying not to push range too much right now I want to solidify the sensation / feeling I’m having and coordinating my air with my aperture/lip tension and focusing on my sound. I figure the range will come.
I’m also focused on growing my ability to do dynamics and my endurance/flexibility and trying to play more music–I caught myself doing the “Gladiator Trumpet” thing and just beating myself up and not having any fun, not enjoying the sound, etc.
And it seems that playing music gives me a better context for the techniques I’m trying to accomplish (i.e. articulation, slurring, having a resonant sound); playing musically seems to be a validation or test that what we’re doing is right, most efficient, etc.
Good luck / hope my experience is helpful, for what it’s worth.
Quick question – I just spent 15 minutes doing nothing but CH breath, slingshot out with just lips, then visualiser, mouthpiece, and leadpipe. Repeating over and over. I noticed that sometimes I will get a slight whistling sound through my lips, mouthpiece, and leadpipe, not with visulizer though. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Hey buddy, you’re the 3rd person to mention the whistle in the last week 🙂
I don’t have any issue with it but the more I think about it, I suspect it is symptomatic of lips that haven’t quite let go yet BUT also might be the more it happens, the closer you are to actually getting the sympathetic oscillation.
Stick with it! I cannot explain the amount of repetitions that it might take, 1. to discover it and 2. to implant it. The words I didn’t say but I alluded to is to “surrender to the process” from Zen in the Art of Archery.
If you read it, you will see it took the guy over 12 months to surrender before he “loosed the bow” correctly.
As I said earlier, I’ll help out however I can. I am up with the folks now so will be offline for until I get home Sunday afternoon for the launch of the #wihsc.
johnelwood – thanks, I suspected as much. I will continue to do the exercises with BCH, slingshot with no muscling, and placing visualiser, mouthpiece, and leadpipe until it comes.
Greg – I’ll just attempt to observe with no self-pressure or expectations. Going to start re-reading Zen today as well. I’m going to adopt Dan Quigley’s philosophy from his video – keep a visualiser with me and throughout the day return to it. I already did that last night, using it while watching TV with the wife. If she thought a was a crackpot, she kept it to herself… haha.
Great work mate. Sorry for the tardy replies, I’m down with my parents.
Not sure you understood my recommendation–it was to spend some time with the horn where you place your lips to the mouthpiece as Greg describes, Mmmmmmwwwwwaaaaahhhhhhooooooo, perhaps more of a “forward” embouchre than what you’re used to (than what I was used to), with the sensation of OOOoooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh (tightening the corners).
I recommend trying octaves low G below the staff to G on the staff to G above the staff by just tightening (slightly, only as much as needed; be willing to miss the note), then A…
I felt how little incremental effort the G above the staff is than the G on the staff is…
Then I moved to A… I think you’ll experience what I did–a revelation that the A is right there just by tightening the corners slightly, it’s not hard and requires no kick of the air or tilting back of the head, rolling in of the lip. It’s just right there.
And that B is only 2 half notes above that, and high C is only 1/2 a step higher…
For me, that was the big reveal that led me shortly thereafter to playing my first ever High C.
I’ve been having great sensations lately, this morning was great–seems like Double G is becoming part of my useful range now and I’m moving up to A natural, which is only a stones throw to Double C–my ultimate goal. I think my ultimate goal would be to “own” a Double C, nothing higher.
Now, when I play/practice, I don’t get tired to the point that I start losing range anymore like when I was in high school / practicing a ton. Now, my new way of playing seems more efficient and effective where I’m not tearing myself down anymore but am building myself up.
Looking forward to seeing your post when you have your “coffee moment” as Greg describes… Keep at it, it will come in only a matter of a short time…if you let go.
I’m not even trying to play the horn at this point. Just many, many repetitions of BCH breath, slingshot, Maaaooohhh with lips, then visualiser. I’ll eventually switch to mouthpiece. Then maybe to leadpipe sparingly. I don’t want to force results. I did have a moment where a low buzz emerged from the leadpipe but I kept wondering whether that was a mistake and I was manipulating. The lips are much more forward than I am used to. Different is good. Continuing the retraining. I’ve jumped in completely. I’m pretty obsessed. I’ve always got a visualiser and even when I’m not using it I’m moving the lips maaaooohhhtutututu. I do notice that sometimes I don’t get the same airflow with the visualiser, as if it blocks the airstream at times. Trying to make sure I place it properly on the lips and that it doesn’t close down the aperture.
Got it. I think the long break I took helped me avoid repeating mistakes from the past and force myself to focus on new sensations. I didn’t personally spend a lot of time on the visualiser, but perhaps that’s why I wound up sliding backwards and losing my way a bit. Hopefully you avoid that experience, but progress is rarely a straight line upward.
I’m having great experiences lately, again this morning–I had practiced 2X yesterday (in the morning and again in the evening after work). And I did a lot of flexibility exercises pushing through the max of my range. I tried not to push too hard into Gladiator Trumpet, but figured I’d be a little stiff or tired this morning since it wasn’t that long since I practiced the evening before.
Instead, my chops felt and performed amazing, felt pretty fresh even though there was a slight tingle feeling like they were still recovering.
My harmonic slurs moved up 2-3 levels and my ability to play is strengthening. I’ve been more consistent lately doing some flexibility exercises without removing the mouthpiece from my lips and not resting till I get through it. It’s not too taxing, but I do feel like it’s doing something for me in building up my endurance.
Also think I had somewhat of an epiphany / coffee moment in that I think I was perhaps overdoing my avoiding pressure on my lips and might have been not achieving a great seal on my top lip and may have kind of been pulling away slightly still towards the top of my range. I think it was subtle but it seems there was something slightly wrong which may have been attributing to my lack of dynamic control; my sound felt a little thin towards the top of my range.
I started placing the top of the mouthpiece on my lips first rather than the bottom and tilting upward; minor thing I suppose but it seems like it’s helping me achieve a better seal and have even better sensations and feel what my lips are doing / supposed to be doing as I ascend and may be helping me get better compression in my lips (not kicking with my abs / the air) as I ascend.
I’m having a sensation of my top lip between the mouthpiece and my teeth as I ascend, whereas when I was younger I think I kind of avoided that feeling by thinning out my lips and pivoting the bell down / head back and rolling my lip in/under. I was probably smashing my lips a bit, therefore losing endurance, strength, tearing myself down.
Now, I don’t move much at all I just kind of tighten my lips gradually from the corners/sides, slightly towards the center of the aperture as I ascend. At times, I do get a slight sensation that my top lip is getting squished into a “fish face” type feeling but the notes are coming well and easier than I ever imagined possible and it all is feeling more and more right and consistent.
I can’t wait to play tomorrow (Saturday), when I won’t have to play too early or late and won’t need the mute and can blow free and see where my range and dynamic control is at and how it feels to blow free, how my sound is doing, etc.
Sorry for the long post(s), don’t mean to hijack the thread. I’m excited for you–I think you’re close to having the “coffee moment”; it’s just a matter of time, relaxing and letting go and just experimenting / experiencing different sensations and focusing on what makes your sound more resonant and it easier to do harmonic slurs and what makes those things harder / worse, then refining and refining until you’ve finally narrowed your focus into a smaller circle.
All my best, John.
Thanks, John. Your posts are very helpful and I appreciate them. Maybe my coffee moment is not far off…
John and wjtakacs,
I’ve been following your posts with interest. I had aspired to progress quite far with the horn, although I was a pianist first, and started on the horn in my late 40s. I’m currently dealing with some serious playing issues that seemed to build as I continued to play with too much tension, particularly with more challenging repertoire. Over the years, I’ve been taught a spectrum of concepts and techniques, especially regarding air support, embouchure, horn angle and playing effort. Now I’m finding that everything has come to a head, and I can’t run from my situation. I must fix it if I aspire to continue playing and performing with the groups I’ve been in. Part of this involves surrendering to the rebuilding process, letting go of control, being willing to sound like crap, trusting the direction, not paralyzing myself with over-analysis and not being hard on myself. This is a difficult journey, and I’m not sure where it will lead, but I know I can’t continue to play the way I have in the past. It takes time to undo old patterns and replace them with healthier ones. I also believe that when we reach a point of surrender, we open ourselves up to the best opportunity to make positive, lasting change.
Welcome to the journey, Wild_flower. For what it’s worth, it seems to me that the deeper the valley / the darker the bottom we reach, the sweeter it is when we resolve our issues and are free.
And, I believe, the whole point of it all is that it’s much easier than we’re making it out to be. If we think about it, the whole point of it all is that we need to interact with the air column as little as possible–only enough to nudge it the way we need to (i.e. tighten the aperture to change pitch). Less is more, less air is required the higher we ascend, etc.
I’m still on the journey as well and catch myself doing stupid stuff (i.e. kicking with the air to reach even higher, etc.) but more an more with time I feel like I’m solidifying good sensations, good new understandings of what I should be doing with slight adjustments to my embouchre, etc.
I’m confident that you’ll get there in time and that I’ll continue progressing as well. It helped me reading the pointers at the bottom of the WIndWorks home page, watching the videos, doing the lessons and expirimenting with the concepts in my own way so I understood it for myself.
When I was in high school and junior high and into college, I took a lot of lessons from reputable teachers and practiced countless hours of Clarke, Arban, Schlossberg, Stamp, etc., etc. But I never progressed much above the staff.
At the end of the day, we can’t just show up and go through the motions and expect to get a result that we want. We must own what we’re doing, understand it for ourselves and do it in such a way that benefits us or we’re not going to get the results we want or need. We need to understand what each exercise is doing,
For me, the magic was in the ease of which harmonic slurs, especially octaves, began happening when I focused on what WindWorks suggests, tightening my embouchre / the aperture from the corners/sides and keeping the middle of my upper lip relaxed / trying not to clamp down in the middle and focusing on not kicking the air / staying relaxed in my throat, etc. It felt weird and didn’t seem to make sense and like it would never work, but I gave it a shot and was willing to fail / miss the note–no big deal, nothing bad would happen from that, I would just learn another way that didn’t work. But it did work and I got a glimpse into a different way of playing that now makes more sense and connects to what was described in many of the other method books–I understand what Clarke meant when he wrote that the lips should tighten towards the mouthpiece as you ascend. I think I misunderstood that before, that I should clamp down top to bottom. He really meant contract in a circle towards the center of the air column flowing through the mouthpiece like Maggio described and how WindWorks describes. All the methods seem now to be more alike than not, whereas before they seemed contradictory to each other in a lot of ways.
One thing I did that helped me personally too was focusing on my whistling. I always liked whistling and my playing the trumpet seemed to help me be a better whistler; I’m not sure how much of a correlation there is or if this will help others. But I noticed that when I wanted to whistle higher, I arch my tongue while tightening my lips towards the air column going through the aperture in my lips and that when I focused on clamping down from the top of my middle lip downward, the vibration stopped and the sound stopped. Also, the pitch stops when we’re whistling if we overblow. There are obviously differences between whistling and playing trumpet, but that helped me a bit mentally as I tried focusing on doing the right thing when playing, etc. FWIW
Thank you Bill and Greg for your masterclass in how this sight works. Invaluable to us all.
It has reinforced my recent thoughts re purity of process. Having dipped into Emerald after some reasonable responses in Ruby I have gone through all the course from the beginning yet again in the last few weeks and have reached Andante A. Each time I go back it is more demanding to get the initial exercises absolutely perfect as the magnifying glass shows more detail. It is a long road but each time I go back I feel the general improvement in my playing and I do many more repetitions of Largo to warm up after 5 minutes on trombone. I then do whatever status I have reached. I hope to get back to Ruby and beyond but without compromise.
Thank you Greg for your devotion to the cause.
This is crazy, I’ve read this thread several times over the last month or so. I was about to post something when I read Bill’s post, and was surprised at how similar his story was to mine.
For me, full time playing and teaching career, with years and years of lessons, books, clinics, methods, and systems, with virtually no increase in range or endurance. However,
I’m noticing some positive changes in these last few months.
I’m finally getting a grasp on the aah-oooh set up. I play waaaaay too tense and over breathe on everything, but I’m noticing it and slowly eliminating it. With my current set up, I can get through almost the whole program, but with lots of pressure, clamping, and tension (and pain!). Also there’s not much volume above a third leger line E above the staff since I curl my bottom lip under my top lip which starts around a top space G.
While doing the exercises, I frequently have my left hand on my stomach to ensure I’m playing completely passive. It’s made a huge difference in endurance and my mouth compression has increased a ton.
During my normal set up, I’ve been able to transfer more pressure to my bottom lip, which increases endurance e a lot. There’s still a long way to go to ever be able to play with any real volume up high, which is why I’m biking my “second building.”
I’m not sure if this question has been asked, but it seems like many have the same concern, just worded differently:
Will the “two buildings” magically merge one day? Or will I eventually switch over once my new building has enough repetitions and strength built up?
Thanks in advance, there’s been so much great info here.
Here’s a video in which Greg explains the two building concept–I believe it starts at about 21:03 in this video if you want to skip ahead. The whole video is useful/great.
I can’t really advise on how the 2 building concept works as I did not have playing commitments to tend to, so I dove completely into playing a new way and experimenting.
But my understanding is that gradually, our brains develop new neural pathways based upon the new sensations and one day we no longer have 2 ways of playing but one optimally efficient way.
Hope that helps, FWIW, my $.02, etc. Happy Holidays.
What a great thread! Bill – thanks for being brave and vulnerable to share your struggles!
I do want to remind you, all of you really, that YOU are NOT your trumpet playing! If you play well, or play poorly, it is absolutely no reflection on YOU as a person.
You’ve had a lifetime of learning the traditional, less effective way of playing. This way was taught to you by well-meaning band directors and instructors just trying to see you achieve playing that one note, that one musical selection, and they likely don’t know how to play freely and efficiently either. They assume this is how everyone does it (because nearly everyone does play inefficiently).
Be patient – and be kind to yourself – and be willing to explore a new way.
I’m having a problem right now where, as I try to migrate to a new tone, I’m developing crappy habits with my normal playing. I’m finding that I can’t hit notes accurately, when that NEVER used to be an issue I had.
The way I’m fixing it lately has been by purposefully switching back to my old bad habits, and then trying to let the new habits come in to make me feel better when I remember that clenching my throat feels just as crappy as hitting bad notes.
I’m just wrapping up largo fundamentals, and I’m really hoping there will be some exercises or advice for navigating this switch. It hasn’t been an issue at shows yet (in fact, at a recent live show, some folks who had seen me play a couple years ago told me they were amazed at how well my tone has progressed)… YET… but this new open-but-crap playing is kind of scaring me.
Any thoughts on this are appreciated; I’m also just commenting here to process what I’ve learned and skimmed through on the forum so far, as well as to set an email notice reminder to myself to come back to this thread and read more bits of it. It’s long and it looks like y’all have put a lot of thought into these subjects; sorry if I repeated anything that was already discussed!
I’ve had similar worries so a huge thanks for posting this – it’s reassuring to know it’s not just me! I’ve just started on the Allegro stage and keep looking to the next lesson to tell me how to absorb new things into my existing playing. There’s nothing yet but I don’t think that’s how it works.
I find that improvements sneak in unbidden, even unnoticed and often you’ll get something you weren’t expecting – an effortless high note or crazy big resonance half way through a phrase, then it will just disappear again. You can try to “encourage ” it by sticking to your new technique. If that works, great! If not, don’t be disheartened; try again another day. Chances are, whatever music you’re playing doesn’t match the pitch, or air in your lungs, tempo or dynamic of the M2M exercises so all the other moving parts get in the way of the new (and not-yet-fully-embedded) technique you’re trying to apply.
In a gig you just have to do whatever is needed to get the notes out. If it’s not technically correct be aware of the imperfections but don’t beat yourself up about it. You can review and improve it back home when you haven’t got 100 people listening in.
To paraphrase Greg, trust the process and be patient. That said, I would love to know if anyone has some hints for speeding up the process of absorbing new skills into everyday playing.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
WindWorks is the most modern, easy to use and logical approach to trumpet playing available. MTM/WindWorks offers you Step-By-Step troubleshooting advice.
Following on from the global success of his books, Greg Spence has built the WindWorks Course as a vital resource for trumpet beginners and pros alike.