WindWorks Trumpet Academy › Forums › WindWorks › Pops McLaughlin and his didgeridoo trick
Hello to this board members and to Greg the founder!
I’ve been following Greg’s trumpet teaching pedagogy for years but I must admit I haven’t focused seriously on the method. However I always watch with interest Greg’s new videos and try to soak his ideas up.
Greg – you are probably well familiar with the Clint Pops McLaughlin’s trumpet pedagogy and in particular with his “Play effortlessly” brochure that’s available from his web site for $20.
The core idea of the Pops’ method isn’t a mystery (that leads to mastery ;)) and it was freely discussed by Pops on the TH forum and those familiar with the method know about the first step to relaxing the embouchure – “the Didgeridoo trick”.
As an ironic side note – Greg! – it had to be you 🙂 Pops and didgeridoo? Where is Pops and where is didgeridoo? Pops the McLaughlin should’ve come up with some relaxation idea using bagpipes (and good ol’ Scotch)! 🙂
Anyway the method outlined in the brochure is quite straightforward but what I’m suspicious about is that Pops claims that once he applies this method to his students they immediately change the way they play from tensed to effortless. Under his supervision it takes as little as 6 hours and “on your own” it may take couple days or so.
I have no didgeridoo but once I glanced through the method I got the Pops’ idea clearly and it’s obviously not far from Greg’s “Ah-uh – Tuh-Tuh-Tuh” basic idea. In fact – what could be different?
We can all have a mental picture of Tine Thing Helseth in our mind – when I look at her playing I sometimes don’t believe it’s possible at all 😉
However finding a relaxed feel of low C is one thing (Thing?) and maintaining this feel and playing attitude up the range is a totally different effort when it comes to practice (effortless effort?).
I have a feeling that Pops can actually set a student on the right path in one lesson judging by his strong vital personality but to maintain what was achieved in person one should probably be prepared for a long journey on the Pops’ ship.
To get it right on your own from the brochure using a didgeridoo? – Not quite sure…
Thanks for your post. I’ve heard of Pops of course and have taught people that have had lessons with him but I don’t know his methods. I haven’t been to his site. I don’t have enough time for my own at times 🙂
I’d prefer not to comment on your suspicions other than saying you are always wise to question.
I’m sure he is an enthusiastic teacher but beyond that I honestly can’t comment.
As I have done for many years, I encourage people to look at everything and find what works, eliminate what doesn’t. What you have here at WindWorks is a course of action based on my personal experiences.
All the best,
Or, sorry if I sounded if I questioned the Pops methods and his success as a teacher. He must be a great teacher according to numerous testimonials to his trumpet school.
I only wanted to suggest and idea that there is no probably quick and easy solution that can immediately change one’s concept of playing and make a sudden transition from tense -> to -> effortless playing regardless of what means are used.
That’s what you Greg mention in some of your videos and it makes a lot of sense. Changes probably take months, at the least and all that time one must be aware of his new approach and what is more important not to deceive themselves that they move towards a new way of playing while substituting new concepts with the old habits.
Sorry, just rambling.
Hi SvV, thanks for your thoughts. I have seen people make astonishing changes by merely exposing them to new sensations, however, I never expect that to happen with everyone.
Our playing is so deeply wired that generally it takes longer to find the root cause in the psychology and to amend it.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ve heard a bit about Pops. Some have said some of his concepts are similar to Greg’s. There are probably a lot of different ways there.
IT probably depends on the person, how long or quick it takes. For me personally, it was kind of sudden after watching some YouTube videos I started experimenting trying to play above the staff with little to no movement playing softly and the notes spoke, despite my assuming they would not.
I didn’t know what I had done and had difficulty replicating it consistently. WindWorks has helped me more than other resources keep my bearings, but we have to experiment and own our own way of playing and reach for the ideal of efficient, resonant playing / sound.
I’ve never played a didgeridoo, but I suspect it involves having to keep the lips / face loose and having the only engagement surrounding the lip tissue. When I was young in school playing everyday, taking lessons, I thought I had to form a particular, firm shape with my lips and use a lot of air, but that makes no sense. I like the analogy of the drum head or double reed (i.e. oboe), where the tension is around the vibrating surface, not in it. Like our vocal chords, we don’t tense those to sing higher–that’s opposite of what we should do.
John – I’ve already seen your posts (also in response to my ‘Big Quesion…’ thread) where you confessed that you had similar problems to what I have now, that is inability to play above the staff.
You see! – Here you say you could actually get those notes speaking.
What worries me is that I never had any success at finding them above the staff. I tried soft, hard, slow, fast, high tongue, low tongue – you name it.
Well, I now trust Greg – that’s not the way to go but what worries me again is there are probably quite a few people who play there with some excessive tension but they can do it nonetheless.
Well… I’ve read stories that some lucky beginners were getting high C’s on the first lesson – sort of natural squealers. Of course we are all different with different potential.
You can’t imagine how many times in the past, after watching some video on YT in which a capable trumpet player was showing his high C and saying ‘It’s not difficult – just make a small aperture and blow fast air – imagine 20 feet away and that High C will pop up’ – that I thought ‘Well, I know how to make it happen, it should work’ – Pshhhhhh – No – It didn’t 🙁
No one will figure it out for you. Greg and others can give you guidance, but the only way, unless you’re one of the lucky few, is through experimenting to see what works for you.
One thing that helped me in the beginning, and even now, is to play G or A below the staff (for example) then breath attack the G or A on the staff and observe how little incremental effort is involved. G above the staff was the top of my range previously, so I would next play that with a breath attack. So G below, then G on the staff then G above the staff. I would pay close attention to how little incremental effort was involved, then imagine how one whole note higher wouldnt be THAT much more difficult, etc.
I found that being willimg to fail helped a lot. As did focusing on the sound, making minor changes to make my sound better, freer, more resonant, etc.
On my side I was able to do a High C quite quick…. then all of a sudden it collapsed.
I started watching a lot of YT videos, lot of ideas, lot of different methods.. Lot of thinking. I don’t say I could play that note playing a song. Just doing it. Then nothing !
My thought is that I spent to much time overthinking and focusing on that stupide note.
The slower path is the way… It’s hard to understand. but my conclusion is without a doubt that everything should be done at a slower pace.
I also switched too much between different methods, and though there is a lot to learn for each one, maybe it’s better to stick to one at a time and don’t mix everything up with other ideas… In the end, if you mix up methods and it doesn’t work, you won’t know which method doesn’t work for you.
As for didgeridoo though, I guess it’s a good way to relax your chops. As just doing it like a horse would do… When you need to relax anyway, because of stiffness, maybe it’s because you play too tense or too long… or both of them.
Pick one method and stick with it for a good time a see if you get better… I bet Windworks will make you a better trumpet player.
Great post, G. I’ve been thinking lately about the drum head analogy–our lips vibrate like a drum head (or reed); tensing the drum head (or vocal chords) inhibits vibration, deadens the sound or even stops the vibration.
I realize now, thanks to Greg, that I was tensing the lip tissue which was working against myself.
I’m still on my journey, but have gone farther than I thought imaginable. Today, I was thinking of a ring an inch or two around the lip tissue from which we engage the muscles and reduce the size of the aperture, indirectly from the surrounding tissue, rather than from the tissue that forma the aperture itself.
That is why it to me feels at times like I’m not doing “anything” with my lips at all, and I’m using less air so I know its not air; it feels at times like I’m just sort of thinking higher and perhaps directing the air upward, although thats subtle and doesnt seem / feel key.
I think the obvious answer is I AM engaging the muscles surrounding the lips subtly/slightly and sort of indirectly reducing the aperture slightly while ascending.
I also have felt that backing off the air as I ascend results in my lips sort of naturally moving inward towards the teeth, not rolling in, just naturally flattening a little subtly against the teeth rather than pushing forward/into the mouthpiece, which I tended to do more on my 1 1/2C or 3C as opposed to the shallower MP ive been playing.
I think this is why some players (I.e. Gordon) espoused or believed they weren’t doing anything meaningful with their lips / face muscles, but instead its all about the air.
That’s probably because they weren’t over engaging their lip tissue, throat, etc. It worked for them.
But for those of us not so lucky, I think we must focus on what we’re doing or not doing with our lips before getting to the point where it feels relaxed, minimalistic and even then it’s a spectrum that perhaps no one ever reaches an ultimate ideal/perfection; we are human and have limitations. Not to mention the fact that we also have to coordinate the air, tongue, mouthpiece placement, equipment, etc.
When I feel overhwhelmed, I focus again on the quality /resonance of my sound and feelimg of freedom, resonance and efficiency and range usually increases as a side effect.