Just a few thoughts on my experiences (mostly for my own benefit). I have struggled with range, endurance and sound my whole playing experience. I was always under the impression (from teachers, other players and watching other players) that range and endurance were derived from strength. So, I developed all the bad habits without anyone correcting me, even through college and beyond; unnecessary abdomen kicking, tension in the neck and shoulders, chocking off, overblowing which led to lip clamping and a “smiling” embouchure, which led to mouthpiece pressure, and more blowing and clamping and so on.
About a year ago I started finding videos by players talking about how endurance and range were not related to strength, but was a technique to be learned, and that in actuality, it took less air to play in the upper register than in the lower register. As some of these players related their stories of their journeys, they sounded just like mine; one full of frustration. However, their successes seemed to be individual, and a structured pathway to overcome these issues was missing.
Then I came upon MTM. Greg’s “system” is very helpful. Just giving names to things, like the “valsalva maneuvere” and “focal dystonia” has been eye opening. As soon as I saw the video on valsalva I recognized it as the way I attempt the upper register, and why my sound was always thin and sharp. Identifying it, even by name, helps me work on reversing it. The the other day I saw Greg’s video on focal dystonia and psychological triggers. With that in mind, I sat down to play and determine if I had any unconscious triggers. I realized the moment I sat down, my abdomen tightened, for no reason. I hadn’t even picked up the horn yet. I relaxed and picked up the horn. As soon as I began to place the horn on my chops, and before I even took a breath, my stomach began to tighten again. So, now I go through a routine, just as a golfer goes through a pre-swing routine, to teach myself not to tighten up.
Thanks, Greg. I can now see a pathway ahead, even if the road may be long, it is still laid out and paved for me.
Hey Bob, to some that might seem like an unimportant discovery. I am so very pleased you recognise why it is so important on many levels.
I’m doing Largo exercises. I’ve finished my first week of doing nothing but them.
What I find and what I feel:
– I can play Singing C’s just fine but overtones (4ths and a 5th on C) often are very faint. Sometimes they don’t speak. Sometimes they open up for some reason. Sometimes I feel a slight kick from the belly to active them and then I tell myself: ‘Wait, wait – stop that!’
– I can hardly do overtone slurs in Singing C’s – at ‘p’ they don’t want to lock in. 4th are better but the 5th on Low C is very hard with the rules observed.
– Individual tones in Largo Status: I now begin to find the tonal center of notes but I have to make a conscious effort to make them sound resonant.
I feel that I have to adjust the embouchure shape on the fly. Weird!
– That’s it! – Although I manage to do everything from the Big open Passive Release, sometimes this release begins to “inflate” too quickly.
I feel that I have to control the amount of “release”. Bad? Normal? – I don’t know.
– I tried today to play some easy stuff with limited range just to vary my endless “Largo days”.
Actually – does anyone know a dozen of standards that don’t go up above middle D? For instance, ‘It Could Happen to You’ in the ‘native Bb’ – F Maj goes up to middle C only and it’s great tune in the context of the method.
A lot of other nice simple stuff however like ‘Here is that Rainy Day’, “The Days of Wine and Roses” and so on in the native Bb score go higher and require more effort especially with some long notes held as long tones up high. Even a tone down in the Concert key they are more challenging.
So – any suggestions on tunes similar in range to ‘It Could Happen to You’ ?
It’s important I think to have them as a singing quality ballad.
A little more of random thoughts.
– When I start the “Largo session” I “set up” my Low C with closed eyes, taking Big BCH-breath and starting to release the air into the mouthpiece with more or less loose ‘Uuuuh’-shape.
In the beginning the Low C might not even speak correctly. After maybe 5 to 10 breaths like that I find the correct ‘Uhhh’- shape tension and begin to “shape-up” my passive release until the air released produces resonant and open C.
– I don’t care about what I get in the very beginning! I let the air take care of everything.
Sounds Simple? – It is actually NOT!
– Before everything else I do maybe 20 or 30 _Long_ Low C-s in a raw. Breath-Release and so on.
– When I do Long tones in the Largo Status I don’t use metronome! At this stage I feel that it takes away my attention and I can’t properly find the tones’ center. So I only concentrate on getting a good resonant tone. Maybe later I can add a metronome. Not now. – No and don’t even ask me! 😉
I’ve been a member of windworks now for a few months, but life interruptions has prevented me from really focusing and working on the concepts until about 3 weeks ago. I’ve discovered some interesting things about my playing in those two weeks and progress seems to be painfully slow in regards to range and endurance. My sound is getting noticeably better, however.
I had a concert last night with a Christian Orchestra (commercial Orchestra in style) in which I double first trumpet. We had a one hour run through, then a one and half hour concert. My sound was better, my range was the same, and my endurance was a bit better. My focus was to relax, and get a good “back swing” and try to maintain a good “concert hall.” I was fairly successful with all of that until near the end of the concert when I started to fatigue.