Weekly Trumpet Tips 3/29/16

Trumpet Shadow

The Shadow

Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:

(1)  DON’T Over Blow!

(2)  Balance!

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Tip #1 – DON’T Over Blow!

Let me start tip #1 by saying that yes, I did skip last week.  I’ve been working / playing so much that sometimes Tuesday’s sneak up on me and are gone before I even look up.  The other thing I’d like to address is how my own playing problems expose great tips… this one is NO exception.  I caught myself over blowing (again) recently and realized how easy it is for us to slip into that playing habit without even being consciously aware of it.  Here’s how my epiphany goes:

Lately I’ve been relegated to “warm up / play gig / rest” mode.  That’s really all I’ve been able to do.  Practicing – actual “thought filled” practice hasn’t been necessarily a major part of my time lately.  So analyzing what’s going on in my playing on bad days has been relegated to – just tired or “one of those” days.  My typical “playable / usable” range is up to E above Double C – but lately, I’ve been struggling to warm up to, or even play those notes… since you are trumpet players I’m sure you understand how frustrating that is – no matter the range – you just can’t do what you normally do.

One day last week, I was having to warm up softer than I typically have as of late… and suddenly found myself playing above the E once again (insert: “I could’a had a v8” commercial)!  DUH!  It all came FLOODING back to me… I had been over blowing and over working that entire range.  It’s the same realization I’ve had – sometimes after MONTHS of struggling.  We get caught up in trying to hear ourselves and be heard SO much that we start getting into the “GO FOR IT” mode.

I may be mis-quoting who actually said this, but I’ll give Dizzy credit for it.  We get sucked into the “2 Foot Dis-advantage” and start over playing.  Think about it… we stand nearly 2 full feet BEHIND where our sound is actually coming from.  And unless we’re playing into a solid reflective object, sometimes our sound just disappears (or so it seems), so we start to compensate for it… playing louder.  Take away any other fatigue-causing activity with trumpet playing and just look at over playing.  When you start to play louder there are 2 main physical things that go against playing higher.

#1 – Our aperture has to enlarge / open.  A more open aperture allows “more” air through but does NOT help the cause of needing FASTER air.

#2 – Because our aperture is more open, we start pushing MORE air through… the more air that’s coming through, the more the lip and facial muscles start to get over worked so that they can maintain an overall embouchure setting.

Because facial muscles are “fast twitch” muscles, they cannot withstand a great amount of output for very long like your legs or abdominal muscles can (those are slow twitch muscles).  Result – we get tired and start struggling to play.

Not only does all of this kill your range and endurance, but it starts to hinder your tone and intonation as well.  There is always a multitude of problems that come along with over working… these are the main ones off of the top of my head.

So my best tip advice for you this week is to NOT over blow when working on the upper register.  This DOES NOT mean don’t support the notes with air.  This means simply to not try and blow the back wall down with a Triple octave Z!!!  Learn to control and balance these upper register notes (no matter the range).

Tip #2 – Balance!

To go along with Tip #1, I wanted to discuss the balancing act between what we have to do with the air and what we want to try and avoid doing to the lips.  Playing softly helps you identify this balance more easily and you can also start to feel if the lips are wanting to curl inward to try “take over.”  The caveat is that eventually you will have to start to push these notes louder… but building an initial idea of what they feel like when played relaxed is invaluable information.

You don’t have to do anything specific, so exercises, scales, arpeggio’s, etc. are all free game!  Try working everything from chromatic steps to wider leaps and intervals so that you can reliably find the upper register notes.  But remember… do NOT over blow!  You’re looking for a balance between the lips and the air – or a coordination.

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”

– Earl Nightingale: American author, motivational speaker

Have a GREAT week!