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An ongoing case study. A major embouchure change



 
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Lionel
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:48 pm    Post subject: An ongoing case study. A major embouchure change Reply with quote

This Thursday it'll be two months since starting the change. A little about what I'm doing.

I. Keeping my original embouchure to play rehearsals and gigs but otherwise only practicing the new one.

II. This is not a minor or cosmetic change. Not like putting a little more upper or lower lip in the mouthpiece. This is a radical shift of my jaw position. Changes the angle of the horn coming off my face upwards between 20 to 21 degrees. Am also significantly changing the texture of my lower lip on the mouthpiece. Rolling it halfway out. In order to lengthen the aperture channel. It is this + the forward jaw positioning which has picked up another octave and a half above my former range.

The thing squeaks to well above triple C but Im not concentrating on that.

III. The goal is to achieve a clear octave or more usable range. My original chops are pretty decent. Good to high G and maybe an A to B flat above once in a while. Very experienced, big lead sound. Yet there is no way that my existing chops will ever hang a double C or higher easily. I could go into the reasons for this in a separate topic. This one is just to post results. I may update it every now and then.

Condition today: Am very glad that the first two months are over. The experience has been like a time travel back to when I was a kid and struggling with the trumpet. Just to do easy things.

After two months I'm getting more secure at initiating a tone. Practically each day it gets a bit easier to center the pitch. Something which my original embouchure learned to do 50 years ago.

My biggest foe seems to be over-training. Pushing my weaker muscles too fast. Resulting in swollen chops requiring more down time to recirculate themselves.

Short practice sessions played twice or 3x daily are more helpful than long ones. I take 1 to 2 days off per week. Due to these new muscles needing down time.

Although the new system can play solid tones up to F above double C? The embouchure responds better to middle and lower register practice. I havent done this many long tones since elementary school. As mentioned, the experience re-visits my younger days.

I now have a healthy respect for anyone who can merely play up to high C musically. Including myself. As even these basic skills did not get learned in one weekend.

Conclusion, If anyone is still interested? I may report back in 1 to 2 months. Goals for March thru April,

1. Be able to play some middle or lower register sectional parts in rehearsal without sounding unprofessional. I'm not expecting Wynton Marsallis tone by Spring. Just a decent tone which starts an attack fairly accurately on perhaps one octave of notes. Say G top of the staff down to second line G

2. To gain a smoother transition from lower register to high. This has already shown good progress.

3. To be able to blow long phrases such as Clarke Studies without the tone breaking or fading. This too has improved just in the past two months.

Over all? Its been real work but lots of fun. A huge opportunity is around the bend. Ive just gotta keep on keepin on.
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invisiblehand
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm interested in reading your results. I'm returning after a decades long layoff and thinking about embouchure changes myself to improve my playable range. Moreover, I too noticed that it's pretty easy for me to over do it and need extra time to recover.

Although my strategy is different. I just signed up for lessons that start in two weeks. I'm hoping that the guidance will make the efforts more efficient.
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Lionel
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2018 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

invisiblehand wrote:
I'm interested in reading your results. I'm returning after a decades long layoff and thinking about embouchure changes myself to improve my playable range. Moreover, I too noticed that it's pretty easy for me to over do it and need extra time to recover.

Although my strategy is different. I just signed up for lessons that start in two weeks. I'm hoping that the guidance will make the efforts more efficient.


Thank you Mr Invisible for your interest. Otherwise would need to bump my own thread lol.

As a comeback player perhaps you ought to think of which goals that you wish to attain. The simplest path would be to just continue to blow the trumpet the way you're most familiar. In addition to the lessons I like to advise "comebackers" to get at least one and better yet two playing commitments per week. Whatever your wife and kids will allow you to get away with lol.

As maintaining and holding two playing commitments pretty much assures that you'll stay with the trumpet long enough for your practice to pay some dividends. These "payments" coming in the form of improved sound/control on your music. That and plenty of strokes from your community band peers for helping them sustain this very important civic enterprise.

When all we do is practice? With or withouut a teacher? We usually dont push ourselves that much. I'm not painting trumpet playing as a chore requiring Spartan-like death march endurance conditioning. But at the same time it becomes easy to fall by the wsyside. If we arent obligated to support others by showing up and really contributing each week.

Even during my new embouchure development I still signed on for two weekly playing rehearsals. One, a typical community concert band. That and a fine big band jazz emsemble at the local junior collrge. And I will admit that there are some nights when I just dont want to go to rehearsal. Esp Mondays because I cant get a ride and must endure two buses and 1.75 hours just to get there. However the young music director is running a fine program. A friend of mine, he truly appreciates me and puts me on most the lead charts. That and the concert band is a place where I similarly feel wanted.

In neither of these emsembles am I using my new embouchure. Not yet. Except perhaps in warm up scales. Because it doesnt feel professional enough. Unlike my existing embouchure. However there is plenty of time at home to practice my new embouchure. And as it develops I will soonbe able to sneak it into ensemble work here and there.

And regardless of my mood coming into either evening rehearsal? Invariably I always feel better when the gig is over. I have several dear friends at each engagement. The sense of community is irreplaceable.

And so if I may? Would advise Mr Invisible just to join an ensemble in addition to your lessons. Then "stay the course". Or in other words go back to the way you're most accustomed to blowing the trumpet. As this will yield the most predictable and more immediate results.

What I'm doing is a most radical embouchure change. Plus? I already have very good range. I'm not Lin Biviano but I assure you that the majority of trumpets on this forum would be very happy if they had my existing and very capable register. As I'm good to an A above high C for three sets/night. On the bandstand too mind you! Not just a squeak in practice or rehearsal. However I most definitely do want to enjoy the same register as some cat like Biviano. And the only way for me to do this is by making the embouchure change. Ive played long enough (53 years!) and studied damned near every book on tge subject. That and tutored, coached and advised numerous peers. That and visualized their progress. I dont teach in the conventional sense but actively coavh those friends and peers who ask me for help. I also design my own mouthpieces. In fact if my half dozen or so success stories re trumpet players whom I've "fixed"? I've achieved helped most of them merely through advice on mouthpiece selection. The Average Joe can usually be greatly helped just by selecting a mouthpiece which he can support. I ask my friends,

"Do you own your horn or does it own you"?
"Are you a slave or the master"?

Now after your comebavk is complete? And after you've thoroughly analyzed your existing and latent capacity to produce range, endurance and volume? Say 6 months to 2 years from now?

Okay maybe then you might consider something like the Stevens System. Or others. But these are very speculative decisions. As embouchure changes often fail. They are not for the faint-of-heart7. You dont want to get left high snd dry. A "bird in the hand" so to speak?

Hope this helps and good luck. You have my best wishes, thoughts and prayers. Congratulations for your ongoing comeback effort!
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Lionel
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As I'm about to enter my 11th week into this embouchure change every single day produces a milestone. Sometimes several. Just emailed my young friend Cjceltic a sound clip.

Whereas on my original embouchure the high A flat was a damned squirrely tone? Just today I played a handy set of Clarke type exercises up to the A flat (above high C) then slid up to a fairly musical E flat above double C. Not the highest note the new embouchure is capable of supporting in a musical (or potentially musical sounding capacity) but was the highest note I could record today without screwing up the passage ascending.

At other times Ive solidly hit G and A just below triple C. That and plenty of squeaks well above the Triple C.

Of more interest to me is that my middle register is gaining in tone quality. At times sounding almost indistinguishable from my original embouchure. Except that I kinda like the new tone slightly better.

Upon starting this new embouchure, (it is a close variant to Stevens-Costello embouchure system) I originally used my smallest "screamer" mouthpiece. Did this for two reasons,

1. Initially Roy Stevens directed his students to stay out of the lower register. I thus inferred that if I was going to start with the upper register first that the shallower, small diameter piece would reduce the strength demands on this fledgling set of new embouchure muscles. And after going through the first 10 weeks it seems to have been a very good decision. The shallower piece took much of the load off my chops. That and made it easier to focus on the middle and lower register tones I could play.

2. Playing with my shallowest piece allowed these weaker muscles of the new chop setting more practice time. The longer I could practice? The faster I would improve.

Early on in a major embouchure change there exists a powerful struggle within the mind,

"Is this thing gonna work or not"?

And this is a powerful concern. However I promised myself that win, lose, or draw I was gonna see through the first eight weeks. And if I showed significant improvement? I would continue on to 12 weeks.

And today I'm finally sold. Am definitely going to continue playing this way the rest of my days. Only using my former embouchure to carry the load of all my ensemble work up until the point where the new embouchure becomes reliable enough to take over.

After that? The only time I will use my original embouchure setting will be for demonstration purposes. That and maybe on the slide trombone which Ive doubled on since being a boy. Receded jaw chop settings being very common on the lowerbrass. As noticed by Doc Reinhardt whose principal instrument was trombone.

Lastly,

Now in my 10th week it is becoming easier to blow phrases of longer and longer length. The sky's the limit!
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A whole Earth and Sun may have to die and be born again before we see his kind once more. Who is he? Maynard Ferguson 1928 - 2006. He the one so greatly loved and missed.
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Lionel
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

About a week to ten days ago I hit a deep rut. Could hardly get a note out of the blasted embouchure.

However an old friend told me that ruts are common to the Stevens System. Just as common assudden, fantastic improvement. My buddy had damned near Brisbois range. Very impressive. Told me,

"Lionel, during my early weeks on the system I had good days and terrible ones. One day I was popping G and A above high C on the palm of my hand. Next day? Couldnt blow a musical sounding second line G".

And during my rut? Had the exact same problem. All my progress deteriorated. I had to constantly remind myself that this was just typical of the process. I slightly pulled back on my practice hours due to suspicion of possible over-trained chops. Never the less forced myself to blow some easy middle register long tones almost every day.

And then just this morning I got my groove back. Even got some good power on a B flat just below double C.

Most of my rut is dissolved. Not completely out of it but it is 80% gone. And I'm not feeling sad about it at all.

Will report in April.
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chuck in ny
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2018 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i moved my jaw forward to where the upper and lower teeth line up and it has been a great and sound thing allowing better mouthpiece support upper and lower lips. the adjustment period was about 3 months during which i needed to relearn to play. different buzzing point and all that.
stay with it and allow the dust to settle.
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Lionel
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2018 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

April 15th will conclude the fourth full month of my studies/practice on this embouchure. So far? Everything has worked according to plan. I'm totally stoked.

As mentioned in earlier posts my overall technique (on the new embouchure) tends to improve at about 1% a day. Granted it's difficult to explain how I arrived at this figure. Regardless, some characteristic of my performance, as related to chops tends to improve daily. On many days I cant wait till morning because it means another set of fresh chops. Able to reach new height

The human mind and body can only improve in athletic ability at a finite rate. Any more time spent over and above a certain threshold? Will result only in that counter-productive state known as "over-trained chops". In fact one of the beauties of learning a new embouchure is that one does not need to practice day and night. Because you can't lol.

Anyway today I really started to feel "at home" in the extreme upper register. Used the Mangione tune, "Feels So Good" but as a long tone study. Slower than normal and sometimes taking each note totally out of time. But get this....

Played the whole instrumental verse 8va higher!!! Every note and often in rhythm. All the way up to a concert pitch double C. Our D above double C for the B flat Trumpet. As when Chuck played it his top tone was just our high D

And as these tones started resonating far better than in previous weeks? I started checking out extremely high notes in isolation. Tones like G and A above high C. To my surprise and delight the G and A (above high C) rolled out easy and seamlessly. Unlike my original setting. Which while capable of hitting such notes would require just about every ounce of energy Ive got in storage.

Lastly, I slid a few notes up into the "trippa" section. Goodness sakes! My tone didn't even waver. It just slid higher with a uniform tone. And a good tone. One that sounded like "me". I was concerned about this originally. Worried that a new embouchure setting might make me sound, "synthetic". Not so however.

It all sounded very similar to "Lionel of old".

Conclusion: It's totally happenin!!! Granted its gonna take a whole year to start using it on stage
Maybe two years to truly get the volume and big sound.
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CRJAZZMAN
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2018 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congratulations man! I'm 54 and I hear you; on playing Gs above high C taking a LOT of energy these days. I've tried a few (ok several) different embouchures, (the last 6 years or so trying to overcome a tooth alignment change). Callet's super-chops, Maggio, Cat, Odneal, Jim Manley, and BE. Couldn't ever seem to make it through the ruts to the promised land. Some changed my sound and as you say I didn't sound like "me".

About a month ago I found some great new videos on TCE (a UK pro using Callet's technique) and things are going well. Haven't hit too many ruts, and the high G's, A's and Bb's are starting to sound like they used to with relatively little effort. Anyway, given your success, if I become unhappy at some point I will definitely hit you up for more information.

Congrat's! I don't know you, but I'm happy for you!
Matt
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Lionel
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reached a new threshold today. This new embouchure behaving exactly as one of my first private lessons teachers told me some fifty plus years ago,

"Lionel my boy you're a good kid and if you love this instrument and are willing to do the work? You're gonna be a fine trumpet player some day.

But remember that we don't learn or improve in a constant, regular pattern. Instead we hit plateaus. Periods of time when as hard as we try nothing that we do seems to help. Yet we need to persevere at just these very times.

Relax. Take a day or two off when you have trouble doing even the simple things. The day will surely come when you'll reach the next higher plateau. Your music world will then open up. Creating new vistas you had previously thought impossible. You'll be at a new realm due to your perseverance. Pushing yourself beyond where most fellows had previously given up. Making your trials of yesterday seem minimal. And the future ahead as exciting as it is limitless".

The words I know because he made me copy them down. Wish I'd held onto that original text.

At any rate? I reached a new plateau today. Okay the new system isn't perfect but it surely shows definite signs that it surely will go "major league" some day. Maybe not so far off from today either.

I played two octave scales in all 12 keys. Up and down starting from second line G natural. Then chromatically up a 1/2 step A flat, key of A natural, B flat etc. A good, controlled tone all the way through and up to double C. Plus a few arpeggios close to triple C. No foolin!. Still some air in the tone but even that lessened.

Best of all,

My embouchure has started to lock in to it's new setting. It can "feel" the correct set-up prior to the blow. I really needed this positive type of day. As I'd gotten a little depressed on the whole change throughout the previous week or ten days. Now however I'm totally stoked! It's catching on fire.
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A whole Earth and Sun may have to die and be born again before we see his kind once more. Who is he? Maynard Ferguson 1928 - 2006. He the one so greatly loved and missed.
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surfingmusicman
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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2018 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm glad to have found this thread, but also a bit discouraged.

I'm not a pro player, but I'm a decent player. Making a few thousand a year on free-lance gigs, if that gives you an idea.

I'm 39 years old and never had a good high range. Nothing usable over high C or D.

Frustrated with my lifelong lack-of-range, I started my journey for a new embouchure about TWO YEARS ago. Been fairly consistent with practicing 1 to 2 hours a day (I've got a family and demanding day job, so it's hard to fit more in).

Working more or less out of Claude Gordon's Systematic Approach.

I might be about halfway to the skill level of my old embouchure. My new embouchure is incredibly finicky. One day I'll be busting out high Gs (above high C) fairly easily, the next I can hardly produce any note at all.

I'm often on the fence about whether this whole new embouchure endeavor is a colossal waste of my time/life. I just want a good solid high G (above high C). Is that so much to ask??!! (joking, but not really )

Anyway, glad to hear your journey appears to be much less painful than mine.
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loosegroove21
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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2018 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to read this post!
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kehaulani
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 8:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not personally interested in reading such wordy text, (others benefit so more power to them), so I might be redundant. Sorry if I am. But I'll add my own personal experience to the title of this post itself, e.g. an embouchure change, and a warning, or caution, to anyone taking such action.

While it's logical to "retrain" muscles, all the hip exercises in the world won't help if the basic foundation is not sound.

In college, I had embouchure problems and my teacher advised me to take a couple of months off and then rebuild my embouchure. Then we "rebuilt" gradually with the "right" set of exercises, to little avail.

What several teachers failed to recognize was that my embouchure and work habits were simply faulty. Not until I have become a comeback player, have I seen where certain embouchure positions and approaches have been simply wrong.

The exercise played wrong simply exacerbates a pre-existing problem. Look for and to that basic problem first.
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