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Relaxing to play high


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Tnsamhooker
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:40 am    Post subject: Relaxing to play high Reply with quote

People say all the time to relax to help play high. I can play fairly high for a high schooler but I have no idea what relating means and how to do it. Please help....
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TKSop
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

- Keep a relaxed posture (not tense) especially in the upper body
- Don't overblow
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HERMOKIWI
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To me the process of "relaxing" when playing the high register is the process of not thinking about it at all, completely clearing your mind, thinking about nothing as you play the note. The by-product of this process is elimination of physical tension. It's a zen thing. Here's a definition:

"One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts."
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Robert P
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have to have tension in the right places but there's going to be tension and effort. Watch anyone playing high and loud - they're never going to look "relaxed".
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peanuts56
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps a better phrase would be to play as relaxed as possible. No doubt it takes a lot of effort to play in the upper register. Playing efficiently promotes relaxation. It doesn't matter if it's playing trumpet or hitting a golf ball. The more relaxed I am the better I play. It all starts with smart practicing and focusing on fundamentals.
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What people mean when they say stay relaxed is to keep the uninvolved muscles relaxed while the involved muscles (the blowing muscles and the muscles of the tongue, lips and face) do their job. Basically, don't strain and grunt while trying to play high notes. If a weightlifter grunts and strains while trying to lift a heavy weight over his head, it's not the right way to do it, but he'll probably still lift that weight up (if he has the required strength available in the involved muscles). But if a trumpet player grunts and strains as he tries to play a high note, the air will get cut off and it'll all be over before it even began.

Another similar problem can arise when a player strains and tenses up not only his blowing muscles (the muscles of expiration), but also the muscles of inspiration at the same time while trying play a high note. This type of isometric tension has the muscles literally fighting each other, causing a significant drop in range capabilities and also endurance. This problem has been exacerbated in the past by well-meaning but misinformed teachers telling the students to "tense up your stomach" when playing to provide air support.

Best wishes,

John Mohan
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INTJ
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
But if a trumpet player grunts and strains as he tries to play a high note, the air will get cut off and it'll all be over before it even began.


This cannot be said to many times............
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AJCarter
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Robert P wrote:
You have to have tension in the right places but there's going to be tension and effort. Watch anyone playing high and loud - they're never going to look "relaxed".


Yeah, I'm pretty sure even the pros look like they're working but it won't look quite as labored as an amateur player. But "Tension" is never the proper word. Ever. It already has negative connotations attached to it and telling a student to tense their face vs. engage the muscles will only lead to bad things.

Muscles need to be engaged to play higher, but as you continue working you will eventually not even notice you're engaging them. Hermokiwi also has it right about just not letting it be scary and something to fret about. It's like lifting any amount of weight that you aren't used to: the more you do it, the more second nature and less strained it becomes.
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ljazztrm
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

John Mohan wrote:
What people mean when they say stay relaxed is to keep the uninvolved muscles relaxed while the involved muscles (the blowing muscles and the muscles of the tongue, lips and face) do their job. Basically, don't strain and grunt while trying to play high notes. If a weightlifter grunts and strains while trying to lift a heavy weight over his head, it's not the right way to do it, but he'll probably still lift that weight up (if he has the required strength available in the involved muscles). But if a trumpet player grunts and strains as he tries to play a high note, the air will get cut off and it'll all be over before it even began.

Another similar problem can arise when a player strains and tenses up not only his blowing muscles (the muscles of expiration), but also the muscles of inspiration at the same time while trying play a high note. This type of isometric tension has the muscles literally fighting each other, causing a significant drop in range capabilities and also endurance. This problem has been exacerbated in the past by well-meaning but misinformed teachers telling the students to "tense up your stomach" when playing to provide air support.

Best wishes,

John Mohan
Skype Lessons Available - Click on the e-mail button below if interested


You want your facial muscles/embouchure to be relaxed when your playing. As you play higher, your core muscles should engage more and more. If your embouchure is relaxed and your only using the embouchure muscles needed to play, instead of more muscles than necessary that create tension, then your core muscles should engage automatically in the right way. It should just be an automatic process. The first thing that you want to tire is your much bigger core muscles - never the embouchure muscles. Then your endurance is based on just being in good shape/condition in your body with a relaxed energy about you. Lynn Nicholson talks about this and Clint 'Pops' McGlaughlin goes into technical detail in his books, imaging studies, and videos on tensionless playing. Best, Lex
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Robert P
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AJCarter wrote:
Robert P wrote:
You have to have tension in the right places but there's going to be tension and effort. Watch anyone playing high and loud - they're never going to look "relaxed".


...But "Tension" is never the proper word. Ever.

When a muscle contracts what would you say is created between the muscle attachment points?
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TKSop
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Robert P wrote:
AJCarter wrote:
Robert P wrote:
You have to have tension in the right places but there's going to be tension and effort. Watch anyone playing high and loud - they're never going to look "relaxed".


...But "Tension" is never the proper word. Ever.

When a muscle contracts what would you say is created between the muscle attachment points?


In trumpet playing terms, when you say "tension" what's heard is almost always "excess tension" - there's a difference to be sure, but it can be easily lost...


The devil's in the connotations... Support implies reinforcement, tension gets lines crossed into being tense (ie: OTT).
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mm55
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you're talking about the biomechanics (or physics), the term "tension" is the technically correct term to use for a force exerted by a muscle on another object, such as a bone or another muscle. Yes, some tension is bad. Especially too much of it. But some tension is good, and essential to playing the trumpet.
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AJCarter
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RobertP wrote:


When a muscle contracts what would you say is created between the muscle attachment points?


Muscle contraction. Or I instruct students to keep their corners engaged. I do my best to completely avoid using the term or instruction to "tense" anything when it comes to playing, especially for younger students who are attempting to build good habits.

mm55 wrote:
If you're talking about the biomechanics (or physics), the term "tension" is the technically correct term to use for a force exerted by a muscle on another object, such as a bone or another muscle. Yes, some tension is bad. Especially too much of it. But some tension is good, and essential to playing the trumpet.


Pretty sure I never said muscles DIDN'T need to be engaged... just to avoid the usage of the terms, "tense" and "tension" and those particular mindsets due to their negative connotations. e.g. "The audition warm-up room is a tense place"; "you seem to carry a lot of tension in your shoulders". I advocated for using muscles and developing them to the point where it no longer feels like hard work.
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mm55
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AJCarter wrote:
RobertP wrote:

When a muscle contracts what would you say is created between the muscle attachment points?

Muscle contraction. :roll:

Contraction and tension are two distinct things. With isometric contraction, the muscle length remains the same, and tension increases. With isotonic contraction, the length changes but the tension doesn't.

If you're trying to accurately describe the biomechanics, it makes no sense to be afraid of the common technical terms because of someone's boogey-man connotations.
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AJCarter
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mm55 wrote:
AJCarter wrote:
RobertP wrote:

When a muscle contracts what would you say is created between the muscle attachment points?

Muscle contraction.

Contraction and tension are two distinct things. With isometric contraction, the muscle length remains the same, and tension increases. With isotonic contraction, the length changes but the tension doesn't.

If you're trying to accurately describe the biomechanics, it makes no sense to be afraid of the common technical terms because of someone's boogey-man connotations.


Oh well that case I'll go tell all my middle school students to tense their faces for high notes from here on out and I'll let you know how it goes!
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Robert P
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TKSop wrote:
Robert P wrote:
When a muscle contracts what would you say is created between the muscle attachment points?


In trumpet playing terms, when you say "tension" what's heard is almost always "excess tension" - there's a difference to be sure, but it can be easily lost...


AJCarter wrote:
RobertP wrote:


When a muscle contracts what would you say is created between the muscle attachment points?


Muscle contraction. Or I instruct students to keep their corners engaged. I do my best to completely avoid using the term or instruction to "tense" anything when it comes to playing, especially for younger students who are attempting to build good habits.

As far as the embouchure part of the equation, muscle contraction of varying degrees serves to increase or decrease tension across the vibrating membrane - you can't accurately and fully advise a student how it works if you avoid explaining this - tension *has* to exist to play the instrument. There has to be the right amount and focus of tension - too much or too little and you don't get the desired result. And of course you don't want excess tension in the throat that chokes off airflow - this too needs to be explained.

I've never been an advocate of focusing on "corners" though I know it's a common staple of brass pedagogy. I had a teacher once who preached corners - "keep those corners tight" - all it did was act as a stumbling block. Besides that because of the complexity of the facial muscles there are many ways to tighten the so-called corners - I can make "tight corners" in lots of configurations that are useless for playing - that area is just one element of the whole - there are lots of things happening besides the corners. Focusing on corners caused counter-productive restrictions in other areas of my embouchure. It also masked other issues with setting the mouthpiece that should have been addressed. Today I don't think about corners at all as a specific entity unto itself - my focus is on the overall structure.
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TKSop
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Robert-

You can explain how it works (if necessary, which it may not be) without using terms that might encourage undesirable results.

And you're not teaching the student to write an embouchure dissertation - you're teaching them to build and use one.... You wouldn't expect a driving instructor to explain the finer points of internal combustion to a learner driver.
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mm55
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 4:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AJCarter wrote:

Oh well that case I'll go tell all my middle school students to tense their faces for high notes from here on out and I'll let you know how it goes!
\
Why the heck would you do that?
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AJCarter
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mm55 wrote:
AJCarter wrote:

Oh well that case I'll go tell all my middle school students to tense their faces for high notes from here on out and I'll let you know how it goes!
\
Why the heck would you do that?


To borrow your logic.....

Because I don't want "to be afraid of the common technical terms because of someone's boogey-man connotations."

TKSop already made the point I'm trying to make as well: You can explain things to young students without using terms that, while correct, will be harmful as they will take things too literally. Also, a common beginner/middle school/Jr. high student is not going to know all of the biomechanical jargon you and Robert P are spewing out here. You are adults who went through all of the courses and have probably studied things at length. They have not.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tell the middle school students to blow really hard and to flex all their muscles as hard as they can. That should completely resolve the issue..........


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