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"Today's squeak..."

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2020 3:14 pm    Post subject: "Today's squeak..." Reply with quote

Doc Reinhardt wrote of "high squeaker notes" in his "Encyclopedia of the Pivot System". As did Roy Stevens in his "Triple C Embouchure Technique". The two men didn't agree on much of anything else lbut this was probably due to them being competitors.

Reinhardt introduced his high squeaker notes as part of a broader study pattern that included a lot of normal exercises. As well as embouchure theory and breath control. Meanwhile Stevens used these squeaky, high, thin "wispy" notes as the foundation of his system. At first Stevens described the recommended high tones as sounding like "wind blowing through the trees in a storm". Later as his student became more proficient at playing squeaky high notes he said that it should "
sound like a tree branch breaking in the wind".

In one of the few but fruitful conversations I've had with Chris LaBarbera he described Stevens beginning student's desired high note tones to resemble the sizzle made on the long since defunct test pattern once used on analogue television sets. Yes once upon a time most of your television channels stopped broadcasting at around 2am. So the station sent a simple test pattern received on your tv screen. The "sizzle" was caused by the tv picking up disorganized static. Probably from cosmic rays. Just a little history I thought would interesting.

Incidentally, Chris is definitely not a believer in the Stevens system. Meanwhile I kinda am. Although I highly respect Chris and know where he's coming from. Indeed Doc Reinhardt was the man Chris considered the "greatest trumpet teacher in the world". Just thought I oughta clear that one up.

Due to losing my whole upper register after tooth loss in 2018 I too have begun playing those wispy thin notes associated with the Stevens system. In fact after only a couple months in on this new embouchure I've gotten pretty good at them. Yet this post isn't about me. It's about a young man I teach who has come to me to build his upper register. Hey just because I can't play well anymore (at least for now) doesn't mean that I can't try and help others.

The young man has been with me about four months now. He's had two major turning points. The first after I introduced him to a Schilke 6a4a mouthpiece. He fit that like a fish to water. Damn he sounds good! It is a magnificent mouthpiece for him. Even more importantly however was his last lesson where I finally put him on his first high squeaker notes. OMG!

Hey it was impressive! Instead of him starting in the middle register then working on up to a loud high F? You know blowing like hell, turning red and hitting a shaky but full bodied high F? He got the sweetest little piano to mezzo piano high F. This got me thinking.

I immediately felt remiss for not starting him on these squeaky high notes before. But that's what I always do perfectionist that I am. However despite my general irreverence towards "conventional thinking" as applied to playing high notes? I was actually guilty of pushing some of that same conventional thinking myself. Seriously! I felt guilty all weekend. Because had I put the man on a weekly plan of squeakers included with his regular diet of practice he might actually be playing double Cs and above by now.

Lastly I just wanted to note that the young man does not change his embouchure in order to blow these fine squeakers. Also he plays them either wet or dry but with a slight preference to play.on dry chops. This I believe is a normal condition. I have it on good authority that the Stevens protege Roy Roman. (Fine scream player you should listen to him!) Initially learned to blow high notes on dry chops. However about a year or two later he switched on over to playing on wet lips. As in hot weather the perspiration becomes a wetting factor. On hot, outdoor concerts Roman couldn't easily maintain a dry surface for his chops. So he just practiced playing on wet chops until he no longer needed the dry surface to assist his ability to ascend into the extreme upper register. And I truly believe that this account is very useful. Because it means that at the beginning of blowing high notes it's okay to take a "power assist" advantage from utilizing dry lips.

"Today's squeak is tomorrow's note"
"It is surprising how skilled you can become on a very limited (trumpet) embouchure and how many years you can play on that and then how difficult it is to correct that once you find that it is tremendously limited". Bill Moriarty, 2005
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Joined: 31 Dec 2015
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Location: Oakland, CA

PostPosted: Thu Feb 27, 2020 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have found it beneficial to practice very soft breath attacks in my apartment with the goal to keep my body completely relaxed, with good habits, and not alarm the neighbors. I like to play the range above high C with as little air and as soft as possible. Doing this every other day alternating with practicing full volume in a room where I can project without fear of disturbing the peace has been great for me. I take those tiny little soft high notes and just add some air to them.
Edwards X-13
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