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Comeback is a lot harder at 60 than at 40

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Joined: 21 Oct 2021
Posts: 42

PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2023 8:34 pm    Post subject: Comeback is a lot harder at 60 than at 40 Reply with quote

I have had several comebacks.

At 30 I was able to play decently within 6 months, and in a year or so was lead and principal in a big band and local community orchestra respectively, and studied with some great teachers and really improved a lot as a player. But I could still feel that things weren't quite as good as when I was younger, I just learned to make better use of what I had.

At 40 within 6 months I was able to play halfway decently, but never got rid of the halfway part.

At 60 it's been over a year and still no banana or even half of one. It was months for my 30 seconds of endurance to become 5 minutes (and hitting a G at the top of the staff was a major victory...), and now endurance is up to about 30 minutes with lots of rests included in that number, but my lip is still weak as a kitten. I can reliably hit a C# above the staff until I am tired, and the Eb above the staff is there sometimes, so things are gradually improving, but sooo slow, and I cannot play soft up high except at the beginning of a session, as I lack the strength and endurance.

I switched down to a 3b from my previous 1.5 (I was a classical player) after trying every single size (from a 7 up to a Bach 1, which was fun, and I tried to grow into the 1 for a while, but couldn't).

Joined a concert band, started on 3rd, now sitting on second part and the 12 number sets are quite an endurance struggle for me. Also sitting 2nd in our church orchestra, and man is that a hard gig for an old man, playing cold, controlled, and soft, after getting up early on a sunday morning... I bought a medium bore horn (Schilke C6) just for that gig and it helps, great horn too, played second on Handel's messiah last xmas and nailed it (it's not a hard part fortunately), our principal used a pic and the little C6 matched his sound well enough. My big horn is either a Shires AF or a Schilke S22HD (and S22CHD), currently liking the Schilkes, although earlier I didn't because I didn't have the chops to appreciate them. I need to retract some posts there, and am planning to be more careful from now on not to diss horns publically in non-retractable forever living posts when the real problem is the player not the horn (ouch).

The only plus side is I have a little more money now, so bought a lot of horns and mouthpieces and really learned a lot about equipment I didn't know when I was younger. I am a Schilke guy (I like their valves and am a naturally dark player who likes deep cups so the Schilke tone is working for me).

Frustrating is the main theme in all this.

I still can't play in tune as I lack the lip to reliably lip things into tune, and that was effortless when I was younger. Diligent use of the 1st and 3rd valve slides, with some creative fingerings and I get pretty close most of the time.

I practice every day, in a less than rigorous Claude Gordon style routine as I once studied with him. I still use his style of mouthpiece too, deeper cup, 20 throat, and whatever rimsize works, which is smaller now than before.

I now believe it will be up to 3 years before I am able to play decently if at all. But at least I am having fun.

For more fun I bought a cheap bass trumpet from Mack Brass, that thing is helping build the embouchure and is fun, easier to play than trumpet too, and seems to help correct problems in my trumpet embouchure somehow. On a 12E Bach trombone mouthpiece I can hit an occasional decent high F concert. I can do a decent vibrato on it too while I still lack the chops on trumpet to do that well.

Ah well, enough venting for the day.

Maybe some of you can relate.
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Andy Cooper
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2023 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just curious - how many years were you off before your come-back last year?
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Joined: 24 Mar 2013
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2023 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome back to trumpet playing! Given that you are frustrated with your current results, you might give thought to lessons to help you figure out if a different approach -- how you play, how you practice, your mouthpiece -- would serve you better this time around. Good luck!
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Joined: 18 Jan 2009
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Location: The Netherlands

PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2023 12:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is no reason for frustration. I think you judged your abilities when you were younger too high.
With the age comes often a more developed ear and especially more distance from the self. Maybe if you could hear back how you played after that first year as a lead in a bigband you would feel ashamed about it now.
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Regular Member

Joined: 23 Apr 2021
Posts: 35
Location: Freehold, NJ

PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2023 12:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not to discourage you further, but coming back in your 70's is even harder I've been playing daily for about two years now, after a total layoff of several years, on top of steadily decreasing frequency of playing for several decades, and I have experienced some of the same frustrations. I would second the suggestion that you should try to find a good teacher. I was frustrated at how slow my progress was, and made a New Year's resolution to try to find an in-person teacher, after having gone through a series on Zoom lessons with mixed results. I finally found an active orchestral soloist/ part-time professor in my area who had some time available and was willing to take me on, and I feel my progress in just three lessons has already been substantial.

It's not that you can't make progress on your own - it's just that you'll probably be making some basic mistakes over and over without being aware of them, and thus, you'll be spending a lot of your practice time much less productively than if you work on that next thing that's holding you back the most. My teacher was able to quickly identify a couple of things for me to work on and recommend exercises specifically aimed at correcting a basic flaw I wasn't even conscious of. After a few weeks of work, things are much better (though, since the problem was not something I was even aware of, it will probably take me months to get it fully under control). I plan to stay with a regular lesson routine for the next several months at least, just working my on the next thing the teacher suggests. Sometime later in the year, I'll re-assess where I am and decide where to go next.

Frustrations aside, I'm enjoying being back at the trumpet immensely. I wish the same for you!
Ray Ritchie
Freehold, NJ USA
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2023 12:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Comeback is a lot harder at 60 than at 40 Reply with quote

kurth83 wrote:
... I can reliably hit a C# above the staff until I am tired, and the Eb above the staff is there sometimes, so things are gradually improving, but sooo slow, and I cannot play soft up high except at the beginning of a session, as I lack the strength and endurance. ...

Endurance will come with regular practice - but it is important to make sure you are playing with proper 'mechanics' (embouchure, breathing, etc.).

If you are trying to 'muscle through' upper range (e.g. excessive rim pressure, excessive internal air pressure), then you might want to make some changes to the 'way' you are playing. Especially for upper range, it is important that you set your lip so it is ABLE to vibrate with reasonable air pressure and air flow. (of course proper lip setting also applies to low & mid-range, but it is easier)
method 1: DO it right and right things will HAPPEN
method 2: make the RIGHT THINGS happen
See / Think / Adjust / Do
becomes See & Do.
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New Member

Joined: 25 Feb 2023
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Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2023 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I feel your pain. At 67, my "comeback" started a little over 2 years ago in the form of an embouchure change. Playing in a community concert band for over 20 years, I finally found a community jazz band to play in. My embouchure had "evolved" into something less than optimal but it worked in the concert band. I thought it was limiting me in the jazz band where I needed to play higher, so I went back to a more traditional (correct) set. I went from being able to play C and D above staff to E and F on the staff. So I decided to use a "method" and went with Claude Gordon. After a bit on my own, I decided I needed a CG teacher and have been studying with one on Skype for almost two years. That led to positive tonguing changes and moving the mouthpiece further up - another embouchure adjustment. But after almost 2 years my best high go-to note is A above staff....not quite the progress I hoped for. On a good day I can hit a C, maybe D. Yesterday I was hitting Cs but today, barely able to hit that A. The most progress I've seen came recently after watching some Adam Rapa videos and working on my own to develop more of a "tunnel" /"fish mouth" approach. When I can get it, the C just slides out. Today I just couldn't find it or I was too worn out from yesterday. So I'm starting to think about a local teacher who can really see what I'm doing. For some reason I'm obsessed with getting to where I want to be which is simply to be able to be able to play the notes and get through a 60 to 90 minute concert. But there are definitely days I could throw my horn through a window. Fortunately the cost of a new window and a new Schilke have kept me from doing that.
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Joined: 11 Mar 2002
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2023 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been in a perpetual comeback for over thirty years, ever since a car wreck derailed my professional career (see the chop meltdown thread). I'll get up to a certain level and then other things like work and family matters get in the way. When my kids were young and I was working two jobs and traveling a lot, I sometimes went months without practicing.

Now the issue is a chipped front tooth that happened in 6th grade but it never bothered me until recently, after I had a bunch of periodontal work done that left my teeth really clean but also really sharp. Any time I use a moderate amount of pressure the chipped tooth digs into my lip and causes cuts and swelling. I got through my Christmas gig, including the piccolo part on the Hallelujah chorus, but after it was over it took several days for my lip to heal.

I'm getting the tooth repaired this week and hope that will solve the problem. Doubtless there will be an adjustment period for my embouchure but hopefully the long-term results will be worth it, whether I have gigs or not. I can't stand not being able to play things that used to be easy for me.
Bryan Fields
1991 Bach LR180 ML 37S
1999 Getzen Eterna 700S
1979 Getzen Eterna 895S Flugelhorn
1969 Getzen Capri cornet
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Warburton and Stomvi Flex mouthpieces
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2023 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm in my forties but second a lot of the advice here. A few things that were helpful for me:
-I've said for me it is three hobbies: the playing, the listening, and the gear. It helps to have several areas to work in and things to enjoy even if I don't have time for playing.
-I have worked with several teachers, including one chops person. I've done period deepdives into embouchure theory (love the dedicates approach areas here) and tried some different approaches and gear.
-I also started doubling. I do feel that low brass is easier on the chops and more sustainable long term. A good first switch is to try baritone/euphonium, which can be played in treble clef (I'm learning bass clef and also made a stab at trombone).

I don't know if this is helpful, but it's always nice to have options.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2023 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At your age 60 and trying to come back, I winced at your aggressive size mpc. A 20 throat and deep cup might be too much even if you hadn’t taken the time off. Maybe be a little gentler on yourself. And add some patience.
Dave Wisner

GR/Hammond Design
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2023 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I started doubling on bass trumpet in my mid-forties and find it to be beneficial for a lot of things: tongue, air, articulation, fingers, … but, alas, getting older raised issues with my left hand: holding my bass trumpet has become the issue, teaching me that getting older it’s not only the air and embouchure that changes. Currently on a cheap british baritone instead of the bass trumpet - alleviates the hand issue and is easier for my poor eyesight, too.

@BC73: the fish mouth approach seems interesting, I have found something like that for me, too, and it seems to work very well, but being consistent and really sticking with it all the time has been the issue. Overall, getting older seems to mean a shift from power to efficiency in one’s playing, at least that is what I gather from a lot of my older colleagues and my own experience, too.
2019 Martin Schmidt eXcellence
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1989 Kühnl & Hoyer Model 15
1980/2023 Franken C incoming soon 😎
1966 Holton Collegiate cornet
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