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Lip tuck/Bottoming out from Embouchure Change



 
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Edwardsrk
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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2024 1:12 pm    Post subject: Lip tuck/Bottoming out from Embouchure Change Reply with quote

Hi everyone,

I started an embouchure change almost 2 years ago at the suggestion of a teacher I highly highly trusted. It was at the end of the 1st year of my Master's degree, and I was playing at that point almost better than ever in a big city in a great program keeping up with the heavy hitters in my department. I generally had good range and facility, but days were inconsistent and this teacher stated that if I kept playing how I was playing (pretty forceful and occasionally "in the red") I would probably end up retiring early. So I did the switch and 2 years in....I feel like I have hardly gotten anywhere. My sound is undesirable and I feel like I am working harder than ever to play the horn. I know part of my issue is body tension and posture which I am working on, but even when I feel like things are getting easier in that sense I have another issue. I am bottoming out in the "high" register. I am talking like G on top of the staff and above. I've tried different mouthpieces with no luck. My regular piece is an opened up 1 1/2 C, but I have tried going smaller, I have tried going bigger, I have tried different throat and backbore sizes. I only am not bottoming out if I play something 1 1/2 size or larger with a deeper than standard C cup, but then playing overall just gets harder and my tone is more spread. So I know it isn't the equipment and it is a fundamental issue of setup. My endurance is more awful than my old setup, and I can still hardly make it through an excerpt let alone an etude without playing extremely forceful. First phrase I can normally get through okay but after that I am toast and start bottoming out having a super dead sound. I practically had to injure myself even playing fairly easy rep to get through my last recital for my degree.

At this point I don't know if the change was the right decision, my honest guess is that it wasn't. But I don't remember how I used to play and need to make this work. I don't know if I have another embouchure change in me, and I am already feeling extremely burnt out on the verge of giving up. So any ideas or tips on exercises and stuff to do to alleviate this tuck/bottoming out issue would be appreciated. I know this is better worked out with an in person teacher, and I will be doing that. Just want to see if the online community has any ideas on what is maybe going on.

Please try and keep things positive/helpful. The question of if embouchure changes are even something to do I'd rather not debate since as I said above I can't go back to my old setup no matter how much I want to because my body has forgotten it. Thank you!
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Doug Elliott
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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2024 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can definitely help you find what ACTUALLY works, with a Skype lesson. PM me.
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mograph
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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2024 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you're bottoming out on a 1 1/2 C, your embouchure is probably too loose, flubbering out there into the mouthpiece.

I changed my embouchure in 2020, after having played for about 40 years. It was a good idea, as I couldn't slur across partials, and had to shift my embouchure mid-phrase. Not good. Better now, and I'm practising for my RCM Level 7 exam.

Anyway ... all we can do is suggest stuff based on what you've supplied:

Try putting more meat into the mouthpiece on setup. Effectively, "tighten the drawstring" before you put on the mouthpiece. This will give you the ability to play higher, yet still play lower: it's har to play high if you don't have the meat in there. If you can't play lower, then don't shove so much lip meat in there. Of course, keep an aperture available -- never close the center aperture.

We don't buzz like a raspberry, in my opinion. Instead, the whole apparatus vibrates: lips, the brass, and the air column, all together. To get a feel for this, set up, then blow keeping the aperture open enough to let air through, but to not produce a tone yet. With the same setup, gradually let a tone be produced during this blow. The key word is "let." Feel that there's an aperture between the lips, and that they vibrate along with the apparatus as described. BTW, this is how you make "whisper tones."

Maybe curl the lower lip in a bit more, so it doesn't flubber out into the mouthpiece.

Your upper lip is delicate, and it is the main vibrating part. The sides (the corners) offer support, keeping everything together. The lower lip also adds support, and it's the firm bed on which the mouthpiece rests. It's also a smart support, that has to stay aware and "felt" by you when you change register: I raise it, like, a nanometer when I go up in register. YMMV.

Always have your core (abs, etc.) as an active partner in sound production: in a sense, it's the engine, and all that mouth stuff is the rudder. Modulate the core power in concert with the range, but always engage the core, even for quiet low stuff. Don't forget to engage it.

If this stuff doesn't work, try the stuff suggested by the other folk. As always, YMMV.
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drboogenbroom
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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2024 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Seriously, get some lessons with Doug.
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Trumpjerele
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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2024 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have overcome a lot of my problems thanks to Jeff Smiley's balanced embouchure method.

Give it a try you have nothing to lose
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Robert P
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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2024 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's an embouchure/playing mechanics issue - you should be able to play at least a solid high C even on a Bach 1C. I can and I assure you I'm not a precociously gifted "natural" high-note player. I use the same basic setup no matter what mouthpiece I'm playing.
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Last edited by Robert P on Wed May 15, 2024 6:04 am; edited 2 times in total
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jscahoy
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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2024 4:06 am    Post subject: Re: Lip tuck/Bottoming out from Embouchure Change Reply with quote

Edwardsrk wrote:
I am already feeling extremely burnt out on the verge of giving up.

Since you threw in that bit, here's my anecdote. The only thing that helped me overcome a lifetime of problems with endurance and bottoming out was going to very deep and narrow mouthpieces. Specifically Curry TC and TF cups.

Obviously my embouchure is a mess, like yours. But at least I'm still playing.
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Robert P
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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2024 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

How would you describe the change your instructor had you make? What did he have you change to in contrast to how you were doing it previously?

Can you post video of your playing preferably with a clear closeup view of your chops?
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mhenrikse
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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2024 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If it was me, I would take an online lesson with Tom Hooten and see what he advises.
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sledgemuffin
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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2024 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FWIW I recently Fine tuned my mpc search and bought one very close to my current shape and size and realized that for the first time I was able to curl my bottom lip in ever so slightly increasing my range and endurance. I had never been able to get this sensation before and it just seemed to happen. I was hesitant in posting a reply but thought this might be helpful. I will now concentrate once more on the BE book with a renewed enthusiasm as I can understand it much better. This is my experience YMMV vary etc. etc. I don’t claim to have the answer just my answer.
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EdMann
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PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2024 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As this is in the pedagogy section, I'm hesitant to insert suggestions as I am not a teacher, but it was emphasized to me by many people the importance of having my lower lip engaged, and perhaps slightly rolled in to allow it be part of the system. As I concentrate on that, I've seen incredible results. Literally, when fresh, no limit on the high range. Of course in the midst of battle, things settle down some, but the notes are there.

Ironically enough, it was some of the first instruction I got when I was 19, and I dropped it because I wasn't happy with my sound. Now I can grab a smaller mpc and for the most part, I don't bottom out.

All said, that was done with instruction.

Good luck!
ed
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Dkjcliff
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PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2024 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From personal experience with some similar playing problems that I pretty effectively worked through over the past few years, I would wager that at least part of the problem right now is an over-reliance on mouthpiece pressure and beat up chops that are not able to do their job. You’re probably also experiencing such a level of frustration that you’re unable to effectively deal with the other less tangible issues you may have going on, including your general feelings about trumpet playing. Playing well really requires a positive mindset for most of us.

This is my advice based purely on my personal experience. I am not a teacher and I am an amateur player. So take that into account. I provide this in case there is one or more things you can take away from what I learned that would be helpful for you. This is the crib notes version of what I went through over the past few years, omitting some unhelpful things I did along the way (written as if giving this advice to myself three years ago).

My advice would be to start by taking a fair amount of time off. Like put the trumpet away and don’t pick it up for a month or even more (summer break, perhaps). This will help your chops heal and allow you to reset mentally. If you want to try to keep some muscle toning you could do some basic chop exercises away from the horn. But I wouldn’t even do that if I were in your shoes.

When it’s time to pick up the trumpet again, approach it delicately. Focus on what you are feeling and don’t be afraid to experiment with slightly different settings and mouthpiece positions. Roll your lips in a tad, open them up, close them, move your tongue in different positions, tilt the mouthpiece up or down. The one absolute constant is that you should always have full lungs and have the feeling that you are an air compressor like the air wants to flow out - but don’t blow a bunch of air. Think of it as the energy behind your air rather than the amount. I know you’re not interested in another embouchure change. I am talking more about making little tweaks to your current setup.

Long tones can be good to get a feeling for how different settings are working. But don’t overdo them because they can very easily lead to rigidity when what we want is flexibility and pliability.

Don’t play for more than 15-20 minutes at first, and slowly increase the time per day. But take plenty of breaks while practicing and continue to take days off for a while (in fact I’m an advocate for regularly taking days off no matter your playing level). Do explore your range but don’t push it and, again, be careful not to rely on over blowing. Only experiment with your range when you’re very fresh and keep the volume low, don’t go beyond forte.

Ultimately, I have come to believing that you should be able to play most mouthpiece sizes and have an embouchure and setting that does not limit your range. It shouldn’t feel like you’ve got a hard ceiling on how high you can go without fundamentally changing something. I used to be unable to play anything moderately shallow and couldn’t get above High D. That’s all changed for me now. The very simplified explanation for what was wrong with my technique was that I had been beating up my chops so much with my mouthpiece pressure that it required constant overblowing to get them to vibrate. My reliance on pressure also meant I wasn’t developing the muscle strength. I was essentially pinning my lips in position instead of using my muscles to play. And my jaw setting was too wide open at all times. My air stream was never focused. It was a leaf blower. Consequently I had a great sound playing fortissimo between middle C high D, but my range was limited to that, I had no flexibility, I couldn’t play softly and after every gig I felt like I had been repeatedly punched in the mouth.

I’ve also found that I need to feel like I am tilting the horn down ever so slightly as a I ascend to keep the pressure off my upper lip. I’m not sure I am actually titling the horn as much as I have this mental image to make sure I’m not exerting undue pressure.

Hope there’s something useful in here for you.
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Robert P
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PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2024 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

EdMann wrote:
As this is in the pedagogy section, I'm hesitant to insert suggestions as I am not a teacher, but it was emphasized to me by many people the importance of having my lower lip engaged, and perhaps slightly rolled in to allow it be part of the system. As I concentrate on that, I've seen incredible results. Literally, when fresh, no limit on the high range. Of course in the midst of battle, things settle down some, but the notes are there.

Ironically enough, it was some of the first instruction I got when I was 19, and I dropped it because I wasn't happy with my sound. Now I can grab a smaller mpc and for the most part, I don't bottom out.

All said, that was done with instruction.

Good luck!
ed

If you're making sound the lower lip is already involved, you wouldn't be able to play if both lips weren't over the edge of the teeth. The trick is applying the right tension toward the mouthpiece along with the other involved factors.
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Wilktone
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PostPosted: Fri May 24, 2024 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I started an embouchure change almost 2 years ago at the suggestion of a teacher I highly highly trusted.


I haven't watched you play, so I'm just guessing, but perhaps your embouchure change wasn't correct for you. Keep in mind that everyone has a different face and everyone has a different embouchure. There's nothing inherently wrong with placing the mouthpiece rim on the red of the lips, as long as that is where it works best for you.

Most often when I come across similar situations with brass musicians it's a case of a well-intentioned teacher switching a student from an upstream (low placement) embouchure to a downstream (more upper lip inside) embouchure. It's true downstream players are more common, but this is caused by the player's anatomy and isn't a choice to be made.

My advice (without watching you play) is to go back to how you were playing before your embouchure change and then correct the form with that placement. If you can post video of your chops, we can take a look and see if our guesses hold water.

Dave
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