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Identifying elements of common wisdom which may not apply.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2019 5:59 pm    Post subject: Identifying elements of common wisdom which may not apply. Reply with quote

I wouldn't necessarily oppose an idea just because it comes from those notions associated with common wisdom. Re , teaching the trumpet. My goal here, at least in part is to suggest that an idea which works well for one trumpet player may not necessarily help the next one profit from the same concept.

I was over on Youtube today where a friend posted that he had "changed to putting more upper lip inside the mouthpiece". He then followed up with words admitting that while the change did weaken him in some ways that he still felt that in the long run his decision to use more upper lip would ultimately be beneficial. Then he followed with,

"After all I've already improved the quality of my tone".

This is a really common condition fellas. In fact it would greatly surprise me if most of the experienced trumpet players reading this right here and now are not already very familiar with the suggestion. I have seen this condition often. Particularly inside college classical trumpet curriculum studies.

Now I didn't want to rain on my online friend's parade. So I kept quiet with my thoughts.As sometimes a change, even one that the trumpet player isn't ultimately all that well suited for may still kick the guy out of the mental rut that the trumpet player could be in. In the long run we teach ourselves. Surely I've experimented with embouchure ideaa which didn't pan out so well but I still persevered and became a good enough trumpet anyway. However in the case of this young man I immediately inferred two ideas from the way that he described his embouchure change. And my predictions were absolutely dead on accurate!

1. I instantly knew that his range had dropped off significantly after putting more upper lip in the piece. That and,
2. He had pretty good range before making the switch to using more upper lip in the cup of the mouthpiece.

I must confess that I can't predict if this fellow will succeed in his plans or putter around for several years. Eventually deciding to return to his former chop setting. Or Hell! Maybe he will quit altogether. Frankly I've seen both conditions although I'm not even sure which is more common. But since you've read so far? Allow me to explain why I have serious reservations about advising any given trumpet player to take up this common suggestion.

For starters the position of the lips on the mouthpiece is only half of the embouchure setting question. It's just the more visible one. The other question of probably greater significance is how to position the lips on the teeth! Wish I felt comfortable putting that last sentence in caps or bold type. To my mind it is hugely important. And why not? It sure seems an obvious one to me.

Consider that the embouchure is suspended between "two bookends". The visible "bookend" being the mouthpiece. The less visible one being the teeth. You may think that your embouchure and air are helping you blow high notes but the whole scene would fall flat if your teeth aren't aligned in such a way as to permit the upper register from flowing out. Time doesn't permit me to describe a sure fire way of rigging the chops to guarantee a strong register with a fine tone. However at least the groundwork here has been laid. If all that happens from my words today is that just one person stops to think,

'Hey that makes sense! By concerning myself only with my mouthpiece position it's like buying an aircraft with just half a wing".

Last thought of the day, (I hope...)

We all know of many decent trumpet players with pretty good middle and lower registers. They are in the majority. Of course! This is the easiest range on the horn. Like, Duh! It follows then that someone who is first developing his high range may not exactly sound all that great. It certainly was this way with Louis Maggio. He who used to row his boat way out on the other side of the lake. So that he didn't bother his neighbors as he practiced.

Similarly both Dr Reinhardt and Roy Stevens noted that the development of a fat sound at the same time as one strives to learn high notes was like chasing rainbows*. Counter-productive. Of course good high note players should develop a good tone too. However the jnitial process of high tone development is pretty well known to make a trumpet sound kinda suck. At least for a while.

My own initial high note studies happened while I was only playing trombone in the school band. And this was good. As in my home practice I gradually developed a powerfu register above the staff. Had I been encumbered by needing to play well and accurately in the lower register at the same time too? I might not have excelled at high notes so much. Later on in college however I finally got to switch exclusively to trumpet and then fattened my tone. However in the end I had both a reliable, musical tone in the middle and lower register. Along with a powerful, accurate high range allowing me the lead chaur.

Conversely most of my peers who followed conventional wisdom? They who oncentrated mostly on tone production did not have a high range at all. As far as I know? None of them even play high notez well even today! Not even nearly some fifty years later.

*"Chasing rainbows" is my term. Or at least it was not from Reinhardt or Stevens. Stevens warned about trumpet players "dtopping their jaw". While this did facilitate better low tones it also broke the embouchure structure. Ruining their chance of developing high notes.

Similarly Reinhardt warned "don't fall in love with your tone". Meaning that until the embouchure was well experienced? The effort to blow fat, loud low tones broke up the chops. Making an insuitable formation to allow high notes. What's funny is that while both me were geniuses? That and each pretty much saying the same thing? They didn't get along well. This was often true in the field of physics. Though less so nowadays.
"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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