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Success after braces



 
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GJ Trumpet
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Joined: 08 Mar 2020
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Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2020 12:49 pm    Post subject: Success after braces Reply with quote

I have felt the need to post this for a while because I want to share my experience and let people know that braces can actually be the best thing to happen to you playing trumpet. Yes, the best thing.

I had been playing for about 2 years practicing before I got braces, and I would say I was pretty average for a teenager who hadn't been practicing that much in that time. My range was not very good, but I was always trying to get that next note, I could squeak out Ds and Es sometimes but anything above a G on top of the stage was a struggle. I was starting to learn to stop using pressure, and a few months before I knew I was getting braces, I started practicing playing with little pressure. I used the palm method almost everyday and focused on never pressing to get a higher note, and before I got my braces put on I had come on significantly in just a few months, and my sound was much broader than before (I could hear myself in recordings of bands I was in just filling out the 3rd part).

Then I got braces. First few days were terrible. Any note above a middle C was difficult and the tone was dreadful. But I was determined to not let it set me back, and that I would be back to where I was and even better before I knew it. At this stage I started watching countless YouTube videos for tips on how to play efficiently without pressure, Adam Rapa videos were a real help, as his current ones are. I picked up many little tips which I will lost at the end of this. I realised it was all about using the air and the tongue to change pitch, and the lips were essentially just the 'reed'. I think within about a month I was playing better than I had ever done before, and easier. My teacher at the time was amazed, because I had done this on my own without much of his help on how to play properly. Within 3 months my range was getting much better. I was back up to a high C but this time easily, with as little effort as possible. I think about 7 months after I played my first double Gs, granted not big band lead Gs but actual notes, not squeaks. Nothing could have thrilled me more. I continued working on using no pressure to play for the rest of the time with braces, and worked on high notes at the same time, and as I was using little effort I was able to do this for extended periods, not just the recommended 10 minutes or so in the middle of your practice.

Then I got my braces off. If anything the first week was harder than having them put on. I had a concert 3 days after, and I only had to play up to an f top line, but this was a massive challenge. Yet what I had ingrained the last year and a half of braces was that I did not need to press harder or blow that much harder to play any notes. Focusing on letting the air flow through an open throat and just using the tongue to ascend and descend meant that I was able to put it all back together with consistent practice within less than 3 weeks. All that was actually different was the metal in my mouth was gone. I continued to use the same technique I had been using the last year and a half, and this made it very easy to continue as I had started. Now over 2 years on from them coming off, I have never had endurance issues. I have been able to play for hours and hours, and high notes as well, which people just cannot comprehend, and normally complain that I'm still playing high notes at the end of rehearsals, personally it's just for me to check I'm not fatigued, not a boastful thing. Range has improved massively from the braces, I can play up to a very solid G, and the A is occasionally ridiculously loud as well. B is a struggle and the double C is still elusive!
Without a doubt, braces were the best thing to happen for my trumpet playing. So, how did I do it, and how can anyone else suffering with braces struggles do the same?

Firstly, you must be incredibly disciplined to working on your technique, no matter how long it takes. It could be it clicks immediately, it could take months, but I believe that everyone can learn.
I would recommend starting off playing softly so you don't force any notes, middle register, concentrating on making it as easy as possible. Absolutely minimise pressure. This is the beauty of the braces, any amount of unnecessary pressure causes pain. It is possible to play loud and high with braces and not be in any pain at all, as I was able to develop. Resting the trumpet flat on your palm is a great method for seeing the minimum pressure, and then when holding it in two hands trying to replicate the feeling. Practice lip slurs on the palm first, then imitate that when holding normally. Of course, starting off low and only moving up when it is easy and you don't have to apply any more pressure.
Importantly, i think the thing to focus on is your air and tongue. It doesn't matter what method you use, but i believe my success was down to me concentrating on a constant air flow, and raising the tongue to ascend, and when getting really high, up and forward. Similar to anchor tonguing but everyone is individual and it feels different for everyone so I can't say what it should or shouldn't feel like. However I can say that it should feel EASY.
While you should focus on the tongue and air going faster when ascending (faster air = higher, support from abdominals does need to increase but you should not feel like you are blowing with all your might) the lips should be reacting to the changes your tongue is making to the airstream. You should not be tightening up in the lips, this is also where the braces will tell you if that's happening by them cutting into your skin.
The braces are there to tell you when your technique is slipping, something which is invaluable if you are serious about playing correctly. If you focus on the ease of playing, making sure the lips stay relaxed and just using the air and your tongue to move up and down the instrument, you will come on leaps and bounds, and as well as the high register starting to come naturally and easily, you will get a much better tone. So good luck to anyone who may have braces, or is getting them, don't worry, treat yourself as one of the lucky ones who gets instant feedback on what you're doing right or wrong anytime you pick up the horn!

As a side note, anyone without braces who maybe has been through it, or has never had to suffer, I would recommend bfocusing on playing as if you had braces. The less pressure you use and less you use your lips and more just the air and tongue, the easier trumpet playing will get. Tone will broaden, endurance will almost never be an issue anymore, and of course the double C will be infinitely more attainable!
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JayKosta
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Joined: 24 Dec 2018
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2020 1:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Success after braces Reply with quote

GJ Trumpet wrote:
... the lips should be reacting to the changes your tongue is making to the airstream. You should not be tightening up in the lips ...

------------------------
It seems that you have made great progress, and have learned some very worthwhile techniques!

Can you describe in more detail how you feel your
"lips ... reacting to the changes your tongue is making".
Do you have a feeling of your lips being pulled or compressed in any way?
What do you feel is causing that?

Do you feel there is any muscle action directly affecting your lips? And if so, how do you reconcile that with " You should not be tightening up in the lips".

Finding the 'right words' to describe the feelings you experience is very difficult, and even more so when someone else is reading them and trying to apply it to their playing and feeling.

Jay
_________________
King Super 20 (S2 1048, HN White)
Bach 7
The 'next note' is the most important one.
Don't take a '20 minute mouthpiece' to a 1 hour session.
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GJ Trumpet
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Joined: 08 Mar 2020
Posts: 4
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Success after braces Reply with quote

JayKosta wrote:
GJ Trumpet wrote:
... the lips should be reacting to the changes your tongue is making to the airstream. You should not be tightening up in the lips ...

------------------------
It seems that you have made great progress, and have learned some very worthwhile techniques!

Can you describe in more detail how you feel your
"lips ... reacting to the changes your tongue is making".
Do you have a feeling of your lips being pulled or compressed in any way?
What do you feel is causing that?

Do you feel there is any muscle action directly affecting your lips? And if so, how do you reconcile that with " You should not be tightening up in the lips".

Finding the 'right words' to describe the feelings you experience is very difficult, and even more so when someone else is reading them and trying to apply it to their playing and feeling.

Jay


You are very right, that's why I have probably been a bit vague with my explanation, finding the words is so hard, one of the hardest things about brass playing! I would say they feel like they are compressing a bit towards the centre, but not a tightening feeling. It feels like I am keeping a very small circular hole and as I get higher it seems to be former but not necessarily smaller, I know, it confuses me! Also, when playing louder this is when I feel the most change, and also when doing this my tongue and whole jaw drop. This is from yet another video I saw of Wayne Bergeron saying that each note he is thinking "oh" keeping the throat open and I was finding that by keeping the tongue as low as was easy for the note and then lips as open as they can made playing better. I think the mouthpiece dictates how much you need this, less so if you're playing a really deep cup.
There is definitely some muscle movement although only noticeable when slurring 2 octaves or more. For my compression it seems to be a bit at the corners and just below, sort of just holding steadier, and then pushing down above the top lip, the muscle just under the nose I feel the most movement in. I also tend to slightly push the bottom lip forward as well. It is simply the middle of the lips that are important because sometimes I have noticed that when I'm not paying attention, one side of my bottom lip sort of pops out of being a neat embouchure, yet I can still play practically the same. As to what's causing it, I think it could just be from playing for a while it's something I've stumbled onto that's stuck for the moment, and I've been too frightened to mess with something that has been working! Hope that helps a bit more with understanding what on earth I am trying to explain.
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Lionel
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Joined: 25 Jul 2016
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2020 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like reading these kinds of stories regarding the ups & downs of starting over. In part because I too have had to start completely over since tooth loss in 2018. AND, The truly interesting things about these "Before & After" accounts is that they allow me to gain more insight into the "lost world" of the beginner. Allow me to explain.

Confusion and insecurity can often become the constant companion to the beginner. Or in this case the fellow going from an embouchure shift from braces back to regular teeth. However as we gain in skill and the years pass our memory of these tricky times fades away. Thus the reason for my term "lost world". So at least for me your post was helpful of in describing the difficulty you initially had in the playing of that top line F natural. As on my own recently changed embouchure I've been having considerable difficulty picking this note off squarely too. This while either in concert or in rehearsal. Thus for obvious reasons I'm purposely avoiding the Cornet I book for now. While I can nail this note fine in practice? Once the pressure is on and I get tired my range falls apart.

JUST LIKE IT ONCE DID WHEN I WAS A KID!

Yes at one time I really struggled to get out of the staff. This is probably always caused by an immature embouchure. However I also remember that through my mere perseverance and putting in a couple seasons of solid, intelligent practice/development I did finally turn the corner. And notes at the top of the staff no longer scared me. Nor were difficult.

And so today, armed with a new version of the famous Stevens-Costello system I'll soon be "turning the (same) corner" again. In fact I've been concentrating on exercises that focus exactly on those notes. Taking care of course not to over do it.

Overtraining has long been my personal demon. Today I try to quit BEFORE getting exhausted at the end of the day. Best regards to all!
_________________
"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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