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Efficiency is misleading?


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StupidBrassObsession
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2015 10:14 pm    Post subject: Efficiency is misleading? Reply with quote

Just a thought I was had today.

I've heard a lot of players talk about efficiency and it generally seems to mean getting the most sound for the least air? (Or they talk about efficient trumpets and mouthpieces etc._

Anyway, the thought I had was that the idea of efficiency seems slightly misleading. It seems that the most sound for the greatest overall ease is the real measure of what is efficient, not just what is mechanically efficient in terms of the sound to airflow ratio etc.

For example, lip buzzing like a mosquito is probably a very highly efficient use of the air, but a horribly inefficient in terms of ease or muscular effort.

The point being that, people sometimes also talk about open and closed apertures (If you buy into that theory) and people will sometimes go "oh well yeah, of course you can play like that, but it's inefficient".
But actually, in terms of effort, if 'playing open' requires less overall effort (or less facial muscle effort in particular), then it can be physically more efficient while still being mechanically less so, right?

I know, perhaps it's not rocket science, but it just seems to me that the way the concept of efficiency is discussed is sometimes divorced from the notion of ease, or it's just assumed that one will equal the other, but I think that's a bit misleading.

Thoughts?
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2015 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your technical proficiency is at maximum when you are playing in your comfort zone.
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shofarguy
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2015 10:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think what most people here term an "efficient horn" is a horn with a high level of acoustic impedance. The horn resonates easily giving a full timbre without much air flow. I have observed that often these designs have sharp bends in the tuning slide, extra bracing between the top and bottom legs of the slide and receiver tubing and perhaps more mass added compared to other trumpets in the mainstream.

My experience with these is that they tend to reach maximum volume early and take much more effort to alter tone quality compared to "less efficient" designs.

Over the years, I have also written about a different type of efficiency. It came about when I acquired my first Wild Thing and began to experience horn resonance at ultra-low airflow rates that continued evenly up to the highest volume/air flow levels I could produce. The same horn had room to greatly alter the tone quality by introducing "inefficiencies" into my technique. For example, I could add air into the sound and still the horn would resonate and produce tone. Other trumpets would simply stop resonating.

I have often referred to this type of efficient tone production as "chops dependent," rather than "horn dependent." I suppose one could call it a sensitive or responsive horn. I like this type of instrument far more than one that is merely air efficient.
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Pete
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Efficiency to me means that you don't use more energy than you need to, in order to produce results. Some think that you have to expel a maximum amount of air to play in the upper register. Some think that the horn makes a huge difference. Others think that it means to play like a wimp. Efficiency: no wasted energy.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The goal should be to develop your playing to the highest level possible, in order to make great music.
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dershem
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Efficient playing" to me means not having to fight the equipment to get the best results. This takes into account embouchure, mouthpiece, airflow, posture, horn... everything. When I am at peak, it just flows without more effort than usual. That's efficient.

Of course, it take a lot of face time to get to that point and maintain it, but hey - nothing is free.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is just one example of "efficient".
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7Nq5fZDYOo
Herseth is soaring over the entire orchestra with no difficulty.
Keep in mind he was in his mid-60s when this was recorded, an age when most principals in symphony orchestras are getting ready to hang it up. Efficiency is what kept Herseth there another 15 years.
Yes, that is his Monette. He asked Monette to make him a trumpet that was a cross between his favorite rotary and his Bach. Monette did just that.
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andybharms
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that efficiency, at least for someone doing the job I try to do, is playing in such a way that trumpet does not make you tired-- that you can do whatever needs to be done for as long as it needs to be done, and then some.

Like a marathon runner, who can run all day, he has an efficient stride and his technique, diet, and muscles are honed to do the task of running all day; he has trained very specifically to achieve that. Nothing about running is tiresome, it is just a thing to do, and the body has no qualms about it.

So, for instance, I can say not in a braggy or boastful way that a high C and a low F# at whatever dynamic level are very comfortable notes for me at the end of even a long playing day-- more comfortable even than at the beginning of it. Playing the trumpet is not a thing that takes a lot of physical effort because my air and ear are doing a large amount of the work.

But I will be the first to tell you that I am a slow learner and it took me so long and so many practice hours, spinning wheels, some injuries, etc, to figure this out. The idea of efficiency on the trumpet is really very counter-intuitive. The best advice I can give over the internet is to sit down with a tuner and learn to play a high G above the staff on the flat side. I find that particular thing nearly impossible to do unless I am blowing relaxed air with firm corners and a nice relaxed center and for me that is a recipe for efficiency that lets me sound great all day long.

I'm sure there are a lot of opinions here. I hope this helps a bit.
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Norman
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 11:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Efficiency is misleading? Reply with quote

StupidBrassObsession wrote:
Just a thought I was had today.

I've heard a lot of players talk about efficiency and it generally seems to mean getting the most sound for the least air? (Or they talk about efficient trumpets and mouthpieces etc._

Anyway, the thought I had was that the idea of efficiency seems slightly misleading. It seems that the most sound for the greatest overall ease is the real measure of what is efficient, not just what is mechanically efficient in terms of the sound to airflow ratio etc.

For example, lip buzzing like a mosquito is probably a very highly efficient use of the air, but a horribly inefficient in terms of ease or muscular effort.

The point being that, people sometimes also talk about open and closed apertures (If you buy into that theory) and people will sometimes go "oh well yeah, of course you can play like that, but it's inefficient".
But actually, in terms of effort, if 'playing open' requires less overall effort (or less facial muscle effort in particular), then it can be physically more efficient while still being mechanically less so, right?

I know, perhaps it's not rocket science, but it just seems to me that the way the concept of efficiency is discussed is sometimes divorced from the notion of ease, or it's just assumed that one will equal the other, but I think that's a bit misleading.

Thoughts?


IMHO what is "mechanically" efficient generates the most efficient result. Where the concept could be misleading is where you talk about "less air", you have to stress the fact that the importance of breath support is always the same.

Lip buzzing is NOT the most efficient mechanically, because you lack any resistance, and the resistance offered by the mouthpiece and instrument is a big help for the lip vibration, therefore when you lip buzz you almost certainly blow harder than you would when you play on the horn. Lip buzzing is a good exercise only if you are well aware of this, and if you strive to do it with the "least air" possible. IMHO it can be very misleading for beginners.

"The most sound" is only one of the benefits of efficient playing. When you are efficient everything is better: endurance, flexibility, articulation, range, and of course the quality of the sound, which will be more resonant. An efficient player will almost certainly be able to play a lot louder without compromising sound quality. More efficiency gives higher quality, period.

The efficiency of the horn comes after the efficiency of the player. An inefficient player will not benefit much from an efficient horn. An efficient player will be able to fully exploit the benefit of an efficient horn. An inefficient horn, of course, will not help anybody become more efficient.
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shakuhachi
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2015 3:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Lip buzzing is NOT the most efficient mechanically, because you lack any resistance, and the resistance offered by the mouthpiece and instrument is a big help for the lip vibration, therefore when you lip buzz you almost certainly blow harder than you would when you play on the horn. Lip buzzing is a good exercise only if you are well aware of this, and if you strive to do it with the "least air" possible. IMHO it can be very misleading for beginners.


...well done Norman! One can not emphasize enough this observation: Lynn Nicholson stated that "buzzing" of the lips is a secondary effect of blowing in the horn - not a primary. This is also stated by a lot of people for example by Roger Ingram in his book. The latter was stating too in a forums post that "Resistance is your friend when playing in the high register". So leadpipe buzzing may be more secure than mouthpiece buzzing because of more resistance added. etc.

"most sound for the least air" - that is what I am trying to do using circular breathing on deep C (first leger line under the stuff) on Bb trumpet. The whole compression must be balanced within the mouth/throat cavity - that in turn can only be managed by a firm diaphragm. Using my Ingram Vintage Maynard mpc from Picket Brass works wonders doing that....
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Craig Swartz
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't believe it is misleading at all and I'd go along with what Andy wrote above. Horns and mouthpieces can all help certain individuals if they already play properly, but learning to play efficiently really means to do so without fighting yourself. If you'd like some excellent exercises or discussion I suggest you purchase John Daniels' "Special Studies" book, and/or sign up with Pops and read through his "Tension-less Playing" e-book.

Of course there are many other ways to get you there. Most of us have learned to use an incredible amount of unnecessary energy, pressure and muscles not even related to proper playing in our daily attempts. Problem is- once we've learned it that way (because it got us through the 4th hour of the gig somehow), it is very difficult to change it so we continue fighting ourselves. It can be an ongoing and constant battle for many- perhaps the majority of instrumentalists. If it were all that easy, we wouldn't be posting questions of comments here. Good luck!
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Dan O'Donnell
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Being a VERY happy owner of heavy horns (2) Harrelson and a Getzen Genesis for several years...I find that efficiency means to me...Less energy in (input) to get more energy out (output) with minimal wasted energy.

Simply put; the energetic input (vibrating air) is not wasted on vibrating many external parts of the horn but rather goes directly "through" the horn and out the bell.

I can honestly say that it is MUCH easier for ME...to play and sound much better on my more efficient horns after missing several days practicing than it was on a traditional / standard weight Trumpet.

Specifically; the sound does not break up when pushed although it still gets louder.

I also find that I don't miss or "chip" note (clams) nearly as much on my heavy horns as I did on the less efficient horns due to the feel of the notes "slotting" better yet still allowing enough room to bend notes at will.

Those who have played heavy horns (not for a day or 2 but for several years) knows exactly what I am attempting to convey.
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kalijah
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2015 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I doubt that there is a huge difference in efficiency between heavy instruments and a standard weight even though there are subtle noticeable playing difference.

I personnaly prefer the weight to be in the mouthpiece, specifically the Marcinkiewicz "concert hall" design. And sometimes a somewhat heavier reciever such as on my Callichio 1S2.

I do not like the sound of ultra-heavy instruments as they do not brighten up in a musical way for louder dynamics.

The efficiency of the player is what can most be improved but, as I wrote before. Efficiency is not the goal. Sounding GOOD is.

It does not matter if you (or your equipment) are less than perfectly efficient as long as you have sufficient energy and strength to play what you are required to play while sounding good and making the music you aim to make.

But dont get me wrong; nothing wrong with improving your own personal efficency IF it helps you meet your musical goals.
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EdMann
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From my point of view, the horn is totally secondary to the issue of playing efficiency. When I'm on my game, my Conn 22B is the biggest sounding horn in the world to me; thick, sonorous, projecting, easy. That's my baseline and when I move to another horn, I move the baseline a bit and I get the same result. When we speak of an efficient horn, it makes little sense unless you're playing it correctly.

Prime example: I had a C trumpet that had a leak in an Amado water key, and I didn't know that for like a month. I was chasing my sound in an inefficient system, but still got my sound. I got fatigued more quickly during some long passages and that's what started my investigation, but it taught me how far down the line the horn comes into play.

ed
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Fabio jackson
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I disagree, I think the least air used to obtain the most sound is mechanically most efficient, most muscularity efficient and I believe that most people use too much air volume instead of air velocity.
The smaller the mouthpiece, the more efficient you have to be with your air... And it's common knowledge that smaller mouthpieces are easier to play.
Efficiency is not a myth.
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kalijah wrote:
I do not like the sound of ultra-heavy instruments as they do not brighten up in a musical way for louder dynamics.


My thoughts exactly as well. I did a show several years ago where we had three trumpets in the Pit (how rare is that?!?!). One of the players was playing on one of those heavy Taylor trumpets. He sounded like he had a towel stuffed in his bell compared to me with my 900 gram (31.95 ounce) Burbank Benge.

Concerning efficiency, I think it can mean several things in terms of brass playing. The first thing I think of when it comes to efficiency, is the ability to create more (good, clean) sound with less air. I can play through most any of the Clarke etudes several times in one breath, not because I have huge lungs, but because I can energize my lips with very little air. How much of this is due to training and coordination compared to maybe the idea that my lips have been "pounded into submission" over the years to the point where the vibrating tissue is very soft and pliable, I do not know.

Another aspect of efficiency is the idea of having the neuro-muscle coordination aspect of playing developed to a very high level where particular dynamic levels and/or the upper register can be played with less physical effort. Some of my students are in their late teens and early 20's and most of them are bigger than me. I've got one student who could be a linebacker on a football team. He CLEARLY is much stronger physically than me, but I've got a half octave more range than he does, and my high notes are much louder and stronger than his. That's because with my many years of practice and development I've really honed in on the "knack" or "feel" of how to play the upper register, so though I don't practice much anymore and I'm getting older (54) my efficiency allows me to do what a stronger person can't.

Efficiency also applies to the horn and to a greater extent, the mouthpiece. Concerning the mouthpiece, when most people discuss mouthpiece efficiency, their thought seems to be that a smaller mouthpiece with more resistance is more "efficient". If one is playing nothing but Bill Chase parts, this may be the case for some players. But to me, mouthpiece efficiency refers to a couple of things:

1) What I will call the "Shoe Size Factor": This mainly concerns cup diameter and rim contour, but cup depth also comes into play here. Some players play best on big mouthpieces. Some players play best on medium size mouthpieces. Some play best on smaller mouthpieces. For me personally, trying to play on a small diameter mouthpiece feels like trying to force my feet into size 6 shoes. I wear size 9.5 shoes and I play on mouthpieces the size of or slightly bigger than a Bach 3C. For me, that is my efficient size range. For me, anything smaller than a 3C, or larger than a Mt Vernon 1 (which is not nearly as big as a modern Bach 1), is not efficient.

2) What I will call the "Sound Factor" of efficiency: I play very well on a Bach Mt Vernon 1 (currently available as the Bach 1X). I also play very well on a Bob Reeves 43M. You wouldn't want to hear me play the opening to Mahler 5 on the 43M, nor would it make much sense for me to play the Mambo solo from the Dance Hall Sequence of West Side Story on my Bach 1X. Enough said...

By the way, as a side note, if you'd like a little laugh, have a listen to me playing the opening of Mahler 5 on my 1X, accompanied by our Alaskan Malamute and our Am Staff mix:


Link


Cheers,

John Mohan
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Last edited by John Mohan on Fri Oct 23, 2015 11:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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Nonsense Eliminator
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like a lot of disagreements concerning the trumpet, I think this largely has to do with how you choose to define the terms, and whether or not everybody is using those terms the same way.

Some people seem to be looking at efficiency as a goal in itself. Certainly, it's very important that we learn to play efficiently and that we choose choose equipment that permits us to do so. But the goal is not efficiency. The goal is the right note at the right time with the right sound and the right shape and the right musical intent.

From a standpoint of equipment, you can, I suppose, talk about "efficient" trumpets. But what does that mean, divorced from a goal? Yes, my Shew is a pretty efficient trumpet, especially with my GR 67MS, but if I used it to play second trumpet in a Brahms symphony the only think it would be efficient at is making sure I never work there again. Some old clunker East German rotary trumpet with a giant mouthpiece might be a spectacularly inefficient instrument, in terms of "play loud high notes with minimal effort" but would be much, much more efficient in terms of "generate the appropriate sound on the necessary notes."

To give a less extreme example, my 229 C trumpet with a 1.25C/22/24 mouthpiece isn't the most "efficient" set up in the world. But I can promise you that I'm working less hard on it to play Shostakovich than I would if I used my Shew, because its natural sound is appropriate for the music. Therefore, I don't have to manipulate the sound, and can play more efficiently than if I had to artificially "darken" (i.e. flarpen and crapulate) the sound.

As far as playing efficiently goes, I don't care how much air it takes. Breathing is easy. Yes, many people try to blow too hard and that's inefficient. But so is using too little air. To me, the important question is, "Are you working against yourself?" Or, put another way, "Could you make a sound that is technically and aesthetically better with less effort?" For just about everybody, at least some of the time, the answer is "yes," and that's where inefficiency is a problem.

I guess what I'm getting at is that while efficiency is really, really important, and it's a good way of describing the ideal way of playing the instrument, that assumes that efficiency is in service of a musically viable sound concept. Yes, that sound concept ought to be one that can be created efficiently. But if the only good thing you can say about a sound is that it's efficient, outside of a tiny minority of playing situations, chances are not many people will be willing to pay for it.
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Fabio jackson
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Added weight to the metal of the trumpet does not affect the brightness/darkness of the sound. Look on harrelson trumpets YouTube page.... That Taylor trumpet must have been designed differently.
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fabio jackson wrote:
Added weight to the metal of the trumpet does not affect the brightness/darkness of the sound. Look on harrelson trumpets YouTube page.... That Taylor trumpet must have been designed differently.


All other things being equal, adding weight to the metal of a trumpet most certainly does affect the brightness/darkness of an instrument. Other things can be done to increase or decrease how bright a horn plays (in particular, how open the flare of the bell is). But a lightweight version of a particular trumpet sounds brighter than a heavier version of the same design. I think I'm stating the obvious here.

Back in the days when my teacher Claude Gordon was playing 1st trumpet for the CBS Staff Orchestra, he and all of his colleagues in the Los Angeles studio scene would have the bells on their horns buffed down as much as possible to get as he called it, a good "sizzle" to the tone that the microphones would pick up well. That's one of the main differences between the CG Benge he designed and the Benge 6X it was based off of. As lightweight as the Benge 6X already was, the CG Benges had their bells buffed down as much as possible. They used to lose many of the bells in the factory from over-buffing. Finally, when Zig Kanstul took over as manager for the Benge factory, when he was apprised of the situation, he sensibly had them make the CG bells from thinner brass sheet stock. Smart man, smart idea. Problem solved.

People buy Bach Lightweight trumpets when they want brighter playing horns. With few exceptions, heavy tank-like horns (I'm thinking the heavy Taylors and of course the typical vintage Monettes) play very dark.

Best wishes,

John Mohan
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kalijah
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fabio wrote:
Quote:
I believe that most people use too much air volume instead of air velocity.

I think you mean air flow, not air "volume". (These are not the same thing.)

And air velocity is really of no consequence when discussing the air power we apply to playing.

By the same token, IF you wish to discuss the efficiency of air use while playing, in a "mechanical" sense, air FLOW alone is not the full story.
The power that we apply to playing, in any instant, is the quantitative product of the air flow and the air pressure, (FLOW x PRESSURE). Not simply the air flow.

Furthermore, especially in the sense that some of you are defining efficiency, (with regard to air flow alone), the most efficient system would be with the horn and mouthpiece with the highest possible impedance. Imagine a trumpet of small bore and other characteristics of the greatest playing resistance, along with a VERY small mouthpiece volume with very tight throat and backbore. THAT would be the most efficient. But obviously not what is actually playable if we prefer an equipment setup with less resistance.

I think it is more important to be effective than efficient.(See Nonsense Eleminatorís post above, which I fully agree with.)
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