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Strengthening the Embouchure, muscles are weak



 
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AkshayB
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Joined: 03 Jan 2019
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2020 7:01 pm    Post subject: Strengthening the Embouchure, muscles are weak Reply with quote

After watching this James Morrison video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujrTDbnvDpU) I realized I was playing with way too much mouthpiece pressure, my range wasn't improving, and I knew something had to change. I'm starting to practice playing with no pressure on the mouthpiece, and as expected, my range dropped a couple notes ad my sound is very thin in the upper register. I relied so heavily on my mouthpiece to form my embouchure that my embouchure muscles are extremely weak. I am here to ask of any specific tips/exercises that will help me build stronger embouchure muscles (or is it just practicing more?).

Some background - I'm 14, been playing for 6 years. Range was a C/D above the staff with the mouthpiece pressure, now is a very thin G/A above the staff.
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Billy B
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2020 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Think about muscle coordination rather than strength.
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zaferis
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2020 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't worry about your range.. sounds like it's fine for your age and experience.
Practice with good sound, good time/rhythm, slurs, tonging, scales, etc. Naturally, some exercises are designed to promote growth in range. Scales, Arpeggios, Flow Studies, Schlossberg, etc..

We all want to expand our range - start with what you have, played well and work at it. Over time, months to years, your range will grow.

I agree with Biily B, it's more about coordination than strength.

AND consult, listen to, or find a private teacher. Self-study and self-analysis is challenging and often inaccurate.
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Robert P
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2020 10:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Strengthening the Embouchure, muscles are weak Reply with quote

AkshayB wrote:
After watching this James Morrison video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujrTDbnvDpU) I realized I was playing with way too much mouthpiece pressure, my range wasn't improving, and I knew something had to change. I'm starting to practice playing with no pressure on the mouthpiece, and as expected, my range dropped a couple notes ad my sound is very thin in the upper register. I relied so heavily on my mouthpiece to form my embouchure that my embouchure muscles are extremely weak. I am here to ask of any specific tips/exercises that will help me build stronger embouchure muscles (or is it just practicing more?).

Some background - I'm 14, been playing for 6 years. Range was a C/D above the staff with the mouthpiece pressure, now is a very thin G/A above the staff.

I realized I was playing with way too much mouthpiece pressure

How did you come to this conclusion? The amount of pressure might not be the problem.

I relied so heavily on my mouthpiece to form my embouchure that my embouchure muscles are extremely weak.

The presence of the mouthpiece is an important component of embouchure formation. Your lips *can't* form the way they need to without the mouthpiece. The basic overall process is the tissue under the mouthpiece is relaxed to accept the mouthpiece and then the muscles around the mouthpiece bear in on the mouthpiece. Transfer of tension to the part of the lips actually inside the mouthpiece is very subtle. It's not a matter of making the lips directly under the mouthpiece hard and tight - if you do that you won't get any sound, the muscular work is going on all around the mouthpiece.

I'm starting to practice playing with no pressure on the mouthpiece, and as expected, my range dropped a couple notes ad my sound is very thin in the upper register

There's no such thing as "no pressure on the mouthpiece". If the mouthpiece is in contact with your lips at all, there's pressure - however nobody can play with any kind of acceptable sound with a "just barely touching" amount of pressure - it has to make fairly substantial contact with and push into the lips. *Nobody* including James Morrison plays with a big, robust sound with "no pressure". As I stated above the mouthpiece is an important component of your embouchure. It traps and isolates a small amount of tissue of the upper and lower lip against your teeth and distorts the tissue in such a way as to form a flesh reed which is further adjusted by the alignment of the teeth and distribution of pressure against the top and bottom lip as well as subtle transfer of tension from surrounding muscular action.

The idea that your lips should do everything they need to do without assistance from the mouthpiece is utterly false.

Experimenting with seeing how little pressure you can get away with is fine - I do it myself, but if your sound is thin, you're not going to get a better sound and extended range simply by increasing muscular strength. You'll find you're not going to be able to reduce the pressure a lot. The mouthpiece pressure *has* to increase for the reed to maintain its formation as the muscular tension increases. Keep in mind you're always walking a tightrope when playing trumpet - a bunch of factors have to come together and balance to get the results you want, and it's easy to lose your balance. The greatest players in the world can splatter notes despite endless hours of focused practice.

You shouldn't feel pain from the mouthpiece pressure, you shouldn't have bleeding. But if neither of those are an issue, mouthpiece pressure isn't the first culprit I'd suspect.

You want a good sound up to the top of whatever range you have and then find the technique/trick to playing higher - which can be a challenge. It's more a matter of a subtle adjustment of how you're using the muscles of your embouchure, the teeth, the throat, *using enough air* - very likely all the above.

Some things to experiment with.

- Try being aware of the gap between your teeth. You'll find as you play louder at a given pitch, the teeth gap will increase a bit.

- Try subtle adjustments in how much pressure is on the top or bottom lip.

- Try playing a given pitch, say a nice fat G on the staff and raising the level of the horn as you play until the sound cuts off, then lower the horn until you get a good sound. I find for myself I get the best sound and overall functionality with the horn at that point.

Here's some photos of my embouchure from a low C to a loud G over high C. I assure you I'm not using "no pressure". I'm also not grinding the mouthpiece into my lips - I'm using the amount of pressure needed. Notice how the interaction of the muscles against the mouthpiece changes. As I'm going higher things definitely feel tighter as the muscular tension moves in on the mouthpiece but I'm not feeling pain.


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Last edited by Robert P on Fri Nov 13, 2020 3:49 pm; edited 5 times in total
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hibidogrulez
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

'No pressure' is indeed a myth, but excessive lip pressure is often a symptom of a player using too much 'muscle power' to force their instrument into obedience. Pushing one's trumpet through one's face to get a high note is often combined with locking breath and torso muscles working against eachother. In general, the more relaxed you can play, the less energy you waste on things that aren't needed to actually produce a sound.

I think what some people call 'no pressure' is in reality 'playing relaxed without straining yourself'. But it's good to clarify it as you did Robert, to avoid confusion.
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GeorgeB
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2020 3:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="hibidogrulez"
I think what some people call 'no pressure' is in reality 'playing relaxed without straining yourself'.[/quote]

You got it ! Some nights near the end of band practice my 84 year old lips are tired and I start applying pressure, which really starts to shut things down. Then I tell myself to relax and after I do that I end the practice session just fine.
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Jerry Freedman
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2020 4:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Get a good teacher. Between this site, BBTrumpet.com and TPIN you can surely find a good teacher. They all Skype or Zoom. Off the top of my head I recommend Jeanne Pocius.
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JayKosta
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2020 8:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with what the previous posters have suggested. You might find some additional information about embouchure here (I am the author) -
http://users.hancock.net/jkosta/Embouchure_Basic_Concepts.docx

As others have mentioned, embouchure technique is a COORDINATED BALANCE of several factors -
Mouthpiece pressure amount and distribution between upper and lower lips.
Teeth alignment and gap, and jaw usage.
Air pressure.
Lip tension and compression.

Jay
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Dayvison
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2020 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have used Louis Maggio, Pedal notes, and lip slurs to increase my own range and help my students to increase theirs. It has helped us a lot. You have to temper the pressure.. too little you lose quality, too much you hurt yourself... We will be always after the "happy middle!" rsrsrsr
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Dkjcliff
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2020 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As others have mentioned, embouchure technique is a COORDINATED BALANCE of several factors -
Mouthpiece pressure amount and distribution between upper and lower lips.
Teeth alignment and gap, and jaw usage.
Air pressure.
Lip tension and compression.

I will second, third, and fourth this. I have come to recognize in my comeback that I previously used way too much mouthpiece pressure. To compensate for alleviating this pressure it required moving the mouthpiece up, bringing my lower jaw higher, and increasing air pressure. While strength is necessary, it isn’t sufficient. It’s all about coordination and balance.
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SMrtn
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2020 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Was in the same boat a little while back. Too much pressure on the mpc and didn't even notice, poor upper register sound, nerfing notes randomly etc. I knew something was wrong and watched a Charlie Porter youtube, which pointed me in the right direction.

Now I can strut the beach without getting sand kicked in my face by bullies. But honestly, it really helped me to concentrate on relaxing my left hand to focus on letting my face muscles do the work instead. I find now I'm reaching the notes I couldn't before, and what's more, they are coming out fuller, and more cleanly most of the time. Long way to go of course.

If you're interested here's the clip that helped me out. Better explanation that I can give.


Link


Hope this helps
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