Learning to Play is a Life-Long Pursuit. This is the first of many "Learn to Play" "Play to Learn" Pages ››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››››
For new tips and tricks - and a great new video on the lower hemisphere go to: MY UTUBE PAGE
................................................................................................................... If you look closely at great lead players you will notice the lower lip is more visible than the upper. (Look at Rick Baptist or Wayne Bergeron)
The thinner the lips the more it will appear the lips are equally exposed. The heavier the lips the more prominent the lower lip becomes.
The lower lip (LL) is the foundation for the aperture. The LL is the lip that easily rolls into the mouth over the teeth. (If you ever watch the movie "Man with a horn" you will hear Kirk Douglas warn a band leader that one of his trumpet players is developing a roll; and that will keep him from being strong all night.) If you have large lips that roll over your teeth make an effort to keep the bottom lip forward, so that the lip does not cross back into your mouth across the lower teeth edges. This is especially true if you have an overbite, crossbite thing going on. Or if your bottom teeth are not as long as your top center teeth.
It is not a problem if you use your tongue to be a "placeholder" against the lower lip. You can still expand the tongue, accordion" style to the top teeth for tonguing.
Some players with shorter lower teeth and longer upper teeth, and large top AND bottom will find it helpful to let the LL roll in naturally. They then use the tip of the tongue to support the LL and maintain this contact into the upper register. Tonguing is then accomplished by expanding the tongue up to the top teeth edges while keeping the tip against the lower lip.
This is the way my father taught me to play – He said, “George, spit a hair off the end of your tongue.”
I have known players to use variations of this and some who combine it with the Stevens approach. Others have made a living off the method called TCE. Tongue controlled embouchure.
My take on this is that it is useful at times, with special situations. For instance H.L. Clarke used it when he had played all day and night and still had to play those fiendish solos ending on high G’s. By the way, good old HLC could play from double to triple “C” and above when using this approach. If you read his notes on playing in his many books, he sometimes uses the phrase “ raising the lower lip” in fact he was eluding to the “trick” as he called it of modified TCE.
The determination of proper position must be predicated on the "what plays" principle. The tone must be produced with minimum effort, The test tone should be mid range, very soft, and above all else, feel as if the lips are not vibrating, just a clear soft tone appearing by itself. Some say "I feels like a bubble balancing on the aperture." Others call it a static - no movement - vibration.
From this establishment or base of tone production, you may let the unconscious will, tell the note to move up in whole tones by breathing against the resistance of the body and backbore.
It is important to keep your jaw and lips relaxed and in alignment.
You can also envision a straight line across the aperture from corner to corner. If you hold a flat piece of cardboard between your lips it will give you the proper feeling for this line. Note: overblowing is a trumpet sin. Use the least of everything to produce the maximum result. This does not mean that you will be a tranquil paleface when you are playing Lead for MF; it does mean that at high volume, high velocity, you will not be working harder than the minimum required to accomplish the task.
This “work coefficient” is greatly different from player to player. I can play very loud in the upper register with little displayed effort. Another person – take Harry Kim for example, will look as if they are about to explode. Both are correct within each’s kinesthetics.
Don't trust a mirror to help you see what's really going on. Unless you have a glass mouthpiece, you must set up by feel. Now the beauty of the system is that when you have the right set and the right natural resistance, and teeth alignment and jaw position - the tiny static tone , clear as a bell, will appear with a gentle exhalation.
Another note here is that not only are the differences in teeth according to size, they are also in angle, vertical and horizontal, and in space between. The latter here is evidenced in some notably wonderful high note players.
I took a few lessons with the famous Cat Anderson. He asked me if I was making the money I needed playing the trumpet. When I said yes, he told me I didn’t need lessons. He equated playing to money. He never let me see the cup of his mouthpiece, so one day I snuck a look on the bandstand when in an unguarded moment he turned away. The diameter was about a 7 C bach but the depth was non-existent, just a dimple.
Now here is why this worked for him: He told me to clench my teeth and jaw closed and blow through my teeth. Easy for him, he natural occlusion allowed his top abd bottom teeth to meet evenly in the front at the same time as his back molars. In addition he had a bowling ball sized gap between his front teeth. In effect he had a fixed aperture akin to a reed on a clarinet. The two front teeth being the facing and the lip being the reed. He then could arch his tongue at the front and tongue against his teeth. The result was, well…Cat Anderson.
The interesting thing was that Cat warmed up every day with a Harmon mute. Usually watching TV and playing the open harmonics from 2nd line G on up to the stratosphere. Each note he played PPP for 15 to 20 minutes. This loosened him up and then set up his chops so they could remain together in the center as he ascended with the very high velocity produced by this set up. The depth of the cup was never a problem because his lips never had a chance to chase the air.
I did this routine for a few days, and actually closed my over bitten teeth naturally. The air somehow found it’s way to the cup and I produced some stratospheric tones, albeit a rotten sound.
Cat never played well in the staff, but he didn’t need to.
If you get a buzz, or the sound sticks then pops out, you are too tight, or too puckered. Learn to relax it all. This is the same athletic relaxation a golfer uses, or a martial arts master uses. Relax does not mean go limp. It means let the unconscious will provide the resistance for the task, as opposed to the “conscious will” pre-setting the muscles for the expected tone.
Because this is so foreign to many players, you must trust what plays. If the tone is crystal clear, appearing on the lip by itself without the aid of puckering, spitting, buzzing, mouth shaping, then you may move to the next whole step. Do not increase volume - use the air to ascend instead.
Many fine symphonic players play large mouthpieces and separate their lips prior to playing. This means they must pre-set and actually produce a buzz to position the tone.
Renold Schilke was my longtime teacher and advocated this method. I had to buzz the exercise before I played it on the mouthpiece. I moved from a Schilke 12 to a 24 mouthpiece over a 3 year span. I could play double d’s all day long. But my sound was symphonic and spread. It never was a true lead trumpet sound, and eventually I left the road and the all day playing. My chops weakened and I kept trying to play the 24. It was too much, and I developed a lot of left arm pressure, eventually causing me to completely sever the meat of my lip on the top left hemisphere. The muscle separated and the skin was all that touched together if I pressed on my chops.
This all happened 3 weeks before I began a two year stint as lead trumpet at the Venetian room in the Atlanta Fairmont hotel. Roy Stevens saved my career.
You must understand that increasing the air speed may have more than one result. You may ascend or get louder; or descend or get softer; or a combination of the pairs determined not by conscious presetting but by the unconscious will acting from past positive experience.
This is why it is so important to repeat positive results hundreds of times so they may be permanently imprinted in the unconscious will. I would estimate 75% of my practice is at mp or less, without tonguing.
When you practice and continually repeat a fault, it will imprint easier than a success. This is why I always recommend practicing slower and softer; then gradually progress to faster and fuller. I also advocate a decrescendo as you ascend into your highest range - keeping a pure simple sound. This will prohibit you from relying on the "blast it, and attack" method so often used to give the illusion of upper register mastery. Remember to only allow your tongue to rise towards the front – channeling the air to your top lip. If you raise it at the back you will be actually cutting off the quantity.