There is a great deal of talk about pressure. Mouthpiece pressure is the one that is normally brought up , there is also lip pressure and abdominal pressure. The biggest pressure is MENTAL pressure.
Years ago Stevens was torn apart by members of the trumpet community
by saying no - pressure and doing a demo by palming a horn or hanging it
by a string suspended from the ceiling. He then walked up to it and
played a high c.
Yet when Mendez did this same stunt everyone was in awe. The stunt has nothing to do with playing. It merely shows that mouthpiece pressure does not play the note . It is only needed to seal off and prevent the air flow from escaping where the lips come in contact with the mouthpiece.
I have a rant about how a snob factor dominated music education for many years. It was not what do they know but rather where did they get their PHD - DMA ? I spent 1 semester at a school where the trumpet instructor got his DMA from a famous college. The entire freshman class was forced to undergo an embouchure change regardless of their playing ability. 18 out of 23 trumpet majors transferred to another school for the second semester. BTW he taught there until he retired he had a DMA for goodness sakes.
Stevens used 2 types of grips one to help break the habit of too much pressure and the one everyone is accustomed to seeing the Ferguson band use. Grabbing the bottom of the valve casing helps ( more mental than physical ) to transfer some horn weight to the lower lip. It has other benefits as well. ( again more mental than physical ). Stevens would have a player put his horn into playing position and then move it away from the lips until they separated from the mouthpiece. Then you lock the elbows in place. To play you had to push your face into the horn instead of the other way around. Well you will not push as hard this way you can't push as hard this way. Pressure causes lip separation, swelling ..... Besides it holds the notes in. A player can be more responsive if using a ( relaxed ) setup. This concept is used and has been written about by a large number of players.
Lip pressure is also not a sure way to the upper register. It is possible to apply enough pressure even without the mouthpiece to stop the air flow. When any mouthpiece pressure is added then this bottleneck refuses to let your high notes out. There are more high c players that could in a few weeks be super c players because of this extreme lip pressure than for any other reason. They are not letting the air escape and thereby holding the notes in.
Now to abdominal pressure. Everyone is in agreement that when we breathe we should start at the bottom . Fill the lower part of the lungs and let then expand. What do we do with it next. Some players put it under pressure at once. Others only pressurize higher notes. Either way we MUST turn it around. Holding the air in causes too many problems to list. So when you take a breath use it at once. The breathing cycle should be inhale, exhale. Not inhale, stop, exhale.
Different players and teachers stress different methods of abdominal pressure. Some tense the muscles. Some tense the muscles and try to lift Some push outward and others contract from front to back. They all have one thing in common. The muscle tension is BELOW the chest. For what it's worth I have heard of a couple of players who had gotten hernias by pushing out. One is a good friend of mine and a former student of both Jacoby and Shew. Neither taught this to him and neither told him to stop either.
By far the biggest pressure that we face is mental. We worry about everything. Are we using the right horn, mouthpiece, embouchure, breathing technique, stance, ect. Am I wearing my lucky shirt? Will my chops hold out for 6 hours? Will I hit the super R# at the end of scream my brains out? This is very tiring and the nervous tension can be more demanding than the playing. We have all seen players worry themselves to the point where they did mess up. What can be done?
1. Don't worry. To mentally dwell on the possibilities can do nothing to help. So think of something else.
2. If it is NOT broke don't fix it. I get tons of e-mails about mouthpieces. ( If I don't chicken out I'll address this later.) My first question is always what's wrong with your current mouthpiece. I get a lot of answers that say ' Nothing I was just wondering if....'. This constant changing for no reason is self defeating. ( I never chicken out and I will cover why do a mouthpiece change later.)
3. Spend more time practicing than complaining about your skills.
4. Practice skills that you can't do well. Don't play the same thing over and over. I realize that it massages your ego , but it does not improve your playing.
5. Always warm up. A warm up is just that warming up the muscles to work. It is not showing off to the rest of the section . I've seen people warm -up / show off so much before a performance that their playing suffered as a result.
6. Don't be stuck in one mindset. I've had high c players not finish a lesson because 'that can't work it's too easy'.
7. Don't MAKE it hard. Oh look I have to play a super c in 26 minutes. Worry worry. Play the notes in front of you and ignore the future. It may sneek up on you and really scream.
8. It can't be a high note because it's still on the paper not the ceiling. If you think it is high and hard to play it will be.
9. Don't try to hit a note. You play notes.
10. If you make a mistake so what. A mistake will not hurt a show or
even a song. If you worry about it you can snowball into a really bad time.