Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003 18:52:31 -0400
From: Timothy Jon Phillips <>
Subject: Re: [TPIN] Over practicing?

I agree with Paul... Arm Pressure is the culprit here. Many people on this list (old timers :) have heard and asked for an update on my "change" of blowing habits when I have something to share. This is as good a time as any. All this is sheer conjecture based on my studies with many people and adventures in trying to improve my own playing. I apologize in advance for dropping names here...

Back pressure is critical to a trumpet player operating efficiently. A clue to this is the recent thread on mutes and specifically the silent brass and their affect on the players "feel". Having been a player at one time that possessed certain abilities, then lost them, now regaining them (with the help/inspiration/instruction of Jon Faddis, Jim Manley and the writings of The Tasteebros), I have noticed that when things are working the best for me now, the back pressure I feel is at the chops. There are invariably people who will argue over closed vs open aperture, but I am now convinced that the first point of resistance to the airstream, is the lips (direct quote from another teacher, Arnold Jacobs). The feeling I get is blowing against the lips, not the horn, not blowing through the horn. Lips together, corners firm, middle loose (not that we can think about these things when playing music). The small vibrating surface (or in deference to the other camp, the small undulating opening between the lips) used in trumpet playing affords for only a small amount of air to pass (in comparison to a tuba for example). Getting control of this effect is critical - which is the WHY behind the forward to the Clarke Technical Studies book. Most trumpet players force way too much air through lips, forcing them farther apart than necessary to allow the air to get out. This then forces the player to use arm pressure (or even more air pressure) to reseal them (read mash them together) so they can vibrate (or create the closed end of the resonator).

The other thing that makes me think is the old story of Doc Severinsen being able to play a double C with the trumpet suspended from a string. Obviously, the weight of the trumpet against the lips is sufficient to create a seal (ergo it doesn't require that you blow down walls to do it). His corners are firm and the buzz totally focused. Faddis once said "Now that you have the lips together and forward, try to do this while keeping them out of the mouthpiece". Sounds very much like the same approach.

We all do slight variations on this to play, but it has made a tremendous difference to me to back off the blowing and concentrate on the closed slightly-puckered lips in practice and warming up. My best advice to your son would be to play very softly for a while - especially when warming up. He must allow the notes to speak instead of forcing them out. The first couple warm-ups with this will take time and patience. If he's used to blowing his brains out, this will be very difficult. Our bodies get convinced that we have to do a certain set of things in order to play. They revert to what feels natural (whether it is or not a natural approach is very arguable), and call it "the way they play". I am here to tell you, that sometimes that's not best. Every time I pick up the horn to play now, it doesn't feel natural to me yet... but it sounds a whole heck of a lot better and is a whole lot easier to do. The body's firmware to be reprogrammed so that a new set of actions and reactions occur when we play.

Easy signs - air before the sound - especially on soft attacks. Air in the sound during articulations. Air or "gravel" in the sound in general. This is wasted effort! Bad analogy, but just like a string on a guitar, the lips should respond to even the slightest energy on them (plucking on a string, air on the lips).

As always... YMMV. I expect people to disagree, and that's fine. This is just one poor sucky trumpet player's opinion. I hope your son or someone finds this effort from me useful in some fashion.


Practice doesn't necessarily make perfect, but it will help make permanent! Practicing the wrong thing, or the wrong way, is just a waste of time at best - and practicing mistakes at worst.

Wendy Hayes wrote:
Hi all-
I'm a parent of a high school trumpet player. I've learned a lot from all of you and forward the stuff of interest to my son. I know this has been discussed before but I was wondering if somebody could help. Dan came back from music camp where he practiced a ton and sounded good. He's doing something wrong because he also had a very noticeable ring indent, not just the minor one that goes away. He's not in pain but he can't play as well as he was and is worried that he may have seriously hurt himself. He will be seeing his trumpet instructor later in the week but was wondering if anybody here had any advise.