This post is a little overdue, since it was a couple of weeks ago middle school student Kaley made a huge leap forward with her trumpet and music making playing skills. She has always been a hard worker (having been mentioned before in an earlier post), and had successfully taken the first steps of following the “blueprint” that has been discussed throughout this blog…meaning she could form her embouchure correctly enough to play over the staff with relative ease when using proper breath support. These skills served her well as she had to make the transition to braces this summer, for she already knew how to play without excessive mouthpiece pressure.
The big improvements came as she eliminated even more of this pressure. It’s not that what she had been using before was hurting her lips, for her braces would have alerted her to any kind of excessive force. However, any mouthpiece pressure that provokes the embouchure to break its proper formation (or premature pressure that occurs before the embouchure is set) is too much.
As Kaley started taking even more time to set up before the playing weight was applied, she discovered how to refine the formation even more. That extra care eliminated common symptoms like “kissing” the mouthpiece, sneering, or stretching and smiling at the corners, and what I call the “bobble head” (where the head and lips react to improper weight and weight distribution in an attempt to get more comfortable), meaning the top lip’s ability to vibrate has already been compromised. With the weight much lighter, and taking advantage of the extra time, Kaley was able to improve the alignment of the top and bottom lips, thus increasing the contact between them while at the same time eliminating more unneeded tension. She also did a better job of keeping her entire embouchure hugged up against the teeth and gums.
All this sounds rather technical (and it is!), but the results were stunning…what a beautiful sound (!), proving that even young students can grasp these techniques. Kaley’s sound now was much clearer, thicker, darker, and more resonant…not something you often hear from a student her age, using a 7C mouthpiece, and playing with braces. Even more impressive was how she maintained this sound throughout her range from low C up two full octaves to high C…with no blat or airiness in the low register, or with any constriction in the upper range. The clarity of Kaley’s tonguing also benefitted from the better seal…note attacks were crisp, even with long, connected notes, and the tongue itself was quick and relaxed, even as she approached the lower register. All of this was done with a relaxed demeanor, even with the energy needed to support the notes at the very end of her breath. As her lip aperture continues to focus, she will find that her efficiency will increase even more, and the fact that she has done this during her last two lessons means that consistency will begin to carry over into her playing situations more and more.
I’m so proud of what Kaley has accomplished, and know that she will keep improving as she continues to incorporate more of the “blueprint,” for she sees the path and the necessary steps even more clearly now. Another plus for her…after seeing the condition of her old horn, Kaley’s parents just rewarded her with a new trumpet! I can’t think of anyone more deserving!