Cornet Playing - Advice Needed!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Steve Queen, Apr 17, 2008.

  1. Steve Queen

    Steve Queen New Member

    Hi, I'm in need of some practical cornet playing advice - and thought that this seemed a good place to ask!

    Basically, I've been playing the cornet now for a long time - about 11 years (I'm 20). I'm currently principal cornet of two different bands, and am working towards a diploma in music performance. All sounds good yes, but theres a problem. I think I have some kind of fundamental flaw in my playing!

    Heres the deal: For the first 'chunk' of any playing I do, I am, well, good! Really good in fact (I think anyway, modest I know ;)) but after that, my lip just dies. and dies. and dies some more. Now this would be ok if that 'chunk' was a good few hours long, but its more like 15-20mins long! I seem to have good/bad days - sometimes I can keep going for abit longer, but sometimes my lips are already in abit of a crappy state from when I start. I'm still able to play obviously, but I find that reaching anything even vaguely high becomes impossibly hard - and as for long sustained phrases, well, forget them! As you can imagine, this is abit of a pain in the ass when you are principal cornet!

    Anyway, I try to practice daily for around 20mins - not a huge amount I know, but firstly my lip is usually dying by then anyway, and secondly my days are so packed full I really don't have time for more than this. Within this practice I tend to stick to lip slurs - usually running a piece or two at the end. I'm wondering if a different practice routein could help me? Or maybe the only way is to practice more - in which case i'm destined for a life of dead lips!

    Got a few other questions too:

    I'm playing a nice cornet, no problems there - but as for my mouthpiece, I'm pretty sure its too small (would tell you the exact size but I don't have it with me :S) Its Dennis Wick, and somewhat smaller than a "4" anyway! I know this because I went out and bought exactly that, a size 4 Dennis Wick mouthpiece. Problem is, that when I use this - I simply can't play much at all! High notes become just impossible, and my stamina gets even worse. Should I soldier on with it anyway? Would getting used to it improve my playing and help me in the long run? (bearing in mind that any period of poor playing is really quite hard to struggle through as principal cornet...)

    At the moment i'm just thinking that my embousure is in some way 'bad', and that is whats leading to my lack of staying power - but this is kind of a hard aspect to change after such a long time playing in this same way!

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated, about practicing, technique, mouthpieces, preparation for playing - etc etc, basically anything that might help!

    Thanks in advance,
  2. dalizzie

    dalizzie New Member

    Start your practice routine with long notes and don't try to play too high too soon. Count at least eight slow beats on every note and stay around 'G' 2nd line up in the treble stave at a quiet volume. Continue down the chromatic scale to bottom 'F#' then back up again. This should help to strenghthen the muscles in your embouchure.
    Do this for about 10-15 minutes before starting your lip slurs or whatever you do. Your lip muscles are exactly the same as an athletes, you would not see someone running the 100 metres after leaving the dressing room, they have a warm up routine to get their muscles ready for the run. Hope this helps!
  3. tpcornet12

    tpcornet12 Member

    Make sure you do a good warm up. You may be slacking on your warm up for fear of tiring your lip (common mistake). Ask your MD to start rehearsals with hymns and use the time wisely.
  4. Vegasbound

    Vegasbound Active Member

    I would suggest that you approach a well respected teacher and have a few lessons.......

    If you think of it as coaching....someone you trust who can observe and listen, who will pick up on any little faults that from time to time get into everyones playing.
  5. Di B

    Di B Member

    A couple of points that might help... Are you a pressure player? You might be pushing too much on the lips rather that hitting the high notes by breathing properly. This may tire your lips quickly. The other thing is do you warm down? I found a year ago with daily playing I suffered from bruised lips as I warned up, played challenging stuff then didnt warm down. The result of this was next practice my lips had gone within 10 minutes of playing. (I have learnt my lesson now!) Even if these ideas dont help Im sure others will provide more and I wish you the best in finding a solution.
  6. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    This is the best advice you are going to receive without anyone actually being able to hear/see what you are doing.

    There are a number of different things that could be causing the fatigue - some of them could be you, some could be the equipment - without seeing/hearing what you are doing we are basically taking guesses which could hinder more than help.

    If you let us know whereabouts you are based then I am sure we could help with trying to find you a decent teacher to have a consultancy lesson with.
  7. JesTperfect!

    JesTperfect! Member

    This is really excellent advice. My stamina was rubbish for a while, until I started 'practicing' hymns. Start at the front of the hymn book, pick one from EVERY page and play it through, two verses. Don't spend time choosing nice ones, just do the first one you lay eyes on.
    When you're bored to death of playing the same hymns, variate it a bit. eg:

    1. turn the book upside down (!)
    2. play them a tone/semitone/3rd etc. up/down (also great for transposition skills, which no one sets enough store by IMHO
    3. play them backwards
    You say that you do lip slurs-
    do you have 'How Brass Players Do It'? I've mentioned it on tMP before-I swear by it. The building exercises are fabulous for stamina, and since I've been doing them, my tone has improved too.

    One word of advice-play them at no less than 80bpm. I normally go with 60bpm.

    Good Luck!!
  8. JesTperfect!

    JesTperfect! Member

    Another couple of things I forgot:

    • Don't run before you can walk
    • Don't expect it to happen overnight-you have to be patient when it comes to stamina building
    Someone once said to me (and don't ask me who, I can't remember!)

    ''practice to get better, not to get tired''

    In other words, when your lip starts to go, STOP. If you play til your lip is dead and buried, it will never improve. Because the next day it will still be recovering, therefore any practice you do the next day will be useless. Sure as eggs is eggs!

  9. Steve Queen

    Steve Queen New Member

    Thanks alot for all the replies - they've been really helpful.

    I've always assumed that a warm up that didn't go very high would be a pointless warm up, obviously not! I'll start up with some nice long held notes in future.

    I think part of the problem is that i'm not by default a 'pressure player', but once I start to get tired - I end up applying more and more pressure to keep going, that in turn exponentially increases and kills my lip off for good. I never warm down, so I guess I will also start doing this too!

    As for hymns, I like the idea - and will 'borrow' a hymn book next band rehersal I have in order to use it for practice.

    My lip slurs are all out of the arban. I'm guessing there is better sources that I should be using! I'll look into this "How Brass Players Do It" book - and if anybody else has any other suggestions for warm up books - then they would be also much appreciated.

    I have contact information for a few respected players in the area, I guess I will get into contact with one - just figured I would ask here first to see the general opinion.

    Thanks again for all the help! Any more input would be just as appreciated too.

    AEHOWGATE Member

    I was told If your lip goes, it's usually because your breathing has gone before it. Make sure you keep a check on your breathing.
  11. Petegit

    Petegit New Member

    Stamina takes years to achieve,and is gained by learning to breathe/blow properly and support the sound with lots of air. Faster airstream for high notes,NOT more pressure on the lips. It's all about a consistent airstream through the embouchure.
  12. tpcornet12

    tpcornet12 Member

    Maybe this is why my stamina has improved since I quit smoking! It's a thought :tup
  13. Petegit

    Petegit New Member

    Afew more tips i try to get over to my pupils...sit up straight and keep the bell of the instrument level with your nose.Makes you keep the bottom lip level with the top one.
    Play outwards,parallel to the floor,not down towards it. The airstream should go straight out between your lips,straight through the hole in the mouthpiece,NOT down over the chin.This means there is no resistance to the airstream until it hits the first bend in the tubing,making the playing much easier.
    As notes go higher,think outwards and blow the air further through the tube. RULE! Think FURTHER not higher!
    This works for me...give it a try!
  14. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    I can't add any thing, but "Quote"- As notes go higher,think outwards and blow the air further through the tube. RULE! Think FURTHER not higher!
    I haven't heard that one, but after having just done half an hour, and a short rest to read this thread, I gave that one a try.
    It works, brilliant and thanks Petegit.
    On a thread like this, it is well worth remembering, advice to one, can work just as well for others. In this case me.
  15. caesar romaro

    caesar romaro New Member

    play from your diaphragm not your head, plenty of support will save the lip.
  16. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    Invest in these books...

    The Trumpet, Howard Snell
    The Art of Practice, Howard Snell
    Brass Playing is no harder than deep breathing, Claude Gordon.

    Also, as others say, consult a respected teacher.
  17. DaveBarker

    DaveBarker New Member

    Couldn't agree more.

    If I may add another to the list, "Musical Calisthenics for Brass" by Carmine Caruso, and published by Hal Leonard.

    Together with the books DavidQuinlan's suggested, I'm sure you'll be OK in time. Caruso's book will get you to use long notes to emphasise and focus on the notion of the physical activity associated with playing a brass instrument.

    Best of luck.

    Dave Barker
    Kew Band Melbourne.
  18. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    Cheers, I do have the Caruso book also, but I wouldn't recommend using it without a lesson with a teacher who is familiar with the method.
  19. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    David - I think you bring up a very important aspect of many of the standard books - without a good teacher they can be daunting and very confusing.
    With a great teacher you can obtain just about everything you will require from something as humble (and common) as the Arban. Without a good teacher many of the best exercises can be approached in a manner that they were not intended for, which can be detrimental to a student's progress.
  20. Craigyboy

    Craigyboy New Member

    Agree with all of the above books.
    I'm a fan of the Claude Gordon books and would also add the "Systematic approach to daily practice, Claude Gordon" to the list.
    A common theme in Claude Gordon and Howard Snell's books is several small practice sessions spaced out over the day.
    One 20 minute session per day just isn't enough to realise your full potential.

    I may be over simplifying things but you are practicing for 20 mins a day then when you rehearse at band you lip goes after 20 mins......

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