Desperately seeking guidance - Embrouchure

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Seamus_the_dog, Sep 8, 2008.

  1. Seamus_the_dog

    Seamus_the_dog New Member

    I am a musician with multiple abilities, but my principle instrument has always been the cornet. I have been playing some 28 yrs and without wanting to blow my own trumpet (pun intended) I was pretty damn good.

    I had an eleven year break from brass bands in which time I became an accomplished trumpeter in the rock and pop world. I then had a break of 5 years from everything, before deciding to go back where it all began and rejoining the band that got me started. This was fine for a few months and with practice, I soon found myself getting back where I had left off . Then something happened that has changed everything.

    It started when I lost a tooth last year and was diagnosed with periodontal disease (basically means my teeth are falling out). It was right where my mouthpiece sits and playing became very uncomfortable and difficult to control. I had dental work done and the tooth was replaced but it left me with a sharp edge that digs into my lip while I play, causing pain and very limitied stamina. I have since discovered lip cushions which seem to ease this problem considerably, however they were not the miracle cure I was hoping for.

    My tone has become strained and breathy, I struggle to hit any notes above top G (particularly annoying as I am renowned locally for soaring around the upper registers with ease). I can no longer play quietly, lower notes either dont happen at all or sound nasty and tuneless, and mid range notes do not come out straight away, theres an annoying 'pwhr' preceeding each note. Forget the high register! When playing mf or above its generally ok, but fast passages lack detail, my tounge moves fine but doesnt seem to produce the sound.

    I am finding all this so infuriating that I am considering giving it up again. Something I do not want to do, but when I'm sounding so awfull (to my ears) I get no pleasure out of it.

    So, long story short, please please please is there anyone out there who can offer ANY advise on overcoming this type of problem.

    Many thanks.
  2. yooflou

    yooflou Member

    Whilst I can't offer any techonical advice, and I am sure someone out there will, all I can say is don't give up! At least don't give up banding! Can you try a different instrument so that the mouthpiece doesn't press in the same place as the cornet mouthpiece? Maybe there aren't the opportunities within your band, but it would be a real shame to stop playing completely.
    And if all fails (which I really hope it doesn't) you could do perc........
  3. TubaGeek

    TubaGeek Member

    Do NOT give up, that would be a terrible idea. I'm not very experienced in the world of banding, but I do know that I had terrible stamina on the cornet, but now I'm on bass, I can play fine. Even if you didn't want to play bass, maybe try moving to an instrument with a larger mouthpiece?
  4. Vegasbound

    Vegasbound Active Member

    IMHO...I would suggest you go Back to the Dentist and talk to him about the physical problems and ask for their advice/treatment , and when that is corrected then concentrate on playing and finding a good teacher.
  5. Do you have a well established warm-up routine? Having been a professional brass player for many years and now a band cornet player, I am regularly horrified by the lack of warm up or concentration on basic muscle toning in the brass band world.
    Mouthpiece buzzing is the sensible start. Slide around mid to low range (no pressure allowed).
    If you have not included this before it may take a while to develop but is vital.
    Add 10 mins+ of sensible arpeggio playing. Do not tongue a note throughout your warm-up.
    If any of this is helpful or you want more advice contact me.
    I can understand your frustration but it can be worked through.
  6. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    Difficult to recommend a solution to this problem...

    However, how was your embouchure before the tooth loss? Straight, to the left or right, 50/50 top bottom or otherwise. Were you a high pressure player?

    Your teeth are the platform on which your embouchure is formed, if they are not straight, your embouchure, and the "direction" of your instrument will reflect this. From what you describe, it sounds to me like maybe your new tooth is not in the same alignment as your old one, and you are trying to play on the same embouchure but it's foundations have shifted slightly.

    I'd say see the dentist about sharp bits that are causing pain, and maybe book a lesson or two with a respected teacher for some chop / production diagnosis.

    Good Luck!
  7. Seamus_the_dog

    Seamus_the_dog New Member

    Thank you all for your words of encouragement, it is much appreciated. I have discussed the possibility of moving to Solo Horn or Euph with the MD but he is very reluctant to let me do it for 2 main reasons - a) there is not a need for either in the band at the mo and nobody has expressed a desire to move and b) My presence on the cornet line has alledgedly given the band a much needed lift. He has said that we would work something out if it comes to it but he is of the opinion its not as bad as I think it is. In fact a few people have said that, but I know what I can do and I know what I sound like and it may well be ok to others, but it is not me!

    Before undergoing any of the dental treatment I have had to date, I had a long discussion with my dentist for all my options and made clear my concerns of affects to my playing ability. We liased very closely before deciding on the best course of treatment and she is aware of it for my future needs as well. I am very confident she has done all she can to make it as trouble free as possible.

    Thanks central bank of dad (know the feeling). I do have a very well established warm up of about 10 mins although it is slightly different to your suggestion. By mouthpiece buzzing, do you mean just using the mouthpiece on its own? if so then yes I do this often, I actually enjoy attempting to play a decent tune just on the mouthpiece and always do a bit of this before playing. I start my actual warm up with a range of scales, double octaves, followed by the arppegios, all slurred from low G through to mid C (obviously ending on top C) and back down again. Then I do a couple of tounging excercises from the trusty old Arbans and then I finish it with a favorite lip loosener, Solitare, Summertime or Moon River. Unfortunately though I have become embarrased to do this in the band hall, and instead do it before I leave for practice. I will try adjusting my warm up slightly so it is more in line with your suggestions, and I may well contact you so thanks for that. I do hope your right when you say it can be worked through. The cornet is the other half of me, I enjoy brass band but I love the cornet!

    Anyway, this was my first post on here today and I'm very pleased to have had such a positive start, thanks again and please keep them coming.
  8. Seamus_the_dog

    Seamus_the_dog New Member

    Thanks David, I was typing the above and didn't see your post until I'd finished. I play with the mouthpiece slightly off centre to the right, with the cornet slightly tilted right. I play with probably 80% of the mouthpiece on my lower lip. Before the tooth loss I had only been playing again for about 7 months and although I struggled a bit at first, my tone, my embrouchure and my ability all came back to me. Thats what's so devistating, if I had started again and never got 'it' back I would probably of accepted it and carried on regardless. I have experimented with changing my embrouchure but the results have not been very encouraging, although to be fair, I probably did give up too easily. Its like my cornet knows where to go, I seem to have little say in the matter!

    I will certainly look for a teacher capable of helping with chop diagnosis, thats not something I had considered and was certainly not part of my own training.
  9. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    No Problemo.. good luck!
  10. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - this seems to be the dilemma and you will have to accept that your physical playing environment has changed and you will have to slowly build up from scratch to see where it will take you. We naturally move the mouthpiece to it's most natural and comfortable position and that might not be centre and ideally distributed. Moving away from this position may inhibit lip vibration, air flow and create further problems in time. If you have to apply more mouthpiece pressure than needed to sustain power or range then you should seek sympathetic and professional advice from a remedial teacher if you can find one. It really depends on what physical limitations are imposed on your playing that will dictate your choices.