Emboucure problems after horrific accident

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by CRIMSONDRAGON, Jan 22, 2013.



    Hi guys,
    I am writing here to see if anyone can help or advise on problems I am having with my embouchure after a horrific accident i sustained in early June 2012. I was knocked off my bike in early June 2012 by a speeding van sustaining 2 broken legs, 2 broken ankles, 2 broken scapula (shoulders at the back) and severe neck and ligament damage to the neck, broken right hand and damaged back. I landed on my head with the helmet saving me tho my bottom jaw was moved by 2-3cm and by the surgeons remarks they do not know how i survived...but i have battle through and although I am still crippled with pains i try my best to practise as I am determined to try and become a good player, and if possible better than i was before my accident, but i realise a lot off work and diligence is in order but at the minute things are getting me down and hope some more experienced guys on here can please advise on the best way forward..

    I was an avid brass player with my life being steeped in brass music from morning to night and I was attempting to become a good tenor horn player. The accident was a disaster for me..However as I can now hold the horn for 30-40 mins or so to pracise before it gets too sore to hold, I have found now that the embouchure is very problematic at the minute. I have had to start again from scratch and I have been doing long tones and Charles Collins lip flexibilities and even inner and outer embouchure work from Roger Websters book PPP but i am finding that things seem to be getting worse rather than better as some days are better than others and I can't seem to get a comfortable embouchure at all, or that sweet spot as some people say!!
    I am trying to get a lovely sound and to develop my range again and know things will have to be slow and progressive but it sees the more I practise the worse i seem to get! if that can make any sense..which is getting me down!. I have practised for a week or 2 at pianissimo on long low tones as recommended to see if it will help but as off yet things are the same..
    At present i have a lot off time on my hands during my recovery to practise and would like to do as much practise as i can to improve and become a good player and eventual soloist and have been broken up my practise time as follows:

    warm up.. with loose lip flapping and some *light buzzing then some quiet long low tones..
    1. doing 30-40 mins in the morning off long tones and lipflexibilities
    2. doing 30 min of some tonguing and finger dexterity work in the late afternoon
    3. doing 30 mins off hymn tune & melody rehearsal as well as band/solo work.

    * I was told by a fellow horn player that buzzing without the mouthpiece is wrong!! which i was surprised at but this because her endurance went after doing a lot off buzzing and i got the blame!! but i take it some buzzing without the mouthpiece is ok and beneficial?

    I try as best I can at the minute but find tat the more lip flexibiliy work i do at the minute the worse my lip is! - i know i might get shot down for saying that as a lot off top players always recommend lip flexibilities for developing the embouchure but for me it's proving very difficult and it's like the lips get knotted very quickly and easily...but is this just something i must persevere on???
    Others i have read say rest as much as you play - but because i am so keen to be a good player especially after my accident I am trying to play for an hour and a half+ a day..is this too much? or is this how guys like David Childs, Dave Thornton, Owen Farr and Sheona White got to be where they are today with hours off solid practise?? Stephen Mead advocates hours off practise as he did etc..i know his routine takes years and years of building up to but for a solo horn player is 3-4 40 min sessions good enough to progress to become a good player? or is quality better than quantity and smaller practise sessions off the right things better??
    I have also found that if i take a day off to rest things are worse so i tend to need to play everyday at the minute..

    on a side note: I also have just been back to band and although I had 2 rehersals on 2nd horn to ease my way back in.. i have been asked to go back onto solo horn again by the person playing it as they want off it for an easier time!!. but although sometime it is ok i am still clearly struggling with my embouchure and fear that by playing solo horn too soon will damage any recovery i might have? I am not a glory seeker by wanting to play solo horn and would happily play 2nd horn for months or a year to ease my way back but because one rehersal playing along with the person went well there is added pressure i feel now for me to play in the solo horn position. Should i decline this and just slowly develop things on 2nd horn ? or is the best way back to persevere at home and in the band on my previous solo horn position??

    I know i have written a lot and asked a lot off questions but I am very keen to get playing again solidly and to try and get better and have a lot off time now to devote to practising so I hope some people on here can help and advise on the best way forward for me and help with my severe embouchure problem rather than pack it in completely!!

    Thank you in advance for any replies


    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  2. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Firstly, sorry to hear about your accident. Secondly I'm glad to hear you are recovering. Thirdly get yourself a decent tutor. Anyone worth their salt as a brass teacher will be able to see and hear more in one lesson than any amount of pages of advice posted here. Think of its an investment in your future as a player instead of an immediate expense. You won't regret it.
  3. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Hi Fergus

    This website may help. http://www.davidnotley.co.uk/ I don't know David nor can make a recommendation through any personal experience, but as you will see from his website he has done some research into playing brass with mouth / jaw damage. His dissertation is online to read and a skim through looks like it may give you some food for thought.


    Hi, many thanks guys for taking the time to give me some info and pointers. I will have a look at david's site and see what he says. Thank you again for taking time to reply.. regards Fergus
  5. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Sorry to hear about your horrific accident, but pleased you have come through it as you have done. I had to lay off playing for over two years after my embouchure "snapped" when adjusting continually to a worsening set of dental problems to unlearn the muscle support required to efficiently produce notes. A severe wrist break a couple of years ago has only allowed me to start my rebuild or remedial work recently. There is no easy solution but to start very slowly from scratch and carefully monitor stability & progress. I've had the help (advice) of many top professionals and there is no concensus on what is best practice. Because of the movement of the jaw, trying to play as you did before may be counter productive. Contacting David Notley may be beneficial to understand the frustration of the initial hurdle of putting the basics into place. Wishing you all the best for the future!
  6. Matthew

    Matthew Active Member

    I'm not sure if this is correct, but someone once told me years ago that Martin Winter (Cornet) had a really bad accident and damaged his embouchure, etc and had to relearn/retrain his chops?

    Wonder if anyone can confirm that? If so, I'd drop him a line or better still, Martin are you on tMP? :)

    CD - wishing you all the best of luck, you'll get there, keep persevering. :)
  7. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    The main thing is not to get disheartened. You have come through a horrific set of injuries and are playing again. Get yourself a professional tutor and let them guide you through to full recovery. With the determination you have already shown, you should have superb prospects of a full recovery. Keep it up!
  8. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Many tears ago I broke my jaw and lost several teeth in a motorbike accident, when I started playing again I found the tenor horn mouthpiece too small so moved on to bigger and better things :)

    But for my accident I would probably still be a rather dodgy horn player but instead I have found the delights of bass trombone !
  9. fsteers

    fsteers Member

    Done correctly, buzzing without a mouthpiece (free buzzing) can be extremely constructive; done wrongly, it can be extremely destructive.

    For free buzzing (and mouthpiece buzzing, for that matter) to be beneficial, it must be done the same way as when playing the horn: same technique, same embouchure set, same embouchure firmness, same aperture, etc. (For mpc buzzing, same angle of the mpc on your chops as in your horn.) Free buzzing in a different manner from buzzing on the mouthpiece or with the horn is asking for trouble. Try playing a note with the horn, and while you're playing, take the horn off of your chops. See if you can keep the buzz going. Try it the other way around, free buzz and add the horn. You can also try other combos, like free buzz/mouthpiece, mouthpiece/horn.

    Also, don't overdo it. More than about 5-10 minutes of concentrated free buzzing or mouthpiece buzzing can mess with your chops, even if you use the same technique and angle of the mpc on your chops as you do when playing the horn. Pay attention to how your chops feel. Pay close attention to how your chops feel. When they START to feel tired, quit.

    Some of the best advice on free buzzing and mouthpiece buzzing I've come across can be found here.


    Hi DRW .. just want to say a personal thanks for posting a reply regarding my problem. I will have a look at David Notely's site and see what he has to say.. thank you again! regards Fergus


    Hi Matthew, thank you very much for taking time to read my post and reply. I have always admired Martin Winter as a player since his Desford days with Howard Snell. I didn't realise he had a serious accident and had to rebuild his playing career!!.. I do wonder if Martin is on this site??:) and if so could he possibly help? If anyone has a contact for him could the please get in touch?
    I will keep persevering and hope that things will improve, tho it's very frustrating!!.. thankyou again for your reply.. cheers Fergus


    Hi Mike, thankyou for your kind comments and encouragement regarding my playing struggles and accident. I am very very lucky to be here and i guess that is a positive!!:) I am in the processoff trying to get a professional tutor to help so i'll see how that goes!.. I am very determined and will put the work in..i guess its quality over quantity! but i will take things slow and hope it improves.. thank you again for taking time to reply..regards Fergus


    Hi there brassneck..just want to say a personal thankyou for you reply to my post..I have come a long way so far tho am still in an awful lot off pain these days. i am starting on a new practise regime and taking it slow and one day at a time..tho the banding issue presents a problem, so i will have to decide what way to deal with that without offending the band!! i have a long road to travel but hopefully i'll get there.. thank you again..regards Fergus
  14. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I went to my first band rehearsal last evening since 2008, after starting my remedial work at the start of January. Maybe I am a little fortunate that my sound and range were not affected too much with the destruction of my chops. I've also got quite a bit of work to do with the return of my lip flexibility but it's important not to work too much outside any present limitations. Make sure that the progress is stable before taking any further steps.
  15. foxyflug

    foxyflug Member

    Hi Fergus, just wanted to drop you a note to wish you all the best with your recovery. Look forward to catching up with you if you can make it to Armagh next weekend.

  16. dave

    dave Member

    Hi Fergus,

    Just a quick reply (for the moment) to ask where is the damage? top or bottom lip?

    I have had now two accidents which affected my playing.

    The first I was on a major road and a tractor moved in my path (car) on the A47. My top teeth went all the way through my bottom lip and I had 18 stitches. I also had a small pin put in my lower jaw.

    I am lucky that it was my bottom lip that got damaged. This means that my top lip vibrates against the bottom lip and the bottom lip (which I can't feel the surface of) is available to take the weight.

    The second in New Zealand I was knocked off my pushbike when a car accelerated through a give-way sign (he lost his licence and was fined).
    I sustained a torn spleen, hiatus hernia, no way to stop bile coming up from my intestines to my mouth and nose so now Bile Reflux Disease and Barrett's (pre cancer), damage to my neck, middle and lower back, torn achiles and parts of the car still in my leg.

    Martin Winter did offer some help when my Dad contacted him and Roger Webster was of GREAT help at the time.

    I advocate the "little and often" practice method as the brain gets bored after 20 minutes which could be better spent doing something else but..............to build up a brass embouchure lip slurs and long notes are needed for range, flexibility and stamina.
    In 20 minutes you can learn music, technique and be musical but we all need muscle memory and repetition is essential.

    Buzzing is great (but some people can't do it). I didn't learn to buzz and before the accident couldn't.

    Roger Webster has loads of tricks and fun things to do.

    A hosepipe and funnel (hosaphone) helped me so much to be able to manipulate and bend notes (but you need to play high to get more harmonics).

    I find also that a good two hour gig playing high and loud as first trumpet (screamer) and playing sop in a band sets me up for days after.
    It's hard work at the time but it makes the next few days are great.

    I enjoy playing but sometimes the bottom lip is hard to control. It's better when solid and I now move the jaw out further for low notes and playing quieter.

    When I get tired I take the instrument off my lips for a few seconds and it's all OK again.

    I would like to keep in touch about this.


    David Notley MA(Mus) MISM FTCL LTCL DipTchg(Otago)

    Type "dnotley" in youtube. and look for any Abu Dhabi Big Band videos "ADBB"
  17. dave

    dave Member

    Reading this back- it looks that I only advocate 20 minutes - in fact if I have a longish trip I will buzz or play mouthpiece, hosepipe or pocket trumpet in the car playing along with the latest pop stuff! (great for pitching). Twenty minutes many times a day.



    Hi Helen,

    many many thanks for your very kind message! I didn't know if you got my meassage way back telling you off my accident but it's great to hear from you!. I am doing ok to I am still wracked with severe pains in my ankles and feet which were badly broken as well as my 2 shoulders which were also badly broken at the back! It as meant i couldn't hold the horn for long to practise but I just have to listen to the bosy and rest when it gets too sore. The problem is at the minute my embouchure which has slighlt changed as a result off the accidnet with my jaw moving slightly so it all feels so uncomfortable and very frustrating!! but i'm persevering and hope it will all click someday lol.
    The guy who hit me was found guilty off the accidnet on friday there so when my compensation gets through i'll be coming to see you and glyn for a new horn!! lol :)
    But at least i am here which is a positive and i will make an effort to get down to see the band at Armagh next weekend. I always love hearing from you and i believe you had a tremendous blow last week at Manchester! My brother and fellow band colleagues were over and thought Dyke were excellent until you started playing!! :)
    Could i be bold to ask and could you find out from Gly, to get where he has today, did he practise for many hours a day? braking his time up into 3 or 4 30 min slots or one long practise session? I have a lot off time on my hands to practise now and was wondering the best way to go as i constantly hear now adays.. " little and often" is the best way to go so i thought I'd ask the master!?lol :)

    * Oh, just on a side note, I have been trying to track down a fantastic cd 'March Spectacular' by Britannia Building Society (now Fodens band) as there are a few Marches our band our considering for an entertainments contest and I wanted to get a great recording off them, but i thinkthis CD is well out off print and very hard to get. I was wondering if you possibly had one in the band shop etc for sale or you could possibly get your hands on a copy for me?? I'd love to have this cd to listen too.
    This was Britannia at it's best with Howard Snell at the helm and i would like to hear his interpretations of some of the very famous and brillnte marches assembeled on this great cd. Maybe you can help me track down this cd?

    Well I hope you and the family are well and all the renovation work to the house is finished and your enjoying the results! Hopefully I will see you at Armagh for a quick chat and please give my regards to Glyn :)

    Thank you again for you kind words and encouragement


    Fergus :)


    Hi David,

    thank you very much indeed for your very detailed reply. I must admit i never heard off your accidents but I am very glad you have recovered as best you can!) and are doing reasonably well these days! what you sustained was indeed horrific injuries like myself but you seemd to have conquered that uphill battle to be able to play well again!:)

    I had as i mentioned to you horriffic fractures all over but more importantly a movement off my lower jaw by 1-2cm etc, thankfully the top jaw is ok but I also have a lot off nerver damage in the right side off the neck radiating into the side off my face, jaw and just into the right side off my lips so when i play, (looking into a mirror when doing so) the lips to the right of the mouthpiec are not as tight compared to the right.. but it can get notes ok etc.. the main problem is the comfort and security off the embouchure.. when i play for say 10-15 mins then stop and try to play again, the lips feel very alien and i can't seem to gt the same comfortable position again! sometime i just buzz with the mouthpiece and it sort off comes around again but as a result off the accident i seem to be play very very slightly off centre and have had to start agai from scratch as far as sound,range and flexibility are concerned!!

    Regarding practise, yes i have now started to break things up into 20 min slots to see if things get a little better and as you have pointed out, little and often seem to be what people are sying!!:)
    Is close harmonic lip exercises good etc after warming up, as i say when i play lip fexibility exercises my lips seem to get 'knotted' is the only term i can think off and sometime the opn sound goes too.. is this from tiredness, or lack off muscle strength and stamina and from nerve damage from the accisent? or is it a case off perseverance with lip flexibilities to indeed increse stamina and build a stong foundation to the embouchure?

    Othe guys have given great advise and i can't thank them enough for taking time to reply, but i paricularly appreciate your remarks as you have come through something similar to myself, and have conquered!! lol

    When i played a hard gig with the band or indeed after the prctise nights, my lips always felt big and thick the next day, is it a case off low notes at pp dynamic to get them round again etc? I always wonder how guys like you in dyke and Fodens etc cope with such demanding playing in rehersals and then go ont to do hard gigs, then more rehersal etc.. Dyke recently had rehersals every night for a week in preparation for a British Open! is that just years off building up the lis to cpe with such demands!??

    Yes, i would also like to keep in touch regarding this and any and all help and advise is greatly appreciated.. please feel free to email, call or email with any suggestions you might have..

    thank you again for all you help so far


  20. foxyflug

    foxyflug Member

    Hi again Fergus, Glyn is of the same opinion as me, many short sessions work probably better than forcing yourself to sit down for hours to practice. I usually leave my instrument out of its case......then everytime I go to walk past it, it reminds me to have another toot!
    I'm pretty sure "March Spectacular" is out of print now. I'll have a quick scan through our (massive) collection of CDs and if its there I'll run you off a copy! If we don't have it I'll make a few enquiries with my colleagues at band, we've all been there so long someone is bound to have a copy still!


Share This Page