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Thread: Messy note fronts/transitions

  1. #1

    Messy note fronts/transitions

    I've been dealing with something extremely frustrating in my playing lately and was wondering if anyone else here had experienced anything similar. I'm not sure when exactly it started, but fairly recently I've been having a bit of trouble with note entrances and (especially) transitions when slurring between notes, often getting "bumps" or "chips" in my sound. It's driving me insane, partly because I don't know what's changed in the way I play that could be causing this. My first thoughts are either an issue with air or with embouchure, but I'm really just not sure where to start. Any advice from the community?

    Edit: Also might be worth mentioning two other things - I fought off a nasty bout of covid a couple months ago, AND right before that, my confidence took a huge hit after I completely choked at an audition and embarrassed myself in front of someone I respect a great deal.
    Last edited by spkissane; 03-31-2022 at 11:03 AM.

  2. #2
    Could be paralysis by analysis. Take some time off, get your head straight and try to come back to the reason you play in the first place. Why did you start playing as a child - what excited you about music? Chances are it didn't have anything to do with auditions or choking. People make mistakes - we are human beings. Live music is thrilling precisely because of the possibility of change and more than likely no one even knows or remembers whatever mistakes you made. We all remember our greatest chokes - but I can't seem to recall anyone else's. You have to treat mistakes as the gift that they are - a moment in time that are important to YOU and then vanish for everyone else. And there will be more - forgive yourself and move on.

    And as with anything - when you get back to the horn it's long tones, long tones, long tones. Spend more time on long tones than you want - and then spend some more. Take a big breath and make a beautiful sound. Let everything else vanish with the mistakes.
    Adams E3 0.6 with SS Bell
    K&G 3.5D
    ---------------------------------
    Founder and Solo Euphonium
    San Francisco Brass Band

  3. #3
    I’m nothing but an ignorant but very dedicated beginner, and I experienced almost exactly the same situation following my COVID infection.

    Although I’d previously made a confident start on the 2nd movement of the Horovitz, I found that I could ‘t get through even the simpler parts, and the more I tried, the worse it became.

    Naturally I complained bitterly to my teacher, a VERY laidback guy, who listened to all of my complaints, and responded “Blow the air through the horn”, which his standard recommendation, and it ALWAYS WORKS.

    I put the Horovitz aside for months, but picked up the Bach Suites as a partial substitute, and sometimes spent my whole daily practice time JUST doing nothing but long tones and intervals and repeated quarter notes and half notes with various articulations. .

    I also added a second ensemble which caused me to need to “blow air through the horn” with less self consciousness, and a few weeks ago I started the Horovitz again.

    If you had ANY lung related issues in your COVID infection, you may be unconsciously attempting to “back off” your best breathing techniques, so it may help to do some review of diaphragmatic motion, open airways, the basics.

    I’m sure it won’t take you as long to get back to pre COVID playing as it’s taken me, but I’m grateful to have recovered my previous skills, after losing almost 2 months of practice time to the miserable virus. Hope you’re feeling much better physically, and playing soon at the best of your personal expectations.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by ann reid View Post
    and sometimes spent my whole daily practice time JUST doing nothing but long tones and intervals and repeated quarter notes and half notes with various articulations.
    I think that is a great idea from Ann. I don't practice nearly as much as I would like to, but when I can find a week or two with some consistent practice I am often frustrated at how many times I find those bumps and chips in my playing. Usually with lip slurs or articulated passages. I do something very similar to what Ann said above focusing on long tones, intervals, and various articulations. I might play an entire phrase (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for example) but change the articulation so that everything is subdivided into 16th notes and single tonguing each 16th note. For me that helps a lot to get the tone and pitch consistent through the articulation. I have a bad habit of moving my jaw as I articulate, tonguing all of the 16th note subdivisions at a relaxing tempo helps me relax into the articulation and feel what it feels like to articulate without changing my pitch or embouchure. I do that until it is smooth, then I will vary it. Do it all with 8th and two 16th, two 16th and 8th, triplet, sixtuplet, dotted 8th 16th, 16th dotted 8th, etc... When I can do all that and maintain smooth transitions, maintain the shape of the phrase, and keep the pitch centered through the articulations and note changes then I return to playing it as written and often improvement has been made.

    I also find that singing the part until I can do it cleanly without scooping or dropping into notes helps when I come to play it.

  5. #5
    The first thing that came to mind is to take a day off. That can help reset your chops just a little. I do that sometimes, and the next day I work very carefully to keep good tone and attack. Sometimes a tiny difference in tongue placement or angle can mess up the front of notes.

    Attached is an exercise I came up with for my own practice, which is to help me getter better focus for the notes. You can extend it into more valve combinations to really work the accuracy thing.

    Combining Lip Slur and Tonguing Practice - Trumpet in Bb.pdf
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  6. First thing, check the horn itself to make sure everything is in working order.
    Richard


    King 1130 Flugabone
    King 2280 Euphonium
    King 10J Tuba
    Conn 22B Trumpet

  7. I am finding the same…. I have had covid twice in the last 18 months first time was gnarly and breathing issues lasted for months and the second I barely felt it but breathing when playing was harder to get to the end of phrases…

    Starting notes have become an issue particularly below G on the stave… E’s are a problem and short time sensitive entries are delayed…

    My top range has become its best ever F/G above stave is fairly solid and consistent… so I feel that my breathing and embouchure is strong and supported enough…

    I fear that focal dystonia is freezing or causing some synchronisation issues?

    Feel like the common link might be that we have all had covid and the recovery journey has created new issues?

    I read a few articles around dystonia and the consensus is that pedagogical retraining is the most effective journey back…. With that in mind I experimented by having a blow on cornet and do not have initial note production issues like with euphonium.

    I would be interested if anyone else had found that using a different instrument to retrain embouchure works to fix these problems?

  8. Follow up that might be helpful…. After some consultation tension was spotted on my cheek muscles that doesn’t seem to naturally leave.
    It wasn’t causing pain which is why it was hard to spot…
    I used a massage gun on my face and that seems to have helped.

    Down side is where the tension was worse now does hurt but hopefully repeated treatment should alleviate that in time…

    Perhaps that insight could give anyone else with that issue another line of enquiry…

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jharris View Post
    I read a few articles around dystonia and the consensus is that pedagogical retraining is the most effective journey back…. With that in mind I experimented by having a blow on cornet and do not have initial note production issues like with euphonium.

    I would be interested if anyone else had found that using a different instrument to retrain embouchure works to fix these problems?
    I have done something like that in the past, not so much to solve the issue discussed here, but just to "reset" things when they feel awkward. Cornet did not occur to me (plus I didn't own one). My baritone was too close in concept to help much. On the other hand, trombone helped me with some things. And tuba seemed even more helpful. The advantage of either of those is they make a practical and handy "double" for a euphonium player.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

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