It’s been an interesting two weeks since I last posted. For the most part I’ve been frustrated since playing day to day it’s hard to notice any progress. However, band started for the new year again after a month long Christmas break and that was an eye opening experience.
Tuesday night marked my one year anniversary playing with the 1st community band I joined. One year ago I was very apprehensive about joining a band. I didn’t really think I was ready but fortunately my horn teacher gave me a bit of a push. I remember feeling very out of place and very nervous. I was introduced to the 1st hornist and he and I were the only hornists there at the start of the rehearsal. Thank heavens the 2nd and 3rd horns showed up. I really didn’t want to have the 1st horn hear me play.
This was the first time I played with a group since college in 1972. The band director handed me the music for 4th horn and off we went into the wild blue yonder. Cut time at quite a tempo. I didn’t have a prayer of playing any notes, let alone know where we were in the music. Fortunately we played some slower stuff and I fared better at that. I liked playing with the band enough that I kept going and over time I got better.
Fast forward to last Tuesday. The music was easy! Yes, easy. The band director handed out all new music and I had absolutely no problem sight reading through it. This was a huge boost to my lagging morale about my horn playing. I’m genuinely better. Wow.
Moving on to my lesson last Thursday. I’ve been struggling through Kopprasch #3 and Singer #4 for what seems like forever. Always with the same problem areas. I can’t play from the third space C up to the F and back down to the C cleanly – I kind of bump up into the notes – no matter how much I practice it. I have the same problem with these notes in other pieces. Of course these are not the only notes I have trouble with but at the moment these are the ones that are driving me crazy.
At my lesson my horn teacher asked me to try to open up my embouchure a bit because my sound was more closed than it’s been in the past. Lots of times she says to play out more. That’s one of my bigger problems. But at this lesson playing out more wasn’t really helping my sound open up. We checked my right hand position and that was okay. Once I opened up my embouchure my teacher said that my sound got a lot better. But the bigger change was that I didn’t miss my trouble notes. I had also been playing those same notes flat for the past couple of weeks. That improved as well. At the end of that lesson I felt recharged.
I’ve been trying to keep my embouchure more open over the past couple of days. I have found that some things have changed for the worse. I’ve lost my high Bb and C which had been easy for me. The more troubling change is that my middle register has gotten fuzzy. It’s hard to describe but the notes don’t have a pure tone. I don’t miss nearly as many notes as I had been but I’m sacrificing the quality of the note.
Yesterday I tried to go back to my usual embouchure but think about opening it up rather than actually doing it. This brought back my high range and cleaned up the middle register a bit. Some of the note chipping came back from C to F but not as bad as it was. What I can’t really tell is whether my sound closed up. That’s hard for me to hear especially in the room that I’ve been practicing in for the past three weeks. Wouldn’t it be funny if my whole recent sound problem is the acoustics in the room I’m using. Overall I think this change is a slight improvement that still needs to be tweaked.
One thought on “Breakthrough?”
This is a really interesting post. There are quite a few issues that you describe here that I fought with as well.
I had a similar “closed in” sound but a great high register (also, a tell-tale zing in the sound when I got loud – more than just the regular buzz – a real ZING!). I also had a hard time slurring in the upper register – especially across other partials.
I tried opening up my embouchure and it actually introduced a whole new series of problems. The biggest of which was a hard double buzz when playing anything from middle C to 3rd space C louder than Forte. The other detriment was the loss of my high register.
Finally, I started to realize a couple issues.
1st, my mouthpiece was getting set too high on my face. I was setting into the red on my bottom lip instead of under. When I finally brought the mouthpiece down, I found that I needed to get the inner lip muscles more “loose” and into the mouthpiece. Otherwise, I found myself with no range and flexibility. When I take my mouthpiece off of the face after a long session, I’ll see the “ring” above the top lip with a white space between the ring and the top red. On the bottom lip, I see the red and the ring as two distinct, separate lines, but connected.
My high range is still not awesome, but high Cs aren’t that much of a struggle any more. I just reach my bottom lip up and in and voila…high Cs.
Keep up the great work with your blog! You’ve inspired me to create a blog as well.
Wishing you all the best!