Back to flugelhorn - and looking for help with playing after lip injury
Hi trumpet (and flugel) friends,
I went through a journey with my horn, even sent it out to Trent Austin to be sold, and had regrets and got it back (thankfully it was not sold yet) - I love playing flugel and I found I didn't want to live without it.
So I'm wondering if anyone has any advice (and I shall also be reaching out to my teacher Sam DeChenne to get a lesson next he's around Boston way) for playing post lip injury. My lower lip was completely split when I fell a year ago, and sewed back together by a masterful plastic surgeon in the ER. It looks good but it doesn't work the same way it used to, and as I'm getting back to playing, I'm finding that especially in the higher register, I have trouble getting a clear sound (a sense of air leaking out the outer edges of my lips, which was never a problem before) - any tips on how to think about rebuilding my embouchure?
If not, I just want to thank you all for helping to hold the space where I would be re-united with my beloved Adams flugel.
we are creatures of habit. With your "repaired lip", you have to retrain what your brain expects. That takes a couple of THOUSAND repetitions.
My experience is to use what has worked for you before but under no circumstance stress out. Our brain works on a reward/punishment system and constantly trying to "hit" high notes sends a frustration message - blocking development and increasing doubt.
Without having you in my studio for a lesson, I would recommend only safe stuff:
- Practice as softly as you can. This promotes fine motor reaction from the lip muscles instead of forcing a six pack build.
- Overdose on "easy" interval slurs - like from the Adam 27 Lip flexibilities book.
- avoid all frustrating things - if your upper octave is deficient, work on articulation and stuff in the lower register. Make your playing time positive and productive. Excel at other things!
I am sort of an expert on this because I lost all of my teeth 3 years ago in an accident. I was lucky because there were very few gigs during Covid. I had time to work things out. The road back was full of "back to the basics" and keeping my attitude in the right direction. My upper octave is not complete yet but it is enough for the symphonic work that I do.
Dr GO last edited by Dr GO
Question: Since the injury is your lower lip smile symmetrical (or the same prior to the injury)? If this is true then it was likely the orbicularis oris that was torn. If not symmetrical, the tear would be in muscle attaching to the lower jaw that archer the orbicularis. IF it is the orbicularis oris muscle that was injured, a facial surgeon, Dr. Simon McGrail, has developed lip exercises that may help:
- Loosen the lips by rolling air around the mouth for a minute or so.
- Form an embouchure, and direct all the muscles toward the center of the aperture. Hold for five seconds, and repeat three times.
- With the teeth slightly apart, as is usually the case naturally, do an extended smile, stretching both corners of the mouth sideways. Hold for five seconds, and repeat three times.
- With a small rolled up gauze, or a plegette, such as dentists use, place this between the upper lip and upper gum. Try to push the gauze through the gum by pressing the lip backward. Hold for 5 seconds, and repeat three times.
These exercises comprise an exercise set, and this set should be repeated five times twice a day.
If you choose to give this a try, let us know how this works for you. It should take about 6 weeks for a notable effect so don't give up if you do not get immediate results.
Vulgano Brother last edited by
Annie, you got some great advice in the replies above!
Thanks to all of you for your support and suggestions - I will work the exercises while not stressing out (either my heart or my lip) as I work on this. Again, thank you so much!
Yes, my smile is symmetrical so it looks as if these exercises are just the trick. I'm about to embark on my first session with them - and will practice - and practice patience - and report back later.
@rowuk How absolutely awful for you - as a symphonic trumpet player - as you say, thank goodness for covid in your case - and inspiring to hear that you've got it back, short a bit of the upper register. And I will practice easily and with attention to learning, not to 'achieving'. Great advice.
Hi Annie, I would recommend you look up online “Phil Smith trumpet recovery.” He’s a very renowned musician who had to retire from the New York Philharmonic after he suffered from serious focal dystonia.
I believe he has a video or two out there explaining how he has come back to playing. Generally, the concept is very basic. Play soft, easy long tones and go from there.
I can't offer any medical advice. But I know that Maurce André suffered catastrophic dental problems at one point in his career and was almost forced to give up because after massive dental surgery, his embouchure ha vanished and his dental geometry had changed so much that normal mouthpieces did not work for him any more.
So he had an asymmetrical mouthpiece made, and thrived on this. Stomvi either were the guys who supplied the mouthpiece or took up the idea, at any rate they now are more than competent at developing special asymmetrical mouthpieces, and they have a range of specialized asymmetrical rims for their quick-change Stomvi Mouthpiece System. I would drop them a line. Usually, they have a mouthpiece specialist available in their branch offices at set times and at ITG and other occasions.
@anniebee, actually a bit of "humbling" is not always a bad thing for musicians that have had a lot of gifts during their career. I can honestly say that at no time did I doubt about wanting to come back. I have a great dentist who was willing to explain and listen. He did EVERYTHING that we talked about and helped fine tune after everything was actually finished and locked in.
The encouraging thing is that many people have made a comeback, so it certainly is doable.