Lifetime quest finally paying off!
First post. Without going into a lengthy bio? Have finally found a workable path to the extreme upper register. What I did was discover how to correct one of the deficiencies in the famous "Stevens-Costello Embouchure Technique".
Stevens-Costello is a forward jaw embouchure capable of unlimited register. Triple C and higher range. Problem was? It didn't work for everyone. In my own early days working it I had to quit twice. As I couldn't get a big sound and it didn't articulate well. Wasn't until a few decades passed that I finally found the reason for my inability to pull off the technique. The "secret" seems to be with correcting the lack of elasticity in the vibrating surface of my top lip. This I accomplished by constructing mouthpieces with over-sized inner rim dimensions. While previously I had used ordinary mouthpieces but these had produced only a thin character of sound on the Stevens System.
As I continue to recover my chops from a terrible injury in 2018? I will try and keep the gallery here informed of my progress. Also if anyone is interested in either the original Stevens-Costello System and/or my adaptation tp it? Feel free to ask. And I will try my best to explain.
Currently Ive only been back on this chop system since last Nov 2019. Although this isnt exactly a correct statement. Previously I had put in about.five years on the system. From 2004 thru 2009. So much of my development during that failed period came back within a few weeks. Then after implementing the correction(s) to the system I've caught on to this embouchure. It oughta be only a matter of time when I'll feel comfortable posting sound or video clips.
@Sound-Advice - I don't understand why you continued with any system for several decades when it wasn't paying off for you. What was the call of that one system that was so compelling when there's a myriad of other systems out there that may have given you more immediate results? Thanks.
Hi Sound Advice,
I'm familiar with this technique with the jaw formation and exercises. Here's what I've learned through the years that might be of use.
In the registers below high C, my embouchure is what anyone would expect.
Once I get to high C, the bottom lip so slightly goes over the bottom teeth and the tongue is very close to the bottom lip. Also, I use LESS AIR as I go up from there. By using this way of playing, I have no issues with range. Now it's just a matter of controlling it because the partials are so close that a note can slip around. In fact, a person can press just about any valve or combination and still play the chromatic scale from high C to DHC. Its all about control and not over muscling it. The best way I can describe the process is to equate it to those people that can whistle REALLY loud. Notice that their bottom lip goes over the bottom teeth a just a little.
A good example of control in the upper register is Alison Balsom playing Telemann on the Natural Trumpet. Its amazing just how much air a person doesn't need and how much control it takes to maintain the notes and keep it beautiful when playing the Telemann piece. Another resource to possibly accelerate your journey is a video by Jon Ruff on how to play in the upper register. Here's the link;
Its an example of high but not bombastic.
Dr. Mark. When you say, " Its amazing just how much air a person doesn't need", do you factor in the resistance, or lack thereof, of the horn/mouthpiece or is that not a factor? Thanks.
@Kehaulani The amount of air that I use in the upper register (above high C) is less than I use for say middle C. This sort of makes sense since the hole (aperture) is bigger in the lower registers than it is in the upper registers. As far as factoring anything else, I don't. Decades ago when I would entertain such aspects, I'd end up with paralysis from analysis. Generally a person who is working on expanding their range often can't play in the upper register because they are over doing it with blowing too hard, too much mouthpiece pressure or just a weak and underdeveloped embouchure. My daughter just turned 16 and can play all twelve major scales two octaves. That means she can play up to F above high C which (in my opinion) every trumpet player should strive to do. Otherwise a player can't play all twelve major scales two octaves, or a lot of Baroque music. When speaking of jazz, the sky is the limit. I've had parts that require DHC (Phat charts). The best way I can describe it is when you get it, you get it, and its not based on muscle, its all about technique. I can play DHC on a Monette or a Bundy and as long as the mouthpiece is a Bach 7C to 10.5C I'm good to go.
Wow. Thanks. Now that I think about it when you put it in context, air-wise, I can play a lot longer as it ascends, for me particularly above top space F.
I left out that I actually had pretty good lead chops on my main embouchure. Fat sound up to high G. From most trumpet player's perspective I probably had plenty enough range as it was.
However I really wanted to break through the high G barrier.
I'd probably disagree with your statement regarding the considerable number of systems that produce more immediate results. As the Stevens system seems to be the only one describing a near guaranteed production of unlimited range from the very start. In fact even mere beginners on the Stevens system first learned to blow very high notes.
Granted that Stevens has some imperfections. As there simply wasn't enough time during either William Costello's or Roy Stevens life to adapt the principles to ALL trumpet players under all conditions..
I've certainly tried almost every system. Initially locking into some fat high notes with the Maggio system. Later I tried Reinhardt and some others. At best all that they could do was marginally improve certain elements of my existing embouchure. Like gain a little more endurance. Or a little more accuracy. None however could remove the block that I had at high G.
Again, with few trumpet players, on average building a strong upper register most of my peers could never understand why I wanted more range. In as much as I certainly did have a strong, useable upper register. It just wasn't an unlimited one. Meaning that It didn't have triple C capacity.
I think that this brings up another useful question,
"How much range is ENOUGH"?
Herb Alpert got wealthy beyond imagination and never even played a mere high C on his records.
Chuck Mangione fared quite well with just his concert pitch High C.
And I already had at least a clear perfect fifth over Chuck but wasn't satisfied. What I wanted was unlimited range. The ability to wail away accurately on Fs and Gs ABOVE Double C. My goal was personal. Not professional. No one else cared that I didn't have much of a double C. It wasn't costing me gigs either.
@Dr-Mark said in Lifetime quest finally paying off!:
Hi Sound Advice,
...Also, I use LESS AIR as I go up from there.
This concept is key. It is about relaxation as the range progresses, otherwise pushing more air becomes counter productive and can actually splint the muscle controlling the air flow, which ultimate cuts off the sound.
Find a technique that is comfortable, allows you to relay more on energy reserve of airway support, and do so with a mindset of knowing the notes you want to produce will be there.
"How much range is ENOUGH"?
In high school, adjudicators want all twelve major scales two octaves. Here's a snippet from FBA for All-State; Twelve major scales, (in 2:30 minutes or less) from memory, complete with arpeggios, at a minimum tempo of MM quarter note = 120. Scales are to be performed a minimum of 2 octaves where possible.
I've always held (even in high school) that a trumpet player should strive for two octaves for all twelve major scales. That means a person needs C#, D, Eb, E, and F above high C under their belts. So how much range is enough? Being able to comfortably and musically play F above high C should suffice. It satisfies the two octave major scale requirement.
Regarding beginners' luck, so to speak, the Balanced Embouchure (BE) also has a range track record with beginners. I think it's based on rolling the lips in for upper register playing. This concept is not specific to BE but it is a part of it.
"How much range is ENOUGH"?
I see this question to have variable answers. It will mostly depend on the music demands that a musician is exposed to perform. For my small group ensemble, I would not need to play above E, and that, would be a rare event. However with one of my big bands with Thad Jones charts and Buddy Rich charts, the A just below double high C is not an uncommon event.
I was listening to the OSU jazz big band play Aja (my jazz orchestra plays this same arrangement) and I was wondering if the lead player would play the ending salvos of those high G's, and much to my dismay, he octaved down on the line. Such a shame as ending that chart on that G is just a killer way to end the song.
So again, "How much range is ENOUGH" is a moving target for a wide spectrum of trumpet players.
@Dr-Mark said in Lifetime quest finally paying off!:
In high school, adjudicators want all twelve major scales two octaves.
This was true of my high school audition. And while I was able to achieve that F scale for the audition, it was weak and feeble, and in a performance situation where fatigue is always a factor, that F was for me a dream note.
Fast forward to now, that when the high school band plays their alumni concerts (with the same band director still very strong and active), I play that "Star Spangled Banner" trumpet call that ends on the Bb, with the Bb just below double high C. Sends the audience into a thunderous applause every time.
At present what is being taught to almost all young trumpet players is what Roy Roman refers to as the "Evolutionary Approach". He doesn't condemn it per se because I think that he sees the value of the standard long tones and other beginning technique exercises.
What Roman appears to find remiss in the Evolutionary Approach (let's call it "EV") is that there is no insistence upon the beginning trumpet player forming his embouchure in a position which Roman calls "correct". Correct according to the principles laid out in the course of study found in the Stevens-Costello system. This once long ago presented to Roman by his mentor Roy Stevens.
Now of course as soon as words like "correct" & "incorrect" get thrown around the trumpet community is almost certain to blast those using the terms. The complaints will come in statements like,
"No one embouchure fits all". Etc.
Probably some truth to that too. Another lump of coal feeding the critics is that the Stevens system didn't seem to work well for everyone. We used to have graffiti written in the upstairs practice room at the conservatory that read,
"All that Roy Stevens has is a lot of brass player's money".
And yet despite all the criticism and even though initially this method didn't work well for me?
I still hold the belief that the Stevens-Costello method is fundamentally the most correct way to both play and teach the trumpet. The only inherent weakness to the system is that it wasn't aware of one certain condition present in a lot of trumpet players. This being that the elasticity of the vibrating point on their upper lip isn't conducive to working well in a forward jaw position ON EXISTING STOCK TRUMPET MOUTHPIECES!
I'm about to stop here unless anyone has questions. But will be glad to continue in response to anyone having a follow up question. In closing I just want to point out that after I finally discovered the missing link to Stevens-Costello last November?
I've had consistent improvement in tone,control flexibility etc since. But instead of being a beginner with ordinary range? I'm now a beginner with fantastic range. Able to "sit" on notes around double C. This not a "brag-share" here today but a "please keep open minded about the Stevens system" type of share.
Here's a snippet for the folks that are not familiar with the Stevens-Costello method.
Dr GO last edited by Dr GO
I still hold the belief that the Stevens-Costello method is fundamentally the most correct way to both play and teach the trumpet. The only inherent weakness to the system is that it wasn't aware of one certain condition present in a lot of trumpet players.
I think the most profound and a focusing tip for all from the Stevens-Costello publication is the statement, "Do not be discouraged if these notes refuse to respond immediately. The more experimenting you do, the greater lip knowledge will be acquired.
This is the universal truth to ANY method a person chooses to use. One method does not fit all, but experimentation to what eventually fits the individual performer is key. It takes many hours and hours of wood shedding to get to this point, but the spoils of conquering the quest is worth this effort.
...the elasticity of the vibrating point on their upper lip isn't conducive to working well in a forward jaw position ON EXISTING STOCK TRUMPET MOUTHPIECES!
Sound advice... could you elaborate on this comment... and reflect on what mouthpiece adaptations may assist in vibratory performance.
Thank you for your interest Dr GO,
Granted my belief that the variance in texture of one man's upper lip to the next is kinda tricky to prove. I can just say that it sure seems reasonable to me. It is my contention that those whose upper lip flesh is quite soft and elastic may likely find that the trumpet is easier to learn than it is for the next guy.
If we go to the mirror and examine our own mouth and lip flesh we will see a considerable difference between say the inner lip texture vs the outer. Or a big difference between the regular facial skin and the "red" of the lip. Indeed quite a number of brass playing systems that teach high notes are either intentionally or subconsciously trying to get us to "pooch" out more inner upper lip flesh into the mouthpiece. Maggio was well know for this. And in the early days of my career Louis Maggio's "monkey lips" pucker brought out my first truly good high notes. High G anyway. It wasn't until some years later that I discovered this to be a "finite" or limited range setting for me. While I had better high notes than most amateurs I had to use WAY too much physical effort to blow at the top end of my range. And while I had played at least a few impressive DHC's in my life? I pretty much had to kill myself in order to get the note out.
Clearly I needed to make an embouchure change to a setting that allowed extreme high range but without the miserable high G cut-off point. Nor with the damned extreme effort and bright scarlet face when I blew.
Before going on I'd like to mention that I prefer not to use terms like "upstream" or "downstream" when examining trumpet players. I mention this because of my preference for dividing these groups into what I call "receded jaw" vs "forward jaw" trumpet players.
Donald Reinhardt being the originator of the Up/Downstream categories. And while his work was valuable we ought remember that Reinhardt was a trombonist. A much easier instrument than the trumpet. I hate to criticize his work but heck I even know of a highly distinguished pro and former student of his who disagrees on some matters espoused by Reinhardt.
I don't know if you've analyzed the quality of tone common to receded jaw vs forward jaw trumpet players. However it has long been observed that cats who blow with those forward jaw (and erroneously labelled "upstream") embouchures tend to be at least a little less resonant than the receded jaw playing cats. And while the forward jaw playing cat may not have as big of a sound? He often plays with great ease in the upper register. An important classical trp who played with great ease on a forward jaw chops was the late Rolf Smedvig. In the jazz/commercial field our noted "easy playing" forward jaw chops included Brisbois and Doc.
I don't mean to digress but it ought to be noted that there's a substantial difference between "loudness" and "bigness".
And our receded jaw fellows though while often having really big sounds? Tend to have unfortunately low cut-off points. When I used to blow receded jaw I cut out at high G or concert F and lemme tell ya. This a source of great frustration.
Okay I'm going to finish this post in a spell. Experience has told me that on long posts I risk computer crashes. BRB.
So WHY is the forward jaw trumpet player usually displaying a smaller or less sonorous tone? A couple reasons I think although again hard to prove.
We know that the forward jaw cat usually plays with more lower lip than the resonant upper. The upper lip is the vibrating one. So with less upper lip in the mouthpiece its almost like by playing this way he's using a shallower or smaller mouthpiece cup.
And the other reason seems to be that the forward jaw embouchure lips stay alongside each other for a longer lateral distance than the receded jaw cat. This is both a help and a hindrance. The longer aperture channel helps the trumpet player CONTROL the aperture so as to allow those very short oscillations.
Shorter vibration = higher pitch.
The downside here (and I think that this ought to finally answer your question) is that the longer aperture channel requires A MORE ELASTIC UPPER LIP TEXTURE!
That my friends is the explanation for why the Stevens-Costello system couldn't fit everyone. At least as it was written.
But this didn't make Roy Stevens wrong. It just made his method INCOMPLETE!!
In my 55+ years of playing trumpet which includes over 50 years of embouchure and breath support research I have (at least to my own satisfaction) finally explained what was missing from Stevens-Costello. Again Stevens wasn't wrong! He just didn't understand the considerable variance in lip texture from one cat to the next. And if he didn't understand that?
He certainly couldn't be expected to fix the problem in his students. Now if you're interested?
I'll explain the change required in Stevens system to those who politely ask me in private message. I haven't copyrighted my explanation yet. So am loathe to just lay out the nugget of information it's taken me until the age of 65 to finally figure out. While I highly doubt anyone could successfully steal my ideas without having the background knowledge necessary to pull it off? It still seems wise to proceed with some caution.
Hope that this provides a suitable response to Dr GO's query. And I hope that he appreciates it. Because it sure took me long enough to write it out today.
However it has long been observed that cats who blow with those forward jaw (and erroneously labelled "upstream") embouchures tend to be at least a little less resonant than the receded jaw playing cats.
Oy! I play with my jaw out to there my upper and lower teeth are even and people say I have a rich, fat sound (unless I'm channeling Miles Davis).
In simple terms;
Do you pucker or say "MMMM"?
Where does your tongue go once you're above high C?
Does your bottom lip go over the bottom teeth (just slightly) when in the upper register?
I'm a high note loggerhead from way back and I really don't have any issues when it comes to range. I've been playing DHC's for decades and if I have a beer or two, I'll spit out a THC (No, not that THC) Triple High C.
My guess? We probably do the same thing but have different ways of explaining how it works.