I played my first gig in over a year yesterday, so I thought I owed a blog after all of this.
I haven’t written a blog in AGES! Between the pandemic and being unexpectedly laid up last summer I have not be particularly well motivated.
I’ll spare you the details, but there was some time when I didn’t think I would ever play again. This was extremely discouraging. I was assured a full recovery, but at the time it was real tough. I was told 8 months to a year.
In establishing my come back, I tried a variety of methods – a smattering of lip buzzing, lots of long tones, ppp practice, Cat Anderson method, etc. I made some progress and even started recording again a full three months ahead of the minimum recovery time. I was so grateful. That really helped me pull out of some of the mental funk I had fallen into. I had felt like less than a man – a diminished human being, but as my comeback became more solidified, I shook it off.
During my rebuilding my trumpet practice, I had to work with physical therapists, occupation therapists and even speech therapist. So why not a trumpet therapist? Well, all of my therapy is over – they all signed off. However, I thought it made sense to work with a trumpet instructor to work on my chops.
Well, 2020 saw all of our work shut down indefinitely, so I figured this would be a perfect time to adjust my embouchure to make it more efficient – effective. I had been using TWO sets – one for normal register and one for high. My high note set – altissimo set, as it were, worked fine down low, too. Articulation a little unpredictable below high C, but the sound and tone were fine. So, I scrapped my LOW or formerly ‘normal or open set’ and am going exclusively to my altissimo set.
If you watch my videos, you know that with my altissimo set, I have the tip of my tongue anchored on the top of my lower teeth sort of nudging the back of my lower lip. This is how I free buzz my lips.
Upon inspection, this is VERY close to “spit-buzzing” and TCE or tongue controlled embouchure technique. Therefore it seemed VERY logical to work with an instructor who is EXPERT at the use of TCE to finish rebuilding my playing. So I am working with Ralph Salamone out of Connecticut. His instruction is proving to be VERY valuable. He is also RELENTLESSLY positive and supportive. He also makes the very unusual promise: he GUARANTEES his work! Now, he doesn’t make any promises about the TIME FRAME, but, if you stick to his instruction, you WILL succeed.
In addition to the challenges I faced, I have ALWAYS had a problem with CONSISTENCY up around double high C. On some days, I could just hammer them out with total control and on other days, I’d be on my teeth just trying to hit them and on still other days, I’d just have to forget about it.
Ralph’s method promises to help me END that tendency and eliminate endurance problems. I have only been working with him for about a month as of this writing, and I can already sense much progress.
Again, as of this writing, In am playing up to high C EFFORTLESSLY! Up to high G I am totally consistent and solid as a rock, though I haven’t completely deployed the TCE method – still working a bit too hard up there, but if you need a high G, I can deliver one that will knock a wall down. I can HIT DHC’s, but I’m not ready to play those under gig pressure, yet. For now, that bulk of my practice is from high C on down – the meat and potatoes range.
I can feel the technique gradually kicking in and have complete faith in Ralph’s instruction. I’ll keep folks posted as my rebuild progresses.
Oh, I actually played a gig this week and it went better than anticipated. I shook out the temptation to play any serious lead, but I DID play some solos and it wasn’t too bad. I feel like I am at least able to get back on the horse, so to speak.
Here’s Ralph’s web site and info.
Here is his YouTube channel: