Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Trumpet and Horn: More from Cameron

I posted a discussion from Cameron Kopf a few days ago (scroll down).  Now Cameron is sharing a picture and more information about his application of BE principals to his regular embouchure and his mouthpiece choice.  [I commented at the bottom in brackets.]  

"I'm playing on a modified Yamaha 667: Dennis Houghton mouth pipe and Lawson ambronze bell, in case you're interested. I am very happy with this horn.

"At the moment I am using a Schilke #29 stock mouthpiece (unlike the Osmun London cup in the pic). I find that the slightly wider inner cup diameter of the Schilke works much better now that I'm doing BE. It's easier to roll in.

"By the way, I am now concentrating on using RI for all registers, just over the past couple of days, and am seeing good results. My particular challenge now is to get the second line G on the staff to open up, both in sound and for tonguing. So I am now working on opening that note up with sustained tones and faster tonguing. 

"Like you, I feel more comfortable with RI for most of my playing needs, but RO exercises are very important to do regularly to keep the RI muscles properly balanced."

"Best regards,

[Thanks, Cameron!  I don't really understand how & why RO works, but I know it does.  One trumpet player who's been studying BE for many years tells me that RO makes RI possible.  He says he does RO so he can do RI.  And, many, many horn & trumpet players report HUGE improvements from playing RO.  One pro trumpet player Jeff taught, struggled with several years of stagnation.  He took off like a shot with RO alone so never bothered with RI.  Go figure.  Some horn players think they don't need RO because they already have a low range.  I always tell them RO is not for the low range; it's for the whole embouchure.  Whatever develops the whole embouchure, develops range in both directions.] 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Trumpet and Horn: Cameron Kopf Feedback and Discussion

This post is a little more technical than most I post in my blog.
It contains some information that will only be understood by
BE students.  I decided to post it because it's another testimonial
from someone who has benefited from BE on both trumpet and horn.
[I will post my responses in brackets.]

Dear Valerie,

I have a lot to say about my experience with BE 
(on both trumpet and horn)...

I started using the Balanced Embouchure method (BE) last year, initially 
on trumpet. I experienced instant positive results on both RO and RI exercises 
from the very first day. My range and endurance on the trumpet improved 
immediately, and it gave me hope that I could actually manage to play both 
horn and trumpet interchangeably without problems.

A few months later, I began applying BE in my horn practice. I was hesitant 

at first, as I had been a professional horn player for 37 years, and didn't want 
to "mess up" what had worked reasonably well for me for so many years.   
I wanted to wait until I built a more solid foundation with BE on trumpet before 
playing the exercises on the horn.  Two months ago, I started practicing 
RO and RI exercises after my regular warm up, and am seeing progress 
now on the horn as well as I did on trumpet.

The main challenge for me with BE and horn is getting a rich, full tone while 

using RI. It is getting better all the time, the more I do the exercises. I am finding 
now that I am able to roll the lips in AND enlarge the aperture in the center 
 of the embouchure at the same time, which produces a better sound.

[I'm so glad to hear you're working it out for your benefit.  If we rush the RI into our 

regular playing to get high notes, "directly" as Jeff puts, that's what can happen.  
In the book he writes that we can learn to play with a full and beautiful tone on ANY 
embouchure setting.  I totally believe that.  It's just a matter of judicial application 
of BE principles, practice, careful listening and, of course, patience.]  

Another challenge is to coordinate my tonguing, which is in a different 

place while using RI. My particular issue is just above the staff, F, F#, G 
where the tongue becomes a bit "ploddy". I have to remind myself to keep 
the tongue very close to the top lip, further towards the roof of my mouth, 
in order to gain clarity on those notes.

[Very interesting.  Notice that on page 88, referring to the exercise on the bottom 

of page 89 (Tonguing With Lips Rolled In), Jeff Smiley writes: "When tonguing 
becomes easy, this embouchure can be used in everyday playing."  The key word in 
that information packed sentence is EASY.  I noticed that when TOL finally became 
easy, both my tonguing and my tone settled in the upper register and everything 
became clearer.  Jeff has seen this so many times in his 30+ years of teaching 1000s 
of trumpet lessons, he knows when the transition can be most beneficial.]  

I am developing my own set of exercises to supplement the BE materials for 

horn that you have already so generously provided to the Horn Community. 
Generally I am extending the RI notes downward.

[I think this is especially important for horn players because of our low range 
requirements.  In my video, I demonstrate "dragging down" the RI setting all the way 
down to pedal tones.  This practice has been very helpful for me so I can play 
"rangey" phrases without awkward resetting.]

I have yet to be able to tongue scales from the octave below middle C all 

the way up to high C smoothly, because it is difficult to shift from RO 
to RI fluidly encompassing those three octaves. Starting on middle C 
upward is much easier at this point. So I will start a few notes below middle C 
and see if I can extend my range upward, using the RI setting. The RO 
exercises starting on the pedal notes working upward are of great benefit, 
and perhaps if I continue working on them, these 3-octave scales will be easier 
using the RO setting.

[I would suggest practicing your a few 3 octave scales in both RO and RI every day.  

From doing this, you may find clues that will help you decide just how much RO and 
RI you need to combine to achieve a smoothest flow across your break.]

I have a question for you: Are the slurring exercises following the RO and 

RI sections supposed to be played on either setting, or both?

[The rule with the advanced lip slurs is "If it works, it's correct!"  This is when you 

will consciously apply the principles you've learned in the RO and RI exercises to 
your developing embouchure. But, when you get back to "regular" playing, you 
must try & forget about BE!  Easier said than done!]

There is a lot more to say, but this is enough to digest for one email. I look 

forward to hearing back from you, whenever you get a chance!

Best regards,
Cameron Kopf

Monday, February 3, 2014

Pole Vaulting

An unsolicited email from a happy BE'er.

Hi Valerie,
I have meant to let you know for a while how much I am enjoying the BE for French horn.  I originally thought of it mostly for extending my upper range but I have been surprised at how much it has extended my lower range and made it more rich and stable.

I first started using BE when the last summer Olympics was on.  As I was watching pole vaulting, it occurred to me that the way I had been attempting to play higher notes was a lot like someone like me trying to clear 17’ by blindly running at the bar with no idea of the mechanics involved.  Years ago, when I had the privilege of taking lessons from Kathleen Farner she would tell me to just relax when I was having trouble reaching a high note.  At the time it seemed impossible.  Now I am realizing that it actually works because BE gives me the ability to actually think about how to make my embouchure work for the note I am trying to make.  This also works psychologically because, as Kathleen also pointed out, half the battle was not panicking when the dreaded notes were approaching.

Now that my embouchure is improving its time to fix the growing problem with my left hand.  To that end I would like to order one of your comfy straps before my left pinky falls off.   -- Stephen Klassen