Lip balm experiment

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PosauneCat
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Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Mon Jul 12, 2021 8:33 pm

A while back I tried an experiment. In the interest of making sure my embouchure was doing the work and not allowing dry-lip friction to hold my lips in place, I decided to try putting lip balm on my lips prior to practicing, thinking it might help to strengthen my embouchure (by eliminating any friction between the lips and mpc) and assure I was not using any artificial support, as many dry lip players do. It’s a nasty habit that impedes real embouchure development. So, I put on quite a bit, not just a cursory application. It was a DISMAL failure. I couldn’t play at all and gave up in frustration!!

Has anyone else tried this with good results…or bad? I think Doug Elliott told me, when I asked if anyone had done this seriously, that Reinhardt may have tried it or advocated it. Doug, am I right or have slipped into senility?

Anyway, I’d be interested to hear if others have tried this.
Last edited by PosauneCat on Tue Jul 13, 2021 8:44 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by harrisonreed » Mon Jul 12, 2021 9:37 pm

I just lick my chops
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by Posaunus » Mon Jul 12, 2021 9:41 pm

I always wipe off any lip balm I may have been using (including ChopSaver) before I start playing. The stuff just gunks up the mouthpiece. No benefit whatsoever. I often clean my mouthpiece rim (water spray, wipe dry) during a playing session.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by baileyman » Mon Jul 12, 2021 11:10 pm

Funny how the chops can secretly adapt to pushing and stretching against the friction of the rim.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by Fidbone » Tue Jul 13, 2021 1:04 am

I only use lip balm in extreme weather and overnight.

Never whilst playing!

The overnight use should keep your chops in tip top condition when it comes to playing.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by hyperbolica » Tue Jul 13, 2021 6:37 am

I can't get past the smell of Burts. Plus as mentioned, it gunks up the mouthpiece. Also as mentioned in the lip licking thread, I've only used a vitamin e oil, and only a dab on the end of a finger type amount, and that only if I have an open sore that I have to play through.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by vetsurginc » Tue Jul 13, 2021 7:09 am

Use Burt's for overnight. I tend to mouth breath while asleep and Burt's prevents dry out.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by robcat2075 » Tue Jul 13, 2021 7:18 am

I wonder any women are wearing lipstick while playing.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PhilTrombone » Tue Jul 13, 2021 7:49 am

Using lip balm during the dry winter months can help protect against chapped lips. But I always wipe it off before playing and re-apply when done with the horn.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Tue Jul 13, 2021 8:23 am

robcat2075 wrote:
Tue Jul 13, 2021 7:18 am
I wonder any women are wearing lipstick while playing.
I’ve often wondered the same thing.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Tue Jul 13, 2021 8:43 am

I edited my initial post to clarify that this was an experiment to see if I could playing with ZERO friction. Many dry lip players end up using friction to artificially support their embouchure. Your lips stick to the mouthpiece so you are not using just the strength of your embouchure muscles to control you lips. It’s a bad habit which impedes embouchure development. I was NOT talking about normal therapeutic use of lip balm.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by BGuttman » Tue Jul 13, 2021 9:02 am

I've seen women play with lipstick. But there's a difference. A woman will blot excess lipstick from her lips after applying it. The result is a very thin layer. Also, lipstick is formulated to not "gunk up".

I have found that lip balm is wonderful when you are not playing but it really interferes with your embouchure if you try to play with a lot of it.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 » Tue Jul 13, 2021 12:08 pm

I treat my lip balms just like tuning slide greases. Different seasons require a variety of lip balms. Additionally, different uses require different lip balms.

Seasons: I buy Carmex (small yellow-lid canister) or Blistex (small blue canister), but only in the ointment form....never in the waxy "Chapstick" form. I always mix these two brands with Vaseline (petroleum jelly) to "cut it down." Three or four times a year, I stand in front of the microwave oven and melt my mixture in a few of those little canisters for the upcoming season. In the dry-air winter months, I add very little Vaseline and the mixture stays thicker and remains on my lips longer. In the summer, I add more Vaseline and the mixture is thinner because the air is usually rather humid in Maryland.

When playing in the winter, I sometimes put a VERY SMALL amount of pure Vaseline on my chop every 15-20 minutes. It is so thin and such a small amount that it never impedes my playing.

ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS I LEARNED AS A MUSIC MAJOR IN COLLEGE..... In the cold winter months, always coat your lips with balm before going outside. Avoid talking and smiling when outside in the cold. Most incidents of cracked lips occur in cold temperatures when people talk or smile!
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by harrisonreed » Tue Jul 13, 2021 5:00 pm

robcat2075 wrote:
Tue Jul 13, 2021 7:18 am
I wonder any women are wearing lipstick while playing.
Why stop at women?


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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by baileyman » Tue Jul 13, 2021 11:25 pm

I'm not sure "embouchure development" makes any sense any more. If one can form an aperture and put some air through it, recent experience indicates the thing just works. To change pitch, change mouth tuning.

And if one can freebuzz, I'm not sure it matters whether one plays frictionally on the horn or not. I think these things may just come down to personal preference but have no basis in physics.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by harrisonreed » Wed Jul 14, 2021 12:04 am

baileyman wrote:
Tue Jul 13, 2021 11:25 pm
I'm not sure "embouchure development" makes any sense any more. If one can form an aperture and put some air through it, recent experience indicates the thing just works. To change pitch, change mouth tuning.

And if one can freebuzz, I'm not sure it matters whether one plays frictionally on the horn or not. I think these things may just come down to personal preference but have no basis in physics.
Paragraph one is great. Blow into the horn the right way and the right sound comes out. You can develop control over your embouchure, but you can't really develop your embouchure muscles. 100% agree

Paragraph two, free buzzing, hmm... That's blowing the "wrong" way. The two paragraphs here are in conflict.


To the OP, for frictionless playing -- do you mean playing with the mouthpiece sliding all over your face?
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by Wilktone » Wed Jul 14, 2021 5:52 am

PosauneCat wrote:
Mon Jul 12, 2021 8:33 pm
Has anyone else tried this with good results…or bad? I think Doug Elliott told me, when I asked if anyone had done this seriously, that Reinhardt may have tried it or advocated it. Doug, am I right or have slipped into senility?
If I recall correctly, Reinhardt would use A&D Ointment sometimes to help a student find their "four legs." The idea, I think, was that by liberally applying A&D Ointment to the lips (and also wetting the lips with saliva) that the mouthpiece would slide around on the lips until it found the spot where there was a good foundation of teeth and gums underneath the mouthpiece rim and lips.

Back when I lived in southern Colorado (high altitude desert) I got chapped lips pretty regularly. I would often apply A&D Ointment for the chapped lips and then play right away. I found that the texture of A&D Ointment was easier for me to play with it on the lips compared with other forms of lip balm. I still keep a tube of it for chapped lips, but my wife really doesn't like the smell of it.
PosauneCat wrote:
Mon Jul 12, 2021 8:33 pm
In the interest of making sure my embouchure was doing the work and not allowing dry-lip friction to hold my lips in place, I decided to try putting lip balm on my lips prior to practicing, thinking it might help to strengthen my embouchure (by eliminating any friction between the lips and mpc) and assure I was not using any artificial support, as many dry lip players do. It’s a nasty habit that impedes real embouchure development.
Back when when I made an embouchure type correction (with Doug's guidance) I moved my mouthpiece placement very low on my lips. When I played with a wet embouchure my top lip would slide out of the mouthpiece while ascending, so I had to play with a dry top lip. Over the years I've gotten more comfortable with the placement, developed better embouchure strength and control, and also found my "embouchure legs," so I know wet my top lip too.

There are advantages to playing with a dry embouchure formation and the stickiness of the rim to the lips is only one of them. Some players find that playing with a dry embouchure helps the upper register. There are advantages (and disadvantages) to both wet and dry embouchures, but I've found that a wet embouchure to work better for me. I generally recommend wet embouchure, unless there are reasons why a student needs to play with a dry embouchure.
baileyman wrote:
Tue Jul 13, 2021 11:25 pm
I'm not sure "embouchure development" makes any sense any more. If one can form an aperture and put some air through it, recent experience indicates the thing just works. To change pitch, change mouth tuning.
That's just not true. There's so much more that happens with embouchure technique than forming an aperture and blowing air through it. We've discussed this many times here on Trombone Chat, but here is one thread that addresses this misunderstanding. The first video example starts here:

https://trombonechat.com/viewtopic.php? ... 339#p75879
harrisonreed wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 12:04 am
Paragraph two, free buzzing, hmm... That's blowing the "wrong" way. The two paragraphs here are in conflict.
Harrison, I know your thoughts on free buzzing already, but I think you dismiss its use for strength building too quickly. One analogy that I think is apropos is that it's similar to weight training. An athlete can build strength simply by participating in their sport, but weight training alone can more efficiently target the muscles without the added risk of injury. Similarly, free buzzing (in the correct manner and without overdoing it) will build the embouchure muscles and train the correct formation without resorting to mashing up the lips with the mouthpiece.

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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by harrisonreed » Wed Jul 14, 2021 6:40 am

You don't need strength to play a brass instrument though. It isn't lifting weights. It's a fine motor skill. In any case you've slightly taken me out of context, as I was trying to point out that free buzzing isn't at all like "making an aperture and blowing through it and changing the mouth tuning", and letting the horn do the work for you.

I'm more curious about this frictionless playing technique. That sounds crazy, and there is only one thing I can think of to try which would make it possible.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by baileyman » Wed Jul 14, 2021 9:17 am

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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Wed Jul 14, 2021 9:40 am

baileyman wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 9:17 am
"And yet, it moves."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_yet_it_moves
Perhaps the best reply I’ve seen on Trombone Chat! The arrest of Galileo and his forced recantation still stands as a veritable paean to ignorance and dangers of blind faith belief in falsity. Baileyman, your point is well taken, at least by me, and I thank you for the implications of the quote regarding this post, not to mention elevating the discourse of the forum in general with sublime relevance! :good:
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Wed Jul 14, 2021 10:12 am

baileyman wrote:
Tue Jul 13, 2021 11:25 pm
I'm not sure "embouchure development" makes any sense any more. If one can form an aperture and put some air through it, recent experience indicates the thing just works. To change pitch, change mouth tuning.

And if one can freebuzz, I'm not sure it matters whether one plays frictionally on the horn or not. I think these things may just come down to personal preference but have no basis in physics.
As a relatively dry-lip player I am used to people telling me it’s wrong and acts as a crutch by artificially manipulating the lips into the proper position by excessive friction. Ever since Farkas wrote his book, his indictment of dry-lips still rings on. I’m only going to mention my background because it shows I played quite successfully with the dry-lips for quite some time - I hate talking about the past like some old loser reliving his glory days on the field, and I’m not trying to impress anyone, so forgive me this once. I did undergrad work at Eastman where I played principle in the Philharmonia for two straight years. I played Mahler 2 and 3, Zarathustra, Bolero, et al., with dry lips. I went on to do grad work at the New England Conservatory in early music and musicology and played trombone and sackbutt for a few years. I went to NYU for more grad work in theory and supported myself doing freelance playing and some studio work, and occasionally played in the American Composers Orchestra. I studied with Henry Schmidt, George Osborn, and Don Knaub, all Remington protégés, and the magnificent John Marcellus. None of them ever expressed issues with my embouchure. In fact, my embouchure never came up in any regard at all.

This brings me to the present. After 30 years away from the horn I’m back. BUT, trombone pedagogy and people’s ideas of what is correct now is quite different. Most people advocate wet lips and I feel compelled to try it, lest I destroy my chops and commit the sun of defying current opinion!

OK, I’m smart enough to know that there are as many ways to play the trombone as there are people to play it, BUT, perhaps I’m not trusting my intuition. I can now play with wet lips, but it is not as comfortable as dry for me, and my high range suffers (BTW, I’ve worked with Doug Elliott on pivoting and will continue that as I think it’s very useful!). I also seem to have perpetual chapped lips when play wet! Sam Burris says “try everything, use what works.” I’m still in the “try everything” phase.

Thanks to all of you for adding to this post! It helps. Trying to get my trombone chops back has by far been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, no exaggeration there.

Mike
Last edited by PosauneCat on Wed Jul 14, 2021 11:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Wed Jul 14, 2021 10:16 am

Wilktone wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 5:52 am

Back when I lived in southern Colorado (high altitude desert) I got chapped lips pretty regularly. I would often apply A&D Ointment for the chapped lips and then play right away.
And it has the advantage of helping diaper rash! :D
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by harrisonreed » Wed Jul 14, 2021 4:52 pm

You really should do work with your tongue. Do lip slurs, and try to hone in on how your tongue shape moves you through different registers. If your mouthpiece is shifting a lot on your face or the pivot is excessive (of course, you need to pivot a bit), the mouthpiece is the wrong size for you. If it isn't moving around excessively, then it doesn't matter if you use a wet or dry embouchure, although a wet embouchure will make the micro-shifts easier for you.

If your face is getting tired, again I'd suggest that you really hone in on what your tongue is doing to control things. Your air will never get tired, and a mostly relaxed embouchure won't get tired either as long as the right quality of air is going through them. If you learn the secrets of using your tongue to control the register, your face won't really have to do any work. The tongue is far stronger and more adaptive than the tiny muscles in your chops.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Wed Jul 14, 2021 5:12 pm

harrisonreed wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 4:52 pm
You really should do work with your tongue. Do lip slurs, and try to hone in on how your tongue shape moves you through different registers. If your mouthpiece is shifting a lot on your face or the pivot is excessive (of course, you need to pivot a bit), the mouthpiece is the wrong size for you. If it isn't moving around excessively, then it doesn't matter if you use a wet or dry embouchure, although a wet embouchure will make the micro-shifts easier for you.

If your face is getting tired, again I'd suggest that you really hone in on what your tongue is doing to control things. Your air will never get tired, and a mostly relaxed embouchure won't get tired either as long as the right quality of air is going through them. If you learn the secrets of using your tongue to control the register, your face won't really have to do any work. The tongue is far stronger and more adaptive than the tiny muscles in your chops.
Thanks for the tip. I will focus more on that! I might sending you a PM for more insight if you don’t mind.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by Wilktone » Thu Jul 15, 2021 7:34 am

harrisonreed wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 6:40 am
You don't need strength to play a brass instrument though. It isn't lifting weights. It's a fine motor skill.
It's both fine motor control AND muscular effort. Why do we get tired by the end of the third set if it's just fine motor control? It takes muscular strength and endurance to hold the embouchure formation into its correct position in order to have the best fine motor control over the lips.

There have been several papers written that looked at the muscular activity of brass players' faces while playing using a variety of methods that I can share, if you're interested.
baileyman wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 9:17 am
"And yet, it moves."
I wish I understood exactly your point, baileyman. I think you're not wanting to recant your opinion on something here, but in the interest of moving the conversation forward I would prefer if you simply said what you disagree with and why. If some of us can help explain something better maybe you would change your opinion. Or maybe some of us need to correct our own ideas, if you've found mistakes in our thinking on this topic.

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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by Kbiggs » Thu Jul 15, 2021 11:06 am

harrisonreed wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 4:52 pm
Your air will never get tired, and a mostly relaxed embouchure won't get tired either as long as the right quality of air is going through them.
This isn’t just a semantic disagreement, but I really don’t understand this comment.

Air itself is neither tired or rested. However, the muscles used for inhalation and expiration can indeed become fatigued. It can happen with people experiencing breathing problems, or—in our case—when people are not accustomed to the type of breathing needed to play a brass instrument, whether it’s a beginner learning how to breath, an experienced player who is out of shape, etc.

And, embouchure muscles can and do become fatigued, even when a player uses an appropriate volume and rate of air flow (“quality of air,” whatever that means).
I have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.
—Mark Twain (attributed)
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by harrisonreed » Thu Jul 15, 2021 4:51 pm

Kbiggs wrote:
Thu Jul 15, 2021 11:06 am
harrisonreed wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 4:52 pm
Your air will never get tired, and a mostly relaxed embouchure won't get tired either as long as the right quality of air is going through them.
This isn’t just a semantic disagreement, but I really don’t understand this comment.

Air itself is neither tired or rested. However, the muscles used for inhalation and expiration can indeed become fatigued. It can happen with people experiencing breathing problems, or—in our case—when people are not accustomed to the type of breathing needed to play a brass instrument, whether it’s a beginner learning how to breath, an experienced player who is out of shape, etc.

And, embouchure muscles can and do become fatigued, even when a player uses an appropriate volume and rate of air flow (“quality of air,” whatever that means).
I'll try to rephrase it. Your face can do a lot to compensate for a weak air stream or poor playing mechanics. You can use tension to try and force the weak air to speed up through an aperture and make notes come out, which is called pinching. You can use your face to lip pitches to be more in tune. You can use your face to move through various partials two-dimensionally, just through linear tension, rather than three-dimensionally which adds the jaw angle into the mix. People also use tension to play softer dynamics. All of this stuff stresses out the tiny muscles in your face and these are the first muscles to go on a long set.

Your diaphragm (your "air") won't get tired like these face muscles do. It can push air in and out of you all day. Likewise, your tongue is a far stronger muscle than your tiny face muscles. It can arch and shape the air stream through the aperture, fill the space in your mouth to create resistance for slow air in the back of your mouth, or really speed up fast air towards the back of your teeth. It also plays the critical role in "tuning the mouth", which was brought up elsewhere. The tongue, together with the diaphragm, creates the "quality" of air I was talking about in this way. The chops can be more or less relaxed, not pinched or bunched up, and just need tiny shifts in tension to control where the aperture is angled.

Let the diaphragm and tongue do all of the work, and all the face does is shift what it gets from your body into the right spot in the mouthpiece. From there, the mouthpiece, the horn, and the interaction with the air inside the horn makes all the fun and good sounding stuff happen.

Sure, if you never practice, even this passive use of your face muscles will make them tired -- I think we can all get down with that. But the freebuzzing, the "weight lifting", the mouthpiece buzzing, and hours and hours of "strength training" on the horn (focusing on the face and not on how to move and direct the air behind the face) -- all that stuff is counter-productive and could even be dangerous. The face muscles don't get stronger like your quads, they just get tighter and tighter.

There is my line in the sand. The idea of building chop strength is all made-up mumbo-jumbo that exists because it is really really difficult to teach the concepts of air stream quality and the use of the tongue to a student. To say nothing of how to send all that into the horn. So teachers come up with crap like "if you just try real hard, keep practicing and buzzing, and really believe in yourself..."
Last edited by harrisonreed on Thu Jul 15, 2021 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by harrisonreed » Thu Jul 15, 2021 5:04 pm

Wilktone wrote:
Thu Jul 15, 2021 7:34 am
harrisonreed wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 6:40 am
You don't need strength to play a brass instrument though. It isn't lifting weights. It's a fine motor skill.
It's both fine motor control AND muscular effort. Why do we get tired by the end of the third set if it's just fine motor control? It takes muscular strength and endurance to hold the embouchure formation into its correct position in order to have the best fine motor control over the lips.

There have been several papers written that looked at the muscular activity of brass players' faces while playing using a variety of methods that I can share, if you're interested.
In my experience there is no strength to be built in these muscles though. They just get tighter and tighter the more you "condition" them, until you can't play any more and you find yourself on the phone with Jan.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by baileyman » Thu Jul 15, 2021 5:36 pm

Wilktone wrote:
Thu Jul 15, 2021 7:34 am
...
baileyman wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 9:17 am
"And yet, it moves."
I wish I understood exactly your point, baileyman. ...

Dave
Okay, sure. I find online that doing this is like explaining a joke, usually hopeless.
Wilktone wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 5:52 am
...
baileyman wrote:
Tue Jul 13, 2021 11:25 pm
I'm not sure "embouchure development" makes any sense any more. If one can form an aperture and put some air through it, recent experience indicates the thing just works. To change pitch, change mouth tuning.
That's just not true. ...
harrisonreed wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 12:04 am
Paragraph two, free buzzing, hmm... That's blowing the "wrong" way. The two paragraphs here are in conflict.
...
Dave
Galileo was responding to the certainty of faith-based science. Faced with pontification here, too, his story seemed to rhyme, so I referenced it. For myself, I prefer to think of things where it's really hard to say exactly what is going on, as being like the blind guys feeling different parts of an elephant. All I can do is relate my experience, and relate it without certainty, and listen to what the other guys say about it, and pay attention as some of what they say may just show up in my own experience, too.

I guess I'll add a few more words.

On "development", I suppose my chops are getting pretty strong. The workout they do every morning is beyond my comprehension from a couple years ago. They do fatigue, but in a weird way. I cannot point to tiredness anywhere in particular, but suddenly they lose the ability to find the resonance, and then revert to my previous muscular way of getting a pitch. Usually this shows up around high G, indicating the end of session is soon. But while I suppose they are strong, I do not feel like I am using any of their strength when playing in my "zone" where stuff just happens. Blow through the little round hole and a bunch of octaves of stuff just happens. Now, I suppose too if one had a neurologist stick electrical needles in the muscles some data would show up. But it feels like nothing is doing any work. So the idea of doing anything to strengthen these little muscles seems totally contrary. Previously I posted about having my chops form an embouchure to one side or the other, blowing up or down, chin in or out, tongue way forward or way back or in between, all this seemed generally irrelevant, so I can't think that adjusting any of these characteristics could constitute "development" either. However, I'll bet some people find great help in "development".

On "freebuzz", if a guy can tune his pitches on the horn with his tongue (as it seems by inference), it seems to me like he should be able to also do so on freebuzz. At least, that's how my chops work. I would suggest doing some Bb-F glisses in moderate time on the horn then pull off and continue without change on the freebuzz. Not only does my buzz continue (a matter of some additional pontification elsewhere), but the pitches run up and down just the same.

I'll say again, I may be feeling some different part of the elephant than others. And I'm fine with that. If anyone else finds my spot, maybe what I say will work for them. And I continue to listen to others speaking from other places, because my experience indicates that they're telling me what they think is true, so I may find it is for me, too.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Thu Jul 15, 2021 9:15 pm

baileyman wrote:
Thu Jul 15, 2021 5:36 pm

I'll say again, I may be feeling some different part of the elephant than others. And I'm fine with that. If anyone else finds my spot, maybe what I say will work for them. And I continue to listen to others speaking from other places, because my experience indicates that they're telling me what they think is true, so I may find it is for me, too.
Baileyman, I hope you are a person who can accept compliments graciously. I find your posts not only informative but intellectually provocative (I mean that in a very positive way, not pejoratively). I immediately understood why you used the Galileo quote and appreciated it. Also, the parable of the blind men and the elephant might be lost on some, but I use it frequently myself. Thanks for your contributions!

Mike
Last edited by PosauneCat on Fri Jul 16, 2021 11:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Thu Jul 15, 2021 9:40 pm

harrisonreed wrote:
Thu Jul 15, 2021 4:51 pm


I'll try to rephrase it. Your face can do a lot to compensate for a weak air stream or poor playing mechanics. You can use tension to try and force the weak air to speed up through an aperture and make notes come out, which is called pinching. You can use your face to lip pitches to be more in tune. You can use your face to move through various partials two-dimensionally, just through linear tension, rather than three-dimensionally which adds the jaw angle into the mix. People also use tension to play softer dynamics. All of this stuff stresses out the tiny muscles in your face and these are the first muscles to go on a long set.
Harrison, I’ve seen some of your videos on YouTube. It seems like most are geared toward beginners and I think you’re providing a very useful service there. However, in addition, I’d love to see an in-depth video on what you’re talking about here, for more experienced players. I was a pretty natural player as a kid and honestly never gave much thought to embouchure or musculature, but I did pay a lot of attention to diaphragmatic breathing. My first teacher was a Remington student and he was fanatical about proper breathing. I, on the other hand, just played well quite naturally and in retrospect I think I was of the John Coffey school of simplicity - “just tongue and blow, kid!” Another thing I never thought about was the tongue, except regarding articulation, but not as an organ to reshape the oral cavity. Now that I’m coming back to the trombone as an adult I realize what a divine luxury it was to start something new as a blank slate (ignorance is bliss, right?). It was soooo much easier as a kid because I simply kept playing everyday and things just worked themselves out without paralyzing analysis! As a sentient adult with at least marginally refined executive functioning I find “getting it back” to be frustratingly challenging. If you aren’t able to create a video like what I’m suggesting, I would like to talk to you via PM to get a clearer understanding of all that you talked about in your last post.

The time I’ve spent with Doug Elliott has been really great for getting a better understanding of some of this, particularly of what really goes into secure high/register playing. I can only imagine how good I might have become as a kid had I had this knowledge!

Thanks so much for your work. I really appreciate it.

Mike
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by harrisonreed » Thu Jul 15, 2021 10:38 pm

I'm getting there, and the videos will always be geared towards "advanced players" in that I will try to never use an analogy to explain something I don't explain also in plain English -- nothing will be dumbed down. I thought even my video about oiling the valve and making a sound on the trombone was "advanced" -- stuff that no one ever said to me "yo, this is how to do it". Maybe it's just obvious stuff to everyone else.

I'm really looking forward to making more videos but I am always extremely busy. If I lived in a standalone house it would be no problem, but as it is I have to cart all my gear in to a studio to make a video and setup takes 30-40 minutes.

When a video comes out that means I'm actually on vacation. A video about changing registers, shaping the air, and tuning things with the tongue is on the list. But PM me in the meantime. I have only my own ideas, and while I'm convinced that I'm 100% right about what works for me, that doesn't mean the people I disagree with are 100% wrong (only 98.7% wrong :twisted: ). Rest assured Dave up above knows what he's talking about, especially when it comes to how the embouchure functions - I just disagree with him on a fundamental level about (free)buzzing and building embouchure strength. Since that isn't what this topic is about that's fine. (I'm still curious about this "frictionless embouchure" idea of yours, not sure that is a good idea)

Thank you for the kind words, but please know that there are many things that I'm not totally pleased with, production wise, and I'm wondering if I should compromise on my "no cuts / edits ever" policy in order to produce more content more quickly. I could stick to a script that way, and increase the production value, but I also lose the feel of it being a down to earth lesson and having my video be "one cut".
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Fri Jul 16, 2021 2:36 am

harrisonreed wrote:
Thu Jul 15, 2021 10:38 pm
(I'm still curious about this "frictionless embouchure" idea of yours, not sure that is a good idea)
It is in fact a terrible idea! My experiment was not to attempt to teach myself to play frictionless, it was just to temporarily create a lip surface with as little friction as possible just so I could see if my embouchure would function as I’d like it to without the existence of any friction, which of course is the thing that makes dry-lip players, and all players to a degree, feel that there’s a certain amount of adhesion, stickiness if you will, between lips and mpc. (Geez, can you say run-on sentence?!). :-)

We often hear people say that your mouthpiece shouldn’t feel like part of your embouchure, as if it say your face should be utterly independent of the mouthpiece so there’s no “cheating” by having some temporary adhesion between lips and mpc, everything is done by the embouchure and the mpc is simply the gateway to the resonator that is your horn. I now think that idea is about as absurd as the idea that you should be able to create a full sound in all registers with your horn suspended by a string (zero pressure). My experiment showed me I could in fact play some decent sounding notes but any real playing was pretty much out of the question. It feels as if you have no foundation at all, the horn is free floating around your face as if it were weightless. It was the trombonists version of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being!”

I hope this explanation makes sense. I think a lot of people interpreted it as my trying to actually play (as in gigs or whatever) with grease all over my chops. Not so! It was just an experiment to see if there would be any value in terms of embouchure training as there might be in buzzing or free-buzzing, or any other activity that some people use as a training tool. I may have just written my initial post poorly. I’m sure some folks read the first few sentences and tossed it off as nonsense. I can’t blame them!

Lemme know if this makes sense.

Mike

PS, my initials are “mpc” so every time I see mouthpiece abbreviated that way here I assume it’s about me. :D
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by Wilktone » Fri Jul 16, 2021 2:24 pm

Mike, I haven't watched you play before so take this with a grain of salt. It might be that you could learn something while experimenting more like this.

This morning I liberally applied A&D Ointment and really wet my lips while playing. Personally, I didn't notice really much different from how I normally play. Upper register might have been a little harder than normal, but lower register felt pretty good. Although that might not have anything to do with the extra lubrication and be more directly related to the long rehearsal I played last night.
baileyman wrote:
Thu Jul 15, 2021 5:36 pm
Galileo was responding to the certainty of faith-based science. Faced with pontification here, too, his story seemed to rhyme, so I referenced it.
Yes, I've long advocated for more of an evidence-based approach to brass pedagogy.
baileyman wrote:
Thu Jul 15, 2021 5:36 pm
But it feels like nothing is doing any work.
I think striving for that *feel* is a good goal to have. Where I disagree with you was your statement that it's best to simply form an aperture and put air through it. I prefer to learn how my chops function at their best and try to help my students understand theirs. A lot of players get themselves into trouble because they confuse the goal of making it feel effortless with what they should actually be doing.
baileyman wrote:
Thu Jul 15, 2021 5:36 pm
I would suggest doing some Bb-F glisses in moderate time on the horn then pull off and continue without change on the freebuzz.
Speaking of different parts of the elephant, that could be great practice (or the reverse, buzzing into the instrument) - or it could potentially work against a brass musician. Personally, my own embouchure type makes buzzing into or off of the instrument largely ineffective and work against how I play most efficiently. In order to make it work I have to adopt a different embouchure type that really won't work for me long-term.
harrisonreed wrote:
Thu Jul 15, 2021 5:04 pm
In my experience there is no strength to be built in these muscles though. They just get tighter and tighter the more you "condition" them, until you can't play any more and you find yourself on the phone with Jan.
Generally speaking, if I was working with a student who was getting tighter by free buzzing I would suspect that he or she was free buzzing with incorrect form. I don't think muscles get "tight" when they build strength, they get stronger. In my experience when a player is able to keep the muscular effort while playing targeted at the area at and just under the mouth corners (which is the area strengthened by free buzzing with correct form) they will have the fine motor control needed for better range and endurance. There is precedence for this muscle group (at and under the mouth corners) in some of the research I mentioned above (also the chin, by the way, which should probably be kept flat).

Image

The top player is the experienced trumpet player. Notice the red "U" starting at the mouth corners, where his muscular effort is concentrated.

So that's a bit of a tangent from the original topic. Sorry.

One last question for Mike, when you had trouble playing with so much lubrication was it because the mouthpiece was sliding around on your lips for for another reason?

Dave
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by Doug Elliott » Fri Jul 16, 2021 3:01 pm

Everybody relies on a certain amount of friction, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a bad way. When that friction disappears entirely, from lubrication or sweating, you're basically freebuzzing but at a volume that's unsustainable.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Fri Jul 16, 2021 3:30 pm

Doug Elliott wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 3:01 pm
Everybody relies on a certain amount of friction, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a bad way. When that friction disappears entirely, from lubrication or sweating, you're basically freebuzzing but at a volume that's unsustainable.
Yep, after by half-baked experiment I would most definitely agree with you.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Fri Jul 16, 2021 3:52 pm

Wilktone wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 2:24 pm

One last question for Mike, when you had trouble playing with so much lubrication was it because the mouthpiece was sliding around on your lips for for another reason?
Dave
Dave, it was mostly due to the mpc sliding all around. It definitely made high range playing more difficult. I’m trying to break the age-old dry lip problem of relying too heavily on friction to lock the mpc in place. As Doug said, a certain amount of friction is necessary, but I believe I rely too much on it. As a result I’m simply trying to moisten my lips before playing. So far it’s actually going pretty well, but it doesn’t feel as secure as dry lip playing yet. I used to wholeheartedly disagree that dry lip playing was bad, but I’m starting to see the advantages of being able to play with mildly wet lips. In retrospect, even though I was a pretty successful player in the old days, I don’t think some aspects of my embouchure had developed in the healthiest way possible as a result of my relying too heavily on metal-to-skin friction. What I hate about wet lip playing is that my lips always feel chapped and raw after playing. I’ve always hated that about it. I’m trying to find my “wet lip sweet spot.” Not unlike Goldilocks I’m trying to get the temperature of my soup just right! I figure as long as we’re using metaphors and parables in this post I’d throw that one into the mix. This whole post has gotten more poetic and metaphysical than I would ever have imagined on a trombone forum. I like it. :)
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Fri Jul 16, 2021 4:05 pm

As a side-note to this thread I should share this as well:

I started a thread about mouthpiece buzzing a few weeks back and it got mildly heated and all kinds of opinions popped up. I have never cared much for it, BUT, after reading what some folks had to say I’ve been doing quite a bit of it. Consequently, I’ve come to really find it helpful. So it goes for the dry vs. wet lip thing as well. I’m giving it a shot too, proving that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks.

I’m generally pretty wary of internet fora as I’ve seen things turn ugly, or just ridiculous, too often, BUT, I like this group. Even when opinions differ wildly y’all seem to deal well with it. I’m still a pretty hardcore introvert, but the idea sharing here is usually friendly and helpful! I forget the name of the old trombone forum, but it scared me away for quite some time. Talk about gettin’ ugly! It was intense and it was a troll magnet!
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by BGuttman » Fri Jul 16, 2021 4:47 pm

Sidebar:

The "old" forum was The Trombone Forum. It derived from something called the Online Trombone Journal Forum (Online Trombone Journal still exists, but they ejected the Forum due to trolling) This came about because the owner of TTF was having problems and we were afraid it might disappear completely. We considered this Forum to be a "lifeboat" to keep the Forum alive if the ship sank (which I think it has).

One thing we decided in this iteration was that bad behavior and trolling would be dealt with severely. Differences of opinion are fine, and we should discuss them -- but civilly. Seems that has gotten through to the members, for the most part. I don't see much trolling going on here.

Back to the topic.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by robcat2075 » Fri Jul 16, 2021 5:10 pm

PosauneCat wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 4:05 pm
Talk about gettin’ ugly! It was intense and it was a troll magnet!
I'm reminded of the faux-Kissinger remark about arguments among academics, "The arguments are so intense precisely because the stakes are so small."
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Fri Jul 16, 2021 6:49 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 4:47 pm
Sidebar:

The "old" forum was The Trombone Forum. It derived from something called the Online Trombone Journal Forum (Online Trombone Journal still exists, but they ejected the Forum due to trolling) This came about because the owner of TTF was having problems and we were afraid it might disappear completely. We considered this Forum to be a "lifeboat" to keep the Forum alive if the ship sank (which I think it has).

One thing we decided in this iteration was that bad behavior and trolling would be dealt with severely. Differences of opinion are fine, and we should discuss them -- but civilly. Seems that has gotten through to the members, for the most part. I don't see much trolling going on here.

Back to the topic.
Good to know, Bruce! This forum is infinitely nicer.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Fri Jul 16, 2021 6:50 pm

robcat2075 wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 5:10 pm
PosauneCat wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 4:05 pm
Talk about gettin’ ugly! It was intense and it was a troll magnet!
I'm reminded of the faux-Kissinger remark about arguments among academics, "The arguments are so intense precisely because the stakes are so small."
An excellent quote. Having spent time in the academy, I can attest to it’s truth! :good:
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by baileyman » Fri Jul 16, 2021 9:38 pm

Wilktone wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 2:24 pm
...Where I disagree with you was your statement that it's best to simply form an aperture and put air through it.
...
Dave
In that case there is no disagreement. And none on my part anyway.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by Wilktone » Sat Jul 17, 2021 7:58 am

baileyman wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 9:38 pm
Wilktone wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 2:24 pm
...Where I disagree with you was your statement that it's best to simply form an aperture and put air through it.
...
Dave
In that case there is no disagreement. And none on my part anyway.
I guess I misunderstood you. You had written, "If one can form an aperture and put some air through it, recent experience indicates the thing just works." I interpreted that to mean you feel that a well functioning embouchure is best done by forming an aperture and putting some air through it. The thread that I linked to above shows some examples of players putting air through apertures but struggling. Some folks never worry about it and end up doing quite well, but I think they are mostly just lucky. Some of those musicians end up with problems later because they don't know how to analyze things when it stops working so well. That is one reason why I always advocate for understanding how things are actually working - even if you don't want to think about it while performing.
PosauneCat wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 3:52 pm
Dave, it was mostly due to the mpc sliding all around. It definitely made high range playing more difficult. I’m trying to break the age-old dry lip problem of relying too heavily on friction to lock the mpc in place. As Doug said, a certain amount of friction is necessary, but I believe I rely too much on it. As a result I’m simply trying to moisten my lips before playing. So far it’s actually going pretty well, but it doesn’t feel as secure as dry lip playing yet. I used to wholeheartedly disagree that dry lip playing was bad, but I’m starting to see the advantages of being able to play with mildly wet lips.
As I mentioned earlier, at one point I needed to play with a dry upper lip. I don't think that playing dry is bad, per se, but you need to be careful that you're not twisting up your lips with the mouthpiece rim and it makes it a little harder to get the mouthpiece placement consistently in the same place. There's probably something to be learned by playing dry if you normally play wet and vice versa.

But generally speaking, I think that you if you can play with a wet embouchure, the advantages make it worth adopting from a long-term perspective. Not so much for "embouchure development" but because of less risk of twisting your lips up or developing cuts or abrasions on the lips.

Dave
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by timothy42b » Sat Jul 17, 2021 8:37 am

BGuttman wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 4:47 pm
Sidebar:

The "old" forum was The Trombone Forum. It derived from something called the Online Trombone Journal Forum (Online Trombone Journal still exists, but they ejected the Forum due to trolling) This came about because the owner of TTF was having problems and we were afraid it might disappear completely. We considered this Forum to be a "lifeboat" to keep the Forum alive if the ship sank (which I think it has).

Also off topic:

Before the Old Trombone Forum and before the Online Trombone Journal, there was the trombone-l.

It was a listserv. For the kids here who don't know that term, a listserv is an email address that redistributes any email sent to it, to all who are registered with that listserv. These were getting popular before the web, and now have been overcome by events.

We have a fair number of people here who started on the old -l and have followed through all the iterations.

You can tell because they tend to write in complete sentences and pay attention to grammar. <smiley> Over time we have encouraged them to not be "grammar police."

Back to lip balm: I start my day with my variation on bullet proof coffee - coffee with a bit of coconut oil added - and my trombone warmup. It doesn't seem to make my lips super slippery but it must add some lubrication.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Sat Jul 17, 2021 9:32 am

timothy42b wrote:
Sat Jul 17, 2021 8:37 am

Before the Old Trombone Forum and before the Online Trombone Journal, there was the trombone-l.
Yes! It was Trombone-L I was referencing! I could t remember the name. It could get really nasty.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by Bach5G » Wed Jul 21, 2021 8:59 am

We’re somewhat better behaved now.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by baileyman » Wed Jul 21, 2021 9:13 am

Trombone-l is the mildest place in the world these days.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by timothy42b » Wed Jul 21, 2021 9:35 am

baileyman wrote:
Wed Jul 21, 2021 9:13 am
Trombone-l is the mildest place in the world these days.
Yes. What we thought of as a flame war back then wouldn't even register today.

Although there were some moments from "He Who Must Have the Last Word." as someone dubbed him.
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Re: Lip balm experiment

Post by PosauneCat » Wed Jul 21, 2021 6:57 pm

timothy42b wrote:
Wed Jul 21, 2021 9:35 am

Although there were some moments from "He Who Must Have the Last Word." as someone dubbed him.
:-)
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