Mental block starting notes

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Tbone00
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Mental block starting notes

Post by Tbone00 »

hello everyone and happy new year,

I don't know the reason but little by little I have been having more difficulties to start notes. The moment I don't have a rhythmic reference or a conductor my tongue gets blocked at the moment of releasing the air. To try to hide this I am using air attacks to start my phrases and it seems that nobody notices it, but it is very frustrating because a few months ago I didn't have this problem and I don't know what is the cause or the solution.

I would like to clarify that I don't have any embouchure problem, I can play in the most extreme high and low range. Besides as I mentioned before I have no problem if I use air attacks or when I have reference of a metronome or rhythmic of any kind. My problem comes when I have to start a phrase by myself without any kind of reference and I have tried with long, short, deep and shallow breaths and it doesn't seem to solve anything.

If you have experienced this problem and have any advice I would appreciate it. Thank you very much!
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harrisonreed
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by harrisonreed »

A guru once said, "Tongue and blow, kid".

If you didn't have an issue with a conductor giving you a cue, though, imagine that a conductor is giving you a cue, or give yourself one using your breath.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Kdanielsen »

I struggled with this. Three concepts that helped me:

1. You need to want to start the note on time more than you want to hit the right note. You have to really embrace this.

2. One of the biggest benefits of long tones (for me) is practicing your “wind up,” which is what I call all the stuff that happens before the release of the air. Turn on your mental tape recorder and learn to recall the sensation of releasing a note well, then call on that memory in times of struggle. “I can do this, it feels like THIS.”

3. I’d also try to see if the thing that is sticking is in your throat. If it feels like saying the phrase “Uh oh” at all, you are likely employing a glottal stop. Practice starting notes with a glottal stop (“uh uh uh”) on purpose to gain control of the motion. When you have control of it, you can keep it turned off.

Hope that helps! You got this!
Kris Danielsen D.M.A.

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Doug Elliott
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Doug Elliott »

You may not consider this an embouchure problem, but I do because it's all related - that is a pretty common problem and is absolutely related to how you set up to play. How, when, and in what order. You think it's "timing" but it's not. Trying to fix it on the basis of time (visualizing a downbeat) never works. That treats the symptom but not the problem and the problem still exists.

As with so many issues, I need to actually see you play to tell you exactly how to fix it.

Think about a few things:
In normal life, not playing - when you inhale, when do you exhale?

When you play - starting with picking up your horn -
What order do you do things in, every step of the way until the sound comes out?
"I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two."
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by GabrielRice »

Kdanielsen wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 6:45 am 1. You need to want to start the note on time more than you want to hit the right note. You have to really embrace this.
YES!

In your practice room, create your own metronome. Tap your foot for several beats before you start. Maybe count yourself down in your mind.

All those people who tell you not to tap your foot when you play? They're not in your practice room.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Doug Elliott »

I disagree. The metronome or foot tapping or visualizing a downbeat is part of the problem, not the solution.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Kdanielsen »

I would clarify/expand "on time" to include both with or without a conductor/metronome. The lowest common denominator of "on time" is "when you want it," as defined by an external cue like a metronome or an internal one like counting OR as a result of a breath. I think intention aims at a target in the future whether its part of a system of musical pulse or not. That's what it means to me anyway... You've got to want that more than the right note.
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Westfield State University and Keene State College
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2nd Trombone, Glens Falls Symphony
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by GabrielRice »

Doug Elliott wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 7:53 am I disagree. The metronome or foot tapping or visualizing a downbeat is part of the problem, not the solution.
I don't really want to argue with you, Doug, but it's hard for me to accept rhythm being a problem.

Otherwise I agree with everything you're saying. I use Set, Breathe, Play.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Doug Elliott »

Nearly everybody who has that problem inhales first, then puts the mouthpiece on, then plays.

It works until it doesn't. It's the order, not the time.

And the reason is because that order requires you to hold your breath before you exhale to play.
Inhale, exhale. No hold between them.

I've seen this dozens of times, and everybody tries to fix it in terms of "time" and the problem remains.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by GabrielRice »

Doug Elliott wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 8:37 am Nearly everybody who has that problem inhales first, then puts the mouthpiece on, then plays.

It works until it doesn't. It's the order, not the time.

And the reason is because that order requires you to hold your breath before you exhale to play.
Inhale, exhale. No hold between them.

I've seen this dozens of times, and everybody tries to fix it in terms of "time" and the problem remains.
Again, I don't disagree, and I can absolutely see how working on the order without the pressure of time can be part of the process of fixing.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by ghmerrill »

Doug Elliott wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 8:37 am Nearly everybody who has that problem inhales first, then puts the mouthpiece on, then plays.
I'm reading this thread and trying to understand the problem. But it's something I've never experienced, and I'm totally self-taught in brass. I'm thinking "How can you have trouble starting a note in one case but not the other?" So I don't really get it, but it's been interesting to read about it, and I don't doubt it can be a genuine problem.

I've just realized -- never having thought about it before -- that I NEVER inhale before putting the mouthpiece on. I can't remember being explicitly taught this by anyone in my distant past, and I just never think about it, but it's a deeply ingrained habit. Maybe it was just all those years of playing woodwinds (saxophone and flute). It's really awkward to inhale first and then stick a sax mouthpiece in your mouth or a flute to your lips and form the embouchure. Or maybe my original teachers just hammered it into me.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by AtomicClock »

ghmerrill wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 9:01 am that I NEVER inhale before putting the mouthpiece on. I can't remember being explicitly taught this by anyone in my distant past, and I just never think about it, but it's a deeply ingrained habit. Maybe it was just all those years of playing woodwinds (saxophone and flute).
This is interesting. I also never inhale before putting the mouthpiece on. And I was taught to breathe by a woodwind player.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by biggiesmalls »

Doug Elliott wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 8:37 am Inhale, exhale. No hold between them.
This.

When I experienced this issue in the past, I found David Vining's "Breathing Book For Tenor Trombone" to be very helpful.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by imsevimse »

I've had it too, and there are a few threads that handle the issue. On the link beliw is what I answered last time. I did solve my issue as I describe in that thread.

Read here:
viewtopic.php?p=118574#p118574

/Tom
Last edited by imsevimse on Mon Jan 08, 2024 10:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Kbiggs »

I had this problem several years ago when this issue came up on the old forum. Changing the order to Doug’s order of Set, Breathe, Play really helped with the hesitation and air balls.

FWIW, my current thinking on timing/tempo: It’s important to making sure the note starts on time, but not important to breathing. Yes, you have to start/articulate the note on time. And while it can help to inhale in tempo, it’s not essential.

I have been trying to incorporate some small practice “disruptions” to my playing to help work on other technique issues like this. Doing something like deliberately making something strange or different that disrupts my habits enough to give me a different perspective on things. For this issue, deliberately inhaling for one bar, or 2 1/2 beats, etc., helped me divorce the timing from the embouchure function. It’s a similar kind of change as playing a lick in a different key, or changing the octave, or playing it backwards, etc.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Doug Elliott »

imsevimse wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 10:53 am I've had it too, and there are a few threads that handle the issue. On the link beliw is what I answered last time. I did solve my issue as I describe in that thread.

Read here:
viewtopic.php?p=118574#p118574

/Tom

Read my reply a few down in that thread.
Here it is:

I am not a fan of the metronome for this purpose -it's a crutch and I like to avoid that sort of thing.

I have an exercise where you blow lightly, trying for a whisper-soft note, and don't worry at all about when (or if) the note starts. It will start eventually, and you learn from that and develop better soft response, which becomes a better awareness of how to start when do need to be in time. The whole object is to ALREADY be in position for the note to vibrate.

When following the uncertain timing of a conductor's downbeat or a cue in a show:
I take the breath with the mouthpiece already in position to play, and then continue to breathe in and out slightly rather than holding it. I'm totally ready to play instantly, but NOT holding my breath.

=======
I have noticed something recently about my own playing on gigs.
I almost never tongue an initial attack. Nearly every phrase I start with a breath "attack" which isn't really an attack at all.
Just an interesting observation about my own playing.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by EriKon »

Everything that Doug says. This is not a rhythmical problem at all. I just saw this again with one of my students today, inhale and a big stop to set up (causes the throat to close and much more things you don't want to happen) and then at some point a release which is no good. Inhale, exhale. No break in between. I experienced some find it helpful to inhale through the nose to experience this (as you would do when you breathe throughout the whole day and do all of it correctly).
Last edited by EriKon on Mon Jan 08, 2024 11:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
Tbone00
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Tbone00 »

Doug Elliott wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 7:48 am You may not consider this an embouchure problem, but I do because it's all related - that is a pretty common problem and is absolutely related to how you set up to play. How, when, and in what order. You think it's "timing" but it's not. Trying to fix it on the basis of time (visualizing a downbeat) never works. That treats the symptom but not the problem and the problem still exists.

As with so many issues, I need to actually see you play to tell you exactly how to fix it.

Think about a few things:
In normal life, not playing - when you inhale, when do you exhale?

When you play - starting with picking up your horn -
What order do you do things in, every step of the way until the sound comes out?
In my practice sessions, I am practising attacks with "correct technique" first setting the embouchure, inhaling and blowing. When I work it without tongue I have no problem and I don't hold the air, being able to play high D and F without holding the air. The problem is when I add the tongue, it simply blocks and I am unable to articulate even a middle Bb (for example if I have to play tuba mirum solo)
I have to say that this does not happen in the low register where I don't have this problem.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Doug Elliott »

Try never using your tongue to start a note.

And:
When you play - starting with picking up your horn -
What order do you do things in, every step of the way until the sound comes out?

I'm sure I would see the issue immediately if I saw you play.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by RustBeltBass »

In my opinion and based on my personal experiences with this issue, you already are closer to realizing what your problem is, than some of the people who commented with too specific advice.

You wrote MENTAL in the headline, and that is really the root of it, and very likely some sort of anxiety, to be more specific. When I say (or write) anxiety, I do not mean a full blown disorder, just a very small element of stress that creeps in right before you start playing, maybe you do not even realize it as stress.

Due to it being mental in first place, the exercises suggested, while not being bad or harmful, can only provide so much help as they only engage with the symptom but not the root.

I can provide some of my experiences in overcoming it, if you'd like. It would be also interesting to hear more about your background as a player and what your usual playing consists of.

One advice I can give is to not try too many different things and hacks and tricks to fix it. By working to overcome it, you are repeating whatever it is that triggers it, you are essentially repeating the problem and you start to get used to the problem, your brain is learning for the problem to be the normal reaction to starting notes. So too many fixing attempts can make it worse.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Tbone00 »

RustBeltBass wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 11:56 am In my opinion and based on my personal experiences with this issue, you already are closer to realizing what your problem is, than some of the people who commented with too specific advice.

You wrote MENTAL in the headline, and that is really the root of it, and very likely some sort of anxiety, to be more specific. When I say (or write) anxiety, I do not mean a full blown disorder, just a very small element of stress that creeps in right before you start playing, maybe you do not even realize it as stress.

Due to it being mental in first place, the exercises suggested, while not being bad or harmful, can only provide so much help as they only engage with the symptom but not the root.

I can provide some of my experiences in overcoming it, if you'd like. It would be also interesting to hear more about your background as a player and what your usual playing consists of.

One advice I can give is to not try too many different things and hacks and tricks to fix it. By working to overcome it, you are repeating whatever it is that triggers it, you are essentially repeating the problem and you start to get used to the problem, your brain is learning for the problem to be the normal reaction to starting notes. So too many fixing attempts can make it worse.
I would be so gratefull if you could share some of your experiences here or by dm.
I am a Master Student, now at the point of starting to do some auditions for orchestras. I had never suffer a problem like this. It started gradualy 3 or 4 months ago with the high register, now I'm in the worst point of this and this problem is affecting me also in the middle register.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by GabrielRice »

Tbone00 wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 12:12 pm I would be so gratefull if you could share some of your experiences here or by dm.
I am a Master Student, now at the point of starting to do some auditions for orchestras. I had never suffer a problem like this. It started gradualy 3 or 4 months ago with the high register, now I'm in the worst point of this and this problem is affecting me also in the middle register.
I have seen this several times with people in very similar situations. Things are getting serious and you care a lot about the sounds you make, so the stress creeps in and this is how it manifests. And often it really is highlighting a technical/mechanical issue that needs to be dealt with.

First of all, have hope. One of my very favorite colleagues, among the very best trombone players I've ever known, had exactly the struggle you are now and won at least one if not multiple auditions while he was starting every phrase with a breath attack. Eventually it went away and never came back. He only told me about it years later. I never knew.

Second, check Doug's advice. If you are in the habit of breathing before your mouthpiece is set, that's a good habit to change anyway even if you haven't been bothered by it before.

While you're at it, check in on what you are doing when you take breaths in between phrases. If you are unsetting and resetting your embouchure with every breath, you don't need to. You can breathe around your set, and your consistency and accuracy will be much better for it. Watch how simply the best players in the world breathe, with no wasted motion.

And then, once you have taken the time to make sure your prep and set are not the issues, try what Kris and I suggested. Make sure you are always starting with a strong rhythmic framework in mind. Make sure you are starting every phrase knowing the direction of the phrase. Fill your mind with your rhythmic and musical goal and let the first articulation take care of itself.
Last edited by GabrielRice on Mon Jan 08, 2024 4:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by tbdana »

I want to add one little psychological thing. If it doesn't feel right to you, just ignore it.

We are taught to start a tongued note by imagining the syllable, "Tah," where "T" is the attack and "ah" is the air that follows. But I think that's actually wrong, as it emphasizes the tongue, and the tongue is actually the least important part of the attack. I think we should imagine the syllable as, "tAH," where the air gets much more emphasis than the tongue.

In your situation, since your tongue seems kind of frozen without a tempo, and because you're able to start the notes with an air attack quite convincingly (which is a good skill to have!), perhaps using this little psychological trick will help. With this, the tongue is almost an afterthought, and certainly it is not the thing to focus on. Starting the air going is what's important. You can already do that. So imagine that air attack being the main thing, and just add a very light "t" to it as the the note begins. If you miss the "t," no worries, just keep doing that until the coordination kicks in.

Like I said, this may not feel like much help to you. It's just one suggestion, as it seems that this is a problem of approach, not of takeoff, since you can articulate just fine if a conductor gives you a downbeat.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by GGJazz »

Hello all.

I have seen this issue quite a few times , both with some of my students , and with others players when I was a student myself .

I agree with what Doug Elliott says about the way to solve this : the breath attacks for the first tone ; the set - inhale - exhale procedure .

I also feel very useful what Tbdana wrote about how to think about the articolation' shape : tAH , instead of Tah .

Anyway I noticed some common things about people that developed this issue . This problem does not come on a night by itself ..

1) someone who "obsessively" seeks too much precision in the upper range , and who care too much if he miss a clear attack , cracks a note , etc .This attitude start to create inner tension in your body and -most- in your brain . Usually advanced students .

2) someone whose tongue passes beyond his teeths and comes in contact with his lips , coming out of them ( I saw this giving to the player an acrylic crystal clear mpc ) .

3) people that over-use their embouchure , abusing one' strenght ; despite having good results , they keep going on playing in an uncorrect way . Usually young men .

4) people using a too small mpc for their embouchure , developing in this way a lot of tension in the face and in playing skills.

In all this cases , players start to hold the breath (uncounsciously) .

Anyway , I saw all the players having this issue to solving it , at the end !
Maybe some lessons with an embouchure' expert teacher would be great .

Regards
Giancarlo
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Matthias »

Doug Elliott wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 11:32 am Try never using your tongue to start a note.
Is this a tip for practicing or is it generally the case that the tongue should never be used for the beginning of the note/phrase when playing?


I've just thought about it for a while and if the lips are closed when inhaling and the tongue is in the right position (and matches the oral cavity) I don't see why a tongue attack would be necessary for the first note after breathing.

After the first note, the air flows and is then interrupted for articulation.

(This is just a thought/question from me, I'm not saying it's right!)
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by JoshE »

Doug's recommendation of setting up to play then breathing shallowly has made a huge difference in my confidence with sudden entrances in shows I've been playing. Another idea, that I got from the corner of an MMA fighter between rounds, is to "take 10% off my punches." I never realized how much excess tension I had until I tried this. What I lost in intensity, which as far as I'm concerned is negligible, I gained in accuracy and musicality
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Doug Elliott »

I mentioned this in an earlier reply here...
In my own playing, probably 90% of entrances I do with just air. If I don't need a hard attack, there's no real need to use the tongue. And it's great to always be practicing response that way.
I'm not necessarily saying anyone else should do that, but it falls right in with the suggestion to replace Tah with tAH.
I didn't start doing that intentionally, I just noticed that that's the way I play. It produces the sound I want.

And now that I think about it, in my lessons with John Marcellus (high school and college) he told me that Bill Cramer taught that to him.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Wilktone »

How are things processing for you now, Tbone00?

I don't have anything more meaningful to share specific to your issue that hasn't been already raised, but I would like to offer some food for thought.

What comes first, the mental block or the physical issue? Why do we develop a mental block in the first place?

It's entirely possible, perhaps even most likely, that when we develop a mental block related to our playing that there is a technique issue already present. Often times we get better at playing wrong and are able to disguise the result, even from ourselves. Until it breaks down and whatever we've been doing to compensate no longer does the trick. At that point it's easy to blame the problem on our mental state. It seemed to be working before (even though it really wasn't), so surely the problem must be a psychological, right?

Even if the mental block came first, there still is a physical issue that is directly related to resulting sound. Very often if we can identify the technique that's happening (or not happening), we can make corrections there and the mental block will go away on its own.

That's not to say that the mental side of playing isn't important, or that it doesn't affect the physical side. They are two sides of the same coin. In my opinion it's not helpful to separate them or rank them in importance. Best to acknowledge that they are interconnected in the same way that breathing and tonguing are interconnected and a problem with one of those can make us think the problem is with the other.

Hope things are working better for you, Tbone00.

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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by JeffBone44 »

Doug Elliott wrote: Wed Jan 10, 2024 7:47 am I mentioned this in an earlier reply here...
In my own playing, probably 90% of entrances I do with just air. If I don't need a hard attack, there's no real need to use the tongue. And it's great to always be practicing response that way.
I'm not necessarily saying anyone else should do that, but it falls right in with the suggestion to replace Tah with tAH.
I didn't start doing that intentionally, I just noticed that that's the way I play. It produces the sound I want.

And now that I think about it, in my lessons with John Marcellus (high school and college) he told me that Bill Cramer taught that to him.
I'm finding that this is what works best for my own playing.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Tbone00 »

Wilktone wrote: Fri Jan 26, 2024 7:57 am How are things processing for you now, Tbone00?

I don't have anything more meaningful to share specific to your issue that hasn't been already raised, but I would like to offer some food for thought.

What comes first, the mental block or the physical issue? Why do we develop a mental block in the first place?

It's entirely possible, perhaps even most likely, that when we develop a mental block related to our playing that there is a technique issue already present. Often times we get better at playing wrong and are able to disguise the result, even from ourselves. Until it breaks down and whatever we've been doing to compensate no longer does the trick. At that point it's easy to blame the problem on our mental state. It seemed to be working before (even though it really wasn't), so surely the problem must be a psychological, right?

Even if the mental block came first, there still is a physical issue that is directly related to resulting sound. Very often if we can identify the technique that's happening (or not happening), we can make corrections there and the mental block will go away on its own.

That's not to say that the mental side of playing isn't important, or that it doesn't affect the physical side. They are two sides of the same coin. In my opinion it's not helpful to separate them or rank them in importance. Best to acknowledge that they are interconnected in the same way that breathing and tonguing are interconnected and a problem with one of those can make us think the problem is with the other.

Hope things are working better for you, Tbone00.

Dave
I would like to make an update on the issue.
After several months of trying to solve the problem, I am still stuck.
There are some days that after practising the attacks for a long time I get a good feeling to play but if I rest for a while or come back in the afternoon it is as if I started from 0 and I still can't make any attack with the tongue.
In the orchestra and ensembles I use air attacks and no one notices so I am more confident but in individual lessons or when practising orchestral excerpts for upcoming auditions the lack of definition in the begging of the notes is a big problem and it undermines my confidence and causes me a lot of stress which affects my overall playing.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by EriKon »

Did you take lessons with other teachers (besides your prof) to get input on that?
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Doug Elliott »

Don't start with your tongue in "stopped" position. Blow it into and past the articulation. H-da
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Tbone00 »

EriKon wrote: Fri Apr 19, 2024 3:50 am Did you take lessons with other teachers (besides your prof) to get input on that?
I have talk with really good players about this topic but it´s not something easy to fix. People tell you the theory of how to do it properly but for me it's not as easy as it should be. I have tried some "tricks" but all I have tried for the moment seem to be a momentary solution.
Tbone00
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Tbone00 »

Doug Elliott wrote: Fri Apr 19, 2024 1:29 pm Don't start with your tongue in "stopped" position. Blow it into and past the articulation. H-da
HI Doug! Do you mean to start by blowing only air first and then start the note?
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by blast »

The key to this issue is to keep air moving. I got this my teacher Denis Wick. Air goes in and immediately out...no static air. The tongue can eventually be returned to use, but it only serves to clarify the start of a note by being used right at the moment of air turnaround. Getting the air to turnaround without any kind of delay is key.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by EriKon »

Tbone00 wrote: Sat Apr 20, 2024 1:26 am
EriKon wrote: Fri Apr 19, 2024 3:50 am Did you take lessons with other teachers (besides your prof) to get input on that?
I have talk with really good players about this topic but it´s not something easy to fix. People tell you the theory of how to do it properly but for me it's not as easy as it should be. I have tried some "tricks" but all I have tried for the moment seem to be a momentary solution.
Talking is one thing. Taking a lesson and working on it for an hour with someone observing you who's knowledgeable in solving technical problems, might be more helpful than trying to solve it on your own with just some tips/talks. Probably a Skype lesson with Doug or Dave will be helpful already, but maybe there are other experts in terms of brass technique in your area who you can get a lesson with in person (disclaimer: not every good player is a good teacher or talking partner for that).
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by blast »

EriKon wrote: Sat Apr 20, 2024 4:35 am
Tbone00 wrote: Sat Apr 20, 2024 1:26 am

I have talk with really good players about this topic but it´s not something easy to fix. People tell you the theory of how to do it properly but for me it's not as easy as it should be. I have tried some "tricks" but all I have tried for the moment seem to be a momentary solution.
Talking is one thing. Taking a lesson and working on it for an hour with someone observing you who's knowledgeable in solving technical problems, might be more helpful than trying to solve it on your own with just some tips/talks. Probably a Skype lesson with Doug or Dave will be helpful already, but maybe there are other experts in terms of brass technique in your area who you can get a lesson with in person (disclaimer: not every good player is a good teacher or talking partner for that).
I just post stuff on here for free...therefore it ain't worth much.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Doug Elliott »

Tbone00 wrote: Sat Apr 20, 2024 1:29 am
Doug Elliott wrote: Fri Apr 19, 2024 1:29 pm Don't start with your tongue in "stopped" position. Blow it into and past the articulation. H-da
HI Doug! Do you mean to start by blowing only air first and then start the note?
blast wrote: Sat Apr 20, 2024 2:49 am The key to this issue is to keep air moving. I got this my teacher Denis Wick. Air goes in and immediately out...no static air. The tongue can eventually be returned to use, but it only serves to clarify the start of a note by being used right at the moment of air turnaround. Getting the air to turnaround without any kind of delay is key.
That's what I mean.
"I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two."
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by imsevimse »

blast wrote: Sat Apr 20, 2024 2:06 pm
EriKon wrote: Sat Apr 20, 2024 4:35 am

Talking is one thing. Taking a lesson and working on it for an hour with someone observing you who's knowledgeable in solving technical problems, might be more helpful than trying to solve it on your own with just some tips/talks. Probably a Skype lesson with Doug or Dave will be helpful already, but maybe there are other experts in terms of brass technique in your area who you can get a lesson with in person (disclaimer: not every good player is a good teacher or talking partner for that).
I just post stuff on here for free...therefore it ain't worth much.
All info from my experience is shared absolutely free too, so totally worthless, besides I'm also Swedish which adds to it and makes it even worse. Please ignore to be safe. Stay healthy everyone :good:

/Tom
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by AndrewMeronek »

Tbone00 wrote: Mon Jan 08, 2024 2:15 am The moment I don't have a rhythmic reference or a conductor my tongue gets blocked at the moment of releasing the air.
I abandoned trying to breathe with a conductor a while ago. I find that they make the intake a lot more stressful than it needs to be. I breathe in with a normal, relaxed breath and just pay attention to their downbeat.
“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

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EriKon
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by EriKon »

blast wrote: Sat Apr 20, 2024 2:06 pm
EriKon wrote: Sat Apr 20, 2024 4:35 am

Talking is one thing. Taking a lesson and working on it for an hour with someone observing you who's knowledgeable in solving technical problems, might be more helpful than trying to solve it on your own with just some tips/talks. Probably a Skype lesson with Doug or Dave will be helpful already, but maybe there are other experts in terms of brass technique in your area who you can get a lesson with in person (disclaimer: not every good player is a good teacher or talking partner for that).
I just post stuff on here for free...therefore it ain't worth much.
I don't understand your message to be honest. Having someone observing you for the duration of an hour (especially in person) will likely be more effective for solving issues than trying to do it on your own even with for sure useful tips by great players and teachers that haven't seen you playing. Don't you think so? Or do I get your message completely wrong?
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Cmillar »

Lessons with Doug (combined with getting the correct size rim for my face) have been invaluable to really knowing what's going on in the production of sound on a brass instrument.

I had the 'hesitation problem', which had probably built up from years of having to 'second-guess' myself and do all kinds of weird things in order to actually make the music on the gig happen. That was one of the first things Doug noticed.

The mental weirdness and bad habits all built up from years of playing the wrong size mouthpiece for my particular face, even while playing all genres of music at high professional standards and 'making it work' on the gig. And, years of working on certain 'warmup exercises' were doing me more harm than good for my particular embouchure requirements.

But, we're all wanting 'Consistency', right? Confidence in knowing that things will 'work'...as in the whole 'Inner Game of Tennis' concepts and the Fred Fox 'Essentials of Brass Playing' teachings.... we practice so that we just have to think about the Music on the gig... while simultaneously keeping a watchful eye on all of the mechanics of brass playing.

Anyways, what this has all taught me is that we should actually throw the words 'Just Breathe and Blow!' out of our terminology and teachings.

We're actually just getting set up to 'Vibrate as an air column' with the horn....not blow it apart or trying to move air to the back of the hall. Very different. Not too much actual 'blowing' is even involved.

That sets up the body and mind for a new experience.

No hesitation or tension sets in when one thinks 'just get ready to vibrate with the horn'. But, as Doug (and Fred Fox) know, we have to have the mouthpiece up in place and be ready to produce the sound with the proper body mechanics ready to do the work.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by blast »

Not many people here are old enough to have seen Fred Fox deliver a class. I did. He had a remarkable gift for being able to get young players, especially girls, to get several notes higher than normal. It was an act you couldn't do now.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by RustBeltBass »

Tbone00 wrote: Fri Apr 19, 2024 1:57 am

I would like to make an update on the issue.
After several months of trying to solve the problem, I am still stuck.
There are some days that after practising the attacks for a long time I get a good feeling to play but if I rest for a while or come back in the afternoon it is as if I started from 0 and I still can't make any attack with the tongue.
In the orchestra and ensembles I use air attacks and no one notices so I am more confident but in individual lessons or when practising orchestral excerpts for upcoming auditions the lack of definition in the begging of the notes is a big problem and it undermines my confidence and causes me a lot of stress which affects my overall playing.
As per my first response in January, I am convinced that this is in first place a mental issue and can not be practiced against until it goes away. That has been my personal experience as well as those of friends and colleagues who I had the chance to work with on this. Actually, actively tring to tackle this with whatever sort of exercises, as good as they are, will get you just more stuck.

Only when the problem is solved (or more precisely, under control, it will most likely never leave you 100%) all these exercises are amazing and will enable you to remain a healthy player.
Last edited by RustBeltBass on Tue Apr 23, 2024 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by AndrewMeronek »

Tbone00 wrote: Fri Apr 19, 2024 1:57 am I would like to make an update on the issue.
After several months of trying to solve the problem, I am still stuck.
There are some days that after practising the attacks for a long time I get a good feeling to play but if I rest for a while or come back in the afternoon it is as if I started from 0 and I still can't make any attack with the tongue.
It may be an interesting topic of instruction either here or with your instructors to note if this effect changes at all when you vary extreme dynamics or pitch range.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by harrisonreed »

I wonder if maybe you are trying to play with your tongue as low and far back as you can place it. Try putting your tongue forward, with the tip towards the bottom teeth, and using that as your neutral position for your tongue.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Doug Elliott »

Similar to treating a doube buzz, it's best to just not let it happen, ever. The things that cause it are not a necessary part of playing, so don't do them.

T does not start notes, air does.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by Kbiggs »

When we’re not sure what is happening, why it is happening, and what to do about it, then it’s time to think outside the box. Sometimes expanding the possibilities can help with diagnostic clarity, if you will. This might include things like:

*Practice moving air. “Breath work,” or breathing exercises not just for playing the instrument, but for health
*Practicing different syllables for tonguing away from the horn. Different consonants and vowels affect the way a note starts and sounds
*Yoga
*Meditation
*Counseling

Sometimes, different types of purposeful distraction can help, like in the movie The King’s Speech.

With air, I like to keep it moving. I encourage my students to think of air in constant motion. It’s either moving into the lungs or it’s moving out of the lungs, like waves on a beach.

If you haven’t already done so, a lesson with Doug might be helpful.

Let us know how things are going.
Kenneth Biggs
I have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.
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Re: Mental block starting notes

Post by BrassSection »

Thanks for giving me something to possibly start thinking about! I’ve never experienced this, I just pick up whichever horn I’m gonna start with and start playing, no warm ups. French horn sitting unplayed for 3 weeks and need to play a concert E for the first note, no problem. Trumpet usually gets first note, lower range or upper, no problem hitting right note. Trombone or euph, no problems there either. Whole band does have a click track in our ears with verbal cues intro, verse, etc, maybe that helps.
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