DocFew trumpet players have been able to influence the trumpet world as much as “Doc” Severinsen.

Through his long term as musical director of the Tonight Show Band with Johnny Carson he became a household name which was recognized by all. His flamboyant dress code and his back home humor was a refreshing contrast to the polished and sometimes elite attitude of many guest visiting the Tonight Show stage. Each night this wonderful orchestra entertained us with everything from hard bop to symphonic scores and at the helm each and every night with this sometimes humble and often spectacular trumpet player.

I have been fortunate to have visited with Doc a couple times and always came away with a smile on my face and a song in my heart for the room would light up as “Little Doc” shared his stories of encounters. While performing at the University of Northern Illinois, I was assigned to the great task of escorting and entertaining Mr. Severinsen around campus that afternoon. As I remember on that tour, our guest was far more interested in our coeds than the history of the campus.

Also vivid in my memory was the personalization he demonstrated as he performed the first movement of the Hyden Concerto for trumpet. That was the first and only time I ever heard a two octave shake at the end of its cadenza. Perhaps he had a different arrangement than the rest of us.

Doc Severinsen has had some very high moments in his career as well as troubled times and he is still performing. In fact this week he will be playing a concert in Dallas but unfortunately, I will miss it by only a few days.

The videos I have included in this post were carefully selected to give our readers a taste of his humor as well as some examples during his earlier career.

The impact of a person is sometimes illustrated by just the impact of hearing their name such as Elvis, Maynard, Miles, Bird. And the name “Doc” will last into the future also as we remember the sometimes flamboyant as well as humble life of this great trumpet player. If you get a chance to hear him today, be sure to make it for legends are hard to build and should never be forgotten.

If you would like to read more about “Doc” go to his Web site at….. http://www.docseverinsen.com/about/

For more information about him and where he is performing.
Thanks “Doc” and thanks for spending your afternoon with a young trumpet player from Illinois.

This collection of videos was compiled by trumpetvids. Check them out on YouTube.com

Final “Stiff Chops” Post………. (for now.)

DoyleThe problem with stiff embouchures is common with trumpet and horn players possibly due to the fact that such a small amount of embouchure is actually in the cup of the mouthpiece when compared to that of a trombone or tuba mouthpiece. Coping with and/or solving this condition can be done in many ways but today I will cover two of the most common- “before and after repair”.

A very good friend and super trumpet player and I visited for some time sharing ideas which have proven helpful for each of us when faced with stiff chops. Mr. Doyle Miller has been performing in Branson for some time and his employment includes the bands of Les Brown, Bobby Vinton, the Rat Pack, Silver Dollar City, Less Elgart as well as musicals and recording sessions in town. Mr. Miller recently completed a series of 45 shows, performing three shows a day and for that reason, I thought it would be a good time to interview him on the subject of stiff chops. The following material was collected from the interview.

Question- When playing as many shows as you have recently, do you every experience stiff chops?

Answer- “Yes, every day”.

How do you work through this condition?

“I had three shows a day to play this past month and my routine was to get up in the morning and play whole notes in the middle register (third space C on down) for about fifteen minutes. Then, as my embouchure loosened, I started expanding my notes from the C going up and down. As soon as I felt that my chops were ready, I would take a break until the first show”.

What do you expect your chops to feel like when you play your three shows each day?

“I work through the first show and by the time the second show rolls around, I feel good and the third as well”.

Do you implement any kind of a cool down after your last show?

“No, perhaps I should but when I finish the last show, I want to go home and start over again the next day”.

How would you describe stiff chops?

“In the morning my lips fell puffy. I’m not sure they actually feel stiff. Puffy lips don’t feel responsive as they do when I’m warmed up”

Have you ever done a cool down in the past?

“Yes, and maybe I should do a cool down but when I finish the show, I don’t feel like doing any more playing”.

Doyle’s preference to putting the horn in the case and picking up his check is more common with the majority of professional players and this alone may be the way you want to solve stiff chops. Another approach to solving the stiff chop problem is to warm up before a gig, but after playing, also implement some sort of a cool down before putting your horn away. This is also true for strenuous daily practice sessions. I have a strong feeling that this works best for me.

While working with Bobby Vinton years ago, my routine was to warm-up on my mouthpiece in the car as I drove to the theater. By the time I reached the theater, I was ready to play. After finishing the show I also would put my horn in the case and start for home. On the way home I would pull out my mouthpiece again and buzz low tones all the way home. After making the trip and buzzing for fifteen minutes, my chops were very flexible and ready for the next day’s playing. If, on the other hand, I had a long day of practicing, before I packed up for the day, I would go through about twenty minutes of pedal tones which super charge my lip with oxygen and the recovery time was started much sooner.

Recently, I have been warming up in the morning and in place of a cool down, I have replaced that exercise with about a half hour of trombone playing. I have seen a big difference in my trumpet playing and I can only attribute the improvement to the lower, slower lip vibrations as well as more meat vibrating within the mouthpiece cup. To be honest, I stopped actual practicing my trumpet for my technical ability on the trumpet exceeds my playing requirements and the trombone practicing helps to loosen my lips at the end of each day.

I have discussed two different approaches to the stiff chop problem and as stated, each works for Doyle’s and my needs. Every person is different but if you are experiencing an inflexible embouchure, the solution might be a longer warm up before the gig or a cool down after you have played.

I hope this will give you some insight into the thinking and beliefs of at least two players.

Here is additional information about Mr. Miller:

Doyle Miller is a native of Russell, Kansas and holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Education from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. Throughout his career, Doyle has performed with musical groups such as Les Brown and the Band of Renown; Tommy Dorsey Orchestra; Harry James Orchestra; Les Elgart Orchestra; Sammy Kaye Orchestra; Russ Morgan Orchestra and Bobby Vinton with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Doyle currently lives in Branson, Missouri where he has played in many theaters and shows including: The Rat Pack – A Tribute to Frank, Dean & Sammy; Les Brown and The Band Of Renown; Branson Jubilee; The Magnificent Seven and Swing, Swing, Swing. He has also worked or recorded with celebrities such as Bob Hope; Andy Williams; The Lettermen; The Osmond Family;Mannheim Steamroller; Little Anthony and The Imperials and The Lennon Sisters. Prior to moving to Branson, Doyle worked for Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line playing lead trumpet in their show bands touring around the world.

How to Combat “Stiff Chops”

From time to time we all have gone through the sensation that our trumpet playing lips are too stiff and feel uncomfortably ridged. Each time you put the mouthpiece to your lip you seem to have the same reaction, “Oh no, here we go again”. When this condition develops, there are several ways to address this problem-

  • What is wrong with my lip?
  • How did I get this way?
  • How can I get relief?
  • What do I need to do to prevent this condition from coming back?

What’s wrong with my lip?

A stiff or inflexible embouchure is usually caused from one of two actions (1) Practicing the wrong material or (2) Playing too long at one time. Some of the symptoms which go along with the overly stiff embouchure are- difficulty playing soft passages, uncertainty when starting notes, and an airy sound to your tone. If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, you might be suffering from an overly stiff embouchure.

How did I get this way?

Practicing the wrong material- Trumpet playing is very similar to any other athletic event. Both disciplines require a regular and balanced conditioning routine which should include the following-

Warm-up period- The purpose of this practice is to gradually warm the muscles involved with your discipline. An athlete will gradually begin a session by stretching, which gradually warms and stretches the muscles involved with the up coming actions. Without a warm up, both athletes would run the risk of injury to their bodies. Trumpet players usually have their own method of warming up and this will eventually be decided upon through careful evaluations on your part. Some player feel that softly played long tones is the best method. Some regularly buzz without the mouthpiece for five to ten minutes. Some players feel that ten minutes of buzzing on the mouthpiece is best. I remember one of my former teachers felt that he needed to buzz on a trombone mouthpiece for ten minutes before he was ready to start his trumpet practicing. Which method you decide upon will be your first step towards better lip conditioning.

Correct practice material- There are two extremes when trying to build your embouchure. The first is flexibility and the second is strength. Each is reached through different means. Flexibility is what you will need to perform rapid changes in the different ranges. It is also this ability which will affect your ease with which you move from one note to the next. Flexibility will also determine the openness and fullness of your tone quality. To achieve flexibility, every player should spend time during his practice period  doing flexibility exercises. One of the best books I have used to achieve this goal is Twenty-Seven Groups of Exercises by Dr. Earl Irons. This book will guide you through many interesting exercises which will not only increase your flexibility but will also increase your upper range. Be sure to follow the written material as well as the written exercises. It is very important that you follow the suggestions for dynamics. Consistently playing too loud will negate the benefits of these exercises.

Practicing too many flexibility exercises can begin to create another problem which is; developing too much flexibility and not enough strength. Building strength usually requires the playing of long tone exercises. Effective exercises for increasing strength can be found on pages 11 and 12 of the Arban Complete Method. Playing these very simple exercises at a slow tempo, beginning soft and gradually increasing the volume and finally returning to a soft dynamic will help you increase your strength as well as improve your tone quality.

What can I do to get relief?

If you are now experiencing a “too stiff” embouchure, there are several techniques which will improve your condition.

  • Soft playing
  • Buzzing on only your mouthpiece
  • Buzzing without your horn or mouthpiece
  • Flapping your lips
  • Warm compresses
  • Brush your teeth
  • Lip ointments

Soft playing

If loud, sustained playing tends to stiffen your embouchure, it seems only logical that soft playing in short intervals will lessen the stiffness

Buzzing on only your mouthpiece

Buzzing on your mouthpiece tends to loosen the muscles within the cup. Remember to keep the volume down and concentrate of the fullest, richest sound you can create.

Buzzing without your horn or mouthpiece

The vibrations created with this method will increase the area which will be affected. The embouchure area will now include more of the lip and consequently will begin to loosen more of your embouchure.

Flapping your lips

This exercise will start to relax all of your facial muscles. To get the proper results, you will have to create the sound of a horse flapping its lips. The lower the pitch, the more benefit you will achieve. Gradually you will begin to feel a tingling sensation in your facial muscles. At that point, you have gained the benefit from this exercise and you should be fully relaxed and ready to put your instrument away for the day. One thing to be aware of is the fact that if you have completely relaxed your facial muscles, you should not start playing again for several hours. If you immediately begin to play after a complete relaxation exercise as you have just done, your lip might be too relaxed and could be susceptible to damage if forced to play too strenuously.

Warm compresses

In an extreme case of lip stiffness, a warm wash cloth placed over the embouchure can sometimes help. This would only be necessary in extreme cases. The warmth will increase blood flow and eventually flush waste products from the effected areas.

Brush your teeth

I am a firm believer that the practice of brushing your teeth immediately after playing will speed up the recovery process tremendously. I brush after every segment of my daily practice routine. I start my practice for the day with a warm up which takes about ten to fifteen minutes and then I brush. My next session will last about an hour and then I brush. If I can get a third session in that day I will play again for about an hour and then brush. The action of the bristles on the inside of the lips and the minty element of the tooth paste seem to hasten the circulation in the lip muscles and it tends to ward off stiffness as well as helping to keep your instrument clean and your teeth white.

Lip ointment

Many of my brass playing friends use ointments on their lips after playing to keep them in good condition. I need to warn you that trying new medications on your lip can be hazardous and for that reason I will share with you one of the most difficult days in my playing career. Our faculty brass quintet was to perform at another college in Iowa one Sunday afternoon. The day before our concert I participated in a hunting dog field trial with my German Short Hair Pointer. When we left the music building to travel to the afternoon concert, I mentioned that my chops were dry and one of my colleagues offered a new lip ointment. I put some on and found the product very stimulating. By the time we reached the concert hall, my lips had begun to swell and as I started to warm up, I realized my mistake. I was allergic to the lip cream. By the time we mounted the stage, I was in stark terror. Before we had played half of the first number, I could not get a note out of my horn. The concert was cancelled and we returned home not playing the concert and not getting paid for our afternoon. Take my advice, “If you are going to try something new, don’t do it before a performance!”

I have used several products which I have on hand for lip conditioning. ChapStick® original is helpful when you’ve out in the wind. Another product is Blistex, but I have found that there is material in this product which relieves pain and in doing so will tend to numb your lip. The danger in this is that any area which is numbed can run the risk of excessive mouthpiece pressure. If you can’t feel your lip, you might begin to apply more mouthpiece pressure than you are accustomed to. You won’t realize this mistake until the medicine has dissipated. A friend recommended L-Lysine for lip conditioning and I have a jar at home for tired lips. I would like to repeat that “these conditioners should only be used in extreme cases. If you are practicing properly they may be helpful in adverse weather conditions. Anything more than ChapStick® for exposure to wind should not be needed.

Today We Face One Of The Most Difficult Threats In Our History

Some say it is the beginning of “The End Times”.

Some say we are in constant threat of attack by an enemy we have no experience facing.

Many wonder if Christianity is in the path of this dark movement and as we view innocent people being executed before our very eyes each day, all we as citizens can do is wonder if our government is up for this monumental challenge.

Some say our leaders in government are naive and ill prepared for this task placed before them and some may wonder if the last chapter in our Bible is close to completion.

With all these questions and concerns being broadcast in the media each day, many have begun to question our future as a nation and our position in our world.

I wish I had the answers but as you know, only God has the answers to these questions and each event we will be facing has already been planned by Him. If it is His will to complete our history, who is great enough to question His wisdom?

There is one fact of which I am certain……

“If given the opportunity to stand against our enemies, the men and women of our armed forces are not only capable of protecting us but are ready to begin the task of eliminating the threats we face”.

To those who have served and to those currently serving our great country, please accept this small effort to thank you for your dedication to the Unites States of America.

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