What Is A Neti Pot And How Can It Help My Trumpet Playing?

Neti Pot is its name and NASTY POT is what I call it. The agony and humiliation I go through while using this instrument of torture cannot be overstated. Now that we have addressed all the positives connected with this helpful little item, I will share with you its benefits and the history as to how and why I am currently putting myself through this agony twice a day.

It all started when I moved to the Branson, Missouri area. If you are not aware, Branson is located in the Ozark Mountains and surrounded by a National forest. Trees have pollen and people suffer from the combination of allergies, people like me. This summer has been particularly troublesome for those of us with allergies.

While visiting with my chiropractor last week concerning my allergy situation, he suggested that I use a Neti Pot. Being new to the Neti Pot world, I asked how does it work? …… If someone tells you that you are to pour warm liquids into your right nostril, and then let it fill up the inside of your nose and eventually let it run out your left nostril, what would be your reaction? That was mine also.

After visiting the local pharmacy and purchasing my very own Neti Pot, I hurried home with great anticipation for what was to come. In theory, the application of liquids through one hole in your face and the subsequent drainage of the same liquid out another hole in your face are very popular with many people. My question would be what kind of person would find this enjoyable?

Now visualize the scene at my home. My wife is reading the instructions while I’m questioning why she has a slight smile on her face. The instructions are simple and straight forward; 1. Rinse the Neti Pot, fill pot with clean water. 2. Pour contents of included powder into pot and mix. 3. Stand in front of a sink and tilt your head to one side. 4. Pour the contents into one nostril and with your mouth open, without holding your breath, place the tip of the pot in one nostril, and “allow the solution to gently flow until the solution starts draining from the opposite nasal passage”……… Think about that for a minute.

The scene in our laundry room would be difficult to justly describe. There I was, head in sink coughing, spitting, gagging while all the time my wife was doubled over laughing her head off. Fortunately we have a strong marriage and once our dog was finally extracted from her hiding place under the bed, we all decided to re-read the instructions.

We had correctly implemented this device and after a few days of practice, I got on to the process. My allergy problem improved and as a side effect, I was able for the first time breath unrestricted through my nose. For a wind player, this is a big improvement. By the second day, I noticed a slight difference also in the tone quality of my trumpet. Just as deep breaths will affect your tone, an open nasal cavity will also change your instrument timbre.

After a week of rinsing my nasal cavity twice a day, I am convinced the Neti Pot has helped me. Do I enjoy the application? No. Would I recommend it to other trumpet players? It would depend on how close a friend they were. Am I suggesting my readers go through the torture? ……….

Instructions on the use of a Neti Pot.


How To Learn To Circular Breath- Part II

In my first post, I explained what circular breathing was and showed you two examples of the process. I also listed several exercises for you that would allow you to take air in and at the same time let air out. What we will be doing in this post will be giving you additional exercises to do in order to actually produce a note from your instrument which you should be able to sustain indefinitely.

Getting a buzz going while inhaling.

First we need to practice what we had accomplished in Part I of this post.

1.      Lower your jaw, fill your mouth with air and close your lips together.

2.      Raise your jaw while keeping your lips sealed.

3.      With you cheeks expanded, continue to breathe in through your nose.

4.      Slowly let the air escape from the center of your lips and at the time breathing in through your nose.

Now we continue.

5.      Repeat this exercise but this time place your mouthpiece on the vibrating area of your lip to get a buzz through your mouthpiece.

6.      Practice this same exercise several times until you are able to not only get a buzz, but you are able to change pitch.

7.      You may have had a difficult time accomplishing exercise # 6. If you were able to accomplish the exercise, you are way ahead of most people.

If you were not able to accomplish #5- #6, do these exercises.

1.      Place your mouthpiece in your horn and insert the most restrictive mute you own, ie. practice mute or cup mute.

2.      Play a second line G and as you sustain the note, allow your cheeks to fill with air.

3.      Seal the areas between the top of your mouth as you have learned and force the air out of your cheeks at the same time you raise your tongue and move it forward in your mouth. This may take some practice before you are able to accomplish this exercise.

Do not be surprised if this seems impossible for this is the most difficult coordination exercises that you will have to learn. Some students have had to practice this level for several days before becoming proficient at it. If you want to circular breathe, you will have to learn this technique before moving on. If it takes you four weeks, take four weeks and learn it.

Now that you are able to sustain a second line G indefinitely, you need to improve on what you have accomplished.

I have asked you to play the G second line for a very good reason. This note is the easiest to begin and sustain and because of that fact, we started there. You may notice that as you take you quick breaths through your nose, the pitch changes. You need to first be aware of this sound change and as you continue, try to minimize the sound difference and work toward a consistent tone and pitch. Trust me, it’s not easy at first but it will come with practice. Once you are satisfied with your consistent sound, pitch and volume, you can then start to play other notes. The extreme upper and lower ranges will be the most difficult to develop but they also will come with time. When I say practice, I’m not talking about days or even weeks. Some students continued to work at this level for months before they were proficient enough to move on.

Moving on.

I have listed a few important areas you should be aware of as you continue to develop you skills in the technique of circular breathing.

  • The easiest notes will be in the middle range and at the middle dynamic level.
  • Always work for a consistent pitch and volume, try to hide the points when you take in air.
  • Sustained note are the most difficult to develop for they are the most exposed.
  • After you have accomplished consistently sustained notes, it is easier to learn scales and runs.

Coming into the final lap.

Now that you are able to sustain a single note without the slightest change in pitch or dynamic, you are now ready to start moving your valves.

1.      Start on second line G and play for about a minute without a break. If you are able to sound consistent and you have the confidence to show everyone that you can play indefinitely without stopping for air, continue to the next exercise.

2.      Start the G again and slur between that note and the F# just below it. Try to move the valves when you are not taking a breath.

3.      Now move the valves when you are taking a breath. You should not hear any difference between the two. If you do hear a difference, remain on this exercise until both sound the same.

4.      This time start on G and move down to F# then back to G and up to G# and return to G. Work slowly until you are able to play this pattern at any tempo without change in your tone or dynamic level.

Congratulations on a race well run. If you have been honest with yourself at all levels in this post, you should now understand what goes into circular breathing and what it will take to polish your new technique to the point of perfection. The first video I had you watch was impressive but the next should impress you even more. Many people have a hard time with Kenny G as a serious jazz musician and rightly so. He is not in my opinion a jazz player but I do feel he is a very gifted musician and for that reason I would like you to view his explanation of how he uses circular breathing in his playing. His use of connected and changing pitches is what I want you to understand. In the first video, Mr Morrison used circular breathing  primarily on a couple notes, Kenny G, on the other hand covers the full range of his instrument.

I wish you the very best  in your continued development in art of Circular Breathing.

How To Circular Breath- Part I

The first time I viewed circular breathing was at a Duke Ellington concert and I was blown away with the ability of one of his tenor sax players using this technique. After that concert I began trying to duplicate the technique and apply it to trumpet playing. From what I have learned as well as observed from others, I will explain how it is done and give you exercises which will get you on your way to circular breathing.

What is circular breathing?

Circular breathing is a technique which allows you to take air in and at the same time expel air out.

How can it be used in trumpet playing?

A wonderful example of how this practice can be applied to trumpet playing is demonstrated in this video by James Morrison.

How is that possible?

The physical components used in circular breathing are well documented in this video by Terry B. Ewell

How do I get started?

If you have viewed the preceding videos and now understand the physical process, then you are ready to begin a series of exercises which will help you put it all together.

Exercises to learn how to circular breath-

1.      Fill your cheeks with air and breathe through your nose for thirty seconds.

2.      As you breathe, think about the graphics in the second video.

3.      Visualize what is taking place in your mouth and nasal areas as you breathe.

4.      As you inhale through your nose, slowly let the air escape through your lips.

5.      Repeat the previous exercise but this time tighten you embouchure to create a buzzing sound as you continue to breathe in through your nose.

6.      This time, do not fill your cheek but fill your oral cavity by dropping your jaw, lowering your tongue, closing your lips and begin to buzz by slowly forcing the air out of your mouth by gradually moving your tongue upward and forward.

7.      If you were able to do exercise # 6, then repeat this action but this time inhale through your nose at the same time.

If you were able to complete these seven exercises and accomplish the desired effect, proceed to the next series of exercises. If you are not confident that you are doing it correctly, follow the following exercises.

Additional exercises to practice.

  • Take a sip of water and swish it around in your mouth for thirty seconds.
  • As you breathe in and out through your nose visualize what is happening in your mouth. What is happening to the air in one area of your mouth and what is happening to the water in another area? How are they separated?
  • Keep breathing as you begin to squirt the water slowly out of your mouth. The water is doing the same thing as the air will be doing when you play your instrument.

If you were able to complete these three exercises and accomplish the desired effect, proceed to the next series of exercises.

What have you learned?

You have been able to buzz your lips at the same time you inhaled through your nose. That is how circular breathing is done. Did you notice that when you filled your cheeks with air, you were able to take deeper breaths of air than when you kept them flat? The reason is there is a very limited area in the mouth to store air when compared to the larger area of the mouth and cheeks combined. I will explain this in more detail later in the next post.

My next post will be the continuation of this topic and by the end; you should be able to play a continuous note which will impress both you and your friends.

What You See Is Not What You Hear!

tape recorderFlash Mobs have been increasing in number as well as creativity. We all would like to be present when one of these apparent haphazard occurrences take place. The thrill of this unpredictable and well-rehearsed performance happening in front of our very eyes is something every person would remember all of his/her life.

Now, let me jump to another similar and related question. How many of you have heard complaints about a live show using tracks? Many people will rant and rave and say such things such as “I paid good money to hear “real” music, not a canned recording”. Yet the same people will have no problem sharing the latest Flash Mob video with all of their friends even though the audio track was obviously added after the fact.

Recently a very good friend sent me a link to a recent Flash Mob video and as I watched it, I began to think of the extremely high quality of the recording and the unusually fine mix. Most of these Flash Mob presentations are performed under unusually bad recording situations and yet many of these recordings could rival studio level quality. This inconsistency perked my interest in what is real and what is Memorex.

I have included several Flash Mob events and I challenge you to pick out what is real and what has been dubbed in from a professional recording. I have my own thoughts as to what is live and what is edited in but you will have to judge for yourself.

If you would like to submit your opinion on this topic, please add your decision to the bottom of this post and let us know how you came to your final conclusion.

You may also be interested in another post submitted by your humble and often time’s skeptical author-

Tracks Or No Tracks? That Is A Question