Mouthpiece pressure begins with the hands.
#1. The easiest solution
All mouthpiece pressure begins with the hands. Holding the instrument is the only way we can play the instrument so it is logical our first step to lesson the pressure on the lip would be to lessening the grip on the horn. Now visit another of my blogs “Left hand Playing Position” illustrating a “lower left hand position” which will automatically lessen your mouthpiece pressure. By using this lower, left hand position, you will begin to lessen your pressure without any major changes to your playing style.
The next area of attack is the little finger on your right hand. If you have been in the habit of placing your little finger in the ring on your lead pipe, now is the time to break that habit. Many people complain that they forget to keep their finger out of the ring and because of this problem; I have suggested that they wrap a strip of Scotch Tape around the ring as a constant reminder to keep the finger out. The little finger positioned in this ring can transfer a tremendous amount of pressure to your lip while performing. After a week of touching and replacing the tape, you should have relieved this point of pressure. If your habit returns, pop on some tape again.
#2 The more difficult solution
The next step in relieving excessive mouthpiece pressure is where I am at the current time. I have decided that even with the lower left hand position which I have used for many years, it was now time to reduce the pressure even further. For that reason I am now using a different left hand position and have made significant improvements. The accompanying photo illustrates this new left hand position. Let me be the first to say that this is more than a little unusual. All of my practicing is done this way and I am very pleased with the outcome. I have begun to play with minimum pressure and because of that fact; I have seen a tremendous improvement in my embouchure development. When you begin to perform with less mouthpiece pressure, you will notice that your embouchure will be used more efficiently and consequently increases development. I have used this left hand position on only one job so far but while playing the gig I noticed that my endurance, range, tone and flexibility had increased. I am convinced that this hand position has improved my playing and I will continue playing this way until I find something better.
#3 The most difficult solution
This exercises is the most challenging and should only be done in the confines of your practice room.
Stories have circulated for many years about lessening mouthpiece pressure. One suggestion told to me is the “suspended trumpet” exercise. The trumpet is suspended from the ceiling by two or three strings which allow the instrument to swing freely in air. Then the player is supposed to walk up to the mouthpiece and begin to play a note. Obviously as the mouthpiece pressure is increased, the instrument begins to be pushed away from the player. I have no doubt that this will illustrate just how difficult it is to play with “no” pressure. My only question is directed to the value of this exercises, “how does this relate to real life playing”?
A similar and more practical approach to the same problem would be the following exercise. Place your instrument on an elevated table or extended music stand covered with a towel. Walk up to the instrument and begin playing a note. The towel and music stand will increase the amount of pressure you are able to place on your lip and for that reason; this exercise is a little more practical when illustrating minimal mouthpiece pressure. Start with middle range notes and gradually increase both higher notes and stronger volumes. This is only an exercise for forcing you to concentrate on the responsibility of the embouchure muscles. After a few minutes of this exercise, begin to practice holding your instrument as described in example #2. While practicing, be very conscious of the feeling of limited pressure and begin to implement this feeling into your practical playing routine.