Brass Myths – Hanging the Trumpet From the Ceiling

Have you heard the story about [insert famous player] who hung his/her [insert brass instrument, but usually trumpet] from the ceiling and played [insert incredibly high note]? Have you actually seen it done? Me neither, but there’s usually a friend of a friend who swears it was done.

I’ve looked all over YouTube for a video of this famous trick and never been able to find it. I did find the below two videos which attempt to duplicate this as a demonstration.

Now the problem with the above demo is that he’s not really playing all that high. Of course, you can also create a pretty good seal by pushing the mouthpiece back against the lips with the trumpet held just in by the valve like this. Similarly…

…with the trumpet on the palm like this you can create quite a bit of mouthpiece pressure. Try it out yourself to see what I mean. I can even spot this player’s embouchure motion (down and to his left to ascend) while he does this, so he clearly has enough control over how he grips the instrument to apply an appropriate amount of mouthpiece pressure.

With as ubiquitous as this myth is, why are there no videos of anyone doing this? Do you know of one? Please post your link in the comments.

svenne

Knud Hovaldt in Aarhus orchestra in Denmark used the string “myth” and palm as a practising tool, and also had some of his student trying that.
Knud believed on “no pressure” in the practise studio for som exercices, but not on the podium. I followed a trumpeter friend to a lesson with Knud 1963, played in orchestra with him as a soloist a couplae of years latter.
Why is it not on the Youtube? There is no film of it and the guy is decised.
RIP.
I never worked that way myself (maybe I should of?) but that does not matter I dont think, practise the way your teacher teach.
I do know several brass musicians trying the method, but that was many years ago before YouTube.

Dave

Thanks, Svenne. Did you see Hovaldt do this trick or any of his students? How did it sound? What do you suppose one could learn from this about playing? Remember, we’re really not good judges of how much mouthpiece pressure someone uses and how much professionals actually use (see here).

Dave

Lyle Sanford

This reminded me Prof. Ericson talked about this regarding Farkas:

“So far as I know the only element that he regretted in his lengthy discussion of the topic was including a photo of himself playing a horn placed on a shelf in an “exercise devised to lighten pressure.” While he clearly advocates for moderate to light pressure, I can attest that in later years he stated publicly in master classes that he regretted the insertion of that photo. Too many players were trying to play with that kind of very light pressure which in the above quote he specifically wanted students to avoid. He certainly wanted players to use enough pressure to support the embouchure properly.”

http://hornmatters.com/2012/07/hornmasters-mouthpiece-pressure-i/

Hoyt

Another interesting quote from the link Lyle posted above…

“We usually think of pressure as a push directly in line with the mouthpiece, which exerts its force backward against the teeth with only the unfortunate lips to act as a cushion. But pressure, of course, can exert itself in any direction, and many players have a habit of pushing the mouthpiece laterally—at a right-angle to the direction of the mouthpipe.
This force could be to either side, or up, or down. …the practice of forcing the mouthpiece upward toward the nose can be observed in a large number of players. Usually, most of these players apply very little lateral pressure in the lower and middle register, but apply more and more upward push as they ascend…. Evidence of this can be seen by the lessening distance between the top of the mouthpiece and the bottom of the nose.”

It appears that Farkas is referring to the “pivot” that Reinhardt describes (the one that pushes up to ascend).

I did see a video of a trumpet player holding large rubber bands from which his trumpet was suspended. He definitely pulled the bands toward his face when ascending, adding the needed pressure to get the high notes to come out. I thought it was on youtube, but I can’t seem to find it now. It was a few years ago.

Dave

Thanks for the link and quotes. I remembered hearing about Farkas wishing he hadn’t included that photo in “The Art of French Horn Playing” but had forgotten about the bit about “lateral pressure.”

I think you’re right, Hoyt, that he’s noticing what Reinhardt defined as a pivot (I prefer to use the term embouchure motion, of course), but Farkas recommends against it. Certainly I think it can be a good thing to minimize the amount of “lateral pressure” one might use as it’s a very common problem for players to overdo their embouchure motion in certain parts of their range (usually the extreme upper or extreme lower ends). On the other hand, I believe that the embouchure motion is a necessary and important part of good brass technique and at times exaggerating it may be a good way to practice. It really depends on the situation.

Thanks for the comments!

Svenne

Yes I did see, and hear the trick from Knud and from some of his students.
How did it sound? Well it was not a sound you would like to hear in a musical peformans. It was a way of practise, not a way to play.
Knud could “play” a wide range that way, kind of impressing, but no, it did not sound like music.

Dave

Svenne, by your description I would guess that what Knud was doing was more like free buzzing close to the mouthpiece. You know that I’m an advocate of free buzzing practice, so in that sense I’m fine with practicing. However, I do find that sometime folks take the “no-pressure” concept a bit too far and frequently find that students actually need more mouthpiece pressure than they regularly play with. From this point of view, I would recommend against this sort of demonstration as it can lead to the same misunderstanding as what Lyle mentioned about Farkas.

So I guess it’s not really as much a myth as I thought, but I still think if this were something that was a good demonstration surely someone out there would actually duplicate this on video. If not Knud, since he’s not with us any longer, certainly one of his students would be able to duplicate this trick. It’s also a wide-spread story, in spite of the fact that there are no videos easily found that show it.

Clint "Pops" McLaughlin

Phil Smith has said that he has done it and knows others that can in several clinics I have seen.
There are youtube videos of Me, Larry Meregillano, Jason Harrelson and Kurt Thompson playing G above High C and up.
That doesn’t even really scratch the surface.

Dave

Thanks for sharing, Clint. Can you post links of you and those other players actually doing the trumpet hanging from a string/rope? Otherwise, the different techniques of holding the trumpet with the hand by dangling it from the fingers seem to allow the player to use a lot more pressure that the stories I’m referring to here.