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The Trombone ForumCreation and PerformanceMusical Miscellany(Moderators: JP, BGuttman) Is it okay to puff your cheeks when you play?
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Georgilocks
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« on: Jun 29, 2017, 03:25PM »

I feel like when I puff my cheeks I can get a darker and more rounder sound as opposed to when I don't. Not saying my sound is bad when I don't puff my cheeks. It just isn't as round as I prefer it to be. Though, when I puff my cheeks, my double tonguing is not as crisp and harder to execute. Or would it be in my best interests to get a new mouthpiece? I currently use a Shilke 51D, and I'm considering the Bach 4gs and the megatones.
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Posaunus
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« Reply #1 on: Jun 29, 2017, 05:07PM »

Georgi,

I still think you need a knowledgeable trombone teacher who could easily assist you an answering your questions and addressing your problems.  You're in high school and apparently just groping around blindly on your own.  (Or perhaps with bad advice from your friends.) 

To address your immediate concern, most of us would consider the Schilke 51D too large a mouthpiece for a tenor trombonist - especially a young one.  The 51D was supposedly designed for euphonium, not trombone.  That's where I believe it is best suited. 

If you ask on the Trombone Forum for advice on mouthpieces, you will get a flood of responses - most of them relatively useless, since we've never seen/heard you play. 

Please - find a good trombone teacher.  Then, after a year of learning and practicing hard, let us know how you're doing. 
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Georgilocks
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« Reply #2 on: Jun 29, 2017, 06:04PM »

Well, I have received a lot of valuable information from many instructors over the course of my trombone playing and I am an all state trombonist. I'm mainly asking on this forum to receive some more thoughts and opinions. I can be very technical and detailed at times, so I have very unique questions which may not make the most sense at times. Thank you for your input though.
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bigbassbone1

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« Reply #3 on: Jun 29, 2017, 06:17PM »

What is all state? I hear that term mentioned a lot on the forum. Is it like a festival?


I think the question you are asking is probably not appropriate for this kind of setting.... wether or not you should puff your cheeks (whatever that term means for YOU) Is not something that anyone here who hasn't seen and heard you play in person is qualified to advise you on. Personally, I think a bit of experimentation in the practice room is a good thing, I mean if you find something that makes you sound great, thats a win.

I would encourage you to ignore all advice you receive on here about your question, except the advice that says take it to a professional teacher IN PERSON for their opinion.

As a side track also, regarding your mouthpiece, chances are there is nothing wrong with it. A gear change will not fix any core technical issues you are currently experiencing.
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BGuttman
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« Reply #4 on: Jun 29, 2017, 06:34PM »

@bigbass:

All-State is a competition American High School students participate in.  You start out in District, then County, and finally State.  There are All State Ensembles comprised of the best musicians of the state.  Here in New Hampshire there is a lot less competition since we are a small State, but if you make All State in California or Texas, that's quite an achievement.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #5 on: Jun 29, 2017, 06:45PM »

@bigbass:

All-State is a competition American High School students participate in.  You start out in District, then County, and finally State.  There are All State Ensembles comprised of the best musicians of the state.  Here in New Hampshire there is a lot less competition since we are a small State, but if you make All State in California or Texas, that's quite an achievement.


Ah i see. Thanks!
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BGuttman
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« Reply #6 on: Jun 29, 2017, 06:55PM »

Back to the OP:

We consider puffing the cheeks to be bad form.  Having said that, watch Dizzy Gillespie.  Not THERE's puffing cheeks! :-0

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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #7 on: Jun 29, 2017, 07:20PM »

Puffing the cheeks is something typically associated with tuba players in cartoons and Hollywood movies that portray tuba players as objects of ridicule.

When I've has occasions to video myself, I don't like the look of my puffy cheeks. I need to work on getting them back in.

As a beginner trombonist I was often told that puffing the cheeks was bad, supposedly you had less control that way. I don't know if that notion is anatomically sound.
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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #8 on: Jun 29, 2017, 07:23PM »

Gorgilocks : I love your TTF "Handle" !  Now: to the subject at hand.  Your inquiry about "Puffing My Cheeks" is a valid question, but you must consider one factor that will help you answer the question by yourself.  The consideration ?   Do you ALWAYS puff out your cheeks ?  Is this something you will ALWAYS do ?  Will you do it HALF of the time ?  Will you do it THREE QUARTERS of the time ?  Will you do it ARBITRARILY ?  Your answers to these questions really matter because every one of them involves a "variable".  Things that "vary" matter very much, because you have to make so many calculations as to IF you use them, HOW you use them and WHEN you use them.  Just consider how much more consistency you will have in your playing if you play the same instrument with the same mouthpiece with a consistent approach.  It is almost a certainty that you will be able to ascertain deficiencies in every aspect of your equipment AND your control over them if you conscientiously work at removing variables from your practice routine.  If this sounds a bit too "Tight-Assed". it is not meant to be, but it is the first step towards transcending the obstacles to becoming a musician.  There is an amazing book I read many years ago titled "One-Two-Three -Infinity". It shows, among other things, that when two variables are involved, #1 can interact with #2, and #2 can interact with #1.   But when you have THREE variables, all Hell breaks loose because ---- well, think about it ! Not only do they interact with each other, but they interact in different sequences.  When you consider 4 variables, it is mind boggling !  A former student of mine once referred to it as the "Law of Combinations and Permutations". {There was a remarkable individual : A brilliant mind who was fascinated at the prospect of becoming a professional trombonist !]  In the book, a very savvy consultant to the King [?] of Egypt was asked to name his reward for a service to his Master and he chose it to be that a grain of wheat be placed on a square of a chessboard, two grains be placed on the second, four on the third, etc. etc.  The end result was that he enjoyed the proceeds of the entire wheat production of Egypt for many years.  In other words, variables are your friend if you're looking to screw the King of Egypt, but NOT if you're trying to become proficient on the trombone !   
   I'm looking for Bruce Guttman to blow holes in my theories about whether chessboards even existed in Egypt at the time and what the wheat production in Egypt could have amounted to in those days.  I'm just sayin' --- be consistent in your approach and all will be revealed to you.  Mileage will vary !    Cheers !!    Bob
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« Reply #9 on: Jun 29, 2017, 07:30PM »

Every teacher that I have ever had said not to puff the cheeks. I guess it leads to the dreaded "smile" embouchure, with it's thin tone and weak high range. Also too much pressure.
And then there is Dizzy!?*# Ha Ha.
Work with your teacher on tone quality, long tones, and round firm chops.

If nothing else, you get "style points" at State for keeping your cheeks in. (Joke)
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robcat2075

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« Reply #10 on: Jun 29, 2017, 07:33PM »

Every teacher that I have ever had said not to puff the cheeks. I guess it leads to the dreaded "smile" embouchure...


Hmmm... I thought the smile embouchure was the opposite of a puffy cheek embouchure.
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Robert Holmén

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Georgilocks
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« Reply #11 on: Jun 29, 2017, 07:59PM »

Gorgilocks : I love your TTF "Handle" !  Now: to the subject at hand.  Your inquiry about "Puffing My Cheeks" is a valid question, but you must consider one factor that will help you answer the question by yourself.  The consideration ?   Do you ALWAYS puff out your cheeks ?  Is this something you will ALWAYS do ?  Will you do it HALF of the time ?  Will you do it THREE QUARTERS of the time ?  Will you do it ARBITRARILY ?  Your answers to these questions really matter because every one of them involves a "variable".  Things that "vary" matter very much, because you have to make so many calculations as to IF you use them, HOW you use them and WHEN you use them.  Just consider how much more consistency you will have in your playing if you play the same instrument with the same mouthpiece with a consistent approach.  It is almost a certainty that you will be able to ascertain deficiencies in every aspect of your equipment AND your control over them if you conscientiously work at removing variables from your practice routine.  If this sounds a bit too "Tight-Assed". it is not meant to be, but it is the first step towards transcending the obstacles to becoming a musician.  There is an amazing book I read many years ago titled "One-Two-Three -Infinity". It shows, among other things, that when two variables are involved, #1 can interact with #2, and #2 can interact with #1.   But when you have THREE variables, all Hell breaks loose because ---- well, think about it ! Not only do they interact with each other, but they interact in different sequences.  When you consider 4 variables, it is mind boggling !  A former student of mine once referred to it as the "Law of Combinations and Permutations". {There was a remarkable individual : A brilliant mind who was fascinated at the prospect of becoming a professional trombonist !]  In the book, a very savvy consultant to the King [?] of Egypt was asked to name his reward for a service to his Master and he chose it to be that a grain of wheat be placed on a square of a chessboard, two grains be placed on the second, four on the third, etc. etc.  The end result was that he enjoyed the proceeds of the entire wheat production of Egypt for many years.  In other words, variables are your friend if you're looking to screw the King of Egypt, but NOT if you're trying to become proficient on the trombone !   
   I'm looking for Bruce Guttman to blow holes in my theories about whether chessboards even existed in Egypt at the time and what the wheat production in Egypt could have amounted to in those days.  I'm just sayin' --- be consistent in your approach and all will be revealed to you.  Mileage will vary !    Cheers !!    Bob

Thank you for your very analytical approach. Much appreciated.
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« Reply #12 on: Jun 29, 2017, 08:53PM »

On that "Epic Low Brass Game of Thrones" video, some of the bass bone/contra players are puffing their cheeks.  Tried it myself after seeing it, but it felt like learning to play all over again! 
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Stewbones43

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« Reply #13 on: Jun 30, 2017, 03:31AM »

I have always advocated not blowing your cheeks out.

If you do, you are turning yourself into a set of bagpipes! with your mouth being the bag. You are then not controlling the expulsion of the air correctly but relying on the elasticity of your cheeks which I don't think is good practice. The only time I have ever asked students to blow their cheeks out is when the come to me with a very thin sound caused by narrowing the gap between the cheeks inside the mouth. This happens when you make too much effort to not blow your cheeks out. Blowing you cheeks out and playing until you run out of air will help to relax the embouchure and produce a fuller sound.

Besides, you look like a hamster just after its lunch. :(

Cheers

Stewbones
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Georgilocks
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« Reply #14 on: Jun 30, 2017, 07:11AM »

I have always advocated not blowing your cheeks out.

If you do, you are turning yourself into a set of bagpipes! with your mouth being the bag. You are then not controlling the expulsion of the air correctly but relying on the elasticity of your cheeks which I don't think is good practice. The only time I have ever asked students to blow their cheeks out is when the come to me with a very thin sound caused by narrowing the gap between the cheeks inside the mouth. This happens when you make too much effort to not blow your cheeks out. Blowing you cheeks out and playing until you run out of air will help to relax the embouchure and produce a fuller sound.

Besides, you look like a hamster just after its lunch. :(

Cheers

Stewbones

Yeah it all makes sense. For some reason though, I can get a very round sound by doing so. I'm going to try and avoid doing it now because it inhibits me from double tonguing and note consistency.
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trombonemetal

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« Reply #15 on: Jun 30, 2017, 07:14AM »

Go get some lessons.

The first thing your teacher will tell you if you puff your cheeks is not to puff your cheeks. I'd put this in the same catagory as pressing the mouthpiece to play higher. 99% of the time these things are not actually helping you even if you perceive some benefit.

What I tell my students when they are puffing their cheeks is that there is either too much air being supplied by the body, or not enough air getting through the aperture. It shouldn't take a huge amount of effort to keep the cheeks in.

My teacher at Peabody was Jim Olin, one of the great principal trombonists of the 80s and 90s. I asked him about a video I saw where a famous orchestral trombonist was puffing out his cheeks and he said "All sorts of things happen in the heat of battle."
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« Reply #16 on: Jun 30, 2017, 11:15AM »

I have always advocated not blowing your cheeks out.

If you do, you are turning yourself into a set of bagpipes! with your mouth being the bag. You are then not controlling the expulsion of the air correctly but relying on the elasticity of your cheeks which I don't think is good practice. . . . 

. . . . . .

Cheers

Stewbones

It can come in handy while circular breathing, which the bagpipes analogy reminds me of. That, however, is a whole 'nother subject.  ;-)
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BGuttman
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« Reply #17 on: Jun 30, 2017, 11:41AM »

It can come in handy while circular breathing, which the bagpipes analogy reminds me of. That, however, is a whole 'nother subject.  ;-)

Absolutely, but I have discovered that the sound I get with the puffed cheeks during circular breathing is difficult to control.  Maybe because I don't do it that much. :/
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #18 on: Jun 30, 2017, 11:49AM »

Yeah it all makes sense. For some reason though, I can get a very round sound by doing so. I'm going to try and avoid doing it now because it inhibits me from double tonguing and note consistency.

There's a big difference in your perception of your sound and how it sounds to someone listening in front of the bell.
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« Reply #19 on: Jun 30, 2017, 04:59PM »

I feel like when I puff my cheeks I can get a darker and more rounder sound as opposed to when I don't. ...

That's very interesting.

When I do my long tones I often alter things and listen to the result.  All kinds of things.  Whatever I can think of.  I haven't tried a BIG puffing of the cheeks (tomorrow morning I will) but I have tried creating little pockets around the mouth including between teeth and cheeks.  I get different sounds for every one of these pockets.  The cheek pocket seems to augment overtones somehow for me.  I call it colorful.  The cheek pocket works maybe up to G 7th partial at which point everything seems to want to snug up.  But maybe it would have effect higher.  I'll try that too. 
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