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Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby ren » Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:36 am

When I was a full timer, and now as a new timer, I always enjoy(ed) pushing the low range to the extremes.

As I re-engage, I have been reminded of a certain tick in that approach, which is that there seems to be a need for balance in this. I have found that spending alot of time in the extreme low range (low G down to pedal eflat below pedal C) seems to "recenter" the embouchure for me, and then it feels akward to move back up into the mid range, where my chops feel stiff like I have too much lower lip in the mouthpiece (or something). Phrasing and air flow also tends to suffer when returning to the mid range. To be specific my chops actually feel like concrete after this.

Is this something others experience or is my embouchure just crappy? I feel like if I spend too much time down there things dont necessarily get better (overall). I dont practice the high range because I have one.
Also I havent rebuilt any stamina yet so could be part of it.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby lost » Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:00 am

I'm not a professional, but I have noticed my mid range suffers as my low range gets better. Nice to share in a thread that addresses it without fear and shame. :-D
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby TheTuba » Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:04 am

ren wrote:When I was a full timer, and now as a new timer, I always enjoy(ed) pushing the low range to the extremes.

As I re-engage, I have been reminded of a certain tick in that approach, which is that there seems to be a need for balance in this. I have found that spending alot of time in the extreme low range (low G down to pedal eflat below pedal C) seems to "recenter" the embouchure for me, and then it feels akward to move back up into the mid range, where my chops feel stiff like I have too much lower lip in the mouthpiece (or something). Phrasing and air flow also tends to suffer when returning to the mid range. To be specific my chops actually feel like concrete after this.

Is this something others experience or is my embouchure just crappy? I feel like if I spend too much time down there things dont necessarily get better (overall). I dont practice the high range because I have one.
Also I havent rebuilt any stamina yet so could be part of it.


I can reach the low F, but I do it doing the brass gym smooth air movement and beautiful sounds, then I work my way back up.If your just going from pedal eb to your mid range, that is a reason. If you push to hard, and do not work your way back up, that's probably why yours sound crappy after that.
I don't *practice* high range, I play excerpts and etudes in it. Practicing high range should be a wary thing, as you often do not know when you start building muscle and when you start hurting yourself trying to build it
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby bloke » Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:16 am

Practicing strengthens that which is practiced.
If "low playing" is all that is practiced", that will be strengthened.
If "harsh-sounding low playing" (which, in reality, isn't any louder than "pleasant-sounding low playing") is practiced, that will be strengthened.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby Doc » Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:27 am

You have to practice all the areas you want to get better. If you want a solid low range, you have to camp out down there in Davey Jones' Locker. If you want a solid mid and high range, you have to ride the rocket into the stratoshphere. And there are various methods to accomplish these goals.

If there is any high range benefit, at least for me, from camping out in the low range, is that you really have to learn how to move and manage the volume and speed of air in the low range. When playing in the mid and high range, if I have any boo boos, I'll imagine moving the volume of air I do in the low range, and nearly always the problem is fixed.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby royjohn » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:55 am

I'm certainly no expert, but I would agree with Bloke that practice strengthens the thing practiced. If you "camp out" in the low range without practicing entering and leaving it on the way to the mid range and high range via scales and jumps, you may find you are able to play nicely in the low range, but don't know how to get in and out of it.

My guess about this would be that the setting for the low range is different from the "regular" embouchure and it is hard to get from one embouchure to the other. The Reinhardt concept of the embouchure track is applicable here. Myself, I don't yet practice that much really low, but I do try to extend my high range and I struggle to get the embouchure track right to get those notes over second ledger line G. My embouchure goes up and slightly to the left as I ascend, but getting the exact spot for each note right and the balance of upper and lower lip weight is still tricky for me.

If you find that you fiddle around to find the "right" low register setting and then can play there, but can't manage in the middle register after, your low register setting isn't quite right or you haven't mastered switching in and out of it. Tomorrow when I practice I'll have to try to notice how I go down and to the right to descend and whether it is a smooth transition.

Rich Wiley has a great book of Reinhardt Routines that might help, but it would probably also help to get "typed" and take a few lessons from someone familiar with the embouchure track concept first. I really wish that Doug Elliott would chime in here, as he probably knows more about this than just about anybody. I hope I haven't stated it wrong.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby ren » Thu Jul 05, 2018 4:06 am

i agree although i have been getting great low range results it reminded me of back at school when low range practice consisted of playing rochut down two octaves. after an hour of it it was difficult to play them in the midrange. i think the transition down there is key as air flow changes a huge amount. practicing the entire range of the tuba is not easy to do every day for sure.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby pwhitaker » Thu Jul 05, 2018 4:56 am

For me playing a variety of 3 and 4 octave scales and arpeggios seems to keep me flexible enough in my dotage for the playing I do in public.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby Shostytuben » Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:11 am

Ren I don’t think it’s unhealthy. It’s a matter of approach and what goals you are setting down there. I really liked how bloke put it. If you want that even low playing like Chester or Ellis Wean, and Dave Kirk the Phil teele low register drills helped me with that more then anything. You can buy his book from horn guys. Worth the investment.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby Stryk » Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:44 am

Harvey Phillips said the tuba has 3 registers: the high register, the low register, and the cash register. 95% of my practice time is in the cash register using Tyrell, Kopprasch, scales, etc.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby timothy42b » Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:53 am

royjohn wrote:If you find that you fiddle around to find the "right" low register setting and then can play there, but can't manage in the middle register after, your low register setting isn't quite right or you haven't mastered switching in and out of it. HTH, royjohn


I think that it is easier to play the low register less than correctly, because, well, it is easier, more forgiving. So extended play in the low register might be detrimental to higher playing, if your low register setting isn't quite right. This is certainly true on trombone, I'm not sure if it is as true on tube, but it makes sense to me.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby bloke » Thu Jul 05, 2018 9:05 am

not many of either...

...but far more recently-written pieces of music request that I play "too low" than request that I play "too high".

another observation:
When I play tuba solos on the boat on Saturday mornings...

...When I step off into the very-very low range during a slow solo, "doing so" consistently garners much more applause and commands much more of the patrons' attention than does wandering up to the high range just a bit during a fast solo.

finally:
Whether (in any solo setting) playing the tuba low for an extended period of time, playing the tuba high for an extended period of time, or playing the tuba in the middle range for an extended period of time, "the sound of a solo tuba" becomes very monotonous to attendees, which is why I suspect that the typical tuba recital audience includes a girlfriend/spouse (unless they have to work), a teacher plus one or two colleagues, and (at least, until intermission) four or five drinkin' buddies.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby MikeMason » Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:20 am

I guess I’m late to the game, but I’m finding the Snedecor book very useful on getting in and out of the low register and just developing that register as useful and musical in context. Concerning tuba solos, a great quote comes to mind “ brevity is the soul of wit”. I think the first movement of the Gregson is about all a general audience would want to hear at a band concert.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby pauvog1 » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:53 am

I think finding a balanced practice routine would be key, both in the rebuilding and maintaining chops.

If you play lots of low notes, your going to have growth in that area. If you ignore other aspects of playing, they could start to suffer.

I agree with the comment about Snedecor. It does a good job of working transitions / fluidity into and out of the low register.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby Levaix » Thu Jul 05, 2018 6:20 pm

So just to chime in and completely contradict what everyone else is saying... Practicing low range helps my high range. It relaxes a lot of the unconscious tension and squeezing that comes along with high notes, and it becomes easier.

That being said... I am a euphonium player. My low range is your mid range, and my high range is your stratosphere. Plus, we euphonium players are just weird. :lol:
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby ren » Fri Jul 06, 2018 2:51 am

so long story short or maybe long i started an embouchure change 20 years ago and i wasn't really ready to go through with it. when i started playing again i knew it would proceed on its own. i don't believe now the low playing is the problem rather my embouchure change now seems to have taken hold and there's no going back. my embouchure has completely recentered and is not on firm ground. it doesn't sound bad it's pretty uncomfortable i'm not sure it sounds as good as i did a month ago. i have lost the spin in my air column that would just spin the phrase to the end i'm having to blow into individual notes again which feels like a step back.

nevertheless i embarked on the journey with no real expectations where things would land so i might as well work forward and not worry about living in the past. the road to efficiency is not always predictable or straight.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby Shostytuben » Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:41 am

Why don’t you try some Caruso drills. Checkout Julie landsman approach to the method on YouTube. It might yield you some good results. Another approach is getting a lip control ring and focus on your setup in a mirror. Floyd Cooley has a nice approach with using these things. Contact him.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby timothy42b » Fri Jul 06, 2018 7:16 am

ren wrote:nevertheless i embarked on the journey with no real expectations where things would land so i might as well work forward and not worry about living in the past. the road to efficiency is not always predictable or straight.


It might be time to get a checkup from an embouchure specialist. We have one right here on the forum with a very good reputation for sorting out exactly this kind of thing.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby bloke » Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:35 am

...the road to efficiency is not always predictable or straight.


...but, typically, the most efficient one is.
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Re: Can too much "low playing" be unhealthy?

Postby ren » Fri Jul 06, 2018 10:58 pm

all good tips i'm not concerned about it was just sharing the experience. to see if there were any commiserators. i'm letting the sound be my guide.
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