Reserve Power

To break into the real power portion of your playing you either need to be superman or you must learn to economize.

When I first went to ‘Jake’ I was ‘playing’ in symphony and lead in jazz band. I had already long since switched embouchures from Farkas, to Maggio to Stevens. With the Stevens I could ‘play’ super g at will.

My first lesson was a complete let down. I was only allowed to play a simple lip slur from second line g to middle c. I was told that I would need to learn how to breathe and when to use support.

He had me place my hand on my stomach and play the lip slur. I took a breath turned the air around and played a supported g-c lip slur.

I was told not to use my abdominals on notes that low . He played a lip slur with my hand on his stomach low c-g-c-g- high c. I felt no tension at all until he went to high c.

What I learned was that there is enough pressure being applied already to your ribcage in all directions from the air to properly support low notes. If we think of letting a low g roll out of the bell of the horn rather than blowing it out the sound is very free. Likewise a low c might travel a few feet in front of us. A middle c would travel still farther….

‘Jake’ advocated no abdominal pressure at all under middle c. This can not happen as our muscle system is always under some tension but he meant no extra intentional pressure.

This left more strength in reserve for the upper register. The higher notes are to shoot out of the bell and drill a hole in the back wall of the concert hall.

Was this simple lesson learned in an hour or a day? No it took a while to stop kicking in my abdominals until I got over middle c. Even then to learn the difference between some pressure and a lot of pressure took more time. After all fourth space e does not need the kick high c does. We all know this but until we test ourselves by playing with our hand on our abdominals we may not be doing what we know.


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