Trumpet Topics

Reverse Pivot

Charles, a former student of mine, visited me recently and shared an idea which might be useful to you if you are having tone production problems which are caused by a radically pronounced "reverse pivot". First, a brief description: a "normal" pivot is when a brass player raises their nose to play a high note and lowers their nose to play a low note (the nose has nothing to do with the pivot - I'm simply describing the motion of the head). The resulting trumpet pivot motion is: on low notes the mouthpiece pivots down/the bell up - on high notes the mouthpiece pivots up/the bell down.

Now, performers and teachers are in almost unanimous agreement that a pivoting motion should be minimal or even non-existent. I totally agree that motion should be minimized, however if a player does use a pivot, it should be of the "normal" type described above rather than a "reverse" pivot, in which the motion is exactly the opposite.

I have not had many students who used a reverse pivot and Charles' example was certainly the most pronounced pivot that I have ever seen, giving him tone production problems in both the high and low register. In the high register he had little strength because his pivot was forcing his lower lip to do most of the work. In the low register his sound was pinched because his pivot was turning his upper lip outward so he buzzed on the inside part of the lip. During his studies with me I basically gave him exercises which attempted to "neutralize" the pivot. These were mostly long tones in which he concentrated on minimizing any motion. Although the exercises did help, I was never really satisfied that we had totally overcome that habit.

Charles recently told me that he had been doing some "James Stamp" exercises which had helped considerably. I watched carefully as he played a bit for me, and I saw that he actually was able to overcome the reverse pivot. I believe that thing that helped him the most was the part of the exercises in which the player must "bend" a pitch down. Try to visualize bending a pitch down by raising your head; I can't even imagine being able to do so. To bend a pitch down, you must duck your head. This is a "normal" pivot. I believe that it was only when Charles tried to bend pitches down that he finally grasped the feeling for ducking his head for low notes. If you or your students are plagued by tone production problems caused by a reverse pivot, I suggest that you try invent some pitch bending exercises and when bending the pitch down, concentrate on using a "normal" pivot, ducking your head as you bend down. It may help you as it did Charles.

This is a good illustration showing that simply analyzing a problem and describing a remedy doesn't always overcome the problem. Very often someone's saying the same thing in just a slightly different way, or an exercise which is only slightly different than what you have been practicing may be the key to newfound success.

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