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Trombonist, Author, Composer, Educator, Entrepreneur

Staying Healthy

Many people ask how they can avoid embouchure dystonia and other playing-related ailments. Here are some suggestions about how to stay out of trouble:

  • Don’t work harder than necessary. For example, trombonists should use alternate positions in fast passages to accommodate slide technique and remove unnecessary back and forth slide movement.
  • Enforce taking breaks by putting on a timer for 20 or 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, stop practicing and do some stretches, yoga, or other movements so your body doesn’t get into a movement rut.
  • Cooperate with how the body is supposed to move instead of following vague metaphors such as “breathe low”.
  • Don’t try to use a mouthpiece that is too big for what you need to do. Choose a size that will accomplish every range and dynamic equally.
  • Don’t chronically bend the pitch with your embouchure. Do a test by tuning with your eyes closed at first. As you play your tuning note with your eyes closed, relax your chops to find the genuine center of the pitch. Once you have done this, continue to play but open your eyes to check the tuner for an accurate reading.
  • Don’t micro-manage your movements. Cultivate global awareness and play with your entire body – not individual dismembered parts.
  • Be good to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over tiny things in your playing that ultimately might work themselves out.
  • Occasionally “blow no sound” to ensure you are moving air as your primary activity.
  • Get a massage.
  • Try a left hand brace to redistribute the weight of the instrument.
  • Explore the pedagogy of other instruments. Cross pollination of approaches and a wide variety of movements are good for you.
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