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Do You Stutter on the Trombone? You Are Likely Doing the Valsalva Maneuver, Learn How to Control It!
This article will provide useful information to help control stuttering on the trombone. I’m going to discuss a condition that some brass players (including myself) have encountered. This is called the Valsalva maneuver, a condition that causes stuttering. If you don’t stumble on the trombone, this article is not for you. This is for people who have trouble starting a note on the trombone under stress. Stuttering is a very complex topic, and the solutions are so numerous that I can only list a few in this article.
My research on this topic can benefit from:
Trombone players who have trouble starting notes.
Other brass players who stutter (French horn, trumpet, tuba, etc.).
Band teachers who have trombone students (or other brass instruments).
All other stutterers (musical or not).
About the Valsalva Maneuver
The Valsalva Maneuver (VM I’ll call it now) is a natural process that creates a high level of air pressure while the muscles in your body compress the air inside your body. In normal life, VMs occur naturally during body functions such as sneezing and coughing. But when playing speech or brass, VMs can cause major problems leading to stuttering.
When the brain mistakenly activates these muscles, they work together, tighten, creating extra pressure and making it nearly impossible to start a note on the trombone. Such problems usually occur in stressful situations (such as soloing in a band, quiet passages in an orchestra, or even tuning during a band rehearsal).
The Valsalva muscle network (the muscles used in VM) includes the muscles of the throat, tongue, mouth, abdomen, and rectum.
To learn about the Valsalva muscles and how they work together, try this exercise: 1. Close your lips like you’re saying the word “M.” 2. Keep them lightly closed and don’t let them open apart 3. While you keep your lips closed, try whispering the word “Toi”. 4. Remember not to allow any air to pass through your lips as you curl your toes.
The moment you try to squat with the “T” part of the toe, pay special attention to how the abdominal muscles (abdominal muscles) activate and tighten. Try whispering the toes even louder and notice how the throat and tongue tighten. You may also notice a tightening of the rectal muscles. These are the muscles of the Valsalva network.
After trying the above exercise a few times, I want you to try adding Step 5: After hooking onto the toes, relax the belly completely, paying special attention to how the tongue and throat follow. Notice that when you relax the abdominal muscles, the rest of the VM network does the same. This is a good exercise to touch those muscles and learn to relax them.
In the rest of this article, I’d like to show you some exercises I’ve taken from various books to master the Valsalva Maneuver:
Do these exercises daily before playing the trombone (helps control Valsalva).
Physical exercise: at least 20 minutes of leisurely exercise (in my opinion, the best is walking, but other good sports are swimming, running, biking, and aerobics). As we all know, exercise helps the body to relax; So use it to your advantage.
Relaxation: Do deep breathing exercises for 10 minutes a day. Find a nice quiet place to sit. Take deep, open, relaxed breaths. Take deep and relaxed breaths.
Staying Relaxed: Stay calm throughout the day (wherever you are and whatever you’re doing) by taking deep relaxing breaths (also, try counting 4-8 counts on the inhale and 4-12 counts on the exhale). If you are walking somewhere, count your steps and breathe them in (see if you can walk 8 steps while breathing in and then release 8 steps). You can also measure your breathing rhythmically while doing cycling, swimming, jogging and many other rhythmic sports.
Do these exercises every day while you play your trombone
Practice without tongue: Practice without tongue for about 15-30 minutes every day. Most trombonists who stutter (or who do not produce a good trombone sound) do not use enough airflow. When the tongue is removed during practice, good playing becomes a matter of ‘airflow’. Later, you can add a soft and comfortable tongue to your game. Play some scales, some petal tones, some songs, and various other musics without the tongue; Then play them all again as before, but with the tongue. When you attach the tongue back, the focus is on a very relaxed blow. We want to keep the natural flow of air with no pressure anywhere.
Focus on proper breathing: Always be careful not to use pressure while breathing. Just let your body expand naturally (make sure your abdomen is always relaxed). Focus on relaxed breathing and take a lot of air (breathe relaxed, breathe more relaxed). When you are about to start the sound, relax your stomach. Breathing should always feel like one continuous breathing movement.
Play on your mouthpiece for 5 minutes: Just try to start sounding on your mouthpiece. At first, don’t use the tongue at all (just like the last exercise). Play some sirens first (start low and make the siren really high, then lower). Also, play some simple songs (or Christmas songs) on the mouthpiece without using any tongue. Then add the tongue and play them again.
Other useful tips
All these tips I am showing you are for practice, not for performance. When performing you need to go on what I call “automatic pilot”, meaning that you leave the details to your unconscious mind (which you practiced a lot). This allows you to focus on making music! During performance, if the focus is on technical things like starting a note, it gets in the way of important things like being a smart performer.
Count to yourself (quietly) as you begin the song. Tap your toes to the beat to help ground you rhythmically. You can do 1 – 2 – Ready – Go. Or better yet, do this: 1e&a 2e&a Ready&a Goe&a. This is called subdividing your beats and it helps keep you steady. Always keep a steady tempo even if you stutter.
Always inhale instead of expanding to breathe. While doing the latter (extending to the breath) it is possible to fool yourself into thinking you are breathing, when in fact you are not.
While inhaling, you may notice the coldness of the throat, which is a good indicator of whether or not you are passing wind. If your throat feels cold when you breathe in, you’re probably passing a lot of wind.
Practice at least 1 hour daily.
The Valsalva maneuver is never a good thing for trombone players. Recent studies have shown that professional trombone players do not use valsalva in their playing.
There are many books written on the subject of stuttering (in the context of speaking stuttering) that can be really helpful for trombone players. I recommend you to read all the books on this subject.
Trying not to VM will make it more likely to happen. So, it’s better to let it happen. If this happens, don’t make a big deal out of it. Instead try to relax and remember what you were doing and thinking before it happened. When you get home, immediately write down anything you notice in your journal. Were you very stressed? did you breathe hard Were you worried that other people would laugh at you? Write down whatever comes to mind.
There is a book that is considered one of the greatest books ever written on stuttering (for speakers) that works the same for trombonists! If you read the Amazon reviews (at the Valsalva link below) you will see that quite a few trombone players have testified to this book (as well as many speaking stutterers). It works perfectly if you read the book cover to cover (there is a goldmine of information at the very end of the book). Customers rate it 5/5 stars. To see it, just go to this site: [http://www.ValsalvaManeuver.net]
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