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I'm a Grade 11 trumpet player in both my school's Wind Ensemble (concert band) and Jazz band. I consider myself playing trumpet more or less seriously since Grade 9, but I've had minor experience before.

I'm not necessarily a new player, yet I always have this problem that none of my other friends have. After playing for a while, only my right check starts to clench up extremely tight and it's hard to play anything higher than a middle C. (I've played up to high C a couple of times, and the G just below high C is usually okay for me to reach).

After around, 20-40 minutes of playing in a band rehearsal, my right cheek clenches up. It's interesting to note that it's ONLY my right cheek, my left one has never been affected. After playing some parts, if I get a break in playing, I would be fine with playing for a little bit, but then the problem reoccurs.

I'm trying to find out how to prevent this. In all honesty, I don't practice as often as I should, but even before with practice I'd have this problem. I believe it might be something with an embouchure, another trumpet player suggested maybe it's even the way I'm sitting during rehearsals, the way I'm sharing a stand and always pointed in one direction etc.

Can anyone provide any assistance in this area?

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There are several causes which could lead to this effect. A common one being Embouchure Overuse Syndrome. (Think of a athlete that only plays occasionally without correct training the muscles stiffen up through stress.)

There are also many genetic issues (shapes etc) that can cause this.

There are also habits that can cause it.

If trumpet playing is done on a daily basis and still this effect occurs it will be a question of investigation via your Doctor or specialist.

To save time to locate a possible cause, 1: the effect should be happening at the time you see the professional, and 2: A MRI scan at the same time would be adviseable.

With a clear picture of what is physically happening the cause and thus the solutions are more likely to be found quickly.

With luck it may be a series of facial exercises that solve the problem.

Keith. @_AthleteSupport

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  • I don't think seeing a doc is really the first step here. In fact just the thought of it might make the problem worse. Viktor, have you found and worked with a good teacher on this to help you improve your air flow/support and tonguing and to find a relaxed attitude towards your instrument? – Stefan Feb 14 '12 at 12:59
  • No, I mainly play by myself, without a teacher. – Viktor Chynarov Feb 22 '12 at 4:19
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It sounds like there is something with your technique that is not ideal. First of all, try to identify if you do something different on each side, since it's only the one side that's a problem. Then try to play "symmetrical" so the tension is equal on both sides.

If you don't discover any difference, you should contact a trumpet teacher who can help you with your technique.

If the teacher can't help you, you might want to seek help with a physician.

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If you've been playing a few years, and can only 'usually' hit G, there's something wrong with your technique. Quite likely you're pressing too hard. You need a teacher. For a start, practice lip slurs, starting on low C, jumping up to G, low C again, then C, E, G etc. concentrating on breath support, not blowing your cheeks out, NOT PRESSING the mouthpiece hard against your lips for the high notes. Can you 'buzz' all the notes, on mouthpiece alone or even without the mouthpiece at all?

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No one is going to be able to properly answer this question over the internet for you. Do you realize that?

  1. You need to self analyze. This requires work. It requires you to try various things and recognize the changes(this is a general technique).

    a) Try a different trumpet and mouthpiece. You must stay with it at least for several usages to notice if there is any difference. b) Try a different embouchure/technique. Are you pressing too hard in to your lips/jaw? You could be forcing the trumpet in to your jaw so hard that it is creating problems at the TMJ.

For example, I've always had my right TMJ be able to pop out of place if I apply pressure. It snaps back in and doesn't hurt but clearly the joint is not as stable as my left. c) you could have other medical issues that the trumpet only exposes. You could have an abscess, muscle or tendon problems, etc. If you can't make any progress using the above you could go to a dentist and get an xray and ask them if they see anything

  1. You should learn to manage it so at least you are not making it worse over time. This could involve stretching, massaging, etc. Taking quick breaks, etc. Chances are it is something you are doing to create and exacerbate it. So the only way to fix it is to stop doing it. (the hard part is figuring out what you are doing that is causing it cause chances are it will be something that you think isn't causing it so you ignore it and keep doing it)

  2. It could be health related. Do you eat well, getting enough sunlight, water, etc? These can cause many problems that seem totally unrelated but actually are.

The only way to figure things out is to change things. It could be how you sit, how you hold the trumpet, idiosyncrasies, what you eat in the morning(maybe you eat on one side and have a tooth infection), etc...

Again, only you can really figure this out(or possibly a doctor but many doctors are lazy and if it is not obvious will just waste your time and money, specially if this is music related).

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It could also be trigeminal neuralgia - look it up. It starts in the brain. I have it.

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