Have you found that after a lot of physically demanding playing, you experience fatigue or swelling in your jaw?
Unless your teeth perfectly align when you close your mouth, your jaw needs to position itself to find a relatively flat alignment of your lower and upper teeth for the mouthpiece to rest on. This leads to a jaw position which may be farther forward, or out of alignment horizontally than its natural setting. Players who re-position their jaw have what is referred to as a “floating jaw.”
While playing gigs/rehearsals which are challenging endurance and/or range-wise, the muscles holding the jaw in place can become over-worked. This exhaustion may lead to swelling and inflammation of the ligaments holding the jaw in place. This type of swelling is noticeable along the ear and diminishes the ability of the embouchure to contract, and maintain control of the tone.
I personally had a period of my playing career where the back part of my jaw (by the ear) was visibly swollen, and hot to the touch. This happened as a result of me pushing too hard a year or so after an embouchure change, and it had a serious negative affect on my playing, as I was having difficulty maintaining the sound even in the middle register of the horn.
While this swelling did last for quite some time (possibly a few months), I was able to cure it quickly by doing some simple, basic jaw movements. If you experience any stiffness or swelling in your jaw as a result of trumpet playing, try these exercises to keep your jaw healthy, and limber.
1) Lateral movement – with your jaw slightly open move it as far as you comfortably can to one side. You may feel a release of pressure (and even hear a “squish” noise) at the place where the jaw meets the skull. Reverse the movement to the other side. This is one repetition.
2) Forward movement – Jut your jaw straight ahead as far as is comfortable. Now pull it back. That’s one rep.
3) Open sesame – Open you jaw as far as you can. Think of lowering the entire jaw bone from the head toward the floor rather than swinging open at the hinge. This will help you get the maximum stretch.
Start with low repetitions (around 3-5) and gradually increase over time to a number that feels comfortable to you. Perform a set in the morning before you warm-up, and a final set in the evening after you’re done for the day. Execute repetitions at a moderate tempo, and hold the stretches until you feel some release in the muscles.
You should notice positive results within a few days, if not immediately.
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