Claude Gordon Brass Camp 1990 - Larry Miller on Diaphragm Breathing Fallacy

Transcript Summary

The photo above comes from Masashi Sugiyama, who is an excellent protege of Claude Gordon with a successful studio and brass camp in Japan.

We've been giving this talk long enough now that everyone should have figured out that
it's not a lesson in how to use birth control, it's a study of the diaphragm.
And that goes back to my early time with Claude, basically I had played trumpet all my life
since I was 8 years old and done okay at it all the way through school and what have you.
But when I got into medical school and residency I didn't have the kind of time I wanted to
devote to practice and so fell behind some although I still played quite a bit.
And when I finally got to the place where I had enough time to do what I really had
I started looking for the best teacher I could find and I communicated with teachers all over
the United States and was made familiar with Claude through his books.
At that time I think only systematic approach was out.
So I was out water skiing one day and the kids were running around, it was real hot
and I said I'm going to go call this guy Gordon and see what he's all about.
There was a telephone number there and I called him in Big Bear and we chatted for about an
hour on the phone and I'm putting in quarters to keep this pay phone going, it was before
the days of being able to charge a two-year-old credit card on a pay phone.
And I immediately recognized that with Claude there was more than just the trumpet instruction,
there was a genuinely good person involved with the teaching and as Dave Evans was mentioning
earlier today the teacher is such an important part of the information, the way it's given
to you and the way it's presented and that was the beginning of my relationship with
Claude and I can only tell you that over the going on 11 years that I've known Claude,
I've grown to respect him more and more as I've seen him go through life and deal with
not just trumpet playing but life in general.
I think we're tremendously privileged to have the information that Claude brings to us.
He really synthesizes all the information from all the centuries back.
From Arbonne, Claude has edited Arbonne and from Clark, Claude picked up all the experience
that Clark had and all the great teachers were lucky enough to have that passed on to
us and in this day and age of electronic information where we very seldom have hands-on instruction,
it's an amazing privilege and that's why I make a point of spending my time with Claude
and at this brass camp so that I can get as much information as I possibly can.
But in addition to that, you've probably already picked up that there's a tremendous camaraderie
and that the players here are not all jealous about who's going to play first and who's
going to be, who's the best or who can play the highest note or the lowest note.
The best players you'll probably find are willing to give most of their time and most
of themselves to help everybody become better players and to me really that's what life
is all about and an affirmation of each other's abilities and that's what Claude really has
synthesized in this group that he's brought together of instructors.
You couldn't produce a staff like Claude has without having trained them yourself.
The fellows that you heard play last night, many of them were Claude students and of course
O'Donnell and these fellows that are all in the top positions around the world really
have grown up with Claude and most of them will talk about Claude like they will a father
and I've told him many times, he's become an adopted father for me and I'm real jealous
about the way everybody else treats him and I'm worried about his health and I think all
of us become very much a part of Claude because of this ability that he has to love us all
and that's a real gift.
After I'd had this an hour long distance phone call with him, I decided that I'd better read
through this systematic approach that I'd gotten and I looked at that thing and I said
this guy is a high note player.
This doesn't work.
I've tried this before.
I've done this no pressure method and I've taken lessons from guys who were supposed
to be Cat Anderson specialists and high note specialists and I thought this guy has got
to be selling snake oil but anyway I decided I'd go to the camp and I think it was the
second camp that had been held and when I got there I was told immediately that my armature
was a mess and it was the third armature change that I'd had.
When I started in grade school the elementary teacher was a violin player and he was more
interested in making sure my horn was up and he always sat on the right side during my
lessons and so my armature just went right over there and I played there for a long time
and I can still play there.
I've got a firm muscle developed there from playing there so many years but it's pretty
tough to tongue accurately over there that way.
A lot of good players seem to adapt to it but I then changed in high school.
I changed my armature according to what we thought we were reading in Arvin where it
says two thirds of the armature on the lower lip and one third on the upper lip and I could
play good.
I could play good high notes.
In fact everybody always handed me the screech parts because it was really easy but I didn't
have a whole lot of flexibility at least that I wanted and so the first thing Claude said
to me is well you're going to have to change your armature and for a fellow at that time
in his early thirties who was playing good and doing a lot of things with my trumpet
I didn't want to start all over but I went to bed that night and I said you know I think
this guy is really correct.
I remember the thing that really impressed me was the range study that Carl did at the
beginning that evening we had Carl do a down study and then a up study out of the systematic
approach and that convinced me that it wasn't all snake oil because his sound was big and
fat and these were usable notes and so I changed my armature and then I began really
looking at the things that Claude was doing and it occurred to me that what he was teaching
us was the correct way to play and most of us recognized that for all physical endeavors
there is a right and a wrong way biomechanically to do things.
The body is made to work in certain ways and trumpet playing is really a physical biomechanical
endeavor which is an athletic approach and there's a right way and there's a wrong way
and I know many of you have watched carefully over the years the various good trumpet players
and I certainly have and as I got to know Claude better and we traveled around and met
many of these players I really noticed that all of these guys whether they knew it or
not played the same way pretty much played the same way with some differences for the
anatomy of each player but basically the guys that were tonguing were tonguing correctly
as Claude teaches and the fellows that were breathing were breathing correctly so it made
sense that there was something about this method that was biomechanically correct and
the body fights to keep itself in balance we call it a homeostasis when the body has
problem with the acid base balance in the blood lots of mechanisms in the kidneys and
the lung will take over to balance that blood pH within a very narrow range.
When we need to exercise the body signals the heart that it needs to go faster and the
blood pressure rises and all these compensatory mechanisms take place so it made sense to
me that trumpet playing was really the same and that what Claude was really calling the
knack of trumpet playing was something that really is hard to put into words but it was
the correct way to play successfully and as Claude will often tell you some people seem
to fall into that knack easier than others but what Claude's instruction was doing for
me I felt was making it possible for me to fall into the correct way of playing the knack
of playing and that's really what the body is struggling to do is to fall into the correct
anatomical and physiological way to make this instrument work because as we talked yesterday
the instrument is really us the body produces the sound and the pipe just really amplifies
it but one of the things that Claude and I early agreed upon was that we didn't understand
why this diaphragmatic breathing thing had been become such an important part of all
music literature and I wondered why it was always a part of medical literature because
I you know we had the physical the pulmonary specialist who teach patients to breathe and
they're always teaching them about diaphragmatic breathing and the medical literature is full
of the term diaphragmatic breathing and the musical literature really comes out of the
most of the singers who began to talk about diaphragmatic support and so I did a review
of the literature both medically and musically to see where this diaphragm concept was coming
from and as it turns out it didn't make much sense it's the literature is riddled with
it but people who have had any experience medically the doctors that are here who dealt
with surgical things will recognize that the diaphragm is not a very impressive organ if
you look at it at surgery it's a thin membrane and we'll show some pictures here that Dr.
Myrie has made for us and some others that we have that will show you exactly what the
diaphragm is like in times gone by when we had the camp in Northern California I used
to bring a diaphragm and show it to you so that you could get a feel for the anatomy
and really how flimsy the diaphragm is in fact the first year we had a funeral for the
diaphragm we burned it at the campfire so that everybody got the idea that this whole
thing about diaphragmatic breathing need to be changed so Claude and I decided we wanted
to do some things to determine what the function of the diaphragm in trumpet playing really
was and we remembered the study where they had studied tongue level position using the
fluoroscope and was that North Texas that did that I've forgotten exactly I think it was
North Texas State University that one of the physicians who was a trumpet player I think
maybe was a dentist even got several of the good trumpet players together and they fluoroscoped
they took the x-ray machine that we use like for barium enemas and that sort of thing and
they watched the trumpet players play and they found and verified that for each tone
produced there's a different tongue position that's why you'll find so many different
sounds will come out with the wrong valves if you're thinking a certain note you've
got down the wrong valves a lot of times the right sound will come out and it's because
that tongue position is where it belongs and so we wanted to know if we could possibly
also fluoroscopy the diaphragm during trumpet playing and see what it was doing and in fact
that's what we did but before we did that we did a search of the medical literature
from a neuroanatomy standpoint because the neuroanatomists are the people who are the
specialist in knowing how the nerves relate to the muscles and how they make them function
and they study the pathways of the nerves from the brain and the spinal column to be
able to tell us exactly what nerves innervate what muscles and if the diaphragm is as all
the books say and you'll find it in all of the trumpet literature voluntarily controlled
in other words you can think about moving your diaphragm if you can say okay I'm going
to take a big breath and I'm going to move my diaphragm if you can do that then there
should be voluntary innervation there should be nerves that we can control by thought processes
well there's none no information in any of the neuroanatomy literature that I found that
would substantiate that there is voluntary innervation of the diaphragm we know that
the phrenic nerve has to do with diaphragmatic function but seems to be mostly parasympathetic
and sympathetic function when we get hiccups we know that that nerve is irritated sometimes
and the diaphragm is spasming but there's no fine control so what we said about doing
was talking to the hospital where I work into letting us do some ferroscopy studies I was
active at that time in getting a human performance laboratory and cardiac rehabilitation center
going and so was also interested in some other parameters of brass players I wanted to know
one about their lung functions and I was interested because so many of the trumpet players as
we mentioned had been told they had emphysema I also wanted to know about other muscles
that might be involved other than the chest I was also interested in and seeing what happened
with different players as they played so we approached them like we worked with some
of the football teams the Chico State football team I had done quite a bit of work with and
some of the other football teams around and we actually this was before the day of videos
we used motion picture cameras and had the fellas play in front of a grid which was measured
so that we could measure muscle movement after that by stopping the film but what we have
today is some slides taken from that study just to give you a little bit of a demonstration
of what went on it's amazing how incorrectly you can do things and still do perform pretty
well and that's because the body has a great fudge factor built into it the coronary arteries
need to be narrowed at least 70% or more for you to have symptoms with your heart so you
can eat eggs for most of your life and bacon and build up the plaque in those coronary
arteries and maybe never have a heart attack but if you were to open up that coronary artery
at the post mortem exam like Dr. Meyry does you'd find coronary artery disease it was
pretty significant but the body has this fudge factor built into it that allows it to function
pretty well without perfect care and I think a lot of trumpet players get along that way
a lot of trumpet players have lung disease a lot of trumpet players used to be smokers
and still were able to play fairly successfully I think of some of the people that I played
with the one fellow Pinky Savin that I used to do the Orange Show with smoked cigars and
just beat himself up but somewhere along the line he learned to breathe correctly and he
played great and I'm sure all of you know players like that and one of the reasons I
tell you this is that so many people will come up after this lecture and they'll say
well I know so and so and he does this and he does that and he plays great well I'm
answering that question before it gets asked Claude and I have had some interesting experiences
over the years presenting this information at the New York Brass Conference I wish I
had had some of our karate experts with us one guy just a cardiologist just jumped me
and he was angry and he finally we got him calmed down it took about a half an hour for
him to simmer down but he wanted to refute what we were talking about and that's okay
it just happened that he'd never ever seen the diaphragm he'd never done any surgery
he'd put in some pacemakers and occasionally the ferroscopy screen will get down far enough
to see the diaphragm but he'd never really had much surgical experience but he was also
being coached by some of the hot New York guys that were anxious to put the bee on Claude
and so we like to have people question us and if you have questions after this we'll
talk about some of these things first of all the body provides us with a rigid skeleton
and as trumpet players this produces the framework that we need to create the bellows effect
inside the lungs and so why don't we show that first few slides there
this rigid skeleton that we have allows us to create negative pressures inside the skeleton
so that we can get a good breath these are some slides that Dr. Meire provided us with
and I won't go into all the anatomy he's been so nice as to put the actual Latin up there for you
but this is the chest wall from the looks like the posterior with the sacrum back here
and you can see that it's ribs the spinal column running all the way up to the neck
that provide this rigid skeleton and then there are lots of different muscles that hold the vertebrae together
and the ribs together and when we talked yesterday about getting the neuromuscular pathway set up
so that you develop as a trumpet player all these little muscles are involved in what we do
and as you practice these things and do them correctly you're grooving the neuron pathways
much like a guitar player who learns different chords you're grooving these neuron pathways
so that it will become second nature and you don't even think so that Claude at your lesson doesn't have to say
get your chest up get your chest up take a big breath this is going to be part of your athletic prowess
let's see the next slide I think it's a different view now we've added a layer of muscles
we started with the skeleton and just a few muscles and now we've added a layer of muscles
again another layer which is involved with producing air propulsion out of the lung cavity
and you can see that there are some strong muscles attached to the back of the head going down to the neck
and then across the back we have some great strong serratus muscles
and here we're seeing the intercostal muscles between the ribs these control to a certain degree
this contraction of the ribs and these will in trumpet players get really sore some of the time
let's see what the next one shows I really want to thank Dr. Myre for these these are nicely done and accurate
just some more of the same thing adding the external muscles let's just keep going
let's just keep going but you can see even the long muscles of the back the erector spiny muscles
and those sort of things the dorsal spinal muscles are involved in the function of the back
this is adding some more let's just keep going I don't want to bore you with that
now this is again courtesy of Dr. Myre so we didn't have to bring a frozen specimen down
this is a human diaphragm that one of Dr. Myre's failures was nice enough to contribute
my failure he's a pathologist yeah when they're dead they're your successes
but you can see if you look at this it's not a very impressive muscular kind of organ
at post-mortem dissection you'll see a lot of muscle fibers and strands around the periphery of the diaphragm
we all know that the diaphragm separates the abdomen from the chest we're pretty clear on that are we not
so this is what goes through across the abdomen and separates the abdominal contents from the lungs
and I think you're beginning to get an idea that really all that it does is it's a kind of a petition
between the chest and the lung and you can see here the holes for the esophagus and the aorta to come up through
so that the blood gets down to the feet and what have you but there's not much muscle here this is a pretty thin
there's some muscle striations through here but not much some real thin translucent kinds of tissue
okay let's take the next one this is a medical illustrationist concept of what we were able to see
while fluoroscoping the breathing the playing trumpet players and this is a side view as if you were standing
as I am here and were to slice the chest right down the middle and this is the normal position of the diaphragm
under the lungs this is these are the lungs and this is the dome of the diaphragm you'll hear that talked about
the diaphragm lies kind of domed in shape naturally as the lungs fill with an inspiration and the chest goes up
the diaphragm flattens a little bit and begins to tense the chest is brought up to its full spot here
and the diaphragm tenses a little even more and then as the chest begins to squeeze this way
the diaphragm hasn't moved it stayed pretty much in that same tensed position until a critical pressure is reached
and then the diaphragm pops and it pushes that pressure up there and no matter how much more squeezing you do
the diaphragm doesn't move from that position it stays popped like that and what we did in our study was
to have the players actually used for this particular one Claude and Larry Sousa but Tom Brazine and Ken Macasa
were also involved in the fluoroscopy we used the two of them because in the days that we now practice medicine
the medical legal difficulties of getting a radiologist to let you into his area and radiate somebody for medical
or for musical reasons it's pretty difficult I had to threaten to take my work to another hospital to get them to do it
so we were lucky to get two trumpet players in there and so if you remember this picture in your mind it's key to the function
of the diaphragm in trumpet playing we found that if we played the arpeggio from C in the staff up to the high C
above the staff at G right on top of the staff this is where the diaphragm popped and it didn't really do much
until it got that much pressure generated to pop up and stay there so what we feel is happening is that this is
really working as a transfer if you will a transducer changing energy from the compression around it to compress up
into the airway and force air out the interesting studies show that and I found this in the literature that I looked at
if you can increase the rigid skeletal structure by two centimeters in diameter this way the back in the AP dimension
the anterior to posterior if you can increase that by two centimeters you increase the lung volume by two to three hundred
cc's that's a considerable amount of extra air so if you're in your mind thinking about the Claude Gordon chest up accordion
squeeze what we're doing as we develop is we're actually getting that chest to expand you can turn that off for a second if you want
if you can get that chest to expand you're adding lung volume and lung volume gives you more wind power and as Claude talks to you
about developing he's really talking to you about developing in terms of muscular development that's why systematic approach
with the down study isn't just to teach you to play pedal tones and relax the lip and get the feel for that position it's also to teach you
and give you the exercises necessary to strengthen the muscles around the skeleton and stretch that skeleton out as you come down
you're keeping your chest up and you're breathing every bit of air that you can breathe out all these muscles that we've talked about
are squeezing down on the skeleton that you're also trying to keep rigid and hold the sternum out and you'll see in some of the pictures
how the muscles of the neck fight to hold that sternum out as you're playing correctly let's look at the next slide yeah
one of the reasons I don't always say that is people get confused about the abdomen and they think that it's got to stick out in order to raise pressure
but what Dr. Myhre is saying is that we're really squeezing a tube of toothpaste and we're squeezing it from the bottom and everything squeezes
and that changes that pressure as it goes up that's a good point okay this is Larry Susan man look at the hairy head that was and uh
these are pictures just taken while we were actually filming in front of this grid but we put little markers on them so that we could measure different points
and see how much each anatomical position moved and I was also I didn't tell Claude but I was also in the middle of the grid
Larry plays so good and so has such a nice sound and one of the things that I've noticed about him is that you know his armature isn't always the same
he adapts to changes in his teeth and things and it doesn't seem to bother him most of us are so neurotic that if something changes a little bit we get all panicked
and but as we go through here you'll see as Larry goes higher that armature goes over and changes pulls up a little bit and it's a good point
and I think these are the reasons Claude tells you to forget the lip let's go to the next one we'll run through these fairly quickly
a little bit more pressure I think I think this actually this arpeggio was up to double C's and Larry has already gone to the octave key
there but you can see the beginning of the neck muscles to start struggling to hold the chest up
this I believe is the another just another picture of the diaphragm this is yeah this isn't trans-illuminated this is another one that that Dr. Meier has provided us with again
there's not much of a change in the shape of the diaphragm but you can see that there's a change in the shape of the diaphragm
this is yeah this isn't trans-illuminated this is another one that that Dr. Meier has provided us with again
there's not much muscle in here and there's certainly nothing that you can voluntarily control okay
well this is just the guys involved there's Tom Rosine pre-marriage pre-kids look what a skinny guy he was
in fact I actually used him for the anatomy study we used to make him get up here and take his shirt off but now it's so obscene we don't want to do it
what was that the best birth control over 40 oh take off your shirt no all right
and Dave Bendekite always there to keep things on the light side I used was lucky the hospital really cooperated in the whole study with me
they we used an exercise physiology physiologist and several of the nursing personnel we did stress tests on them all and it was interesting this was early in Claude's heart problems
and we picked up a little bit of a change during this test this this fellow here is a exercise physiologist who's a good trumpet player as well his name is Harold Meier
so he gave us services free okay here's a here's skinny Tom and he is a good a study in the anatomy here the neck muscles the sternocleidomastoid are really beginning to come into play
let's keep going one of the things that I think Claude designed into the breathing exercises having you breathe through the nose and then blow out is so that you don't tense up everything that doesn't need to be tensed
I see a lot of people when they get done with this lecture thinking about their breathing so much that they go then they get really tight and they tighten everything up and then they they blow and nothing vibrates
and you'll look at Tom's embouchure I know Tom went through an embouchure change with Claude as well well it's it's right up there you know the French horn players don't have anything on Claude students I was I played a thing with the
at Chico State for the fourth of July and they had a great French horn section and I complimented on him complimented on him and I said oh you guys sounded really great and he says yeah that's because my embouchure is so high
and I said let me what do you think about my and he says geez did you used to be a French horn player and I said no I studied with Claude Gordon and he made it put it made me put the mouthpiece in my nose and that's what it really felt like
after playing so low to transfer up here it felt like the mouthpiece was actually up in my nose okay again the muscles of the chest are beginning to squeeze down in the movies if we had the movie projector here you can see that whole Claude Gordon
chest up accordion squeeze come into play did you notice the lead player the older guy last night when he at the end of that Basie straight ahead tune he had a bunch of repetitive high D's and then he just was squeezing down so so classically I always like it when I see a trumpet player do that because they don't take a deep breath I get to thinking is he going to make it you know and you're out there wondering boy is he going to make a Ralph Smedvig who plays the empire brass
boy he takes a nice big breath and makes you feel like you know he's going to nail the note okay just some more of the same stuff let's just keep going here we can flick through these
the bottom line to all this is that we've we found that rather than complicate people with the idea of putting weights on their stomach or broomsticks sticks in their stomach and telling them to think diaphragm if you just tell them to keep their chest up as they breathe then all the rest of this comes into play these muscles work if you don't
let your chest down I know when I get tired if I think sit on the end of the chair keep my chest up I'm not tired I'll make it I and that gives you the confidence to play successfully I know one of the things I used to worry about the worst when the band would go on tour in
college was after the third concert that day am I going to make that high C and I you'd start thinking about that at the end of that tune and you it would guarantee you you wouldn't make it if you learn to breathe correctly this way yeah here we go if you learn to breathe correctly
and you get that foundation under you it takes the panic out of out of thing you can see all these other muscles coming to play here go ahead let's just rip right through these things okay keep going look at where Larry's embouchure sits up there just way high and then as he goes up it comes over to the right
okay I just put this in again to review to remind you that the diaphragm merely pops up as the chest is squeezing around the lungs another thing I found in studying the literature in this regard one of my old professors George Burton who is a pulmonologist helped me do some of this background checking
they've measured the wind as it travels through your trachea on a sneeze in a sneeze and it goes 500 miles an hour if we can generate wind power of that speed by using the lungs the muscles of the chest correctly then you can whistle right through your horn and you know it sounds like a whistle when the super upper register
is played correctly and so what we're trying to do is develop the ability to develop that kind of wind speed okay
same thing
okay this is an anterior view and a lateral view just so you if you were looking this way with the lungs on either side of the heart and the great vessels above
the diaphragm at rest is just a little bit dome shaped with inhalation it flattens out as the lungs expand and the chest creates that negative pressure makes it possible with exhalation there's a little tensing of the diaphragm from those peripheral muscles that attach it to the cavity the body cavity
and as marked expiration in trumpet players it seems to be G on the staff the diaphragm pops up and stays there okay
here was Claude going through these things Claude was still playing quite a lot at the time that we did these studies not as much as he had but I really considered it a privilege to be able to hear him play and
he used to practice in my basement when he would come and stay with me and my neighbors and family would always say are those the same things you practice and he was so fluid and like notes coming off an assembly line and during this range study Claude went up to a triple C and why don't we just go through this and we'll see
Claude went through some embouchure changes during his lifetime too but if you look at him now you can see the capillary changes that are permanent in the upper lip
Claude had taken off all the finger holds on this thing so he goes to the third bow for his double high C here and I thought he'd play a little bit sweet on that double high C Claude's tone has a natural sweetness to it a lot like
all of us would emulate I think Larry Sousa comes close to that sweet sound Claude also had a big sound you heard O'Donnell last night with a big G three or four G's on the end of that Superman but if you'll quadruple that sound I think you'll get close to what Claude's sound was like
it's the people that knew him I've talked with Ewan Racy and Manny Klein at Lynx into the wee hours as it were with Manny and they say that this was a Mendez meets Basie kind of guy a Raphael Mendez and a Harry James sound and a Basie swing and that's kind of the trouble playing
we all want to emulate and that's why we're here at this camp let's see what the next one of these he got after about three or four triple C's he decided he'd quit Claude had put on a little weight here but you can really see the development of his neck and I have watched if you look at Maynard Ferguson
and if you look at a lot of these players that played all their lives they have stout developed necks a lot like a football player's neck you take a look at some of the guys they look like bulls I don't know what happened to Evans and me
triple C
triple C
I wish we had the movies Claude gave us a little scare I was talking to Claude the other day I said Claude you've never looked so thin in your life and he says don't show that picture he says I look like a mountain but he was developed the muscles of the chest and the rib cage over the years of playing for so long correctly
became fixed in that position and developed him into the kind of player he was able to be