If you’re a trumpet player with a lip injury, the first thing you need to do is gather information.
This is the place to start.
Tracking Your Playing
I’m fond of saying “you can wander into an injury, but you can’t wander out.” When your chops aren’t working, you need to become a scientist and start tracking your playing.
Using a simple spreadsheet (or even a Word document), start keeping detailed records of your playing:
- how much you play
- what you play
- how much you rest
- any other factors you think may affect your chops
After only a few days, you’ll start to notice patterns. This is a crucial step on the road back to healthy playing, and it was a major turning point in my own recovery.
Dr. McGrail’s Lip Exercises
Dr. Simon McGrail is a facial surgeon who’s developed a set of lip exercises to strengthen damaged lip tissue. He successfully operated on my torn lip muscle in 2011. More about him in a moment.
There are around 130 million published books in the world, and there’s no new problem we can have. Here are two useful books on lip injuries in brass players.
Lucinda Lewis’s Broken Embouchures is the book on lip injuries in brass players. If you think something might be wrong with your chops, you need to order it today.
Denver Dill’s Still Playing is another must-read book for the injured trumpet player. Denver has graciously agreed to make Still Playing available for free on Lip Rip Blues, and you can download it here in PDF format.
Jonathan Vieker (me)
If you’d like to talk to someone about your situation, please feel free to contact me.
When I first got hurt in 2010, many people gave me hours of their time through phone calls and over email. I owe them a huge debt, and since the only way I can repay them is to help others, I’m constantly looking for ways to do so. I’ve worked with over 30 injured players, and while I don’t have all the answers, I can at least point you in the right direction. Please get in touch if you’d like to talk!
I’ve written many articles on this blog about lip injuries, and you can see them all on the Archives page.
Below are a few of the many players and teachers who’ve helped me down the long road to recovery. These folks have given me permission to mention their names here. I’ve linked to their contact info/website in some cases, and please contact me to be put in touch with others.
Lucinda Lewis is the principal horn in the New Jersey symphony and a leading expert on embouchure injuries and recovery. Since overcoming a serious lip injury, she’s written two books on the subject and has worked with over 5,000 injured brass players.
She provides email consultations at no charge, and as far as I’m concerned, she’s a saint. Her encouragement has been invaluable, and her concept of “blocked buzzing” has proved very helpful for me and many other injured players.
Lucinda can be contacted through her website.
Dr. Simon McGrail
Dr. McGrail performed my lip surgery, and he’s a major reason I can play today. He is semi-retired, but still sees lip patients in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Please contact me for Dr. McGrail’s contact info.
Chris is a trumpet player based in NYC and a fellow patient of Dr. McGrail. Chris was a great help to me when I started to consider lip surgery and needed information on the process.
Please contact me to be put in touch with Chris.
James was one of the first players I contacted when I got hurt. He was very encouraging and gave me a lot of his time over the phone.
James can be contacted through his website.
Dr. Richard Cox
Dr. Cox is a physician, trumpet player, and chop expert. Dr. Cox was instrumental in getting my playing off the ground after my lip surgery, and I don’t know where I’d be without his guidance and encouragement.
Because of his dual background in trumpet playing and medicine, he has a rare understanding of both the medical and musical sides of embouchure problems.
Please contact me to be put in touch with Dr. Cox.
Brad Goode is Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He’s a fellow patient of Dr. McGrail’s, and it was Dr. McGrail who recommended I seek out Prof. Goode’s help when my embouchure problems first began.
Prof. Goode recommends and advises on changing basic embouchure technique as a method of recovery. My lesson with him really changed the way I thought about embouchure firmness, muscle engagement, and air use.
Prof. Goode can be contacted through his website.
Dr. Richard Lederman
Dr. Lederman is a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic and an expert on embouchure problems in brass players. I saw him for some lower lip problems in 2015, and it was well worth the trip to Cleveland.
Dr. Lederman can be contacted through the Cleveland Clinic website.
Bobby Shew is a living legend, one of the great jazz/commercial players and teachers of his generation. Bobby is a world-class chop doc, and his encouragement and advice kept me going when things looked grim. Consider a Skype lessons with Bobby — you won’t regret it.
Bobby can be contacted through his website.
Prof. Siebert is Professor of Trumpet at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Prof. Siebert is another fellow patient of Dr. McGrail’s, and he’s walked in my shoes. He gave me timely, sage advice.
Prof. Siebert can be contacted here.
Bert Truax is retired from the Dallas Symphony and a former student of James Stamp. I’ve found the Stamp methodology to be very helpful in recovering from injury, and taking a few Skype lessons with Bert really unlocked things for me.
Bert can be contacted through his website.
Lip injuries are no fun, but remember: you’re not in this alone. Use the resources on this page for help with the recovery process. If you don’t know where to start, email me.