UPSTREAM / DOWNSTREAM CONSIDERATIONS (2/25/2011)
An additional important topic that should be discussed is whether you tend to be essentially an upstream or a downstream player. I have heard unconfirmed estimates that 80% of all trumpeters are upstream players, and the remaining 20% or so are, to some degree, downstream players. So, this information may affect you. First, let me define this terminology as I understand it, to avoid any confusion that may arise. My understanding is as follows;
An upstream player is a player who elects to put the mouthpiece lower on his lips, (e.g. as required for the Asymmetric mouthpieces; 1/3 on his top lip and 2/3 on his bottom lip), and directs the air stream up into the upper half of the cup. The Asymmetric Theory, (selectively inferred from Henderson, Reinhardt and Leno)* is that more and easier high register is to be obtained by doing this.. And, in order to enhance this configuration for the uppermost register, he will attempt to direct the air stream as close as possible to the upper rim by rotating the bell of his horn slightly down, a few degrees (around a fulcrum located somewhere inside of his bottom lip) when playing in the highest register. This also tends to force his lower lip up and reduce the aperture size (if the horn is held near the bottom of the valves).
Conversely, a downstream player is one who inverts the whole process by positioning the mouthpiece higher on his lips (e.g. 2/3 on his top lip and 1/3 on his bottom lip) and directing the air stream down toward the lower rim for the same reason i.e. in pursuit of the higher notes. Also, conversely, he can be seen rotating his bell up slightly to get the highest register notes.
Players tend to play one or the other of these two ways or possibly some mixture of the two, depending on their dentition and for a myriad of other reasons. And, extremely good results have been obtained with conventional mouthpieces, using either way. But, because of the metal inside of an Asymmetric cup, it is not possible for a downstream player to direct his air stream down or even straight into the cup. Realizing this, we, at Asymmetric, attempt to convert downstream players into upstream players by requiring the 1/3, 2/3 lip set (recommended by Arban), and by analytically pointing out the high register advantages of this. A prime design consideration here also, was to get the metal, inside of the cup, out of the air stream. Many players who either already play the 1/3 upper lip and 2/3 lower lip, set, or have made this easy conversion, have had great success with it. But, what about those players who cannot adapt? Our policy has been to say, "Sorry, the Asymmetric is just not for you."
But, over the past several years, more and more downstream players have written to Asymmetric to say that they are having great results with the Asymmetric mouthpiece by playing it UPSIDE DOWN (wider rim segment up). I usually said to them that my explanation for this was not confirmed by enough data yet. And that they should understand it to be just preliminary. I said that my feeling was that these (downstream) players possibly had the whole process inverted, and that they were like, "standing on their heads and playing". With this interpretation the entire asymmetric argument would still be valid and would explain these players' apparent success. Lower would become upper, upper would become lower, etc. But a definitive solution still eluded me.
Then, a few years ago, I got a call from a prominent Baltimore trumpet player who accidentally met and talked to Maurice Andre (probably the world's greatest classical trumpet player), on a plane over Japan. They were both on tour. He told me that during that conversation, he saw and they discussed Maurice's mouthpiece. He said he was calling me, because he thought I would definitely be interested in what he had found out. He said he was surprised to learn that Maurice plays an asymmetric mouthpiece (not mine but a similar one with a similar rim, i,e, half very wide and half narrow). But, the most surprising thing he said was that Maurice plays it UPSIDE DOWN, i.e. with the wider side on the top lip. I called this player just a few days ago to confirm the facts of this story, (they hadn't changed), because in light of the sparse but accumulating evidence, I had decided to post it on the Asymmetric website. So, what's the bottom line?
If you are an upstream player, and you are blowing directly into the top half of your cup (with most of the mouthpiece on your bottom lip), you can ignore this letter, because your Asymmetric will work fine. If, on the other hand, you are a downstream player (with half or more of the mouthpiece on your top lip), and are unwilling or unable to change this placement, we may have a solution. This will require further consideration. And, we may need more player data to confirm my suspicion. But, in the interim, if you are one of these downstream players, until this data becomes available, I recommend the following. Before you decide that the Asymmetric only works with the wide part of the rim pointing down -- so you can't use it -- invert your Asymmetric, use a 2/3 upper lip and 1/3 lower lip mouthpiece set, and blow into the bottom half of your cup, i.e.
TRY IT UPSIDE DOWN : YOU MAY BE IN SOME VERY ELITE COMPANY!!
Stay in touch.
John H. Lynch