Sunday, December 06, 2009

Happy Holiday Hardware Hunting

Everybody loves scavenger hunts. (well at least you do if you're on the winning team).

So, readers of this blog, I'd like to propose a scavenger hunt that will most likely involve a trip to your neighborhood hardware store (and might invite a few stares, as well).

The theme: "Expensive Gadgets that May or May Not Help But We're Reluctant to Buy Them Because They Cost So Darn Much"

The first item is one I've discussed a posting some time ago. Please note, I'm not endorsing this thing (in fact, I don't endorse it!). I'm just saying that, if you really really want to get one, you can find a much cheaper version at the hardware store.
The device in question is the Power Lung. My blog posting, ETW (part 2), pretty much slammed it but pointed out that you could run to the hardware store and buy a ball valve that seems to do pretty much the same thing.

Ball Valve...89 cents
Power Lung Series P617B..$100 (on their website today)

Hmmm, which price do you prefer?

OK, so here are the next items I think we should hunt for. I haven't tried either one for aforementioned reason that they are somewhat pricey and I don't know if they're valid.

Hey, they may be great.....or maybe not. I dunno.

But.. if we can come up with a cheap hardware store version that does pretty much the same thing...COOL!

New Item #1: Chop Sticks
These are a working out of an idea that has been around for a long time...holding something like a pencil between your lips to strengthen the embouchure.

The starter kit of chop sticks rolls in at $24.95. Maybe it's great, maybe not.

Let's see if any of you are motivated to run to the hardware store to find something comparable and a whole lot cheaper.

New Item #2: P.E.T.E. The Personal Embouchure Training Exerciser
This is newer, I think. Once again, maybe great, maybe not. It costs $34.95 for the plastic version, $39.95 for the brass version and $69.95 for the gold-plated version.

Look closely at the shape of it and then try to find a good substitute.

If you find something that could work as a good substitute, email me the jpeg and I'll blog it.

Happy Holiday Hunting, Scavengers!

1 comment:

Greg said...

I agree that these products probably cost too much for what they are. Then again, they can only charge as much as people are willing to pay.

However, allow me to speak in defense of these products for a moment.

1) Powerlung - there are BIG differences between how something like powerlung functions and the ball valve at the hardware store. Powerlung has spring controlled valves. It creates resistance without restricting airflow, like the ball valve does. The harder you blow on powerlung the more the spring OPENS the valve. Because it encourages you to actually MOVE air it is most likely to actually strengthen the muscles associated with breathing.

I do not sell or endorse the product at all. I DO think it is overpriced, but it definitely can be an effective tool for good breathing. It has different settings for the resistance of inhalation versus exhalation.

If you feel a weird sensation in your inner ear or lots of tension when you use it, you have the resistance set too high. The best way to use it is with the resistance turned down fairly low. It adds just a little bit MORE resistance but still lets you move a lot of air. When I practice with it like that I feel the need to hyperventilate until my body adapts to having that much oxygen in the lungs. Blowing through a trombone after doing that always feels so much easier!

P.S. I got my Powerlung free as a prize. However, I'm not sure it would be easy to making something with two adjustable spring valves and a mouthpeice for less than at least $30.

2) Chop Sticks -- Okay, I completely agree these are a waste of money. Buy a metal rod (preferably stainless steel) and cut it to the right length. This should cost less than $3. Are these beneficial? Possibly, but I think the PETE is probably better for what it does. Then again, if you think the key to playing higher/louder is how tense you can make your embouchure, then you will probably make things worse with something like this.

3) PETE, this is definitely overpriced -- but I'm not sure how to make a good substitute for this. I'd prefer to make something out of plastic if possible so you don't risk damaging your teeth. I'd definitely be interested in trying something like this for a few weeks.

I think these products, when used in a careful/intelligent way by the right people for the right reasons can probably do a lot to increase muscular endurance -- both in the embouchure as well as the abdominal and diaphragmatic muscles.

That being said, we should also -- at the same time -- strive to use as little muscle when we play as is absolutely necessary to achieve the correct musical result.