Are embochue changes really practical.

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by hichez, Aug 29, 2009.

  1. hichez

    hichez Pianissimo User

    Jul 13, 2009
    I lurk on other brass forum sites and here often and I often find people work really hard on getting embrochuce changes then after they change the claim to have good practice habbits.

    Does anyone else think that probally if they would have worked hard enough with their current embrochue they could of had the same tone in the same amount of time. I know sometimes that embrochue changes are nessarary ,but according to a a previous teacher I had is that it automatically feels more natural.

    Anyone else agree?
  2. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

    Jul 28, 2009
    New Hampshire
    A good embouchure should feel natural. But many people when they start to play the trumpet aren't taught properly and don't realize that and they have bad embouchures which need to be improved if they want to advance beyond where they are currently.

    Most people don't need to change their embouchures. Indeed, many find it impossible, which makes it all the more important that someone have a good teacher at the beginning to be sure that the embouchure is natural feeling and good to allow unlimited growth.
  3. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    Remember mouthpiece placement is only one part of your embouchure , the way you use your lips, jaw, tongue and air make up the majority of an embouchure, so although two people may place the mouthpiece on the same spot on their lips, they could be using two entirely different embouchure,s , or place the mouthpiece in different places on their lips , but using their lips etc. the exact same way. There are almost as many different variations of embouchure's as there are players, so yes finding the right one is important, and to claim that only one works for every player , or by just practicing your old way, with very little improvement, you will miraculously gain sound ,range, endurance and flexibility is stealing the student's money and time. Now I'm not saying every player has to change their embouchure , but there are more than you would think, that could benefit from some sort of embouchure alteration ,it could be the way we use lips, or tongue or mouthpiece placement , so yes a change might help , it depends on each individual's needs.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2009
  4. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 24, 2005
    I think most people's chops evolve over time as good (or bad!) habits are learned and reinforced. Sometimes someone has learned very bad habits, or for whatever reason (bad or no instruction usually) has the mouthpiece in a very strange place on the lips gets to a point where they just can't progress. Then a "revolutionary" embouchure change may be required, but more often the "evolutionary" approach can get most people to a pretty good place, assuming they have a competent teacher leading them in the right direction.

    I have to admit though, that I've known a few very fine pros who had to do a big change as some point because for whatever reason, they had gotten as far as they could with some questionable fundamentals. So I guess the answer to your question would be that it's "sometimes" necessary, depending on the person, their current situation, and thier goals and work ethic.

    In my opinion, feeling "natural" isn't always going to be correct. Go to a driving range. See all those terrible swings? They all feel perfectly natural to their owners!
  5. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    I started playing in the 1950's when the standard embouchure that was taught (as far as I know) was what we call the "smile" technique where the edges of the mouth are pulled back tightly to pull the lips across the teeth, creating tension for the 'buzz'. I used that for all the years that I played and it seemed to work OK. Then I had a 30 year layoff. I picked up the trumpet again about 4 months ago and, of course, started back with my old embouchure method. It did not take too long for me to start to develop my range back. But, since I am now 30 years older, things do not work the same and I have had a great amount of difficulty gaining any endurance. After about 10 minutes of playing, my face muscles would be burning and I could not play anything. Even with practice, it did not seem that my endurance was building.

    So, after reading numerous posts on here as well as other online sources, I started experimenting with other approaches. I read about the 'pucker' method and I tried to use it but I could not make any sounds when I puckered. So, I have modified that and have started to use what I call the 'pursing' method. That method still involves pushing the lips forward rather than pulling them back tightly but not as far forward as a full pucker. I suggest that the lips be positioned as though one were preparing to spit out a watermelon seed.

    I have been able to detect two major differences between the two different emboucures. First relates to the muscles involved. The 'smile' method involves muscles below the cheeks at the sides of the mouth. The 'pursing' method involves the muscles around the mouth and lips. The second difference is where the lips vibrate to make the buzz. With the smile method, I feel the vibration right at the boundary where the mucous membrane of the lips joins the skin above and below the lips (I have very thin lips so this may not be the same place that others would feel the vibration). With the pursing method, the point of vibration is very slightly further back into the mouth, away from the skin. To picture this, think of how the lips vibrate when making pedal tones - at least the way I do it by putting the lips on the outside of the mouthpiece and using the fleshy part of the lips way inside of the mouth. With the pursing method, the vibration is back from the edge of the lips but only barely - not as far as with pedal tones. I cannot tell exactly how far it is but I would guess only about 1/16th of an inch or so. It is not far but far enough that the texture of the lips is softer and more flexible and so, it seems to me, more easily vibrates. Therefore, it is not necessary to put as much pressure on the lips with the mouthpiece or with the air. I am able to hit high notes with much less effort.

    There is a dual effect here. First, the playing requires less overall effort so I do not tire as quickly. Second, the muscles around the lips seem to have more endurance so they do not tire as quickly. I have proven this by using the smile method until my lips are completely shot and I cannot hit any note above middle C. Then I switch to the pursing method and I am immediately able to still hit up to high C a few times, and A below that for quite awhile longer before they give out again.

    An additional difference is that with the smile method, I required a very large mouthpiece. I had been using a Bach 1 1/2 or a Jettone Merian CX (almost Trombone size) or a Giardinelli 5M (semi large). With the pursing method, a small mouthpiece works much better. I currently use a Bach 10 1/2C or a Yamaha 11 but my overall favorite is an old Conn 5 which is very small. The upper range comes easier (I can actually hit an F above high C when very fresh) but the low tones suffer somewhat. I am still working on that part.

    So, I guess my point is, a change in embouchure can work if it is done for the right reasons with some sense of what the goal is along with a method of measuring how one is progressing (or not!) toward that goal so the proper adjustments can be made. So far, it is working for me although I would resist calling it a 'breakthrough' - more like a carefully monitored evolution.
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    On internet forums we mostly only read about posters TALKING about embouchure changes. Most of what is posted is "garbage" simply because the poster read something somewhere, thought about it during a couple of practice sessions and it suddenly became reality with miraculous results.

    An embouchure change is a very serious change of habit. It takes months if not years to accomplish and almost never results in anything instant - except frustration.

    So to answer your question NO. They are not practical. They are hard work and if not done right mess more up than they help as well as stealing time from musical improvement.

    My advice is to forget embouchure changes as a DYI activity, unless you are pretty far along, have good range and tone. It simply makes more sense to improve your practice habits and make more music not more technical stuff.
  7. trumpetnick

    trumpetnick Fortissimo User

    Nov 16, 2005
    Vidin, Bulgaria
    I am not an embouchure specialist (means I got no real experience with changing embouchure of other people), but it seems to me that any person willing to walk that path should be aware of the 2 different aspects:

    1. mouthpiece placement
    2. embouchure set up

    As Rowuk pointed out, this is serious business often with doubtful results.
  8. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    I changed my embouchure. I HAD to change it. My career depended on doing so.

    It took me 15 years to change it! On top of this, I had to make the changes while working as a professional in the Chicago area. This means I had to make my changes in subtle and careful steps so that I didn't damage my reputation. The trumpet scene around here can get pretty "catty" at times, so I had to do all of this on the sly.

    So, for ME, yes, the embouchure change was effective and needed. My trumpet playing years would have ended a long time ago if I hadn't made the changes.


  9. lakerjazz

    lakerjazz Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 10, 2006
    I had to change my embouchure, and as many other posters have said, it was not easy. If by practical you mean that it will be more beneficial in the long run, then embouchure changes are practical. The main purpose of a full lip-position change is to allow for a clearer sound, and many other aspects of trumpet playing (range, tonguing speed, etc.) are temporarily sacifriced. If you make a big embouchure change, it is essentially like starting all over again in the aspects of playing mentioned above. To answer your original question, I think that in many cases, without a proper embouchure (the definition of proper expanding to infinite reaches yet still somehow being restrictive), it is impossible to reach the level of playing, even with the extra practice, that you could have with the proper embouchure.

    Of course, the biggest problem is defining a proper embouchure. This is difficult to define with words, but I think we can pretty much see in persom when a certain player's embouchure is obstructing development.

    There is a good article on that talks about "correct mouthpiece placement": Mouthpiece Placement
  10. hichez

    hichez Pianissimo User

    Jul 13, 2009
    @ Al Innella

    I think he/she has the right idea. Its not always in the lips. Possibly changing lip positions may help improve your specific problem naturally ,but with proper focus it could have been obtained eventually. Take tim morrison he puffs lips when he plays. Even though hes pro and had time to well refine his embrochue he claims that it works best for him since it doesn't allow him to put to much pressure on the mouthpiece. He solved a problem with out a complete shift in embrochue.

    So I would have to say that is no such this as a "good" embrochue only a "right" embrochue. Sometimes I this that trumpet teachers often want to teacher their student the way they were taught. Nothing wrong with that but it doesn't work. Sometimes students should have enough sense to ask multiple sources. Like my trumpet teacher wanted me to change embrochues while I have braces. I asked my band director(trumpet) for a second opinion and he said "No". Even once I did try it for awhile no success. And with more practice the reason he wanted to change my embroche improved. Now he just casually brings it up. Maybe once the braces come off.

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