Downstream vs. Upstream

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by jazz9, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Before we get any issues here, we need to consider a couple of things:
    1) finding the "right" embouchure is NOT the key to high notes or even playing trumpet. I see a tendency here at TM for especially young players to blame the embouchure for everything and that is PLAIN BS. They play crappy because there is no structure in their approach
    2) teachers that teach "embouchure" are often doing NOBODY any favors. Young players that get a healthy daily routine early very often gravitate to their natural best playing. The upstream students that I have had, generally got a tip to hold the trumpet differently, without me going into detail why. I really consider it important when you are in your development stage to carry as little ballast as possible. only reading or understanding half of something makes the information dangerous. That is why I absolutely refuse to patch embouchures over the internet. The dummy that assumes because they have no double C that their embouchure is bad has a big chance of trashing the little that they have with an embouchure that is even less suitable.
    3) it is generally good regardless of embouchure, to tuck the chin in some. See the body use tips here: David G. Monette Corporation

    The players with different embouchures will point the horn relative to the lips and jaw, not the tucked in chin.

    My standard method for new students is to get the breathing and body use together first. After that a daily routine is a GREAT low impact way to discover things. Relatively small changes tend to give the best results. We are not talking about inches and 45° difference in angle between these "embouchures". The fine tuning can be as easy as not putting 4 fingers between the third slide and bell, rather two up two down or in extreme cases 1 up 3 down. I find a much bigger difference in what we do for articulation exercizes.

    Again, this is stuff for a qualified teacher. The chance of getting it right with DIY is practically zero.
  2. ChaseFan

    ChaseFan Banned

    Mar 25, 2008
    I spent many years trying to play with the embouchure that I saw other people using, because I didn't know that there was any other way, and my playing was absolutely pitiful because of it.

    Let's assume that you have a downstream embouchure.
    If you tried to play upstream because that is all you saw other people do,
    or because some teacher told you to, I guarantee that your playing would be so pitiful that you would give up after few weeks and you would never want to return to playing trumpet.

    For example, read again the testimony of professional Andrea Tofanelli at
    which I quote below.


    When i began to study at the Conservatory (i repeat that here in Italy
    is different from US, where the Conservatory is considered like an
    University), as i narrate you before, i was already working in the
    Tuscany area with bands, dance music bands, big bands and also something
    with classical music.

    My embouchure was strong, i played with 1/4 higher lip and 3/4 lower
    lip, with my trumpet inclined up (like now) and the lower lip open on
    the red part.

    You know that embouchures are different from trumpeter to trumpeter.

    There is not only one right embouchure for everyone, because everyone has
    his own face, jaw and teeth formation, so i think your embouchure should

    be the most natural possible.

    But my teacher got the terrible idea to change my embouchure, telling me
    to play in the most known classical embouchure, that is 3/4 higher lip
    and 1/4 lower lip, inclining my trumpet down ...what a disaster!

    I can not play like anything more, and after two lines of an excercise my lips
    were... cooked. I did 3 years like this, and my teacher did not know
    what to do.

    I keep on working in the Tuscany area as before but playing 3rd or 4th trumpet in the sections. I really was down, and very sad. One day i decided to talk with my teacher, with the suppot of my parents, and told him that i wanted to come back to my natural embouchure. It was the only thing to do, because also other experiments we tried were been a failure.

    He agreed, and i started again to study my embouchure.

    In less than 4 months i was ok, but not completely. In fact, i was not able
    to find again the exact embouchure i had before entering at the
    Conservatory. So, i was able to play and do again lead trumpet and take
    successfully my intermediate examinations at school, but there was
    something different, and i was not completely satisfied.

    Two months before my final examination for the diploma i read about

    Mr Armando Ghitalla's seminary in Italy and i went there immediately.

    He told me to put my lips into the mouthpiece, but without changing my high
    inclination of the horn, and try to play very closed, building a wall
    with my's hard to explain with words, but when my alumns see
    it, they immediately understand.

    Anyway, mr Ghitalla did the miracle...i changed again my embouchure, as mr Ghitalla told me, and i followed and practiced all the things he explained during the seminary. After a month i was a new trumpeter, a new life was started and i did my final
    examination at the Conservatory successfully, with highest full marks (10 and praise, the only one in trumpet in all the story of the Conservatory of Lucca).

    You know the rest...


    It doesn't have to be complicated.

    The player can do a 1-minute experiment to see which trumpet tilt gives the best tone and range and flexibility. Trumpet slightly tilted up, straight out, or slightly tilted down.

    Then the player can do a 1-minute experiment to see which mouthpiece position gives the best tone and range and flexibility. Playing slightly above center of the mouthpiece, in the center of the mouthpiece, or slightly below the center of the mouthpiece.

    Those 2 simple experiments will get most players on the right track.

    As opposed to teachers like that of Andrea Tofanelli who insist that all players should play with more upper lip than lower lip on the mouthpiece and that all trumpet players should tilt the trumpet slightly downward.

    Making sure that he is using the general embouchure type that he was born with won't make a person an instant great trumpet player.
    It merely removes terrible obstacles so that the player can then practice his butt off for the next 20 years to become a great trumpet player.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2009
  3. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    ChaseFan - Great summation of a lengthy and complicated discussion. Just an grandson started middle school band this year. I was concerned how the teacher would have the kids determine their embouchure (there are 20 new trumpet players in the 6th grade band - not counting all of the other brass instruments). When I visited my grandson recently (he lives in Texas), the way that he explained the first days in the class match exactly what you explained above. So, at least that teacher is enlightened on the matter.
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    we have no arguement. Maybe a difference in opinion about the order of things. Without having your breathing and body use reasonably together, you can move the mouthpiece around all that you want. You will not necessarily discover anything. I spent 2 summers with Mr. Ghitalla. He did not get into any big discussions about angles, upstream or downstream. He talked about gravitating to your "natural" position and gave exercizes to reinforce that.

    Upstream players are at a big disadvantage because most of the "role models" are downstream. I guess as a teacher I have been lucky. Gravitation has worked for everybody (except 3 players - none of which were upstream) that I have had.
  5. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

    Nov 16, 2009
    Near Portland, OR.

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