Missing levator anguli oris muscle and effect on embouchure?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by BORTrumpetMom, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. BORTrumpetMom

    BORTrumpetMom New Friend

    Jul 3, 2010
    North Carolina
    I have a question that I'm hoping someone can help me with. A couple of months ago, my son (a high school sophomore) had a freak injury caused to his lip by a hook on his braces that cut his mouth to ribbons. In pain and having to play a lot during marching band competition season, he apparently changed his embouchure slightly; pain and numbness ensued,and he had to rest for several weeks. A little over 2 weeks ago, the braces came off, so he is again adjusting (and met last weekwith the longtime teacher he has had--who is now living in another state and working on a doctorate,but was home over Christmas, who helped him adjust his embouchure ever so slightly). Before his longtime teacher came home, we took him to the pre-emininent trumpet teacher in the area, who tried to change his embouchure completely and told him that he had no muscle memory at the corners of his mouth. (This gentleman is a classical trumpeter, who advocates an embouchure in which the trumpet is placed 3/4 on the upper lip and 1/4 on the lower, and points downward). My son could not play that way; he plays jazz and symphonic and marching music and has used an embouchure in which the trumpet is 3/4 on the lower lip and points upward. He had been quite successful in district competitions prior to the injury using his old embouchure.

    It was my mother who reminded me that when my son was born, the doctor told me he had a slight but common birth defect--he was born missing the levator anguli oris muscle (I believe that's the correct name; it means that his smile doesn't curve upward on one side of his mouth). We were wondering if that might have an effect on his embouchure. When he was in sixth and seventh grade, he had to really work to be able to play the trumpet at all, and it wasn't until he began working with his longtime teacher that he became the better player he is today. We surmised that perhaps the old/current embouchure was one he could use successfully even with the missing muscle, and perhaps the embouchure that the specialist attempted to change him to was one that he was not successful with because of the missing muscle.

    At present, we are going with our longtime teacher's advice and "not fixing an embouchure that works for" him, but will have to start lessons again with someone--most likely not the pre-eminent teacher since he was insistent that my son MUST change his embouchure. Advice?
  2. trumpetsplus

    trumpetsplus Fortissimo User

    Jun 11, 2006
    South Salem, NY
    I'm an old-fashioned guy who has NEVER forced a student to change embouchure (although some of my students have gradually changed under my guidance as their playing developed).

    Let your son play where it works.

    Take lessons from someone who believes the value of recreational music making. Music for the sake of Music.

    From the tone of your post, it appears as if your son is not aiming for the principal chair in a major Symphony Orchestra, so avoid lessons from one who pushes him in that direction, or projects their own frustrations from not having succeeded in that aim themselves.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010
  3. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

    Nov 16, 2009
    Near Portland, OR.
    I find it very surprising that any teacher nowadays would advocate a unique way of placing the mouthpiece/horn.

    I believe that the same misadventure happened to a TM member from Finland, who had to break away from the academic teaching in order to make progress. Look at Wynton Marsalis. He placement is not like that, but his classical playing isn't too shaby.

    In any case, even if it is necessary to free up the upper lip a little to allow it to vibrate better, success is more likely as a result of a slow evolution than an abrupt change. Forcing anyone to change an embouchure that works well leads to unnecessary frustration, discouragement, sometimes giving up. Even if it does not work that well, any forced change that will result in the kid not being able to play what he used to be able to play will be hard to swallow.

    I would definitely get a second opinion.
  4. royjohn

    royjohn New Friend

    Feb 11, 2005
    It's been a few days since the last post in this thread but I just ran across it. If you follow the teachings of the late Dr. Reinhardt, folks have different embouchures based on their different dental stuctures and everyone has a different placement based on what is natural to them. IDK about the missing muscle, but a player who places the mouthpiece mostly on the lower lip is an upstream player who directs the air stream upward, moreso in the upper range. Because the majority of players are downstream, there are many "rules" about placing the mouthpiece 50-50 or 2/3's upper, 1/3 lower, but neither of these placements will work for natural upstream players, who are more likely to be 1/3 upper, 2/3's lower or even 75% lower. Changing a natural upstream player to downstream will ruin his embouchure and handicap him. Because some folks can manage to play both ways, a student can be swayed into continuing to radically change his embouchure, but he will never play as well downstream as he can upstream, if the latter is his natural embouchure.

    There are some videos of the various trumpet embouchures at www.wilktone.com's website --- there's a six part series on embouchures there for those interested. There is also a Reinhardt forum over at Trumpet Herald if you are interested. However, whether you delve into this or not, the basic message is, don't change an upstream player into a downstream one. The typical advice like "don't play on the red" or 2/3's upper, 1/3 lower just do not apply to these people. Put the mouthpiece where it feels comfortable and where it works the best and both of these are likely to be the same place. If I can help in any way, just let me know.
  5. JLSmith526

    JLSmith526 Pianissimo User

    Feb 16, 2010
    It might be beneficial to see if there is anyone in the area who studied with Bill Adam. I have had issues with one of my past teachers, so I found someone who studied with Bill and had the approach that it is less about where the mouthpiece is on the embouchoure and more about how everything sounds.

    Good luck.
  6. BORTrumpetMom

    BORTrumpetMom New Friend

    Jul 3, 2010
    North Carolina
    Thanks! He's now working with a retired trumpet teacher that I taught with a couple of decades ago, who has much the same approach to not changing what works--so I think we are okay at the moment. Thank goodness for such people!
  7. hichez

    hichez Pianissimo User

    Jul 13, 2009
    Glad to hear that. Just make sure he knows that he knows what is going on so he can make the decision about his trumpet playing in the future.
  8. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    I think the kid should - Play, and be happy. A lot of us trumpeters are competitive -- we usually want a higher note than the other guy, or to play faster than the other guy, or whatever -- better than the other guy.
    But I think you son should eventually develop his own sound, his own range, his own musicality of his expression--- he should play the trumpet in a way that makes him happy to play, and it should convey his "thought" and his "emotions" through the horn --- and after that is done -- well that will be defined as "success".

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