"Playing with the Same Embouchure"

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by keigoh, Dec 17, 2015.

  1. keigoh

    keigoh Pianissimo User

    Oct 24, 2012
    So I frequently hear the phrase, "play with the same embouchure", like when I go from the middle register to the upper register, or to the lower register. The phrase honestly sounds pretty fishy to me, because I don't think it is possible to play different notes without changing the embouchure. Does the phrase mean to keep the change to a minimum? Would anyone please give me some input on this?
  2. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    Keigoh, the phrase "playing with the same embouchure" is often stated, but the meaning is usually misinterpreted and more often given by someone who is not face to face with the player. Too, IMO it does not mean to abandon your set of the mouthpiece or abruptly change it. It simply means to hold to the guidelines of preserving the embouchure in all ranges. Mostly the only change required for range adjustment is the aperture and the rest is wind management.
  3. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    I think it means not resetting your mouthpiece on a different spot.
  4. barliman2001

    barliman2001 Fortissimo User

    Jul 5, 2010
    Vienna, Austria, Europe
    "Don't change your embouchure" means that if you're contemplating a change in your mouthpiece-lip-relation to achieve something out of your normal range, you should not, i.e. not press much harder for that triple high C squared, or suddenly tilt the mouthpiece differently to reach that bottom note.
    If you need that kind of thing, your embouchure should be looked at by a teacher because it then might have some kind of developing flaw... and
    "it is the little rift within the lute
    that by and by will make the music mute."
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    This is a very good question, shows a lot of what is commonly stated and how easy it is to pull out of context.

    First of all, an embouchure built without Armstrong as its major parameter is a dynamic thing where the aperature gets smaller when we play softer and/or higher or bigger for lower and louder. The size is controlled by the tension of the muscle and pressure of the air separating the lips in a pulsed manor. When we use too much mouthpiece pressure, we lock the lips into a specific position and only air pressure is available to change the pitch, until the lips swell or collapse entirely.

    This means we can work on the air pressure/lip tension factors to improve our range and simply have to insure that we are not using so much arm pressure that the lip position gets locked. Our sound becomes more or less consistent to a specific high note (where muscle tension and air pressure work together) then simply gets thinner until all that is left is a sqeak.

    That being said, there is an alternative that a successful player Nick Drozdoff has posted here a couple of times. He calls it High Gear/Low Gear and actually uses a different mouthpiece set for lead playing than for standard playing. It works for him, but I have never had any luck with it, so I can't really explain what he does, except practice a lot.

    In my world, the embouchure is a dynamic thing that I really never discuss with my students. They get exercizes that program the correct motion patterns and promote good breathing habits. The rest does not require intellectualization. I teach using the Earl Irons lip flexibility book and beginners generally have a solid C above the staff within a year. I have one student now who after 5 years has much better range than I do. That has more to do with his balance of practice to performance and some natural talent that I do not have. We never really started working specifically on the high range, we simply let the high notes be a relaxed sqeak at first and then progressively added more air pressure to match lip tension.
  6. Lukarino

    Lukarino Pianissimo User

    Dec 8, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    Wait a sec... High C above the staff after one year? What? I have been playing for 3 and a half years, and I am still barely squeaking out that note. I practice every day, am the only freshman in our symphonic band, and have a private lessons teacher. But a high C? :shock: Should I get this book?

    Edit: Now that I think of it, I was taught the wrong embouchure which my dad (a former professional trombone player) did not notice until recently. About 2 months ago my dad (who is my interim private lessons teacher until we can get ahold of the one I had) reshaped my embouchure so that I have a flat chin and such, as I was taught by a percussionist who did not know what he was doing. Since then my range has improved to a solid high Bb or so above the staff, much better than the G above the staff I was barely squeaking out before the change. That high C will come soon enough. I kind of answered my own question as to how that could be played so early... Because I wasn't taught right. But the book still seems like something that wouldn't hurt to own.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2015
  7. richtom

    richtom Forte User

    Dec 7, 2003
    Rowuk is an exceptionally good teacher. He teaches how to use air properly and uses the right studies to to reinforce his teachings.
    I was lucky. I had two outstanding teachers. One in high school who gave me the basics and another in college who was one of the first Chicowicz students.
    Both taught proper use of air.
    Books are nothing without the right teacher guiding you.
    Rich T.
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006

    one year. It isn't the book. It is monitored practice, it is practicing what we can't do, it is letting the horn do its resonant thing instead of trying to "conquer" the notes. My students memorize the lipslur routines and we play them to each other at EVERY LESSON. That way they NEVER see the "high note" that they are playing - they simply play the slur with ease and grace. Most of the time I play first and they emulate. On especially good or bad weeks, I turn that around. They notice immediately when I make the mistake that they just did, they notice when I emulate how well they are doing without me saying a word.

    You gave me three reasons why progress is slow:
    "I practice every day, am the only freshman in our symphonic band, and have a private lessons teacher"

    It is not how much or with WHOM you work or even the fact that you are in band. It is HOW you practice - NEVER beating your face up, developing proper body use so that the body is PREPARED for a big low tension inhale. Intelligent long tones designed to get your lips to fire without a tongued attack - even at pianissimo. Achievement is the sum of thousands of small steps. One day of marching band to underdeveloped chops can mean weeks of work thrown down the drain. Master Blasters never have a chance.

    Don't get me wrong, you have a lot to be proud of. Your band obviously has quality standards that you are meeting, having a private teacher is a luxury that many here at TrumpetMaster do not have and the discipline to practice every day is something that even less TrumpetMasters have! Still, at the end of the day, it is about us and our ability to hear what our body is telling us. A young adult in puberty HAS issues with hormones that often lead to an "impulsive" approach to practicing. This often means that WE try to make the horn do something instead of simply giving it what it needs. In german, the trumpet is called "Die" Trompete - in french "La" trompette - it is a feminine word. It wants to be treated like a lady. THAT is the key to getting truly better.
  9. Msen

    Msen Piano User

    Dec 28, 2011
    I live in the Horn
    rowuk, what do you mean?
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Armstrong is using your right arm to apply excessive pressure to compensate for deficient breathing and embouchure development. Arm pressure stretches the lips making higher notes possible until the embouchure starts to swell, or the muscles simply can't function any more. All players use some degree of pressure.

    I do not advocate revolution by immediately stopping to use pressure, as everything collapses. The road to success is evolution, learning to breathe properly into the prepared body and developing habits to replace "armstrong" bit by bit. It can take 6 months to a year to evolve, I think that it is worth it.

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