The late Delbert Dale and his take on embouchure

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by DanZ_FL, Jul 11, 2009.

  1. DanZ_FL

    DanZ_FL Pianissimo User

    Jun 16, 2009
    Clearwater, Florida
    The late Delbert Dale and his take on my embouchure

    Hey all, I just wanted to share this with you as it relates to the importance of having a qualified teacher in one's life during one's developmental stage and into advanced playing.

    I started playing in fifth grade. I played organ since second grade and had already learned the fundamentals of basic music so playing the trumpet had a bit of a jump start, music-wise.

    As a cocky little kid I excelled in elementary band and was even spoiled enough to get a bach strad 37 by 6th grade. Now, times were different then and my parents were hardly rich but I'm sure that horn cost more than average for them in '76.

    Anyway, to the point of my post -- despite the fact that I was carrying the first trumpet roles and such at my childhood level at the time, I was not playing correctly and, if left unchecked, would have likely comprimised my potential to the point of ultimate failure. Teachers at my elementary level addressed breathing from the diahprahm, minumum pressure, etc., but did not directly address embouchure. Probably because I was making nice sounding notes within the range I was playing at the time.

    Entering my freshman year of high school, I began studying with, in my opinion, one of the greatest teachers at the time for aspiring youngsters, Delbert Dale, who immediately saw an issue particular to me that needed correction. In his opinion, I was playing with too little upper lip and moving the mouthpiece around too much through octaves. He said with my method of playing I'd hit roadblocks that would not let me excel.

    So, as a 9th grader I swallowed that bitter pill and worked on the makeover of my embouchure under Mr. Dale's supervision. It was tough but I'm am forever grateful now. His guidance taught me how to be conscious of the proper muscles in the face to use and got me on a more even keel as far as upper lip/lower lip percentage (He pushed for a 60% upper lip which I don't think I can approach but I certainly got away from cookie-cuttering my upper lip to achieve range and learned how to form a base of efficient muscle use and about a 50/50 placement).

    The only purpose of this post is to share with you all my personal experience early in life on the importance of learning a foundation of good habits. If not for the issues I addressed early on I would not have been able to go to a high-profile music university with a major in trumpet, nor would I be able to work towards playing again after nearly twenty years away from my axe.

    Hope everyone's having a great weekend,

  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    the dangerous thing about your post is that the uninformed reduce Mr. Dales work to a couple of percentages for meat portioning.

    There was certainly MUCH more to what he did - most of which he never needed to tell you because it was right in the first place. You will never know that part.

    Embouchure tweaking is a consummate art involving ears, body, soul and breathing. That is why I really criticize the DIY approach. They may even understand the mechanics, but something else critical is almost always missing.

    What to me is significant is that you turned your fate over to this guy and listened to what he said. I assume that you didn't try to second guess him or ask all over the internet if what he was doing was good.
  3. DanZ_FL

    DanZ_FL Pianissimo User

    Jun 16, 2009
    Clearwater, Florida
    Honestly, at the time I wasn't exactly happy about it, but the desire for long term gain won over short term successes. I don't think many of us are mentally mature at that age, and breaking bad habits is difficult even with a strict teacher.

    And yes, Mr. Dale was so much more than just his concept on embouchures. At the time I studied with him, he had already suffered bell's palsy and could not play a note himself. Despite this he was still able to push you to your limits in both the technique and musicianship of playing. We did LOTS of student recitals.

    He also wasn't for everyone. Two other players I went to high school with left him (or it may have been the other way around) when he kicked them out of their lessons because they didn't work on what he wanted them to that week. How awkward that would have felt!
  4. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    That is unusual for a freshman! How much of was you, and how much Mr. Dale? Any insights you can share?

  5. DanZ_FL

    DanZ_FL Pianissimo User

    Jun 16, 2009
    Clearwater, Florida
    I think he managed me through fear on that one, VB. Most of it was him and little, if anything, was me.

    He knew I wanted to pursue trumpet into college even at that early age so he basically told me that ain't happenin' if I don't correct some things. He told me the pieces I'd be working up to would present flexibility and range issues that others would be better than me at. He was good at getting into your head and using your own competitive nature to get done what he wanted to get done.

    The student recitals we did a few times a year were probably more motivation than anything going in high school band. He would always make a point to point out a strong aspect of another student's playing -- tone, finger technique, phrasing etc. Though he presented himself as a strict disciplinarian hardass during lessons, you could still see the joy he had on those recitals days. All proud of his little stable of aspiring players.:cool:

    Thanks for letting me reminisce here in this thread. I'd be interested to know if anyone else who hangs out here studied with him in Indianapolis back in the day.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2009
  6. hose

    hose Pianissimo User

    Oct 31, 2003
    Orlando FL
    I never studied with Delbert. However, I was an original member of the Indpls Brass Choir which he founded in about 1986. Many of us drove him to places because his health would not permit him to drive. Spent a lot of time with Delbert. I have an unedited copy of his orginal method book. I would probably have been one of his students whom he kicked out of the lesson.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2009
    DanZ_FL likes this.
  7. PhxHorn

    PhxHorn New Friend

    Apr 20, 2011
    This is a couple years late, but I studied with Mr Dale from '81 to '84 in high school. He also changed my embouchure, which had been spread-out, into one that was much more focused and in the process gave me a career. A few years ago I started working out of some Donald Reinhardt materials (and getting advice from his former students), and a fair amount of what Delbert taught me lined up exactly with Reinhardt. I think Reinhardt just took it farther.

    DanZ, would you be Dan Zadroga?

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