Trumpet Discussion Discuss Embouchure in the General forums; Just wondered if anyone has any thoughts on this.
I am a 52 year old trumpet player. My background is ...
Just wondered if anyone has any thoughts on this.
I am a 52 year old trumpet player. My background is British Brass Band. I switched full time to trumpet 2 years ago. I have been working up to a concert as a member of a horn section performing Blues Brothers and Phil Collins (Vine St. Horns) (( I am not a Harry Kim or Dan Fornero but I try!)) style material. I have noticed a change occurring to my embouchure. I have always played cornet and trumpet with a pulled in setting, lips flat/parallel to my teeth. Whatís happening now is that I am becoming increasingly aware that my lips are now going into a pucker with the sensation that the mouthpiece has moved away from my teeth. As a consequence I am losing some control of my playing. My sound is the same it just feels different producing it. I play a Yamaha 6335 heavy wall on a Denis Wick 3 mouthpiece with tone booster. As this happened to anyone else?
As many players develop a mature embouchure and the muscles strengthen, the players develop what is often called a "donut" embouchure.
Many photos of Maynard Ferguson and Bill Chase show such a "donut" as they are playing in the upper register.
For example, see the photo at
Instead of thin, weak muscles between your teeth and your mouthpiece,
you now have a round "donut" of bulging muscles between your teeth and your mouthpiece.
Does that sound like what you are seeing or feeling?
Last edited by Moshe Mizrachi; 09-23-2010 at 09:59 AM.
Thank you for the response. Yes it does feel like what you describe. The thought of developing a mature embouchure at my age is quite frightening. I suppose I need to adjust and develop this new setting with long tones, lip slurs etc. I was a half decent player on my original embouchure. Is their no going back? Is this change been brought on by me purposefully developing my high range? In British brass band Bb cornet is not usually called upon to go above high C. I have been working towards owning 4 ledger line G following all the advice/guidance I have read on Trumpet Master. ( Much to my wifes amazement,,,,, if that’s the right description)?
Last edited by Moshe Mizrachi; 09-23-2010 at 11:44 AM.
We need to be careful what we call develop vs what is the product of the way we play.
I prefer to think of developing a a cognitive process. We practice X and use it/refine it. What you describe sounds more like what is left over after rehearsals.
The embouchure is not the same as biceps or abs. The embouchure works by developing the fine motor control over the muscles. An Arnold Schwarzenegger face is the worst thing that can happen. It is a sign of tear down and build up instead of refinement.
The solution is actually not that tough. You need to slow down, develop the skills in the practice room and then apply them on stage. As you probably want to keep moving with the group you are in, I suggest playing more softly during rehearsals. If you are using a microphone, turn IT up and YOU down. Stop beating yourself up. Return to control.
The heavy walled horn and booster could also give you lots of projection, but reduce your ability to hear yourself as well. Start by leaving off the booster (just an experiment), change the height and angle of your music stand so that you blow right into it and hear yourself better - that is the first step in backing off some. Post back in a couple of weeks if less has turned out to be more!
Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
Thank you both very much for taking the time to respond to my post.
Just for your info the majority of my cornet playing was on a large bore sovereign using a wick 4 mouthpiece (front row/principle). I have like many brass players tried the mouthpiece safari; I now stick with what gives me the sound I want. This is changing too. The wick trumpet 3 sounded really bright a year ago but now I think the sound is darkening, so much so that I was thinking of trying something shallower. (but I won’t).
But back to the original point of my post. This change has not made me a better trumpet player. Yes I can player higher but at what appears to be a loss of flexibility and control of the instrument. I hope ROWUK is on to something with regard to me slowing down. My range practice has been pretty intense, every other day. Sometimes I have included range every day. But that routine induced the dreaded double buzz. When you are getting results you just want more! I am going to rethink my routine around heavy, light, light but any advice would be welcome.
When we play we are mic’ed up, so I will try and ease back a bit. But the sound of a sizzling D or E has a hypnotic effect on me. I need to act my age.
Thanks again, this really is a fantastic site.
the sizzle IS possible at half the horsepower. That is why Tower of Power for example, can perform for two hours. Intelligent use of available talent. Backing off can turn that D or E to an F or G. Eargasm on stage!
NO new embouchure
NO new books to buy
NO additional hardware needed
NO excuses at the end of a gig
I have helped so many players by helping them to get a life. I am very sure this is good medicine for you. The biggest advantage is that it is free and requires no break to learn new habits. More brain while playing can help other things too!
Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
First, if you feel like the mouthpiece is "moving away from the teeth, that's a GOOD thing IMHO!
Now, the doughnut thing is interesting, but I tend to think a bit more along the lines ROWUK is commenting on.
AS I have progressed over the years, I have found that it is more about FORM than strength. You could almost say it is about getting the feel of doing it more efficiently. AS your form becomes more efficient it is easier to hit "higher notes" (for lack of a better way coming to m mind to explain this), but it might make your chops feel "hair trigger" like. You might aim for a note and then overshoot. Again, I would say that this sort of efficient form is good, but you just need to get the feel of it to get control of it. Here's how you do it:
Sorry, I just had to do that!
IMHO, it sounds to me like you're doing fine.
Switching from the cornet to the trumpet will confuse the embouchure for quite a while and cause control problems.
You are switching from a #14 throat to what is probably a #26 throat.
And you are switching to a cup depth that is half what you were used to.
And a trumpet has completely different resistance from that of a cornet.
And the extra length of the trumpet affects how you hold the mouthpiece to the embouchure.
As you have already experienced, the trumpet requires a completely different playing approach from cornet.
Bill Chase used to recommend long tones to develop embouchure strength.
A classical player then said that was a bad idea because long tones interfere with flexibility.
But Bill Chase countered the long tones with lots of flexibility exercises so the objection from the classical player was groundless.
It sounds like you just need to have increased flexibility exercises in your practice.
You don't need less muscle in your embouchure.
You need to keep that large muscle development in your embouchure and train it better with flexibilty exercises.
"The embouchure is not the same as biceps or abs. The embouchure works by developing the fine motor control over the muscles. An Arnold Schwarzenegger face is the worst thing that can happen. It is a sign of tear down and build up instead of refinement."
A male ballet dancer has bulging muscles in his legs, but that does not prevent him from having fine motor control in his legs.
Large muscles and fine motor control are not mutually exclusive, they can and often do coexist.
Bill Chase had a large embouchure muscle "donut", but he also had the most amazing control of any player I have ever heard when he was in good practice, with double tongue and triple tongue and incredible flexibility and amazing control over a 4 octave range.
His work on flugelhorn was stunningly beautiful.
Moshe/Morris, the face muscles are a different type (type IIx) than the leg muscles (Type1) and the fine motor control is infinitely greater.
Muscle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Our faces are capable of controlled expression. A smile, a slur from C to E. That type of fine motor control is not present in the legs of even the finest ballet dancers. The reason is the type of muscle and the requirements on the body. Those vital face muscles are of the fast twitch type. Those muscles that we can show off are slow twitch.
BBC Science & Nature - Human Body and Mind - Muscles Layer
This also explains why endurance of the leg and arm muscles is much easier to train than for our embouchures.
Bill Chase is hardly an example for the rest of us. A very fine player that worked hard for what he had indeed, but a very specialized one.
Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
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