Good players don't really think about their chops when playing music because they are concentrating on the SOUND and MUSICAL DIRECTION of what they are producing.
Good teachers can think about chops when NOT playing, but often (hopefully!) turn off the chops switch in their brain when playing the horn because they then need to concentrate on the music.
I studied for a while with Herseth, Voisin, and Ghitalla. Each knew quite a bit about chops but seldom talked about it. Whenever i asked questions concerning mouthpieces, chops, chops exercises and approaches, etc., I was always surprised by how
much they knew! I sometimes wondered why they didn't say more about these things unless pressed to do so. I think it is because the music comes first and these chop-type things don't need to come up unless problems are preventing the player from
expressing themselves on the horn like they are intending.
There are so many types of embouchures and development systems that it seems endless. Maybe it is! Here are a few main factors the way I see it:
1. Length of top lip vs. length of upper front teeth - This will have a huge effect on mouthpiece placement.
2. Straightness of front teeth (upper and lower) - This will have a huge impact on angle of the horn up/down and sideways.
3. Teeth occlusion - If there is an overbite of a quarter inch or more (like 90% of the people), the lower jaw will need to be thrusted forward a bit in order for the front teeth to be fairly well aligned. This will allow the bell angle to be
reasonably horizontal and will provide (usually) the best lips alignment for a brilliant, resilient buzz.
Bringing the jaw forward means that the temporo mandibular joints (TMJ) located just in front of the ears will be out of their sockets. Therefore, the skull can no longer support the lower jaw and the mouthpiece pressure (which can be up to 35 lbs.
even with top professional players!!!). Because the player now has a "floating jaw," the lower jaw will have to be supported mainly by the chewing muscles located near the back of the jaw.
When playing the trumpet, a floating jaw embouchure REQUIRES the muscles just BELOW the corners of the lips to firm up, creating sort of a "bulldog" facial expression when the lower jaw is moved forward to play properly.
Players with floating jaws include Herseth, Ferguson, Smith, Stevens, Ghitalla, Sandoval, Marsailis, Lindemann, Clarke, and many others. (Probably 90% of the pros!)
Players that do NOT have floating jaws commonly angle the horn down a little more than usual (but not always) and have very firm CORNERS. These players include Crisara, DiMartino, Tarr, Andre, Severinsen, Dokshitzer, Alpert, Mase, and many others,
Although most chop building exercises will work for everyone, the APPROACH will be different, depending on whether or not the player has a floating jaw or not. For instance:
LONG TONES - These seem to work best for people that do not have a floating jaw. Long isometric exercises where there is no movement at all will tend to cause a bit of a pinched tone for floating jaw players and can become too tiring. This is why
Clarke preferred "moving long tones" such as in his Technical Studies book.
PEDAL TONES - Players which utilize their lip CORNERS the most tend to like the manner (approach) as explained by Louis Maggio (remember the chimp photo?). These players will tend to tilt the bell DOWNWARDS when playing pedal tones. Conversly,
players with a floating jaw will find it difficut (if not impossible) to play pedals LOUDLY unless they tilt the bell UPWARDS and play with an exaggerated "bulldog" face. Claude Gordon played pedals in this manner.
LIP BENDS - These seem to help floating jaw players a lot, especially when encouraged to pucker the LOWER LIP to an extreme, and point the bell up slightly. The exercises work for the other type, too.
SHAKES VS. LIP TRILLS - Floating jaw players tend to have much more success with lip trills. The other type generally has better shakes.
Now, if we take into account Doc Reinhardt's embouchure types (classifications), you will find that there are several variations on the above two categories of players. Also, take into account that lead players and piccolo trumpet players have
opposite approaches to tongue arches because of the differences in sound qualities desired. We can also add in several new and worthwhile embouchure methods or approaches such as BE and TCE.
It is easy to see why many performers do not want to get into the jungle of "embouchure." As long as they have figured out their own manner of playing, they are fine. When teaching, they tend to offer their own opinions about what works for them. If
that manner of playing does not work for the student, they will need to be open minded and realize that there are numerous ways to play the trumpet, and much of it depends on each person's own physical characteristics and type of music to be
Too often, teachers and students do not get along because the teacher's own personal approach may not work for the student. If the teacher does not fully understand other approaches, the teacher will begin to think that the student isn't trying hard
enough. Likewise, the student will begin to feel that the teacher doesn't know what they are talking about because it isn't working. This leads to the student moving on to another teacher, being even more confused, and bad-mouthing the teacher to
everyone they talk to. It also means that the teacher will have a very low percentage of students that are successful.
So, in summary.....I feel that SOME THINGS WORK FOR SOME OF THE PEOPLE SOME OF THE TIME, BUT NOTHING CAN WORK FOR ALL OF THE PEOPLE ALL OF THE TIME. I just hope that people will not be too short-sighted and realize this.
Dave Hickman (Oh yes, I have a floating jaw.)