Quote Originally Posted by Manny Laureano
Okay, let's tackle this.

As I was coming up, it became obvious to me that there were people that stayed quite still when they played and people that moved all over the place. Well, up and down, mostly. The folks that stayed the samed seemed to have relatively few problems and the ones that moved vertically had inconsistent sounds. I became aware of the fact that I didn't move much when I happened to see my bell in a mirror as I was playing an arpeggiation of some sort. It became a bit of a game and I tried to play as low and high as I could without the bell in the mirror moving. To this day, I'm still like that and noticed it again when Dave made the video clips with me at Orchestra Hall.

There are ALWAYS exceptions to any situation. Vince Cichowicz is a perfect example. He pivoted quite a bit when he played but his sound was always centered.

I have to believe that the embouchure functions best when movement is minimal. I think of the embouchure as a point of stabilization, a foundation. Even the best built skyscrapers sway a bit in a strong wind but it won't topple as a result of some flexibility.

Here's the way I think it should work:

The corners or the buccinator muscles should have a supple firmness to them like any well-developed muscle. The center part of the embouchure needs more suppleness or flexibility to open and close subconsciously in response to the demands of pitch made by the thinking part of the brain. It's sort of like a large soap bubble. There's the outer part which connects to a given flat surface and the inner part that moves while the outer stays attached. When there's too much strain on the outer part it bursts.

Strength is required to maintain the "fixed" embouchure. Without that strength, as a player ascends into the upper register the corners will curl up and weaken. The sound gets thinner and gradually a different sound emerges. So, when a player plays flexibility exercises, if there is an undue collapse of the corners, the mouthpiece angle slowly changes downward. The problem is that there is ony so far you can continue the downward slope before the embouchure is completely corrupted and the pitch is way sharp.

The key is to always listen to the quality of sound. If you play and the sound is clear and centered, I don't particularly care what angle you have, it's the right one. If you ascend or descend and you are capable of maintaining the optimal sound THAT is what is most important. Any exercise you play must have the clarity of sound as its ultimate goal.

If a player does too much curling of the corners, that will affect the sound. If a player engages in consciously arching the tongue without regard to sound/center quality, that will affect the sound. If a player tries to play every tone without allowing the embouchure to make its many fine adjustments, in essence freezing the lip, that will affect the sound.

Some people will like those sounds and others will not. One very important thing I learned from Alexander technique lessons is to keep the templo-mandibular joint relaxed. That is, the point where the jaw meets the temple part of the skull needs to feel loose and almost separated. Try that right now. Pretend to disengage the two sections of your skull and you'll feel what a liberatingly relaxed feeling that is. Notice how the throat opens, as well? That's important. Now here's the problem: you're going to notice how flat your upper register is if you actually manage to maintain that position. That's why I play the particular brand of mouthpiece I do. I can play relaxed and in the center without worrying about my upper register going flat. 'Nuf said about that.

Center, sound, core... that's what we want and keeping things from moving around is a good start for most of us without worrying about the exceptions for right now.

This is an example of the insight Manny brings to teaching you how to play the trumpet. I am lucky enough to have had a lesson with him and am looking forward to many more in the near future!

Manny, this is also an example of why I keep asking for you to consider writing a book on trumpet playing. There is so much incredible knowledge of trumpet playing in that head of yours that needs to be shared with young players.

I wish all of you could meet Manny in person. His posts here on TM are a mere shadow of his persona and not nearly as helpful as actually having him teach you by playing a passage for you.

Sometimes, in life, you just know when you are in the presence of real genius; having Manny instruct you is like that.


Greg Zent