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Lessons with Jerome Callet

Callet play double high C
(Callet play double high C - click to see larger image)

Jerome Callet
Jerome Callet is an embouchure clinician. For many years he was also a designer and manufacturer of brass instruments. At age 73, he has sold the brass instrument business and use his time teaching and giving clinics on embouchure.

He started to play trumpet at age thirteen. Although he studied with several famous trumpet teachers, and dedicated himself laboriously to mastering the instrument, by age thirty he still could not play a high C.

He began a lifetime of research analyzing the physical elements necessary to develop a "Super Power Embouchure." After much trial and error, by the age of forty, Jerome had developed his new embouchure. He published his findings in 1972 in a book called Trumpet Yoga. In 1987, he made a video and a book called Superchops.

Together with Baroque trumpet player, Robert Civiletti, he published a 3rd book in the Autumn of 2002.

In this recent book, Trumpet Secrets, Jerome has developed what he now calls the Tongue-Controlled-Embouchure (TCE). In the foreword, he says:

"The purpose of this book is to provide insight into a method that can overcome all the physical obstacles of playing the trumpet and all other brass instruments. Many of my ideas are not new and have been used by the greatest players for more than three hundred years."

Aarhus, March 2004
Saturday, March 13 - 2004, three trumpet players and one euphonium player from Norway, drove down to Aarhus in Denmark to meet Jerome Callet. He was invited by the Danish Music Union (DMU) to give clinics in Copenhagen and Aarhus. Some of us tried to get into one of these clinics, but DMU would only accept professional players. But we managed to get private lessons with him in Aarhus.

Callet first wanted us to do what he calls ”spit-buzzing”. In his book, Trumpet Secrets it is described like this:

To ”spit-buzz”, imagine spitting a hair off the top of the tongue but the hair never leaves the tongue.

Then we were asked to transfer this into our instruments. None of us managed to do it with any success. Some had too little opening between the teeth, others did not spit like we should, but only ”hoo’ed” air through the horn. Or, it was too much buzzing sound and not a true spit-buzz, resulting in low compression. Callet emphasize the use spit-buzz  - it is a "door opener" into TCE.

A problem with a text description of such a technique (spit-buzz), is that you have no sound or visual information. We all heard that none of us could do it like Callet. Some had already bought his book and had been trying on their own, but with little success. This show that the book alone is not enough to really understand how TCE work.

Einsetzen and Ansetzen

Callet play double pedal C
(Callet play double pedal C - click to see larger image

Back in the days of natural horns, players used to specialize in high or low register playing. The low players used an embouchure called Einsetzen (setting in) and the high note players used Ansetzen (setting on, setting against.) In the Romantic era when valve instrument was invented, hornplayers had to master both embouchures and this new "full range" made those old techniques obsolete. About Einsetzen and Ansetzen, Callet said this in an interview:

My greatest playing revelation came to me one day, October 13th 1970, when I was able to combine the old German French Horn embouchure of Einsetzen and Ansetzen. After 45 minutes of double pedal tones, I was able to play from double pedal C to double high C.  This was done with very light mouthpiece pressure on my lips.

He showed us how he start on a double pedal C and then slide up to double high C (5 octaves) - and down again. When playing the  pedal tone, he uses the same method as the "low horn players" used in the old days, Einsetzen. He places the rim against a very rolled out lower lip, most of the mouthpiece cover the upper lip (see photo above). The lips moves forward and feels thick through the whole register (double pedal C – double high C). When he get into the normal register the placement of the mouthpiece is  more 50 / 50 (see top photo). But, the lips are not rolled in and the upper lip has a rolled out position.

If you set for middle C, you should use
Ansetzen. The rim is placed on the upper lip and gently moved up, dragging the upper lip up a little and keeping it rolled out. By this, the red, softer inner tissue of the lip take more part in the vibration and create a better focus for the tone. When the  tongue is moved forward between the lips (in the high register), a strong compression is created. The tongue is wide and thick against the inside of the lips. For this to work, the opening between the teeth (molars) must always be good. In Trumpet Secret this is described with an opening from 12 to 16 millimeters.

Use of the air
The higher in the register one play, the less air one need. What is needed is a strong compression of the air. This is what the active forward tongue help achieve. The tongue take part in the vibration and function as a "wedge" between the lips. By contracting the stomach muscles one get good support for the compression. In his book this is discussed under part 2 of the 5 Secrets.
Even among professional players there is a tendency of ”overblowing” - by using too much air instead of compression. This destroy the lips ability to resist the air and vibrate freely - the result is more mouthpiece pressure and then loss of endurance and range.
The greatest challenge in TCE is perhaps to hold back. If one blow too hard or press and squeez the lips together in the high register, the sound suddenly cuts off. One must develop this balance (between compressed air and lip/tongue resistance) methodically and only ascend slowly in the register, keeping a good opening between the teeth all the time.

Flat chin

Callet adjust Olaf's chin
(Callet adjust Olaf's chin - click to see larger image)

Some of us who have been using the method that Farkas and others teach, with a flat chin, got into trouble when trying to do TCE. It was two opposing forces fighting each other. To get a more relaxed and bunched chin, Callet put his hand on the chin and moved it upwards (see photo). This opened up the sound and made higher pitches easier to play.

Mouthpiece, medium size, shallow and well "balanced"
The playing technique that Callet has discovered, does not favor big mouthpieces. On his many travels around the world, he checks all mouthpieces he finds. First he simply put his finger into the cup and feel how it is. If he find anything of interest, he then checks it more thorough. A while ago, he discovered such a mouthpiece. According to Callet this is a well ”balanced” mouthpiece.

Rediscovering an old technique

Callet got an email just before leaving for Denmark. In this mail was a quote from a letter Herbert L. Clarke wrote to Fred Elias in 1940. Here, Clarke says that he used his tongue as it is described in Trumpet Secrets. It happened while Clarke was soloist with the Sousa Band, and he used it when he was tired but still had to play a solo. Clarke call it a ”stunt”, and this is perhaps the reason why he never mentioned it in his books? Clarke says in the letter:

I have often reached two octaves above "G" in the top space of the scale...Sometimes higher. This takes no strength, power nor strain.  It is so simple that one is astounded at the results.

Callet was very excited to get this knowledge. He had found other evidence that this use of the tongue had been practiced in earlier times. Jules Levy used it, and described it in his book from 1895. Callet look at his own contribution mainly as a rediscovery of an old technique.

o.j. 2004 - Great thanks to Erik and Torben Bonde for helping to get a room in Aarhus for our lessons with Callet!