O.J.'s Trumpet Page Resources

"The moving embouchure"

A lot of players, especially among amateurs, play with a very static embouchure setting. They will use air and moutpiece pressure to change the pitch but not move the lips. This way of playing is very, very inefficient and very taxing. Like the story Frank Simon tells about himself: "you have no endurance."
Below I have tried to explain what can be meant by "the moving embouchure":

"Stepping up and down the stairs"
Herbert L. Clarke use this metaphor when he describes how to move the lower lip when playing a melody. This can be found on page 5 in his book "Setting Up Drills":

Below is an example showing the movement of the lower lip; it illustrates the lifting and lowering of the latter according to the different intervall and using the same method of contracting and relaxing with the movements of the lower lip. The simple, little exercise is one of Arban's in the beginning of his celebrated method. I have used this exercise, which every Cornet player knows, to demonstrate as far as possible with the help of lines under each note, how the lips move for the different intervall; this instead of blowing more for higher tones and less for longer tones, or pressing the mouthpiece against the lips while ascending. There is no visible pressure necessary in the entire exercise, just the slight lifting and lowering of the lower lip, according to the melody.

This suggestion should be experimented with, and playing softly, so as to form the habit of keeping the lips in motion while playing. This will train the lip muscles properly, and will relieve the tension of the lips, in order that they will never become numb and useless.


"The silent whistle"
Clyde Hunt has yet another way of describing this moving embouchure:

 Hello All,

Several people asked for further info. Into "silent whistle", especially as it relates to the Technical Studies. (See earlier Clarke/Frank Simon post).

 Here's the objective. EVERY note we play has a "best" setting to insure: accuracy of pitch, purity of tone, and great "resonance". Try this experiment: whistle: Middle C (Tu)- G (second line) (Tah) - C2 (third space) (Ta) - E (4th space) (Tee). Notice the movement of the tongue in order to assure an accurate, resonant tone. So often we read "play every note with the same lip setting"...this is nonsense. No two notes are "best" played with the same lip setting, let alone "many" or "all". By silent whistle, I mean for you to follow the moving, melodic line so that the tongue and embouchure are "placed" in the best possible position, or "focus", to best produce the tone in question.

Playing the trumpet accurately and with good resonance (beautiful tone) is contingent upon learning to accurately and efficiently "move" your "chops" to the correct "focus" for each individual tone! I call this the "dynamic constant-adjustment embouchure" as opposed to the "static" embouchure, where the partials are "selected" using the forearms to vary the mouthpiece pressure.

 Beautiful brass playing is all about the ability to "maneuver" the embouchure. Flexibility is the key to brilliant brass playing!

 The First Study (and the rest for that matter) is only secondarily about mastering fingering complexities. THEY ARE ABOUT: (1) low, low mouthpiece pressure, (2) pressurizing and "leaning" on the air when ascending, while playing ppp, and (4) SMOOTHLY adjusting your "focus" for each and every tone as it goes whizzing by.

After you are feeling good about the First exercise, (a smoothly "rolling" bumblebee) WITHOUT stopping or breathing, connect exercise #1 to exercise #13 via a one octave, ascending, chromatic scale up to the 1st space F#, where you continue the exercise as written (# 13).

When you can accomplish the above while totally relaxed (with NO increase in mouthpiece pressure, you should then use another one octave, ascending, chromatic scale up to the 5th line F#, then continue with exercise #25 for as many repetitions as desired (able) THEN reverse the process (back through ex. #13, back through, and coming to rest upon the F# below the staff, where it all began! And yes, it is possible to extend the exercise through to #25 8VA, without pausing. But, the impossible always takes a little longer. You CAN do it - if you decide you want it.

 Thanks for listening,


(this was posted by Clyde Hunt on TPIN, 29 Oct 1996)

"Aperture control"
Nick Drozdoff and Mark Van Cleave has yet another way of explaining it. Controlling the opening between the lips - the aperture.


Mini essay by O.J. on the "art of brass playing":