O.J.'s Trumpet Page Interview

Interview with Jerome Callet

Jerome Callet is an embouchure clinician as well as a designer and manufacturer of brass instruments. 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.

In 1947, after many years of struggle, 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 his "Superchops Embouchure" into what he now calls the TONGUE-CONTROLLED Embouchure.

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."

His lifetime research also led him on the quest to design and produce some of the best trumpets and mouthpieces available.

We had a talk with Jerome about his background, his new book, his teaching and his future plans:

Jerome, let's go back in time and look at your development in both your fields, embouchure teaching and brass design.
You studied with several famous trumpet teachers, but none of them could help you develop an efficient embouchure. Why not?
They could only teach musical interpretation, transposition, and music reading.  I have studied every modern embouchure method, plus many older methods that are little known to the trumpet teachers of today.  I also was able to change my embouchure by trying hundreds of completely different ways of playing.  If I were an active player, I might have been afraid of losing my job.

What specific discovery was it that helped you find a good working embouchure? I have heard that the horn technique called "Einsetzen" (sitting in) was important in this respect?
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.

The tone was very centered and brilliant, with perfect in-tune sound. Thirty years later, I got a copy of Jules Levy's 1895 Trumpet Method.  Levy used the exact double pedal tones ascending to the upper register. This gave me a new confidence to teach all players how to build powerful, responsive embouchures.

If you look back on your three books, Trumpet Yoga, Super Chops and Trumpet Secrets, what do you see? What have you changed and what has remained stable?
The "Trumpet Yoga" book was my start. I have been training and developing better embouchure techniques every day over the past 32 years.  My "Trumpet Secrets" book has everything needed in playing. I still use the unrolled relaxed lips for the double pedal tones - with relaxed mouth corners and teeth wide apart.

What led you into trumpet and mouthpiece design?
 As my embouchure and mind (ear) developed, I realized that trumpet and mouthpiece makers and teachers were going in the wrong direction.  Even though I had little money I decided to build a better playing trumpet.  One man believed in me. Donald Getzen of DEG Corp. was my ANGEL.  During my first month in business, we built 15 trumpets and sold 30.

Trumpet Secrets and teaching.

I know that you are very proud of your latest book, Trumpet Secrets. Is it the recommended guide and exercise book for all your teachings? Will it, by itself, allow students to learn your embouchure? Or, do you still recommend an experienced instructor?
I now will only teach the tongue-controlled embouchure as described in my book "Trumpet Secrets", to all levels of trumpet and brass.

Apart from yourself, are there qualified instructors in your approach to embouchure? If so, how do we contact them?
Sad to say in the New York area, there are only a few of my students that are able to help a player. I only hope that in my lifetime all players will be able to play Virtuoso Music without strain and over-blowing.

How difficult is it for most students to change to your type of embouchure. How long does the transition normally take?
It is very difficult if the player has developed wrong playing habits. The beauty of my method is that anyone can do it, from age 10 to over 80.  I have seen great improvement in only one week, but as a rule it will take several months to start the correct building of a powerful embouchure.

What is the most difficult part of your teaching to get across to students?
The student must form a new habit of holding their tongue through the teeth with the tip of the tongue staying on top of the lower lip from lowest to highest tones. With our method they cannot pronounce syllables, tighten the mouth or smile with their mouth corners.  They must always keep teeth wide open with a relaxed lower jaw.

In following your instruction, what is the biggest mistake that your students make?
The biggest mistake is allowing the tongue to recede in behind the teeth - and squeezing the lips together while ascending.

I know that you teach a lot by ear, by the sound that your students get. Please tell us more about that?
My ear has been so trained that I can hear every defect in the best professional players and tell them what is wrong, as well as how they can correct this defect in their playing.

What players do you recommend we listen to in order to best hear great sound in action?
Harry James, Randy Brooks, Charlie Shavers, Peter Masseurs, Conrad Gozzo, Gunter Beetz and Horst Fischer. This is the correct sound, every tone focused, brilliant without spreading.

I understand that you are now teaching flute embouchure to some top symphony players. Can you tell us more about that?
I taught a "Trumpet Secrets" lesson to the first trombonist of Honolulu Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. His name is James Decker. James showed my book to Keith Underwood, a professional flutist and master teacher of pro-students. Keith is now using my method of the tongue- controlled embouchure with great success. All flute players are getting faster results than brass players, since they only need to compress the air. They donít require the vibration of the lips that brass players use.

It is my understanding that after more than 50 years of study, you believe the tongue is the most important muscle developed in a fine embouchure. Yet, your teachings of the use of the tongue differ greatly from other teachers who have also emphasized the use of the tongue. Can you explain the role that you give to the tongue?
When you learn to use your tongue correctly, as I do, there is little presetting of the lips. The tongue compression of the air can easily control the vibration of the lips in both highest and lowest registers. Almost every modern professor has been teaching the wrong use of the tongue. The trumpeter in modern times has the greatest amount of failure due to improper use of the tongue and lips. The more time you spend with the tongue in the forward position, the more you will add layers of strength to your tongue. The spitting action causes the lips to vibrate with maximum intensity.

What is the "spit buzz"?
A spit-buzz must be done by placing the tip of your tongue on top of the lower lip and then spitting a hair off the top of your tongue. The spit action is done by the releasing the air from the cutting edges of the top teeth and the inside of your upper lip. The tip of the tongue does not leave your lower lip, your tongue must hold firm to the lower lip.

I believe that you instruct against the "more air" approach to the higher register?
In blowing the air into the trumpet, even professionals are overblowing to play higher tones. What is needed is greater compression of your blown air between the edges of the top teeth and the inside of the top lip. This action of your tongue allows you to control with greater efficiency and less strain on the lips.

Despite the successes of so many of your students as well as your own remarkable range, power, and endurance, your method is still considered quite controversial in many circles. Do you have an explanation for that? Does it bother you?
The reason I am controversial is that my critics would have to change and learn from scratch. These teachers and pro players are afraid I might be right. The easy way is to ridicule my 50 years of work on embouchure. Without boasting, without effort, I was able to out-play many of the world's super stars - as to powerful sound, range and ease of performance. You will find the all-star teachers only take students with pro-abilities. I enjoy helping both the weakest and strongest players.

Future plans.

You call "Trumpet Secrets" volume 1. Will there be a volume 2?
If I find a much easier way to play the trumpet, and it develops better players, then I will write "Trumpet Secrets #2".

We know that you continue to teach embouchure. What is it about teaching that gives you the most satisfaction?
My greatest satisfaction in teaching students is helping everyone; even those that have failed with their old instructors. Overcoming physical handicaps, such as age, loss of teeth, as well as heart, lung and cancer conditions.

Many top players in jazz and classical circles consider your horns and mouthpieces to be the finest ever made. Now that you have retired, is there any future for those designs?
My trumpets will be again available through a friend named Lee Adams. Some Bb trumpets will be ready this summer.

Now that you've retired from brass design and manufacturing, is there anything that you miss or regret?
My only regret is that my trumpets could have been used by more of the world's greatest trumpeters. I have had great satisfaction in hearing every week from players who have been playing my trumpets for months and years. I know that my trumpets, and some of my ideas, will be used for many years long after I am gone!

Thank you very much for this interview!

Contact information:

Go to www.super-chops.com  for information about "Trumpet Secrets Vol.1" and his embouchure method.

Jerome Callet
Jerome Callet Trumpet Studio
44 Garden St., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel: +1-718-477-5803
Email: trumpet@i-2000.com

o.j. 2003 - Photo by Vera Hørven (taken in Evansville, Indiana 2001). Thanks to Callet student, Kyle Schmeer, Philadelphia for help with the questions!