Date: Sun, 28 Mar 2004 04:49:07 -0800 (PST)
From: <>
Subject: Re: [TPIN] Embouchure crisis  ANCHOR SPOT ID

DISCLAIMER: If you are an analysis=paralysis theorist, then please don't bother reading this post, since it deals with details which are of most interest to pedagogics and trumpeters who appreciate understanding the mechanics of playing well. I understand that for some the less thought about, the better approach is more effective. Please realize that this post, and others like, are directed toward teachers who must deal with remedial players, comeback players, and others who respond best to an analytical approach (and please respect different learning/teaching styles). If your best mode of learning is that of listening/imitating, then you might prefer to delete this message right now...


Where are you located?

My immediate thought would be to find another teacher, however, it's important that you check for your natural Anchor Spot (the spot which is optimal for placement of your mouthpiece on your lips).

That's not to say that your chops won't work somewhat in a slightly different place, but trying to play in a way that is contrary to your natural, anatomical setup is not going to help you achieve your maximum potential.

And that is as individual as every trumpeter: no two trumpeters have the same setup. For a trumpet teacher to insist that everyone play in the same spot (central), in the same angle/pivot (perpendicular/straight out), in the same position vis-a-vis up and down (half and half or 2/3's 1/3 or vice versa) is, imh but experienced opinion highly irresponsible.

Now it MAY be that you were distorting to achieve the results you mentioned. Was your sound full and pure in all registers? Were you placing the upper, inner rim of the mouthpiece above the spot where the red lip membrane meets the white muscle of the upper lip?

This is crucial to avoid injury to the delicate lip membrane, particularly with someone who has not played before, or who has not played in some time.

Please note: there are some players, with very thick, very fleshy lips, who manage to play low on the upper lip, but it always results in scarring (which impedes lip vibration, and ultimately finesse of playing).

All that said, let's talk about the process of ANCHOR SPOT ID (ASI):

Because your lips' anatomy is uniquely yours, we need to take into account a number of factors in setting up your embouchure.

1. Most important of all is finding your best compression point (the spot at which your lips seal best, which is where the center of your embouchure should be located--and ultimately where the basic tone is produced).

This is found by using the following procedure: (watch yourself in a mirror)

WITHOUT tightening your corners, press your lips as strongly as possible against each other, in front of your teeth, then pop the lips apart.

You should notice a brief, white spot on the lower lip (it fade quickly, so watch carefully!).

Repeat the process a couple of times to be sure you've seen it.

Now, place the tip of your pinky finger into the flesh of your UPPER lip, right above where you saw the white spot on your lower lip, but in the white of the upper lip, just above where the white meets the red.

Press in slightly, and push side-to-side and up-and-down. You should find that the muscle gives way slightly in this area (which is usually roughly triangular in shape).

This is the area in which the orbiculares oris muscle joins back to itself and attaches to the zygomaticus, but for your purposes it shows you where you'll set the inner, upper rim of the mouthpiece.

You'll want to place the center of the mouthpiece rim here, but make sure that you catch the INNER, upper rim just above the shelf where the white and red meet. For some folks it's a bit higher, but it must be AT LEAST above that meeting point of muscle and membrane.

Often, if the upper lip is relatively short from nose to edge, it can be helpful to tip the mouthpiece upwards and use the width of the mouthpiece rim to guide you in rolling the mouthpiece down to the proper spot.

2. Now wet and close your lips, and roll the mouthpiece downward just enough to affect a seal between the mouthpiece and the closed lips.

You may need to angle slightly left or right to accommodate your tooth structure, and/or slightly downward or upward to accommodate your jaw structure to affect the seal.

Make the pertinent adjustments as you play.

3. The key is to stay very relaxed as you play. Use lots of air, in the middle register.

You should begin by playing a second line G or third space C.
See Ole J. Utnes' website for a sample warmup that I use with students, if you like:

4. The biggest change you'll likely notice is that notes will speak more readily when you play on your proper anchor spot. You'll also note that lip flexibility (lip slurring) is more reliable. In addition, your sound will be more centered and balanced.

5. It is also VERY important that you keep your back molars separated/ jaws open, even though you are keeping your lips closed. This puts the greatest work in embouchure onto your lower lip, which has better capacity for doing that work by virtue of its being free to move, unlike the upper lip which is tied to the zygomatic bone.

You may find your lower lip growing very tired. Allow yourself ample opportunity to rest.

6. You may find it helpful to keep the tip of your tongue forward, over the top edge of the bottom lip, to assist the lower lip and keep it from collapsing inward. Do NOT, however, allow the lower lip to thrust between the lower and upper lips because that would disturb the seal between them which is so important for optimal tone quality.

7. Finally keep your hands relaxed. Do not Grip the trumpet: merely balance the trumpet on your left hand, and keep the right pinky OUT of the ring (it's NOT an octave key <G>)! Allow the trumpet to breathe (move slightly) as you play. Remember to allow the lips' motion, though more subtle, to flow just as the air must!

Once the basics are down, you'll have the freedom to play with abandon (muscle memory takes care of that!)

Hope this has helped you. Please feel free to write back to tell me how it works for you, or if you have any further questions.

As the Armenians say: Hamperootyoon! (Patience!) You will grow in your trumpet playing, it's not a destination but a PROCESS!

Take Care and Best Wishes,