Date: Sat, 16 Jan 1999 05:55:55 -0600
From: Brian Frederiksen <>
Subject: Re: Embouchures and.....AIR

Ahhhh, the discussion of embouchure is being banged around again. How many potentially good players have we all seen ruined because a teacher wants them to have a picture perfect embouchure? Everyone's embouchure is going to be different.

I am seeing a discussion about the "Farkas Embouchure," well, sorry to say this but although Phil Farkas was one of the finest brass teachers ever, his embouchure worked for him and it would be quite rare to see someone with a similar embouchure. What are the chances of someone having the same bone structure and musculature as Mr Farkas? Not much. I am sure that Mr Farkas would agree with this statement although many here on the list are going to disagree big time.

Well, to fuel the fire here, I'm placing a portion of ARNOLD JACOBS: SONG AND WIND here from the chapter on embouchure. I am sure that this is going to throw a monkey wrench into this discussion! There are a few words that you should pay attention to, song and wind.

Let's hear some comments!


Lips [Embouchure]
        Although many students come to Jacobs complaining about embouchure problems, he rarely finds problems with the embouchure.
        "The most common problems I have seen over the last sixty-odd years I have been teaching are with respiration and the tongue. Surprisingly enough, I rarely find problems with the embouchure. That might sound strange because people come to see me because of problems with their embouchure, but frequently it is the embouchure reacting to a bad set of circumstances and failing—it is simply cause and effect. If we change the cause of the factor, it is easy to clear up the embouchure. The embouchure is not breaking down, it is trying to work under impossible conditions. When you are starving the embouchure for air volume, giving it all sorts of air pressure but not quantity, it cannot work. Very quickly you will be struggling to produce your tone. Just increase your volume of air not by blowing hard, but by blowing a much thicker quality of air. Very frequently the air column is just too thin."218

        The three basic requirements for sound are pitch vibration, motor function and resonance {see: Instruments}. For brass instruments, pitch vibration is done through the embouchure based on length, thickness and tension. Motor function is the breath that fuels the vibration of the lips and the motion of the fingers to press a valve or key. The amount of air needed to play an instrument depends on the needs of the embouchure.
        The source of stimulus for the embouchure is a signal from the brain passed through the seventh cranial [facial] nerve to the lips. Neurons in the brain transmit the same signal to each muscle fiber in the embouchure. The fifth cranial nerve [trigeminal] is the sensor sending signals from the lips back to the brain but it receives little information from the embouchure {see Mental Elements: Nerves}.

        The signal coming through the seventh cranial nerve from the brain to the lips has to motivate a message. "When we use wind, we have the motor activity of the lips. But the lips do not have to respond to wind. They can resist wind and not respond at all. They must have a message and wind. On the scale of importance, I would put 85 percent into psychological attitudes of song so that the lips will have a message, and 15 percent into wind as a matter of movement."

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Brian Frederiksen