Date: Thu, 5 May 2005 09:34:55 -0700 (PDT)
From: "" <>
Subject: [TPIN] Re: Rolling of the lips [Was *Open vs. Spread*]

I rewrote this 5 times to try to ask the questions I wanted answers to and to try to not be mean spirited. One never really knows how well they accomplish this but there does come a time when either the send button or the delete key is all that is left.

I couldn't make myself delete as I have wondered about some of this for a long time.

So before you read this I will say that I have nothing at all against Ellis. To my knowledge we have not ever had an arguement. It was just happenstance that he wrote so many statements that I have questioned through the years.


I have some serious questions here. These are some things I have wondered about for several years.

I know of people who spent 4 years studying under the sound model concept at the same college as you and didn't get it. (I know because they came to me for lessons. One is working on a DMA and his new teacher sent him to me.) They got degrees but didn't get playing.

In all fairness they were musical, and had a good sound. So I am sure that they made improvement.

But 20 minutes of endurance and barely a 2 octave range (Couldn’t play even one 1st ledger line A) won't allow them to work as a trumpet player.

So I really am at a loss for how and why these statements keep coming up through the years. See they are said/written as through the sound model is the ONLY way and is 100% successful. But even those who say it know that isn’t the case.

When I read stuff like this I am afraid to even try to play the trumpet. I am afraid that if I start thinking about any of this stuff and try to play; nothing will come out.

If it read "I have tried thinking about things like this in the past. But it confused me to the point where I couldn't produce a sound."

Then it is a valid point. It has merit and was based on the life experience of the person who said it.  I have not ever seen this happen but I do acknowledge that it is possible.

If on the other hand you really never tried it. Then it never happened to you. You have no first hand knowledge of this and it is just spreading fear.

I have asked others who have said this in the past and some who made that same statement had never tried thinking about the physical but they still make the statement as though it were an unavoidable fact. So I know that some who say this are merely spreading fear.

Then of course we could get to the meat of it and how badly did thinking disrupt the playing? Was it 100% totaled for weeks? Or did they flub 1 attack on the 1st phrase they tried to play? If it was on the first attempt then was it the thought or the new physical action that caused the failure? The difference between these 2 things matter. Failing a new physical action the 1st time is vastly different than freezing up because of thought. So I always wondered how many blamed thought on a poorly executed 1st attempt at a new action. I think that perhaps many have.

What I have found is that if you tell someone over and over that a bad thing will happen then they will make it happen. This is negative mental programming and no teacher should do this.

Despite my lack of a DMA I am a thinking person who is interested in pedagogy. I do not believe that thinking about the ideas you have expressed is beneficial to playing the trumpet or teaching others to play the trumpet.

If it read "I have tried before and didn't notice any change." Then that is a true statement.

If it read "I don't LIKE to express those kinds of ideas." Then it is a true statement.

But the one you made implies that nobody can do it or should do it.

You have been on TPIN longer than I have and I have seen many list members tell us of their REAL life experiences in this area. I know that you have seen them as well.

I have no reason to believe that they are NOT telling the truth.  If what they said did happen then you are WRONG and it CAN be beneficial to some.

For you to read their experiences and still make this statement over and over; year in and year out seems to say that you don't believe them or don't care if it is true.

I do not believe that anyone can actually control the lips in the way you describe.

It was once believed that the world was flat. History has proved that belief is not truth.

I have been filming an instructional DVD. (120 hours of audio and 40+ hours of video so far.) One of the students in the film asked a question. He said that his teacher told him that there was only one way to play and he wanted to know if it was true.

I put the camera on a tight close up of my lips.

1. I lip buzzed and put the horn to my lips as they buzzed and played a 2 octave C arpeggio.

2. I then rolled them in as far as I could (farther than I would to play but I wanted it to be clearly visible on the tape) I put the horn to my lips and played a 2 octave C arpeggio.

3. I then rolled them out as far as I could (farther than I would to play but I wanted it to be clearly visible on the tape) I put the horn to my lips and played a 2 octave C arpeggio.

4. I then made the top lip overlap the bottom until it was completely covered. I put the horn to my lips and played a 2 octave C arpeggio.

5. I then made the bottom lip overlap the top lip until it was completely covered. I put the horn to my lips and played a 2 octave C arpeggio.

The total time for this exercise was 2 minutes. (No warm up, no edit.... I was just showing that it could be done.)

I know how compression is produced in each embouchure I played and I thought about changing the aperture size and aperture tunnel length each time. I can't think of how this would have been possible if your statement were true. I clearly had to be controlling the lips.

Our physical set up does whatever it has to do to produce our mental concept of sound.

I know this to be true of SOME players but through the years we have read over and over stories of people that this was not true of and yet the statement persists.

IF it read “For some of us the physical set up does whatever it has to do to produce our mental concept of sound.” Then it is 100% true.

I took some educational psychology courses as part of my degree. I'm betting that you did too. In those courses they told us about the studies proving that there were different learning styles. The statements that keep coming up seem to say that some people feel that this doesn't apply to trumpet. (Only 1 way to learn.)

Trumpet playing is not some magical/mystical thing. It is a simple physical action.

True we don't agree on some terms.

I never think of embouchures that CAN make compression as being open. To me it is an open aperture if it is pinned open by the mouthpiece and pressure is NEEDED to close it and change notes.

I also don't think of closed in terms of sound quality. I have seen poor sound quality on every type of embouchure.

The sound that has recently been mentioned with one person’s idea of closed is a combination of several things. Yes the lips are touching but there is also excessive tension and pressure.

To create a free sound we need to resist the air but not suppress it. So we can overdo tension, compression, lip curl, pressure. (Think of our lips as a donut. They are squeezed top to bottom across the center, left to right across the center and front to back. Squeeze it until it is sealed shut and the sound can't come out.) It could be just a little too much of all or way too much of just one of them but the result would be the same. The lips wouldn't vibrate freely and the sound would be poor.

I don't think that it hurts my students if I know those things. I don't think it hurts my students if I think about them. Some of them even want to know why something happens. I was like that. I believe that it helped me.

So now here are my statements of my beliefs. I believe that all of the teachers who tell us analysis leads to ___ are doing 10 times more harm than good. (This statement implies that this outcome will happen 100% of the time. WE know that is false. They prevent people from seeking help in a way that they need.)

I believe that force feeding fear into students is giving them reasons and excuses to fail.

I believe that trying to force the thought that there is only one way to learn or one way to play is preventing a great many people from experiencing the joy of playing well.

I believe those who have seen, read or heard the experiences of others and still ignore the possibility that another way may help a different person; care more about preserving dogma than about their students.

Best wishes
Clint 'Pops' McLaughlin