Date: Fri, 8 Jun 2001 10:31:22 -0700
From: Greg Van Boven <>
Subject: RE: [TPIN] Stevens Embochure method (VERY LONG)

Although I usually stay in the shadows, I wanted to add my 2 cents on this topic. I agree with the last part of Danny's post regarding sound to a point. I would also agree that trying the Stevens method might not be a good choice, but for slightly different reasons.

I studied with Donald Reinhardt in the early to mid seventies. He firmly believed that we each have a way of playing that is "natural" for us and determined by a lot of variables including our teeth size and shape, lip size and thickness, bite and jaw movement. Dr. Reinhardt spent a lifetime analyzing and documenting this stuff, most of which is in his "Encyclopedia of the Pivot System" and actually came up with 9 embouchere types, (4 major types(I-IV) with sub-types for each). He diagnosed me as as IVa (upstream, slightly downward angle of horn) and told me that my problem was that I had been switching back and forth from that and a IIIb (downstream with a slightly more downward horn angle). He emphatically stated that "You are and should be a IVa!" What happens with me is that if I am not careful my jaw will recede slightly (usually when tired) and I am back to TRYING to play as a IIIb. So, eventually I don't know what anything feels like because my "embouchere" is constantly changing. Playing as a IVa is easier for me, but I could force myself to learn to play as a IIIb if I wanted to. If I was an orchestral player, I might even do that.

Anyway, Reinhardt believed that most players have one and ONLY ONE way they should play. With some exceptions (I am one of them), trying to adopt a different "method" of playing that entails changing the airstream direction can be counter productive and is not always even possible. You can determine whether you play upstream or downstream by getting someone to watch you play into a clear plastic mouthpiece - sometimes using a flashlight helps - watching for where the initial pool of moisture collects in the cup. Upstream is not readily evident or can't be determined by the angle of the horn.

Some players never run into the kind of problems that I did. If Reinhardt had told me to concentrate on sound and that everything would correct itself over time I might never have figured out what was wrong. I might have, but in my case the beginning of the solution was mechanical in nature. That's not to say that we didn't concentrate on sound, but that was later on, after the "whole thing" (as he used to refer to it) had been corrected and was habitual.

There are detractors of the Pivot System, but in many cases I think they have misunderstood what he was trying to say. He was not advocating tilting the horn up and down. He had scientifically documented the different embouchere types and tried to help players get maximum results for the least effort. A big part of what he worked on after the initial corrections were made was to minimize movement (both horn and embouchere) as much as possible. He was able to help many players with problems over the years!

There is a man by the name of Dave Sheetz teaching in PA (somewhere near Philadelphia) that is continuing Reinhardt's teachings today. He can explain all of this much better than I have. I would imagine there are others. And, there are other systems - I just happen to be familiar with this one. I think most systems are trying to obtain the same results. I think the confusion comes from the fact that the teacher can only know and describe how it works and what it feels like for them. Some things are the same regardless - breathing and posture for example. But is it possible to "Try the <insert method name here> method"? I have my doubts.

After all this, my point(s) would be:
Trying to adopt a different method of playing without the help and supervision of a qualified teacher would be ill advised. It is true that some of us need to look at the mechanics of our playing in order to understand and correct our playing problems, but trying to do it "on our own" is probably not the way to go.

If someone is hampered by range and/or endurance problems, studying with a "chop doctor" could be the best thing. Hopefully the specialist will have a thorough understanding of the mechanics (including breathing) and be able to help the student improve. They may not, and in that case, progress might be minimal or a regression might even occur. At that point, to hammer away at Schlossberg (or any other study material), concentrating on getting a good sound when there are serious mechanical problems is not going to result in much progress overall.

Each one of us has to discover what works best for us. Many times that discovery is difficult and in all but the rarest of cases will not occur without the help of an informed teacher(s). If it was easy, we would all sound like <fill in your favorite player(s)>.

Sorry for the length of this. I'll go back to lurking now.

Greg Van Boven
-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Bacon []
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2001 9:35 PM
Subject: Re: [TPIN] Stevens Embochure method

Danny, I would suggest not getting into that approach to trumpet playing. I
studied it and found it did more harm than good. The original Costello
system (upstream, produce statics etc.) was adapted by Roy Stevens in the
early 70's (I think, may have been earlier) and had a studio in New York.
One guy I know of still teaches the system and he teaches at Colin Studios
on 53rd St. There were some players that did have some real success with it,
but I know some that had real problems changing their embouchure. Lew Soloff
lists Roy as someone he spent some time working with. Did not work for me,
but this is all just my opinion. There are so many good approaches to
trumpet playing that stress Sound over which muscle to twitch, and I'd
suggest you look into them. How about practicing Schlossberg for sound,
flexibility, range etc. Maybe the best book ever written for chops.

Dave Bacon