Date: Thu, 03 Jun 1999 11:08:22 -0400
From: Jeanne G Pocius <>
Subject: Re: Thinking Out Loud (about mpc placement)(long)

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 pedagogists 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...

For the rest, I invite discussion of the following:


Actually, my view is that the mpc must anchor in the upper lip tissue, regardless of the pivot (upward or downward angle of the horn/airstream).....

Let me explain why:

If you examine the structure(anatomy) of the orbicularis oris muscle, you'll note that above the band of muscle which surrounds the upper lip(and has a twin below the lower lip) there is an inverted V just above the filtrum, and just below the ala, (which is the convex, flared portion of the nose, where it joins the upper lip)...within which is non-muscular tissue.

This is, I believe, the optimal point at which to place the center of the upper, inner rim of the mouthpiece(and is the area which my anchor spot ID post describes as being the area which *gives way* when manipulated after identifying the strongest point of compression between the two lips).

It is this inverted V which leads me to recommend placement/anchor of the mpc here,  along with the factors that:

1. The upper lip is attached to the maxilla, which is a stationary bone.

2. The lower lip is attached to the mandible, which is a moving bone.

3. The upper lip's musculature is more limited, as it is affected chiefly by the orbicularis oris, its other muscular relationships tend to create the opposite effect to good chops(vis-a-vis smile chops), with the zygomaticus(which draws the upper lip up and out when flexed), the levator labii superioris(which raises the upper lip when flexed), and the risorius(which aids compression, but also tends to draw the lips outward).

4. The musculature of the lower lip is more extensive, thus allowing that lip to move more freely(and necessitating that lip's being free-to-move, hence my concerns about locking it down by anchoring the mpc on the lower lip). Of course, the orbicularis oris(the sphincter muscle which enables the drawstring bag effect of closing/pursing the lips) affects the lower lip AND the upper lip.  And the risorius affects the lower lip in a similar manner to the upper lip.

The difference between the lips occurs with the following muscles:

A. The Muscles which affect the Mandible (lower jaw), to which the lower lip is attached,  include the following:

Lateral Pterygoid: enables the protruding(pushing forward) of
the mandible(lower jaw), also enables side-to-side movement of same.
Medial Pterygoid: elevates and protrudes mandible, also enables
side-to-side movement of same.
Temporalis: elevates and protrudes(pushes out) mandible.
Masseter: elevates and protrudes mandible
Depressor labii inferioris: lowers lower lip(drops it, opening  oral
cavity, freeing compression, allowing freer buzz)
Platysma: depresses(drops) mandible, draws outer part of lower
lip downward and back(pouting)
Mentalis: elevates AND protrudes lower lip, as well as pulling
tissue of chin upward(pouting)

You'll note that I've starred the final two muscles on this list, because I feel that their freedom from being hampered is SO important to efficient(easy) trumpet sound & flexibility...

The bottom line is that we need to use the chops as efficiently as possible, in order to partner with an appropriate airstream to produce the greatest ease and power in trumpet playing.

I strongly believe that anchoring the mpc on the lower lip is detrimental  in the long run to optimal playing.  Please note that anchoring the mpc is, imo, the process of setting the mpc slightly INTO the slightly flexed muscular tissue of the upper lip.

This is not to say that this anchoring is not, in itself also flexible, and should breathe (move) slightly inward/outward based on multiple playing factors, including speed(velocity) and quantity(volume) of air flowing through the closed lips.  Nor is it to suggest that it is not possible, indeed _preferable_ for many, if not most, players to make use of some manner of pivot (movement up/down) and/or angle (movement left/right to maintain good seal) in playing.

It is my opinion that it is far better to hold the horn lightly, allowing the HORN to move while playing, than it is to hold the horn rigidly and force the face/lips/jaw to contort to change registers/dynamics/style etc...

The best approach, imo, is that which focuses on efficiency in all things: adequate air(but not too much, nor too little), the least amount of movement necessary to achieve the desired effect in playing(be that register change, timbre change or whatever), the most relaxed hand positions(best is merely balancing the horn for most playing, except at the absolutely loudest dynamics---any type of strong grip of the horn, with EITHER hand, will lead to tension which will impede the optimal technical abilities of the player), the most aligned and relaxed body posture possible(to enable optimal muscular support of the airstream and reduce any unnecessary tension in the body), and the shortest possible stroke of the tongue that will achieve the desired sound production(sometimes that may result in mere interruption of the airstream, other times it may require impeding the flow of air for the strongest attack)...

Dan Patrylak advocates a process which he describes as Relaxed Tension... Iow, making use of the flexion of necessary muscles, but otherwise cultivating the greatest ease and relaxation...

The product is that of a style of trumpet playing which APPEARS to be virtually effortless.... And trust me, it's far more impressive to audiences to make the most difficult music appear effortless than it is to share with them the efforts involved in producing the end product of BEAUTIFUL MUSIC.

I look forward to your comments...

- --
Take care!
Jeanne G Pocius wrote:
> I've been reading Stantons page
>and I was a little intrigued about
> the mouhtpiece placement issues.
> Here are some of my thoughts:
> I think a most important issue when it comes to evaluating
> mouhpiece placement is which lip is the "active" lip. This can
> easily be determined by doing some lip fluttering ("horse lips") and
> touching each lip at a time with a finger to dertermine which
> vibrates most easily. (A year ago, this was my upper lip. Now, it is
> my lower lip.) It is most important that the "active" lip is completely
> inside the mouthpiece to allow it to vibrate freely.
> What determines the "active" lip? A high mouthpiece position
> favors the upper lip while a low mouthpiece position favors the lower
> lip. A forward jaw favors the lower lip, an overbite favors the upper
> lip. Which lip is "active" might change over time, especially during
> embouchure changes.
> Pivot and airstream : Players with "active" lower lips are rare.
> These are the "upstream" players (even if they play with a
> downward horn angle) and have a reverse pivot. The lower lip gives
> a brighter sound that the upper lip, deeper mouthpieces are more
> suitable. The lower lip should not be in the red.
> 90% or so have "active" upper lips and are "downstream" players.
> They pivot the normal way (low notes, high angle/ high notes, low
> angle) and have a darker sound than upstream players. The upper
> lip should not be in the red.
> Rune