Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 08:02:16 -0400
From: sabutin <>
Subject: Re: [TPIN] heart/physics/analysis/paralysis

>I think we are chasing our tails to a degree. If your embouchure was as
>screwed up as you say it was it must have affected your ability to make
>satisfactory musical statements am I correct in this assumption?
>Wouldn't addressing your musical short comings on this embouchure evoke
>the same physical changes you made had you approached it from that point
>of view rather than an abrupt change?

No, not necessarily.

Bad settings and concepts can set unsurpassable physical limits that NO amount of playing will change.

The real problem w/most embouchure changes...even the ones that are considered to work by the players who did it and their that they are dictated by a previously held idea rather than discovered and rediscovered through an accurate and continuing analytical process of some sort.

A teacher can suggest lower, higher, to the left or right, up or down angles, etc, but he is only doing so from the outside looking in, and cannot quantify ANY of those ideas.

How much lower or higher?

How far to the left or right?

Which angles?

And even more important...when?

In what ranges and volumes should these settings and angles occur?

To even further complicate this what works now going to work later in the day, when your embouchure may be tired from hard playing?

How about tomorrow, when you might be a little stronger or weaker, maybe a bit swollen or dehydrated?

Consider what might happen in 6 years, when you weigh more (or less) or your teeth have shifted a bit. (It happens...)

An embouchure is not a thing, it is a living process, part of a living, changing, totally individual creature.

The "just make music" folks deal w/this set of problems better than the "do it this way" advocates...the embouchure doesn't get pinned to a sheet like a dead butterfly, it is free to fly, to change as the demands of life and music change. But...if it is an inefficient or wounded butterfly,it will NEVER fly well.

What to do, what to do...

I suggest again that there is a third way to consider this problem. By doing exercises that NATURALLY and GRADUALLY change the embouchure w/NO higher, no lower, no left or right or up or can find the embouchure(s) and setting(s) (there can be more than one, y'know...) that work for any demands and at any time, settings and tendencies that will work over a lifetime of change.

The single greatest idea in this area that I ever encountered came from the great trumpet player Jimmy Maxwell, and it is so simple that it is a wonder it is not taught by every brass teacher in the world.

He said that the instrument...its weight and the demands of manipulating the valves (or in my case, the slide)...altered the placement and angles of the m'pce on the face from what would be most natural to less efficient tendencies. He taught that by simply buzzing on the m'pce  and while continuing the buzz replacing the m'pce into the horn WITHOUT CHANGING THE NATURAL PLACEMENT AND ANGLE OF THE BUZZED NOTE you could ORGANICALLY find the "right embouchure".

And it works. Yes it does.

Do a little experiment. Play an easy note...your best sounding middle range note, whatever that may be. Now alter the angle at which you play that note in any direction you choose.

Hear the difference? Only a little change in angle will change the timbre enormously. Sometimes better, most often worse, but always different.

Same thing goes for placement.

Now consider...there are a near infinity of combinations of angles and placements available to you, and those combinations can be quite different as you go through the ranges and volumes of the horn.

How on EARTH is someone to choose these things from outside?

"Oh, your embouchure looks too high. Move it down."

This is Russian roulette played w/more than 1 bullet in the revolver, in my opinion. You MAY not get shot...but is the risk really worth it?

For a more detailed treatment of this idea, check out my article on the Online Trombone Journal, Buzz Off (or buzz on - they both work) at <>.

It works.

>I mean playing on 1 lip as you
>describe would certainly hamper ones ability to play with flexibility
>and control I would think?  Some pretty good players play with a very
>high placement however, Harry James, Dizzy Gillespie, and Mel Broils
>come to mind immediately.

Exactly. And Diz played w/his cheeks all puffed out, Maynard plays (played...I haven't seen him play in many years) at an apparently radically upstream angle, Freddie Hubbard lost his amazing chops almost completely at least partially BECAUSE he couldn't change or evolve physically, Phil Smith plays at this angle, Armando Ghitalla at another, Timoifei Dokshitzer at a third...

There is no working taxonomy of facial types as they relate to embouchures, so...who ya gonna call...??? Ghostbusters won't cut it, although embouchure is probably as mysterious as the supernatural if you get right down to it.

Check this idea out.


Sam Burtis