Date: Mon, 02 Feb 1998 11:06:45 -0500
From: Jeanne G Pocius <>
Subject: Re:*mystifying embouchure*(LONG)

Cati, Bryan, et al:

        WHOA, girl! You're making a few observations that need serious clarification, here, because you're misinterpreting what's actually happening with your embouchure!

        Normally, I'd respond to your post privately, but there are just too many points here that are creating confusion, and I don't want some of our younger players to fall into the possible traps presented by your misunderstanding....

        <%SNIP%> wrote:
> I was watching myself play (I always try to play to a mirror when I'm >practicing) and I
noticed that as I ascend to higher (well, uh, for me, >anyway...) notes, I pull my lower lip,
no, let me rephrase that, my >entire lower _jaw_, which restricts the flow of my air I

What needs to be clarified here is not the movement of the lower jaw which is the problem, but the factor that your lower lip is collapsing into the inside of your mouth, hence the next sentence you've written:

> The way my embouchure is, when I am playing in the upper <choke>
> register, I can pull the horn away and feel the
> air stream blowing straight down my chin.

This is clear evidence that your bottom lip is collapsing, thus compromising the seal between your
lips and causing you to lose the tone, endurance and range that you lack...

>I don't even like to imagine what a tiny fraction of air must actually
>be going directly into the lead pipe.

Frankly, Cati, it takes _less_ air to play in the upper register, and many players are unable to play in the upper register for the simple reason that they are trying to force such a great quantity of air through their lips in an attempt to push out higher notes that they are unable to maintain a seal between their lips or to keep their lips from blowing/collapsing into the bowl of the mouthpiece...So, you see, it doesn't take much air to play in the upper register at all...

> Furthermore, as I ascend my chin puckers up, and it feels as if I am
> barely squeezing out the note.  The chin puckering renders the muscles
>in the lower half of the face almost completely useless, does it not?

_NO_ IT DOES _NOT_<!> render the lower half of the face *almost completely useless* unless the rest of your embouchure is not operating properly at all(as in lower lip collapsing, flat chin, lips apart, corners tight, lips stretching back into a smile--all of which contribute to poor compression and seal of the embouchure, which cause weakness of sound, limited range, and poor endurance!)
> The thing that blows my mind is that my sound is actually quite good.
> I have discovered that if I pull the mucsles in my chin (NOT the
> corners of my mouth) increasingly taught as I ascend, as well as
> increasing my air flow, the high notes come out easier
> and don't feel as limited.

Which *high notes*?  By drawing the chin muscles down and increasing the opening of the aperture, you're setting yourself up to hit a wall, beyond which your range will not go without using excess pressure, and even that will only get you so far....Please be careful!

> I believe this opens up my apature so I can push more air through.
> This is also something that can be expanded, where my previous method
> of playing the high notes resulted in a smaller apature and weaker
> embouchure.

First of all, *forming* an aperture is a misnomer...You don't *form* the aperture--the air does...Your job is to keep the lips compressed to provide resistance to the air(not closing the throat or the teeth to provide resistance as must occur when you draw the chin muscles down to make them taut, which weakens the mentalis muscles which give you strength, power and quality of sound, since they control the inward and outward rolling of the bottom lip....

If you look at your mouth in a mirror and draw your bottom lip _up_, slightly over the edge of your top teeth, you'll notice a slight puckering of the muscles of the chin, but  you'll also notice a sort of triangle being formed between the center of your bottom lip (the point of the triangle) and the outside corners of your chin...What form this triangle are the *mentalis* muscles, which are very important to the production of good trumpet sound and lip flexibility...

Cati, are you studying with a good trumpet player, or just trying to do this on your own?  I'm getting concerned....

> I have tried to slide my lower jaw forward so it is even
> with my upper one, but the result is a totally unnatural feel, as well
> as a not so desirable sound (I mean it is not recognizable as a
> trumpet).

This technique will absolutely _NOT_ work for certain types of jaw formations....Cati, you need to determine the anchor spot for your embouchure, which is the natural spot of best compression between your two lips and the point at which your mouthpiece should be centered...

You also need to determine the optimal angle(as in toward the left or toward the right) and pivot(as in angled slightly up or slightly down) that will allow you to seal your lips and create the best possible sound while enabling you to grow in your playing skills...

You also need to have the proper equipment for your particular set-up:
length of facial muscles, size of chin, width and thickness and relative flexibility of lip tissue, and
wind strength...

Playing around with concepts that you don't thoroughly understand, without having the guidance you need to understand and apply them is an easy way to develop serious chop problems (Believe me, 50% of my teaching practice is older players, often cruise boat players, who think that there are shortcuts to proper playing, and wind up damaging their chops and having to spend a lot of time repairing what they've done to their chops by not being sensible and maintaining a regular, daily routine of practicing/warming up...)

Please, please, PLEASE be careful...
- --
Take Care!