Embouchure Question

Here’s another embouchure question I’ll take a stab at.

I’ve watched all your videos in the last 2 days and have been studying Reinhardt with the encyclopedia for quite awhile and I appreciate your use of “embouchure motion” rather than pivot. My embouchure is upstream, off to the L side, angle almost straight out. I had been using side movement: R and up for low reg. and L and down for higher reg. In the ency. Reinhardt says it is best no matter what type to put pressure on lower lip but in listening to your videos you say that with a low placement upstream emb. more vibration happens with the lower lip and I seemed to have confirmed this today. Putting more pressure on top for low notes and then more pressure on bottom lip for high notes. This seems to free up vibrations and the side mvt. is not so extreme. Is this correct for low placement upstreamer?

What you’re describing here is both normal for almost all players, regardless of embouchure type, yet incredibly personal to each individual player.  This is a complex topic and from the outset I can’t say without watching you play whether or not what you’ve described above is actually correct for you.  Instead, I’ll try to explain some of the relationships I’ve learned about between the embouchure motion and horn angles. Continue reading Embouchure Question

Embouchure Questions

I’ll be getting around to answering some of the emailed embouchure questions starting today, taking them in the order I’ve gotten them.  Here’s today’s.

I’m a high school trombone player and I’ve been reading a lot of your articles on embouchures and have decided I’m probably one of the Type IVs (that’s how I’ve been playing for the last few years at least). However, when I play in the upper register, my lower lip seems to hide behind the upper lip and looks very similar to the “jelly roll” embouchure type, except that the mouthpiece placement is low as opposed to high. Is this okay or would you recommend trying to change that (or do you think I would actually be a standard type III)?

Since I haven’t seen you play, I don’t know if you’re typing yourself accurately.  First of all, I prefer to not use Donald Reinhardt’s embouchure nomenclature, simply because it gets confusing for people who are unfamiliar with it. Continue reading Embouchure Questions

Guess the Embouchure Type – Wycliffe Gordon and Wynton Marsalis

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Guess the Embouchure Type” post and this video offers a closeup look at two great players, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and trumpet player Wynton Marsalis.  Take a look at their embouchures and see if you can guess which embouchure type they have.

It’s not easy to tell based on what you can see if this video, but if you know what to look for you might be able to make an educated guess. Continue reading Guess the Embouchure Type – Wycliffe Gordon and Wynton Marsalis

Embouchure Question

I got a message from a horn student who watched one of my YouTube videos showing Low Placement type embouchures.  He writes:

My F horn teacher won’t let me play this way. Its the easiest way for me but he says “I’ll get great and then I’ll hit a wall and never get better”.

I know my instructor knows what’s best but he said that my embouchure is wrong and I can’t play that way.  And then I find out through this video that you can play with more lower lip.

What do you suggest?

This is a tough call, but it is unfortunately a fairly common issue that players with upstream/Low Placement type embouchures run into.  In situations like this, there are basically four things you can try. Continue reading Embouchure Question

Embouchure Questions – Lower Register For Low Placement Type

I’ve recently gotten a couple of very similar questions about the Low Placement embouchure type from my YouTube video Five Myths About Brass Embouchures.  “albrt2890” asks:

I have a student (f horn) who plays with a large amount of lower lip however when he descends into the lower register of the horn he changes his mouthpiece position so that he has more upper lip in the mouthpiece. Would it benefit him to try to play horn with the “Standard” embouchure through all ranges?

“dreadss64” similarly asks:

i use that same embouchure when i play my trumpet! But when i play mello i have to change it.its really hard diging out those low notes. My brass teacher said my trumpet embouchure is bad and that i need to change it. Do you agree?

First of all, without being able to watch a student play in person I can’t say for whether or not that player’s embouchure type is correct.  That said, in virtually every case I’ve seen where a player was playing naturally with an upstream embouchure type (meaning, more lower lip inside the mouthpiece), this was the correct type for the player.  There is something about the combination of physical characteristics that makes it possible for upstream players to play (sort of) by moving their mouthpiece placement higher on the lips and making their embouchure downstream.  However, players who are properly one of the two downstream embouchure types can’t seem to make an upstream embouchure work at all.  Along with the normal rarity of upstream embouchure types (maybe 15% of brass players, maybe even less) this makes many downstream teachers assume that an upstream embouchure is incorrect and one of the first things they do is try to “fix” their upstream students by moving their mouthpiece placement up to a downstream placement.  This is usually the last thing they want to do. Continue reading Embouchure Questions – Lower Register For Low Placement Type

Guess the Embouchure Type – Dick Nash

Another installment of “Guess the Embouchure Type” today.  This time I’m going to take a close look at the embouchure of the great trombonist Dick Nash.  Nash is sort of a trombonist’s trombonist.  Many fans may not know his name, but they may have heard his playing on countless soundtrack recordings and albums by artists like Stan Kenton, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and many more.  Take a look at the video below.  Around 2:35 into the video we get a good closeup look at his chops.

Continue reading Guess the Embouchure Type – Dick Nash

Guess the Embouchure Type – Hornist Bruno Schneider

Two in a row today.  I recently came across another video of a horn player, Bruno Schnieder, with a quick close-up look of his embouchure.  Take a close look at almost 1:00 into the video.

Unfortunately, there’s not enough in the video to see his embouchure motion, but his mouthpiece placement is obviously upstream.  Schneider is almost certainly a Low Placement embouchure type.

I like finding videos of Low Placement horn players, because so many horn teachers and horn texts are adamantly against this embouchure type.  Actually, you can find lots of teachers on all the brass who think this embouchure is wrong. Continue reading Guess the Embouchure Type – Hornist Bruno Schneider

More Thoughts on Horn and the Upstream Embouchure

This post has been inspired by an ongoing discussion over at James Boldin’s Horn World Blog.  If you’re joining the conversation now, you can catch up by reading James’s post here, my response, and then his followup.  Briefly, we’ve been musing about why there are fewer horn player’s who place the mouthpiece with more lower lip inside compared to other brass.  Because the lower lip predominates with this embouchure, the air stream is blown upward into the cup and is sometimes called an “upstream” embouchure.

It’s also important for brass teachers and players to understand that a player’s embouchure type isn’t a choice to be made by emulating another player, they are related to each player’s unique anatomy.  When a brass player works against their physical characteristics by adopting an embouchure type that doesn’t suit their face, embouchure difficulties result.

Of the three basic embouchure types, the two downstream embouchure types (placing the mouthpiece with more upper lip inside) are more common. Players who have the anatomy suited to play best with an upstream embouchure (more lower lip inside the mouthpiece) are more rare.  It’s not clear how much less common upstream players are, but my best guess is maybe around 15%.

That said, if you compare horn players’ embouchures with other brass instrument players you’ll probably find even fewer upstream players.  Many horn players speculate that there is something about the instruments itself that makes this so, however there really doesn’t appear to be any difference in basic brass embouchure form and function between any of the instruments.  Assuming this is the case, there must be something else going on. Continue reading More Thoughts on Horn and the Upstream Embouchure

Dennis Brain and the Upstream Horn Embouchure

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at James Boldin’s Horn World Blog on Dennis Brain’s embouchure.  If you’re a horn player you are no doubt already a Dennis Brain fan.  Whether or not you’re a horn player, if you’re a brass musician you should get to know his recordings of the Mozart horn concerti.  Brain is still enormously influential to horn players, in spite of him having such a short career and living a relatively long time ago (1921-1957, he was killed in a car accident).

One reason why I’m interested in Brain’s playing is he appears to have been a Low Placement (upstream) embouchure type.  Watch this video and look closely at Brain’s embouchure.

Brain’s mouthpiece placement is quite low, even lower than most upstream players usually are.   Continue reading Dennis Brain and the Upstream Horn Embouchure