I put together the above video to show an unusual embouchure I happened to document for my embouchure research. This case is particularly interesting for a couple of features. First, since it’s more challenging to get clear video footage of embouchure characteristics on a smaller mouthpiece, the tuba embouchure makes i very easy to see examples of certain embouchure characteristics. Secondly, this tubist plays very well, in spite of some embouchure idiosyncrasies that make for noticeable flaws in his technique.
First, a little background about the subject. At the time I recorded this video he was a college music student, actually majoring in piano. He had played tuba for quite a while, though, and was continuing to perform and study tuba as a secondary instrument. While a fine player, this subject complained of some difficulties playing in tune at a couple of points while taking this video footage. He had some difficulties with his high range and at a particular point in his range chipped a lot of notes.
This student had been studying with a notable tubist who focused on these problems mainly by approaching it from the breathing. This attitude of treating brass embouchure problems as breathing problems is quite prevalent, so this is not unusual. With regards to his high register difficulties this subject told me that his teacher felt if he kept practicing that his muscles would develop and his upper register would improve, although his particular high range cap had not improved for quite some time. He also told me he got the suggestion that he could always play on an E flat tuba if he needed more upper range for particular music. He was already playing on a C tuba.
In the above video I show how all three of his technique issues, the intonation difficulties, split attacks, and high register cap, are related to him using two different embouchure types. In his low register he plays as a Low Placement/upstream embouchure type, but at a particular point in his middle register his lips flip position and he switches to a Medium High Placement/downstream embouchure type. It is at this break point where his intonation and attacks were inconsistent. Moving the placement lower on his lips, so that his upper register would remain upstream, also allowed him to play higher and with much less effort than on his downstream embouchure.
It seems highly likely to me that this subject would do better as a Low Placement embouchure type and should adopt that embouchure for his entire range. At the time, however, he was reluctant to do so. The little bit of experimenting with an upstream embouchure was enough to convince me, but not enough for him. A couple of months later he had changed his mind and decided to give this embouchure type correction a serious go. I got the chance to take some more video footage at that time, and some of that footage has ended up in other videos I’ve put together.
Unfortunately, I’ve since lost touch with this subject and have not been able to follow up with him to see what ultimately resulted. As I mentioned above, his major instrument was piano, so he may not even be playing tuba any longer. Not only am I curious as to how things ended up for him, I also want to thank him for his willingness to participate in my research. He has provided an excellent example to show some different embouchure characteristics and deserves a lot of credit to allow me to share his example.