A Euphonium Embouchure

YouTube user “Suiram1” has uploaded a video of his embouchure.

Suiram1 asked if I had any comments for him.  It’s a pretty short video, and it’s very difficult to diagnose or suggest anything without being there in person, but I thought I’d point out some things I notice.

First, his embouchure is definitely one of the downstream types.  If you look closely at the lips when he’s playing in the transparent mouthpiece you can see this.  There’s more upper lip inside so that lip predominates and the air strikes the bottom of the cup.  This is more common than the upstream embouchure type.  

As an aside, the beginning of his video shows a still shot of his face in profile.  I noticed that the neutral resting position of his lips and jaw are such that the upper lip is beyond the lower.  When running stats for my dissertation on trombone embouchures, this anatomical feature showed a statistically significant correlation to downstream players.  However, I would caution players and teachers from making this assumption, as I don’t think it’s always the case.

Depending on all the various factors you want to consider, you can break down embouchures into more than just upstream and downstream types.  In fact, I argue that it’s important to note that there are at least two distinctly different downstream embouchure types that need to be considered separately.  This is because downstream players will have an embouchure motion to either push the mouthpiece and lips up to ascend, or pull them down to ascend.

It appears that Suiram1 is doing the later, pulling the mouthpiece and lips down to ascend, which would classify his embouchure type as the Medium High Placement type.  It looks like his embouchure motion is at an angle so that he’s pulling down and to his right to ascend, while pushing up and to his left to descend.  It also looks as if he’s angling the instrument to his right as he ascends.  The angular deviation to the embouchure motion and changing the horn angles while doing so are pretty common and correct for many players.

That said, I can’t say for sure that any of my observations are absolutely correct for him.  Not all players play on the embouchure type that best fits their anatomical features.  His placement is a bit on the high side for the Medium High Placement types, but that’s not necessarily wrong.  He’s got space on his lips to move the placement higher and lower, as well as side to side.  Sometimes a minor placement change away from (more rarely towards) the center of the lips can make for a big improvement.  It always depends on the individual player.

Without being there in person to see and hear the results of trying out a couple of different things I’m not particularly confident about offering specific advice for Suiram1.  His embouchure appears to be a Medium High Placement type, but I can’t for certain if this is correct for him.  For now, I would recommend working on descending while keeping the embouchure formation more firm (I didn’t like the way he collapsed the embouchure formation on the pedal B flat, but many players have trouble with that range).  Also, get into the upper register more and work on building strength and endurance to play up there (he didn’t show us much of his upper register at all and how the embouchure functions in the upper register can provide some very important clues about the player’s correct embouchure type).

If he’s feeling adventurous, Suiram1 might try moving the mouthpiece placement around and see if that does anything.  In particular, I’d be curious to see what happens if he tries playing very high notes on an upstream embouchure.  You have to be careful, and rest a lot while doing this.  It can be taxing on your chops and if you think you’ve found something that’s actually wrong for your proper embouchure type you can make things worse.  It’s best to do this sort of thing under the guidance of someone with a little experience here.

Suiram1, if you have a private teacher, one of your lessons would be the perfect place to try this out, under the guidance of someone who can see this.  Be sure your teacher checks this resource out first, in case he or she never studied brass embouchures enough to know what to look for.  I’d be happy to try to answer any questions you or your teacher might have as best as I can without being able to watch you play in person.

Nathan

I am a freshman in high school and have been Euphonium for 3 years and currently I am changing my embouchure from an extreme upstream to a typical downstream embouchure. I would like to know how long this transition will take? It is very frustrating to suddenly sound awful and be reduced to a B flat to B flat (one octave) range. Also where can one purchase a transparent mouthpiece like the ones that I have seen you and others using?
Thanks for your help!

Dave

Hard to say, everyone is different. But if your range was reduced when changing from upstream to downstream, it doesn’t sound like the change was correct for your anatomy and you should perhaps change back to upstream. It’s not possible for me to say without watching you play, though.

The transparent mouthpieces I use are mostly ones from Kelly Mouthpieces.

Paul T.

Dave, it looks to me like I see an inconsistent pivot–although it’s pretty hard to tell from this video (each segment tends to stay within a very limited range).

From just one glance through the video, it seems to me that this player is playing as Medium Placement most of the time, but occasionally pivots the other way. And it’s only when pivoting the other way that the upper notes come out clearly and easily.

Maybe he should try playing as a High Placement (i.e. with a consistent upward pivot)?

Again, I only watched this once, so take that with a grain of salt (especially if you’re reading this, Suiram1!). I could be imagining things. But I’m curious to hear what you think on that point.

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