David

Thank you for your extremely thorough analysis. It is certainly an education. May I suggest a logical extension of your gift to brass players which you have so generously made? Perhaps you might examine and answer the following concerning the application of your findings to range, sound and mouthpiece types:

1. I am sure that I am doing it wrong, but as I move from the lowest pedals (on tuba) to four octaves up [say CCC to octave above middle c] I move from using practically only my upper lip for the lowest notes to using only my upper lip, rolled tightly in. Does this conform to your research?

2. What happens when we move to extremely high notes? You might help many by videoing those who produce alto-altissimo [but also musical!!] sounds. ref: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gF2lfyLxVQ I am not endorsing his methods or otherwise but this does show what seems to happen.

3. Further, the width of mouthpiece rim [and therefore length of the vibrating lip] and, separately, the depth of the mouthpiece seem to affect high notes and general tone. What role does each play and why?

4. If you listen to the greats from 50 years back, they have a silvery, refined and sweet sound. Today, we do not seem to favour this. Is it just vibrato? Embouchure-wise – what controls this different ‘British brass band’ sound? eg Arthur Doyle, Bert Sullivan, Lyndon Baglin, Denis Brain, John Fletcher etc.

.

Dave

Hi, David.

1. I am sure that I am doing it wrong, but as I move from the lowest pedals (on tuba) to four octaves up [say CCC to octave above middle c] I move from using practically only my upper lip for the lowest notes to using only my upper lip, rolled tightly in. Does this conform to your research?

Hard to say. Are you talking about moving the mouthpiece placement to a different placement on the lips? Maybe you’re talking about the vermillion (red) of the lips and rolling the lower lip in? I would have to watch you play to give you an answer.

2. What happens when we move to extremely high notes? You might help many by videoing those who produce alto-altissimo [but also musical!!] sounds. ref: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gF2lfyLxVQ I am not endorsing his methods or otherwise but this does show what seems to happen.

In my opinion the same mechanics should apply across the entire range. If you need to take the mouthpiece off the lips or otherwise slide your lips under the mouthpiece rim in order to roll your lips in to play the top of your range, then you’re not going to be able to connect that to the rest of your range. The same applies in the extreme low range for rolling the lips out. Playing your entire range with one embouchure is worth while, I feel. You can argue that with very extreme ranges, as a special effect, that it doesn’t matter how you get the notes out, but generally speaking I prefer to not recommend that.

3. Further, the width of mouthpiece rim [and therefore length of the vibrating lip] and, separately, the depth of the mouthpiece seem to affect high notes and general tone. What role does each play and why?

I’m not too much into equipment, to be honest. My understanding is that having larger rim sizes helps Very High Placement types play in their low register with better technique, which reinforces their upper register playing. Low Placement types probably also. A bigger cup seems to make it more difficult to play in the upper register, but other folks may have a different experience. Hard to say.

4. If you listen to the greats from 50 years back, they have a silvery, refined and sweet sound. Today, we do not seem to favour this. Is it just vibrato? Embouchure-wise – what controls this different ‘British brass band’ sound? eg Arthur Doyle, Bert Sullivan, Lyndon Baglin, Denis Brain, John Fletcher etc.

There seems to have been a trend over the past maybe 50 years towards bigger equipment and favoring a darker sound. I suspect that equipment is more of a general influence.

One thing that occurs to me is that British brass bands may be similar to many of the jazz brass musicians from the 20th century in that there were more self taught players. I tend to see more embouchure variety with jazz musicians compared to classical musicians, perhaps because more of them figured out what works for them and weren’t taught to play like their teacher.

Dave

Mark Turner

As an adult beginner in my first month of working through my kid’s 6th grade beginner book, when should I start figuring this out?

I’m starting with my kid’s pBone since he plans to take the old Conn to his freshman year in college this fall to try out for marching and pep bands, and it doesn’t sound like either his private or school instructors explicitly talked about embouchure options. Do most people wait until they are frustrated at a plateau to figure it out? I plan to contact his private teacher if I prove to myself that I am persistent once he’s in college this fall (assuming Covid19 has settled down of course).

I suspect that most people have an asymmetry in their lips so that one may resonate easily at lower frequencies and the other at higher pitches. In my case, a novice sample of one, the first day without having seen these web pages, I could hit very low notes (in the pedal note range) easily with the mouthpiece held high close to my nose and my top lip doing all of the buzzing, whereas I had to reposition the mouthpiece lower using my bottom lip to buzz for anything in the middle of the bass clef or higher. After reading these pages and watching your videos, I think I naturally would have been like your tuba player who was flipping directions if I kept down that path. With some experimenting, my current compromise is with the mouthpiece low, where with warmup I can lip slur up to middle C or so, while still getting into pedal notes without really repositioning. And then there’s mouthpiece sizing, I have no idea if the pBone’s mouthpiece is any standard size,
but the 1931 Conn’s, while a much deeper cup, is only labled “Trombone” without any numbers. But maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse, and should worry more about practicing?

Thanks for the content, it is fascinating.

Dave

I’m glad you found this interesting, Mark.

As an adult beginner in my first month of working through my kid’s 6th grade beginner book, when should I start figuring this out?

Embouchure 101 is really meant for music teachers working with brass students. I do discuss here, and elsewhere on my blog, my thoughts on teaching beginners regarding their embouchure technique, but it’s usually not necessary to worry about embouchure types as a beginner. Work on holding the instrument correctly and consistently in that way, both the slide arm and your left hand grip and posture. Allow your mouthpiece placement to go wherever it wants to, rather than trying to make it fit something else. You might get some value out of the parts where I talk about general embouchure form to avoid habits like the smile embouchure.

Mainly I would suggest that you establish a practice routine that is consistent and spreads out the time you practice in small chunks. That’s a good way to develop embouchure strength and control, for the most part.

Do most people wait until they are frustrated at a plateau to figure it out?

Some people are lucky or talented enough that it clicks very early. Some people eventually figure it out on their own. Some musicians “muscle” their way around embouchure issues, but many of those find their chops break down eventually.

Some folks never really get it figured out. They sometimes quit or move on to something different.

I suspect that most people have an asymmetry in their lips so that one may resonate easily at lower frequencies and the other at higher pitches.

Some embouchure types, like the Low Placement type, have a tendency to have less trouble with their upper register than their lower register. Medium High Placement types will tend towards having to work less with their lower register.

In my case, a novice sample of one, the first day without having seen these web pages, I could hit very low notes (in the pedal note range) easily with the mouthpiece held high close to my nose and my top lip doing all of the buzzing, whereas I had to reposition the mouthpiece lower using my bottom lip to buzz for anything in the middle of the bass clef or higher…With some experimenting, my current compromise is with the mouthpiece low, where with warmup I can lip slur up to middle C or so, while still getting into pedal notes without really repositioning.

Since I haven’t watched you play, I am guessing, but I would suggest that you don’t “compromise.” Put your mouthpiece where it wants to work for your upper register first. It’s too easy to play the low register, particularly pedal tones, in a way that seems like it works, but is completely wrong for the rest of your playing. Until you get a lesson with someone who can see how you’re playing, I would avoid doing much pedal tone practice. Try to set your mouthpiece in the same place where you would play one of your highest notes.

And then there’s mouthpiece sizing, I have no idea if the pBone’s mouthpiece is any standard size,
but the 1931 Conn’s, while a much deeper cup, is only labled “Trombone” without any numbers. But maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse, and should worry more about practicing?

My pBone came with a plastic mouthpiece, which doesn’t play as well as a standard metal mouthpiece in my opinion. If it doesn’t matter to you, I would suggest trying the metal mouthpiece, provided it’s not one that’s got an extremely deep cup. Middle of the road mouthpieces are usually good for beginners. Once you’ve been playing a while and have established enough playing technique you can look into mouthpieces.

Good luck!

Dave

Vincent

Great ! Thanks you so much!
Vincent from Normandie France.
I am a trombonist.
I discovered with your article if i blow upstream, i can reached high notes much easier!
C5 is easy,no effort. Even reached D6 !!! But bad sound.
What a discovery you offer me!!! Thanks a lot again
I am 58.left handed ( Is there a relation with upstream?!) and have a brace up my teeth cause a car accident at 20 years old.
Sorry for the bad English.

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