Sound Differences Between Embouchure Types

Many brass teachers and players in the know about embouchure types will talk about the typical differences in tone between players belonging to different embouchure types, including me. For example, “Low Placement” upstream players tend to have a brighter tone than “Medium High Placement” embouchure type players. But while I think these tendencies have some validity, I think there’s enough variation among individuals belonging to the same embouchure type that you would never want to type someone based on sound alone.

Apparently, Donald Reinhardt claimed that he could tell a player’s embouchure type merely by hearing him or her play. Frankly, I doubt that anyone can do this, but I suppose if anyone could it would have been him. I think a player’s tone can be a clue, but certainly isn’t definitive.

I was curious about this, so I grabbed several audio clips from one of my old embouchure research projects and ran them through Audacity to look at the spectrograph. Here are 6 trumpet players.

Trumpet 1
Trumpet 1
Trumpet 2
Trumpet 2
Trumpet 3
Trumpet 3
Trumpet 4
Trumpet 4
Trumpet 5
Trumpet 5
Trumpet 6

Let’s take a look at some trombonists next.

Trombonist 1
Trombonist 1
Trombonist 2
Trombonist 3
Trombonist 3
Trombonist 4
Trombonist 4
Trombonist 5
Trombonist 5
Trombonist 6

Since I know which player belongs to which embouchure type, it’s easy for me to look and listen to them and think that I’m seeing and hearing a difference. Two of the above trumpet players stand out in particular to me in their spectrograph as being similar, but it might just because I’m looking for a pattern to fit what I already happen to know.

Unfortunately, what I’ve done isn’t going to be a very scientific way of determining a difference in tone between players of different types. I did record them all using the same equipment, but these were in different locations, which is going to affect what the mic is picking up. I didn’t control for how far away the camera/mic was from the player or even if the player was facing towards the mic or towards the side. Some of the players are playing starting on a different note, ascending first or descending first, etc.

In other words, this doesn’t prove anything.

I’d like to hear what you think. Assuming you’re already familiar with the basic brass embouchure types, what is your guess for each player based on the audio file and spectrograph? If you’re using Reinhardt’s embouchure types, all of these players fit IIIA, IIIB, and IV/IVA.

When you’ve left your guess in the comments, you can go here to see the answers.

Paul T.

Super interesting! I’ve been planning to do something like this for quite some time.

Of course, there are many factors here which maybe should have been controlled (equipment, room, ranges, etc), and a longer sample might be really important in some cases.

My guesses seemed better than random, but not by a whole lot. (Although it’s possible that I do a good job of identifying my own embouchure type.)

For the record, I don’t consider myself to be a person who is capable of doing this.

Finally, I won’t include the real answers, since some people might be reading the comments before taking the test.

Tpts:

1 – I was vacillating between IIIA and IV, unsure. Would guess IIIA, but with little confidence.
2 – IIIB.
3 – IIIB
4 – Thought IV or IIIB, eventually decided to go with IV.
5 – IIIA
6 – IIIA

Tbn:

1 – IIIA (considered IV, but the freebuzz suggests IIIA)
2 – IIIA
3 – IIIB
4 – IIIA or IIIB
5 – IIIA
6 – Was vacillating between IIIA and IV, eventually chose IV.

Daniel

Tpt: 1.LP 2.MHP 3.VHP 4.LP 5.MHP 6.VHP
Tbn: 1.?… 2.MHP? 3.LP 4.MHP 5.VHP 6.MHP

Curious to see how I did! Some of these tbn ones I felt could really be any type (esp. on tbn), based on how the player was centering their notes (and maybe the amount of mouthpiece pressure…).

Daniel

Tricky tricky! Haha – interesting experiment, for sure. I do wonder if the results would be quite different if everyone were using the same equipment and facing the mic from the same distance, etc.

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