This is part of a series of articles meant to be read in order. In order to understand this topic you’ll want to start at the beginning.
The next brass embouchure type I’ll discuss is also a common one, although perhaps not quite as common as the Very High Placement type. This embouchure type also places the mouthpiece with more upper lip inside and blows the air stream downward, but the direction of the embouchure motion with players belonging to this embouchure type is reversed, down to ascend and up to descend.
Brass musicians belonging to this embouchure type tend to place their mouthpiece not as quite high on the lips as the Very High Placement embouchure type, but still enough that the upper lip predominates. Because of this typical difference we can nickname this embouchure type as a “Medium High Placement” brass embouchure type. They also tend to have their jaw slightly receded and a horn angle that is tilted down somewhat, although exceptions to exist.
Let’s take a close look at some players belonging to the Medium High Placement embouchure type and look for the distinguishing characteristics of their embouchure form.
This trumpet player is an excellent example of a Medium High Placement embouchure type. His mouthpiece placement is closer to half and half than the Very High Placement type, but there is still more upper lip inside the mouthpiece, therefore the air stream is directed downward as he blows into the mouthpiece. If you watch inside the cup of the transparent mouthpiece as he plays you can see some of the moisture being disturbed by the air stream being directed even further downward as he plays higher. His embouchure motion is to pull down and to his right side to ascend and up and to the left to descend. You can also see he has an easy to spot amount of side to side jaw change as he changes register too. As he descends and pushes his mouthpiece and lips together up and to the left his jaw also moves towards his right side, with the reverse to ascend.
Like most players belonging to the Medium High Placement embouchure type, he has his lower jaw slightly receded and his horn angle is tilted downward somewhat. His horn angle position, however, was pretty static and not changing to follow the shape of his teeth and gums (and movement of his jaw) as he changes registers. I mentioned also in the last part too that when the jaw has some side to side change like this, it’s typical for players to make the opposite horn angle change (e.g., when the jaw goes left the horn angle goes right). As an experiment, I asked him to play both ascending and descending octave slurs and change his horn angle in both directions to see and hear what happened. On the ascending slurs to high C around 1:11 into the video he does what he would normally do. Just after he brought his horn angle over towards his right side, what I would expect would work better. To my ears, the intonation is better this way. When he next brings his horn angle towards his right to ascend the pitch sounds flat.
The benefit he gets from the horn angle changes is more apparent in his low register. Bringing the horn angle to his right to descend to the low C sounds better to me than leaving it static. Bringing the horn angle to his left to descend chokes off the sound and is pretty obviously the wrong change for him.
As an aside, this player was still recovering from Bell’s palsy when I took this video. He still didn’t feel like his playing was back to 100% at this time. If you look carefully at his right mouth corner you can see it looks a bit looser than his left side. It would have been interesting to have video prior to his bout with Bell’s palsy to see if that feature was present then and to have a video now, years later, and compare.
This trumpet player is also an excellent example of the Medium High Placement embouchure type. He has a mouthpiece placement that has a bit more upper lip inside, so his embouchure his downstream, but it’s not as high as most Very High Placement types. What makes his embouchure distinctly belong to the Medium High Placement type is his embouchure motion of pulling his mouthpiece and lips together down to ascend and pushing up to descend. His embouchure motion works quite well and provides a good model to follow in that the amount of change along the track of his embouchure motion is pretty consistently the same for each octave change. When I pointed that out to him he was surprised about the existence of the embouchure motion in the first place. Most brass musicians aren’t even aware that they are doing this, regardless of whether the embouchure motion can use some adjustment or, in this player’s case, is working very efficiently.
Again, even though the above players all belong to the same Medium High Placement embouchure type you will see individual variations in how they play. There are some players who place the mouthpiece very close to half and half and others who clearly have more upper lip inside the cup. Most Medium High Placement embouchure type players will have a receded jaw position, but some play with their teeth aligned and the horn angle close to straight out.
Medium High Placement embouchure type players seem to derive their lip compression differently from the other two embouchure types. Medium High Placement players will hold their upper and lower lips together more forward and backwards (rather than up and down) and the compression is created with a sort of forward and backward “pinching” of the lips. When these players pull the mouthpiece and lips down to ascend they are brining their top lip down against the lower lip. The lower lip will come slightly behind the upper lip and push forward against the upper lip, creating this forward/backward pinching lip compression.
Brass musicians belonging to the Medium High Placement embouchure type may find their tone is developed more easily than other embouchure types. They frequently feel that lip flexibility is one of their strengths. They will perhaps want to work more on developing muscular strength and control to develop their high range and take advantage of their natural flexibility.
It’s easy for Medium High Placement type players to play with an overall lip formation that is too loose, particularly in the low register. A flabby embouchure formation for these players may feel relaxed to them and get a big sound, but it can hinder endurance and upper register playing.
Pretty much everyone’s upper lip is going to be thinner than the lower lip (between the mouthpiece rim contact and the teeth and gums underneath, I’m not referring to how big the red of the lip is). This makes the upper lip more sensitive in general and prone to swelling or injury. Because of the nature of their embouchure motion (down to ascend) and the mechanics of their lip compression (pinching forward and backward), Medium High Placement players can often put too much mouthpiece pressure on the top lip and sort of “dig into” their top lip when ascending. It can help these players to keep more mouthpiece weight on the lower lip than the upper lip, particularly while ascending.
Medium High Placement embouchure type players will probably need to spend less time practicing for tone and flexibility and want to spend more time working on strength building and endurance. These players may find it takes them longer to warm up than the other brass embouchure types.
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