The Embouchure Motion

I made the above video about a year ago to demonstrate and explain a phenomenon that is quite difficult to describe verbally or even using images, the “embouchure motion.”  Most brass players are completely unaware of their embouchure motion, or they may be peripherally aware of it but have an incomplete understanding of it.  Even among people whose expertise I trust in this matter seem do disagree on some of the finer points of it.  It’s a very complex topic and our understanding of it is superficial.

To summarize my points in the video, when changing registers brass players will slide the lips and mouthpiece together up or down along the teeth behind them.  Some players will push the lips and mouthpiece together up towards the nose to ascend and others will pull down towards the chin.  Although the general motion is up and down, most players have some angular deviation in the imaginary line that their mouthpiece moves along.  Some players look almost as if they are making an embouchure motion that is closer to side to side than up and down.

Here are two photographs of the same trombonist playing a low B flat (a major 9th below middle C) and a B flat two octaves higher (a minor 7th above middle C). Continue reading The Embouchure Motion

Brass Embouchures and Air Stream Direction

In 1962 Philip Farkas, a noted teacher and former hornist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, published a book called The Art of Brass Playing. Subtitled, A Treatise on the Formation and Use of the Brass Player’s Embouchure, this text contained Farkas’s hypothesis on the proper embouchure for a brass instrument. According to Farkas, the proper embouchure would have the lips and jaw lined up in such a way that the air stream would be blown straight down the shank of the mouthpiece, illustrated as below.

Farkas Art of Brass Playing
from Phillip Farkas’s “The Art of Brass Playing”

It wasn’t until later that Farkas tested out this hypothesis and discovered that this wasn’t the case.  Continue reading Brass Embouchures and Air Stream Direction