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What is a good embouchure?

What is a good embouchure? Good question. Embouchures are like snow flakes, golf swings and finger prints. None are the same. I’ve seen many different approaches and positions that trumpet players use to place a trumpet on their face that work. Some have the horn pointed down or off to the side. These to me are unnatural positions, but have been made to work by a lot of very good players.

In my view, the reasons for these unnatural positions are 1.Poor or no fundamental training when starting out 2. An unnatural bite 3. Uneven teeth. I contend that people who fall in the categories of 2 and 3 should be discouraged from playing a brass instrument from the beginning.

So what is a natural embouchure? To me a natural embouchure is placing your lower jaw out far enough so your lower teeth align evenly with your upper teeth to make a wall where the mouthpiece can comfortably rest without tilting up or down or to either side. 60% of the pressure should be on the lower jaw and 40 & on the upper. With this position achieved, the upper lip should be free to vibrate (of course your lower lip vibrates, too) and your horn should be pointing straight out (even with the ground.) More results with less effort should ensue.

On hard and long pounding gigs one should make sure that the pressure and abuse should be directed to the lower jaw and lip not the upper. The upper teeth can’t move or do anything to help the positioning. The lower teeth (jaw) can move and must be set in a position to achieve proper alignment of the teeth and take responsibility to protect the upper lip.

With your lower teeth (jaw) dropped back and behind the line of your upper teeth, your horn will start pointing down, your upper lip will be taking most of the pressure, and proper vibration is stifled. Your lower jaw has got to take care of business and that is to take most of the stress off of the upper lip.

You’ll know when you’re doing this properly when you develop a little callus on the inside of your lower lip and your upper lip isn’t bashed and mangled from playing hard. Your range and endurance will improve.

A lot is said about blowing air. “Blow more air, more velocity, blow harder, louder”. Most all trumpet players that I have observed in my career blow too much air or over blow. They’re trying to overcome the physicality of the trumpet with force. I have found that when one blows too much air, their flexibility suffers. Light and tight swinging is near to impossible and your sound and ability to play clean and delicate is compromised.

If one uses the embouchure described above, the lips should be in a position to vibrate freely and effortlessly with less air. I’ll leave you with an axiom from my personal approach to playing trumpet….

“Use the least amount of air to get the job done to its fullest”

Carl Saunders

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