A few months ago I caught up with Doug Elliott and took another lesson. For those who don’t know, Doug’s embouchure types and terminology are the ones I prefer to use here and my lessons and interview with him were important resources for my dissertation. Doug studied from Donald Reinhardt and took Reinhardt’s ideas and developed a presentation of them that makes them easier to understand.
At any rate, at my last lesson with Doug he reminded me of Reinhardt’s “Elasticity Routine,” or at least the technique and point behind it. I have some inconsistencies in how my chops function between my upper register and F3 and below. Glissing without using the slide between partials in this register are helping me make my embouchure function more consistently. They are also pretty good for developing lip flexibility and overall embouchure control.
There was a forum topic on the Trombone Forum that was discussing similar exercises, so I threw together a short video describing and demonstrating what I’ve been practicing. It’s not as good as Doug’s demonstration for me, but I think you can get the point of how the Elasticity Routine works. The exact glisses that you do are not as important as how you do them. Do not let up on the mouthpiece pressure and try to gliss between those partials as smoothly as possible.
I had a couple of pretty good glisses in there and some examples of me struggling to make them sound smooth. They all sound better now than they did a few months ago. The point is not that this should sound good (although that’s what I’m trying for when practicing this drill), but how they help your playing.
While trombone is my primary instrument and it’s been a while since I’ve seriously doubled on any other brass, I’ve been thinking lately about fingering issues after doing a “guess the embouchure type” post of trumpet player Giuliano Sommerhalder. One of the things I noted about the video I used for that post was that Sommerhalder doesn’t place his finger tips on the valves, but instead places the second digit of his fingers over the valves. Even though this isn’t what is traditionally taught for fingering technique Sommerhalder is obviously not slowed down by this.
Here is a cleaned up version of my 50 minute video presentation called Brass Embouchures: A Guide For Teachers and Players. While I’ve had this presentation up on YouTube already, I had to split it into 6 parts when I initially posted it. Later I tried to post it in a single video, but the audio and video didn’t sync up towards the end. This time I believe it should work just fine all the way through.
I’ve forgotten who sent this link to me, so I apologize for not giving credit. I’ve posted lots of videos and photos of brass players using transparent mouthpieces, here’s Brian Kane playing a transparent tuba.
He’s also playing a transparent mouthpiece, but the camera doesn’t focus on it to see his air stream direction. Probably downstream, but that’s always a probable guess simply because most players are statistically more likely to be downstream.
Kane’s comments on the diameter of the tubing and how it affects the upper register of that instrument is interesting. Building a brass instrument to play well in all registers is a complicated thing.
Tip of the horn to John B. for spotting this video of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Brass Quintet. Back in high school I took a semester of Japanese and recognize the characters in the video as the kana. I gave up after a short while trying to work out which of the orchestra’s brass players are performing here, so if anyone knows and can supply us the names of the individual performers, please leave a comment. (Update – Dan F. worked out the trombonist, it’s Jorgen Van Rijen. Thanks, Dan!)
You can get a pretty close look at all five of their chops in this video, but it’s tough to spot all of their embouchure motions because most of the time there isn’t enough of a range change at that moment in the music to see one (this is why in my videos I demonstrate this with octave slurs, it’s a large enough interval to clearly see them). Still, we can make an educated guess based on mouthpiece placement and there are a couple of points in the video where you can spot a player’s embouchure motion. Take a look and make your best guess of their embouchure types. My speculations after the break.
It’s time for another one of my installments of “Guess the Embouchure Type.” This week I’m going to see if I can tell what embouchure type the great Norwegian tubist Øystein Baadsvik belongs to. Take a look at this video of him playing the Vittorio Monti version of Czardas and see if you can tell. Although he moves around a lot, making it tough to get an easy look at his chops, beginning around 3:35 into the clip you should be able to spot enough to make an educated guess, if you know what to look for.
It’s a common enough experience. You’re happily playing away when suddenly your tone splits into two different pitches. Usually it’s only a simple missed attack and you can instantly correct and hold the pitch stable. Sometimes this happens around a particular note and starts to get impossible to hold the the pitch without the tone splitting. It might even get to the point where you’re so worried about this that every time you get to that pitch you mentally or even physically flinch, which just makes the problem worse.
Having had this problem myself a couple of different times I can really empathize with brass players who are having this trouble. Not understanding what exactly is going on can make it challenging to figure out what to do. Sometimes the solution that seems obvious only makes things worse and sometimes it goes away on its own, only to come back later.
While I’m sure there are many possible culprits, in my experience a double buzz is likely to be caused by one of the following scenarios. Continue reading The Double Buzz
Have you ever felt nervous just before a very important performance? Have you ever felt so anxious that you literally couldn’t catch your breath as you started to play? It’s so tough to stop that “fight or flight” breathing once it’s started, because it’s a natural biological response. It also makes it harder to play a brass instrument.
Sometimes taking a few deep breaths can do the trick, but it can help to “trick” your body into resetting your breathing patterns. I’ll sometimes do this short exercise just before stepping out on stage and have given it to a lot of my students who get nervous just before performances or juries. Continue reading Rebooting Your Breath
If you look around at a number of different resources for brass players and teachers you will notice that while there is a general consensus on topics such as breathing, there is a lot of contradictory advice on brass embouchures. In the above video I look at five commonly held myths about brass embouchures.
1. If you want to sound like a famous player you should use the same embouchure as that player. If you want your students to have a well functioning embouchure, they should use the same embouchure as you.
Most players and teachers seem to feel that the embouchure that works well for them personally must be the correct one, so they instruct others to play similarly. Sometimes students who emulate a famous player believe the key to sounding that good is to adopt the same embouchure as that player.
The trouble with this logic is that everyone has a different face and what works well for one player doesn’t for another. There are examples of successful brass players with very different looking embouchures. A one-size-fits-all approach to embouchure development will be successful if you or your student happens to have the anatomy suited to that instruction, but others will fail. Continue reading Embouchure Misconceptions – Five Myths About Brass Embouchures