No Pressure Brass Embouchure – Fact or Urban Legend?

I’ve blogged about this topic before. The specific story is that a famous brass player or teacher is giving a clinic or lesson and he or she hangs the instrument from the ceiling and with no pressure plays a high, loud note with beautiful tone. I mentioned in that earlier post that if this demonstration actually happens I would expect someone somewhere would have it up on YouTube or somewhere else on the internet. All I could find were stories where someone claimed to have seen it.

Until now. Sort of. Here is my attempt to duplicate this experiment.

If you make it through the entire video you won’t see and hear good results.

The point of the stories I hear tend towards the idea that mouthpiece pressure is bad and that minimal mouthpiece pressure is optimal. Personally, I feel that excessive mouthpiece pressure is a symptom of something else that’s not working correctly and if you correct that issue the mouthpiece pressure will balance itself on its own, no need to consciously attempt to reduce mouthpiece pressure.

Beyond that, it’s obvious that some mouthpiece pressure is necessary, and it may be more than some folks realize. I’ve blogged about this topic before as well. Some amateur trumpet players who happened to be engineers designed an experiment where they showed experienced trumpet teachers photographs of different players (ranging from professionals to amateurs) playing different pitches they were unable to accurately judge how much mouthpiece pressure was actually measured.

So for now, at least, I consider these stories an urban legend. If you disagree, post your own video or help me find one and I’ll plug it here.

How To Form a Trumpet (brasswind) Embouchure in Four Steps, by Charlie Porter

Here’s a lengthy video by trumpet player Charlie Porter on how to form a brass embouchure.

I have had some disagreements with Porter in the past. I have some quibbles with some of his instructions too, but I like his recommendation to set firm the lips up before setting the mouthpiece on the lips. Two of the other steps he recommends (pulling the lips open after setting the mouthpiece and wetting the lip center with the tongue after that) I feel would risk undoing the value of firming before setting.

Watching through the video I didn’t understand if he was suggesting the embouchure aperture remains open throughout the lip vibration, so I asked him about it. He was kind enough to take the time to clarify for me.

Of course the lips rapidly close and open during vibration. That’s not the point…I’m not arguing that they they never close briefly, per each vibration occurring…the point is that players are often way too tight and begin with closed lips and press them together to the point of distorting the vibration.

It’s a rather long video, but take look at it if you’re interested in different thoughts about setting the embouchure formation for playing.

Firm, Place, Breathe, Blow

A thread on the Facebook Trombone Pedagogy group lately has been discussing different thoughts on coordinating breathing with setting the embouchure and placing the mouthpiece. I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss my preferred way of teaching students to coordinate air and embouchure together, based on Donald Reinhardt’s instructions from his writings, including his Encyclopedia of the Pivot System.

While the jaw is in its playing position, form the saturated embouchure with ALMOST buzzing firmness, so that the lips are “just touching” at the vibrating points. When in doubt, form the lips as if to buzz. . .

Place the mouthpiece upon the embouchure formation as just prescribed and use sufficient “contact pressure” to locate and sustain its position in the playing groove of the embouchure. The actually placement must be executed in accordance with the [embouchure] type. . .

Inhale the high-pitched, whispered “IM” (not “OM” or “UM”) through both mouthcorners – NEVER THE MOUTHCENTER – simultaneously. . . In short, eliminate “gear shifting” and inhale with a minimum of embouchure distortion.

At it’s heart, Reinhardt’s advice is to work towards unifying the player’s pre-playing sensations with the playing sensations. In other words, he felt it was valuable to have as little change as possible in the position of the lips and mouthpiece upon the lips from inhaling to playing. In order to encourage this, he instructed his students to practice (during certain exercises – not during rehearsing and performance) to firm the lips as if buzzing first, place the mouthpiece on the firmed lips, inhale through the mouth corners while maintaining mouthpiece pressure and holding the lip center just touching, then commence blowing by coordinating the mouth corners snapping into their correct position. Taking breaths in the middle of phrases is to be simply a matter of continuing to breathe through the mouth corners while keeping everything under the mouthpiece rim and inside the mouthpiece should remain more or less in playing position.

Many players, including some excellent ones, either don’t consider their embouchure when breathing or are so focused on moving lots of air that they don’t feel that minimizing the embouchure “gear shift” between inhaling and blowing is valuable. Some players will open their mouth very wide to inhale and the mouthpiece placement shifts slightly every time they begin blowing. Some players will set the mouthpiece on relaxed lips and firm them only just as they begin blowing, which can result in twisting or winding the lips up under the rim or distortions and inconsistency in their overall embouchure formation from breath to breath. Consistency in a player’s embouchure formation should result in better playing consistency.

One of the biggest challenges to adopting this approach is that it’s difficult to take in as much air as quickly when you’re only breathing through the mouth corners. Trumpet and horn players may find the smaller mouthpiece size makes keeping the lip center just touching inside the mouthpiece while inhaling to be easier than low brass players with their larger mouthpieces. I think it’s important to keep in mind that this approach is meant to be practiced only at specific times in your routine and then forgotten about while you move on or are performing. We can think of this approach as an ideal goal, but that not every playing situation is going to make that ideal work at every moment. By aiming towards the ideal in your practice you are minimizing the potential for this to cause issues, both short term cracking notes from time to time or the longer term (and fortunately rarer) embouchure dysfunction that can result.

Nils Wogram – Guess the Embouchure Type

Nils Wogram is a jazz trombonist from Germany. He’s really a terrific player, he’s got that great combination of excellent technique paired with a lot of creativity. I was surfing YouTube and came across this fantastic solo using multiphonics.

There’s not really a good look at his chops in this video to really guess his embouchure type. It *seems* like his mouthpiece is fairly high and close to the nose, but the camera never focuses closely enough and at a good enough angle to say more than his embouchure is one of the downstream types. I did want to post that video, though, because it’s a really neat example of what someone can do with multiphonics.

This video has a much clearer shot of his chops.

Wogram’s solo starts about 2:25 into the above video. Watch it and guess his embouchure type. My guess below the break. Continue reading Nils Wogram – Guess the Embouchure Type

Playing On the Red Is Fine (Redux)

One of the more popular posts I’ve written here is Brass Embouchures: Playing On the Red Is Fine (as long as it fits your anatomy). In this post I tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to point out the flaws in the nearly universal belief among brass teachers that placing the mouthpiece so that the rim contacts the vermillion of the lips is a bad thing. I will try in this post to reiterate my points more clearly.

Before going too deep into this discussion, I’ve found that it’s important to point out that I’m not making a blanket recommendation that brass players should adopt a mouthpiece placement that sets the rim right on the upper or lower lip vermillion. I’m merely pointing out that the very pointed advice to avoid it is based on faulty logic and a misunderstanding of both the anatomy of the lips and embouchure form and function. Most folks aren’t going to have the anatomical features that make such a high or low mouthpiece placement work efficiently, but some do and for these players moving the mouthpiece placement off the red can be as detrimental to their embouchure as another player moving the placement to the red when it shouldn’t be. This is something that is unique to the individual player and needs to be taken on a case by case basis.

There are three basic arguments against placing the mouthpiece on the lips so that it contacts the vermillion along the top or bottom of the rim:

  1. A famous teacher or player advocated against it.
  2. The anatomy of the vermillion is such that it makes it more sensitive and prone to damage than the rest of the lip.
  3. It’s mechanically incorrect and won’t work as well as a placement with less rim contact on the vermillion.

Famous Players and Teachers

If you’re reading the post and questioning why I’m going against what appears to be conventional brass pedagogy, that’s a good thing. I always recommend that folks learn not just what we know about brass pedagogy and mechanics, but also take the time to understand how we know what we know. It’s very easy to find folks who actively discourage placing the mouthpiece on the red of the lips, but it’s not easy to understand why they recommend that. Many of these folks make their case using arguments 2 or 3 above, but an awful lot simply assert without evidence.

The bottom line here is that we can’t simply take a statement at face value based on how famous the person is who said it, we need to look past that and deal with the evidence. That which is stated without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

Anatomy

There is an awful lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about the anatomy and histology of the lips in the brass literature. Here is one example:

To function properly, the inner edge of the mouthpiece must be placed on tissue that is supported by muscle, but the lips are composed of fatty tissue that by itself cannot support a normal embouchure.

-Frank Campos, Trumpet Technique, 2005

Part of the difficulty in parsing comments like Campos’s is that while the medical literature has a very precise definition of the lips (which runs all the way up to the nose and down to the chin), many brass authors use the term “lips” to refer to just the vermillion. Regardless of the exact meaning in the statement above, it’s demonstrably incorrect. The entire lip, including under the vermillion, is internally made up of the orbicularis oris muscle group. There absolutely is muscle under the vermillion. Be careful when you look at diagrams that draw in the vermillion as a point of reference, they are misleading. Here is one diagram that leaves out the vermillion as a reference.

Another, less common, point I’ve recently come across is that because the epidermis at the vermillion is thinner than the normal epidermal layer there is less cushion from the skin:

Lips have around 3-5 cellular layers and above the vermillion border has as high as 16 cellular layers.

-“asdfghj,” 2017

Since “asdfghj” is both posting anonymously and also not citing his/her source, I can’t really comment on the legitimacy of this claim, however it does seem plausible. The reason the vermillion of the lips are red in people with fairer skin is that the color of the blood vessels underneath the vermillion come through. For the sake of argument, I’ll accept this as true. I still don’t find this a compelling argument and here’s why.

Without heading over to a university library and digging through the literature, a cursory internet search shows one apparently reputable source that states, “The thickness of the epidermis varies in different types of skin; it is only .05 mm thick on the eyelids, and is 1.5 mm thick on the palms and the soles of the feet.” How does this compare to the layer of skin of the lips, both the vermillion and elsewhere? It’s hard to say for certain using the internet, but Wikipedia (take it with a grain of salt) states, “The average human skin cell is about 30 micrometers in diameter, but there are variants. A skin cell usually ranges from 25-40 micrometers (squared), depending on a variety of factors.”

Let’s use the 30 micrometers average to calculate how thick the skin of the vermillion is compared to the normal epidermal layer on the lips. If the vermillion has 4 layers, that 120 micrometers. The 16 layers of skin in the rest of the lips would make for a layer 480 micrometers, a difference of 360 micrometers, or .36 millimeters. For comparison, human hair is said to range up to 181 micrometers in diameter, so the difference here is about two layers the size of the of a human hair.

I don’t find supposed cushion of two hairs to be a compelling difference, considering the mouthpiece forces involved. It’s not the layer of skin that provides the cushion and support of the embouchure, but the muscle underneath.

All the above shows, however, that there don’t appear to be plausible reasons why the vermillion would be more sensitive to pressure. That doesn’t mean that the vermillion actually isn’t. In order to get an idea, I spend some time back in 2012 going through both the medical and musical literature to see if there was any indication that injuries to the lip occurred at the vermillion more than the rest of the lip, or to see if any medical professionals happened to comment on this specific point.

While most brass players don’t “place on the red” in such a way that the rim contact the upper or lower vermillion a great deal, 100% of brass players place the mouthpiece with at least some rim contact on the vermillion. If the vermillion was more prone to injury than the rest of the lip, I would think that the medical literature discussing lip injuries due to brass playing would indicate this. In fact, it is rarely mentioned.

Injuries to the lips due to brass playing happens where the rim happens to be on the lips, irrespective of the vermillion. It appears that the upper lip (the entire lip, not just the vermillion) is more prone to injuries than the lower lip (hence the common advice to not “dig into” the upper lip with the mouthpiece or keep more mouthpiece “weight” on the lower lip compared to the upper). Injuries can and do happen under the vermillion, but perhaps more commonly outside the vermillion (which is unsurprising, if you consider that more players are going to have the rim contact on the upper lip above the vermillion. In fact, some lip injuries happen completely away from the rim contact.

-Papsin, B.C., Maaske, L.A., & McGrail, J.S. (1996). Orbicularis oris muscle injury in brass players. Laryngoscope 106, 757-760.

I was also able to find some literature that flat out stated that the vermillion area of the lips is not more prone to injury. H.L. Wilson, a medical doctor writing for The Clarinet, discussed the vermillion in the context of a clarinet embouchure.

In summary, the vermilion portion of lips tolerates pressure well. . .

-Wilson, H.L. (2000). Lips. The Clarinet, 27(4), 38-39.

Yes, the forces involved in a clarinet embouchure and brass embouchure are different, but combined with a more thorough understanding of the anatomy and histology of the lips along with a lack of evidence to the contrary, this leads me to believe that there is no anatomical reason to believe that it is risky to place the brass mouthpiece rim on the vermillion.

Mechanics

While the above discussion of anatomy is outside of my particular area of expertise, brass embouchure mechanics is right in my wheelhouse. I first became interested in brass embouchure mechanics sometime around 1996. I wrote my dissertation on original research investigating brass embouchure types and their correlation to easily observed physical characteristics. Since completing my doctorate in 2000 I’ve published and presented resources that deal with brass embouchures in a peer reviewed journal, academic papers, online, and at professional conferences. I’ve documented with photos and video around 100 brass players’ embouchures of beginning students, college students, professional performers, university brass teachers, and amateurs over five states at six different universities. I’ve been asked to consult with physical therapists and doctors treating embouchure injuries in the United States and Europe and some of my writing about brass embouchure have been translated into Japanese and Italian. Part of conducting my research involved thorough reviews of the literature, so at risk of blowing my own horn (pun intended), I’m fairly confident in the information and context I can provide here about brass mechanics.

First, there appears to be no relationship between the size and shape of an individual’s vermillion and the player’s embouchure technique. There doesn’t appear to be any relationship between how the lips vibrate at the vermillion and the rest of the lips. There is a wide range of vertical mouthpiece placement among brass players, with a minority that place the mouthpiece either high or low enough so that the rim of the mouthpiece contacts a great deal of the upper or lower lip vermillion. There is also a lot of variation on how wide an individual brass player’s vermillion is, as well as differences between rim sizes. Considering that the division between vermillion and normal skin on the lips is arbitrary and varies so much, I don’t think that it’s really useful to discuss mouthpiece placement as a factor of where it is placed in relation to the vermillion.

On the other hand, we can consider whether it’s mechanically incorrect to place the mouthpiece very high or low. This feature also varies quite a bit from player to player, with most folks falling more towards the center than very high or very low. While there are many anatomical features that influence an individual brass player’s mouthpiece placement, such as the shape of the teeth and gums that provides the support structure for the embouchure, the most likely characteristics that influences the vertical placement of the mouthpiece include the length of the lips compared to the length of the teeth and gums and possibly the shape and angle of the lips to each other. The shorter the player’s upper lip, the more likely that player appears to need to place the mouthpiece lower on the lips.

As you can see in the photo to the left, my upper lip is very short in comparison to my upper teeth and gums. When I form my embouchure I have to stretch my upper lip down quite a bit in order to get it over the upper front teeth. There simply isn’t much lip mass in my upper lip that is free to vibrate inside the mouthpiece.

A vibrating brass embouchure works more like a clarinet reed than an oboe reed. One lip or another predominates inside the mouthpiece and is the primary vibrating area. The other lip does vibrate in tandem with the other, but it serves more like the clarinet mouthpiece to the other lip as the reed. This feature can be easily seen on Lloyd Leno’s films.

For me, and for a minority of other brass players, anything other than this extremely low placement doesn’t work well at all. Most folks find it too hard to play this way, but they don’t have the same extremely short upper lip. I tried for a long time to play with a more conventional looking mouthpiece placement. I was taught early to try to keep my mouthpiece centered on the lips and with more upper lip inside and so I played that way all the way into my mid-20s. My personal experience was that I played OK with the centered placement (well enough to get through two music degrees and be accepted into doctoral studies in trombone performance), but until I made the correction to my embouchure you see in the photo to the right that I did not have the range and endurance I needed to play at a high level. This embouchure type isn’t as common as more conventional looking brass embouchures, but it probably represents about 10% of brass players.

Summary

Despite the opinions of many other brass players and teachers who feel otherwise, there appears to be no anatomical or mechanical reasons why placing the mouthpiece so that the rim contacts a great deal of the vermillion is going to lead to greater risk of injury or mechanical difficulties, provided that the player’s anatomical features are best suited to that placement. Individual anatomy is so variable that even setting a “rule of thumb” is arbitrary at best and may even lead to a brass student playing in a way that is mechanically inefficient for his or her face – which does increase the risk of injury, regardless of how conventional the mouthpiece placement may look.

In my opinion, the whole idea of using the vermillion as a factor for diagnosing or troubleshooting a brass embouchure is misguided. It is much better for brass teachers and players to gain a more thorough understanding of the basic brass embouchure types and how they function, as well as how much brass embouchures vary from player to player, even between players belonging to the same embouchure type. We can probably safely ignore the advice from teachers who emphatically state that this is wrong unless and until they begin providing plausible evidence to the contrary.

Building Embouchure Stability In Low Range – Less Air, Not More!

A recent thread on the Trombone Pedagogy Facebook group has gotten me thinking about building embouchure stability in the low range. The specific topic there concerns a particular student who has a very unstable embouchure in general and on low Bb has an uncontrollable waver in her tone. I don’t have permission to share the video, but I do have some photos that illustrate the same situation.

25pedalbbfront-copyThe photo to the right is of a trombonist playing a pedal Bb. I chose this photo because the student trombonist had a similar looking embouchure formation on her low Bb. Note how the embouchure formation has collapsed and is very loose looking.

While it may be necessary at first for inexperienced players to get into the extreme low register like this, overplaying like this will very likely cause issues down the road if the player doesn’t make corrections (click here to read up and view some video footage I documented). Like all habits, it can be difficult to correct and the longer a player relies on collapsing the embouchure formation to play low the harder it will be. Unfortunately,  some of the default advice I was reading on Facebook also seemed to encourage practicing in the low register in a manner that makes it harder to make the necessary embouchure corrections.

Asking a student to “blow more air,” or even to simply “support” the note with the air is going to make it harder for the student to play in the low register with the same level of firmness in the embouchure formation as the rest of their range, but this is what some teachers recommend. Personally, I prefer to help a student with this issue by developing exercises or practicing musical passages that start in a higher range and descend to the problem area with a decrescendo. Playing softly in that low register makes it easier for the student to hold the mouth corners firm, maintain the overall embouchure formation, and use a bit more mouthpiece pressure for additional embouchure stability.

27highbbfront-copy27lowbbfront-copyFor comparison, here are a couple of photos of a different player. The photo to the left is a high Bb (Bb4/ledger lines above bass clef staff). The one to the right is the same player playing a low Bb (Bb2/in the bass clef staff). Note how similar they look from the outside (I happened to catch the vibrating lips on the low Bb when the embouchure aperture was close to closed, but at their peak opens you can see a bigger difference on the embouchure aperture between these pitches).

Playing softly and accepting a thinner tone will help a student to successfully experience what it feels like to play in the low register with a stable embouchure formation. As she gets more comfortable playing that way she can begin adding air and working to open up the sound, but if the embouchure formation collapses again she should stop, reset, and try again with just a little less air. Over time it will get better and easier to add more air. However, it’s important for her to stop encouraging this habit as quickly and completely as possible. Throwing more air at an embouchure formation that is too loose and unstable will not help her build the strength and control to stop collapsing.

That said, performances (and most rehearsals) are different. The above advice is for practice and private lessons. When you perform it’s more important to do whatever you have to in order to sound good. If that means collapsing to play low, that’s fine. Over time the student will be able to play correctly with enough comfort and volume that she won’t even think about making a change, it happens because it has replaced her old habit.

What Is the Rational For How You Set the Mouthpiece?

IIIAA topic over at the Trumpet Herald got me thinking about the initial placement of the mouthpiece on the lips. Robert P asked,

When setting the mp are your lips completely relaxed or do you in some way manipulate them – tense, flex, stretch, pucker etc.?

How would you describe what you do when you set the mp?

The following several posts offered essentially two different procedures. Some folks stated that they set the mouthpiece on the lips only after they firm the lips in some way. Other players offered that they prefered to place the mouthpiece on relaxed lips and firm the embouchure before playing. What I find most interesting, however, is the rational behind these opposing viewpoints.

For the record, I’m in the “firm your lips first” camp and my thoughts here pretty much come from Donald Reinhardt’s here. To paraphrase Reinhardt, it’s best to have as little distortion in your embouchure formation as possible. Firming the lips first and then placing the mouthpiece on them is meant to help they player keep their embouchure formation stable and avoid any twisting or winding up of the lips with the mouthpiece. It also helps the player place the mouthpiece more consistently in the same spot on the lips.

So what is the rational for setting the mouthpiece on relaxed lips? That’s a little harder for me to summarize. It seems that few players actually advocate this, it’s simply what they happen to do. Some of the Trumpet Herald users seem to do this because they are either emulating a player who does this or following the advice from a particular teacher, without elaborating on why they feel this way. The best argument for I’ve heard is that it helps maintain relaxed playing technique and the lips are only firmed when they need to be, while playing, although I don’t think this outweighs the benefits from firming first.

One post brings up the “paralysis by analysis” trope. There’s too much to think about already so why bother? The problem with that argument (or rather, one of the many problems) is that if one way will lead to better results, not adopting it is limiting. If one way can lead to problems not being aware of those issues makes it impossible to accurately troubleshoot. Certainly teachers need to intellectually understand this.

Speaking of embouchure problems, I have heard several logical reasons why placing the mouthpiece on relaxed lips isn’t ideal. I’ve already mentioned above that this can lead to twisting or winding up the lips with the mouthpiece. If you’ve put the mouthpiece pressure on the lips and then firm the lips you can pin the lips in a position that is inconsistent every time you place the mouthpiece back on. The lips have to slide against the mouthpiece rim in order to get into their ideal position inside the cup which means you’re hitting a moving target with your embouchure every time you replace the mouthpiece. If you’re not putting on enough mouthpiece pressure until that split second before the initial attack then you’re making it even more of a moving target.

Regardless, one important point to discuss before moving forward is that regardless of how you set the mouthpiece for the initial attack, when you inhale between phrases if you open your embouchure formation to take in air and firm them again at the attack you’re going to be hitting that moving target again – even if you set the mouthpiece on firmed lips to start with.

Advice and Conclusion

Reinhardt’s process for setting the mouthpiece and how to maintain a stable embouchure formation is, in my opinion, something that all players can benefit from practicing. While his description is of an ideal, making small steps towards that goal can provide good results without obsessing over every small step in the process. Here is a way you can go about practicing this by breaking things up into small chunks.

  1. Pick a warmup with at least 5 minutes of simple exercises that you already have memorized. Long tones and overtone slurs work great for this, particularly if you start in different ranges for a bit.
  2. Use a mirror or video your embouchure so that you can see what you’re doing. Don’t worry about analyzing what you’re doing while practicing, but be aware of what you see.
  3. For that 5 minutes or so of your warmup always firm your lips before placing the mouthpiece on your embouchure formation. It’s not the lips center that holds them firm, it’s the mouth corners. You’re not worried about what note you’re going to play, you want the mouth corners firmed and locked in their playing position.
  4. At first, after setting the mouthpiece breathe through the nose to get used to the “ideal” of having the embouchure already in place. As you practice this, watch your mouth corners in particular in the mirror or video. At first they may loosen up or wiggle around a bit when you inhale and before the initial attack. Before and after the attack you are striving to make it look the same. Your ideal goal is if you turn the sound off on the video you would be hard pressed to tell when the sound starts by watching the embouchure alone.
  5. As you get comfortable with nose inhalations, begin breathing through the sides of your mouth while keeping the lip center touching lightly together inside the mouthpiece. Maintain the mouthpiece pressure as if you were already playing. Simply relax the mouth corners and inhale slowly. It might help to really wet the mouth corners with saliva before placing if your finding they want to stick together. When you attack the pitch the mouth corners should snap into place.
  6. After a few minutes or so of this, forget about it and move on to whatever else you want to practice.
  7. Take a couple of minutes during your warm down to practice the placement again.

That’s it, just a few minutes or so a day. You might find this very weird at first, particularly if you have been doing things differently for decades, as I had. It took me years of practice to internalize this technique to the point of where it’s automatic when I perform. During that learning process, however, I noticed my embouchure formation being more consistent even when I was skipping or missing steps. Other players may take to it quite easily. It’s well worth the effort you might have to put into it to head towards the ideal.

Do you already firm your lips before placing the mouthpiece? Was this a conscious effort on your part or the natural way you play? If you haven’t thought about it before or if you consciously place the mouthpiece on relaxed lips, please considering trying this out for a couple of weeks or so and report your progress. Did you find it helpful or a waste of your time? No change?

CODE of Embouchure

A lot of what is commonly taught about brass embouchures is based on hearsay or descriptions on playing sensations. This results in a lot of contradictory advice that isn’t always grounded in fact. That’s why it’s very exciting to me to see Hans Boschma, Kees Hein Woldendorp, et al,  taking a scientific approach to studying brass embouchure. Even more importantly, they recognize the need for more research and more communication across disciplines. They recently published a video that describes their research and shows a lot of the data points they’ve collected. The call it the CODE of Embouchure.

CODE stands for Classification, Observation, Diagnosis , and Evaluation.

The CODE of Embouchure can be used by both brass players, their teachers, ‘brass-medicine’ physicians and – therapists. The CODE of Embouchure can be used in intervals of time to detect dysfunctional embouchure and/or to control for improvements/ changes in embouchure due to brass training (or therapy) e.g. at the conservatoir or in a therapeutical setting. In the final part of the movie a practical instruction is provided with the voluntary participation of many internationally known first rank brass players.

I’ve been skimming through it, skipping ahead after watching some of each brass player shown. Most of it is detailed video footage of different brass players playing a wide variety of different things with some written commentary on different embouchure characteristics. There are many good examples of “medium high placement” and “very high placement” embouchure types. Assuming that the brass players shown are a somewhat random sample, I would expect to see few “low placement” embouchure types. There is one trumpet player who I suspect may be a “low placement” upstream players, but it’s a bit hard to say for sure with what I saw (he definitely switches to downstream when he plays pedal tones). Other than that example, all the rest of the brass players belong to one of the two basic downstream embouchure types.

Overall, I think it’s very nice research and a good video. My main complaint is the lack of attention on upstream brass embouchures, but perhaps that’s my personal bias as a “low placement” type player myself. Also, most of the video is devoted to “observation” and I would have liked more discussion about the “classification,” “diagnosis” and “evaluation” parts. Minor quibbles aside, thanks to Hans Boschma and Kees Hein Woldendorp for posting this and for Hans for letting me know it was available.

For more information about the CODE of embouchure and Hans’s work please visit his web site (you may need Google’s translate feature if you aren’t bilingual).

Embocadura Distonía Tratamiento – Algunas preguntas y críticas

From time to time I get asked to translate some of my articles into different languages for nonnative English readers. Unfortunately, that’s beyond my abilities but some of my readers have graciously volunteered their time to translate some of my posts. E. Díaz recently translated my article, Embouchure Dystonia Treatment – Some Questions and Criticisms, into Spanish.

Muchos gracias, E. Díaz!


 

A menos que seas uno de mis lectores regulares, es posible que hayas llegado hasta este post buscando consejos sobre alguna disfunción severa de embocadura. Aunque espero que las siguientes líneas puedan provee algunos caminos útiles para explorar, mi audiencia objetivo son los maestros de músicos que se promueven como los “doctores del pitar” o que pretenden diagnosticar y/o tratar lo que con frecuencia se conoce como “distonía de embocadura”. Para los propósitos de este trabajo, estaré usando el término “distonía de embocadura” y “disfunción de embocadura” de manera intercambiada. Trataré de ser específico con mi lenguaje tanto como sea posible, pero mantengan en la mente que lo que algunos llaman “distonía de embocadura” puede no ser un desorden neurológico, sino un problema de la mecánica de la embocadura.
El Instituto Nacional de Trastornos Neurológicos y Derrames (NINDS, siglas en inglés) define “distonía” como:

“un trastorno caracterizado por contracciones musculares involuntarias que causan movimientos lentos y repetitivo o posturas anormales. Los movimientos pueden ser dolorosos, y algunos individuos con distonía pueden tener temblores u otras características neurológicas. Hay distintas formas de distonía que pueden afectar a un músculo, un grupo de músculos o musculos a lo largo del cuerpo. Algunas formas de distonía son genéticas pero la causa de la mayoría de los causos es desconocida.”

Específicamente más relevante para las embocaduras de quienes tocan metal, la variedad de distonía que necesitamos entender se conoce como “distonía focal específica de una actividad”, nuevamente, definida según el NINDS:

“las distonías específicas de una actividad son distonías focales que tieneden a ocurrir solo cuando se lleva a cabo repetidamente una actividad particular. Los ejemplos incluyen el calambre del escritor que afecta los musculos de la mano y ocasionalmente los del antebrazo, y solo ocurre durante la escritura. Distonías focales similares han sido llamadas calambres del mecanógrafo, del pianista y del músico. La distonía del músico es un término utilizado para clasificar las distonías focales que afectan a los músicos, específicamente su habilidad para tocar un instrumento o actuar. Puede involver las manos en los instrumentistas de cuerda o teclado, la boca y los labios en los de aliento, o la voz en los cantantes”

Antes de continuar, necesito aclarar mi formación y mis ideas sobre la distonía de embocadura. Como siempre intento señalar al discutir algo médico, no soy un profesional de la medicina y en ninguna manera estoy calificado para tratar un desorden neurológico. Mientras intento describir algunas causas posibles, o por lo menos correlaciones, de las disfunciones severas de embocadura más adelante, mis ideas y consejos no deben de ningún modo considerarse un consejo médico válido. Siempre debes consultar con un profesional médico si sospechas de una condición médica.

LA DIFERENCIA ENTRE MÚSICA Y MEDICINA

Esto me lleva a mi primer crítica, los maestros de música que pretenden diagnosticar y tratar desórdenes médicos. Deténganse. Mientras sus intenciones pueden ser buenas y quizá estén ayudando a personar a recuperarse de una disfunción de embocadura, hay un riesgo de que se cause un gran daño. Llamen a lo que hacen lo que es, resolver problemas de embocadura. A menos que tengan el entrenamiento médico y la licencia para legalmente tratar y/o diagnosticar condiciones médicas, están sobre la línea de practicar terapias o medicina sin licencia.

Mencioné daño potencial. Brevemente diré que hay razones no-médicas por las cuales algunas embocaduras se dañan y provocan síntomas parecidos a la distonía focal de embocadura. A menos que estén calificados para diagnosticar una condición médica, su proclamación de que un estudiante que llega a ustedes tiene “distonía de embocadura” puede causar que esa persona dilate o evite un tratamiento médico necesario. Si el estudiante tien la parálisis de Bell o un derrame ligero, por ejemplo, postergar un diagnóstico correcto con su atención médica correspondiente puede arruinar las oportunidades del estudiante de recuperarse por completo. O puede conducir a complicaciones más serias que estén más allá de tocar un instrumento de metal. Las condiciones médicas como distonía focal específica existen y deben ser tratadas bajo la supervisión de una persona calificada.

Dejen la medicina a los profesionales y ustedes deberán aconsejar a sus estudiantes a buscar atención médica, cuando sea apropiado.

HAGAN SU TAREA, LA IGNORANCIA NO ES DICHA

Algunas veces me sorprente lo ignorante que es el campo de la pedagogía de los metales de la forma y función de la embocadura. Hay definitivamente una cultura de ignorancia que evita que los músicos de metal aprendan a entender realmente como su embocadura funciona y poner en un contexto más amplio como distintos músicos tocan de manera distinta. Una de las voces más influyentes en hacer que los músicos y los maestros permanezcan dichosamente desprevenidos fue Arnold Jacobs. Jacobs alentaba a sus estudiantes a “pensar en el producto, no en la metodología” (Also Sprach Arnold Jacobs: A Developmental Guide for Brass Wind Musicians/Así hablaba Arnold Jacobs: Una guía para el desarrollo de músicos de aliento metal) Sea o no su intención que su idea se tomase de esta manera, muchos maestros de metal han interpretado que esto significa que uno nunca debe analizar la técnica de los metales.

Roger Rocco, un antiguo estudiante de Jacobs, ha escrito en su blog que la distonía de la embocadura es causada en parte por:

“Enfocarse en la consciencia de sí mismo, en el análisis de sí mismo, o del instrumento”

Él no cita ninguna fuente médica que corrobore su declaración, ni esto se alínea con lo que fuentes de buena reputación declaran sobre la distonía específica. Como el mayor volumen de la discusión relacionada con distonía focal del blog de Rocco es ideológica y filosófica, pondría en cuestión su declaración aquí.

Otra aproximación común, pero mal guiada, es la de asumir que la disfunción de embocadura es meramente un resultado de sobreuso. La página y libros de Lucinda Lewis cometen este error. De acuerdo a Lewis:

Para el propósito de la discusión aquí, el síndrome del sobreuso de la embocadura se refiere a cualquier problema crónico relacionado con la embocadura que dure por más de dos semanas e incluye cualquiera de los siguientes: dolor de labios, moretones o inflamación crónica, entumecimiento, labios de cartón, abrasiones recurrentes en los puntos de presión, abrasiones inducidas por el aire, falta de aguante, sonido desenfocado, falta de control de tocar y problemas crónicos del registro agudo.

– Broken Embouchures, de Lucinda Lewis.

Lo que ella ha hecho aquí es tomar virtualmente cualquier problema de embocadura y lo ha colocado bajo la sombrilla de “sobreuso de la embocadura”. El problema no es solo que sobre-simplifique, pero además prescribe un tratamiento general que puede no ser relevante para la situación. Los problemas crónicos del registro agudo pueden venir de una variedad de problemas mecánicos, muchos de los cuales no se relacionan con el sobreuso. Las abrasiones de los labios pueden ser exacerbadas por retorcer los labios hacia arriba con la boquilla. El hinchamiento de los labios y los moretones pueden ocurrir porque la colocación de la boquilla no está balanceada correctamente entre el labio superior y el inferior. Un periodo particularmente demandante de tocar puede ser la paja proverbial que rompe la espalda del camello, pero la mecánica incorrecta está atrás de los factores con los que se debe empezar.

Es fácil encontrar ideas similares a lo largo de la literatura musical, pero las fuentes que descartan el análisis de la embocadura a menudo carecen de una discusión completa y precisa de la mecánica de la embocadura. No puedes analizar algo que no entiendes. De lo que carecen es que si tú analizas algo incorrectamente vas a tener problemas haciendo las correcciones necesarias.Si combinas esto con la lamentable frase de “análisis lleva a parálisis” vas a tener una profecía que se autocumple. Haz tu tarea primero.

Como un área general, la pedagogía de los metales se lleva a cabo en gran parte ignorando la forma y función de la embocadura. Algunas personas lo hacen conscientemente y están orgullosos de esos. Otros están mal aconsejados. Me gusta pensar que la mayoría de los músicos y maestros simplemente han recibido mala orientación y que con un buen acceso a buena información podrán ser capaces de tomar decisiones más informadas sobre cómo practicar y enseñar el desarrollo de la embocadura. En ambos casos, activamente hacer que la gente evite aprender acerca de la realidad está haciendo un despropósito a nuestros estudiantes y debe ser detenido.

Los tipos básicos de embocadura no son un tema difícil de entender. Si sientes que tener una comprensión general de la teoría musical es útil para tocar música (y espero que no tengas que ser convencido de eso), entonces, con seguridad, hacer un esfuerzo similar para entender las embocaduras está muy bien dentro de tu capacidad. Sí, existe un tiempo y un lugar para olvidarse de la técnica de los metales, pero “no tires al bebé con el agua de la bañera”. Debes hacer un esfuerzo para entender completamente un tema antes de que lo descartes por ser innecesario o equivodado.

LO QUE NECESITAS SABER SOBRE LAS EMBOCADURAS

Para tratar la disfunción de embocadura, primero necesitas entender su forma y función. Al haber muchas ideas contrarias debes tener las herramientas para colocarlas en un contexto adecuado. He escrito bastante extensivamente sobre esto en este blog, pero continuare con alguna información básica sobre esto en este post para puntualizar mejor.

Si te fijas de cerca en la embocadura de los músicos pronto descubrirás que cada embocadura es distinta. Esto tiene sentido, pues cada músico tiene características anatómicas distintas. Habiendo dicho eso, también notarás que existen algunos patrones específicos en las embocaduras. Usando dos características observables de una embocadura funcional puedes empezar a categorizarlas en distintos tipos. Estos tipos de embocadura no son métodos de práctica o instrucciones, sino que describen características observables que todas las embocaduras tienen, estén o no conscientes de estas los instrumentistas.

La primer categoría es la de la dirección del aire. Mientras muschos músicos están convencidos que soplan el aire hacia abajo de la boquilla, observar esto con una boquilla transparente muestra algo distinto. Virtualmente todos los músicos exitosos ponen la boquilla de modo que un labio o el otro predomine dentro de la boquilla. Cuando se coloca más el labio superior dentro de la boquilla la corriente de aire toma una dirección hacia abajo (downstream) al pasar los labios. Lo contrario pasa cuando se coloca más el labio dentro, el flujo de aire pasa los labios y choca la copa de la boquilla arriba del tubo (upstream). El ángulo del instrumento, a pesar de ser importante para la embocadura, no determina la dirección del aire; es la colocación de la boquilla la determinante.

En estos días la dirección del aire debería ser un conocimiento común, pero no lo es. Esta característica ha sido independientemente descubierta y confirmada por una variedad de fuentes y existen documentos disponibles en bibliotecas académicas y mucha información disponible gratuitamente en línea. Aún más importante, no es difícil darte cuenta por ti mismo. El *link* que posteé en el párrafo previo muestra algunas fotos y videos y las boquillas transparentes no son difíciles de conseguir ni caras. Si tú estás ayudando a músicos con disfunciones severas debes de estar atento a la dirección del aire y a si la embocadura de tu alumno es upstream, downstream o alternan entre ambas. Querrás entender que no todos tocan con una embocadura que satisface su anatomía y deberas estar consciente de que cambiar la colocación y el flujo de aire puede ayudar o lastimar a algunos, a veces de manera dramática.

La otra característica de la embocadura que es aún más desconocida en el ámbito es lo que me gusta llamar “motricidad de embocadura” (embouchure motion). Virtualmente todos los músicos de éxitos, estén o no conscientes de esto, empujarán y jalarán la boquilla y los labios juntos como una unidad hacia arriba o hacia abajo a lo largo de sus dientes y encías al cambiar registros. La dirección general y el ángulo específico que esta motricidad varía de músico en músico, pero se muestra como una parte esencial de una embocadura funcional. Algunos músicos por lo general empujan la boquilla y los labios hacia la nariz al subir el registro, mientras otros la jalan hacia abajo. Estos patrones básicos tambien están correlacionados con la dirección del aire del individuo. Los que tocan upstream casi siempre jalarán hacia abajo para ascender a los agudos, mientras que los downstream pueden hacer lo mismo o lo contrario. Otra vez, este fenómeno ha sido descubierto y verificado por distintas fuentes, pero aún no está ampliamente divulgado.

Usando estas dos características básicas por sí solas es posible categorizar tres tipos básicos de embocadura por lo menos. Utilizando otras características, tales como la posición de la mandíbula y el ángulo del instrumento, es posible (aunque probable e innecesariamente complicado) definir aún más tipos de embocadura. Si tú estás ayudando a los músicos a recuperarse de una disfunción severa deberás estár atento a estos tipos básicos de embocadura y aprender a distinguirlos. Estas son variables importantes que debes considerar.

ALTERNACIÓN DE TIPO

Si bien no he visto muchos casos de distonía o disfunción de embocadura como tales, cada caso que he visto detenidamente (y en algunas ocasiones, documentado), exhibe alguna forma de alternación del tipo. Un puñado de estos son músicos que probablemente debería estar tocando upstream y que por alguna razón no lo están, a menudo por los consejos de un maestro bien intencionado pero sin pericia. Aún más común, sin embargo, veo alternación entre ambas variantes downstream. Si miras la motricidad de embocadura tendrás dificultad para ver si están jalando hacia abajo o empujando hacia arriba para ascender a los agudos. Algunas veces dan la vuelta a la dirección en un punto particular de su registro o van muy lejos con la motricidad de la embocadura en cierto punto. *aquí hay un ejemplo de youtube* grabado por Joaquí Fabra, quien cree que la distonía es un problema conductual y quien trata a la distonía como un problema psicológico. Al mirar el video de este cornista puedes ver la motricidad de su embocadura alternar la dirección.

Aquí está otro video de Joaquín Fabra que muestra a un trompetista. Observa como la motricidad del músico en la primer parte del video muestra boquilla y labios haciendo pucheros alrededor de casi cada ataque. Cada vez que toca una nota está intentando darle a un blanco movedizo. Más adelante del video, el trompetista está casi carente de síntomas y podrás ver la consistencia en la motricidad de la embocadura, particularmente en el ataque inicial de las notas.

A mi parecer, Fabra ni siquiera considera que el músico está alternando. En su entrevista con Dave Stragg, Fabra deja bastante claro que el percibe que la distonía es causada por una condición emocional y el evita la discusión de la mecánica de la embocadura, llegando incluso a dar a entender que el análisis de la embocadura es parcialmente la causa de la condición en primer lugar. Considerando su aparentemente carencia de entendimiento de los tipos básicos de embocadura, pero la corrección de la alternación, yo diría que la aproximación de Fabra se vería beneficiada de no tratar meramente los resultados psicológicos de la disfunción severa, sino de corregir conscientemente la mecánica de la emocadura.

Regresando a las ideas de Lucinda Lewis, ella siente que un programa de tratamiento de la disfunción de embocadura requiere que el músico de metal regrese a la embocadura previa al colapso. En Embocaduras Rotas (Broken Embouchures) escribió, “Reparar tu embocadura quiere decir rehabilitar la mecánica a su integridad pre-daño” (2005, p.40). Lo que falta en su texto es, como sea, considerar si la embocadura pre-daño era funcional en primer lugar. Mi analogía favorita para esto es el levantar objetos pesados con la espalda. Puedes estar tocando mal por un rato, particularmente si eres fuerte. Pero si lo sigues haciendo serás más propenso a lastimarte. Si sufres de una disfunción severa y mejoras al regresar a tu embocadura previa debes considerar que quizá solo estés mejorando en tocar mal. Los maestros deben de estar atentos a la embocadura de sus estudiantes y a la forma general de la embocadura para poder eliminar los cambios de tipo que sean los culpables de una disfunción. También puede ayudar a los músicos a corregir el cambiar de tipo antes de que ésto provoque un colapso, en primer lugar.

A DÓNDE IR DESDE AQUÍ

La mayoría de mi escrito aquí está dedicado a la falta de atención a la mecánica de la embocadura por parte de los maestros y estudiantes de metales y a nuestra incapacidad de poner esto en un contexto adecuado al atender a la disfunción de la embocadura. Si el campo de la pedagogía de los metales está aventando la toalla aquí no podemos esperar que la comunidad médica tenga mejor desempeño y los músicos que sufren de la disfunción quizá no vayan a ser bien atendidos por doctores y terapistas que traten la distonía. Pero más allá de este problema, que será corregido cuando más músicos estén más conscientes de este tema, necesitamos comenzar a hacer mejores preguntas sobre la distonía de embocadura. Algunas de estas preguntas pueden (y deberían) ser investigadas objeticamente, pero nuevamente, esto necesita comenzar al nivel de la comunidad musical, quienes no solo tendran una participación más importante en este tema pero quienes también deberán tener la formación necesaria en la técnica para mejorar las embocaduras.

Pero para mejorar esto los educadores musicales necesitan tomar más en serio la metodología de la investigación. Hata cierto grado, nuestra falta de consciencia de cómo llevar a cabo investigaciones e interpretar artículos académicos es entendible. Antes que todo somos artistas y nuestra preocupación primaria debería ser la expresión musical. Habiendo dicho esto, el pensamiento crítico es también una capacidad que se remunera dentro y fuera de la música. Corresponde a todos los maestros, no solo a aquellos que tratan la disfunción, aprender a conducir investigación, aprender sobre los sezgos cognitivos y cómo buscar información precisa y de calidad de temas musicales. Una vez que hayamos cambiado nuestra cultura de la ignorancia por una de prencamiento crítico y consciencia podremos comenzar a hacer preguntas (y a investigar) cuestiones que potencialmente dirijan hacia un tratamiento más efectivo de la disfunción de emocadura. Aquí hay algunas preguntas que personalmente creo debemos hacer:

  1. ¿Son algunos tipos de embocadura más propensos a la disfunción?
  2. ¿Qué características de embocadura (por ejemplo, cambio de motricidad de embocadura) pueden correlacionarse con la disfunción de embocadura?
  3. Es el cambiar de tipo de embocadura una causa de transtornos neurológicos específicos que pueda ser mapeada en el cerebro o es el problema neurológico el que causa el cambio?
  4. ¿Qué tan a menudo es un diagnóstico de distonía realmente el resultado de cambiar de tipo?
  5. ¿Conduce la corrección consciente de la alternación entre embocaduras a una mejora en la disfunción?
  6. ¿Conducen los programas que son existosos en tratar la disfunción severa a correcciones de la alternación entre embocaduras, aún si la alternación no está considerada en ese programa? De ser así, ¿Servirían mejor los procedimientos que encaminan a un músico a evitar la alternación?
  7. ¿Llevan a problemas psicológicos las fallas mecánicas relacionadas con la alternación de embocadura? De ser así, ¿puede lograrse una reducción o eliminación e los problemas psicológicos a través de correcciones mecánicas?
  8. ¿Cómo pueden los maestros ayudar a los músicos que padecen disfunción severa hacer un programa de tratamiento balanceado que ataque los problemas mecánicos relacionados con la embocadura y psicológicos relacionados con la incapacidad para tocar?

HACIA UNA COMUNICACIÓN ABIERTA Y HONESTA

He criticado y nombrado a algunas personas aquí y también, previamente, en otras ocasiones en linea. Algunos de estos maestros han tomado esta crítica personalmente, aún cuando esta no es mi intención. Por favor, nótese que yo hago lo que puedo para enfocarme en las ideas, no en las personas como individuos. Así también soy cuidadoso de probar y calificar mis opiniones tanto como sea posible ya sea de mis ideas está basada en evidencia objetiva o mera especulación. Más aún, me he equivocado en el pasado y continuaré cometiendo equivocaciones. Una de las razones por las cuales posteo mis pensamientos sobre este tópico públicamente es para que los expertos puedan señalar las fallas en mi razonamiento.

El método científico ha sido tan exitoso debido a su naturaleza autocorrectiva. Los maestros de metales que ayuden a los músicos que padezcan una disfunción severa necesitan seguir más este método. Esto involucra cuestionarse sobre las ideas de los otros, retando nuestras propios supuestos y comprometerse en un debate abierto y honesto con los demás. Muy a menudo vemos esto como descortés y nos olvidamos de que así es como se hace el progreso. Ningún individuo que trate a la distonía tendrá todas las respuestas, no importa qué tan exitoso sea su programa de tratamiento. El genio solitario que guía el camino para todos es solo un mito. Colectivamente somos mucho más inteligentes de lo que somos individualmente.

CONSEJOS PARA MÚSICOS QUE PADEZCAN DISFUNCIÓN DE EMBOCADURA

Si llegaste hasta aquí y eres un músico que padece disfunción severa de embocadura quiero concluir con mi consejo para ti. He tenido éxito en ayudar algunas personas con problemas al pitar y también sé de un puñado de amigos a lo largo de los EUA que puedo recomendar, pero si quieres ayuda probablemente tendrás que trasladarte a menos que vivas en su área. Las consultas por video, a pesar de tener potencial, generalmente no se prestan a diagnosticar problemas de embocadura y a encontrar la solución.

Hay maestros que tienen éxito en tratar problemas de disfunción que no demuestran una consciencia de los tipos de embocadura y cómo corregir las alternaciones, pero yo por lo general animaría a un estudiante a buscar ayuda de alguien más reconocible. Hagan preguntas. Más aún, cuando buscas ayuda creo que es necesario tener en cuenta el efecto Dunning/Kruger: mientras más blanco/negro se torne una discusión, más probable es que se vuelva ena discusión filosófica que una realidad objetiva. Los programas de tratamiento que se basan en el Sistema de Pensamiento de Harold Hill tienen más probabilidades de éxito a pesar de, en vez de por lo que aprendas. Una segunda opinión puede ser una buena idea, aún si aparentemente te está funcionando.

Otra vez más, puedo estar equivocado. Tómate tu tiempo para seguir los recursos y links que he posteado aquí sobre la función y disfunción de embocadura y juzga por ti mismo. Mi objetivo aquí es conscientizar a los músicos y maestros de la información disponible para colocar los consejos en un contexto apropiado, no para espantar a las personas de un punto de vista opuesto. Le doy la bienvenida a preguntas y críticas a mis propias ideas y te invito a que las pongas en la sección de comentarios de abajo.

Recent Happenings

In my business being too busy to do much blogging is a good thing. So in lieu of something more interesting today, here is a rundown of some of the various happenings around here.

The most exciting news for me is that I have taken on administrative duties with MusicWorks! Asheville, now serving both as a teaching artist and site administrator for the program. MusicWorks! is a El Sistema inspired program of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. I like to describe El Sistema as social activism through music education. We are a free, after-school music program that specifically targets at-risk children. Our goal is to teach them important life skills through teaching them music.

Tonight, Monday August 31, 2015, is the final night of the weekly Speakeasy Mondays series that have been held at the Dirty South Lounge in Asheville, NC. I’ve been performing there with the Low-Down Sires from 9 to midnight almost every Monday for the past three months. It’s been neat to see the event get built up from just a handful of swing dancing friends of the band into a pretty well-attended party. Andrew, the bartender who has managed the night, is moving on to bigger and better things so the Speakeasy Mondays will end after tonight. That said, it looks like the whole party may be moving to another venue and when it becomes official I’ll try to announce it here.

Lastly, some of you may have noticed the recent comments section here have been frequently in Japanese. That’s because Basil, an American horn player living in Japan, came across Wilktone and asked if it would be OK with me to translate some of my embouchure posts into Japanese for his readers. I, of course, said yes and he has been translating a storm. I’m excited about this because my main goal has been to make the information I’ve come across more accessible to more brass players and having my articles available in another language is a great way to introduce this research to a whole new population. I’ve gotten requests over the years to translate my articles and videos into Spanish and Portuguese especially, so if you speak one of those languages, or another, please let me know if you’re interested in taking on some translation.