A Euphonium Embouchure

YouTube user “Suiram1” has uploaded a video of his embouchure.

Suiram1 asked if I had any comments for him.  It’s a pretty short video, and it’s very difficult to diagnose or suggest anything without being there in person, but I thought I’d point out some things I notice.

First, his embouchure is definitely one of the downstream types.  If you look closely at the lips when he’s playing in the transparent mouthpiece you can see this.  There’s more upper lip inside so that lip predominates and the air strikes the bottom of the cup.  This is more common than the upstream embouchure type.   Continue reading A Euphonium Embouchure

Embouchure Question

This question comes from “albrt2890” on one of my YouTube videos.

I am going into my third year of college as a music ed major. I teach private lessons as well. I do have a question though regarding the position of the mouthpiece on the lips. I have a student (f horn) who plays with a large amount of lower lip however when he descends into the lower register of the horn he changes his mouthpiece position so that he has more upper lip in the mouthpiece. Would it benefit him to try to play horn with the “Standard” embouchure through all ranges?

Like pretty much any question about embouchure issues, I’d have to see it.  Still, that’s an unsatisfying answer and since albrt2890 is learning to teach music, he/she probably wants to learn more about embouchures.  I’ll try to explain how and what I’d look for in a case like this.  That said, there are a lot of variables at work here (breathing, tonguing, all sorts of embouchure features, etc.) and something that I don’t mention here may completely change around the following suggestions.  Caveat emptor, or maybe more properly, this is free advice and you get what you pay for.  Take everything that follows with a grain of salt.

There are a couple of somewhat common situations that come to mind here.  First, some players will change to a different embouchure type for different ranges.  Or, some players are just altering their mouthpiece placement slightly for different ranges while not actually type switching.  I would recommend players avoid both these situations, but checking out which is going on and how to correct it depends on some different factors you need to look for. Continue reading Embouchure Question

More On Music and Learning

A few days ago I wondered about how much validity there is to the belief that musical training will prepare you to do other things.  It’s pretty common for many of my music teaching colleagues to tell concerned parents that their children will “learn how to learn” or that the skills they learn majoring in music will teach them what they need to know to succeed in just about anything.  While I certainly don’t want to discourage the study of music, I think this recruiting tactic is misleading and can backfire.

Coincidentally, Dr. Steven Novella (a neurologist at Yale, blogger, and podcaster) happened to post on a recent review on music and its effects on overall cognitive function.  Specifically, what is musical training’s effect on brain plasticity.  He uses typing as an example.  After decades of typing you don’t need to think anymore about where to push down on the keys, you simply type what you want to write. Continue reading More On Music and Learning

Site Migration Complete

It didn’t take as long as I expected, so the old site now just redirects to here.  I apologize if I screwed up anything you had bookmarked, but you should be able to find it over here.  I did do some pruning of the blog entries, mostly ones that were time sensitive.  There were a few posts that were mostly links to other sites that didn’t get moved, but I will likely post them again over here later.

You may find some bugs floating around in the pages here, including some missing images or broken links.  I’ll try to go through and get them fixed when I can, but if you spot something and want to help, please leave a comment at that page or contact me.

Under Construction

Please excuse the mess while I get things sorted out.  If you’re looking for some specific content, you might find what you’re looking for here.  Bear in mind that if you bookmark one of those pages your link will be broken in the near future.  Come back here to find it.

Music Education Will Make You Business Savvy?

Will music training prepare you to deal with the demands of the business world?  Brian Pertl, a musician, former Microsoft senior manager and now Dean of Lawrence Conservatory of Music, believes so.  He writes about the qualities that companies are looking for in prospective employees, including focus, self-motivation, a collaborative attitude, good communication skills, and creativity.  Being a successful musician, Pertl argues, necessarily involves developing those five skills and they can directly translate into success in business.  He writes:

“. . . from where I sit now, as a conservatory trained trombonist, the current dean of a major conservatory of music, and a former senior manager at Microsoft with 16 years of experience in the business world, I see the connections between conservatory training and core business skills from a unique vantage point. Over the years, as I analyzed the reasons for my successes as a business manager, it always came back to the skills I had learned as a musician and had honed at my conservatory of music. Now that I am back in the world of the conservatory, many worried parents of prospective students ask me what good conservatory training will do if their child doesn’t happen to become a professional musician.”

I really want to agree with Pertl, but I think he’s piling on a lot of spin on this topic. Continue reading Music Education Will Make You Business Savvy?

Bolivar Blues Analysis By Pere Soto

Guitarist Pere Soto visited Asheville a few years ago.  While he was in town, I was able to arrange for him to talk to a couple of my jazz classes.  He’s an expert in Django Reinhardt’s playing and talked to my Jazz History class.  He’s also a very fine jazz and contemporary classical composer.

Currently, Pere is working on a project where he analyzes in incredible detail the compositions of various jazz tunes.  David Valdez, a frequent collaborator of Pere’s, has made one of the tune analysis available.  It’s an analysis of Thelonious Monk’s Bolivar Blues. Continue reading Bolivar Blues Analysis By Pere Soto

Highly Rated Professors are Overrated

Anyone who has ever been a college student is probably familiar with the once-a-semester ritual of filling out student evaluations for the professors teaching their classes.  As a student, I was typical in not taking them very seriously.  When I did make an effort to do more than merely fill in the right bubble on the scan form, it was either because I had a beef with the professor or really, really, enjoyed the class.

As a college professor receiving student evaluations, I’ve discovered that most students behave similarly.  One college I taught at switched from a paper and pencil evaluation form filled out during class to an online system where the students were requested to evaluate their courses by logging onto a web site and completing them outside of class.  Not only did the number of students who evaluated their courses drop significantly, the results of the evaluations got skewed towards both extreme ends.  Students who really liked or hated the class were likely to fill them out, but not many others.

So it comes to me as little surprise that student evaluations turn out to not be very effective methods of evaluating the quality of education the students are receiving.  A study done by Scott E. Carrell of UC Davis and James E. West of the USAF Academy entitled, “Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors” looks at this very thing. Continue reading Highly Rated Professors are Overrated

Embouchure Misconceptions – Five Myths About Brass Embouchures

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

90-9-1 Rule

While I no longer actively participate on any online fora, at one time I was not only an active poster at the Trumpet Herald Reinhardt Forum, but also served in various moderating and administrating capacities at the Online Trombone Journal Forum, and briefly for the spin-off, the Trombone Forum.  For a variety of reasons I haven’t made any posts at these sites in quite some time, but I frequently look through the discussions and am always curious about what people are talking about there.

Recently I came across a topic that intrigued me, entitled Up stream.  The initial post was a question.

Can someone explain to me what blowing upstream is. I am told it is the way to break past the double c range. I was about to learn more about it when I was young but went on the road leaving my teacher behind. At that time we did not have forums to learn from.

Continue reading 90-9-1 Rule