Standard disclaimer first, the following information is for educational purposes only and shouldn’t be interpreted as legal advice. Not to mention that the information I write might just very well be dated before I even post it, let alone by the time you may be reading this. Caveat emptor!
If you’re a composer, you may be wondering if you should copyright your music. A “copyright” is a legal term that protects the owner of a creative work to control the broadcasting, performance, publication, or recording of that work. So if you compose a piece of music, someone else can’t come along and publish that work without your permission, or claim that they were the composer of your music. For composers, copyrighting your music is essential to legally protect your work from theft.
I just came across this video of the Four Freshmen performing with a backup group of five trombones (Bernie Robier, Doug Elliott, John Jensen, Jay Gibble and Milton Aldana) plus rhythm section. The first soloist, John Jensen, starts playing about 1:49. While his placement looks pretty close to center, the other two trombone soloists, Jay Gibble (starts about 2:26) and Doug Elliott (starts about 3:02) both clearly have mouthpiece placements that are off-center. Take a look.
There are many reasons why a brass musician might place the mouthpiece best off center, and you can see Doug Elliott is quite far off center. Doug has been one of my teachers (the embouchure descriptions I prefer to use are the ones he taught to me) and he sometimes shows that he can play quite well with a centered mouthpiece placement or even a placement off to the other side. However, it obviously works best for him well off on the left side of his lips when he does this demonstration. If you check out Doug’s solo on the above video there’s no question he can get around a very wide range with that precise mouthpiece placement.
What I find interesting about Doug’s placement is that there is really no noticeable anatomical feature I can spot that would indicate why an off center placement would work so much better with him. The story of how he discovered this placement is interesting too. Continue reading Off Center Mouthpiece Placement Examples
I recently got a question from Justin asking about a breathing technique, endorsed by some great trumpet players like Bobby Shew and Roger Ingram, called “wedge breathing.” I was familiar with the concept, but I’d never really seriously tried it. I did some research to learn more about it and spent the last week practicing it and trying to get more comfortable with it. Keep in mind that the following perspective is only one week’s worth of practice, but I think I’ve got the general feel of it now and have some observations I can share.
What’s so interesting is that the “low placement” upstream embouchure players in Lusher’s brass section outnumber the more common downstream types players. Lusher himself is a “low placement” player as well and at least 3 of the 4 trumpet players are upstream players.
As I alluded to, it’s a little unusual to have more upstream players in a group than downstream players, as most people have the physical characteristics that make them better suited for one of the downstream embouchure types. Still, it does happen occasionally. A few years ago I was directing an all-county honor jazz band made up of high school students. Out of the 8 brass students, 4 were upstream and if you counted myself and the band director at the hosting school, the upstream players outnumbered the downstream. It’s uncommon, but it happens once in a while. This video can make a good demonstration to show people who deny that “low placement” players can have good range and endurance or who want to claim that it’s so rare that they teach all their students to avoid it.
Tip of the horn to Paul T. for sending this one in to me.
You may have noticed the new look. After changing the WordPress theme I noticed that it created some issues with the paragraph spacing and block quotes. Please be patient while I try to figure out how to correct those issues. If you notice something else that needs fixing, please let me know.
Update – I’ve worked out a solution for the paragraph spacing, but the block quotes fix is still eluding me. Anyone know how to write CSS? And is it just me or are the pages loading very slowly for you too?
Update 2 – Block quotes are now showing up properly. I think everything should be fine now, but please let me know if you spot something that needs fixing.
I’ve gotten several questions about the asymmetrical mouthpieces that John H. Lynch has developed. It’s an interesting design. Essentially the rim is much larger on one side. As I haven’t tried these mouthpieces out, I don’t have any personal experience that I can bring to review the asymmetrical mouthpiece design. But Lynch has written a fair amount about embouchures, which may offer insights into how his mouthpiece design can work for a particular player.
One article I came across is a reprint from Clint McLaughlin’s book, The Pros Talk Embouchure (which I haven’t read yet). Lynch’s article is called The Ideal Trumpet Embouchure. It’s an interesting read, although I noted several assumptions about embouchure’s that would only apply to certain embouchure types and a handful of things that are the brass player’s equivalent of urban legends. Going through some of Lynch’s statements and offering my thoughts may help some players considering his mouthpieces put it into a more complete context.
Lynch divides his discussion into two parts, one he calls the “static” part, including things like the mouthpiece placement on the lips, left hand grip, tongue position, lip pucker, etc. The other he calls the “dynamic” part of the embouchure and covers such things as air, pitch, and practice. I’m not certain that I would discuss elements of the embouchure quite in the same way, but it’s one way to at least organize an essay and makes it easy to follow.
I have vivid memories of late nights copying out big band parts by hand to get them ready for an upcoming rehearsal. Making a mistake in the part involved either trying to scrape the ink off the page while leaving it still legible, literally pasting a cutout over an entire staff to cover the mistake, or just starting that whole page over again. Once I got access to music notation software I gave up writing out parts by hand (and the musicians were very happy to not have to read my mess too).
Before music software was prevalent, individual composers and arrangers had few options beyond writing out everything by hand. Publishers developed a variety of techniques over the centuries, ranging from wood blocks to moveable type printing presses to this unusual typewriter, a Keaton Music Typewriter I happened to notice for sale here. (I love what appears to be a coffee stain on the left side of the paper over the treble clef.)
I imagine that putting together parts this way would be tortuously slow, at least until you did enough of it to get faster. Even then, I suspect it would be faster to write out the parts by hand, but it wouldn’t be as easy to read. Correcting mistakes would be just the same, unfortunately. I’ll stick with my computer notation for now.
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.
Today I’m talking to WCU’s Instrumental Methods class on jazz pedagogy. I gave a similar workshop to last year’s class and wrote on some of my discussion here and here. I wanted to link to these posts today to make it easier for students in this class to find those essays, in case they want a summary of what I talked about in class today.