P.E.T.E stands for Personal Embouchure Training Exerciser, a tool created by Ken Titmus and Terry Warburton. This tool is designed to help a brass player strengthen the embouchure muscles away from the instrument. The P.E.T.E. is based on two different types of exercises, one which uses a simple pencil and another that used a large button. Titmus and Warburton have combined these two exercises into a a single tool.
The P.E.T.E. isn’t cheap, listing from anywhere from around $40 to $70, depending on which model you get. There’s been a lot of buzz online lately about the value of the P.E.T.E., though, and I decided to check it out and see what all the fuss was about.
There are two basic exercises that you can do with the P.E.T.E. If you’re familiar with the “pencil trick” exercise already, you can use it similarly. You place the narrow end between your lips and using the pinching power of your lips alone, hold the P.E.T.E. out straight for as long as you can. The “button” exercise, however, is a little less known. This exercise places the disc end behind your lips and while pinching in a manner similar to the pencil trick exercise, you gently pull your lips away from the teeth while using your lips to pull them back.
The first thing I learned was that you don’t need to pull very hard for it to work. It took a little trial and error for me to also figure out a comfortable angle to pull so that the disc end wasn’t digging into my lips. You also don’t need to do much of either exercise. About 30-60 seconds is enough to feel the burn. With a short break between sets, a few minutes a day is plenty.
I’ve read several testimonials online from players who got the P.E.T.E. and claimed that the very next day they noticed an improvement. I chalk this up to placebo, as it’s unlikely that anyone could noticeably build up strength after only one day. That said, after a week of using the P.E.T.E. I began feeling much stronger. So much stronger, in fact, that I made a rookie mistake and overplayed, digging into my upper lip with the mouthpiece. I had to take it easy for three days afterwards to let my lip recover. What can I say? I was having so much fun playing loud and high that night.
At any rate, I can honestly say that the P.E.T.E. is a useful tool to help strengthen embouchure muscles in a way that should hopefully avoid injury that can result from overplaying (provided you don’t get carried away as I did). The P.E.T.E. isn’t intended to be a replacement for practice, but you can think of it as weight lifting for your chops.
If you’re curious about the P.E.T.E., but don’t want to spend the money on it just yet to see if it’s for you, watch the below embedded video and you can learn how you can rig up a tool that’s very similar. I haven’t tried this one myself, but it seems to essentially be the same thing and likely gets the same results. If you have the money to spend, I do recommend it. Warburton does a great job machining the P.E.T.E. and there are no sharp edges to worry about, not to mention that it also looks cooler than a bolt and washer.