Einsetzen and Ansetzen Embouchures

While I consider a discussion of “einsetzen” and “ansetzen” embouchures to be more of historical interest, I’ve been coming across these terms lately and wanted to write up my impressions of these terms and how they are relevant (or not) to brass pedagogy today.

Like many, my first exposure to these terms came from Philip Farkas’ text, The Art of French Horn Playing.  In this book Farkas quotes the 19th century hornist, Oscar Franz.

While playing, the mouthpiece should be set upon the upper and exactly within the inner part of the lower lip.  In German this is termed as Einsetzen (Setting In), in contrast to players who place the mouthpiece against, and not within, the lower lip.  This latter is termed as Ansetzen (Setting Against).  These two ways of tone production demand careful consideration.  While the tone produced in the first described manner (Einstetzen) will sound smooth and gentle, and the progressions from the higher to the lower intervals, and vice versa, can be easily mastered after careful study (the higher intervals being somewhat more difficult to produce), the higher intervals will speak easily for those who employ the second way of playing (Ansetzen); however, in passing from the higher to the lower intervals, and vice versa, this mode of playing often presents a variety of difficulties; and, in addition, the tone, as a rule, sounds less poetic and harder in quality; naturally there are exceptional cases of players to whom these various modes of playing present no difficulties whatsoever.  If a player, employing the second mode of playing (Ansetzen) passes into the lower register, he is forced to change his lip position to the first mode (Einsetzen).

– Farkas, The Art of French Horn Playing, 22

Einsetzen (Setting In) Embouchure

If I understand this correctly, an einsetzen embouchure is one in which the player rolls the lower lip out and sets the rim of the mouthpiece on the back part of the lip.  Some trumpet methods teach this approach for playing pedal tones (a practice that I tend to discourage – in general I feel that any benefit trumpet players get from practicing pedal tones can be derived from practicing something else that doesn’t resort to playing on an embouchure that doesn’t relate to how they normally play).  Notice how

Einsetzen (Setting In) Embouchure On Top Lip

I need to roll my lower lip out in order to set the rim inside my lower lip.  For some high brass players, setting the mouthpiece in this way will allow them to play in the extremely low range, but as I mentioned above, I don’t feel this is something to rely on as it doesn’t seem to work well for overall playing in the normal range.  While it doesn’t fit Franz’s definition of “einsetzen,” one can also set the rim on the inside of the upper lip as well.

Ansetzen (Setting On) Embouchure

For both of the photos above I tried to set the mouthpiece with about the same ratio of upper to lower lip that I normally play with.  Regardless of which brass instrument I play (and I’m not a good doubler, mind you, I play trombone), I set the mouthpiece so that the lower lip predominates.  This is reverse of how most players will play best, but it does happen to work best for me.  I bring this up because some people will look at my normal embouchure and declare it to be an einsetzen embouchure because the rim of the mouthpiece gets set onto, not inside, my top lip.  According to the Franz/Farkas quote above, this “setting on” the lips would more properly be labeled as an “ansetzen” embouchure.  I’ve read others describe Dennis Brain’s embouchure and Bruno Schneider’s embouchure (which are very similar to mine) as “einsetzen” embouchures as well because they too place the mouthpiece with the rim on the upper lip.  Because rolling my upper or lower lip out to place the rim inside the mouthpiece looks and works very differently from my normal method of firming the lips first and then placing the mouthpiece, I don’t think that Brain’s, Schneider’s or my embouchure can be properly labeled as “einsetzen.”  Simply placing the rim of the mouthpiece so that it contacts the upper or lower lip isn’t enough to make it an einsetzen embouchure, particularly for players with thicker sized vermillion (red of the lips).  An einsetzen embouchure will be one in which the lip is rolled out and the rim is placed on the inside of the lip.

With the exception of playing extremely low on trumpet and horn, it’s pretty rare to find players these days who play their whole range with an einsetzen embouchure.  I do know one horn player in the area who sets the rim inside her lower lip for her whole range.  In general, however, I wouldn’t recommend this as it seems to have some associated difficulties in the normal playing range.

It’s entirely possible that Franz’s discussion of the “inner part” of the lips is referring to placing the rim on the vermillion of the lip, and not rolling out the lips as I’m describing here.  While the terms “einsetzen” and “ansetzen” have some historical interest for those of us who study brass embouchures, they really don’t seem to be useful terms to describe how brass players form their embouchures today.  It may be time for us to simply abandon those terms and instead discuss brass embouchure types in a different, more descriptive way.

Paul T.

An interesting topic. While I generally agree with your conclusions, I’ve been wondering about this. My own former brass problems were not explainable by the embouchure types you describe (because both embouchures would have fallen into the same type for me), but seemed related to one of these German concepts. A trombonist named Sam Burtis claims the same, and his description of his problems mirrors mine.

However, there is not quality literature on these types (that I have seen), so I don’t know if anything useful exists. I interpreted “setting on the lower lip” as meaning “setting in the red” of the lower lip, not the rolled-out interpretation you outline here. (Although, given the text you’ve quoted, your interpretation makes a whole lot more sense.)

Dave

Hi, Paul.

As I mention, I don’t think these terms are useful nor do they really apply to how people generally discuss brass embouchures today. Many trumpet players use the einsetzen/setting the mouthpiece inside the lower lip to play pedal notes, but then change to a more typical embouchure setting to play the rest of their range. I would discourage any setting that places the mouthpiece on the inner side of the lip like this, regardless of the player’s true embouchure type (as I use that term). Setting on the red membrane of the lips isn’t an issue, provided that the placement suits the player’s anatomy (I place on the red of my top lip). There is always some rim placed on the red of the lip. Excessive pressure, regardless of the placement, is the problem there, not necessarily the placement itself.

There may be some better resources about the einsetzen and ansetzen embouchure descriptions in German, if you want to learn a foreign language and go after them. I doubt that they are really used in German resources much these days either. It seems to be mostly an historical curiosity, but I could be wrong.

Frederic Boloix

None of the above is true “einsetzen”. Einsetzen means to anchor the rim of the mouthpiece more or less in the middle of the lower lip, “leicht (light) einsetzen” would be a bit closer to the edge but still in the lip itself. This German term literally means “setting in” as opposed to “setting on” the lip. True einsetzen only makes sense with a thin (horn) rim and was born out of necessity given the unique challenges of the instrument i.e. extensive range, tonal demands etc. The above pictures show the various degrees of “ansetzen”, from approx. 2/3 to 1/3 upper lip.

Dave

Thanks for clearing this up, Frederic. These terms are used by different people differently, at least in English texts. One thing that always confused me is that we are always “setting on” the red of the lips while others describe the rolled out lip position as “setting in” (like the Farkas quote above). Do you have a source you can send me to?

Regardless, I personally feel these terms/techniques are outmoded and probably not useful ways to describe brass embouchures today. There are better ways of describing functioning brass embouchures.

Dave

Ron Shapiro

Hi,
Having played trumpet and cornet semi-professionally for some thirty plus years, I decided to experiment with lip placement and have found that the einsetzen position gives me a vastly improved tone as well as range. I wish I had discovered this before.

I would be very wary of rules which supposedly apply to everyone.
Thanks

Dave

Hi, Ron. Thanks for stopping by.

I’d have to watch you play to know what you’re doing for sure. Personally, I discourage anyone from placing the mouthpiece on the inner membrane of your lip like that. The inside of your lip is sensitive and prone to damage. Furthermore, there really aren’t professional players with demanding schedules who are able to make a true einsetzen position work long term. I prefer to teach students to firm their lips as if buzzing first, then place the mouthpiece on the lips.

Good luck!

Dave

Kenny

I have recently been experimenting with the described Einsetzen that Bobby Shew talks about below regarding Maynard Ferguson’s embouchure. It works well with a big full sound and high notes – well you just have to think about them and they appear. I will say that this has never worked for me on a regular trumpet mouthpiece, however I recently ordered one of Roger Ingram’s MF mouthpieces that is made by Picket Brass. This is a small V-cup mouthpiece, and identical copy of Maynard’s mouthpiece for the 50 – early 60’s. Essentially it is a baby French Horn mouthpiece. Playing by setting the lower rim into the red of the bottom lip and letting the top lip intrude into the mouthpiece works wonders and is so easy to play this way.

Bobby Shew wrote:

CHOP SETTING:
He got the idea about his chop setting (old school ein-settin’). Not sure of the spelling of this. Means “to set in”. (10/04/2015 Kenny’s correction – Einsetzen.)

The applied usage in this case would be to set ones mouthpiece rim into the red of the bottom lip. Old school French Horn players used this setting for years and is still in use in some instances.

This setting has a tendency to keep the aperture open and is great for “tight” (as Maynard would have said it) mouthpieces and cup shape from playing around with the French Horn during weekends in the band room where his parents taught music.

Certainly neither MF or I would have recommended playing on a rough, scraped-up, and unplated rim surface.

Maynard did mention to me however he would carry around any new MP of his own design in his change pocket to “put some purchase on it” (as he put it). Obviously he enjoyed having a rim surface with MINISCULE abrasions.

DRY UPPER, WET LOWER LIP
MF played with a dry upper lip and kept his bottom lip very wet. This is why he would stick his tongue in and out over his bottom lip on rests and in between tunes. Having some “purchase” on his rim obviously decreased the chances of slippage from occurring.

You need to be reasonable if you attempt to apply this idea however. It worked for Maynard. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you.

Everyone needs to find their own way to a degree at this stage of the game. In the day, what Maynard did to develop into the kind of player he became was certainly considered unorthodox. Maynard didn’t care though. He just wanted to get it done.

You shouldn’t care either, even if it means going outside of the parameters Maynard set for himself.

Maynard was extremely intelligent and knew exactly what he was doing. There was a reason for everything (as strange as some things seemed) he did. That’s why they called him the Fox. Dumb like a fox. You know, “Fox Hunt”?

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