The Balanced Embouchure: A Review

I’ve recently got a couple of email inquiries about my thoughts on Jeff Smiley’s text and trumpet method, The Balanced Embouchure.  I’ve gotten questions about it in the past, so I thought I’d reread this book and compile some of my thoughts here while they’re still fresh.

Published in 2001, Smiley’s book is 149 pages (5 1/2 inches by 8.5 inches).  He divides his text into two basic sections, an overview followed by his specific exercises.  The book is physically put together very well.  It’s spiral bound, contains several photographs and charts, and is accompanied by a CD of some of Smiley’s students performing many of the exercises contained in this text.  Smiley charges $45 plus $5 shipping.  Additionally, Smiley has made much of the text from his book available on his web site, including excerpts from his Introduction and chapters on Mechanics, Performance, and even some of his exercises.

I could have done without Smiley’s chapter “Mind/Body.”  While it contains some common sense health advice (healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, keep your horn clean), a lot of it is highly questionable.  I showed this chapter to a friend who is a licensed S.T. (speech therapist).  She found several misleading or false statements just skimming through a couple of pages.  This book would be much stronger if he simply removed this chapter entirely, as Smiley is clearly not qualified to give medical advice (neither am I, for that matter, consult with your doctor).

Smiley’s trumpet exercises are based around his philosophy of a “balanced embouchure,” detailed in his chapter on Mechanics.  However, the bulk of this chapter covers Smiley’s personal impressions and speculations based on playing sensations and don’t accurately depict what actually happens with a functioning embouchure.  My main complaint with his description of proper embouchure mechanics is his revolutionary hypothesis that tight corners create a flat chin and that this is only useful for 3 in 10 players.  First of all, I’m skeptical whenever anyone starts to throw around statical data based purely on their personal impressions.  If Smiley used a properly controlled methodology to collect his data and a valid statistical analysis to come up with this figure he’s silent about it.  Since my embouchure research (and that of most others) suggest completely opposite, Smiley has the burden of proof here.  I imagine that most other brass teachers will want to see more than a summary of someone’s personal impressions before altering our instruction to something that is seen as doing more harm than good.  Particularly if you claim that your system “works for every trumpet player.”  If it’s so effective I’d expect to see at least a few really fine players around that have those embouchure characteristics, but I don’t.  Even among jazz brass players, who are much more likely to be self-taught and use what works, not what’s taught as “correct.”

Other elements from the Mechanics chapter are also questionable, although some of it may be related to a lack of accurate and common terminology to describe embouchure characteristics.  For example, what appears to be a “flat” chin on one player may not be the same look for someone else.  Glancing at the four photos of trumpet players on the cover of Smiley’s book shows one player whose chin looks OK to me (although her corners appear to be pulled back into a smile position, which correlates with range and endurance issues), but the other three examples have the muscles below their lower lip disengaged and moving separately from the bones of the chin (they have the characteristic “peach pit” look of a bunched chin).  This correlates with embouchure problems too, by the way.

Much of Smiley’s discussion about the use of the tongue are acknowledged to be greatly influenced by the teachings of Jerome Callet (who I’ll get around to discussing in more detail eventually).  Briefly, Smiley feels that positioning the tongue at times so that it touches the lips can provide valuable feedback and help position the embouchure appropriately.  Again, since there are playing issues associated with doing this (more than just the split attacks that Smiley recognizes), I feel there may be better ways of getting the desired results that don’t risk the distortion of the embouchure formation when the tongue is regularly held in contact with the lips.

The exercises Smiley gives in his book are mostly variations of typical brass technique exercises, including lip slurs and tonguing exercises.  Some of his instructions and details for these exercises are unique to Smiley’s approach, such as his recommendation to “snap” the top note of an ascending to descending lip slur or tonguing on the lips.  The more unique exercises rely heavily on playing pedal notes.  His instructions with this regard I find particularly troubling.

Roll Out Lip Position

Smiley’s instructions for this “roll out” lip position is to pucker your lips, place the mouthpiece almost all on the top lip, roll the bottom lip out under the mouthpiece,and tilt the horn up.  Why this embouchure formation is valuable for practice I don’t understand.  I don’t feel that it has any benefit that outweighs the risks associated with using more than one embouchure in the player’s normal range.

At this point, to understand some of my criticisms it might be helpful to take a look at a video of a trumpet player performing one of Smiley’s exercises from The Balanced Embouchure.

He’s obviously a strong player with good range.  First, note the player’s chin and mouth corners.  With the exception during the pedal tones, they look perfectly fine to me.  Not at all like Smiley’s recommendations.  I don’t know if Smiley endorses this video or not.  Perhaps this player is doing it wrong.

The next thing I would point out is how this player slides the mouthpiece to a lower placement every time he moves out of the pedal range.  Playing with multiple embouchures like this definitely correlates with embouchure dysfunction, as I’ve shown here.  It might be argued that using a different embouchure for a trumpet pedal note won’t hurt the rest of the range since that’s not where trumpet players spend their time performing.  However, I question the value taking valuable practice time to work on playing in a way that risks causing problems.  This sort of embouchure switch in the normal playing range almost always causes issues.

Notice also how this player always stops to take a breath at the same point in the range (between E and G on the top of the staff) and in doing so is allowing himself to reset his embouchure.  Without getting a closer view it’s impossible for me to say how much this player actually is shifting his embouchure (in placement and/or lip position inside the cup), but many players get used to taking a breath at the same point in their range in order to play across an embouchure break that they may not even be aware they have.  Practicing exercises in this way may actually lead to developing an embouchure break, if you’re not careful.

My final comment about this player is to make note of his apparent embouchure type, which I’m guessing to be what I usually call a Very High Placement type.  Some characteristics of this common embouchure type happen fit Smiley’s recommendations for how to play pedal tones on trumpet, including a mouthpiece placement with almost all top lip and a horn angle that is close to straight out.  I note that of the three basic embouchure types, Very High Placement trumpet players seem to derive the most benefit from practicing pedal tones with fewer of the associated problems.  Trumpet players who have the anatomy that makes one of the other two embouchure types work best would probably find practicing these exercises even more likely to lead to problems than a Very High Placement type, including setting the mouthpiece higher on the lips than they should be for the particular player.

It’s been brought to my attention that The Balanced Embouchure isn’t about a single proper way to play a brass instrument, a sentiment I approve of.  It is, rather, supposed to be a set of exercises that systematically bring about an efficient embouchure for all players.  Aside from the obvious falsity of an embouchure method that works for everyone, I am always skeptical of a “one size fits all” approach, especially ones that presume to let the body figure itself out if you simply practice their exercises correctly (when it doesn’t work, often it is said the exercises aren’t being played “correctly”).  Without having a good understanding of brass embouchure function, practicing the exercised contained in The Balanced Embouchure are going to be hit or miss at best.  It might help some but others will find it counterproductive. Smiley doesn’t demonstrate that he has an accurate understanding of embouchure form, how different anatomical features make different embouchures function differently, and how to accordingly adjust his exercises to better fit different players.  Since much of the information contained in his book is misleading or even false and many of his exercises will actively work against players of certain embouchure types, I don’t personally recommend this book.

My purpose here isn’t to drive away anyone curious about The Balanced Embouchure or stop anyone from checking it out.  I simply wanted to put out my honest criticisms in the hope that someday Smiley or someone else can address them.  I certainly don’t have all the answers and I feel everyone can contribute to broadening our understanding of how brass embouchures function and the best ways to practice.  Before forming your own opinion about The Balanced Embouchure you should read what Smiley has made available on his web site.  You can also visit some other internet resources that contain information about Smiley’s approach.  The Trumpet Herald Forum has an entire section dedicated to The Balanced Embouchure (moderated by Smiley himself, so you should be able to find a more accurate depiction about it than I can offer), there are a couple of other YouTube videos here and here, and even a horn blog devoted to it.

If you have a different opinion, and there are many I know who do, then I’d like to hear about it.  What misconceptions do I need to correct?  What online resources have I missed?  Please leave your comment below or contact me privately.

Update:  A Rebuttal to my Balanced Embouchure Review

Angelo

EN CUANTO AL BE, DEBO DECIR QUE PERSONALMENTE ME AYUDO MUCHISIMO, HE TOCADO LA TROMPENTA DURANTE 15 AÑOS Y JAMAS HE LOGRADO TENER UNA EMBOCADURA RESISTENTE Y UN RANGO BASTANTE BUENO, REALMENTE BE PARA MI HA SIDO LA ESPERANZA, CREO QUE ALGUNAS COSAS QUE TU MANIFIESTAS NO SON TOTALMENTE CIERTAS CREO QUE SE PUEDE TENER UN CRITERIO MAS PROPIO CUANDO SE HA PROBADO Y UTILIZADO ESTE RECURSO COMO ES EL BE

Dave

Angelo, mi Espanol es muy mal. Necisito practicar, pero no tengo el tiempo ahora.

First, there is NO NEED TO WRITE IN ALL CAPITALS. It makes it harder to read and it is also considered the equivalent of shouting.

As far as your personal experience goes, it’s impossible to say without watching you play whether your benefit from practicing from the Balanced Embouchure book was because of, or in spite of, the exercises. My main criticisms are due to the misinformation and lack of tangible evidence for why Smiley feels his instructions are beneficial for “all players.” For as many players like you, who feel that it helps, there are at least as many who tried it for a while and didn’t find it useful. When I hear someone say, “I practiced Method X and got better,” I interpret it as “I practiced and got better.” There should be a plausible reason why Method X is better than Method Y.

Smiley’s book does not accurately describe how brass embouchures actually function, which is a good reason to be skeptical of how effective his instructions are. It doesn’t mean that it can’t help some players, but I think that it is fair to criticize it. Who knows, I may be wrong and Smiley may be able to address these concerns in his next book.

Valerie Wells

There’s only one way to understand The Balanced Embouchure method (BE for short) and that’s to do it. Those who form conclusions based solely on reading the book and analysing it through the lens of their own beliefs can’t help but miss the bigger picture.

I’ve been working The Balanced Embouchure method consistently for over 4 years. I’ve also been in correspondance with over 135 horn players who are working the BE method. Although I and many of them are very pleased with the results, I’m only just beginning to scratch the surface of my understanding of BE. I may never understand it fully, but this I do know: BE works.

One may pick the book to pieces, find faults with Smiley’s assertions, logic & reasoning, etc. But until one has given BE an honest trial period, that individual really knows nothing about it.

Valerie Wells

Dave

Thanks for your comments, Valerie. I never mean to claim that it doesn’t “work” to practice Smiley’s exercises, but it “works” to simply practice. There are a number of players who tried it and found it didn’t work as well as other approaches or even made things worse. Personal impressions are great ways to get started with investigation, but until one actually makes an effort to follow every player who gives any method a good go we don’t know if it’s a fluke or confirmation bias. Until then, all we have are logic and reasonings to judge.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but the burden of proof is on the proponents, not me. All I can do is offer my misgivings and hope that someone can address them.

Thanks,

Dave

Alistair Neil

Hi Dave,
I’ll try to address some of your points about The Balanced Embouchure method book.
Regarding health:
“I could have done without Smiley’s chapter “Mind/Body.”

At first glance it would be easy to dismiss this chapter as having nothing to do with trumpet playing but when you get deeper into the process you realise this has to do with the method of symptoms and solutions for health and brass playing. He gives the example of a common cold, don’t treat the symptoms (of which there may be many) but work to raise the immune system to fight the cold. Same with trumpet (or trombone). It not about if you have problem X then you need solution Y but it’s if you have problem X or Y or Z it’s because things are out of balanced. The method which show how to develop or discover balanced solves all problems.

“First of all, I’m skeptical whenever anyone starts to throw around statical data based purely on their personal impressions.”

 How else would one create statics? Smiley has often said his passion is teaching not playing. His statistics come from teaching thousands of trumpet lessons over many, many years. Seems like a good way to get statical data over a large group.

“If it’s so effective I’d expect to see at least a few really fine players around that have those embouchure characteristics, but I don’t.”

Have a look at Smiley’s website (which you linked to in this article) you will find some videos there. Once you start being open to it, you start to see those characteristics everywhere.

“Glancing at the four photos of trumpet players on the cover of Smiley’s book shows one player whose chin looks OK to me (although her corners appear to be pulled back into a smile position, which correlates with range and endurance issues)”

Your definition of “ok” equals flat, anything else is thrown out. There was a thread on trumpet herald long ago asking about these students on the cover, sort of a “where are there now?” story. Smiley stated that the girl on the cover had usable range to high C. Didn’t seem to be an issues.

The bunched vs flat chin issue has been debated a lot on the forums and will probably continue as long as trumpet forums exist. I think the main thing to remember here is Smiley is not dogmatic that flat chin is wrong and everyone must play bunched but rather his view is don’t slam bunched as wrong and be open to the possibility that bunched has many benefits and can work just as well, if not better than flat chin.

Regarding tonguing:
“I feel there may be better ways of getting the desired results that don’t risk the distortion of the embouchure formation when the tongue is regularly held in contact with the lips”

The tongue is not regular held in contact with the lips like a TCE setting may be, but rather only the tip of the tongue strikes the inside of the top lip to articulate. Rather than “distortion of the embouchure formation” it really is the most underrated technique of the method allowing the tongue to monitor and maintain optimum lip position.

Regarding the pedal tones:
“Why this embouchure formation is valuable for practice I don’t understand.’

Then re-read the roll out chapter.
It trains a smaller buzz area, it encourages the corners to come forward into a pucker and trains the bottom lip to stay more rolled out and in alignment with the top lip.

“I don’t feel that it has any benefit that outweighs the risks associated with using more than one embouchure in the player’s normal range.”

But pedal tones especially double pedals are not in the player’s normal range. That’s whole point of the book!

On the pedal tone video.
“Notice also how this player always stops to take a breath at the same point in the range (between E and G on the top of the staff) and in doing so is allowing himself to reset his embouchure.” 

Yeah, good call. That’s why if you check the book it has the breath marks in strategic places moving higher in the range on each repetition. The CD demo follows these breath marks, this video does not.

“Smiley doesn’t demonstrate that he has an accurate understanding of embouchure form, how different anatomical features make different embouchures function differently, and how to accordingly adjust his exercises to better fit different players.” 

I think the whole point of the book is that lips and embouchures are far more similar then previously thought. He does mention about large lip player may need to focus on roll-in before working on roll-out but that about as specific as it gets for different embouchures.

There is a lot more I could write about this but I will finish with from my experiences this book has been life changing. It has not given me professional level chops (yet) but I now know that my progress on the trumpet is only limited by how much I practise. This stuff works for me and my students and other players I’ve talked to (in real life).

Thanks for opening a discussion about this and I hope my point of view makes sense and helps shed some light of this method.

Alistair

Dave

Alistair, you raise too many points for me to get into just now. For now, I’ll just state that my embouchure research has given me a very different viewpoint from you and Smiley.

Thanks for stopping by and making your comments.

Lyle Sanford

Don’t know how I missed this post! Shows the value of your having new comments over on the right.

I’m one of the people BE really helped, but have seen how a lot of educators have problems with it. I reread the book every so often because as a music therapist I find a lot to like about his overall approach to helping people make music, and because, for me, there’s a lot there that’s not apparent on first reading. I think his approach comports well with the new neuroscience that’s coming out. Will print out your post and keep it with the book. Appreciate your taking the time to make such a specific critique. Next time through will see if I can spot what your speech therapist friend caught and whether or not her “skimming” rather than a full read might be part of the problem.

Dave

Hi, Lyle. Thanks for stopping by and letting us know more about your experiences.

My criticisms of Smiley’s book are based on what I’ve learned about how brass embouchures actually function and what happens when they don’t. I have a new post that will be public shortly where I will touch on some of Alistair’s points above, including some corrections that he’s pointed out.

I really don’t want to get in too deeply on Smiley’s health claims on both his website and in his book because I lack the training and qualifications to offer medical advice. From what I can tell, Smiley is even less qualified than I am. If you want an honest assessment of his chapter I recommend you ask your doctor at your next visit. Get an expert opinion, not mine, not Smiley’s.

Thanks,

Dave

Jerry Freedman

I am interested in your statistics backing up that claim that the bunched chin isn’t as effective as tight corners. I also would take issue with your points about pedals. I have been through the Encyclopedia and I have a copy of the balanced embouchure ( I don’t use either although I did try BE years ago). I have seen players who take pedals very seriously play very well-( Gordon, Caruso students). In fact, naming the high level players who do use pedals would take up way too much space here. Suffice it to say, they work for those that use them.

I have also seen players play very well with bunched chin. I sort of understand (but don’t agree with) Reinhardt’s position on pedals, I never understood the point about flat chin.

Bottom line, BE can work for some players and screw up others, but the same can be said for any embouchure development system. Leon Merian was a player with gorgeous tone through out his range and fronted a big band into his eighties yet he tongued through his lips ( not just up against his lips as BE seems to recommend) but all the way through.

Dave

Hi, Jerry. Thanks for stopping by.

Of course there are many players who swear by practicing pedal tones. Many are very fine players. Personally, I believe there are other things trumpet players can practice that achieve the same things without the risks of playing on two embouchure types. Reinhardt felt that pedal tone practice ruined a trumpet player’s staccato tonguing, although I haven’t been able to confirm this personally.

I have not seen a great deal of good players with a bunched chin. There are some, but generally speaking they are younger players. I would be more convinced if there were great players in their 40s and older with a bunched chin, as sometime between age 30 and 40 mechanical issues like this seem to make or break a player’s longevity.

Bottom line, practicing can work for some players. If you are enjoying practicing because you have fun with the Balanced Embouchure, then it will work for you.

Dave

Steve

Dave,

Started playing in 4th grade. I am now 54 years old, and since college have played on and off. I currently play in a drum corps and church band. I have used many study methods over the years and put in the time. I got my BE book about 5 years ago, but never got to start it until about 6 months ago. I am only a few exercises in and I can tell you that no other study has even come close to improving my overall playing the way BE has done. Strength, power, flexibiility, range have all significantly improved. I won’t spend time debating your points. However, I will say the bunched chin vs flat intiqued me. I did my own research via youtube, old photos etc. From what I saw, overwhelmingly, the worlds best players are not using flat chins. Anyway, for whatever reason, BE has worked for me bigtime. BE has enabled me to enjoy playing more now than in my previous 43 years.

Thx for your time,

Steve

Dave

I’m glad you’re having fun and finding it helpful, Steve.

I did my own research via youtube, old photos etc. From what I saw, overwhelmingly, the worlds best players are not using flat chins.

I think if we were to look carefully enough and use some methods that would avoid our own biases that we would find that most professional players have a flat chin. This is almost universally recommended by brass teachers too.

I’m working with a student about your age right now with a bunched chin. He had a lot of success for a while, but he has developed problems that he can’t get rid of without flatting out his chin. You may want to consider reducing or eliminating your bunched chin before it starts to cause similar problems.

Brian Gibson

Hi Dave,

The BE book has been a game changer for me, I think the three things that have helped the most from BE for me were

1. Unlocking my corners

2. The extremes of high and low have helped a ton (it exaggerates the rolling in and rolling out).

3. Tongue position, by learning to tongue on my top lip (he calls it TOL) it gets me thinking up keeping the tongue close to the point of attack during my normal tonguing which also helps me build compression.

I do BE for about 20 – 30 minutes a day then as I feel more warmed up I bring the placement of the top rim down until I get it to the correct position then I work finding how far back my corners should be and once I get that straight I am golden. I’ve had the book since around 2005 and it has taken me a long time to ‘get it’. I think you should try it, it would make for some interesting stories on your web site!

Dave

Hi, Brian. Thanks for stopping by. Even though you didn’t ask for my advice, let me offer some food for thought.

1. Unlocking my corners

Mouth corners that are not locked in place (i.e., a “smile embouchure” or where the lips are too puckered) cause embouchure issues. If “unlocking” them worked for you, perhaps they were locked in the wrong place. Try locking in where they are now and develop the strength to hold them there. You might find that this works better in the long term.

2. The extremes of high and low have helped a ton (it exaggerates the rolling in and rolling out).

I’m generally not a fan of pedal tone practice for trumpet players, as most players don’t play them in a way that relates to their normal playing range. Smiley’s roll in and roll out exercises both don’t relate to how players will play normally. You can’t really move from those extreme lip positions to your normal playing embouchure without resetting the mouthpiece placement to different positions on the lips. Rather than exaggerate your lip position, keep the mouthpiece placement the same for your whole range. A good goal would be to develop one embouchure for the whole range. Smiley’s advice is designed to give you a high range embouchure, a low range embouchure, and then something in between. At best, you’ve got embouchure breaks to practice getting around. At worst, you’re going to screw up your chops eventually.

Professionals who have demanding playing schedules do not, as a rule, have loose corners, bunched chins, and multiple embouchures for different ranges. Those that do usually don’t last into their 40s without having to do some serious troubleshooting.

3. Tongue position, by learning to tongue on my top lip (he calls it TOL) it gets me thinking up keeping the tongue close to the point of attack during my normal tonguing which also helps me build compression.

The forward tongue position you describe works very well for some players. Not so well for others. Rather than distort your embouchure formation with the tongue contact, just keep your tongue position more forward when you play, but off the lips. Again, I think this works better for almost all players in the long term.

I think you should try it, it would make for some interesting stories on your web site!

I don’t know why people would assume I bought the book but didn’t try it. Maybe some day I’ll get around to posting some of the video footage I took of myself practicing the exercises, but I’ve got other projects that take precedence.

Jesson

Hi Dave,
I’m really thankful for this article, cause I began practicing the BE just a couple of months ago, and I feel really depressed cause my teacher told me: If it doesn’t work, you’re doing it wrong, but I followed the instructions, so I couldn’t understand why this (universal) method didn’t work for me.
With this article I understand better my situation, in fact the problem is the multiple embouchure, now I sound great in low register but as I get to E5, my lips don’t support me.
Now I’m affraid of what may happen with these changes, In three months I lose what I’ve been workin on for almost 15 years playing, studying.
The BE may work for many people but taking it as the absolute and almighty or universal method may be harmful, I’m a testimony.
Thanks a lot for giving this advice, I think that what we need is a balanced way of seeing different kinds of methodology and search what best helps according to our specific nature as human beings.
I’m still afraid and don’t know yet how to resolve this, or am i out playing for ever?

Dave

Hi, Jesson.

Without watching you play I of course can’t give you any specific advice on what you should be doing. At this stage I might have you go back to the embouchure you used before practicing the extreme lip positions and start there. I’d also suggest that you avoid practicing pedal tones, as what you’re doing to get them apparently in no way relates to your natural embouchure type. Maybe try finding what works for your upper register and work on bringing it down low instead.

Although most brass teachers don’t take the same approach to teaching embouchures that I do, many know enough to at least teach you to focus your muscular effort correctly and otherwise stay out of your way. You might do well by simply finding a different teacher to work with for a while.

Good luck!

Dave

Don Sieveke

I studied BE for a period of approx. six months and never came close to a RI “squeak”, much less the easy high tone promised on trumpet. Eventually, I muscled up so much it ended my ability to make a reliable attack. I finally switched to baritone just to get a sound out.

Then I went to Gordon for about 4 years. I found that as Smiley discovered, playing high involves a heck of a lot more than deep breathing. Some persons’ lip structure just isn’t conducive to high pitched vibration without specific manipulation.

Frustrated with the inability to play above the staff in a lyrical manner, I went back to the drawing board, trying to determine how to produce the sound I wanted above the staff. I came up with getting the bottom lip to mate more evenly with the top lip. This syncs with Smiley’s suggestion to blow toward eyebrows and probably with Doc’s jaw position.

So I’m getting better with the new lip formation, but it isn’t easy. It breaks down at e above high c but I’ve only been at it two months.

I’m considering going to Dave for some lessons to see if I can strengthen what is a promising avenue.

Understand, this comes from someone who practices regularly 2 hrs. a day.

AndrewS

“Smiley’s roll in and roll out exercises both don’t relate to how players will play normally”

I wonder if there is anyone in the world who knows how players play normally.
Also anyone who claims he does would be a liar.
What a teacher can do (to fix a broken embouchure) is to prescribe some exercises that make embouchure move towards more or less balanced position. And that’s the point of the book!
Do you go to gym because you normally go around with weights?
Working with weights makes your body move into a healthier state, even though it doesn’t look “normal” when you train.
Trying to critique the book based on what “feels normal” is like telling your doctor that his pills don’t taste normal to you (or the idea of taking pills).
This book is for desperate enough players to try whatever works.
Definitely not for a player who thinks in terms of “normal” or “not normal”.
It’s for those with a strong desire to make things work (when nothing else “normal” did).

Dave

Hi, Andrew. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

I wonder if there is anyone in the world who knows how players play normally.

I think if you take a little time and look through some of the resources I’ve made available here and what others who study embouchure form and function you might be surprised at not only how unique different players’ embouchures can look, but also how little like Smiley’s roll in and roll out lip positions are found in successful players.

What a teacher can do (to fix a broken embouchure) is to prescribe some exercises that make embouchure move towards more or less balanced position

Smiley’s “balanced” approach is more of a philosophical position, not based on investigation of how brass embouchures function and malfunction. There are no magic exercises that can fix a broken embouchure because different embouchures require different corrective procedures.

Thanks again for your thoughts. Please do take some time and poke around here at my web site and let me know if you have any other questions or comments.

Harry H Hilgers

Your BE review reminds me of somebody giving a review on a western-horse-riding-skills-steer-roping book, where the reviewer has only ridden “English”. I agree with other replies that suggest you must first go through the BE method from beginning to the end before you have gained the skills needed to critique Jeff’s book.
Anything more specific that I could add, has already been said before.

Dave

Thanks for your comments, Harry, but you’re using a false analogy. I feel that I can make accurate statements about the flaws in Smiley’s book because there is so much misinformation in them. To put it bluntly, the Balanced Embouchure text demonstrates a lack of understanding in embouchure form and function and many of the exercises that are promoted will largely have the result of teaching players to play better in the wrong way.

Maarten

I would like to share my experience with BE to you. This is just my view after 14 months of practicing. Only since the last two months, I have a BE teacher – I wish I’d done that earlier, because the exercises are much more powerful and extreme than the way I did them.

BE decomposes the complex embouchure movement into two muscle groups, than can be separately trained: the Roll Out exercises for the inner mouth (funnel-shape, mouthcorners, cheeks) and the Roll In for the outer circular muscles (the lips).
Furthermore, BE offers two exercises to (re)integrate these complementary movements, namely the snapping slurs, and Tongue-On-Lips. Both muscles/movements are needed in all registers, low and high.

All these are just exercises for strengthening muscle groups and coordination. It is an absolute misconception that you should use these extreme lip settings in your actual embouchure!

If you have serious defects in your embouchure (I did), than the risk of doing BE exercises (training the right muscle groups) will be that your range could be temporarily reduced, or that your lip/mp orientation will be disturbed. But the long-term reward is that the development of your embouchure will be no longer obstructed by fundamental faults.

Dave

Thanks for your thoughts, Maarten.

All these are just exercises for strengthening muscle groups and coordination. It is an absolute misconception that you should use these extreme lip settings in your actual embouchure!

I will have to brush the dust of my copy and look again, but I don’t recall that this was explicitly stated in Smiley’s book. Even so, I question the value of the exercises precisely because there is a risk of the lip settings creeping into to normal playing.

I prefer to use other exercises that address embouchure “defects” that approach the corrections with the embouchure formation set for normal playing. Sometimes I’ll use an away-from-the-horn exercise, like free buzzing. But I avoid instructing my students to approach playing the instrument in a way that doesn’t reflect how they should play normally.

Good luck with your playing.

Andrei

” I don’t recall that this was explicitly stated in Smiley’s book. Even so, I question the value of the exercises precisely because there is a risk of the lip settings creeping into to normal playing.”

Yes, it’s explicitly stated in the book that you use your normal embouchure during playing.
And yes, the whole purpose of the exercises is for them to creep into the normal playing over time.
That’s the idea for them to creep into your playing, without you consciously changing your embouchure which makes this method very safe as the changes are gradual and positive.

“I prefer to use other exercises that address embouchure “defects” that approach the corrections with the embouchure formation set for normal playing.”

Sure, but unfortunately it’s not easy for many people for find a trumpet teacher who know exactly how to fix their broken embouchure. Not many teachers do it, if if they do, it’s often a hit and miss approach.
My embouchure was ruined many years ago by one of those teachers.
The purpose of the book is to follow the instructions without a teacher and discover your new embouchure in a slow process of playing those exercises and allowing them to creep into your normal playing without thinking about them at all.

Dave

Hi, Andrei

Yes, it’s explicitly stated in the book that you use your normal embouchure during playing.

I must have missed that and I can’t find it just now in the book. Any chance you can post the page number or a quote?

Yes, it’s explicitly stated in the book that you use your normal embouchure during playing.
And yes, the whole purpose of the exercises is for them to creep into the normal playing over time.

I’m afraid I’m not following you. Are you supposed to allow those extreme lip positions to creep into your normal embouchure or not?

Thanks,

Dave

Andrei

Hi Dave

Please re-read the “Direct vs. Indirect” chapter at p. 56.
Yes, the exaggerated lip movement exercises are done outside of your normal playing.
That means that you do the exercise and let the lips integrate the new motions into the normal playing without you thinking about it.
So, during your normal playing you totally forget about BE and let the lips take care of themselves thus using your normal playing embouchure.

Dave

Thanks, Andrei. Smiley wrote, “I found that when you extend the range of motion of the lips by using specially designed exercises done outside of the normal playing range, the lips begin to spontaneously use elements of those movements during regular playing and reach a point of balance.”

As I’ve said, I prefer to use exercises that work with the normal playing embouchure, rather than extreme lip positions. My point is that practicing these extreme lip positions at best is taking practice time away from something that is how you will actually perform. At worst, those extreme lip positions will creep into the normal playing.

The whole premise of practicing “roll in” and “roll out” embouchures is practically designed to give players a high range embouchure and a low range embouchure, with a break in between. I feel it’s better to play with one embouchure over the entire range.

Andrei

“As I’ve said, I prefer to use exercises that work with the normal playing embouchure, rather than extreme lip positions. My point is that practicing these extreme lip positions at best is taking practice time away from something that is how you will actually perform. At worst, those extreme lip positions will creep into the normal playing.”

That’s one way to look at that. The BE was built on the tenet that practice and playing are not the same thing. During practice you may explore something that you’d never do during normal playing. Another tenet is that you lips, once they learned the extreme movements, can subconsciously integrate the right amount of those movement into a normal playing. What you call “at worst”, I call “at best” since I want my lips to be able to move inside the mp.

“The whole premise of practicing “roll in” and “roll out” embouchures is practically designed to give players a high range embouchure and a low range embouchure, with a break in between. I feel it’s better to play with one embouchure over the entire range.”

Not really, it’s designed to teach your embouchure to know the extremes and be able to move in the normal playing, thus giving you access to the whole range of movement without any breaks, since apart from RI and RO the book has the whole slew of exercises (TOTL, slurs etc) to integrate RI and RO into a continuous flex.

Maarten

RI and RO are barely related to high vs. low range. E.g. in the high register you very much need that funnel shape trained with RO, as much as the rolled in lips. If you let go for the inner mouth shape, leave out the mouth corners pucking forward, and just roll in your lips, your sound will be quite thin. On the other hand, I can play high range using almost only “RO muscles”, but then my sound is not very stable.

I think the most serious shortcoming of the book is it’s lack of theoretical basis or arguments. I feel the method is valid and should be taken seriously, but why and how? If the premises were explicit, we could either reject or systematically improve the method.
I hope you understand what I’m saying despite my deficient english, sorry for that.

Dave

Hi, Maarten and Andrei.

Thanks again for coming by and sharing your thoughts. I originally bought Smiley’s book because I wanted to explore his ideas further and see if it was worth incorporating into what I already do. It’s been quite a while since I’ve read his book, but I think it’s good to revisit things after a period of time and see if any new information changes my mind. So far, none of what you’ve written has convinced me, but I’m willing to seriously consider what you have to say and think more carefully about it.

The BE was built on the tenet that practice and playing are not the same thing.

There is some value on this. I often practice in a way that I would not perform in, but it’s mostly where my mental focus is rather than the physical mechanics of how I’m playing. When I’m practicing or teaching technique I’m always trying to approach it from that standpoint of actual playing.

That said, one exception are some exercises I picked up that involve the player puffing the cheeks on purpose. The idea here being to take the effort away from the mouth corners in a specific way to help the player find the best support structure of the teeth and gums under the mouthpiece rim and lips. These exercises never worked well for me, but some students have found it helpful.

Not really, it’s designed to teach your embouchure to know the extremes and be able to move in the normal playing, thus giving you access to the whole range of movement without any breaks, since apart from RI and RO the book has the whole slew of exercises (TOTL, slurs etc) to integrate RI and RO into a continuous flex.

I question whether this is really the best way for a player to learn this. As I said before, there are other things that players can practice that achieve the same (I would argue better) results without resorting to practicing in a way that (I feel) is ultimately working against the way a player’s embouchure should be functioning. I can’t really summarize this approach because that is personal to the individual player’s embouchure type and other factors.

RI and RO are barely related to high vs. low range.

There may be some nuanced explanations elsewhere in Smiley’s book, but he wrote, “When the lips roll in (close) and resist the air, compression increases and pitch goes up. When they roll out (open) the opposite happens. This is a universal principle, fundamental to making the instrument work properly.” (p. 13)

There are some uncommon circumstance where I think some lower lip roll is going to be helpful for a player, but I don’t think Smiley’s description of the roll in is helpful to practice. Besides, if you search for Lloyd Leno here on my blog you can watch video of lips vibrating in slow motion and see if the lip positions demonstrated match Smiley’s description of rolling in and rolling out. A more accurate description is that when a player ascends the lips are drawn in closer to the teeth and less surface area of the lips vibrate. Descending shows the lips vibrate with more surface area and they are blown out away from the lips more. There’s really not the extreme roll in and roll out positions.

I think the most serious shortcoming of the book is it’s lack of theoretical basis or arguments.

Likewise, I find that one of the most serious shortcomings of his book is the lack of accurate descriptions of how brass embouchures actually function. There is some misleading information in there, and quite a bit that is demonstrably wrong. Smiley’s method really seems to be based on a philosophical approach to having the lips “balance,” rather than accurate understanding of what actually happens. It’s true that you can do good things for the wrong reasons, but in this case I think he’s leaping to conclusions that are not only based on bad information but conclusions that are ultimately not going to be as helpful as other things.

Just my thoughts. Enjoy your time practicing and best of luck to you both!

Dave

Andrei

I don’t think it was Jeff’s intention to lay out a fully scientific explanation of embouchure mechanics. Why? Because there are volumes written on this, and, what’s most important, all this information amounts to nothing whatsoever! The humanity is as far away from understanding the mechanics of embouchure (save for some basics which get debated over and over by the scholars) as ever.
The book is for those desperados with broken embouchures and tired to stay at the plato no matter what they do.
It’s a wholistic approach at that, you can’t just try to apply some of its excerpts and hope that it will work. It won’t, so you’d be better off doing something else.
Maarten did a good explanation of how RI and RO have little to do with high range and low range.
But then again, without actually doing the exercises these explanations are just that.
When you feel that you have a great teacher and you get better following your practice routine, stick to it, there is no need for this book.
When nothing works, like in my case, and you grab at straws, you are about to sell your trumpet, then you got nothing to lose and you might as well give it a try, just by following the prescribed exersices without questioning the scientific value of them, because honestly, at this stage you don’t give a damn about theory, you just want some results.
And when you see progress, you just watch it with astonishment, and again, why do you need theoretical justification when it just works? I am happy just tooting away and watch me continue to progress without trying to analyse it too much. Years with trumpet taught me this: analysis leads to paralysis 🙂

Dave

Hi, Andrei.

I don’t think it was Jeff’s intention to lay out a fully scientific explanation of embouchure mechanics.

But he did make factual statements about embouchure form and function and the bulk of what he wrote is either misleading or wrong.

Because there are volumes written on this, and, what’s most important, all this information amounts to nothing whatsoever!

First, there is not a lot written on embouchure form and function that can truly be considered scientific. Much of what passes as “science” in the realm of embouchure is, in fact, pseudo-scientific. Smiley’s cites made up statistics and experiments that give the veneer of science to an uniformed reader and it’s fair to question and criticize those statements and the conclusions he draws from them.

The humanity is as far away from understanding the mechanics of embouchure (save for some basics which get debated over and over by the scholars) as ever.

Just because we debate embouchure points doesn’t mean that an understanding of the mechanics of brass embouchure are “far away.” Most of the debate I see is among folks arguing about what they think they do, rather than addressing the evidence and knowledge that we have accumulated over years of research. There is much more than you’re aware of out there, but unless you happen to have an academic interest in brass embouchures you’re likely not going to be familiar with it.

Years with trumpet taught me this: analysis leads to paralysis

No, incorrect analysis leads to paralysis. Or multitasking, which is a completely different phenomenon than analysis. I find it intellectually lazy and outright wrong to criticize analysis as the source of a student’s problem. It’s much better to learn how to analyze and when than to dismiss a valuable tool to not only brass playing and pedagogy, but life in general.

I get it. You’re having fun and finding results with The Balanced Embouchure. By all means, continue to explore it and enjoy your time with it. Best of luck!

Dave

Andrei

Hi Dave

“But he did make factual statements about embouchure form and function and the bulk of what he wrote is either misleading or wrong.”

Could you quote me something of what he wrote that is misleading or wrong?

“There is much more than you’re aware of out there”

Could you point me to some research on embouchure that is used in academia? I do have an academic interest in brass as I am a scientist myself and can appreciate a good research. I am skeptical though, since I’ve read quite a few books and researches on embouchure and so far Jeff’s one looks like the most coherent to me.

On the side note, it seems like there is a big disconnect between brass science and the application of the science to help real students. If there was some scientific breakthrough on embouchure, I’d sure hear about it and the number of successful brass players would have doubled in the world. So far that doesn’t happen, which leads me to believe that either brass science is just a pseudo-science or it’s a very well kept secret in the walls of academia, that mere mortals like me have no access to.
When I hear interviews or masterclasses of giants of the brass world (Arturo, Maynard, Wayne, Wynton, Bobby etc) they almost never mention “science” but mostly talk about their own visions and ways to improve, which may or may not help others. So yeah, they may not be aware of the science as their approaches are far from being scientific.
Basically, Dave, you have to be very careful calling something out there as “wrong” or “misleading” and claiming that there is some science out there. Since the moment you said that, you claimed that this science is applicable to everyone and thus everyone can use it and succeed. As soon as you say that this science is only applicable conditionally to some select few, it ceases to be science and should be called “a bag of tricks” at best.

Dave

Andrei,

Please forgive me if I’m off base, but I’m beginning to feel that your motivation for this debate is disingenuous. You seem (please note the qualifier) to be arguing to justify your commitment to Smiley’s method and aren’t really interested in discussing my concerns or the alternatives that I discuss here and elsewhere on this web site. If I’m wrong, I apologize. However, this specific paragraph concerns me.

Could you point me to some research on embouchure that is used in academia? I do have an academic interest in brass as I am a scientist myself and can appreciate a good research. I am skeptical though, since I’ve read quite a few books and researches on embouchure and so far Jeff’s one looks like the most coherent to me.

If you honestly believe that there is no academic research done on brass embouchures you’re simply not looking. A simple Google Scholar search for the terms “embouchure AND trumpet” return 4,150 results. You can start with the bibliography to my dissertation and go from there if you don’t want online resources. Better still, go to the University of Toronto library and ask for a research librarian to help you find some.

Could you quote me something of what he wrote that is misleading or wrong?

Re-read the above blog post for some. Here are others, or reiterations with sources.

“Lips are more similar than dissimilar, and physical difference are less important than previously supposed.” p. 7

See my dissertation (linked above) for a contrary view.

“When the lips roll in (close) and resist the air, compression increases and pitch goes up. When they roll out (open the opposite happens). This is a universal principle, fundamental to making the instrument work properly.” p. 13

“The buzz created by balanced lips is significantly smaller than a conventional buzz.” p. 15

These statements are misleading as it’s been shown that it’s the degree of opening of the embouchure aperture as well as the amount of surface area that vibrates due to the amount flattening of the lips against the teeth and gums that is what players are doing to change register. See Lloyd Leno’s “Lip Vibration of Trombone Embouchures” (referenced earlier in our conversation) and “Open Areas of Vibrating Lips In Trombone Playing” for some more nuanced and complete discussions.

“You see, the lips are incredibly weak in the exact place where they need to be strong: the center.” p. 13

See “Visualization of Trumpet Players’ Warm Up By Infared Thermography” for discussion of the methodology used to determine the muscles that are focused on in trumpet playing. The lead author, Matthias Bertsch, is a name you will become familiar with should you visit the UoT library and do some of your own review of the literature. Another resource you should read is “Electromyographic Analysis of Embouchure Muscle Function in Trumpet Playing” by Elmer R. White and John V. Basmajian.

Not to mention that Smiley’s “demonstration” to prove how weak the obicularis oris muscle is supposed to be is meaningless and doesn’t prove anything about trumpet embouchure. It’s a complete red herring.

“In my view, germs ultimately do not cause disease…” p. 38

Do I really need to cite a source for this? He is clearlynot qualified to recommend health advice. Some of the advice he gives can easily be misinterpreted and, in the case of asthmatics and folks on prescription drugs, can even be life threatening. In my opinion, this chapter on “Mind/Body” is irresponsible and should be cut from the book. Doing so will give him more credibility.

Much of what Smiley writes is not mainstream. While I think it’s fine to think outside the box, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and Smiley’s ideas don’t meet that standard of evidence.

Since the moment you said that, you claimed that this science is applicable to everyone and thus everyone can use it and succeed.

This sentence, more than anything you have written before, along with your assertion to being a scientist yourself concerns me. It’s not clear to me that you fully understand the scientific method or the burden of proof. I also find it hypocritical of you to criticize science as not being “applicable to everyone” while defending a method book that claims “it works better for everybody” (p. 11).

Before you address my comments I’d like to ask you to take some time and further explore some of the information I’ve posted on brass embouchures here in my blog and follow the relevant links and citations. I think if you have a better understanding of where I’m coming from you’ll also see that a major concern about Smiley’s method isn’t just what he says that’s not accurate, but also what he apparently is unaware of.

Best of luck with your playing.

Dave

Andrei

I am a mathematician, not a lawyer, so yes, the concept of burden of proof is foreign to me, sorry.
The number of dismissive and demeaning adjectives like “disingenuous”, “hypocritical” and other personal remarks tell me that I’ve crossed the line, so I feel sorry and take my leave.

Dave

Andrei, I’m sorry if you feel I’ve dismissed or been demeaning to you, but in my defense I posted a preemptive apology for it and was very careful to put qualifiers into my statements (“I feel,” “you seem to be,” “I think,” etc.) to be clear that I’m not certain what your motivations are. That said, your posts are following a familiar pattern that made me question what your intentions are and whether you’ve been completely honest with me.

To again summarize my thoughts, and perhaps make my points clearer:

1. Smiley’s method is philosophically based on the concept of “balance,” and not on an accurate understanding of brass embouchure form and function. His descriptions of how a successful brass embouchures function are often misleading or false. It is notable not only for what he says, but also important information he leaves out.

2. Smiley’s chapter Mind/Body demonstrates that he is perfectly willing to ignore established medical science for an ideological position and shows little regard for how his words can be interpreted. Considering #1 above, I feel that the brass instruction he provides is a similar pattern in that his method doesn’t have a logical basis. Does that mean it’s ineffective? Not necessarily, however it’s fair game to question and criticize it for those points.

3. The overall basis for his exercises are that by practicing extreme lip positions outside of the normal playing range that brass students are going to somehow find a “balance” between those extremes. My point is that the extreme lip positions not only take away from practicing the instrument correctly, but also have the risk of creeping into the player’s normal playing and causing playing difficulties. The characteristics that he suggests, such as a bunched chin and extreme rolling in and out of the lips, are not typically found with successful brass players and are often playing characteristics found with players having severe embouchure dysfunction. The Balanced Embouchure represents a fringe view of brass pedagogy and practice and is worth questioning.

If I come across as frustrated with you it’s because as I said above, this is a familiar pattern with folks who come by to defend something I’ve criticized in a blog post here. I’m concerned that you have not been entirely honest in your posts. You claimed to be a scientist, but made statements that are contrary to the scientific method. Later you changed your profession to be a mathematician, which is not the same thing as a scientist. You wrote that you have an academic interest in brass embouchures but haven’t commented on any of the references or citations I’ve provided, instead choosing to focus on what you perceive as personal attacks. I’m not sure how seriously I should be taking your comments. In other words, I just can’t tell if you’re trolling or are interested in an honest discussion.

Again, I apologize if you feel I’ve personally attacked you. I do hope that you will take some time to follow the links I’ve posted in the above blog post and in the ensuing discussions. If you find fault in my logic or points I’m happy to consider them – provided they avoid the familiar pattern of “it works for me, therefore it’s right” argument. Any scientist knows that the plural of anecdote is not evidence.

Best of luck with your trumpet playing!

Dave

Andrei

“You claimed to be a scientist, but made statements that are contrary to the scientific method. Later you changed your profession to be a mathematician, which is not the same thing as a scientist. ”
Sorry, English isn’t my native language and in Russian the word “scientist” definitely includes mathematician.
But I just discussed it with my colleagues and it seems like this term is used for mostly other disciplines but not math.

Back to your review.

1) There is no universal right or wrong when it comes to embouchure, especially how it looks like. Saying that most successful players look like that (flat chin etc) is shallow at least. I’ll find a bunch of other successful players with bunched chins etc. But you totally missed that the bunched chin is not the point of BE, it’s just one of the many available setups.
2) Your point that “extreme lip positions not only take away from practicing the instrument correctly, but also have the risk of creeping into the player’s normal playing and causing playing difficulties” is right for your but wrong for people correctly using BE method. I find it one of the most fascinating aspects of the book (the concept of balance and extreme lip position exercises) and so do many people successfully using it. Are they all wrong? In your world view yes, they are!
3) “His descriptions of how a successful brass embouchures function are often misleading or false.”. Only in your mind it’s true (I am sure you have the whole body of established science to back you up). Again, what’s the practical value of that statement? For *any* description that you give about embouchure, there’ll be some people who would accept that some would reject. In your world view, those who reject your model are wrong. Sure, if that makes you happy 🙂

Let me get it straight.
Also you are a trombone player who never tried the method (and I wonder that this method even applicable to trombone).
You just quickly glossed over the book and labeled it “wrong” based on some scientific evidence that you have. Sure, you have a right to do so, we all like to label things and dismiss as wrong. Does it benefit you or anybody else? I doubt it. At this point you come across as a narrow minded professor (man, I’ve seen many of them) who sees the world through the prism of his facts that he accumulated over life-time.
Again, there is nothing wrong with that either. I am a narrow-minded person myself when it comes to other things. When it comes to BE though, I *had* to get out of comfort zone to accept BE since yes, it’s not your average orthodoxal method and it doesn’t give you any pictures (there are no embouchures in BS), just sounds to follow.
Again, trying to review BE the way you do it is rather meaningless, as this won’t get neither you, nor your readers closer to any discovery.
The best statement you could you about BE is this: “Based on my evidence, I think BE is controversial (doesn’t fit with my embouchure model). I am a trombone player so I am not fully qualified to criticize a trumpet method with I haven’t tried myself. Whether or not this method is of value is only for you to try and decide.”
Why I am writing all that? I don’t know. You are on your BE bashing spree and nothing will stop you or change you mind, it’s your blog it’s your right.

Dave

Hi, Andrei.

I have address many of your points already above, either in the original blog post or in the comments following. A couple of thoughts about your above comment that I don’t think have been covered:

Also you are a trombone player who never tried the method (and I wonder that this method even applicable to trombone).

Regarding not trying the method, read above. Regarding if the method applies to trombone, Smiley seems to feel it does.

Frankly, I think the pedal tone exercises are less of an issue for low brass players than it is for high brass. I believe I discussed that some above and there are other blog posts where I’ve discussed pedal tone practice on the various brass that you can read.

The best statement you could you about BE is this: “Based on my evidence, I think BE is controversial (doesn’t fit with my embouchure model). I am a trombone player so I am not fully qualified to criticize a trumpet method with I haven’t tried myself. Whether or not this method is of value is only for you to try and decide.”

I would prefer to state that based on my over two decades of research (some original, some reviewing the literature) and teaching that Smiley’s method represents a fringe approach, not widely followed by most brass teachers and players. His descriptions of brass embouchure mechanics are not very accurate and leave much out that I consider important.

Brass embouchures between instruments are much more similar than I think you realize. My research into embouchures (and my playing and teaching experiences, for that matter) are not limited to just trombone or even low brass. There are other blog posts here that cover this in more detail if you search for them.

Good luck with your playing!

Dave

Andrei

I fully realize that there are similarities between all brass embouchures. Also I played the trombone and still play it once in a while. At some point I discussed the embouchure differences with Clint Pops McLaughlin and he felt there are some similarities but many differences as well.
Trumpet players need to generate more compression for the upper register which may reflect on the way they use the embouchure.

“Frankly, I think the pedal tone exercises are less of an issue for low brass players than it is for high brass. I believe I discussed that some above and there are other blog posts where I’ve discussed pedal tone practice on the various brass that you can read.”

Pedal tones in BE are practiced for an entirely different reason than in many other methods. Just saying in case you missed it. Also BE gives sound samples for trumpet to follow on pedal tones, not sure how it should be practiced and sound correctly on trombone, but sure, you may try to extrapolate.

“I would prefer to state that based on my over two decades of research (some original, some reviewing the literature) and teaching that Smiley’s method represents a fringe approach, not widely followed by most brass teachers and players. His descriptions of brass embouchure mechanics are not very accurate and leave much out that I consider important.”
Which doesn’t prove much.
Copernicus’ or Einstein’s theories were fringed before they got accepted as mainstream. Back in those days some old school scientists felt the same way as you do about BE. The history has shown us who was wrong and who was right. Whatever you know and research about embouchure is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to work left to be done. Also what you feel is right now, may be defunct later. So brace yourself if the time comes 🙂
Also as I said all the embouchure researches amount to nothing without a comprehensive method which connects all the dots and enables a person to progress.
I’d prefer any day a method with “incomplete/fringed theory but good results” over “complete theory but mediocre results”. By “mediocre results” I also mean a numbers game, that is the method only applicable to some percentage of those who use it.

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