Lip Vibration of Trombone Embouchures by Lloyd Leno

Lip Vibration of Trombone Embouchures is a documentary film made by Dr. H. Lloyd Leno sometime in the late 1980s, I think.  Leno was the trombone professor at Walla Walla College, in Walla Walla, Washington.  I’m not certain exactly when he passed away, but his son, Michael Leno, gave me permission to post his father’s film on YouTube.  Dr. Leno made this film after doing research on his dissertation, A Study of Lip Vibrations With High Speed Photography (he wrote an article for the International Trombone Association Journal based on it in 1987 and I think his dissertation was completed just a year or two earlier).

Dr. Leno’s dissertation research was designed to confirm that the lips actually vibrate at the same frequency the pitch oscillates.  It turns out that they do, which is what physics states must be happening but prior to Leno’s research no one had actually tested this.  What became so interesting about his study wasn’t the slow motion view of the lips vibrating but that out of his initial pool of 4 test subjects that three players were found to be blowing the air past the lips downstream and 1 was blowing upstream.  Not having been familiar with Donald Reinhardt’s work, Leno was surprised to see this and went on to film a number of trombonists to see what he could find.  The result was this documentary film, Lip Vibration of Trombone Embouchures.

Michael Bowlus, a friend of Michael Leno’s, sent me the audio portion to a screening Dr. Leno gave of his film.  I dubbed in Leno’s comments at the screening into the film, as he clarifies a few things in there.

It’s long enough that I had to split it into three parts.  Part 1 deals mainly with the downstream embouchures and shows James Fulkerson, George Roberts, Stewart Dempster, and Bill Watrous.  Part 2 shows the embouchures of Drew Kaptur, Larry Kitzel, and Larry Wiehe as examples of upstream embouchures. Part 3 shows the differences of a free buzzing embouchure to a playing embouchure and multiphonics, using Stewart Dempster’s embouchure as an example.

While others had discovered the different embouchure types earlier, Leno’s work is important because it not only independently confirms what was already known, but also allows us to look at the functioning embouchure slowed down for the first time.  Since Leno’s study using high speed photography others have duplicated this by using strobe lights to simulate the high speed filming, with fairly decent success.  The pattern of vibrations is interesting to watch and may lead to improved insights into practice and pedagogy for the different embouchure types.

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