Donald Reinhardt was probably the first brass pedagogy author to make note of different brass embouchure types and made them an important part of his teaching. He wrote about his approach in his book, the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System (click here for a lengthy summary of what he wrote in it). In a lesson I took from Doug Elliott, a former student of Reinhardt’s, I learned a more simplified version of Reinhardt’s embouchure types. Because Reinhardt’s types are so detailed and in some cases redundant, Elliott has simplified this approach into three basic types that even a band director without a brass background can understand. I brought a copy of the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System to Doug one lesson and he pointed out to me how Reinhardt’s embouchure types can be seen as variations of the simplified three basic types. Here is a handy “conversion chart” for those of you who may be interested in learning more about Reinhardt’s pedagogy, but find it confusing to follow.
Reinhardt Type Elliott Type General Description
I, IIIA Very High Placement More upper lip than lower lip inside the mouthpiece (downstream), usually around 70% or more upper lip inside. Pushes the mouthpiece and lips together as a unit up towards the nose to ascend. Horn angle is typically close to straight out and teeth more or less aligned.
III, IIIB Medium High Placement More upper lip than lower lip inside the mouthpiece (downstream), usually between just over 50% and 70% upper lip inside. Pulls the mouthpiece and lips together as a unit down towards the chin to ascend. Horn angle is typically angled slightly downward and lower teeth are usually a bit receded behind the upper teeth, although there are exceptions.
IA, II, IIA, IV, IVA Low Placement More lower lip than upper lip inside, anywhere from just over 50% to 90% lower lip inside. Pulls the mouthpiece and lips together down towards the chin to ascend. Horn angle is most commonly close to straight out with the teeth aligned, but many variations of horn angle can be found with this type.
Speaking strictly as how the embouchure types function, Reinhardt’s I and IIIA types are identical, the only difference being that the type I player has teeth that are naturally aligned when the jaw is at rest. The type IIIA simply has the more common normal underbite and protrudes the jaw to play.
Reinhardt’s embouchure types III and IIIB are also very similar, although Reinhardt’s type III is pretty rare to find (Reinhardt himself belonged to this rare embouchure type). In terms of the mouthpiece placement and direction of the player’s embouchure motion these two types are identical. The type III embouchure is characterized by a receded jaw position, a horn angle that is pretty low, and when you watch the player inside a transparent mouthpiece there is a very pronounced lower lip roll under the upper lip as the player ascends.
As an aside, I think that most of the type III player players I’ve seen (only three that I know of, they are uncommon) probably were really other types in a particular stage of their development when they need to rely on the lower lip roll, but as these players develop strength they will probably gravitate more towards Reinhardt’s IIIB or IIIA types.
The rest of Reinhardt’s embouchure types fall into Elliott’s “low placement” type. The IA type is like the type I in that this player’s teeth are aligned at rest, but the IA places the mouthpiece low and pulls down to ascend. The type II and IIA players have an overbite, so their lower teeth protrude beyond the upper teeth at rest, but these embouchures essentially function as the same as the rest of the upstream ones. I’ve never seen a true IIA player, who actually recede their jaw from its protruded resting place to bring their lower teeth slightly behind the upper teeth. Type IV embouchures are just like the type II, however these players have a normal underbite and bring their lower jaw forward to play. The only difference for the type IVA embouchure type is that these players have a normal underbite and don’t protrude their jaw as much, leading to a horn angle that is tilted down.
It was only after Doug described how Reinhardt’s detailed embouchure types fit into his simplified terminology that I began to fully understand Reinhardt’s types. While the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System is difficult to follow (for a variety of reasons), getting your head wrapped around how Reinhardt’s embouchures types can be broken down into three basic types makes it easier to understand.