Reinhardt/Elliott Embouchure Type Conversion Chart

Reinhardt Types III and IV
Reinhardt Types III and IV

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 TypeElliott TypeGeneral Description
I, IIIAVery High PlacementMore 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, IIIBMedium High PlacementMore 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, IVALow PlacementMore 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.

Paul T.

One interesting note about the type III embouchure:

Including myself, I know of three brass players who had all kinds of trouble for a long time even though they could basically play pretty well. All three, to the best of my knowledge, played as type IIIs, ànd improved tremendously when they switched to another type.

I wonder if this is a common mistake?

(Two are now IIIAs, and the third one is a type IV).

Dave

I don’t know necessarily that I’d consider the type III situation you described as a “mistake.” Another way to think about it is that these players needed to play as IIIs for that particular stage of development they happened to be in. Later, they evolve into another type, but their type III stage might be an important step for them.

I don’t recall where I’ve read this, but Reinhardt apparently would often try to keep a type IV student playing as a IIIB for as long as possible in certain circumstances, as this would force the student to develop overall good embouchure form and corner strength. The reasoning being that playing as a type IV would be more likely to allow certain problems creep in (like the smile embouchure, which upstream players seem to be particularly prone to having issues with). I’m not really sure I would agree fully with this logic, but I haven’t been able to really try this out with any students. Personally, I played with a “medium high placement” type up through grad school and then switched to the “low placement” type, which probably was a lot later in my development than Reinhardt would have kept me playing downstream.

Paul T.

Dave,

I know that in my case it was not a developmental stage (I began as a IIIA, then, due to advice from a teacher, gravitated towards playing as a III, which caused a great number of problems, and finally got so frustrated that I broke everything down and rebuilt from scratch, ending up as a IIIA). The other two players I’m thinking of recount a similar story, although I’m not as familiar with the details.

But you bring up a good point: sometimes a player can change embouchure types due to a certain stage in their development. Sometimes it’s a case of getting stronger and finding a better setting, sometimes it’s a question a adapting to changing conditions (like an injury, or teeth drifting with age).

Dave

Hi, Pete. Jaw manipulation is really a personal thing. A true type I may not be able to bring the jaw back from the teeth aligned position, but might protrude the jaw slightly while playing in a certain register. There can also be some side to side jaw manipulation while changing registers as well. Some players will drop the jaw to descend, something that I prefer to minimize or eliminate if possible. I’d have to watch you play to offer any specific suggestions what you might try with your jaw. Any chance you can take video footage of your chops?

Randy Phillips

Fascinating…
I started Trumpet in High School. I had some rather jagged top front teeth and was forced to play with mostly bottom lip. Marching was particularly bloody.. I’m retired now and can play as well as I used to in High School but would like to progress.
My question is: I was wondering where I could go to have my embochure evaluated. I personally think its too late to change and I’m only playing for fun. But, I do want to know where I stand in this regard.
Have always used a Bach 10.5 C and perhaps try something else as well?
I think I’m a type IVA. Many thanks…

Dave

Hi, Randy. Thanks for stopping by.

It’s awfully hard to type your own embouchure. If you can post video of your chops I might be able to take an educated guess from that. Other than that, it depends on where you live. I’m based in western North Carolina. Doug Elliott, who taught me about brass embouchures, lives near Washington DC. I know of some other cats around who might be near you too.

I wouldn’t mess with your mouthpiece without being able to watch you play. Some embouchure types tend to favor certain mouthpiece characteristics, but it’s more important you learn how to make your chops (and breathing, tonguing, fingers, etc.) work correctly first before you start trying out new equipment.

Good luck!

Dave

Chris F.

I am a high school freshman in my band’s wind ensemble and 2nd Jazz band. I discovered Reinhardt’s pedagogy after moving my embouchure slightly and gaining increased range, endurance, and a better tone quality. When my band director tried to get me to center my embouchure, my attempts resulted in horrible tone quality and extreme strain to play a note above a C in the staff. My embouchure seems to be a type IVA (it’s drastically on my lower lip and I have a downward horn angle). Would a Schilke 14A4a hinder my progress as a to-be lead player, or is there another mouthpiece that a type IVA lead player has recommended. Thank you for explaining embouchure types, as it has helped me so much already.

John Wilson

I’ve known Allen Vizzutti since he was 13. I heard him play the other night. He is a IIIB meaning he pulls down to ascend. I sat in the front row to really get a good look. He played magnificently. At first I wondered if he was sticking his tongue between his lips between phrases but then I realized he was resting the tip of his tongue behind his front teeth when he inhaled. He pulls the tip back just before he inhales. This is a Reinhardt mannerism and varies depending on the lengthy of the tongue. He doesn’t drop his jaw when when descending. When I got home i experimented and this technique seemed to keep me more stable. I didn’t have the urge to “fishtail” around on inhalations. Allen always sounds better and more powerful when you hear him live. I’m finding this difficult to explain. My suggestion for a lot of players is to anchor the tip of the tongue behind the upper teeth when first setting the mouthpiece. I find that this creates mush less movement for me and makes all around playing easier. I’m curious if any of you feel the same. Reinhardt also talks about anchoring the tongue to the lower teeth. I think my shorter tongue makes this more difficult.

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