Jaw Retention Drill

A friend of mine who plays euphonium, Kristin, was telling me that she’s been having trouble lately with her jaw getting tired while playing and asked me if I had any advice.  This is not an uncommon issue for players of certain embouchure types who need to play with their jaw protruded and their teeth alined.  Simply practicing carefully to develop more endurance helps, but it’s helpful sometimes to isolate those muscles in particular.  To help his students with similar issues Donald Reinhardt designed an away-from-the-instrument exercise he called the Jaw Retention Drill.

While the outer lower lip membrane is slightly inward and over the lower teeth, protrude the jaw as far as possible; however do not tolerate strain while so doing.  Sustain this extended jaw position for at least ten seconds.  When completed drop the jaw, open the mouth, exhale rather explosively, then relax.  After a week or so of this routine, the amount of time for the jaw protrusion should be extended.  Many students have developed this to such a point that thirty seconds is no great chore; however, it often requires several months to accomplish this.

Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, Appendix page 3.

There are a couple of other similar drills that Reinhardt recommended for building strength away from your instrument, including free buzzing and the pencil trick exercise.  All of these drills are probably best done with a little time between doing them and actually playing to give your muscles a chance to rest and recover.  Remember to take things easy at first, you’re trying to build up, not tear down.


Hi Dave,

I have a very high placement embouchure and need to bring my jaw a bit forward (at least when i get to the middle c in the staf and above). However, my jaw hurts from it and it also creates buzzing problems with my ear (as the jaw joint is close to the ear). The exercises you mention here, only put more strain on the joint.

So, many people recommend to bring back the jaw, lower the angle of the trumpet. But then I can not play above c in the staff anymore…

In your opinion, is it possible to completely change your embouchure? Can I become a player with a receded jaw (and perhaps a more centered or even low placement type)? Or is this an impossible journey and should I look for another fix with my jaw/ear problem?

Thanks for your opinion.



Hi, Wout. I’d have to watch you play in order to really help. What you describe isn’t unusual for some very high placement players, but that assumes that you’ve typed your embouchure correctly. It’s possible that you’re doing (or not doing) something else that is making it difficult for you to play above C in the staff. Or you might be playing as a very high placement and you should be playing as another type.

If you can take video of your playing I can sometimes spot something that way.

Good luck!



Dear Dave,

I have been reviewing your video’s again and with your comments, I already (probably) discoverd some issues:

More likely I have a medium high placement embouchure. One of the issues I have to work on that my bottom lip is too lose. In order to compensate for that I protrude my jaw in the higher register (so to ’tighten’ my bottom lip), so that is why I thought I had a very high placement embouchure. As bringing out the jaw is a problem for me, I tried to tense my bottom lip slightly in stead of using the jaw and this workes greatly.

I am not sure if this is the ‚final’ analysis and solution, but for now this is great!

Many thanks for your educational research and putting the work online!


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