The Tongue Controlled Embouchure

Looking around on the internet for information about brass embouchures will often lead to references or instructions in a playing method that is commonly referred to as a “tongue controlled embouchure,” or sometimes just TCE for short.  While I generally don’t recommend this method, I wanted to put together a resource for players who want to learn a little more about it without having to purchase a book or video.  At the same time, I’ll also explain my reluctance to endorse it.

There isn’t a widely agreed definition of what constitutes a “tongue controlled embouchure.”  Generally speaking, however, a tongue controlled embouchure can be defined as a method where the player keeps the tongue on the lower lip while the pitch is being played.  Most also will keep the tongue on the lip at all times, attacking pitches as if “spitting a seed.”  Often the tone is stopped with the tongue closing off against the lips as well.  Additional characteristics that are sometimes described with a tongue controlled embouchure include a more open jaw position, looser mouth corners than typical, and puffed cheeks.  For my purposes here, any embouchure method where the player keeps the tongue anchored on the lower lip, including but not restricted to the “spitting seeds” attacks, will be what I’m referring to as a “tongue controlled embouchure.”  To view a video posted by a trumpet player that demonstrates a tongue controlled embouchure click here.

Jerome Callet is probably the best known teacher of this technique.  He has several resources about his pedagogy, including Trumpet Secrets Vol. 1, The Secrets of the Tongue-Controlled Embouchure and his Master Superchops DVD.  The Trumpet Herald Forum has a section dedicated to Callet’s pedagogy.  Another teacher is Robert “Bahb” Civiletti, who co-authored a book with Callet.

My impressions of the tongue controlled embouchure are admittedly related to the over-the-top way these two proponents present it.  Of course introducing your methods as “secrets” that lead to “superchops” doesn’t necessarily invalidate it as merely a sales gimmick, so I have to take a look at the evidence proponents put forward and leave the hype behind.  Where does it come from?  Who uses it?  Does it work and why?

According to Civeletti, natural trumpet players during the Baroque all played with a tongue controlled embouchure.

I honestly believe that those great players of the Baroque Era had to be using their tongues to control all the notes. We will never know for certain, but if I can play all the Trumpet parts that Bach wrote on the Baroque Trumpet with my tongue in this forward position as described by Jerome Callet – what logical conclusion can we come to? . . . If you look at photographs of the great Trumpeters of Modern times, you notice that they play with a puffed Embouchure caused by the Tongue.

The only conclusion we can come to is that Civeletti plays natural trumpet like this, not that this is how players during the Baroque did this.  Most players can’t place their mouthpiece on their lips as low as I do, but I don’t recommend this for the vast majority of other players.  Different players have different faces, so I don’t expect everyone’s embouchure to work best the way mine does.

I like art and art history, but I’m not certain that looking at some woodcarvings from the 1600s and noting that they depict a trumpet player puffing out his cheeks is evidence of a tongue controlled embouchure.  Having puffed cheeks doesn’t mean that the tongue remains in contact with the lip, nor does artwork really indicate that’s how players of the period actually performed.  Secondly, taking a look around at great trumpet players today does not show a large number of players with puffed cheeks.  With some notable exceptions, the reverse is actually true.

The idea that the tongue controlled embouchure is a technique that is “rediscovered” from the past is for some reason quite prevalent among its proponents, but other than the above weak evidence, I’ve seen no historical sources to back this claim up.

Similarly, it’s also common for tongue controlled embouchure advocates to make the claim that a famous player played with a tongue controlled embouchure.  For example, I’ve heard Miles Davis’s name tossed around here because in a couple of interviews he mentions the spitting the seed style of tonguing.  Just as puffed cheeks on a player don’t mean the tongue is in contact with the lip, attacking the pitch with the tongue against the lips doesn’t mean the tongue is remaining in contact with the lips after the attack.  While the spit attack is integral part of the way Callet teaches, it is not unique to a tongue controlled embouchure.  What makes a tongue controlled embouchure unique (and challenging for most players) is the tongue tip remaining in contact with the lower lip while sustaining and slurring pitches.  If a reliable source can be found that a player states he or she does this, I’ll accept it’s true, otherwise I think we can’t really use it as supporting evidence.

Players who have some success with a tongue controlled embouchure tend to rate their ease of the upper register as one of the most common advantages.  I suspect the strong upper register is a combination of two mechanical factors.  First, the tongue on the lower lip acts as a sort of support structure and can even be used to push against the lip for additional compression.  Secondly, the forward position of the tongue forces the air being blown through a smaller opening resulting in higher air pressure with less physical effort, as we understand from Bernoulli’s Principle.

Assuming that these two factors are indeed what is assisting with the upper register on a tongue controlled embouchure, it may be helpful to eliminate the spit attack and its associated difficulties.  Spit tongue advocates insist that practice eliminates the attack problems, but I suspect that it’s making it harder than it has to be.  Every time your tongue strikes your embouchure aperture you’re forcing your lips open a touch and then suddenly bringing them back into position.  To me, it makes more sense to try to keep your lips in playing position so that when the air strikes them they don’t have to go through a split second adjustment on every attack.

As far as keeping the tongue tip anchored on the lower lip while playing, I think this depends on the player, but is not very common to find players who can be successful with it for the long term.  Donald Reinhardt noted the use of the tongue like this, listing it in his 8 tongue type patterns.  He felt that it was best for players with short lower teeth and a fat lower lip to help with lower lip support, but not for most players.

Personally, I have success attacking the pitches normally (“tah” or “dah”) and then snapping the tongue tip to anchor just behind and beneath my lower teeth while holding out or slurring pitches.  Sometimes to attack a high pitch out of the blue I find it helps to start with the tongue anchored there and attack with a spot on the tongue a short distance back from the tip.  This is not very far away from the spit attack/wedge tongue on the lower lip technique I’m criticizing here, all it does is move the tongue completely off the lips while still maintaining a more forward tongue position.  The effect I’ve personally got from it (less muscular effort to play in the upper register, a more brilliant and powerful sound up there, a feeling of using less air) is very similar to what is described by some who are successful with a tongue controlled embouchure.

I suspect that many players using a tongue controlled embouchure would benefit from doing something similar.  By moving the tongue tip onto the lower teeth or below and then articulating on the upper teeth or above they may be able to maintain the effect the tongue has on the air pressure while eliminating the difficulties that are associated with the spit attack.  It would probably require a more closed mouth position and firmer corners, which might take some time and practice to strengthen up.  That said, players with different sized tongues, lips, jaws, oral cavities, teeth, etc. are going to have different anatomical factors affecting how they play.  Just because this tonguing type works for me is not going to make it the best way for someone else.

Anyone out there who has had some success with a tongue controlled embouchure want to try my above suggestion and see what happens?  Did it work for you or just make things harder?  Are you happy with how your tongue controlled embouchure functions or do you have some issues that take a lot of practice to overcome?  Are my descriptions and criticisms of this technique off base or spot on?

Paul T.

Very interesting discussion of the TCE here. I watched the linked video, and was impressed at how well-presented it was (although also incredibly bizarre to me!).

I tried to imitate the embouchure, but couldn’t get anything to work. I wonder if “TCE” is something that only works for upstream players?

Dave, you may interested to know that I (a Very High Placement trombonist) experience exactly the same tongue characteristic you describe above:

“Sometimes to attack a high pitch out of the blue I find it helps to start with the tongue anchored there and attack with a spot on the tongue a short distance back from the tip. […] The effect I’ve personally got from it (less muscular effort to play in the upper register, a more brilliant and powerful sound up there, a feeling of using less air) is very similar to what is described by some who are successful with a tongue controlled embouchure.”

This is exactly what happens for me in the extreme upper register–I can’t play my full range and keep tonguing the way I do in the majority of my range. Moving the tongue forward and “anchoring” the tip against the bottom teeth allows me to access the top fifth or so of my range, making it much easier to play up there. However, I do not get a “more powerful sound”–quite the contrary. It’s easier and more controlled, but less powerful. When I can get the same notes to speak with the tongue in its regular, receded position, I have more power and clarity. It just feels like a lot more work (and limits my range slightly).

Dave

Hey, Paul. At one time I thought it would be unlikely for an upstream player to use a TCE, but that trumpet player’s video showed me wrong. I figured that the downstream embouchure types might be able to use the tongue to push the lower lip forward against the upper lip and achieve increase lip compression this way, but that for upstream players this wouldn’t work.

Either way, I personally don’t think this is a particularly versatile method and still discourage it. There’s just too many split second adjustments you need to make with the tongue up against the lips at all times. Plus, I’ve never heard anyone use it that had what I would consider a focused tone in all registers. Doesn’t mean one or three aren’t out there, just that I haven’t come across them.

Dave

Oh, almost forgot. Jerome Callet himself has (or at least had) a downstream embouchure. He’s one of the subjects in Daryl Gibson’s dissertation, “A photographic study of twelve professional trumpet embouchures while playing from the low to the extreme high register.” At least, that’s what is implied by the use of a rim visualizer, which isn’t always as accurate as a transparent mouthpiece.

Dave

Hi, Kenzo. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments.

I already mentioned in my article above, just because a player supposedly used a spit attack doesn’t mean he/she uses a tongue controlled embouchure. If you can site a reliable source that James and Gozzo both kept their tongue tip on their lower lip and used their tongue to provide additional lower lip support the way Callet teaches, then I would say it’s fair to say those players used a TCE. Otherwise, you’re just speculating and it’s not a reliably strong way of making the case for how effective this technique is.

Dave

Michael Childress

maybe the comments are directed at having a “classical sound.” so called jazz musicians look for an individual sound and this doesn’t come from “correct embouchure.” of the trumpet players i’m familiar with freddie hubbard was the greatest technician and had a wonderful and distinctive sound with tremendous improvisatory skills. he did not want to sound like a “classical” musician any more than he wanted to sound like louis armstrong. he puffed his cheeks and had a very mellow sound, not classical but he didn’t want that. he was taught by a “classical” trumpeter. he knew about the low pressure technique as a preteen from his sister who played trumpet! music is about improvisation and the “classical” masters did it, they weren’t playing “classical” music.

Linda

Thought I’d drop in and leave my thoughts on TCE.

The Jerome Callet TCE method is like the Caruso method..not to be learned from a book. I have read the (my trumpet friend’s) TCE book and had a long discussion with him about it, and he stated quite frankly that this cannot be learned without the teacher present. I agree. There are many references throughout the ITG Journal and other sources I’ve read, about baroque players using TCE. Great journal by the way. TCE is a method used by many of us brass players today,in the extreme high register, although mostly by trumpet players. We just don’t always analyze ourselves when something works. Herbert L. Clarke stated that he used the TCE method. Clarke’s quote is in David Hickman’s “Trumpet Pedagogy.” Hickman has collected and included quite a number of teaching and playing methods in “Trumpet Pedagogy.” Great book to add to your collection. After some analysis, I use TCE to a point as well. I am a pivot system student and teacher and downstreamer, (high placement as you call it) and my tongue placement is over my bottom teeth and against my lower lip in the extreme high register, using my tongue with the laws of physics on the air pressure. I even discuss the laws of physics with my brass students. Until I’d read my friend’s book, I had no idea it’s what I’d been doing to play “double high” notes on trombone. And, I use the top surface of my tongue, back from the tip, to articulate ever so lightly so as not to “frack” notes, which is very easy to do up there when the end of my tongue is too close to the aperture and lingers too long should I use it to articulate behind my teeth. Many times, I’ll slur the whole line (I’m a jazz lead player and classical trombonist with a folks seem to rave about). It also serves to stylize the line. My tongue arch moves forward into this position during ascension and vice versa. Give a listen to Jon Faddis, high note trumpet artist. He slurs everything up there on the Dizzy Gillespie tune “Bebop.”
Paul T, I don’t place my tongue in the same place for all registers either…laws of physics and mouth size prevailing for me. Due to a small oral cavity, I pronounce “thaw” in the very low register to open up. My tongue placement starts to change around low A, and my placement moves back from my aperture in most of the high register into “EE”. But in the extreme high register, it is like in TCE, anchored on the lower lip, articulating against the upper lip. As for power up there, if there’s any tension, it’s over. I actually write the word “relax” over the music to maintain the freedom up there and air speed.
As for spitting seeds or hairs, it is terminology we used years ago so students could understand the concept of using their tongue to start a note. Teachers don’t use that terminology so much any more, but there are some who still do when “push comes to shove.” Maybe that’s how I came to tongue my upper lip in the first place. Who knows……

Dave

Hi, Linda. Thanks for stopping by and letting us know a bit more about Callet’s method.

I’m afraid that most of what you write is simply a repeat of some of the other things I’ve criticized above. For example, if I recall correctly Clarke was talking about the “spit attack,” which may be part of Callet’s method but in itself is not considered a tongue controlled embouchure (I lost my copy of Hickman’s book, so I can’t look it up right now). The historical evidence that a tongue controlled embouchure was used at all, let alone extensively in the baroque is pretty weak and not really trustable. Just because someone can play a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best way to do this. Personally, I feel that long-term progress is best accomplished when your range all connects with your technique, so that whatever (correct) change you’re making in one register is mirrored by the opposite change in the other direction. Putting your tongue on your lower lip for added compression in just the high range makes for different methods of playing for different registers, something I don’t find works particularly well over time. But then again, maybe I’m wrong.

I find it interesting that you refer to yourself as a “pivot system” teacher and student. While Reinhardt did allow for a rare tongue type that kept the tongue tip on the lower lip, he was pretty emphatic that he didn’t want his students to articulate with the tongue on the lips. Did you study the pivot system from Reinhardt or someone else? Like you mention above, learning to play with any method is really done best with a teacher’s supervision.

Thanks again for stopping by. Maybe some day I’ll run into some tongue controlled embouchure players that will consent to letting me video tape them and we can learn more about what’s going on.

Dave

Paul T.

Interesting discussion here. Linda, when you play that way in your upper register, is it something you have to “reset” for, like a different embouchure?

I read your description while nodding along, because in the extreme upper register my tongue begins to touch my lower lip. But it doesn’t feel like a different technique, and I can connect it effortlessly to any other note in my range. To me it feels rather that as I ascend my tongue moves forward in my mouth and eventually contacts the bottom lip… a coincidence or circumstances rather than a change in technique I can point out. I don’t know all that much about TCE, but all the explanations I’ve heard or seen sound like there is a much more drastically different method at work.

In other words, I’m pretty certain I’m not using “TCE” or anything similar, but your description of playing in the upper register, the way you’ve described it, would apply equally to the way I play.

Can you slur from those “double high” notes to a note in your regular range smoothly, or does this feel like a change in your embouchure or some kind of significant shift? I wonder if we’re doing the same thing or something entirely different that just sounds similar “on paper”!

Linda

Yes, I am a professional trombonist and educator who studied the Pivot System in college with a teacher. It saved my career. I used to shift for different registers and knew there had to be a way around it. The teacher who taught this to me was euphonium soloist with the Army band in DC at one time. He was a great teacher for the two years I had the privilege of studying with him. I was then able to do perfect 2 1/2 octave lip slurs within a matter of weeks. He also put me on a larger mouthpiece (a good thing). My next teacher ended up writing a daily warm up and exercise book based on what he heard ME doing. He couldn’t slur like that. I had a great trombone teacher in high school who taught me how to slur like Tony Chipburn of the Cincinnati Symphony. Tony was his teacher. It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I bought Reinhardt’s encyclopedia and began examining it.

I know what Reinhardt says, but what I was taught and what I do works for me. I think sometimes that idealists of the Pivot System have a tendency to criticize others for “saying” that they use it and for teaching it, even though we know what we’re doing because we were taught the system by a teacher who was taught the system. That’s called education and passing it on, the same thing we do with any form of education or art form. We all can’t be fortunate enough to study with the designers of the systems we profess to study or research, for whatever reason that might be. I had no idea he was still alive when I was in college or I would have contacted him. I research teaching methods of all kinds all the time myself, but I don’t spend all my time doing it. I have actual teaching to do. I don’t, however, try to fix things that don’t appear to be broken. That’s my way of teaching. Also, I’ve had to correct things other teachers have done with students. That’s harder than getting them started off on the right foot to begin with.

Paul, I don’t consciously touch my lower lip when I play, it just happens. I’m not trying to do a TCE type embouchure by any means. I can slur up and down. I am a pivot system downstreamer. As a jazz player, if I have to stay in the extreme high register for a period of time, I do have a separate embouchure setting for that like many of the great players I’ve admired over the years. A french horn player said he sees a french horn setting when I’m up there. After analyzing it, it is an einsetzen setting, which, by the way, I teach when I have a rare french horn student. Embouchure and ear training are what I specialize in for horn, and teachers have said their job is half done when I pass my students on to them. It doesn’t surprise me that I use that setting if I have to stay really high for some time. If I were to switch to something else, it would be to french horn. These things work for me. They might not work for anyone else.

One thing I don’t profess to be “wonderful” at are double high notes like A or Bb. My range tops out at about double high Ab and that’s fine with me. Anyone who would write that high on purpose doesn’t really know how to write for the trombone. Might as well write a fifth trumpet part! I’m talking jazz playing now. I don’t find those notes to be necessary or useful, except to show off for other brass players anyway. That’s pretty much where all that came from. The audience doesn’t understand that those notes are really not in the practical range of the instrument anyway. The highest note I’ve ever seen in ensemble playing is double high F#, and that was back in the 70s. Haven’t seen one since until I had to play a solo a couple of years ago. That’s when I found it necessary to add the dble high Ab to my range.

Dave

Thanks for the clarifications, Linda. Based on your elaborations, I would probably not consider what you’re doing to be a tongue controlled embouchure. At least not the technique as taught by Callet. A tongue controlled embouchure keeps the tongue against the lower lip at all times.

Regarding your pivot system credentials, I didn’t study directly from Reinhardt either, but from one of his former students, Doug Elliott. You don’t mention whether or not your pivot system teacher learned it from Reinhardt or just adopted some of the principles in his/her teaching. I’m a big advocate for learning from a wide variety of approaches and working out how to adapt them for your own playing and teaching. My intention wasn’t to demean your teacher or your playing, but to point out that your explanation of how you’re playing was something Reinhardt recommended his students avoid. Yes, there are many pivot system players/teachers who are critical of doing anything different from how Reinhardt taught.

All players belong to an embouchure type, regardless of who they studied from or what technique they use. This doesn’t make them a “pivot system” player, they just have an embouchure type that conforms to one of Reinhardt’s descriptions. There’s more than one downstream type. Which type do you belong to, Linda?

As an aside, Doug Elliott has mentioned that he used to put his tongue on his lower lip in the extreme upper register too, but that Reinhardt advised him to learn to play up there without it and he is glad he made the change.

Linda

Paul and Dave, of the 8 different tongue types, per Reinhardt, my tongue-type is type 3, rather rare. My tongue is almost always in contact with my lower lip after articulation. I just don’t think about it any more. And yes, Reinhardt says this is OK because of facial structure, length of lower lip and short bottom teeth. In fact, tongue-type 4 is almost identical to type 3, except that articulation is done against the lower lip, not the back of the upper teeth, and returns there. This is OK too for the same reasons. In my case, I can touch my nose with my tongue…gross thought I know…but some people can’t, either their tongues are shorter or the anatomical structure of it doesn’t permit it. After articulation, the tip of my tongue just naturally falls against the inside of my lower lip over my teeth. Doesn’t seem to matter what register. I just notice it more in the high register, why, I can’t say.

But, I don’t fix what isn’t broken on a student, nor do I paralyze them with all these “scientific” details. I can’t believe that anyone would so intentionally, either. My teacher certainly didn’t.

Dave, I do respect all the time you’ve spent researching embouchures. I’ve done the same over 40 years, just without videos. I’ve also had to rehab due to overuse syndrome via Lucinda Lewis’s program. Even though we do everything right, sometimes the job still has to be done, and things happen. A quiver was my clue something was wrong. My chops have certainly been battered over the years, and like other great players, such as Lucinda, we’ve had to put “humpty dumpty” back together again.

As Pat Harbison once said, “every day is different.” He’s right. I have to meet the demands of the gig no matter what they are. Based on what I know I will be required to do going into a gig, that’s how I warm up. As we age, that “different every day” is certainly the case, especially if we don’t limit ourselves to one style, and I play jazz and “legit”. We have to figure out how to deal with those things. If the gig is unusually long and brutal, things can and do happen, to which we’d like to think we are immune. We’re only human.

Regarding TCE, this is the quote Clarke made in a letter he wrote to Fred Elias which appears on page 105 of David Hickman’s “Trumpet Pedagogy”. (October 11, 1940)..”just touch your tongue, very slightly, to your bottom lip, the tip, which throws the tip of the lower lip up towards the top of the upper lip, using much power. The tone is produced at an angle of 45 degrees, instead of blowing straight into the throat of the mouthpiece as one does in playing the cornet.”

There’s also reference to Jules Levy (from Callet’s book), another great player of whom I possess some fine recordings, using TCE. I don’t advocate TCE, but there’s obviously something to it among some of the greatest players who ever lived.

Dave

Hey, Linda.

After articulation, the tip of my tongue just naturally falls against the inside of my lower lip over my teeth. Doesn’t seem to matter what register. I just notice it more in the high register, why, I can’t say.

Then I misunderstood your description. I think the Reinhardt tongue type you’re describing could very well be considered a tongue controlled embouchure. Do you have short lower teeth/gums in relation to your lower lip? Players who play best this way are very rare, at least I haven’t come across any who have been able to meet with me for a typing/video session.

Regarding TCE, this is the quote Clarke made in a letter he wrote to Fred Elias which appears on page 105 of David Hickman’s “Trumpet Pedagogy”. (October 11, 1940)..”just touch your tongue, very slightly, to your bottom lip, the tip, which throws the tip of the lower lip up towards the top of the upper lip, using much power. The tone is produced at an angle of 45 degrees, instead of blowing straight into the throat of the mouthpiece as one does in playing the cornet.”

Thanks for looking that up. Is there more context to this quote that states when Clarke would recommend this? His statements about blowing straight into the throat of the mouthpiece for cornet is suspect, of course. I wonder which 45 degree angle (up or down) he was talking about. At any rate, I think we probably both agree that this tonguing type is pretty rare and not really something to recommend to all players (much like a specific embouchure type won’t work for all players).

I’ve also had to rehab due to overuse syndrome via Lucinda Lewis’s program. Even though we do everything right, sometimes the job still has to be done, and things happen. A quiver was my clue something was wrong. My chops have certainly been battered over the years, and like other great players, such as Lucinda, we’ve had to put “humpty dumpty” back together again.

I’m sure Lewis means very well, but I have some misgivings about her approach. Partly, when things break down like this I feel it’s a sign that there was something in the player’s mechanics that have probably been going on for a while, but since the player can make usually make things work the issues get disguised. Rather than merely rehabilitating, I would personally try to find out what went wrong in the first place to avoid doing it again. Sort of like lifting with your back, you can do it once in a while but when things get demanding you risk hurting yourself. The conclusions she draws from all the anecdotes she collects seems sketchy to me too, but that’s off the topic of the tongue controlled embouchure.

Thanks again for bringing your insights to the discussion!

Dave

Linda

Hi, Dave,

I hold Doug in high regard. In fact I use Doug’s and Warburton mouthpieces, depending on the demands of the gig.

My teacher didn’t “paralyze” me with details, he just said…”do this…” like a doctor who tells you to take a certain drug for an ailment, but doesn’t bore you with the pharmacology. That’s how I approach it as well, especially with my younger students. My science “geeks” like the details though.

I’m a type IIIA. And push up to ascend, pull down to descend, etc.

I wouldn’t consider my teeth to be abnormally short, but if I try to keep the tip of my tongue back further after articulation, due to its length, the rest of my tongue is very high or bunched up and causes other problems. There isn’t enough room for it after articulation. Since I’ve noticed it’s in contact with my lower lip, I’ve actually been experimenting with keeping it away from my lip, but it doesn’t seem to be possible with my structure, nor does it seem to cause a problem being there.

You’re right, it’s a bit off topic, but regarding Lucinda’s course, playing on tired chops because you have to, or overuse, is only one way to get injured. Overuse, is about being pushed beyond your limits, it was with me, without appropriate breaks, no matter the mechanics. Simply put though, Lucinda’s course works.

Lots of good discussion on your site. Keep up the good work.

Dave

I wouldn’t consider my teeth to be abnormally short, but if I try to keep the tip of my tongue back further after articulation, due to its length, the rest of my tongue is very high or bunched up and causes other problems. There isn’t enough room for it after articulation. Since I’ve noticed it’s in contact with my lower lip, I’ve actually been experimenting with keeping it away from my lip, but it doesn’t seem to be possible with my structure, nor does it seem to cause a problem being there.

What happens when you try to adopt a tongue type 5 or one of the other similar ones where the tongue tip gets anchored in the gully below the lower teeth and gums? Maybe, like Doug’s situation, it would take a couple of years to really adopt completely. Then again, maybe what you’re doing is absolutely perfect for you.

You’re right, it’s a bit off topic, but regarding Lucinda’s course, playing on tired chops because you have to, or overuse, is only one way to get injured. Overuse, is about being pushed beyond your limits, it was with me, without appropriate breaks, no matter the mechanics.

Overuse in and of itself may be related to problems, but it probably isn’t the exact cause of what Lewis calls “embouchure overuse syndrome.” For example, if you use excessive mouthpiece pressure when you get tired the cause is mashing your lips with the mouthpiece, not simply playing too much. If a player is prone to type switching he or she might get away with that issue until a heavy playing period when things start to break down. While demanding playing on tired chops may be the trigger, the cause is whatever mechanical deficiencies the player is prone to. Lewis completely misses this important point and focuses only on the overplaying as the cause. Fixing the tendency to do whatever exact thing caused the injury will not just help a player make a recovery, but also prevent future injuries.

Simply put though, Lucinda’s course works.

Perhaps it does for many. There’s some common sense advice in there. Lewis’s incomplete understanding of embouchure form and function and the anecdotal nature of her “evidence,” however, makes many of her claims suspect, in my opinion. Carefully and slowly rebuilding your chops works too, so there’s really no way to know if someone would have gotten better on his or her own or if it’s directly due specifically to Lewis’s treatment program. Again, if you’re going to offer therapy, you have an ethical obligation to conduct your research correctly, be up front with your methodology, and be aware of how your research fits in the context of what others are also doing.

Linda

Oh, here is more of what Clarke said in his letter in Hickman’s book:

“Well, by practicing this “stunt” carefully, knowing just how to get each interval, correctly from high “C” up, I have often reached two octaves above “G” in the top space of the scale…Sometimes higher. (New paragraph) This takes no strength, power nor strain. It is so simple that one is astounded at the results. Of course, one must have a good embouchure and control of the lip muscles. It is difficult to explain, but easy to demonstrate, and is scientific. (new paragraph) When you form your lips to produce the above “G”, just touch…….” (Page 105, David Hickman, Trumpet Pedagogy.)

Dave

Probably not a tongue controlled embouchure then. Clarke seems to be recommending what I thought you were talking about initially, using the tongue just in the high register.

Linda

Sorry for getting off [TCE] topic, but those of us who have actually been through the “fire” of overuse, are grateful for Lucinda’s help. We have our chops back. None of us would have won our auditions with mechanical deficiencies. The demands of our jobs pushed us over the edge. There are limits to what the human body can endure under constant stress and inadequate recovery times, regardless of TCE, Reinhardt, Caruso, Maggio…nor did it take three years of pre-med to teach me that even medicine isn’t the exact science we’d all like to think it is…Even a doctor can do everything right, and it might not work. Organic chemistry (one of my favorite years) taught me that most valuable lesson. I find it amazing that Stephen Hawking is still alive and has had ALS since the 50s. My first doctor died of it in 1960 after a short battle. I think his quest for the Theory of Everything is what keeps him going. –sorry off topic again….

No amount of Reinhardt was able to prevent nor was it able to fix the damage done to my chops through overuse. “Reinhardt” took over, however, once the damage was repaired and the pain gone. That’s how it works, but I can only speak for myself in that regard. You can’t really understand that unless it actually happens to you.

My tongue type works for me, so I see no reason to change it. In fact, I’ve tried to change it in the past…best to just leave it alone; experience being the best teacher. If I had 20 to 30 years of career ahead of me, it might be worth considering. Mine is mostly behind me now.

Back on topic, TCE is certainly a different animal. If you ever find someone who actually uses TCE, I do think a video is in order, so we can actually “see” what’s going on. Fascinating.

Paul T.

Linda,

Thank you for continue to share your experiences. I, for one, find it really interesting to hear about this stuff from your perspective. Boy, we brass players sure face a lot of different challenges, don’t we?

Dave posted a link to the best (and clearest) demonstration of TCE I’ve seen in his article above. Here it is again, take a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRphnUtgsEc

You can see why Dave and I are saying that what you’re describing doesn’t really sound like TCE, at least not like what this player is doing. However, the ease you describe in the upper register suggests does match up to what some TCE subscribers describe.

I know that for me, when my tongue contacts the lower lip, it doesn’t feel terribly different or much easier: it just feels like my tongue has nowhere else to go. If I then make the effort to carefully pull it away, I can keep sustaining the note, no problem.

Kenzo Breazeale

If you are looking for persons who actually uses TCE I would suggest contacting Bill Charmichael at http://www.screaminbill.com/ He also teaches TCE to students and professionals. He is a professional trumpet player. Also, for another professional trumpeter, who successfully uses TCE is Bahb Civiletti. Here he is on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONUdw3mzdGI Also, here he is playing his version of Maynard’s “Hot Canary”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNYLKcDyY-Q&feature=related

Both Bahb Civiletti and Bill Charmichael also teach TCE and both are working musicians.

Dave

Hi again, Kenzo.

Of course I’m familiar with Civiletti, I linked to him in the article above. As fare as Charmichael’s embouchure technique goes, I’m only familiar with what he says in the web site you posted. Carmichael calls it “Easy Way Embouchure System.” Is this the same thing as a tongue controlled embouchure? I can’t find anything in his promo videos where Carmichael says anything about spit attacks and keeping the tongue anchored on the lower lip. Doesn’t seem like a tongue controlled embouchure.

Dave

Elgin Green

You’re both spot on and a little off base.

Let me start by saying that I have studied first hand with Dr. Reinhardt, Roy Stevens, and Jerome Callet, in that order. I’m also a retired Army trumpet bandsman. Having switched to Superchops about two months ago at age 62, I have to say that my chops have never, ever been this strong. For the first time, my sound is centered, energetic, and powerful. My range is also increasing weekly. All this since having adopted the Jerome Callet Master Superchops method.
Jerome Callet has improved his method over the years. It’s gone from Trumpet Yoga, Superchops, TCE, and now has evolved to Master Superchops (MSC).
I agree that the historical backing for using the tongue in the way that Callet teaches is weak, but he may be right. It’s one thing to site a Harry James’ brilliant sound as an example how MSC sounds. It’s quite another to conclude that Harry James used MSC or TCE.

With all due respect, I believe this blog essentially mischaracterizes Callet’s method, Master Superchops, as it is currently taught. However, in your criticism and suggested correction, you are closer than you realize.

First, the example video. Although this is similar to the Callet method, and he claims that it is TCE, it departs in some significant areas. One, this guy’s setup is bizarre to say the least! Where did he get that procedure? Certainly not from Callet or any of his protégés. Two, the rolling out of the lips is not taught. The lips should be relaxed prior to mouthpiece placement. Three, the tip of the tongue anchors behind the top of the lower teeth, not the lower lip (that was an older detail). Finally, corner stretching. Notice that he stretches the corners of his mouth as he ascends. This is strictly a no-no in MSC.

Second. You say “For my purposes here, any embouchure method where the player keeps the tongue anchored on the lower lip, including but not restricted to the “spitting seeds” attacks, will be what I’m referring to as a “tongue controlled embouchure.” Actually, as a player become more proficient with MSC, the location of the tip of the tongue becomes less important than the top surface of the tongue which MUST remain in contact with both lips. Also, Callet specifically says that “it’s not like spitting seeds. That is too disruptive. It’s like spitting a hair off the top of the tongue.” It may be more accurate to characterize MSC as any embouchure method where a player keeps the top surface of the downwardly curled tongue in continuous contact with the inner surface of both lips.

Third. You say “Every time your tongue strikes your embouchure aperture you’re forcing your lips open a touch and then suddenly bringing them back into position.” In MSC, the tongue does not “strike”. The tongue movement is actually extremely minimal as opposed to being disruptive as described. While the tip of the tongue anchors to the bottom teeth, the top surface of the tongue continuously contacts the back of both upper and lower lips. The tonguing motion is approximately 1/8” at the very center of the top of the tongue where it contacts the bottom of the upper teeth and upper lip. This is one of the benefits of MSC—minimal tongue movement. The tongue does not strike the lips; it releases the air that has been compressed inside the mouth.

Fourth. You say “Additional characteristics that are sometimes described with a tongue controlled embouchure include a more open jaw position, looser mouth corners than typical, and puffed cheeks.” Open jaw? Yes. Loose mouth corners? Yes. Puffed cheeks? No. While cheek puffing is not necessarily wrong, it is discouraged.
Another observation. You said “Sometimes to attack a high pitch out of the blue I find it helps to start with the tongue anchored there and attack with a spot on the tongue a short distance back from the tip. This is not very far away from the spit attack/wedge tongue on the lower lip technique I’m criticizing here, all it does is move the tongue completely off the lips while still maintaining a more forward tongue position.” This is interesting, and very close to MSC. As I described in “Third” above, “While the tip of the tongue anchors to the bottom teeth, the top surface of the tongue continuously contacts the back of both upper and lower lips. The tonguing motion is approximately 1/8” at the very center of the top of the tongue where it contacts the bottom of the upper teeth and upper lip.”
You also said “By moving the tongue tip onto the lower teeth or below and then articulating on the upper teeth or above they may be able to maintain the effect the tongue has on the air pressure while eliminating the difficulties that are associated with the spit attack.” The spit attack is already close to the solution that you propose. It doesn’t have “the difficulties” because that’s already what it is. But, the teeth must be open ¼” or more to allow the tongue to have good contact with the lips. You see, the tongue contributes to the vibrating mass of the lips. Callet has sometimes referred to MSC as a “tri-labial embouchure”. Two lips and a tongue. This also has the advantage of engaging more vibrating mass without going to a larger mouthpiece.

Nitpicky point. “Secondly, the forward position of the tongue forces the air being blown through a smaller opening resulting in higher air pressure with less physical effort, as we understand from Bernoulli’s Principle.” I don’t think that’s quite right. At the point of compression, the air pressure is actually lower, but the point that I believe you want to make is that the air speed is higher. Of course, it’s the higher air speed that favors the higher notes. “The kinetic energy increases at the expense of the fluid pressure…” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernoulli's_principle
Thanks for the great discussion!

[post edited by Dave to separate the paragraphs]

Dave

Thanks for stopping by and keeping us up to date on Callet’s approach. Most of your points do help me understand the details better, but they don’t really seem to invalidate my criticisms. Call it “spitting seeds” or “spitting a hair,” it’s still allowing your tongue to “strike” or “touch” your lips. I prefer to teach players to keep the embouchure formation as stable as possible and blow the lips apart, not tongue them apart.

It’s interesting to hear how Callet’s approach has been evolving and perhaps it would even evolve to move towards the tonguing I mentioned here where you keep the tongue off the lips at all times. You may already know that Callet is not the only one teaching and using a tongue controlled embouchure, so in this post I’ve chosen to speak more broadly of it (this is why I defined it as I did and qualified some of my statements using terms like “sometimes” or “may” etc.

I remain skeptical that Callet’s approach is going to work well for most players over the long term. You say you’ve been at it for 2 months, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t very long. Many players develop serious embouchure issues from playing incorrectly, but sound great for years until things suddenly break down. I can’t say that this will happen to everyone using Callet’s latest approach, but I still don’t endorse it at this time.

At the point of compression, the air pressure is actually lower, but the point that I believe you want to make is that the air speed is higher.

My understanding of Bernoulli’s principle is the static air pressure is lower at the sides of a tube, but at the front end where the fluid (or air) is traveling towards the kinetic pressure is higher. Heart valves, for example, depend on this principle.

Elgin Green

Dave, thanks for responding quickly.
I understand your concern about the possibility of improper tonguing wrecking an otherwise good setup. Or perhaps leading to an eventual dead-end. Actually, the point I was trying to make about MSC tonguing (and also the spit-buzz) is that the tongue does NOT separate the lips. The tongue does touch the lips, but definitely does not separate them. In one sense it is identical to a standard Reinhardt or Farkas tonguing method. It is the air that blows the lips apart. The action of the tongue during articulation is AWAY from the lips. Just like I assume you teach, the tongue defines the beginning of the air column that pushes the lips apart to begin the note. Two more points about tonguing on the lips. First, it gives the most immediate response because there is no gap between where the air is released and where the air hits the lips. This gap causes a minute delay, and it introduces a deceleration or decompression chamber. Secondly, a vital component of TCE and MSC is the tongue contact that adds the tongues vibrating mass to that of the lips. This is a major factor in volume and density of sound. Many players go to larger and larger mouthpieces to get a bigger sound. We have a guy in our band that plays on a Warburton 3 or 4 with an XD cup and a large series 80 backbore. He’s having trouble playing below forte. With MSC you get the best of both worlds. Tremendous volume and breadth of sound on a standard or small mouthpiece, without the strain of the large mouthpiece. Plus, you keep the range advantage of a medium to small piece. It’s not a silver bullet, but does help put the focus back on making music when you don’t have to worry quite so much about being able to meet the physical demands.

Right. Bob Civiletti, who was a student of Callet’s for several years and co-authored Trumpet Secrets, still actively teaches the TCE version of the method—same basic idea. I know of a couple of others who teach it.

Yes, 2 months is not long considering I’ve been playing for 53 years. It may have sounded like I’ve done a lot of embouchure changing, but it’s not when you factor in how long I’ve been playing. Like I said, Dave, this is really working for me. It’s nice to be able to play FF and FFF without getting that blasting sound. I have noticed that my playing with MSC is different in several ways:
Previous
• Difficult to play loud
• Difficult to sizzle
• When I’m really in shape, I can play for an hour.
• Double G & A are possible but not loud and not long.
• Soft attacks are easy.
• Hard attacks require more effort.
• Pressure has never been a problem.
Now
• How loud do you want it?
• What temperature would you like?
• Endurance is steadily increasing. Almost 2 hours now. Then I’m beat.
• Range is steadily increasing. High B & C are getting comfortable. In the practice room, Double C and triple G most days.
• Soft attacks take more effort, but I can play just as soft.
• Hard attacks are sometimes too strong.
• Using even less pressure now.

It feels like the difference between a 4 cylinder and a V8. A 4-banger can go just as fast within the speed limit, but you have to push it. If you’re not careful with your V8, you’ll break out the rear end.

I agree that it won’t work for every player, but then neither does any method work for every player. If any one method was “the method”, everyone would be teaching that method. Sandoval doesn’t play the same way as Maynard or Doc or Drozdoff or Chase. They’re all different.

I’ll look into that Bernoulli principle again. Fluid dynamics is a difficult topic. Good reference to heart valves. Here’s a quote from it: “If the diameter is reduced by one-half in the region of the stenosis, the velocity increases 4-fold.” Also, the illustration clearly shows that at the restriction the velocity increases and the pressure decreases. Just sayin’. 🙂 I think we’re saying the same thing: the channeling effect of the tongue favors higher notes. I would say the major advantage of MSC related to flow is that it removes all the restrictions to the air right up to the vibration point. Syllables work to a certain extent, but the Bernoulli principle would predict that after the air passes the restriction of the raised tongue (eeh), velocity will again DECREASE. So the closer the tongue arch is to the lips, the less of that velocity is lost. MSC simply takes this concept to the extreme by putting it right at the lips. Ergo, more efficient use of air pressure. The more I think about Superchops, the more I believe the physics is there. Thanks for letting me think this through.

Dave

Hi, Elgin. Thanks again for clarifying your viewpoints.

I find it particularly interesting to hear how Callet’s method has been changing so that the tongue has gradually moved off the lip (excepting the spit attacks). At this point, I would no longer call this approach a “tongue controlled embouchure” any longer.

As far as tonguing on the lips it is, of course, possible to play this way and never develop any problems but the risk of it is always there and requires constant vigilance to make sure you’re not causing too much distortion in your lips every time the tongue touches them. Practice time being as valuable as it is, I prefer to recommend keeping the tongue off the lips and concentrate on other things. Since the benefits you describe don’t seem likely to be directly related to the spit attacks, but rather the tongue position while slurring and sustaining, I would prefer to articulate as I mentioned in my post with the tongue tip anchored behind the lower teeth and gums and striking behind the upper teeth for the attack. This maintains the tongue position that many (but probably not most) players adopt while keeping the tongue off the lips.

Thanks again!

Dave

Elgin Green

What you heard was not what I meant. Callet’s method is NOT “changing so that the tongue has gradually moved off the lip”.

I gave you the wrong impression when I said “The action of the tongue during articulation is AWAY from the lips.” What I meant to say was that… “The attack begins with the top surface of the tongue on both lips, and then the center of the top of the tongue, at the bottom edges of the upper teeth, slightly releases air by moving AWAY from the lips and teeth. (This is the location of the “hair spitting”.) The rest of the tongue remains in contact with the teeth and lips.” I other words, the tonguing action does not occur at some distance away from the lips, but the direction of the action was away from the lips. I was attempting to differentiate MSC tonguing from more traditional tonguing which is usually described at striking the teeth or gum line or higher. Any of those actions would imply that the primary action is striking TOWARD the front of the mouth as opposed to pulling AWAY from it. I hope this is clear.

You’ve mention several times that TCE would disturb the lips. That reminded me of auto racing where the driver must be very careful when braking, turning, and accelerating so as not to upset the balance of the car on all four wheels for maximum traction at all times. Tonguing through the lips would require mouthpiece pressure, extra lip contraction, or some other action to get the lips back together to produce tone. I agree that this disturbance would not be good. In TCE and MSC, the tongue tip is on the bottom lip or near the top back surface of the bottom teeth so that the surface that is doing the tonguing is somewhere more than ¼” from the tip. This surface is also curved because of the “wedge” that is formed by curling the tongue back under. So, the surface that contacts the lips is smoother and flatter than the normal pointed tongue, and therefore less likely to upset the chops. To the contrary, the center of the lips can actually be more relaxed in their “just touching” position because the tongue supports them. By the way, I don’t recognize the picture at the top of the page. It’s not TCE as I understand it from either Trumpet Secrets or Master Superchops. However, Civiletti doesn’t seem to stress top lip-to-tongue like Callet does.

You asked about genuine users. Here is a short list of contemporary players that either use MSC or describe their playing in similar terms:

Ken Robinson – Studied with Callet for 20 yrs.
http://www.kgrmusic.com/index.php

Herbert Smith – Plays and teaches MSC
http://www.esm.rochester.edu/community/faculty/?id=124

Other students of Callet
http://www.super-chops.com/pages/testimonials-main.html

Roger Ingram –
http://www.rogeringram.com/index.php
Associate of Ken Robinson. Studied with Callet. Not full MSC, but “1. Always articulate between the teeth 2. Breathing is up and in 3. Jerry’s Yoga pedals properly set the position of the forward and bunched lower lip. Very interestingly, Roger says that he personally had Maynard put a visualizer on his chops to check his articulation. Roger states that all of Maynard’s articulations were clearly with tongue through the teeth.” http://www.trumpetherald.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=107169&highlight=examples

Rashawn Ross of Dave Matthews Band – Not MSC, but “It’s between the teeth, always between the teeth.” “uses the tongue to control his embouchure and once he he gets to high C and above it’s ALL done with his tongue.”

Dave

Thanks for clearing things up, Elgin. My confusion came from reading this:

“While the tip of the tongue anchors to the bottom teeth, the top surface of the tongue continuously contacts the back of both upper and lower lips.

I assumed that this meant the tongue stayed off the lower lip and instead was anchored on the lower teeth, only touching the lips for the spit attack.

I other words, the tonguing action does not occur at some distance away from the lips, but the direction of the action was away from the lips. I was attempting to differentiate MSC tonguing from more traditional tonguing which is usually described at striking the teeth or gum line or higher. Any of those actions would imply that the primary action is striking TOWARD the front of the mouth as opposed to pulling AWAY from it. I hope this is clear.

I think I’ve got your point now. Still, I prefer to recommend keeping the tongue off the lips at all times (excepting with some rarer anatomical features).

Regarding Maynard and Ingram, just because a player tongues on the lips doesn’t mean that the player is using a tongue controlled embouchure. This is one of my gripes in this original blog post. If the player states in Callet’s testimony page or somewhere else that he/she uses a tongue controlled embouchure, I buy it. Otherwise, it’s probably not accurate to assume that they do.

By the way, I don’t recognize the picture at the top of the page.

That’s just something I made in Photoshop (which is why it sucks). I wanted to have an image for this post and put that together to show the tongue touching the lips.

Dusty

What trumpeters, aside from the one who plays 3rd in Rochester, use TCE? Also, I’d like to know what gigs and jobs Jerome Callet had when he was playing trumpet professionally.

Dave

Hi, Dusty. Callet has a list of players up on his web site, I think. You might try looking there. Regardless, even though I don’t personally endorse a tongue controlled embouchure I wouldn’t necessarily judge it on what sort of gigs Callet played, but whether or not it works as claimed. Lots of excellent teachers are too busy teaching to keep their chops in top condition and many great players don’t get their teaching chops past the point of instructing by having their students listen and imitate.

George

Hi Dusty,
There is a very fine very busy pro trumpeter in Toronto named John Liddle who uses TCE and has
many students that he teaches exclusively TCE to. I never was able to get it working to my own satisfaction, but it definitely works well for many players. Had I not spent a lifetime playing a different embouchure , I may have been more successful with the TCE.

Elgin

Dusty,
Dave is right when he says that the method should be judged by whether or not it works. I have been studying TCE with Mr. Callet for about a year now, and I can tell you my personal experience that the system does work. I’m a retired Army trumpet player. I’m 63 years old. I can honestly say that after studying TCE my sound is cleaner, more focused, louder, and my endurance has improved. I’m a stronger player now than when I was in my 20s and 30s and playing full-time in the Army, and I’m getting stronger every week. No kidding is. You can take that for what it’s worth.

I’d also like to point out a couple of things about the depiction of TCE in this post. First of all, the image of TCE at the top of the page is not accurate. Contrary to the diagram, in TCE the top of the tongue near the front of the mouth is curled under, and the top of this curled under tongue contacts the upper and lower lips and upper and lower teeth at all times. Secondly, the video of TCE technique is absolutely not as taught by Jerome Callet in any of his literature, although it does have some TCE elements. This video has been discussed in detail on the Trumpet Herald website in the Jerome Callet forum. Without exception, no one that has actually studied with Mr. Callet, or studied, his published materials would recommend the peculiar techniques demonstrated in the video on this webpage.

Dave

Thanks for your comments, Elgin.

Dave is right when he says that the method should be judged by whether or not it works. I have been studying TCE with Mr. Callet for about a year now, and I can tell you my personal experience that the system does work.

Likewise, personal anecdotes aren’t really a good indication whether something is going to be useful or not. I would have liked to have seen how you played before adopting a TCE and what else has changed other than Callet’s instructions. Do you by chance have a large lower lip and short lower teeth?

Elgin Green

My lower lip is slightly large and longer compared to the top. My bottom teeth are not short. One of the many advantages of TCE is that because the curled tongue is forward of the teeth, the shape and length of the teeth are less important than they would be in other systems.

AJW

Employing TCE principles (with regard to tongue position) presented me with opportunities I would have never had otherwise (eg, playing for President Obama, soloing up to double high C on national television, etc). Jerry Callet is assuredly a nutcase, but the tongue position isn’t nonsense. If mastered, and used intelligently, the sky is the limit.

Dave

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment, AJW. While I acknowledge that some players find a tongue controlled embouchure useful, I remain skeptical that it’s really the best for all players. Most fine brass players don’t keep their tongue in contact with the lower lip. From what I can tell, developing an embouchure that focuses the muscular effort at the corners eliminates the need to keep the tongue in contact with the lower lip and seems to sound and work better in the long term. That said, there are some players who seem to need to use the tongue as support because of short teeth in relation to the size of the lower lip. Everyone’s different.

Elgin

I have to agree with AJW on the merits of TCE. After having studied with Roy Stevens, Donald Reinhardt, and other more traditional teachers back in the day, at age 61, I put both feet… I mean both lips into TCE with Callet. Two years later, I have the strongest chops that I have ever had in my life. And, as a retire Army Band trumpet player, that’s saying a lot. The tongue is stronger than the lips, and using the tongue to make the compression inside the mouth BEFORE the air hits the lips is the key for me with TCE. For what it’s worth, I know Jerry Callet personally, and he is really a great guy–not a nut case.

Dave

Thanks again for leaving your comments, but I still have to remind everyone that because a minority of players may find adopting a TCE helpful, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all or most players will. In fact, most players don’t use a TCE and I suspect that most can’t really make it work very effectively. I also question whether this is going to offer the best long term progress for most of the players who can make it work. For reasons that I’ve described above I feel that the disadvantages to keeping the tongue always in contact with the lower lip isn’t worth the extra work one will need to make in comparison to the practice it will take to develop the embouchure strength at the mouth corners instead.

If the forward position of the tongue is helpful for you, Elgin, then I personally would recommend you anchor the tongue tip behind the lower teeth and keep it off the lips at all times. This would keep the “compression” of the air without resorting to using the tongue as a replacement for mouth corner strength. My opinion only, but this is based on what I’ve learned from studying embouchures quite closely and comparing different players on all brass instruments at all different ability levels. Take it with a grain of salt.

George

Hello Dave,
Of course most players don’t use the TCE, as most players aren’t aware that it exists. Most young players start off in school where the school music teacher has never heard of TCE, and once they learn the more conventional methods, they are reluctant to change. Many players who have had physical problems (crooked teeth etc.) using other methods have found success with TCE. Perhaps if given the opportunity when they start, we would have more players using it. I know good players who have become great players since they made the change.

Tom Siebenhuhner

I took a lesson with Bahb Civiletti and I can assure you that he has an extremely well-centered sound. Classical/Jazz? Yes, he can do that. It was a terrific experience and it really explained a lot about TCE, which CANNOT be learned from a book (or YouTube).

Patrick

In this article the example of the TCE method demo is a bit extreme and over exaggerated the results that his person has in another video is a sound to die for. I personally am trying the TCE method after laying off for several years and I can say now that the slotting is dead on more so now at any time I can remember since I’ve been playing. My low registers are cleaner without the “dowha” sound. Upper register is easier.

Tonguing is very clear, clear and distinct. I actually prefer the “spit method” versus the normal way. It just sounds better and cleaner. Single tonguing 16th notes at about 110 bpm; working towards 120 or better.The front of the tongue is in action behind the teeth although the tip of the tongue is anchored to the bottom lip at all times. I can say that I when I go back to my normal playing style, my double tonguing is fast. I contribute this noticeable difference to doing the TCE’s 5 principles of articulation. Emphasis is made on working on the 3 areas of the tongue; the back, the middle, and the front. The tip of the tongue is always anchored.

I really notice no difference between the “tu” and the “spitting technique” other than its more tongue. I would say its a total stop on the air flow by the tongue. At first, you notice a huge difference as it is a mental and physical change. The first lessons is all centered around the basic of the TCE. It is express not to go beyond the basic until the basics are mastered as coordination of the tongue no longer becomes a thought and the tongue stays in the forward position. On that note, I must say that while experimenting, not a big difference in sound if the tongue rests on the floor of the mouth or anchored to the lip. It is noticeable, when tonguing to the lower register as the “tu” is used; you get a “dowha” sound before the note slots. With the tongue anchored it is clean and the there is no “dowha” sound. In the upper register, range is way easier with an anchored tongue. This is because the tongue is beveled and the note is not overblown with too much air. The compression of air is efficient, embouchure is stronger and fatigue is way lessoned.

I am still on the first lesson for for a couple of weeks. I did order the method just to see if it could clear some problems that has plagued me over the years. Air compression in the mouth has gotten better as the embouchure has gotten stronger.

In the method book, it states “Herbert Clark wrote to his student Fred Elias in 1949 that Clarke says he used his tongue to control his playing (as described in the TCE)…..He used it when he was tired but still had to play a solo. Clarke called it a “stunt”.” Obviously for Sousa. The Civiletti, ponders and questions whether or not this was the reason the TCE was never mention in his books. He concludes the final sentences of the letter as Clarke writes, “I have often reached two octaves about C in the top space of the scale…sometimes higher. This takes no strength, power nor strain…it’s so simple that one is astounded with results..Just touch your tongue very slightly to your bottom lip (the tip) which throws the tip of the lower lip up towards the tip of the upper lip…”

I would love to read the whole letter in full context in which to draw my own conclusions. But I have approached this method of playing with an open mind and a willingness to learn. I will post here again once I master the first lesson and move on to the second. One side thought, I wonder is Louis Maggio used the same method as his embouchure was severely damaged and had not upper teeth. Is there anyone who have used his method? Its been over 20 years since I’ve last heard of Maggio’s method of playing. I would love to compare the two styles of playing; TCE and even embouchure.

Well, this is my to cents worth. More to come….

Dave

Thanks for your comments, Patrick. Please keep us posted down the line. My preference is to teach students to play in a way that I feel will have better long term benefits. I suspect that the tongue controlled embouchure has serious limitations that will tend to hinder a player’s progress over time, but there may be some folks that have anatomical features that make it work well.

Elgin

Patrick
You are right about the TCE demo above. It is extreme, and not illustrative of the techniques as taught by Jerome Callet or any of protégés. (See my several posts above)

Like you, I wondered if the Maggio method had any relation to TCE. As with any reputable method, there is knowledge to be gained and helpful approaches to be learned. However, one must be careful in applying elements from different methods together. Sometimes it’s like mixing oil and water. Each has its usefulness, but the mixture is a mess. Although I have not personally studied with Maggio or any of his protégés, I have the books and have gone through learning the method hoping that it would help with the mouthpiece slippage problem that had. (didn’t really help). Here’s what I like about Maggio: emphasis on repeatable routines, light mouthpiece pressure, use of steady air flow, lip muscles working toward the center of the embouchure, etc. However, the Maggio system has no relationship and almost no central concepts in common with TCE. Mainly, like most popular methods today, it uses vowels and lip-to-lip compression. These are both excellent and legitimate embouchure components; however, both are antagonistic to TCE. In TCE, vowels will pull the tongue back and away from the lips, and lip-to-lip compression will also push the tongue back. In TCE, the compression is between the tongue and the lips and the upper teeth.

Let me emphasize that TCE is not the only method. All approaches work for at least some people. After having tried everything (Stevens, Reinhardt, Maggio, orthodontics (yes, I had my teeth moved!), brute strength (I don’t have any), mouthpiece sliding, “Double High C in 37 Weeks”), none of these has given me the consistent improvement in sound, attack, loudness, and range that TCE (Callet Superchops) has given me. I’m better now than ever. I’m 64. I’ll be putting the double F on the end of the Armed Forces Medley today! Take my anecdotal report for what it may be worth to you.

Dave

You are right about the TCE demo above. It is extreme, and not illustrative of the techniques as taught by Jerome Callet or any of protégés.

I don’t know, Elgin. Having watched both “Master Superchops” parts now the video I embedded in this post seems to be pretty typical of how Callet was teaching at that time at least.

Again, I’m personally not a fan of the results that a tongue controlled embouchure provides. I don’t like the tone most players produce and I feel that it takes practice to deal with articulation and tone issues. Yes, some folks get a quick high register this way, but my thoughts are that other methods are better in the long term.

George

Hi Patrick,
If Clark wrote that letter to Fred Elias in 1949, it was quite a “stunt”, as Clark died in 1945. I have however heard that same story elsewhere, so maybe just the date is wrong.

Linda Landis

I shared that Clarke quote earlier in the thread. I believe he said that in 1940, if it was a continuation of the other quote I had included in the thread. It’s in David Hickman’s book, “Trumpet Pedagogy.”

George

I have no doubt that the quote is quite accurate, and I know Dave would have researched it well before putting it in his book. My remark pertained to the date that Patrick thought Clark had made the statement. Further to this, I have seen first hand the TCE work well for several people, and am frustrated that it does not respond well for me. I have concluded that there is some element that I’m
overlooking, or, maybe I don’t have the ideal set -up to utilize the system.

Dave

George, I suspect that folks who can make a tongue controlled embouchure work well for them in the long-term are probably fairly rare. I also personally advocate an approach to embouchure that actively discourages the tongue on the lip and loose mouth corners, both elements that a tongue controlled embouchure relies on. Personally, my recommendation is to not worry about why TCE isn’t working for you and instead practice with firm corners and tongue off the lip.

If you’re looking for advice on how to practice with a tongue controlled embouchure you’ll have to follow some of the links in my post. Good luck!

George

Hi Dave,
I should clarify that I’m not a beginner looking for the best approach to playing. I’ve been playing for
55years, and recorded numerous albums with many great musicians. Its like Maynard said “playing the trumpet is an endless learning experience”, and I think truer words were never uttered.
On our last album I played lead on Maynard’s version of Frame For The Blues, and Chase’s arrangement of Get It On, so you can realize that I’ve been a successful player without TCE. The last time I spoke with John Liddle in Toronto, he had over 20 trumpet students all excelling using the TCE. I have witnessed John’s playing both before and after he converted to TCE and although he was always a fine player, he plays stronger, higher and more effortlessly then ever before. I have discussed this with both Jerome Callet and Babs Civiletti and tried my best to follow their instructions without realizing the kind of success that I know can be had using that method. I have studied many different approaches to playing, with many successful players/teachers, including Clint “Pops” McLaughlin , Vince DiMartino, Don Johnson, and Eric Ford. One of the people who made trumpet playing appear the easiest was Jean Pocious, who lives in Haitti most of the time,
but I believe still owns a home in the USA. Its interesting to note that Jean also studied with Jerome Callet. The older I get, the more observant I have become of other successful players, as well as reading every method or information available on trumpet playing. The number of magic mouthpieces, and gimmicks available must be confusing to new players, but there are some good
products out there that actually offer some benefit and can make the job easier, like Warburton’s
PETE exerciser.

Linda Landis

George, I like the Warburton P.E.T.E. Long tones and I have not been friends. I’ve been playing professionaly for 40 years. Had it not been for this gizmo, the long tones on the National Tour of Dreamgirls would have done me in. Two and 1/2 hours of basketballs for each of 8 shows. Good grief. The most uninspired tbone part I’ve ever seen. Evidently not scored by a brass player. I too believe that one has to find the method of playing that works best for them. There are Reinhardt drills that mess up my chops now, but the Caruso 6-notes, as I have modified them, work to stabilize my chops and add consistency, especially in the high register. I combine the 6-notes with dynamics over 12 counts soft-loud-soft.Caruso’s nose breaths, intended to be used only on the warm ups/exercises, work for me when applied to the high register when I need a quick breath. I’m less likely to chip the next note up there. As we age we develope a certain amount of atrophy we can’t reverse. My dentists of 59 years and I had this discussion. So we have to concern ourselves more with toning the lip muscles. Carusos now help with the consistency of various aspects of my playing as I get older. This and the isometrics of the PETE have added a new dimension to the toning process. I still us the Reinhardt pivot ‘method’, but the combination has really helped.

I missed Don Lusher’s clinic about aging and tbone playing at the ITF that year. Wasn’t relevant then. Is now. Live and learn. Darn.

George

Hi Linda,
Don Lusher is a name I haven’t heard in a long time. What a great brass man! Reinhardt’s pivot system was the 1st thing I did as a young musician that really helped to increase my range and endurance. My teacher at the time (Eric Ford) used to make periodic trips to Philadelphia for lessons with Reinhardt. I think the biggest benefit at that time was getting excessive pressure off my top lip, and developing more of a pucker then a smile. Recognizing my natural playing angle due to teeth formation and jaw type was another benefit gained through the Rienhardt method.
The concept was easily understood, but the changeover took time because of muscle memory and previous habits. The PETE certainly exercises muscles necessary to use in a pucker system. I suppose, that as I grow older, making the job easier is of greater importance to me, then it once was. When I was younger, more energetic, and physically stronger, I could make things work
even though I might not have been doing them correctly. I now look for ways of making the job easier.

Linda Landis

Right George. I met Reg Fink in ’93 at the ITF three yrs before he suddenly passed away and he said the same thing. We hung out quite a bit that week to talk shop and he said that as he was getting older, he was trying to find an easier way to do things too. I enjoyed hanging out with him and was shocked when I signed into the Online Trombone Journal in Nov of ’96 and read where he had just passed. What a character. I wonder if he ever got his next method book written on basic rhythmic patterns? I use his clef reading books on my students.

Dan Nelson

Greetings, friends. I have just sat here and read this ENTIRE thread from first to last, including all the links. I am a 60-year-old, non-professional, “serious” trumpet player. (I call myself a “top-flight amateur.”) Years ago my younger brother (Masters in Tuba performance from Indiana U) called ME the “practice-a-holic” in the family. As a young man, I studied with one of Claude Gordon’s proteges, then studied with eccentric genius, Jerry Franks. (Had my teeth filed down– gained 1 whole step.)

I have tried everything to play better–every kind of push and pull and strength-building exercise imaginable, but I still had to admit that you “monster players” were just doing something SIGNIFICANTLY different than I was doing.

About 7 years ago, however, I took an entire THREE years off the horn. As I came off my 3-year hiatus, I felt like I had nothing to lose. Why not experiment? I’m not a big-shot player, nobody’s paying me, so I was free to experiment.

I don’t know what made me think of it the first time, but I remember thinking, “I’ve got to do something to get this pressure off my top lip (I am a low-position player– THANKS, Dave, for that great teaching and Don Lusher video! Can’t tell you how many teachers tried to “fix” me!)
So I pushed my tongue against the top of my bottom lip. It felt to me like it opened up a little chamber in which my top lip could vibrate like never before.

So for the past 4 years, I have been playing 20 or 30 double-C’s or higher in a usual practice session. Let me quickly add that they are not steal-ripping, paper-peeling BIG, but they are THERE, and usually quite controlled, and quite repeatable.

That is a good 4th above my previous range.

THEN I discovered this online stuff about TCE. “Dang!” I said, “THAT’S what I’M doing!!”

(Elgin– YOU have given some of the best descriptions/clarifications I have found anywhere online. THANKS!)

So my independent experience inclines me to think that there really something to TCE, at least for some of us. I am a fairly self-reflective, analytical thinker. I have discovered over the years that many players are NOT– They really DON’T know HOW they are doing what they are doing. This video with Rashawn Ross is a great example of this– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjDz2SvBfZo
It is very obvious that he is doing something really significant with his tongue– I think that many BIG/HIGH players are doing a TCE thing, and not realizing it.

Dave– Love your site, but as this thread progressed you really seemed to move from open-minded and objective to more and more strident and defensive. I don’t think you are open to any evidence now. That’s unfortunate.

You are at your best when you admit that we are all different.

Here’s what I think: TCE is rare and almost unheard-of. Pointing to all the great players who DON’T use it is scant evidence that it is a bad technique. The players who pick up the horn and end up being monster players WITHOUT TCE have no need to mess around with their chops. Once they are being PAID to play, they CAN’T AFFORD take the chance of messing with their chops. (Dave is a classic example of this– it wasn’t until he was DONE playing for the Army that he was free to mess around.)

The trumpet world is naturally-selecting against innovation, that’s all. It happens in every field of human endeavor.

But . . . about .001 percent of the human population is one of those “square pegs in round holes” of Steve Jobs’ famous quote. Everybody likes to THINK they are creative. Very few actually are.

Looks to me like Crazy Callet (I say that with affection.) is one of those. More power to him.

Dave

Thanks for stopping by and offering your comments, Dan. Here are my initial thoughts on some of your ideas.

So I pushed my tongue against the top of my bottom lip. It felt to me like it opened up a little chamber in which my top lip could vibrate like never before.

Interesting to read this. If you are truly a “low placement” player (as you feel), then the upper lip should serve more as a firmer surface against which your lower lip vibrates. Using the tongue on the lower lip and opening up the vibration on the upper lip seems the reverse of what I’d expect, something that a downstream player would be doing. It’s possible you’re not actually a “low placement” type player, or maybe you are and shouldn’t be. Then again, without watching you play I can’t say.

So for the past 4 years, I have been playing 20 or 30 double-C’s or higher in a usual practice session. Let me quickly add that they are not steal-ripping, paper-peeling BIG, but they are THERE, and usually quite controlled, and quite repeatable.

That is a good 4th above my previous range.

Double Cs are impressive, but I would say that G’s above high C played well also demonstrate that something was working correctly for you before too. I dunno, I’d have to watch you play and compare the two.

Dave– Love your site, but as this thread progressed you really seemed to move from open-minded and objective to more and more strident and defensive. I don’t think you are open to any evidence now. That’s unfortunate.

Thanks for the compliment on my blog – and for the criticism. In case I’m not being clear, I do acknowledge that some folks do seem to play very well with their tongue regularly in contact with the lower lip. Reinhardt classified this as one of his rare tongue types. I just don’t think that this is the proper long-term path for a very large majority of players. Most of the folks I know who do play with a tongue controlled embouchure seem to sacrifice tone and overall versatility for extreme high range. If that’s what they want, that’s fine. On the other hand, the couple of players I know who have consciously made a decision to stop putting their tongue on the lower lip to squeak out those extra high notes have both said they were happy they finally made this correction, even though one said it took him a couple of years of practice before it started working better.

This video with Rashawn Ross is a great example of this– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjDz2SvBfZo

What Ross is trying to describe sounds to me very similar to Reinhardt’s “squeaker” routines. They are kind of hard to get the knack of at first, mostly because you have to use very little air when playing them (counter-intuitive for many of us who were taught that we need to “support” high range).

Here’s what I think: TCE is rare and almost unheard-of. Pointing to all the great players who DON’T use it is scant evidence that it is a bad technique.

True, logically we can’t prove a negative. One of my gripes with a lot of tongue controlled embouchure advocates is how many point to great players and claim that that he or she must use a tongue controlled embouchure with little or no real evidence for it. Many also tend to be such strong advocates for it they are much too confident that it must be correct for all players.

It’s not hard to find brass musicians who never could make a tongue controlled embouchure work for them. On the one hand, we can argue that “everyone is different” and leave it to that, but often advocates counter that those struggling players weren’t doing it right or just didn’t stick to it long enough. I guess that’s fair enough, since this is usually what I say to students who can’t play in the upper register without keeping their tongue off the lip.

In short, my thought is that putting the tongue in contact with the lip while playing (and especially the “spitting seeds” attack that Callet teaches) has long-term drawbacks that, in my opinion, are better off avoided in the first place. Developing the upper register is, I feel, better done using other methods. Of course, those methods depend on the individual player and isn’t something that I can generalize here.

Thanks again.

Dan Nelson

Thanks, Dave, graciously and well-said throughout. I would love for you to watch me play and tell me if I’m “high” or “low”! Pretty sure I’m high placement.

I will take your cautions on TCE seriously. I am still in the experimental stages. Thanks for you input.

Elgin Green

Dan. When did you study with Jerry Franks? I was a music education student at Grace College around 1974-75, just before I joined the Army Band program. Great teacher and conductor. Dimensions in Brass. Great memories. Had a small wedge put in my teeth by an orthodontist in PA by direction of Jerry.

Dan Nelson

Elgin– I had two brothers at Grace– Ron (’74-’76 on Euphonium– later switched to Tuba–who also went from Grace to the Army) and Steve (’75-’77). You probably knew Phil Norris. He and Ron were great pals and started a brass sextet together. I graduated from Calvin College as an art major in ’77, but was able to take lessons from Jerry in the summer of ’78. He was already blind by then, which almost made him more impressive as a teacher. I also had an overlay made for my teeth. Used it for a couple of years, then moved on. Had my teeth filed by his dentist, then did more later on my own in front of a mirror with emery paper!!

I still have my little notebook from Jerry’s lessons. Look forward to playing with him again some day. 🙂

Elgin Green

Dan
Yes, I knew Phil Norris. Great guy and trumpet player. I don’t recognize the other names, but it’s been a long time 

At the time I studied with Jerry, I didn’t know that I was a Reinhardt Type IV. Later, I struggled with Reinhardt’s Pivot System for years with minimal results, even after many trips to his studio in Philadelphia. Although my personal pivot and track were correct, the top lip slippage was always an issue, and dry top lip never worked for me. In other words, I never really developed a strong lip pucker. It’s hard to develop the pucker when the mouthpiece won’t stay on the lips.

To be fair, Dr. Reinhardt was an excellent teacher and had many unique insights into brass playing. One example is “Diaphragm Level Synchronization”. The physics is right; the results are real; it just works.

Jeff Smiley’s Balanced Embouchure helped me get my chops in the optimal position, but Callet’s Superchops is the only approach that allows me to play without the problem of lip slippage. As I keep my tongue forward, I can keep my mouthpiece on my top lip, and that is great and new feeling compared to all other embouchure techniques—for me.

Bill

I seriously doubt Clarke played TCE. Claude Gordon was Clarke’s protegy, and Gordon’s K-tongue modified teachings talk nowhere about putting your tongue through your teeth, pushing down on the lower lip, pushing the middle of the tongue up against the teeth. Instead, the tip of the tongue is BEHIND the lower teeth. Now think, if TCE was THE WAY to play, don’t you think Clarke would have taught Gordon this way? Like you said, the spitting seeds was just a component of Callet’s TCE, and not the entire method.

Jerome Freedman

I have studied with a Callet disciple. When TCE came out we both tried it. Bottom line, it could work but the sound was just awful ( we were both classically oriented) and the effort, as far as we were concerned, to tame the sound outweighed the advantages.

Having one’s tongue against the lower lip is not enough to be TCE (now MSC). The tongue actually participates in the embouchure. The vibrating surface is lower lip, tongue, and upper lip. Lots of players I know have the tongue against the lower lip, at least in the upper register, and neither they nor I consider it TCE. I know one player who does it in all registers with a gorgeous classical sound in all registers ( and all dynamic levels). A delicate, peaceful soothing legato and along with a paint peeling double C.

Finally I have the Superchop book, the TCE book and the MSC DVD. Both the Superchops book and the TCE book are useless. Both books have a few pages of description/explanation followed by a seemingly random collections of exercises and excerpts with no clue how to used them. Civiletti (sp?) has a book of exercises that actually seem useful.

Dave

Thanks for leaving your thoughts, Jerome.

I have studied with a Callet disciple. When TCE came out we both tried it. Bottom line, it could work but the sound was just awful ( we were both classically oriented) and the effort, as far as we were concerned, to tame the sound outweighed the advantages.

That’s been pretty much what I’ve heard with the handful of players I’ve listened to who use something that fits into my umbrella of a “tongue controlled embouchure.” In general, the tone produced seems to be stylistically limited.

Lots of players I know have the tongue against the lower lip, at least in the upper register, and neither they nor I consider it TCE.

Based on conversations I’ve had with brass players and teachers, it seems as if a lot of players put their tongue against their lower lip when the get into their extreme upper register. I generally don’t define that as a tongue controlled embouchure either, but I feel that it’s usually best to practice not doing that as much as possible.

Thanks,

Dave

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