Guess the Embouchure Type – Giuliano Sommerhalder

I bookmarked this video of Swiss/Italian trumpet player Giuliano Sommerhalder playing Rafael Mendez’s virtuoso arrangement of Mexican Hat Dance a while back and have been meaning to do a “Guess the Embouchure Type” for a while now.  I don’t remember how I came across this video, so if you forwarded it to me my apologies for no credit.

At any rate, Sommerhalder is a very fine player and this video has a few places where you can get a good enough look at his chops to guess his embouchure type.  Take a look and see what you think.  My guess after the break.

If you go to 0:40 in the video and freeze it there you’ll get a good view of Sommerhalder’s mouthpiece placement and horn angle.  There is clearly more upper lip inside his mouthpiece, making it very likely that he belongs to one of the two downstream embouchure types.  His horn angle is sort of between what you typically find between the “very high” and “medium high” embouchure types, but horn angle isn’t really a determining factor.  However, if you watch the passage he plays starting at 0:40 in, however, you can see his embouchure motion of pulling down to ascend.  There are a couple of other spots in this video where you get a similar look at his mouthpiece placement and embouchure motion.  This would make Sommerhalder’s embouchure type fit in the “medium high placement” embouchure type, which is my best guess.

As an aside, take a look at Summerhalder’s right hand finger position on the valves.  While it’s traditional for players to put their finger tips on the valves, Summerhalder uses the middle phalanx of his fingers and it obviously doesn’t slow him down at all on those fast passages.  It seems to me that the traditional hand position for trumpet isn’t taught as rigidly as it once used to be.  Probably different players will find one variation or another of finger position to work better for them, depending on things like the size of their hand and how to most comfortably position their hand on the instrument.  Instrument type will also come into play as well, so horn players will have different hand positions than trumpet and so on.

What do you think?  Did you guess a different embouchure type?  Do you use similar finger position on your valves or go with the more traditional position?  Got any strong feelings on finger position either way?


I never understood the fingertip fingering idea in the first place. It’s much easier to move the fingers quickly if they are flat, rather than curved.

Paul T.

I agree on your guess. But I’m not sure what to say about the hand position! I’ve always heard that the main reason to keep your fingers curved was to keep from wearing down the valve stockings (i.e. to protect the trumpet) rather than a technical consideration.

Rodolfo Ferreira Neves

Hello Dave! It’s my first time commenting here even though I’ve checked much of the contents in here. Congratulations and thanks for your website! I also agree with your analysis here. Interestingly, I watched a more recent video of him performing ‘La Virgen de la Macarena’ and had the impression he was placing a little lower. His sound is open and bright in this video. First I thought it had to do solely with the style of the piece but in hindsight it might have been helped by the lower placement if he’s indeed placing lower. He finishes on a perfect high E. The performance is dazzling!
Do you also see his placement a little lower?

Rodolfo Ferreira Neves

..b.t.w. I couldn’t figure out a way to share the link with my phone but it’s the only of him performing the piece. He’s playing by himself.

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