Embouchure Type Questions: Which Type Is Right For You?

Tristin sent the following question to me about his embouchure.

Hi! I am a sophomore at a fine arts school and I love to play the trumpet in band. However, while I was playing one day, I noticed that I change embouchure to play different registers of the trumpet better. I then tried experimenting to find a suitable embouchure for me to play the full range of my instrument, but I found that I can play pretty much the same with all the embouchure types you wrote about: very high, medium-high, and very low. This confuses me greatly, and I do not know which embouchure is best in the long run according to my anatomy. i find myself constantly switching between the three every time I play to try and find which one is best. To worsen the situation, I started to develop a double-buzz and my playing is going downhill. Which embouchure setting is best for me? I’m not sure if this helps, but I have an overbite, though I seem to even the teeth when I play. Thank you.

As always, I can’t offer specific advice without being able to watch you play (preferably in person). I don’t teach video lessons for embouchure troubleshooting because I don’t find them conducive to troubleshooting, but sometimes I can spot something if you are able to post a video of your playing. Check out what I wrote here for what I need to see in order to help you out.

While I can’t tell you which embouchure type is going to be best for you in the long term without watching you play, I can speak generally about your situation. Keep in mind that everyone is different and what I’m saying here may not necessarily apply to you. Sometimes players will want to practice in a way that helps make a correction and then go back to another way of playing later.

Which brings me to my first general point. Assuming your the typical age for a high school sophomore in the U.S., your anatomical features that determine which embouchure type is going to work best for you may change around. Some folks continue to grow up until they’re about 21 years old. Even older brass musicians will sometimes find embouchure features changing around as teeth naturally shift or as they develop as players. Even if I could be there to watch you play it might be that you just need some more time playing before your embouchure type settles down. This is far more common than most people realize. It can be very frustrating for a player, particularly if they have no idea why they’re struggling.

Rather than worry about what embouchure type you should be playing on, it may be better for you to practice developing good embouchure form. While embouchure characteristics vary from player to player, there are some good rules of thumb for all players that will help you use the most efficient muscles and develop the strength and control you’ll need when your embouchure type settles down.

One exercise I like to help players develop strong chops is the free buzzing exercise I wrote about here. Just a little bit every day long-term is best with this exercise. Don’t overdo it and remember it’s just an exercise, not a method to diagnose your embouchure. Think of it like weight lifting for your chops.

Regarding your double buzz, it’s entirely possible that it’s being caused by you shifting your mouthpiece placement all around trying to find your best embouchure type. Since I suggest you not worry about your embouchure type for now, pick a placement that’s not too centered and stick with it for your entire range as much as you can. Usually I will recommend starting with the placement that works best for your high range and practice descending from there. That said, there are too many exceptions for me to say this should be universally followed. A double buzz can be caused by several different things. I’ve written about it here for some further information.

You mention you have an overbite and bring your jaw forward to more or less align your teeth when you play. That would suggest either a “very high placement” embouchure type or a “very low placement” type, because for these players this jaw position is most common. Again, there are too many exceptions for this to be a truism. Also, just because you’re protruding your jaw to play now doesn’t mean you’ll always want to or that this is necessarily correct for you now. Much like your best embouchure type, I wouldn’t be too concerned with what your jaw is necessarily doing right now beyond keeping it more or less in place and reducing or eliminating a jaw drop to descend.

Since you’re studying at a fine arts school you are probably getting exactly the sort of instruction and experiences you need to get better. While I hope that I’ve been able to give you some helpful ideas, your best resource right now will be the teachers and instructors you get to work with in person. Have fun and good luck!

Arin George

My nose is fairly close to my upper lip. I feel that a very high placement is the best for me as it allows me to anchor the mouthpiece with my teeth and use my air more as the driving force in my tone production. However, it hurts my face to try and play like this and also I can’t bring the mouthpiece high enough simply because my nose obstructs me from doing so. Currently I’m using a more center placement embouchere, however I feel that when I ascend the mouthpiece lowers on my face. It feels very easy for me to play low on my face however factors such as my lips becoming wet cause the ideal low placement to also change. I also am not the biggest fan of the sound I get with a low placement since I feel my sound is less robust and rich. It does provide an easier high range however my low range loses the necessary vibration. The center placement I think I’m using produced a good sound however I always lose control on certain partials i believe is due to my placement not being able to sustain the embouchere I’m using. Is there a way I can try and use a high note placement though my nose acts as an obstruction? I truly believe the high placement best satisfies my embouchere and playing style. Is fighting my natural God given facial features just a losing battle? Any advice concerning this would be greatly appreciated as I don’t know what to pursue. I’m really trying to find something which I can do consistently and repetitively. Thanks.

Dave

Arin, I’d need to watch you play to be certain. What instrument are you playing? Low brass players, tubists in particular, sometimes have their nose or chin get in the way. Sometimes a mouthpiece size change or other difference can help. Sometimes placing the mouthpiece off to one side helps. Sometimes the problem is being caused by improper embouchure form.

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