I’m overdo for another “Guess the Embouchure Type” post. This one is actually quite challenging. Take a look at Sergei Nakariakov performing Carnival of Venice and see if you can guess his embouchure type.
As I mentioned above the embedded video, this one is tricky. My guess after the break.
His playing is outstanding, but his embouchure is unusual. The easiest thing to spot is his embouchure motion. If you look at 5:03 into this video you’ll get a very good look at it. He clearly is pushing his mouthpiece and lips together up to ascend and pulling them down to descend. The only embouchure type that uses this particular embouchure motion is the “very high placement” embouchure type, so based on this characteristic alone I would make that guess.
But take a close look at his mouthpiece placement and it doesn’t look anything at all like a “very high placement” type. Now it’s not hard to find players who are classified as a “very high placement” type who have mouthpiece placements that are closer to center, looking more like the “medium high placement” type. But Nakariakov’s mouthpiece placement looks low enough that if I didn’t see his embouchure motion I would have guessed a “low placement type.”
If you’re not already familiar with how the mouthpiece placement and airstream direction are related, please follow the links I’ve included above or else the following isn’t going to make much sense to you (nor is much of the above, I imagine).
Without getting the chance to watch Nakariakov play into a transparent mouthpiece closely, I am speculating here. First, sometimes you might think a player’s lip ratio inside the mouthpiece would make that musician be upstream or downstream, but something about how they position their lips or their lip texture makes it look opposite of what you think. It’s possible that while Nakariakov’s mouthpiece placement makes him look like he’s an upstream/”low placement” embouchure type that his embouchure is still blowing downstream to play. My teacher/mentor in brass embouchures, Doug Elliott, filmed a documentary on brass embouchures in the 1980s that includes a trombonist who places the mouthpiece with more upper lip inside, but due to his jaw position (an underbite) was still playing upstream. Moving that player’s mouthpiece placement to a lower position on the lips (closer to the chin) showed some improvement in that musician’s embouchure function. Another trombonist in Doug’s film clearly belonged to one particular embouchure type, but utilized the opposite embouchure motion from what was expected and was a very successful player.
In his book The Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, Donald Reinhardt wrote:
A minority group of Type IV performers (almost too few to mention) may find that PIVOT CLASSIFICATION ONE (push up to ascend and pull down to descend) offers advantages; if this is the case, it is quite possible that faulty mouthpiece placement is the answer.
To clarify the above quote, Reinhardt’s Type IV embouchure type is included in what I prefer to call the “low placement” embouchure type. See my post here to get more information on Reinhardt’s embouchure types. Also, what Reinhardt defined as a “pivot” is the same as what I prefer to call “embouchure motion.” Since “pivot” implies that the horn angle change is what is most important and I feel that angle changes are more of a factor related to pushing the mouthpiece and lips together along the teeth and gums, I avoid using that term when possible.
So there is some possibility that Nakariakov’s embouchure motion is correct, in spite of him playing as an upstream player. Or it might be that a higher mouthpiece placement could be beneficial. Or maybe there’s something else going on. Whatever the case is, Nakariakov’s playing is wonderful and I encourage you to check it out more.