Rise of the Synthesizer

Did you know that the early synthesizers weren’t really intended for rock music, but classical? How did synthesizers become ubiquitous with rock music, then?

In the summer of 1970, after popping into a pub for a pint, rock keyboardist Keith Emerson sat down at his enormous Moog modular synthesizer in London’s legendary Advision recording studio and noodled a few improvised notes. His goal was to add some electronic punch to the end of a mostly acoustic-guitar number called “Lucky Man,” written by his singer-guitarist bandmate, Greg Lake. As his fingers ran up and down the synthesizer’s keyboard, Emerson played along to the bass, drums, vocals, and guitars already recorded by Lake and drummer Carl Palmer. . .

Emerson would later say he was just fooling around, and that he definitely did not expect his first take to be his last, but Lake and sound engineer Eddie Offord liked what they heard so much, they deemed Emerson’s work on “Lucky Man” done.

Learn more about the Rise of the Synthesizers over at Collectors Weekly.

What Can a Japanese Pasta Chef Teach You About Jazz?

I continue to be very busy lately between teaching and gigging, so apologies for letting things be so “dark” around here. Tonight (Saturday, September 26, 2015) I’ll be performing at the Kinston Ballroom in Knoxville, TN for the Knoxville Lindy Exchange with the Gamble/Wilson Swing Orchestra. I really enjoy playing with big bands and this one will be especially fun because I usually end up having to be the music director and deal with all the business stuff when I do big band gigs. This time I get to be a sideman and just enjoy playing.

In the mean time, a bassist who grew up in New Jersey and New York went on tour to Japan and learned how to play jazz from a Japanese pasta chef.

The chef’s name was Toshiaki Yanase, and cooking pasta wasn’t even his main gig; he also ran a small fruit stand! His life story, and his dishes ended up being symbolic to much of what I experienced in the country, and drew some interesting parallels to improving in music. I was on tour with a wonderful Japanese pianist named Yuki Futami. And while traveling throughout the country, inspiring encounters like these were all too common-some directly related to music, and others like in the case with Toshi, perhaps a bit more metaphorical. I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned during my stay.

Weekend Gigs

Low-Down Sires LogoI’ve got some public gigs coming up this weekend, if you’re in the areas. Tomorrow night, Friday September 11, 2015, I will be performing with the Low-Down Sires at the White Horse Black Mountain, in Black Mountain, NC. The White Horse is a great music venue with good acoustics and sound system and a comfortable environment for both listening and dancing. With this show we will probably be focusing more on the listening end of the spectrum to fit the typical audience there, but everything we play is also suitable for swing dancing, if you’re into that. The show starts at 8 pm.

Speaking of dancing, the Sires will be off to Durham, NC the next day, Saturday September 12, 2015, to perform for the Triangle Swing Dance Society’s dance at Murphey School. There’s a dance lesson at 7 PM and the dance starts at 8.

If you’re able to make one (or both!) of these shows please come say hello on one of our breaks.

Recent Happenings

In my business being too busy to do much blogging is a good thing. So in lieu of something more interesting today, here is a rundown of some of the various happenings around here.

The most exciting news for me is that I have taken on administrative duties with MusicWorks! Asheville, now serving both as a teaching artist and site administrator for the program. MusicWorks! is a El Sistema inspired program of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. I like to describe El Sistema as social activism through music education. We are a free, after-school music program that specifically targets at-risk children. Our goal is to teach them important life skills through teaching them music.

Tonight, Monday August 31, 2015, is the final night of the weekly Speakeasy Mondays series that have been held at the Dirty South Lounge in Asheville, NC. I’ve been performing there with the Low-Down Sires from 9 to midnight almost every Monday for the past three months. It’s been neat to see the event get built up from just a handful of swing dancing friends of the band into a pretty well-attended party. Andrew, the bartender who has managed the night, is moving on to bigger and better things so the Speakeasy Mondays will end after tonight. That said, it looks like the whole party may be moving to another venue and when it becomes official I’ll try to announce it here.

Lastly, some of you may have noticed the recent comments section here have been frequently in Japanese. That’s because Basil, an American horn player living in Japan, came across Wilktone and asked if it would be OK with me to translate some of my embouchure posts into Japanese for his readers. I, of course, said yes and he has been translating a storm. I’m excited about this because my main goal has been to make the information I’ve come across more accessible to more brass players and having my articles available in another language is a great way to introduce this research to a whole new population. I’ve gotten requests over the years to translate my articles and videos into Spanish and Portuguese especially, so if you speak one of those languages, or another, please let me know if you’re interested in taking on some translation.

Why Is Sheet Music Necessary For Music Education?

Robbie Gennet, a “songwriter, musician, educator and journalist,” tried to make the case that learning to read music notation is irrelevant for music education. His case is that none of the following musicians learned to read music:

All four Beatles. Elvis Presley. Jimi Hendrix. Jimmy Page. Eric Clapton. B.B. King. Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Bee Gees. Eddie Van Halen. Robert Johnson. Slash. Angus Young of AC/DC. Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. Adam Jones of Tool. James Hetfield of Metallica. Danny Elfman. Stevie Wonder. Dave Brubeck. Andrea Bocelli. Wes Montgomery. Jimmy Smith. Charles Mingus. Erroll Garner. Irving Berlin. Chet Baker. Pete Townsend. Tori Amos. Jerry Garcia. Bob Dylan. Kurt Cobain. Taylor Swift. Bob Marley.

Many of the commenters on the article have already deconstructed Gennet’s argument and offered many strong reasons why learning to be musically literate is not only useful, but necessary in most musical professions. His rationalization is similar to saying one could become a great actor without learning to read a script. It’s certainly possible, but very limiting to learn your lines and communicate with your colleagues without being literate. Similarly, you will limit your musical abilities and possibilities if you eschew learning to read music. Gennet wrote:

As a musician, your ability in most live situations to quickly transpose a piece or adapt to sudden deviations is way more valuable than being locked to an inflexible script, as is your ability to stretch out and at times improvise.

He creates a false dichotomy here. Your ability to read notation has no bearing whatsoever on your abilities to adapt and improvise. While Gennet lists some exceptional jazz musicians in his list of musically illiterate musicians, by and large jazz musicians both work hard to be able to sight read and perform from sheet music as well as to improvise and deviate from the notation. They are two sides of the same coin, not two mutually exclusive skills. Many orchestral musicians, trumpet players for example, also work very hard to be able to transpose sheet music by sight as well. Learning to read notation is integral to this skill.

Furthermore, I call shenanigans on the list of musicians Gennet claims did not read music. As some of the commenters on his article have pointed out, many of those musicians had other folks in the background that were highly musically literate helping them out. The Beatles, for example, had George Martin notate parts for their recordings. Others, such as Charles Mingus, Danny Elfman, and Dave Brubeck may have not learned to sight read well, but certainly were musically literate.

I don’t know Gennet’s music or his musical literacy, however my suspicion is that his article will get used more as justification for musical illiteracy, rather than evidence that ear training, transposition, and improvisation are useful tools for creativity. Shame on Gennet, as a proclaimed educator, to rationalize illiteracy of any kind.

Asheville Jazz Orchestra plays Our World Festival August 1, 2015

AJO-Logo-Transparent copyFor anyone down in the Greenville, SC area I’ll be performing a free set with the Asheville Jazz Orchestra at the Our World Festival on August 1, 2015. There is a lineup of a number of jazz bands and world music throughout the day. You can hear the AJO play at 3:40-4:40 at the main stage tent (1272 Pendleton Street, The Village of West Greenville). If you are able to come check it out please be sure to say hello to me afterwards while I’m listening to the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band right after we play.

Air Pressure, Pitch Range, and Dynamics

A recent discussion over at the Trumpet Herald forum got me thinking a bit more about the relationship between the pitch and dynamic being played by a brass player and how the breathing functions. Many brass players and teachers talk about using “faster air” for high notes, “blow harder” for loud notes, or “hot, wet, breath” for getting a rich, dark sound. These sorts of descriptions are fairly common, although many variations exist and not everyone feels similarly about their effectiveness in playing and teaching.

It is, of course, necessary to consider that playing sensations are a pretty unreliable way of talking about what exactly is happening in the player’s physiology or in the acoustics of the instrument. What to one player might feel like “blowing harder” might seem more like “faster air.” Furthermore, what works for a brass student and one stage of his or her development may become counterproductive later. This is why it’s important to have a good teacher who can watch you play and make corrections as needed. Teasing out those corrections often will take the form of analogies such as the ones I described, but we have to fall back on trial and error.

All that said, I find the science behind playing mechanics and instrument acoustics fascinating. Regardless of how you feel like you play, there may be some insights we can glean as players and teachers into breathing by taking the time to learn more. This can be a controversial topic, as reading through the Trumpet Herald topic can show. It’s even been a topic I’ve blogged about here that inspired some heated debate in the comments. In part this is due to differences in opinion about whether knowing this can be helpful or is a waste of time. My thought here is that trying to learn more about the way things work is never a waste of time, provided you are aware of the risks of going down the wrong path for a bit and recognize that you might just need to backtrack. Better still is to learn from those who have already done the research and had something to say about it.

One group of researchers, Jonathan Kruger, James McClean, and Mark Kruger, replicated a famous informal experiment that Arnold Jacobs supposedly did measuring the air pressure of brass players on different instruments and comparing how much blowing pressure and airflow were used for pitches. Jacobs noted that as the blowing pressure increased as the player ascended in range while the airflow decreased. He also claimed that players of different instruments would use a similar intra-oral pressure for the same pitch, so that a trombonist playing a “high Bb” would be blowing with about the same amount of pressure as a trumpet player playing the “middle C” (both pitches would be Bb4). Kruger, et al, found some of this to be true, but some of it to be different.

Intra-oral compression does increase as pitch increases and airflow decreases as pitch increases in each of the four members of the brass family. Both measures are also sensi- tive to changes in loudness (dynamic). Figure 2 shows changes in airflow and internal air pressure for a trumpet performer ascending the open pitches from the G below middle C upward while playing as close as possible to 85 decibels. As Jacobs observed, the larger bore instruments require less intra-oral compression and produce more air- flow when playing in their normal ranges than the higher instruments. Contrary to Jacob’s assertion about the simi- larity of instruments playing the same pitch, we observed measurable differences.

Other researchers have done similar experiments and found similar results. Kenneth Berger’s article in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Respiratory and articulatory factors in wind instrument performance (full article behind a paywall, abstract only), notes that the trumpet requires more intraoral pressure that other wind instruments studied.

A third paper published by 10éme Congres Fancaise d’Acoustique is thankfully written in English here. Freour, Causse, and Cosette noted similar results. In their article, Simultaneous Measurement of Pressure, Flow and Sound during Trumpet Playing, they wrote, “…it appears that pressure increases with both pitch and loudness, that flow increases with pitch and tends to decrease with dynamic.” They also note that the results of their study open up new questions that can now be addressed, such as the influence of air compressibility and even blood distribution in the respiratory system while playing.

So what are the implications for teaching and practicing brass instruments? At the very least I think we understand that blowing pressure and air volume do depend on the pitch range and dynamic being played. Knowing this, we might want to practice and teach being more aware of how we’re blowing while playing and changing those factors. Through this awareness we can learn our personal playing sensations in such a way as to memorize the feeling of when things are sounding and feeling good as well as better troubleshoot for those times when they are not.

An Introduction to the Pedagogy of Donald S. Reinhardt

The following article is a rewrite of an earlier one originally published in 2003 on the Online Trombone Journal, entitled An Introduction to Donald S. Reinhardt’s Pivot System. Because the OTJ is currently not being updated and the code used to publish everything is so old the original article is currently unaccessible on the OTJ. I decided that this would be a good time to revisit the article and make it more accessible to folks wanting an introduction to Reinhardt’s teaching without overwhelming them with details that may not be relevant to their teaching or playing. If you wish to read the original article I have posted it here.

Doc_reclinedDonald S. Reinhardt (1908 – 1989), was an American trombonist and music teacher. As a young man he was frustrated with his lack of technical progress on the instrument, in spite of practicing very hard and studying with many experienced music teachers. One day an accident damaged the tuning slide on his trombone and when it was returned from the repair shop the counter weight was inadvertently left off. When Reinhardt went to play again the loss of the counter weight led to a much lower horn angle than he usually played, however the results were markedly better for him. Because the different embouchure that resulted was so unusual compared to the other brass player’s Reinhardt knew he became interested in studying how other musicians played. Over time, he analyzed and categorized thousands of players’ embouchures, tonguing, breathing, and other mechanical aspects of brass technique.

In 1939 the theater orchestra where Reinhardt performed was fired and so he took some time off to travel across the United States with his wife. While on this trip he met a young trombone student in Kansas, whom he gave a short lesson to. Helping this student led to Reinhardt’s interest in teaching brass musicians how to better achieve technical mastery of their instruments. Over the next couple of years he gave brass lessons for free in order to test out his ideas. In 1954 he established a teaching studio in Philadelphia.

Reinhardt called his approach to teaching brass the “Pivot System,” a name he would eventually regret. The term “pivot” led to the impression that he taught brass players to tilt their horn around while playing, while the term “system” implied that there was a universal approach that all brass students were to follow. Instead, the goal of his pedagogy was to find the physical and mental procedures that allowed each student to progress according to their anatomical and psychological makeup. He wrote:

The PIVOT SYSTEM (sic) is a scientific, practical, proven method of producing the utmost in range, power, endurance and flexibility on the trumpet, trombone and all other cupped-mouthpiece brass instruments. It was originated not only through forty years of research and experimentation in practical playing, teaching, writing and lecturing to many thousands of professionals, semi-professionals, supervisors, teachers, students, etc., but also through designing and producing personalized mouthpieces and being consultant of instrument design for several leading manufacturers of brass instruments.

This system, working on tried and tested principles, first of all analyzes and diagnoses the physical equipment of the player and then presents a specific, concrete set of rules and procedures which enable the individual to utilize, with the greatest possible efficiency, the lips, teeth, gums, jaws, and general anatomy with which he is naturally endowed.

– Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973 page XI

Because of the personalized nature of Reinhardt’s teaching it is very difficult to provide a summary of his pedagogy. He would break down his discussion of playing mechanics into three primary playing factors, breathing, tonguing, and embouchure. Depending on the needs of the student Reinhardt would emphasize one playing factor over another and developed individualized routines to help students improve.


Reinhardt’s ideas on teaching breathing mirror what many other brass teachers and players have advocated over the years. He felt that the foundation of good breath control began with good posture, whether seated or standing. Two areas where Reinhardt approached breathing somewhat differently from many other brass teachers were his suggestions on “timed breathing” and mouth corner inhalations.

Reinhardt believed that rather than always taking a full breath to play that brass players should aim to take in enough air to play the phrase comfortably and no more. He felt that over breathing, particularly for the upper register, caused problems, including dizziness and strain. Under breathing would lead to a thin tone and lack of coordination with the tonguing and embouchure. He asked his students to practice breathing in slowly when possible, rather than trying to inhale enough air to make the phrase as quickly as possible.

More unusual than Reinhardt’s recommendation for timed breathing were his advice on mouth corner inhalations. Reinhardt felt that many playing issues were caused by brass musicians pulling their lips away or out of position from the mouthpiece to breath. In order to combat this tendency he instructed his students to keep the mouthpiece in place on the lips while breathing through the mouth corners. He likened the mouth center to an “outtake valve” while the mouth corners functioned as an “intake valve.” When the inhalation was complete the student was to snap the mouth corners forward into playing position immediately and without hesitation begin the blowing.


Reinhardt’s instructions on tonguing could be very detailed and different for students, depending on factors such as the size of the student’s oral cavity, length of the tongue, relationship of the lower lip to the lower teeth, and other anatomical and stylistic considerations. However, he broke down the mechanics of tonguing on a brass instrument into the following.

The tongue as used in the PIVOT SYSTEM has three principal duties: one, the level of the tongue-arch is one of the factors for the control of range; two, the length of the tongue backstroke is one of the determining factors for volume and speed; and three, the tongue-level directs and governs the size of the cone-like air column so that it may strike the back of the compressed embouchure formation to produce the lip-vibrations for the particular tone to be played.

– Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, page 82.

He discouraged almost all his students to avoid attacking pitches with the tongue striking the lips. He wrote:

“Whenever a performer permits his tongue to penetrate between his teeth and lips, he is actually opening them to allow the tip of his tongue to penetrate between them. In so doing, he is subconsciously depending upon the timing of his reflexes to bring his lips together again for the purpose of vibrating. Some players get by in this manner for years but as they advance in age and their reflexes slow down, the real playing difficulties commence.”

– Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, pp. 100-101.

For more information about Reinhardt’s tongue types please visit this page about that topic.


Arguably it is in the area of embouchure where Reinhardt’s teaching can contribute the most to brass pedagogy. He was perhaps the first brass author to make note of different embouchure types and make them an important part of his teaching. While these ideas remain somewhat controversial still today, the embouchure characteristics he describe have been independently discovered by later authors and researchers and make for a powerful pedagogical tool for brass teachers willing to make the effort to learn more about them.

In order to understand Reinhardt’s embouchure types it is first necessary to understand two basic characteristics that all brass players’ embouchures have, whether or not the player is aware of them, air stream direction and an embouchure motion that Reinhardt originally called a “pivot.”

Downstream Embouchure
Downstream Embouchure

While many brass players consider air stream direction to be the result of the player’s horn angle, use of a transparent mouthpiece shows that the main determining factor of the embouchure air stream direction is the ration of upper to lower lip placed inside the mouthpiece. When a brass player places the mouthpiece so that there is more upper than lower lip inside the mouthpiece cup the upper lip predominates and the air stream can be seen to pass the vibrating lips at a downward angle. When the a downstream brass musician plays in the upper register the angle of the air stream is directed even more so in a downward direction. Conversely, when a downstream embouchure player plays in the low register the air stream angle is closer towards blowing straight into the mouthpiece shank.

Upstream Embouchure
Upstream Embouchure

Upstream embouchure players are exactly opposite. These player set the mouthpiece upon the lips so that the lower lip predominates inside the cup and the air stream gets blown past the lips at an upward angle. When these musicians play in the upper register the angle the air stream passes the lips is even more upstream while in the lower register the air stream angle appears to get blown closer to straight out.

To learn more about brass embouchures and air stream direction please visit this page devoted to the topic.

The other main embouchure characteristic that is used to categorize a brass musician’s embouchure according to Reinhardt was the phenomenon he called a “pivot.” Reinhardt adjusted his definition of this term over time, and would later regret using it as a label for his pedagogy. Early in his teaching career he defined a pivot as:

Pivoting is the transfer of what little pressure there is used in playing from one lip to another. . . The instrument is slightly tilted to get the tone at its most open point.

-Reinhardt, Pivot System Manual for Trombone, 1942, p. 23.

This definition implies that the tilting of the instrument is the important consideration with the pivot, leading many to erroneously assume that Reinhardt advocated tilting the horn up and down in order to change registers. His later definition of the brass pivot is a more accurate description of the phenomenon.

The PIVOT is controlled by pulling down or pushing up the lips on the teeth with the rim of the mouthpiece. The outer embouchure…and the mouthpiece move vertically (some with slight deviations to one side or the other) as one combined unit on the invisible vertical track of the inner embouchure …; however, the position of the mouthpiece on the outer embouchure must not be altered in any way.

– Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, p. 194.

Where some players would ascend by pushing the mouthpiece and lips together as a unit upward towards the nose to ascend, other players pulled the mouthpiece and lips together down towards the chin to ascend. Many players will also perform best with the track of this motion at an angle, rather than straight up or down. Horn angle may be correctly altered at the same time, but the amount of change and direction the horn angle may change is personal to the player. To learn more about the embouchure motion Reinhardt called a pivot please visit this page devoted to the topic.

Using the player’s air stream direction, direction of pivot, as well as the position of the jaw while both at rest and while playing Reinhardt would classify four main embouchure types with five subtypes, resulting in nine different embouchure types. Because some of these types function the same while playing, most former students of Reinhardt’s tend to only classify students into three or four brass embouchure types.

Before learning about Reinhardt’s embouchure types it’s important to note that he felt that a player’s embouchure type was determined by the student’s anatomical features and isn’t a choice that a student or teacher can make. Reinhardt felt that long term progress and playing success was best done with adopting the one embouchure type that best fit the student’s physical characteristics rather than switching between types or adopting a type that wasn’t most efficient for the player’s anatomy. Each embouchure type has some general characteristics and may respond to exercises and routines in very different ways. Over decades of careful experimentation, Reinhardt developed practice routines and exercises that were designed to help players of different embouchure types progress successfully.

Embouchure Type I and Type IA

Type I Teeth Structure
Type I Teeth Structure

The Type I and Type IA embouchures are rarer than most of the other types. These player’s upper and lower teeth meet when the jaw is in its natural position. Oddly enough, this teeth and jaw structure appears to inhibit anything other than a very high mouthpiece placement (downstream Type I) or very low (upstream Type IA) mouthpiece placement from working efficiently. Other than the position of the teeth, these types are virtually identical to other embouchure types while the musician is playing. Type I embouchures are identical while playing to either the Type IIIA or Type IIIB embouchures and the Type IA embouchure is identical to the Type IV embouchure while playing. Because of this fact, the Type I and Type IA embouchures will not be covered in detail here (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, p. 205).

Embouchure Type II and Type IIA

The Type II and Type IIA embouchures are similar to the Type I embouchures in that they are distinguished by the natural position of the upper and lower teeth. Players belonging to this rarer type have lower teeth that protrude in front of the upper teeth when the jaw is in its resting position. Because of this teeth and jaw position these individuals will almost always play with an upstream embouchure, necessitating a mouthpiece placement with more lower lip. Other than the position of the player’s teeth while the jaw is in its resting position, the Type II embouchure is virtually identical to the Type IV embouchure. The Type IIA embouchure are very similar to the Type IVA embouchure while playing. Because of these similarities the Type II and Type IA embouchures will not be covered here in detail (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, pp. 206-207).

Embouchure Type III

The Types III, IIIA, and IIIB are much more common than the Types I, IA, II, and IIA. These player’s lower teeth naturally recede behind the upper teeth when the jaw is in its resting position. Players belonging to these types rarely protrude their lower jaw past the point where the upper and lower teeth are even and all three types place the mouthpiece with more upper lip inside the mouthpiece cup.

Reinhardt’s Type III embouchure, often called the “Jelly Roll Type,” plays with a mouthpiece placement with usually only slightly more upper lip inside the mouthpiece cup. Because there is more upper lip than lower lip inside the mouthpiece the air stream is directed at a downward angle inside the mouthpiece cup. The jaw is typically receded beneath the upper and because of this the horn angle is typically tilted lower, often quite extremely. In addition to the receded lower jaw, one of the main distinguishing features of this embouchure type is that the player’s lower lip membrane is positioned in and slightly over the lower teeth. As this type player ascends the lower lip roll becomes more pronounced.

The Type III embouchure motion is usually to pulling down towards the chin to ascend and pushing up towards the nose to descend. In rarer cases Type III embouchure players will do the reverse pivot and push up to the nose to ascend while pulling down to descend.

In many cases a Type III player will have difficulties with the extreme upper register, changing types as he or she plays from around a concert F above high B flat or higher. This is particularly common with trumpet players, due to the smaller mouthpiece size and increased demand on faster lip vibrations. In these situations Reinhardt would reclassify this player as a Type IIIA or IIIB, according to their embouchure in the extreme upper register. True Type III players have a jaw that cannot protrude far enough to make a playing on a Type IIIA or Type IIIB possible. (Sheetz, PivoTalk Newsletter, Vol. 2, #3, p. 3).

One common difficulty Type III players have is their necessity of playing with the bell directed towards the floor because of a receded lower jaw. Players with this trouble need to be careful to not put their head too far back and place undue strain on their neck, restricting the throat (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

The Type IIIA embouchure tends to play with the mouthpiece placed quite high, often just under the nose with trombonists. These players also typically protrude the jaw more than the standard Type III players, but never to the point of thrusting the lower teeth beyond the upper teeth. With the jaw in a more protruded position the horn angle tends to be almost horizontal, and sometimes even higher. Because the upper lip predominates inside the mouthpiece cup this type also is classified as a downstream type.

Type IIIA performers always utilize Pivot Classification One, pushing up towards the nose to ascend and pulling down towards the chin to descend. When a student found that Pivot Classification Two worked more efficiently Reinhardt would classify the player as a Type IIIB (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, pp. 208-209).

Brass players belonging to Reinhardt’s Type IIIA embouchure often have a tendency to raise their horn angle while inhaling. When they bring the mouthpiece back down to play they crash the mouthpiece rim against the lips, causing swelling and inhibiting endurance. Type IIIA players of larger mouthpieces, such as trombonists, may find that their nose gets in the way of their ascending pivot, necessitating practice increasing their lip pucker instead of relying exclusively on their pivot to ascend (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

IIIA Embouchure Type

The Type IIIA embouchure tends to play with the mouthpiece placed quite high, often just under the nose with trombonists. These players also typically protrude the jaw more than the standard Type III players, but never to the point of thrusting the lower teeth beyond the upper teeth. With the jaw in a more protruded position the horn angle tends to be almost horizontal, and sometimes even higher. Because the upper lip predominates inside the mouthpiece cup this type also is classified as a downstream type.

Type IIIA performers always utilize Pivot Classification One, pushing up towards the nose to ascend and pulling down towards the chin to descend. When a student found that Pivot Classification Two worked more efficiently Reinhardt would classify the player as a Type IIIB (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, pp. 208-209).

Brass players belonging to Reinhardt’s Type IIIA embouchure often have a tendency to raise their horn angle while inhaling. When they bring the mouthpiece back down to play they may crash the mouthpiece rim against the lips, causing swelling and inhibiting endurance. Type IIIA players of larger mouthpieces, such as trombonists, may find that their nose gets in the way of their ascending pivot, necessitating practice increasing their lip pucker instead of relying exclusively on their pivot to ascend (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

Embouchure Type IIIB

IIIB Embouchure Type

The Type IIIB embouchure is perhaps the most common one, especially among symphonic brass players, and is therefore most frequently described in method books by brass pedagogues who recommend a single embouchure for all students. These players typically don’t place the mouthpiece as high as a Type IIIA embouchure or as low as a Type III. The upper lip still predominates inside the mouthpiece cup and this embouchure is therefore classified as a downstream embouchure. The lower teeth of a Type IIIB player is receded beneath the upper teeth on these players and the horn angle is usually slightly lower than a IIIA.

Type IIIB players always utilize Pivot Classification Two, pulling down towards the chin to ascend and pushing up to descend. When a Type IIIB student finds that Pivot Classification One is more efficient this player should be reclassified as a Type IIIA (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, p. 209).

Type IIIB embouchure players tend to have great flexibility and an easier time playing with a darker tone quality, but also have a tendency to become so concerned with a fat sounding lower and middle register that they play with too open an aperture. This results in difficulties playing above a concert D flat above high B flat. Because this type utilizes Pivot Classification Two it is also common for these players to dig the mouthpiece rim into their upper lip, causing swelling and trouble with endurance (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

Embouchure Type IV and IVA

Embouchure Types IV and IVA players have lower teeth which recede beneath the upper teeth while their jaw is in their resting position, but since these types place the mouthpiece with more lower lip inside the cup than upper lip the air stream is directed at an upward angle, regardless of the position of the jaw while playing or horn angle.

IV Embouchure Type

In addition to placing the mouthpiece lower on the lips, Reinhardt’s Type IV embouchure plays with the lower jaw quite protruded beyond the upper, in spite of the jaw’s natural position. While playing this embouchure type is identical to Reinhardt’s Type II embouchure. Due to the protruded position of the lower jaw the horn angle of this embouchure type is very high, sometimes higher than horizontal.

Type IV players almost always utilize Pivot Classification Two, pulling down to ascend and pushing up to descend. There are exceptions, however. In those exceptions Reinhardt often found that the mouthpiece placement was too low for this player’s embouchure and the player should adopt a different embouchure type (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, p. 210).

It is common for Type IV players to change their horn angle while inhaling and crash the mouthpiece against the lips for initial attacks, similar to the Type IIIB embouchure (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

IVA Embouchure Type

Type IVA embouchures are identical to Type IV embouchures with a couple of exceptions. Like the Type IV, these players place the mouthpiece with more lower lip inside the mouthpiece and the air stream is directed in an upward direction. Unlike the Type IV embouchure, Type IVA players keep their jaw in a somewhat receded position so that the lower jaw is beneath the upper while playing, resulting in a downward horn angle.

The Type IVA embouchure typically utilizes Pivot Classification Two, pulling down to ascend and pushing up to descend, but there are some deviations to this principle (Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, 1973, pp. 210-211).

The type IVA embouchure can be a very delicate embouchure type in the player’s early stages, which may be one reason why so many brass method books actively discourage utilizing this embouchure. When the Type IVA placement is a little wrong the whole embouchure system can often break down completely. Similar to the Type IIIB embouchure, Type IVA players often dig into their upper lip while pivoting down to ascend, causing excessive swelling (Sheetz, Quirks of the Types).

Further Exploration

The best way to learn more about the pedagogy of Donald S. Reinhardt is to study from one of his former students, particularly the few who attended his teacher clinics. Most of the students that Reinhardt taught focused exclusively on their personal correctional procedures and may not be as qualified as others to correctly classify a student’s embouchure type or design a good routine. Today there are more “second generation” students who learned about Reinhardt’s pedagogy from one of his former students and who have gone on to make it part of their own teaching.

Baring lessons with a qualified teacher, the most detailed book about Reinhardt’s teaching is The Encyclopedia of the Pivot System. Reinhardt’s intention with this large text was to help students who were taking lessons with him. It is organized in a frequently asked questions format by topic, but little effort was made to arrange the materials in a linear manner. The writing style can be very technical at times and this book may not be the best introduction to Reinhardt’s pedagogy, although serious students of the Pivot System will want to read this book. Pivot System for Trumpet/Trombone, A Complete Manual With Studies is a much older book and much of the writing in this book is considered out of date compared to the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System. It does, however, contain many exercises that Reinhardt developed to help players with breathing, tonguing, articulations, embouchure development, range, dynamics, and more. Like the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System, these books are best explored under the guidance of a teacher experienced with Reinhardt’s pedagogy who can help the student design a routine that fits the individual’s particular embouchure and tonguing types.

Selected Bibliography

Elliott, D. (1998). Ten questions with Doug Elliott, The Online Trombone Journal [Online]

Everett, T. (1974). An Interview with Dr. Donald S. Reinhardt, The Brass World, Vol. 9, No. 2, 93-97.

Reinhardt, D. S. (1973). The Encyclopedia of the Pivot System of the pivot system for all cupped mouthpiece brass instruments, a scientific text. New York: Charles Colin.

Reinhardt, D. S. (1942). Pivot System for Trombone, A Complete Manual With Studies. Bryn Mawr, PA: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.

Reinhardt, D. S. (1942). Pivot System for Trumpet, A Complete Manual With Studies. Bryn Mawr, PA: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.

Sheetz, David H. Gone But Still Important, PivoTalk on the Web [Online] Unavailable

Sheetz, David H. Quirks of the Type, PivoTalk on the Web [Online] Unavailable

Wilken, D. (2000). The correlation between Doug Elliott’s embouchure types and playing and selected physical characteristics among trombonists. D.A. diss., Ball State University.

Additional Resources

Trumpet Herald Donald S. Reinhardt Forum
An online forum devoted to discussing Reinhardt’s teaching and the Pivot System. Discussion here is actively moderated to restrict content to things written or spoken by Reinhardt exclusively.

Donald Reinhardt Facebook Discussion Group
A Facebook group for discussing the pedagogy and life of Donald Reinhardt.

Donald S. Reinhardt Foundation Official Website
The official web site of the Donald S. Reinhardt Foundation, a not for profit organization devoted to preserving the teachings of Reinhardt. At this time this web site has not been updated since 2011.

The Reinhardt Foundation Facebook Page
The Facebook page of the Donald S. Reinhardt Foundation.

Low-Down Sires at The Process – July 18, 2015

Low-Down Sires LogoIf you’re around Richmond, VA this weekend, I’ll be performing at The Process, a lindy hop event held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. The Low-Down Sires will be performing at the dance there from 9 PM to midnight on  Saturday, July 18, 2015.

I won’t have a lot of down time while we’re there, but if anyone is interested in meeting up for a lesson or just to hangout over coffee or other beverages drop me a line and let’s see if we can get our schedules to align. If you happen to be into swing dancing come on out to the dance and be sure to say hello to me during one of our set breaks.

Guess the Embouchure Type – Brad Edwards

Brad Edwards, who teaches trombone at the University of South Carolina, has started up at the Trombone Embouchure Video Project where he is challenging many trombonists to video record their embouchures and post them so that others may make use of them. Here is Brad’s chops. Take a look and see if you can guess his embouchure type. I’ll hide my guess after the break.

Continue reading Guess the Embouchure Type – Brad Edwards