Could I have a second (or third, fourth, fifth,…) opinion on something? I’ve been looking over and over at what Greg says on embouchure, but something just doesn’t add up for me. (Knowing and loving WindWorks, I’m sure it’s all there. It’s me who’s missing something. That last piece of the jigsaw has slid under the newspaper, I bet!) I’m not sure I can explain the bit I’m struggling with (okay, yes, LOTS of bits I’m struggling with, but this particular one 😉 but here’s my attempt: I find if I move the corners of the aperture (yes, the corners of “the black bit”) inwards, the lips slide over the mouth piece cup, and that just doesn’t seem right to me. Anders Larsen says on his digitaltrombone.com site to “make sure to keep the distance between the corners of your mouth constant. This should be the distance you have when relaxing without smiling”. He says a lot of the same things that Greg says, so I’m inclined to listen. Is this the missing piece of the jigsaw? Should the aperture corners move inwards, but the corners of the MOUTH actually have to STAY IN THE SAME PLACE? I’ve been afraid of smiling, but maybe some “pinning the corners into place” is needed?
As I said, I find it hard to put in words what I’m asking, but hope this makes some sense!
Thanks for your help!
Can you elaborate further about what you mean “the lips slide over the mouthpiece cup”? You don’t mean the rim of the mouthpiece (mouthpiece winds up inside your mouth).
You mean your lips come out of the cup when you engage the aperture corners?
If that’s what you mean, I’m not sure that would make sense as the engagement of the aperture “corners” is a forward motion inwards towards the air column / center of the mouthpiece. I don’t understand how the lips could move out of the cup if you are contracting the corners.
I was just warming up right now thinking about your post and will think about it further.
If you can elaborate a little more, I / others may be able to help.
Thanks so much for looking at this, John. Yes, I do mean the rim, but I mean there is relative movement between the lips and the mouthpiece in the plane of the rim. If you picture the rim of the mouthpiece as a solid disc, the lips slide across that disc. I don’t know if that makes it any clearer… I’ll have a think about how to explain this better.
Thanks Jutta. It may depend on the mouthpiece and lips. For me, I play a Bach 3C and my lips aren’t thick and it feels like my lips are able to stay within the diameter of the inner cup at both extremes–wide open low notes and very small diameter high notes. Might be different for others. Would be interesting to hear others take on this. I hadn’t thought about this before.
What’s your concern? Does it not feel right / sound wrong?
Hope that helps.
It occurred to me that the lips/cup thing is a bit of a red herring. The fundamental question is this: The corners of the aperture should move inwards (towards the centre) when ascening. What about the corners of the mouth? Should they move inwards as well, or should they stay the same distance apart?
The movement is somewhat of a subtle thing and should only be as much as necessary, determined through experimentation. Less is more.
The corners of the mouth don’t seem to move much to me, there is more of a sensation of engagement/tension in the corners while the middle part of the lips are free to vibrate.
To me, it feels more as if the vibration is happening more and more inside the aperture as I go higher. I was kind of working on a bullseye graphic of concentric circles with colored patterns in each gap between the circles but can’t figure out how to paste it in here. Here’s a link to a bullseye diagram:
Pedal tones might be on the outside (white) area, the black rim area may be low register, the blue rim may be middle register (on the staff), red area might be upper register with High C and beyond in the innermost Yellow band.
To do this type of graphic right, though, it would probably need to be more of a 3 dimensional graphic though and the yellow band would be more inside the aperture (i.e. closer to the teeth than the mouthpiece rim). This is MY experience and may vary with others.
Early on, I overdid the “aperture corner” enagement thing and took it way too literally and thought of the aperture corners as the corners of the mouth, resulting in too much of a pucker and too much mouthpiece protrusion–this made it difficult for me to articulate, manage consistency, control (i.e. dynamics), etc. I could obtain the pitch(es), but couldn’t use them much.
As I worked on making harmonic slurs more efficient and focusing in on each pitch more and more, and working on fast articulation throughout my newfound range, I learned to do less which wound up being less and less of a “pucker” and more and more of a subtle engagement of the aperture/corners.
This is my $.02, FWIW. Hopefully others will chime in on this as well. But hopefully something in there is helpful to you.
Thanks so much for the description, John. I think it will take a few more reads to understand what you are saying, but I certainly greatly appreciate your efforts! Your comment that “more tension is less” is interesting and certainly strikes a chord. I have noticed that I sometimes get a note with no discernible tension when the same pitch takes a lot of apparent tension at other times, but I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing differently. I think it may possibly be to do with jaw position. The lower the jaw is, the more “preset” tension there is anyway at the aperture corners, so less need for extra tightening? That’s my current theory, anyway. I’ll keep on exploring; probably start right at the bottom end of the instrument and see how far I can relax and still get a note out. Thanks again!
You’re welcome. Good luck.
The “more tension is less” that you mention isn’t quite what I wrote.
What I wrote/meant is that the tension is in the aperture corners, not the middle of the lips–which is the area that interacts with the air and must be left free to vibrate as fast as possible.
And the tension os only as much as necessary. It’s best to lead with the air and let the aperture corners respond to the air; this can be a split second but makes a big difference between actively blowing air through the instrument versus releasing air like Greg’s bow and arrow analogy.
I can relate to your observation that sometimes you get a pitch with less tension and sometimes it takes more.
I have encountered this before and have used those experiences as clues into playing more efficiently.
It’s probably because you reduced the size of the aperture and don’t have unnecessary tension, therefore you aren’t fighting against the instrument / yourself.
I play most days parts of music I was experimenting with previously when I had that experience to see if I can replicate it again and understand it better. For a while, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it again but in time I stopped doubting it and it became my new normal. I still play them occasionally, but it’s becoming less and less now as I no longer feel the need to and there are new things that seem more relevant to my playing, goals, etc.