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Thread: Building embouchure

  1. Building embouchure

    Years ago, when I really started to pursue a career in Euphonium playing, I completely lost my sound and flexibility due to embouchure fatigue.

    I was 19 and went to study at a high school that was similar to a conservatory, but with no exams. I had lots of time to practice, and all subjects I attended was about music. Practiced four or five times a day each time for one and a half or two hours only playing solo stuff or etudes. It was like a fast run only to bang my head against a brick wall. After a month or so I had no strength left in my lips and couldn't even play the easiest parts in the school band. We had trouble with the tuba and euphonium teacher at that time so after a while I decided to go to Mr. TorbjÝrn Kvist(tubist at the Royal Norwegian Opera) to seek some advice.

    The method he encouraged me to follow was completely to rebuild my embouchure:
    First he told me to lay off playing for about 2-3 weeks
    Then I had to do the following
    1. week: Pick up my mouthpiece and just hold it softly against my lips and just feel the rim imagining how to play it. No sound.
    2. week: Carefully doing p-sounds in the mouthpiece still without buzzing.
    3. week: Placing the mouthpiece on the music stand to prevent press on the lips I started to buzz and focus on core and centring. Only 5-10 minutes at a time.
    4. week: Continue with mouthpiece on the stand and carefully doing scales and simple melodies. 5-15 minutes with a lot of breaks.
    5. week: Expanding range on the mouthpiece, still laying on the stand. Carefully starting to make sounds on the horn focusing on core and centring. Lots of breaks.
    6. week: Doing mouthpiece exercises still on the stand as warm up. Playing long notes with crescendo and decrescendo on the euphonium starting on F natural followed by slurs and scales, only within one and a half octave.
    7 week: Now starting to practice as normal, but doing basic studies 80% of the time. Always warming up with the mouthpiece first and having a lot of breaks.

    After this I was back to a normal life and could play with a much more focused sound and a lot of strength. I completely revised my practice sessions of course and did a lot of lip flexibilities, scales over more than two octaves, technical studies and all of the things you all know about always taking breaks before I got tired.

    From then on I was able to pick up signs of lip fatigue and could prevent this by the techniques I had acquired. I Have tried this cure on a couple of students of mine, but neither of them has had the patience to follow the method as I did. It demands a lot of time and can not be combined with any other playing at all. My students were not willing to lay off their band rehearsals so they never followed the method completely. And of course there is the issue of what worked for me may not work for others.

    I thought I should share this with you and maybe this could help getting rid of the buzz people are talking about. Dave was talking about different parts of lip vibrating at different frequencies. I have experienced this from time to time and I often relate it to fatigue and not focusing enough on centring. I now have some routine in embouchure building and I am flexible enough to play with a different pressure on my lips against the mouthpiece according to what the task is so I can "rest" while playing.

    I am of course deeply thankful for what TorbjÝrn did for me and I must say that without him I probably had left music and done something else.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Building embouchure

    This is interesting.

    But, not sure what you mean by, "Placing the mouthpiece on the music stand to prevent press on the lips"?

    Can you clarify? Thanx.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    Russian Christmas Music (Alfred Reed)
    El Cumbanchero (Rafael HernŠndez) cell phone video

  3. Building embouchure

    I see that one needs an explanation

    I place the mouthpiece on the music stand sideways so that the outer rim is slightly inside the edge of the stand adjusting the stand so I can sit with a straight back and the mouthpiece exactly in front of my lips. If I add some pressure on the rim the mouthpiece will be pushed further in and the lips will hit the edge of the stand. The whole idea is to prevent adding pressure to the mouthpiece and just using it to feel where one should focus the buzzing. This way you can buzz with just the feeling of the rim against your lips and exercise the embouchure with a focal point.

    There will be a lot of air leaking out between the lips and the rim, but this is ok because it is meant to be an exercise for buzzing. The problem with buzzing without a mouthpiece is that the focal point may shift to one of the sides. This way you can buzz "without" a mouthpiece and still feel where the focal point of the vibrating lips is.

    A simple test to be sure that the focal point is on the right spot is to play a tone on your lips, place the mouthpiece on your lips and then put the mouthpiece in your instrument while playing the same tone all the time. It is also a good indication of right focal point to play a tone, say a normal Bb natural right above the staff, and still being able to play the same tone on your lips seamlessly while taking the instrument (and your mouthpiece) off your lips.

    Hope this helps. I'm ready to clarify more, but now I'm off to conduct a concert

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Posts
    3,262

    Building embouchure

    Thanks for clarifying Kjetil. That makes sense.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    Russian Christmas Music (Alfred Reed)
    El Cumbanchero (Rafael HernŠndez) cell phone video

  5. #5

    Building embouchure

    I've heard it said that the amazing trumpet soloist Rafael Mendez used to do a demonstration about proper use of embouchure. He would hang his trumpet up so it floated freely on strings, then walk up to it and play a high C.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
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    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  6. Building embouchure

    Originally posted by: davewerden

    I've heard it said that the amazing trumpet soloist Rafael Mendez used to do a demonstration about proper use of embouchure. He would hang his trumpet up so it floated freely on strings, then walk up to it and play a high C.
    This has really helped me. I was struggling with higher notes. Then I read this, and realized that more pressure on the embouchure wasn't helping me reach them. I experimented a bit, and found that I could manage them much better by focusing on the embouchure and focusing the air stream, while keeping a light pressure on the mouthpiece. Very interesting.


  7. #7

    Building embouchure

    After Not playing for 2 months or more (Summer vacation) on the tuba, I attempted to pick it up and play as I had at the end of school. I soon realized that I needed to build up embouchure muscles again, and that no amount of pushing that mouthpiece into my mouth would let my play high.

    While I had figured this out, I wasn't quite sure if I was right (although when my tuba ring includes my upper lip being puffed a bit, I should have known real well what was going on). This has not only confirmed my thoughts but given me something to do about it. Which is important because by Oct. 1st I need to be damn good for some honor bands. =P

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