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Thread: Pitch-Affected Embouchure

  1. #1

    Pitch-Affected Embouchure

    I am a euphonium player with a high-placed embouchure. Through practice, I've noticed that when pulling my bottom lip in (even more so than it already is), I managed to greatly increase my range and tone clarity. The problem is, along with this increase in tone and range clarity, I find that I'm a lot more sharp than I was before (without being able to lower the pitch with my mouth).

    I also play the trumpet, but my embouchure for it is completely different than my embouchure for the euphonium- 80% bottom lip, and 20% top lip; when I play, I'm almost always sharp.

    Do any of you have any ideas on how I can lower/improve my pitch?

    Thank you

  2. #2
    I'm not sure what you mean by "pulling my bottom lip." Do you mean curling it inward or outward? Or do you mean stretching it sideways?

    My embouchure depends on the bottom lip for movement, for the most part. I don't feel like I have a lot of control over the top lip, but when I change ranges the bottom lip tends to tighten loosen from side to side. I am keeping my corners "anchored" though, so for the most part they don't move.

    Other than those general comments, I don't know why you're going sharp. I suspect at least part of it is the natural tendency among brass players. "I'd rather play sharp than be out of tune" is the cliche.

    Try working with a tuner. When you first get the horn out, tune it to a middle Bb (concert pitch). Then keep the tuner running during your practice. Normally the horn is a little cold when you start and will naturally get sharper as you warm it up. For for a few weeks or longer, don't move the tuning slide from your initial position, but try to keep the pitch accurate. My former colleague in the C.G. Band, Denis Winter, spent a whole semester during college playing with his tuning slide all the way in. His instructor wanted him to play more on the bottom of the pitch to darken his sound. It seemed to work, because Denis had very nice sound (on his Conn Constellation) the first time I heard him when he auditioned for the band. And a similar exercise for you might help you un-learn bad habits. I have to fight my tendency to want to push the pitch sharper as I play. When you are sharper, it is easier to hear yourself and you feel like you are projecting better. So if that is happening to you, now is a good time to break the habit.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Central North Carolina
    Whenever I notice a tendency to go sharp, it is (in my case, I emphasize) ALWAYS because I'm using too much pressure on the mouthpiece. This is a particular danger if you are trying to increase your high range.

    Over the past several years I've played alongside a number of decent to very good tuba players in community bands. Exactly three of them have exhibited good tuning and intonation. Several of the others had terrible difficulty tuning their horns to 440 and habitually play with their tuning slides pulled out 3" or more. These guys have very good technique, but in hot weather (~ 85+ deg F) they CANNOT get their instruments in tune. Yet these are high quality instruments (typically Miraphones) and they use standard mouthpieces on them (e.g., Conn 120S, Schilke 66 or 67, or reasonable Miraphone ones). When they tune in a band practice session, they are always sharp, pull their slides more, and still have trouble. Some of them are very experienced and at least a couple used to be in military bands. I STRONGLY suspect that they are just using too tight an embouchure and/or too much pressure on the mouthpiece. This is very easy to do if you don't think about it and work at correcting it.

    Something similar MAY be your problem. If you don't feel that you "have a lot of control over the top lip", and if your corners are "anchored", then that MAY be because you have the mouthpiece firmly mashed (good Southern term I've learned) up against your top lip.

    Just something to check. Try some exercises where you attempt to use the least mouthpiece pressure you can in playing all the notes, and see how that affects your tuning and intonation.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

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