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Thread: Embouchure Change/Building Upper Register

  1. Embouchure Change/Building Upper Register

    Hi All!

    I have been playing euphonium for 12-ish years and have been an active player in many groups both scholastic and municipal. Until recently I have been an upstream player, but I struggled noticeably with descending slurs and even tone across all registers. Through happenstance I have not been able to seriously practice my horn for about a year, and so I thought I would take the opportunity to experiment with a different mouthpiece placement and embouchure setting (I play an Adams E2 with a Schilke 51D and an Alliance DC3, and purposely didn't fiddle with the lead pipe angles or anything so I could make such a switch eventually). Overall, I'm happy to report that I am much more pleased with my tone development and facility/dexterity on the horn.

    The hangup I have is improving my high range. I can comfortably hit A4 (High G), but struggle to squeak out that Bb or higher. I feel as though either my bottom lip rolls under my top lip slightly, thereby constricting the buzz. I was wondering if anyone here has had a similar experience with relearning how to play and/or had some tips with regard to expanding one's high register.

    I have searched on this forum, as there is a wealth of info here, and found a few promising threads with links posted, but I couldn't get them to function for me, so any and all advice is appreciated and welcome!

    Thank you in advance!
    Last edited by euphoniumism; 07-08-2019 at 07:44 PM. Reason: equipment clarification

  2. #2
    Welcome to the forum!

    I'm an upstream player myself, assuming we use the term the same way. In my case, it's because my teeth have an "even bite" where the top and bottom teeth meet when I close my mouth. Most people have an overbite, where the top teeth are slightly forward of the bottom teeth when they close their jaw. With an overbite, you would want to be a downstream player.

    You can see my angle pretty clearly in the photo below, where I'm fooling around with an Adams marching euphonium.

    When I first went to college, the whole brass department was trying to convert people to downstream embouchures. My teacher realized soon that such a change was not going to happen for me because of my teeth. I think my tone is not as pure as it might be with a downstream setup, but I do the best I can and it has worked OK through my career.

    As far as high range, mine seems to be as strong as it should be. When I was in the band and playing full time, my high range was as good as my colleagues in the other bands. The late Rich Matteson (jazz euphonium) had a somewhat upstream embouchure and could produce a killer double Bb concert. And I will note that Doc Severinsen is an upstream player and seems to do OK with high notes on his trumpet.

    My standard advice is to use this technique, which I learned from Rich Matteson, if you want to build a proper high range:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  3. Dave, can you more thoroughly explain the “upstream” vs “downstream”? These are new words for me.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by jeffn60 View Post
    Dave, can you more thoroughly explain the “upstream” vs “downstream”? These are new words for me.
    Leave out the "stream" part of the word, and think about how the mouthpiece shank points while it is on your chops. Most players' mp shank points slightly downward from perpendicular. Mine points slightly upward.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    NYC metro area
    Quote Originally Posted by jeffn60 View Post
    Dave, can you more thoroughly explain the “upstream” vs “downstream”? These are new words for me.
    See the works of Donald Reinhardt. Here's a good write-up.
    Dean L. Surkin
    Mack Brass MACK-EU1150S, BB1, Kadja, and DE 101XTG9 mouthpieces
    Bach 36B trombone; pBone; Vincent Bach (from 1971) 6.5AL mouthpiece
    Steinway 1902 Model A, restored by AC Pianocraft in 1988; Kawai MP8, Yamaha KX-76
    See my avatar: Jazz (the black cockapoo) and Delilah (the cavapoo) keep me company while practicing

  6. Thanks for your response Mr. Werden!

    We are indeed using the same terms. Part of the reason I'm experimenting with the change is I do have an overbite, so I'm trying this out as a way to alleviate some of the fight against my horn and ultimately my physiology since I have the leisure to do it at the moment. I'll give the two octave scales a shot!

  7. Steven Mead has a video about developing high and low range. It's worth a look IMO.

    James Kircoff
    Genesee Wind Symphony - principal euphonium (Adams E3 Custom .60mm yellow brass bell w/ K&G 3.5)
    Capital City Brass Band (2019 NABBA 2nd section champions) - 1st baritone (Besson BE956 w/ Denis Wick 6BY)

  8. Thanks James, this is an awesome resource, and I found his Italian Masterclasses by extension, which goes deeper into this topic.

  9. #9
    I've been doing the Matteson method for a while now. Been able to reach the high Bb (Bb4?) a lot easier now. Trying to reach C5, but it's a whole different ballgame. My biggest issue is still sustaining the notes above E4 without losing the buzz AND sounding more ""open"

    I watched Steven Mead's video and noticed how it's more of tongue position instead of tightening the lips and shrinking the aperture. I think my tone most of the time sounds like the bad example that he showed in the video, tightening the aperture too much.

    I feel like I am missing something, whether it is the tongue position (the syllabus that Steven Mead and Matonis shared in their videos "A, O, E, I ) or just not enough air. I can't seem to figure out this whole "change your tongue placement to manipulate air speed while keeping the aperture the same size".

    I tried playing while lying down too (read about it from a very old thread, buzz with your mouthpiece on your face while lying down, and then play with the horn). I know I am not pressing too hard against the mouthpiece, but I think I am definitely squeezing my lips too hard or something>
    Last edited by ChristianeSparkle; 07-11-2019 at 03:29 AM.
    "Never over complicate things. Accept "bad" days. Always enjoy yourself when playing, love the sound we can make on our instruments (because that's why we all started playing the Euph)"

    Euph: Yamaha 642II Neo - 千歌音
    Mouthpiece: K&G 4D, Denis Wick 5AL

  10. #10
    The higher you play, the lower the volume of air you have to use, but at a higher pressure/ speed. For a low Bb imagine a bowling ball moving at 20 mph, pedal Bb a medicine ball at 10 mph. For tuning Bb a baseball at 40 and high Bb a golf ball at 80. This is an analogy that my teacher used that still helps me out. A similar chart can be found in the Song and Wind book, but with actual volume rather than ball sizes. Just be careful to create the speed and pressure with your gut rather than any face or throat tension.
    There was also a trumpet playing video that makes a lot of sense to me comparing falsetto singing to upper register playing. the vocal chords/folds work very similarly to how embouchure works, so trying to mimic that chest to head voice transition could inform you about playing.
    hope any of that helps.
    Alex S.

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