Sunday, September 15, 2013

Giving Lip Service

This post is for all of us simple trumpeters who might be in need of a facial adjustment or two. Silliness is sometimes the best way to make a point. Speaking of clear points, which of these guys is more likely to deliver a crystal clear, sharp-edged tone, Mr. Flabby-Leaky Lips, or Mr. Snazzy-Steely Lips? Wonder how they sound?

Often our greatest need is not for the newest horn, a pricey mouthpiece, or an amazingly huge air stream.  The big time deficiency could well be the not-so-wonderful mouth of Mr. Touloose-Lips himself!  The good news: getting a spanking new spiffy embouchure costs us nothing.

The key word for today is embouchure. A great setup is the first step towards a great sound. Both lips must be disciplined to work for us, not against us. Each part of the embouchure must participate. We shouldn't have to try to play well in spite of lazy lips.  Let's declare this month EMBOUCHURE EFFICIENCY MONTH.

Free-flowing air must travel over firmly anchored lips. An unfocused embouchure disperses the airstream robbing us of clarity, projection, and endurance.  We should also include lack of accuracy and range. 

An ultra relaxed look might seem very cool, but music is not about appearances.  Simply focus and blow.  Hit the audience with your streaming air, not the side of your neighbor's face! 

The best advice I remember on clarity: "Pucker, point the tongue and blow."  Another profound comment: "Direct your air straight down the pipe."  Another: "Release the air, don't attack the note." Also: Buzz it, then play it. And: "Great playing begins with a great embouchure."

Whatever is happening right behind your mouthpiece matters!