Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

How and what to teach and learn.
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Fri Feb 19, 2021 4:51 pm

The trombonist in the video below is a professional musician with a doctorate in trombone performance. He has a couple of issues in his embouchure mechanics that are causing his upper register to choke off here. Watch this video and see if you can pinpoint what is going wrong and what mechanical things he should do to fix it.



This one might be difficult to guess, unless you know what you're looking for. If it helps, I will say that this player was aware of the problems but had been having trouble getting the corrections to happen. Over years he's been good at disguising them, but it took a good warm up to cover them up and when fatigued the issues could creep back.

I should also mention that this particular subject is particularly intelligent, well liked by everyone who knows him, and handsome. And modest. Did I mention modest?

OK, rip me to shreds. After enough people have taken a stab at this I'll describe Doug Elliott's suggestions and post how things have proceeded from here.

Dave
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
User avatar
PosauneCat
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2021 10:59 pm
Location: Minneapolis

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by PosauneCat » Fri Feb 19, 2021 5:38 pm

Wilktone wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 4:51 pm
The trombonist in the video below is a professional musician with a doctorate in trombone performance. He has a couple of issues in his embouchure mechanics that are causing his upper register to choke off here. Watch this video and see if you can pinpoint what is going wrong and what mechanical things he should do to fix it.



This one might be difficult to guess, unless you know what you're looking for. If it helps, I will say that this player was aware of the problems but had been having trouble getting the corrections to happen. Over years he's been good at disguising them, but it took a good warm up to cover them up and when fatigued the issues could creep back.

I should also mention that this particular subject is particularly intelligent, well liked by everyone who knows him, and handsome. And modest. Did I mention modest?

OK, rip me to shreds. After enough people have taken a stab at this I'll describe Doug Elliott's suggestions and post how things have proceeded from here.

Dave
I’ll take a stab and say too wide an aperture when ascending.

Mike
Last edited by PosauneCat on Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
tmarco97
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Jul 16, 2019 12:03 am
Location: Texas

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by tmarco97 » Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:14 pm

Just taking a stab at this, but is his lower lip rolling under his upper lip as he ascends? I know that poses some problems for me as I try to play in the upper part of my register.
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2167
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by harrisonreed » Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:23 pm

I am not an embouchure expert -- this is just what my untrained eyes see, and what I hear.

To me it looks like your placement is unusually low for the angle your horn is at. It looks like you're an upstream player, based on your jaw moving back for the lower notes.

At 0:46 we hear just air passing through two lips that aren't vibrating. I think this indicates pinching and an embouchure that is too tight over the teeth, or puckered too tightly.

I don't think you are letting the interaction of the air going into the trombone vibrate your lips, and you are trying to artificially create resistance there to cause them to vibrate (like buzzing a mouthpiece or free buzzing).

You are very brave to put yourself out here like this. You said to rip you to shreds, so while trying to use tact, I will say that if you are an advocate of buzzing a mouthpiece or free buzzing, and you teach your students to do so, your video is perfect evidence against doing those things. Too much tension!

So yes, if you are indeed an upstream player, the mouthpiece looks very low -- perhaps a smaller rim size to minimize the excessive shifting I see up/down/left/right. It should be low, but shouldn't the horn angle for that type of playing be more perpendicular to your face or even the opposite of what we see, rather than down and away from your nose?

The bottom lip should dominate the vibration, so I think the horn angle is too low. It should go more up towards your nose as you ascend, even as the lips shift down over your teeth, away from the base of your nose.

Rather than increase tension and anticipate the upper register (you were trigger shy), you should increase the offset between your upper and lower lips (ie pivot), and let the resistance of the horn do the work.

Watch, I am 100% the opposite of what an expert sees going on. I apologise in advance!
timothy42b
Posts: 863
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:51 am
Location: central Virginia

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by timothy42b » Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:42 pm

I hear tension somewhere but I don't know enough to describe what. It just sounds like you're forcing something that should be more relaxed. When I listen hard to your example I feel my upper lip want to shorten and my corners rise slightly. But I play downstream and you up.

Are you maybe rolling in?
Doubler
Posts: 290
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2019 8:56 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Doubler » Fri Feb 19, 2021 8:29 pm

I've never been enthused nor convinced about upstream/downstream discussions. To me they're two ways of playing inefficiently. I say you need a balance of upper/lower lip within the rim, and the angle has to be neutral in order to access all registers with minimal change in embouchure and instrument positioning.

I see Wilktone relying almost exclusively on his lower lip to accomplish everything, and I think that this is partly because his mouthpiece rim is too large to adequately frame his embouchure. As a result, the lower lip is overworked, inducing fatigue, while the upper lip is restrained by the pressure and limit of the rim itself covering it, preventing it from vibrating, also causing inflexibility and fatigue.

A smaller mouthpiece rim, combined with more or less centering it on the lips and easy, relaxed exercises focused on tone production, resonance, and moderate, slow lip slurs will go a long way toward improving things, IMO. I can almost guarantee that improvement will not happen overnight, but progress can be made and felt in a relatively short period of time.
Current instruments:
Olds Studio trombone, 3 trumpets, 1 flugelhorn, 1 cornet, 1 shofar, 1 keyboard

Previous trombones:
Selmer Bundy, Marceau
WilliamLang
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Nov 22, 2019 6:12 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by WilliamLang » Fri Feb 19, 2021 9:21 pm

This is a super interesting question to me. There are maybe some slight mechanical issues, but to my eyes and ears I don't know if they stem from the muscles or from the mental approach. It's hard to get into here for a few reasons, but I would try to take a more holistic approach as opposed to a embochure-based approach and see what can be achieved, because the embochure doesn't look too off to me, and once the sound is established it doesn't sound too bad.
William Lang
Professor of Trombone, the Longy School of Music
founding member of loadbang
www.williamlang.org
baileyman
Posts: 574
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:33 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by baileyman » Sat Feb 20, 2021 6:47 am

Seems to be focusing on horn angle. Dunno why. Sounds to me like the mouth resonance isn't tuned to the higher note when attempted. I'd suggest blowing through pursed lips listening to the whoosh and get it tuned to the higher note and try again.

And maybe try smaller intervals. Fourths seem pretty good for not prompting unexpected chop changes.

And try it upside down, prolly in fourths first, if the higher note will sound.
baileyman
Posts: 574
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:33 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by baileyman » Sat Feb 20, 2021 6:48 am

Seems to be focusing on horn angle. Dunno why. Sounds to me like the mouth resonance isn't tuned to the higher note when attempted. I'd suggest blowing through pursed lips listening to the whoosh and get it tuned to the higher note and try again.

And maybe try smaller intervals. Fourths seem pretty good for not prompting unexpected chop changes.

And try it upside down, prolly in fourths first, if the higher note will sound.
AndrewMeronek
Posts: 607
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2018 6:09 pm
Location: Detroit area
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by AndrewMeronek » Sat Feb 20, 2021 6:58 am

It's not his low placement, per se. Some great players have very low placements and are fine - the great Dick Nash comes to mind. Actually, I remember in college a euphonium player who had a pretty similar placement: low and also with the downward horn angle, and she was fine. Because it looks different, this is a setup that can easily be misinterpreted by people though.

I noticed one thing: compared to middle B-flat, both going up and going down involve the horn angle generally rising a tad. My suspicion would be to try lowering the horn angle for the upper B-flat, so the movement from low to high is more consistent. Keep the left-right movement, that doesn't look inconsistent to me.

I'd also ask to see the same slurs done on a different horn - maybe with a different slide width or a baritone horn or something. Sometimes with narrow slides, the neck restricts getting to just the right angle for a high or low range.
“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk
User avatar
Neo Bri
Posts: 1288
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:30 am
Location: Netherwhere
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Neo Bri » Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:33 am

Obvious IV-A (in old money). I'd like to see some buzz-ins to determine what the placement is like, and to prevent any of the "wind-ups" that are happening before the slurs. My guess is that a wind-up is occurring before execution and it's shutting things when ascending.

Also, although the placement is low (IV-A), I'd like to see what happens when it's a little higher, giving you room to pull a little more in the high range.

Someone mentioned the aperture possibly being too wide in the high range. I feel it could be the opposite problem where the placement is so low that the aperture mechanically starts to cut off when the downward pull happpens.

Don't pull so hard?
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:40 am

All interesting ideas, everyone. Thanks for sharing them. Someone did hit the nail on the head above (although whacked around on the sides of the nail some too), but first I want to comment on some of the above ideas.
PosauneCat wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 5:38 pm
I’ll take a stab and say too wide an aperture when ascending.
That could cause similar symptoms. But while you're in the right ballpark, your playing for the wrong team (does that analogy work? I don't do sportball).
tmarco97 wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:14 pm
Just taking a stab at this, but is his lower lip rolling under his upper lip as he ascends? I know that poses some problems for me as I try to play in the upper part of my register.
It's certainly possible to roll the lower lip too much while ascending, but in my case that would be very hard to do. Notice how low on the lips my mouthpiece placement is. For players like me, with the lower lip predominating inside the mouthpiece, the lower lip won't really roll in to ascend, it sort of flattens out. Here are a couple of photos that show what I mean.

Image

That's me playing the F above high Bb. You can't really see the aperture too well in this photo (my friend who took that photo for me didn't get the right angle for that), so here's a player with a very similar embouchure playing the same note.

Image

Those are both upstream embouchures, meaning the lower lip predominates inside the mouthpiece and the air gets directed towards the top of the cup as the player blows. Downstream players can roll the lower lip, but to a degree this is normal. I prefer to think of an excessive lower lip roll as more of a symptom of something else not working correctly.
harrisonreed wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:23 pm
To me it looks like your placement is unusually low for the angle your horn is at. It looks like you're an upstream player, based on your jaw moving back for the lower notes.
I wouldn't focus on the jaw moving forward or back as a way to distinguish upstream/downstream, it's the amount of upper to lower lip inside the cup that determines it. It is true that most upstream players have a horn angle that is closer to straight out, but some do have a lowered horn angle, like myself and the other player in the photo above.
You are very brave to put yourself out here like this.
No, I just have no shame.
. . . perhaps a smaller rim size to minimize the excessive shifting I see up/down/left/right.
I play with one of Doug Elliott's "N" sized rims, meaning it's narrow at the outer diameter, in order to get a little more space on the chin. The inner diameter, however, works better for me as larger (N103 Elliott rim, for those of you who understand that, Doug explained this to me a while ago and I've forgotten the details so he'll have to correct me). Several years ago I was playing on a 101 rim. Doug had me try a 102, then the 103. As I went bigger on each rim things improved a bit - until I went to the 104 when it got too big.
timothy42b wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:42 pm
I hear tension somewhere but I don't know enough to describe what. It just sounds like you're forcing something that should be more relaxed.
Sort of, but that's pretty vague. As a teacher I'm fine saying, "I don't know yet, let's try working on X and let's see what happens and we'll come back to this later." Sometimes the problems will go away on their own by working on other elements of good technique. But sometimes that just covers up the real issue, which causes problems down the road.
Doubler wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 8:29 pm
I've never been enthused nor convinced about upstream/downstream discussions. To me they're two ways of playing inefficiently. I say you need a balance of upper/lower lip within the rim, and the angle has to be neutral in order to access all registers with minimal change in embouchure and instrument positioning.
If you take the time to look at how brass embouchures actually function I think you will find that a "balance of upper/lower lip within the rim" just doesn't exist, at least not without the embouchure having some dysfunction. All well functioning brass embouchures are either upstream (less common) or downstream (more common). And minimal change in embouchure form and function can look quite different from player to player. There needs to be the correct amount of change, not too much or too little.
A smaller mouthpiece rim, combined with more or less centering it on the lips and easy, relaxed exercises focused on tone production, resonance, and moderate, slow lip slurs will go a long way toward improving things, IMO.
See above for my experience with smaller rims.

I will agree that your suggestion of exercises would be useful overall, but in and of itself wouldn't really take care of the mechanical issues.
WilliamLang wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 9:21 pm
There are maybe some slight mechanical issues, but to my eyes and ears I don't know if they stem from the muscles or from the mental approach. It's hard to get into here for a few reasons, but I would try to take a more holistic approach as opposed to a embochure-based approach and see what can be achieved. . .
It's very common to approach embouchures issues like that, from a holistic mental approach. I don't want to come across as suggesting this is bad, especially if we don't really know what's going on and how to best fix it (see my thoughts on "I don't know yet, but let's work on something else first" above).
. . .because the embochure doesn't look too off to me, and once the sound is established it doesn't sound too bad.
Well, just to show some more, here is a clip from the same day, same practice session, about 45 minutes or so later. After warming up I'm able to get around the issues, but I'm really just covering them up. You can still see (and hear) the problems if you know what to look for.



Can you see it yet? I'll come back later today and clarify what is going on. Just to offer a clue, someone above did get there, but it was sort like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Dave
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:43 am

Neo Bri wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:33 am
Obvious IV-A (in old money).
Yes, Reinhardt embouchure type IVA. Doug and I both agree that there's really no need to distinguish a difference between IV (low placement, upstream with horn angle close to straight out) and IVA (lowered horn angle). They both effectively function the same and you can also see similar horn angle differences between the other embouchure types.

You posted while I was writing my lengthy post just above. I'll comment more on your thoughts later.
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2167
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by harrisonreed » Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:46 am

So... The crazy solution is to bring the slide crook up above nose level as you ascend? As you move your jaw forward? Because you're upstream? Joke. And stop buzzing. Joke. But seriously.

Must be Andrew. He was the only one you didn't mention. He talked about moving the horn left/right over your face.

Could be me. I threw a lot of spaghetti but you agreed to almost all of it. Spaghetti is good.

If the answer is "move the horn further and further right as I ascend" I'm out.
User avatar
ArbanRubank
Posts: 234
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2019 7:50 am

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by ArbanRubank » Sat Feb 20, 2021 8:13 am

I had a tough nut to crack once, but it was going down instead of up. What worked for me was to approach it from what I could do well and then work to extend it downward in small increments; stopping when it didn't work and even retreating back to firm ground if necessary. It took me about 3 months to get to where I needed to go. Maybe it involved muscle training as well as the chop membranes actually having to regrow to vibrate correctly.

So, following that train of thought, I would start where I was solid. I wouldn't repeat failing attempts, hoping for a different outcome with each effort. Why re-enforce failure? I would always work from solid ground. I think you are trying to slur an octave from middle Bb up one octave. Perhaps you are solid somewhere else - like middle G in 4th position, up an octave. If that was me, then I would slowly work up the slide, even in 1/8th step increments, if that's what it took. It might take me a while with this approach, but I think eventually, I would make it.

There may be a quicker way, however.
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:04 am

harrisonreed wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:46 am
Must be Andrew. He was the only one you didn't mention. He talked about moving the horn left/right over your face.
Oops, I missed Andrew's post too. As you might guess, it took a while for me to get my earlier post written and edited, since it's so long. I think he posted after I started too and I only noticed Neo Bri's post after I submitted.
Could be me. I threw a lot of spaghetti but you agreed to almost all of it. Spaghetti is good.
Mm, I think I know what I'm going to cook for dinner tonight now that you mention it.
ArbanRubank wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 8:13 am
I had a tough nut to crack once, but it was going down instead of up. What worked for me was to approach it from what I could do well and then work to extend it downward in small increments; stopping when it didn't work and even retreating back to firm ground if necessary.
Yes, that's a good strategy, but I think it's better if we do this with a complete understanding of what is causing the problem in the first place. Sometimes the mechanical issue is starting in another range and not breaking down until it gets to another spot. See below.
AndrewMeronek wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 6:58 am
I'd also ask to see the same slurs done on a different horn - maybe with a different slide width or a baritone horn or something. Sometimes with narrow slides, the neck restricts getting to just the right angle for a high or low range
That can sometimes be an issue for me and other players who place best towards the left side and who need to bring the horn angle towards the left. Back in 1998, when I interviewed Doug Elliott for my dissertation and grabbed a lesson, he had me flip my horn left handed so that I could feel my ascending horn angle change to the left working.
Neo Bri wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:33 am
Also, although the placement is low (IV-A), I'd like to see what happens when it's a little higher, giving you room to pull a little more in the high range.
That's not a bad suggestion, although I don't think that's really the case here. It's a good idea to not assume that a player's placement is ideal always and it's worth trying out some different things.

I think two or three of you have gotten close enough that I'll go ahead and spill the beans.
harrisonreed wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:23 pm
I think this indicates pinching and an embouchure that is too tight over the teeth, or puckered too tightly.
Yes! Too much pucker. This seems to be the biggest problem of the inconsistencies, to me.
harrisonreed wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:23 pm
minimize the excessive shifting I see up/down/left/right.
I wouldn't use the term "shifting" to describe the embouchure motion of pushing/pulling the mouthpiece and lips along the teeth and gums as well as any accompanying horn angle changes, but you're correct in that it's not working so efficiently.
baileyman wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 6:47 am
Sounds to me like the mouth resonance isn't tuned to the higher note when attempted. I'd suggest blowing through pursed lips listening to the whoosh and get it tuned to the higher note and try again.
That's indeed part of the issue, but a little hard for me to show on video without going into an fMRI and all that. But that's exactly one of the things that Doug had me working on to make corrections.
Neo Bri wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:33 am
I'd like to see some buzz-ins to determine what the placement is like, and to prevent any of the "wind-ups" that are happening before the slurs.
Buzzing in with an upstream embouchure is problematic. Free buzzing upstream really doesn't target the correct muscles for playing (the area just under the mouth corners). But that is something that Doug had me try out just to see what happened. It really didn't work. Good insights, though. I'll write more about this in another post.
Neo Bri wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:33 am
Someone mentioned the aperture possibly being too wide in the high range. I feel it could be the opposite problem where the placement is so low that the aperture mechanically starts to cut off when the downward pull happpens.
Yes, it's too tight because my embouchure formation is too puckered too quickly.
Neo Bri wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:33 am
Don't pull so hard?
Yes, my embouchure motion moves too quickly towards ascending. If you watch my octave slurs closely you can see my embouchure motion is to pull down and to my left to ascend, push up and to my right to descend. The horn angle needs to follow the shape of my teeth and gums and go left to ascend and right to descend.

The overall track of that is too far on the ascending side in the middle range. Look at the amount between low Bb and middle Bb and compare how much there is between middle Bb and high Bb. There's not really any room to keep that going as I ascend. The middle range needs to be further towards the lower register side of things.

Combined with the excessive pucker (and a tongue position that's probably too high), I have a tendency to overshoot notes between F above the staff and high Bb. When I'm not warmed up (like in the first video above) or getting tired, that range can completely choke off.

I've been aware of these problems for a while now, but it's been tough to make the necessary corrections habitual. Now that we have identified the three areas that need work (not puckering so much, keep the middle register embouchure motion closer to the low register, tongue position too high), how would you go about fixing these issues?

Just to be clear, I've recently made some good progress on these things with some help from Doug. The practice that I used to get there was . . . interesting. I'll post about that experience in a while, but I want to give you all a chance to throw out some ideas and see what sticks.
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
Doug Elliott
Posts: 1473
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:12 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Doug Elliott » Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:39 am

Tongue & Blow?
Song & Wind?
Gin & Tonic?
Tomato & Basil?
Salt & Pepper?

Persimmons will make you pucker....
User avatar
ArbanRubank
Posts: 234
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2019 7:50 am

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by ArbanRubank » Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:50 am

Wilktone wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:04 am
ArbanRubank wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 8:13 am
I had a tough nut to crack once, but it was going down instead of up. What worked for me was to approach it from what I could do well and then work to extend it downward in small increments; stopping when it didn't work and even retreating back to firm ground if necessary.
Yes, that's a good strategy, but I think it's better if we do this with a complete understanding of what is causing the problem in the first place. Sometimes the mechanical issue is starting in another range and not breaking down until it gets to another spot. See below.
Fair enough. I learned a lot about my particular embouchure mechanics in the process and it still took a long time.

So while embouchure mechanics might well be THE primary driver, I still assert that the muscles, tissues, etc sometimes need time to regroup after whatever changes a correction in embouchure mechanics necessitates. At least they did for me.
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:11 am

ArbanRubank wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:50 am
So while embouchure mechanics might well be THE primary driver, I still assert that the muscles, tissues, etc sometimes need time to regroup after whatever changes a correction in embouchure mechanics necessitates. At least they did for me.
Yes, absolutely! Any time a correction is made (in breathing and tonguing too) you need to adjust things and often that means building strength and control.

The point I was trying to make was that in my particular case I might try working up to the high Bb from low or middle Bb, but since middle Bb has been too far towards the ascending side of things, that working up from there without getting the middle register towards where it needs to be won't really fix the problem. I prefer to approach these things from a point of understanding what I'm doing and what the cause and effect is.

That might seem like a no-brainer and should be assumed, but a lot of brass pedagogy approaches this from the standpoint that you shouldn't think about how you're playing. Case in point:
Doug Elliott wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:39 am
Tongue & Blow?
Song & Wind?
That's not to suggest that these approaches are always bad. In fact, I would argue that some of our daily practice time should be devoted to that. But again, that's sort of like throwing the spaghetti against the wall and hoping that something sticks. You still end up with a mess to clean up.
Doug Elliott wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:39 am
Gin & Tonic?
Tomato & Basil?
Salt & Pepper?
Mmm, I know exactly what I'm going to have with my spaghetti for dinner tonight.
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2167
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by harrisonreed » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:15 am

I'll revisit some of the stuff I mentioned earlier, now that we sort of know what is going on.

1. How do you know that your mouthpiece diameter is not too big, as I suggested? If these changes you talked about with Doug are new strategies, and these videos are the result of your progress, then you were possibly worse off before, technique-wise, when you were using the smaller rims. Things getting better moving to bigger rims may have just been you getting better at coping.

Think about it, the jaw is what controls most of the pivot, however you go about it, upstream or down. It's the only part of your head that is able to control the physical angle of the aperture. I thought it was pretty much an accepted fact that blowing air angled closer to the bore of the mouthpiece (ie nearly straight in) produces the airflow and compression needed for the low register, and angling the air closer to the rim is the pivot needed for the upper register. With the right size mouthpiece this change in airflow can be accomplished with almost no motion of the instrument, and very small movements of the jaw and tongue. In your video, your horn has to move everywhere to change registers. It's not like it's a bad habit, but I think it's necessitated out of your equipment. You actually have to do those things to play. Bear with me:

If your aperture is above the throat of the mouthpiece and you are upstream to begin with, the larger the cup diameter you use, the further below the aperture the bore will be (you're not going to change where the mp feels right on your upper lip), and the more of a pivot you will need in order to move into the lower register. I would not be surprised if you had to switch to downstream to blow a pedal Bb. To visualize, imagine the same placement on your upper lip but using a sand bucket -- the bore would be below your chin and you could never ever hit it without switching to downstream. If you put a trumpet mouthpiece on the same spot, the bore would probably be above the aperture.

With such a low placement, your aperture is extremely close to the target you need to hit for the upper register, namely right inside the rim. However, you probably learned to play from the middle register, and so your natural setup is unnaturally pivoted to direct air closer to the middle of the cup. A larger mouthpiece moves that target further away, making your basic "natural" embouchure more and more unnatural.

Likewise, for me, placing most of the mouthpiece on my upper lip puts my aperture below the bore. In this case, the larger the cup diameter, the closer the bore is to my natural, comfortable placement. On a 5G I have to go from down stream to upstream in order to get the air close to the bore and play a pedal tone. On a 2G I just blow straight in.

So, I'm willing to bet that your jaw is forced into an unnatural, receded position just for normal mid register playing and you've gotten used to that. You are pivoted in your basic register before you even start, giving yourself less usable use motion to go away from the basic middle notes. You are moving the horn up on your face to get the bore closer aligned with the aperture, rather than just changing the direction of the air with your tongue and jaw (changing the shape of the aperture).

With a smaller rim, the bore would be closer aligned with the aperture while your jaw is in a relaxed position. THEN you can utilize your jaw to direct the air. Pivot into the upper register, and relax into the middle register.
Last edited by harrisonreed on Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2167
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by harrisonreed » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:30 am

2. You say don't focus on the jaw movement forward and backwards, and only focus on the way the air goes. See 1. above. I think the only mechanism to control the aperture and how the air goes into the mouthpiece is the jaw. It dictates the correct embouchure type.

3. Now that we know that you're puckering too tight, I think it is worth going holistic and thinking about resistance. How can you just use your jaw to control an otherwise relaxed embouchure? How can you leverage the resistance of the trombone to "complete" your buzz as your air hits it, rather than forcing the buzz?
MTbassbone
Posts: 186
Joined: Sat Apr 21, 2018 3:08 pm
Location: Silver Spring, MD

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by MTbassbone » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:46 am

Doug Elliott wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:39 am
Tongue & Blow?
Song & Wind?
Gin & Tonic?
Tomato & Basil?
Salt & Pepper?

Persimmons will make you pucker....
Beans & Rice creates Song & Wind..... :good:
User avatar
PosauneCat
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2021 10:59 pm
Location: Minneapolis

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by PosauneCat » Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:06 am

Doug Elliott wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:39 am
Tongue & Blow?
Song & Wind?
Gin & Tonic?
Tomato & Basil?
Salt & Pepper?

Persimmons will make you pucker....

Perhaps the best post on any trombone forum ever. I am using number three quite liberally.
Last edited by PosauneCat on Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
Doug Elliott
Posts: 1473
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:12 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Doug Elliott » Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:21 am

MTbassbone wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:46 am
Beans & Rice creates Song & Wind..... :good:
Why didn't I think of that...
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:38 am

harrisonreed wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:15 am
How do you know that your mouthpiece diameter is not too big, as I suggested?
Good question. I still have my Elliott 101 rim. I'll screw it on and try it out later. I just got finished practicing something pretty strenuous and want to rest for a while before I play again.
harrisonreed wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:15 am
Think about it, the jaw is what controls most of the pivot, however you go about it, upstream or down.
Let's not use the term "pivot" here. It means different things to different people, so I don't want to muddy the waters. My preference is to use the term Doug used when he first taught this concept to me, "embouchure motion."

All players, whether or not they are consciously aware, will push the mouthpiece and lips together along the teeth and gums while changing registers. This motion will be generally in an up or down direction, but most people have at least a little bit from one side to another. The track of my own embouchure motion is to pull down and to my left to ascend and push up and to my right to descend.

As the mouthpiece rim moves along the teeth and gums it's necessary for the horn angles to change around to keep the foundation of the teeth/gums underneath the rim/lips consistent. So as I ascend and pull down and to the left, I also will bring my horn angle in that direction to keep it consistent. Some players will have a horn angle change that goes more up/down, but often they are doing that in place of the embouchure motion. Think of the left hand as a fulcrum, as the bell moves down the mouthpiece comes up. You see this a lot with trumpet players, I think, who have their left hands further away from the face compared with trombonists.

The jaw also does come into play. I believe it's probably best to not drop/raise the jaw (or minimize that as much as possible). It will move forward/back and also left to right, but this should probably be pretty minimal. There also seems to be a correlation between side to side jaw motion and side to side horn angle changes as well. If the horn angle needs to move to one side, the jaw will move slightly to the other side. So as I ascend I'm pulling down and to my left, bringing my horn angle towards the left, and moving my jaw slightly forward and to the right.

Doug can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think most players will bring the jaw slightly forward to ascend. At least that's something Donald Reinhardt wrote. I'm not sure that this is universal, though, and you might find variations with all embouchure types. Doug?

So where you say the jaw is controlling all this, I think it's more of a coordination of these different interactions together (along with tongue position and breath control too).
harrisonreed wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:15 am
It's the only part of your head that is able to control the physical angle of the aperture.
The lip compression and the embouchure motion also contribute to the angle the air stream will be directed. With an upstream player the lower lip will flatten and get drawn in to ascend. When an upstream player pulls down to ascend that also helps to align the aperture correctly. With downstream players it's different, depending on the type, but the lower lip will tend to roll in. Lloyd Leno's film is a pretty good look at these things.
harrisonreed wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:15 am
I would not be surprised if you had to switch to downstream to blow a pedal Bb.
Here's my pedal Bb. Granted, this photo was taken while working on my dissertation, so sometime around 1999 I think. I'll try to grab some video of me playing pedals into a transparent mouthpiece later and we can see what I'm doing now, but my guess is it will look pretty similar.

Image
harrisonreed wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:15 am
So, I'm willing to bet that your jaw is forced into an unnatural, receded position just for normal mid register playing and you've gotten used to that. You are pivoted in your basic register before you even start, giving yourself less usable use motion to go away from the basic middle notes. You are moving the horn up on your face to get the bore closer aligned with the aperture, rather than just changing the direction of the air with your tongue and jaw (changing the shape of the aperture).
I'm not sure I'm fully following you here, partly because of what you may or may not be meaning by "pivot" and "moving the horn up on your face."

I can bring my jaw forward and align the teeth, but playing that way with an upstream embouchure doesn't work for me. I know a trumpet player with the same embouchure characteristics as mine who has told me he has the exact same issue if he brings his jaw forward and horn angle up. He's a pretty good player (https://youtu.be/lyxXOcHhYV4?t=2906).
harrisonreed wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:30 am
You say don't focus on the jaw movement forward and backwards, and only focus on the way the air goes.
Did I say that? I didn't mean to imply that. See above.
harrisonreed wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:30 am
I think the only mechanism to control the aperture and how the air goes into the mouthpiece is the jaw. It dictates the correct embouchure type.
There are other factors that come into play in addition to the ones I mentioned above. The relationship of the length of the lips to the teeth and gums are another factor that I think help determine a player's best embouchure type, but certainly the anatomy of the jaw come into play as well. But again, I don't think we'll find the jaw moving forward/backwards will determine the embouchure type alone.

Here's a downstream trombonist playing a low Bb.

Image

Here's the same player playing a middle Bb.

Image

And a high Bb.

Image

He's also protruding his jaw to ascend (probably too much, but I don't recall how those notes sounded). You can also see how much he's relying on a lower lip roll to direct the air stream.

Here's another upstream trombonist playing a low Bb.

Image

Middle Bb

Image

High Bb

Image

I think his jaw drop on the low Bb is disguising the overall jaw position somewhat. Here's his F above high Bb.

Image

You can see the lower lip flattening out here as he ascends. His jaw position moves forwards slightly as he ascends too.
harrisonreed wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:30 am
Now that we know that you're puckering too tight, I think it is worth going holistic and thinking about resistance. How can you just use your jaw to control an otherwise relaxed embouchure? How can you leverage the resistance of the trombone to "complete" your buzz as your air hits it, rather than forcing the buzz?
That's a pretty good suggestion (although I don't want to be too "relaxed"). It mirrors some things that Doug had me try out and I'm at a spot now where that sort of practice is helping. But at the time I recorded the above video that sort of practice wasn't really working for me. The habitual puckering was particularly hard to get rid of. So assume you have a student that that recommendation isn't clicking with. What other things might you try?
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2167
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by harrisonreed » Sat Feb 20, 2021 3:23 pm

Another thing you could try, isolate the tongue's role in changing registers. Focus on the back of your tongue, and work on slow octave leaps. The lower note is a regular "ta" or "toh" articulation. When the note is established, using a "gah", "gohh", or "gee" (like geek) articulation, move up an octave without anticipating or shifting too much. Which sound depends on which octave you are in.

Then go back down the octave, by just sitting the tongue to move back to where it was before.
User avatar
PaulTdot
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2019 5:13 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by PaulTdot » Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:30 pm

I commented on this elsewhere alread, but I felt the need to jump in to correct the terrible advice from someone named "Doug Elliott". Persimmons will not work here, I know from personal experience! Low placement players should be eating kumquats, instead. So I'll copy my notes here:

My take is that, perhaps, there is over-pivoting happening: too much adjustment for the lower octave doesn't leave enough room to make the upper octave cleanly. It looks like Dave is struggling a bit to find the right "spot" for the upper note here, with a little bit of an inconsistent motion, and that could be from having moved too far on the way "up" to there. But I think there may be other things going on, as well - this is a tricky one.

I'm looking forward to hearing the remedy and how it is applied!
Paul T.
---
XO Brass Recording Artist
1236L-O
timothy42b
Posts: 863
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:51 am
Location: central Virginia

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by timothy42b » Sun Feb 21, 2021 7:07 am

Wilktone wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:04 am

I wouldn't use the term "shifting" to describe the embouchure motion of pushing/pulling the mouthpiece and lips along the teeth and gums as well as any accompanying horn angle changes, but you're correct in that it's not working so efficiently.

Yes, my embouchure motion moves too quickly towards ascending. If you watch my octave slurs closely you can see my embouchure motion is to pull down and to my left to ascend, push up and to my right to descend. The horn angle needs to follow the shape of my teeth and gums and go left to ascend and right to descend.

The overall track of that is too far on the ascending side in the middle range. Look at the amount between low Bb and middle Bb and compare how much there is between middle Bb and high Bb. There's not really any room to keep that going as I ascend. The middle range needs to be further towards the lower register side of things.
I see something else happening and I wonder if it contributes.

When I watch trumpet and trombone players, I see mostly the head still, and the horn moving. When i watch tuba, horn, or euphonium players, who are more constrained by their instrument, I see the instrument still and the head moving. Obviously either one can work.

Watching you I see a little of both. Could that be hurting consistency? Sometimes you adjust with your head, sometimes with your horn.

I think you teach both jazz and classical (did I almost say legit? <smiley>) A microphone player may be training himself to keep the horn still and move the head, while a classical player the opposite. If you do both, do you get confused?
User avatar
Oslide
Posts: 99
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:13 am
Location: Switzerland, BL

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Oslide » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:20 am

...shot out of the blue...
Open your downward angle a bit and open the "back of your head".
"Reason": When I see your pucker I feel my throat contricting low down at the root of my tongue.
What I wrote might help you - at least in my fancy.
Ceterum censeo to fetch All of TTF
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:29 am

Here are some things I don't want to let slip through the cracks:

Doug, do you agree with what Reinhardt wrote about the jaw always coming forward very slightly to ascend and coming back very slightly to descend for all types? It's the case for me (with some side to side) and it seems to be the case for many other players as well, but I don't know necessarily how universal this might be.

Harrison, do the photos and videos help show how lip compression, embouchure motion and jaw position interact to help a player adjust the air stream direction? In practice, I don't think about directing the air stream further upward as I ascend nor do I think other players should, although I know that some people find it helpful to think this way. I also know that there are others who swear that they blow straight down, but I don't believe them. At least not if things are working well.

Speaking of which, Doubler, do the videos and photos above help show upstream/downstream in a good enough context to better understand how brass embouchure actually function? While some players might fell like a 50/50 placement and the sensation of blowing straight down the mouthpiece shank works, that's not advisable in practice. One lip or another needs to predominate and the air stream must be blown generally in one direction or another to function well. When it doesn't there are problems that you can see and hear if you know what to look for. I have some video that I can post that demonstrates this if you want to see.
Oslide wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:20 am
Open your downward angle a bit and open the "back of your head".
I don't fully follow you. "Open" my angle and back of my head?
harrisonreed wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 3:23 pm
Another thing you could try, isolate the tongue's role in changing registers.
Harrison, for someone who claims to not be an expert you've been pretty insightful in this thread. This is also something that Doug had been recommending to me.
PaulTdot wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:30 pm
I commented on this elsewhere alread, but I felt the need to jump in to correct the terrible advice from someone named "Doug Elliott".
Yeah, I know. Just wait until I tell you exactly what crazy experiment we tried to get me moving in the right direction.
PaulTdot wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:30 pm
My take is that, perhaps, there is over-pivoting happening: too much adjustment for the lower octave doesn't leave enough room to make the upper octave cleanly.
Let's not use the term "pivot" here. I'll use "embouchure motion" instead.

Yes, that is spot on. In the videos I posted above if you look closely you might notice me "fishing" around a bit for the right spot on the middle Bb. I am aware that it's usually too far towards my ascending side, so when I catch myself doing it I will bring it back.
timothy42b wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 7:07 am
Watching you I see a little of both. Could that be hurting consistency? Sometimes you adjust with your head, sometimes with your horn.
What do you know, I hadn't noticed that really but you're right. I'm not overly concerned about it now, it's fairly minimal, but it would probably be better to keep my head still and do it more with the left hand. Little things like this that go unnoticed can sometimes turn into bigger problems later.

So fine tuning my embouchure motion and tongue arch are two things that can be improved here. Doing exercises that focus on them or isolate them can be very helpful. For example, Harrison's suggested exercise for tongue position. His idea of just using my jaw to change registers also is a good way to train ascending from low Bb up to middle Bb while keeping my embouchure motion minimal.

The excessive lip pucker has been a tougher nut to crack, though. It's interesting because this is the exact opposite problem that a lot of upstream players have. It's fairly common to see Low Placement embouchure type players who pull the mouth corners back to ascend (smile embouchure). I'm finding that like many players who do that, it hasn't been possible for me to fix that problem just by looking at a mirror while I play and paying attention to it.

The typical solution for this problem has been alluded to by a couple of people above already, I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on how you might help a student fix the smile embouchure or an excessive lip pucker? How would your advice change for an upstream player compared to a downstream player?
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
User avatar
ArbanRubank
Posts: 234
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2019 7:50 am

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by ArbanRubank » Sun Feb 21, 2021 10:12 am

Going back to the title of your thread, I see the words "crazy fix". So here's a crazy idea. For the purpose of this exercise to correct a problem - adopt a very high placement downstream embouchure. If you can even play, work the problem using everything you know about embouchure mechanics. When you think you have made a break-through, revert back to your usual upstream embouchure and flip everything you learned upside down. How's that for crazy?

Warning to all others: don't try this at home. Dave is a professionally-trained musician in a closed studio.
User avatar
imsevimse
Posts: 846
Joined: Sun Apr 29, 2018 10:43 am
Location: Sweden

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by imsevimse » Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:24 am

Well I'm a little late to the discussion. From the first video it sounds like the cavaty of the mouth does not match the frequencies played and the sound on middle Bb and low Bb is not a relaxed free sound. It could also be caused by tensions in the tongue or in the throat. It is very hard to guess but there is a lot of air that leaking. I mean air that goes through the instrument and not creates a sound. This can be caused by tensions in the emboushure where tension is not wanted. Right were the sound creates on the lips the emboushure must be relaxed to give a free sound. Right were the aperture is, where the hole is there can not be tensions. The tissue should work as free as possible. It must be soft and free to vibrate. Around the hole the muscles need to do the right things. This is what I hear. Then what to do about it?

I think long tones and soft playing in a more comfortable register would help the situation more than more of what is not working . Relaxed sounds in comfortable registers is how I have helped myself and to gradually expand this up in register and down.

If you feel you need to angle left for low notes and right for high notes or vice versa, and this helps I think you should keep it. I do a little of that too but only in the low register on the valve and not as much as you do, but I have also noticed that helps me.

I'm no expert on emboushures except my own emboushure so I can not help much there and apologise for any wrong conclusions, but to me this does not sound and look like an emboushure problem. It sounds more like suffeeing from fatigue and tensions. Fatigue can make us forget basics and we might build up tensions at places were there are no tensions when we are fresh. If this happens to me I put the horn in the box. Is that the crazy fix?

I remember I had days when nothing worked when I was young and then I just took the day off. It happened when I had practiced too much. Today I never get that tired and my emboushure has become much more efficient and robust. I never thought I could double on trombone, french horn, trumpet and flugelhorn and for certain I could not imagine to do all those instruments every day with my emboushure, but that's what I've done now for more than half a year and it works. Something did change because when I was a teacher on all brass and had students I could not play all the mouthpieces so I concentrated on trombone but now when I'm free to experiment and take this in steps it acctually works.

/Tom
My profile on facebook with new videos from concerts: https://www.facebook.com/tomas.hillerbrant

My webbpage: https://sites.google.com/site/brazzmusic

"Do your best and then do better" ttf_watermailonman
Doug Elliott
Posts: 1473
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:12 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Doug Elliott » Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:27 am

ArbanRubank got it right!

I knew that Dave would be up for an experiment, so I suggested a week or so of downstream, but being careful to use the Very High (IIIA in Reinhardt terms) placement and motion. That had a good chance of stabilizing his corners in a better place.

Dave's corners were too far forward, too puckered, and had been heading that direction for a while. I went through that myself a long time ago with similar problems, so I'm familiar with the feeling.

Upstream embouchures seem to have a particular problem with finding the best location for the corners. Many of them either pull back too far or are puckered too much. Upstream can work really well when it's right, but sometimes it's a challenge to get there.

I'll let him tell the rest of the story.
User avatar
Oslide
Posts: 99
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:13 am
Location: Switzerland, BL

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Oslide » Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:35 am

Wilktone wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:29 am
Oslide wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:20 am
Open your downward angle a bit and open the "back of your head".
I don't fully follow you. "Open" my angle and back of my head?
Not a big surprise :)

Singers work a lot with such pictures, e.g. "imagine to drink your tone".

My impression is that your pucker causes you to constrict your throat low down, and the imagination of blowing your tone not through the lips but through the "back (or top) of your head" might help you to achieve a better shape of the tongue, oral cavity, and throat.

But I see the experts going in a different direction. Not a big surprise either :)
Ceterum censeo to fetch All of TTF
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:51 am

ArbanRubank wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 10:12 am
Going back to the title of your thread, I see the words "crazy fix". So here's a crazy idea. For the purpose of this exercise to correct a problem - adopt a very high placement downstream embouchure.
Awesome! I really didn't think anyone would get there without many more big hints!

Here's a video montage that shows some clips from before I started playing exclusively with a Very High Placement embouchure type for 10 days, and then a couple of days after switching back. It's about 7 minutes long, skip to 5:02 to see the first day back with a Low Placement embouchure.

David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:56 am

Oslide wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:35 am
My impression is that your pucker causes you to constrict your throat low down, and the imagination of blowing your tone not through the lips but through the "back (or top) of your head" might help you to achieve a better shape of the tongue, oral cavity, and throat.
Analogies and mental imagery is good. An awful lot of trombone playing is knacky and you just need to do it until you figure out how to make it click for you. Unfortunately it doesn't always work the same for different players. Sometimes they can be taken too literally.

I think one of the things that got me into this downward spiral in the first place was taking something too literally, or at least too far.

But I'll try out your analogy some and see how it works. After the 10 day experiment to get my mouth corners working better I'm in a place now where making the corrections to my tongue level and embouchure motion are working better.
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
biggiesmalls
Posts: 363
Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2019 2:52 pm
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by biggiesmalls » Sun Feb 21, 2021 1:19 pm

Thanks for the video Dave, it's great to be able to follow the experiment and see the results of this divergent collaboration between you and Doug.
Oslide wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:35 am
My impression is that your pucker causes you to constrict your throat low down, and the imagination of blowing your tone not through the lips but through the "back (or top) of your head" might help you to achieve a better shape of the tongue, oral cavity, and throat.
Interesting. Recently, I was finally able to address some lingering tensions in the left side of my throat and tongue by imagining that my sound was emanating from the center of my forehead/third eye. This visualization (really just an adaptation of a meditation technique) had a centering and balancing effect that allowed me to identify and release the tensions in the left side of my breathing system. My tone, flexibility, tongue speed, legato playing and high register consistency all improved. Once the correct "feel" had been established, I no longer needed the visualization, but I still sometimes find it helpful in the high register, and when my high register is really clicking, I'll get a little tingle in the center of my forehead, as if it's telling me "Yes! That's right!. Just relax..."
User avatar
PaulTdot
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2019 5:13 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by PaulTdot » Sun Feb 21, 2021 1:28 pm

Wilktone wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:56 am
An awful lot of trombone playing is knacky [...]
Now isn't that a sentence!

Meanwhile:

Dave, I can't thank you enough for documenting this process. Quite the fascinating journey! I hope you will continue to keep us in the loop (I don't know how long ago this all was, or if it's entirely "current".)

As I've mentioned to you privately, it's very hard for me to imagine having any issues with over-puckering (my natural tendency was always to smile), so watching this is absolutely fascinating to me.

Doug, do you know how you ended up over-puckering, and were the results similar to what we're seeing here?

Thank you both for sharing this incredible little piece of brass journalism.
Paul T.
---
XO Brass Recording Artist
1236L-O
User avatar
PaulTdot
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2019 5:13 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by PaulTdot » Sun Feb 21, 2021 1:37 pm

I'm also curious about the use of the elasticity routine.

I would think that if anything might tempt a player to over-pucker, it would be that. Were there risks involved, or is there some reason it's particular useful here?
Paul T.
---
XO Brass Recording Artist
1236L-O
grgryrock
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue May 01, 2018 6:57 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by grgryrock » Sun Feb 21, 2021 1:54 pm

Doug, do you know how you ended up over-puckering, and were the results similar to what we're seeing here?

I’d like to understand this as well. I’ve recently have gone back to modern trombone after about ten years of playing historical trombones and I’m finding that the mouthpieces, being a bit different than my modern mouthpiece, has changed some things For me. I’m doing a lot of puckering. Interesting thread, I’ve been following it with much interest!
Gregory Rock
baileyman
Posts: 574
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:33 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by baileyman » Sun Feb 21, 2021 2:34 pm

Bummer the whatever-type-it-is-embouchure cannot freebuzz very well. Maybe the temporary setting would do it better? Experience indicates, if a note can be buzzed, it can be played, with some exceptions for the crazy lows in partial 0.5 and down (still working on that though).
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2167
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by harrisonreed » Sun Feb 21, 2021 4:36 pm

I don't think the the jaw comes forward to ascend for downstream players. For me it moves up and back, as the tongue moves forward towards the back of my top teeth. You're describing upstream playing, where the jar moves the aperture to face towards the rim by moving forward.

Dave, from the videos, I have to ask -- are you hitting some sort of initial stage of focal dystonia? I realize that the videos of the "crazy fix" were a fight the entire time. But even after switching back, there's a fight going on there.

Everything, even after the switch back, sounds pinched, where there is air going through lips that do not want to vibrate freely.

I don't think the freebuzzing you are doing as the mouthpiece moves onto your face is helping you here, even after you stop doing it and switch back to upstream. I think it is hurting you. The tone sounds like someone buzzing into a mouthpiece, instead of letting the horn resistance create the buzz. Again, though I know it is a spear thrown, but your last video illustrates how buzzing helps you practice putting tension into the system and create a pinched tone. Compare to this:



With a further explanation after people lambasted him:



The tone in your videos sounds close to the mouthpiece buzzing sound Lindberg says buzzing causes.

It would be interesting to see a video where you are not experimenting and you are just playing something to compare the other videos to. I want so badly to know, oh, he is having these troubles because he is just experimenting. I truly hope you are not having this struggle in your normal playing!
timothy42b
Posts: 863
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:51 am
Location: central Virginia

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by timothy42b » Sun Feb 21, 2021 5:16 pm

I notice two things completely unrelated to the original topic. Sorry!

You keep a read pBone on a stand with the mouthpiece in. I don't do that because on my red one, as the friction fit wore, it became unreliable enough sometimes the weight of the mouthpiece would make the slide detach and bash the mouthpiece on the floor. Since most mouthpieces cost more than a pBone that seems like a bad idea.

You do Warmup 57 like someone else who posted here recently.

Okay, returning you to your regularly scheduled topic.

Oh wait. I watched your video all the way. When you switched back to upstream, your first Bb was slightly lower pitch to my ears than it had been earlier. I didn't check with a tuner, I might be wrong, or it might have been a cold horn, but if not then there's a slight difference in tuning here. Either mouth cavity or where you're playing in reference to the slot. Also when you started your downstream journey and were playing fifths, your F was more sharp than I expected.
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:46 pm

timothy42b wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 5:16 pm
You keep a read pBone on a stand with the mouthpiece in. I don't do that because on my red one, as the friction fit wore, it became unreliable enough sometimes the weight of the mouthpiece would make the slide detach and bash the mouthpiece on the floor.
Thanks for the heads up.
timothy42b wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 5:16 pm
You do Warmup 57 like someone else who posted here recently.
Yes. I've always liked the circuit training idea behind it. For those of you who don't know about this routine, there are some long tones/lip slurs, flexibility exercises, and ascending chromatic patterns. In this routine you play through a number of sets of these exercises that keep expanding the range as it goes further.

Doug has mentioned that this exercise was probably originally designed for what he calls the "Medium High Placement" embouchure type. I chose to use that routine because my range with a Very High Placement wasn't good enough to play much over F above the staff, so I liked how it stayed in the middle range longer.
harrisonreed wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 4:36 pm
I don't think the the jaw comes forward to ascend for downstream players.
Maybe, maybe not. As I mentioned above, I don't really know how universal this feature is. Regardless, you will find downstream players who do move the jaw slightly forward to ascend. You might be different.
harrisonreed wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 4:36 pm
Dave, from the videos, I have to ask -- are you hitting some sort of initial stage of focal dystonia? I realize that the videos of the "crazy fix" were a fight the entire time. But even after switching back, there's a fight going on there.
Thanks for your concern, that's so sweet!

Well, especially the first day back it was challenging because I had just spent 10 days playing with an embouchure that is upside down from what I'm used to. That was 5 days ago.
harrisonreed wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 4:36 pm
It would be interesting to see a video where you are not experimenting and you are just playing something to compare the other videos to. I want so badly to know, oh, he is having these troubles because he is just experimenting. I truly hope you are not having this struggle in your normal playing!
Ask and ye shall receive.



Yes, a lot of upstream players have more trouble getting a darker and resonant tone. It's something I continue to work on. My tone kind of reminds me of Kai Winding's at times, who was also an upstream player. I'm aiming for more like Dick Nash, another upstream player.
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2167
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by harrisonreed » Sun Feb 21, 2021 7:40 pm

I feel better! A total difference from the other videos taken out of musical context. Phew!

The crazy fix though... What did that fix? If you're upstream, you're upstream, right? It's like making a lefty write with their right hand.
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Wilktone » Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:17 am

harrisonreed wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 7:40 pm
I feel better! A total difference from the other videos taken out of musical context. Phew!

The crazy fix though... What did that fix? If you're upstream, you're upstream, right? It's like making a lefty write with their right hand.
My excessive lip pucker had gotten to the point of where it was a conditioned response to putting the mouthpiece on the lips. It was just too hard to not put the corners forward and inward. In one of my lessons with Doug while working on this I commented that if I were a downstream player I would be buzzing into the mouthpiece. While free buzzing my corners are where I want them to be while playing.

We tried it, but it requires flipping the lip position as the mouthpiece contacts the lips and it wasn't working. Switching to downstream allowed me to buzz into the instrument (the very thing you were feeling was hurting me). I also think the strange playing sensation of having everything upside down also changed the feel enough that the conditioned response to over puckering when the mouthpiece was set on the lips was eliminated. If you compare the before and during clips carefully you might be able to see the corners stay further back when I play with the Very High Placement type. All that time playing upside down like that helped to train my mouth corners to stay where I want them to be for my Low Placement embouchure. Now that I've switched back I'm hyper aware of when the corners begin to pucker and the feeling of them staying back is something I can more easily capture and return to.

The opposite embouchure motion (pushing up to ascend, rather than pulling down to ascend) also may have helped me similarly. As we worked out above, I have a tendency to be too far in my ascending direction (downward, for my Low Placement type) in the middle register (and probably then for the upper register too as I continue to move that way to ascend). While playing as a Very High Placement I had to remain conscious to do the reverse motion and started to get used to it. After switching back I'm again hyper aware of when I go too far.

I don't want to give the completely wrong impression of my playing before and after. The earlier clips I posted here were chosen precisely because those were the times I got caught with my pants down, so to speak. Some folks might not notice much of a difference between clips of me blowing over some changes before and after, but it certainly feels better to me now.

With the pandemic I don't have any real playing obligations right now, so it was a good time to do this. Probably I could have worked it out during normal times eventually, but I think it would have taken more time and I would have been able to play any gigs downstream and switching back and forth for practice and performing would have bee difficult.

Thank you, Doug, for the help. Thank you everyone else for the interesting discussion and I hope you've found it interesting and helpful.

Dave
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
User avatar
ArbanRubank
Posts: 234
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2019 7:50 am

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by ArbanRubank » Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:42 am

Wilktone wrote:
Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:17 am
Thank you everyone else for the interesting discussion and I hope you've found it interesting and helpful.

Dave
I did.

I have been periodically attempting to play a Doug Yeo replica mouthpiece on my single-trigger bass. Why? Because it is capable of a really nice sound. But it has been a struggle for me. The vids of you buzzing into the mouthpiece gave me a concept. I applied it this morning with excellent results.

Thanks!
User avatar
PaulTdot
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2019 5:13 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by PaulTdot » Mon Feb 22, 2021 11:31 am

As I have commented elsewhere, this has been an incredible study and I commend your bravery, both for trying something so unorthodox and for standing naked before us and showing us the journey.

I look forward to hearing about the longer-term effects!
Paul T.
---
XO Brass Recording Artist
1236L-O
Basbasun
Posts: 394
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:03 am

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Basbasun » Tue Feb 23, 2021 8:12 am

harrisonreed wrote: ↑Mon Feb 22, 2021 12:36 am
I don't think the the jaw comes forward to ascend for downstream players.

I did look up what D Reinhardt wrote in his famous book
Indeed he wrote that downplayers jaw moved forward to ascend. He wrote the same for upstream players.
My believe is that he made amisstake in his writing.

I taught trombone playing at music gymnasium for 30 years, a instirut for teachers of music for 26 years, the Royal School of Music for 25 years. I did see "downstream" players move their jaw forward for high range. But very few. Most Swedish trombone players who place the mpc high do the opposite. I say at least 90 %.
Doug Elliott
Posts: 1473
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:12 pm

Re: Spot the Embouchure Issues and Guess the Crazy Fix

Post by Doug Elliott » Tue Feb 23, 2021 8:56 am

I agree that Reinhardt made some mistakes.
But I also think that what a player does (no matter how great they are) is not necessarily indicative of what they should do. Consistency issues, bad days, chop breakdowns, and "dystonia" come from doing things that are inefficient, inconsistent, and sometimes harmful - or NOT doing the right things that continue to build consistency.

Jaw manipulation is a very individual thing, and generally should be very little, if any.
Post Reply

Return to “Teaching & Learning”