Embouchure smile while playing high

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ChuckTbone
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Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by ChuckTbone »

I need help fixing my embouchure to play high
I’ve been playing trombone for over 8 years and have never been able to get above a high Bb 4 ledger lines above bass clef. I have been shown that I make a smile while playing high and I cannot find anything to do that fixes this. I have tried holding my lips down, free buzzing to strengthen the muscles (which I cannot do) and everything in between. I’m just curious if it’s holding back my range and how the heck I fix this because I need to be able to play Bolero which is a little bit higher in range than what I have currently for college auditions.


Thanks!
Chuck
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WilliamLang
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by WilliamLang »

There's a few ways to work on it - one way I personally like is to use a mirror when going through the partials and trying to find the minimum motion that you need to go up and down. Other people will have a lot of advice for you as well - try it out and use what works for you, as everyone is different!
William Lang
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Kdanielsen
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by Kdanielsen »

Don’t fix it with your high range, fix it in the middle register. Figure out how to structure your embouchure there, then bring it up into the high range. For me the thing that got me a toe hold was imagining that I was pushing my cheeks against my teeth and gums. You could also imagine sucking a straw. This usually engages a good ring of embouchure structure (especially flattens the chin).

Mirror is great advice. Just pay attention. Figure it out.
Kris Danielsen D.M.A.

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Burgerbob
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by Burgerbob »

This is said a lot, but I would highly recommend a lesson with Doug Elliot.
Aidan Ritchie, LA area player and teacher
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by Doug Elliott »

Yeah ..
"I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two."
baileyman
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by baileyman »

It's really curious looking at the outside to figure out the inside. If you look at Scott Whitfield from one side, he's got a huge smile. From the other he looks like Farkas.

Must be something terrible going on in there!
timothy42b
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by timothy42b »

If you've been actively practicing for 8 years and not got into the higher range, then what you're doing is probably never going to work. I know that sounds a bit harsh but it's time to get some advice that's right for your chops.

Doug will clear up a lot of confusion for you about how to work on it correctly. I wish I'd seen him years before I did. There is satisfaction in doing it yourself just like fixing your own plumbing but when you get stuck call a pro.

None of us can help you remotely although many of us could tell you what worked for us - trouble is it might be the opposite of what will work for you.
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Wilktone
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by Wilktone »

Simply trying to not smile usually doesn't work too well and takes a long time. I usually suggest free buzzing to help with this, but it seems as if you're having trouble free buzzing. I could probably give you a hand with that in a video lesson, but since you have the chance to catch one from Doug I'd suggest you start there. Whatever I tell you would be based on what I've learned from Doug in my lessons.
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Sniffynose
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by Sniffynose »

Wind & Song…

Work on some breathing exercises!

Remington slurs are great for developing and getting control over your air. I’ll bet your chops will fall into place after that.
Last edited by Sniffynose on Tue Sep 19, 2023 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Vegasbound
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by Vegasbound »

Have a lesson with Doug Elliott
JeffBone44
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by JeffBone44 »

baileyman wrote: Tue Sep 19, 2023 5:45 am It's really curious looking at the outside to figure out the inside. If you look at Scott Whitfield from one side, he's got a huge smile. From the other he looks like Farkas.

Must be something terrible going on in there!
Two-face!
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by JeffBone44 »

I will also say to definitely have a lesson with Doug.
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BGuttman
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by BGuttman »

Just a warning about taking a lesson from Doug. When Doug finds a problem he will make a recommendation. Sometimes what he recommends is HARD. You have to do something to improve; leaving it as is will not. Be prepared to apply the effort do do what he recommends. I have a friend who took a lesson and decided he didn't like what Doug recommended (a larger mouthpiece among other things) and just ignored it. He didn't improve.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by Doug Elliott »

Hmmm
I don't think very many people find my recommendations "hard."
Yes, sometimes I recommend larger mouthpieces, and sometimes smaller, and sometime I say to stay on what you're using.
And some "can't handle the truth."
"I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two."
afugate
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by afugate »

Hard is probably not be the right word.

It can certainly be challenging to replace old muscle memory with new muscle memory. :)

--Andy in OKC
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dukesboneman
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by dukesboneman »

I also recommend practicing in front of a mirror. also , as said before , work on your embouchure in your middle range. Get it under control at low volumes and on an easier range.
Also try
The Caruso exercises will help alot
musicofnote
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by musicofnote »

content deleted by author
Last edited by musicofnote on Sun Jun 30, 2024 1:27 am, edited 2 times in total.
timothy42b
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by timothy42b »

I think, and this is just me, that there are skills in music, athletics, etc., where you have to get the knack. You need to change something and it may be subtle or invisible, or obvious.

If you work very hard and consistently, you might find that practice makes permanent. You never do it "wrong" enough to hit that magic spot where the note pops out or the club hits the ball on the sweet spot or whatever. Consistency when you're doing something right is what we need, but consistency doing something almost right can be a road block.

When that happens you usually need help. There are probably some other strategies (sleep deprivation, pharmaceuticals, insanity, etc) that will do it too, but I'd try a lesson first.

Again this is just me.
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BGuttman
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by BGuttman »

When I was younger I did the "smile when playing high" thing. Then I read Denis Wick's book where he talks about the "frown". I tried it. Worked great. Now it took a while of practicing to replace the smile with the frown, but eventually I learned it and my range got higher.
Bruce Guttman
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harrisonreed
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by harrisonreed »

If you're playing high, you're probably smiling.
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Wilktone
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by Wilktone »

Sniffynose wrote: Tue Sep 19, 2023 10:54 am Wind & Song…

Work on some breathing exercises!

Remington slurs are great for developing and getting control over your air. I’ll bet your chops will fall into place after that.
Embouchure issues are caused by embouchure mechanics, QED.

There's nothing wrong with spending time on breathing and expressive playing. In fact, they are essential. But alone, they will not inherently fix an embouchure problem.

Arnold Jacobs often spoke of making corrections by replacing a bad habit with the correct one. He also suggested to do so by introducing strangeness or removing the instrument from the equation to help interrupt the conditioned response (e.g., pulling the mouth corners back to ascend). Buzzing (correctly) without the instrument or mouthpiece hits those beats. It removes the instrument temporarily and allows the student to focus on buzzing correctly. It's unusual and the conditioned response is less likely to creep into play. It also strengthens the correct muscles and helps the student feel what it's like to buzz without pulling the corners back. And it targets the issue we want to fix, rather than putting the attention on something else that may be working fine right now.

There may be some other mechanical issues in your playing that are making it harder for you to keep your mouth corners locked in place, Chuck. I would need to watch you play in order to see what else you might try.

Dave
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by Doug Elliott »

Problems vs Symptoms.
Most people try to fix the symptoms, and that's what Song & Wind, and Caruso do. Maybe masks the symptoms but doesn't fix the underlying problem.
Smiling to ascend is a symptom that something else is NOT happening, it's not the problem.
Mirror practice can be useful but not if you're looking at or for the wrong thing.
Freebuzzing helps if you do it a particular way that I teach, but if you do it wrong it just makes you better at doing it wrong.
"I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two."
afugate
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by afugate »

harrisonreed wrote: Wed Sep 20, 2023 8:26 am If you're playing high, you're probably smiling.
ISWYDT :lol:

--Andy in OKC
imsevimse
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by imsevimse »

I acctually have had the same problem and fixed it many years ago. I had a severe smile emboushure and couldn't play with a sound over two ledger F. I could push to get a Bb but it had no sound. It took about half year to be able to participate in any ensamble after I switched. After the day I changed the new emboushure needed to establish. After a year I was accepted at the Royal Accademy of Music on the teaching program on trombone so it can be done but it wasn't very easy. Keep working and it will be a reward later.

/Tom
Last edited by imsevimse on Thu Sep 21, 2023 6:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
GGJazz
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by GGJazz »

Hello all.

I agree with Musicofnote about the Wedge mpcs : that particular design can help to play in a correct way ( I use Wedge mpcs too) .

Anyway , being also a teacher myself , I am not an expert as Doug Elliott or Wilktone , but I know enough about embouchures to do my job pretty well .

In my opinion , the main problem we find in fixing embouchure' issues is that you can help a player to play in a correct way , and may be he does quickly in a good way , when he is practicing basics exercises at home . But soon as he play a piece of music , or he is going to play with an ensemble , he come again in the previous bad way .

So , in the while one is practicing an embouchure' adjustment , he have to play only things that he can control at 100% , just in his practice room , for all the time that will be necessary .

The OP , Chuck , want to fix a thing like a smiling embouchure , having in mind that soon he will have to take a College audition , in which he need to play Bolero ...
This thing , to me , will be the main obstacle . Maybe he will fix the problem in one month ; maybe in one year ! When a bad habits is placed on muscle' memory (being 8 years that he play trombone in this way ) , it take some times to fix it , to ensure the right habit becomes a "natural reflex" .

Of course , this is just my personal thought .

Regards
Giancarlo
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tbdana
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by tbdana »

harrisonreed wrote: Wed Sep 20, 2023 8:26 am If you're playing high, you're probably smiling.
Thank goodness someone finally said it! :lol: I so wanted to make that joke (after all, my motto is "no joke too small"), but didn't want to interrupt such a serious discussion. I'm glad Harrison took the plunge. I feel better now. 8-)
imsevimse
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by imsevimse »

GGJazz wrote: Wed Sep 20, 2023 4:41 pm Hello all.

I agree with Musicofnote about the Wedge mpcs : that particular design can help to play in a correct way ( I use Wedge mpcs too) .

Anyway , being also a teacher myself , I am not an expert as Doug Elliott or Wilktone , but I know enough about embouchures to do my job pretty well .

In my opinion , the main problem we find in fixing embouchure' issues is that you can help a player to play in a correct way , and may be he does quickly in a good way , when he is practicing basics exercises at home . But soon as he play a piece of music , or he is going to play with an ensemble , he come again in the previous bad way .

So , in the while one is practicing an embouchure' adjustment , he have to play only things that he can control at 100% , just in his practice room , for all the time that will be necessary .

The OP , Chuck , want to fix a thing like a smiling embouchure , having in mind that soon he will have to take a College audition , in which he need to play Bolero ...
This thing , to me , will be the main obstacle . Maybe he will fix the problem in one month ; maybe in one year ! When a bad habits is placed on muscle' memory (being 8 years that he play trombone in this way ) , it take some times to fix it , to ensure the right habit becomes a "natural reflex" .

Of course , this is just my personal thought .

Regards
Giancarlo
Except from the Wedge which I do not know anything about I agree with everything said.

From what I've heard fixing a smile emboushure is one of the hard ones and especially if you had it for a long time. I had it for abot five years. I began to play 1975 and met the teacher who pointed out the problem in 1980. I started with the smile emboushure from start because I had no guidance. I couldn't freebuzz with the smile. Had no corrections made until I was 16 years of age and got the new teacher. He told me what I did wrong but didn't really insist me to do a change. I had to decide myself. I went home and tried the new way as he told me. I immediately got high c I had never got before but nothing else. I acctually started on that high c because I figured: " I have never been able to play this c before, after five years, but now first time with this new emboushure it pops out. It must be correct". Well that was logic back then :D . Then I worked downwards cromatically from that c. For about six months this was what I did when I practiced. I stopped playin all "music" and just concentrated on the new emboushure. It was very frustrating because music is also to play with friends and do concert and be a part of music. It IS hard to do this change and make sure you want to pay that price. As I said I was accepted at the Royal Accademy of music one year after the change so the issue could be fixed to that level from hardly making a noice the day after I changed, until I was able to play Rimsky Korsakow again (descent). The big problem was solved after half a year because this was when I could play with others, but for long I had struggles in the low register because my smile wanted to return whenever in that register. I'm not really sure when I was fully repaired, maybe ten years after I left the Accademy, in the mid 90-ies I noticed I couldn't play with the smile again in NO register. Acctually it is totally impossible for me now to do that.

Good luck with this if you decide to do the change. I have never regret I did that change. For me it took some time to overcome the smile and I think I was a severe case. You might do it faster. If you get a good teacher with experience of fixing a smile you will be better off compared to if you do this on your own.

Im sure there are different approaches. My approach was to start as high as I could and work down.

/Tom
Last edited by imsevimse on Fri Sep 22, 2023 9:56 am, edited 6 times in total.
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CaptEquinox
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by CaptEquinox »

The problem with the "smile" embouchure is that once it gets established, it can feel "normal." In other words, once you get used to that sensation, that's what playing a note on the horn is to you.

There are a bunch of other considerations, but for the most part a brass embouchure is a balance between the muscles that allow you to pucker your lips and the muscles that can stretch your lips horizontally. "Balance" is key here, because the muscles don't really need to war with each other. If you do this gently, open your jaw a bit and blow against your lips, they'll probably start vibrating . . .

The teeth, jaw, etc., are the frame on which your muscles are attached.* Of course, everyones teeth and jaws are somewhat different, so you can bet that'll make a difference for your chop formation!

*Importantly, the Orbicularis Oris https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbicularis_oris_muscle, which goes around the mouth, is not attached to any bone directly.

That's my little bit on this. I'll put in another suggestion that Doug Elliot can help!
GGJazz
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by GGJazz »

Hi all.

Hi Tom !

As we can see through your personal experience , if a player wants to progress in his musical life , he have to fix every problem he encounters ( in this case an embouchure problem) at any cost .
Over time , the problem will not disappear on its own ; in fact it will get worse .

Regards
Giancarlo
imsevimse
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Re: Embouchure smile while playing high

Post by imsevimse »

GGJazz wrote: Thu Sep 21, 2023 5:51 pm Hi all.

Hi Tom !

As we can see through your personal experience , if a player wants to progress in his musical life , he have to fix every problem he encounters ( in this case an embouchure problem) at any cost .
Over time , the problem will not disappear on its own ; in fact it will get worse .

Regards
Giancarlo
Yes, a smile emboushure will not fix itself. You need to decide if you have enough patience and all the strength needed. If you are highly motivated like I was then you can do it. A teacher can not change your emboushure, it is you who do that, and if you go that road, it is important you really want and believe the project. Use the teacher as a resource but never let the teacher do the thinking for you. Use your head.

It is also possible to continue with the smile, as my teacher said. You can continue like you do, and you can learn to play beautifully, but with a limited register

/Tom
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