Embouchure Buliding

Warm Up/Embouchure Building Routine
This is a systematic approach to building the embouchure. This routine helps develop one’s sound, strength, range and endurance. The exercises covered below may seem simple, but a strong embouchure is built through diligent practice of the basics: long tones, lip slurs and the co-ordination of the air- stream. There are no short cuts to improving one’s range, but by following this basic routine, results can be seen immediately. Remember, the most important quality of one’s musicianship, is tone.

Begin with the light fluttering of the lips. This stimulates the blood flow to the embouchure & allows the player to “warm up” before he puts the horn on his face. The idea, is for the musician to re-create that thick, full, tingly feeling in the embouchure that one has when everything is working at its best. The amount of time needed varies, but can take anywhere from 2-5 minutes in most cases. Important note: Remember to flutter lightly each time the horn comes off your face. This re-vitalizes the embouchure and aids greatly in endurance by maintaining a thick, full embouchure.

Mouthpiece Buzzing
To center the embouchure and re-establish that “good feeling” before playing. One can play scales, arpeggios or tunes. The idea is to create a good, clean, full buzz.

Long Tones
Play G thru C in the staff going up chromatically. Take a deep breath and hold the note as long as you can. Focus your concentration exclusively on your tone. Listen closely to yourself as you hold each note, and strive for beauty. Try to achieve what you feel is the “ideal sound”. This “ideal sound” depends on the individual, and can be influenced by any number of sources (i.e.: Freddie Hubbard, Adolph Herseth, J.J. Johnson, Wynton Marsalis or Maynard Ferguson)

“20 Minute G”
This is an interesting alternative to traditional long tones. It was developed by Duke Ellington trumpeter Cat Anderson, and is essentially self-explanatory. Take a deep breath and play a G in the staff (mp-mf). When you run out of air, take another breath and re-attack. You basically play a G for 20 minutes. Playing this exercise accomplishes two important goals. First, it allows the musician to concentrate solely on his tone; and second, it is the most comprehensive way to re-focus the embouchure after a previous day’s strenuous playing.

Carmine Caruso “Six Magic Notes”
This deceptively strenuous exercise will develop tone, strength range and endurance. Follow the rules explicitly. If you catch yourself breaking a rule, start the exercise over. The maximum benefits of this exercise (development of sound, endurance, strength and range) are reaped by adhereing to the rules. Begin practicing this exercise twice daily at first, and try to slowly increase to 5x daily. Never begin your routine with this exercise, only practice it when completely warmed up.

Velocity and Mass
Velocity (speed of air) determines the pitch. Mass (amount of air) determines the volume. As you ascend (play higher), you increase your velocity, and as you descend (play lower), you decrease your velocity. To play “A-440”, one must blow the air at the velocity (speed of air) to make the lips vibrate 440 times per second. To play an octave above A-440, the velocity must be twice as fast (880 times per second). To play an octave below A-440, the velocity must be half as fast (220 times per second). The mass of air (amount of air) dictates the volume. When you play a High C fortissimo (ff) and then decrescendo, the velocity remains constant, but the mass of air is decreased. The pitch stays the same (velocity/air speed), but the volume (mass of air) changes. The relationship between the velocity and mass is very important. If you over blow (mass of air) as you ascend, you have no room to build as you increase your velocity (air speed). This is illustrated by the problem of trying to go from the G on top of the staff to the High C (or any skip upward). If you are already playing the G loudly, you have nowhere to go. Try backing off of the G, and increasing the velocity and the mass at the same time as you go to the C.

“Rest as long as you play”--Doc Severinson

Important Trumpet/Brass Instruction Books
Herbert L. Clarke “Technical Studies”--“Study #1 & #2” Slurred and Tongued
Earl D. Irons “Twenty Seven Groups of Exercises”
Don Jacoby “Jake’s Method”
Ernest Williams “Complete Method”
Colicchio Nu-Art Technical Exercises

© 2008 Dan Miller
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