Friday, November 27, 2009

BE is Not Boot Camp!

If you’ve ever done any conventional embouchure development exercises, you’re likely to associate embouchure development with painful, grueling exercises that are often like strength training at the local gym or a military boot camp. The Balanced Embouchure (BE for short) uses a different approach.

The major focus of BE is technique, not strength. When the lips learn the techniques or “how to” of moving the lips into various shapes, the player quickly learns which movements and shapes most efficiently produce the desired results. Embouchure technique, rather than strength, enables the musician to comfortably play the upper register without having to develop super human strength.

Jeff Smiley refers to efficient embouchure technique as “leverage” in this interesting article: I particularly enjoyed reading this article because it reminded me of my junior high school science teacher demonstrating how the smallest girl in class could lift the heaviest boy in class with one finger by using the right tools. It’s the same with the embouchure. Using the right embouchure tools can make lifting the range to the upper register a one finger task.

The few repetitions of well designed, properly executed BE exercises will more effectively develop the embouchure than hundreds of repetitions of poorly designed exercises. BE exercises are surprisingly short and simple. Once learned, the basic Roll-Out and Roll-In exercises can be executed in about 15 minutes a day and yield substantial results.

So . . . if you are slaving away on "killer" embouchure exercises and only getting minimal results, it may be time to stop working so hard on strength and start working to learn the effective techniques of BE.

1 comment:

  1. Guillaume added this comment:
    "Dear Valerie,
    Once again, here comes one of your interesting posts, which say enough to keep people curious about BE but still leave spare room for comments and experience sharing. I will definitely back you up when you write about learning new embouchure shapes through lips motion. It is the main BE "trick". I would just add that finding the most efficient shape is done unconsciously. There is no need for overanalysis about this, once embouchure mechanics principles are understood. Roll out (RO) and roll in (RI) exercises are just great to learn quickly the full range of lips motion.
    After this comes "Leverage", that I would describe as "Coordination". Advanced lip slurs (ALS) are the best way for each player to find his or her "leveraged" embouchure, i.e. an array of flexible combinations of RI and RO shapes and movements which allow to play easily in all registers, with various tone options.