Saturday, December 5, 2009

To Be Perfectly Honest . . .

BE is not for beginners. I often get inquiries from enthusiastic horn players who are newly coming back to horn. In the past I've sold the book to a few horn players who had only been playing for a few weeks. It's worked well for most, but not everyone.

In my opinion BE works best if the horn player already has a stable, not necessarily fabulous, but stable embouchure. I now tell any brand new come back players to hold off on starting BE until they've been playing long enough to first get well acquainted with what their natural embouchure is.

BE has to have a starting point, something to work with, something to build upon. If a player is unduly insecure in their regular set up, BE can cause confusion.

BE works by challenging the embouchure to function in two extreme set ups -- the rolled-in and the rolled-out. Over time, the bits and pieces of technique learned in the challenging exercises eventually influence the player's regular embouchure. If the player doesn't have an established regular embouchure to rely upon, they can easily become confused in their approach to every day, regular playing.

So to be perfectly honest, I'd get a little more spending money for Christmas if I sold the book to everyone who asks, but for best results, I want brand new, fresh come back players to wait a while.

How long? Well . . . if you've been playing for a year or more, I believe you're ready. If you've been playing for less than six months, are still fooling around with different embouchure settings, horns, mouthpieces, etc., you should probably wait a few more months before starting BE. First, get yourself acquainted with how you play your instrument, then order the BE book. (But don't wait forever or you'll miss out on the opportunity to nip bad habits in the bud!)

I was successful starting BE after about six months coming back because I had been practicing 2 to 3 hours a day for about five months. (Yes, I'm very compulsive!)  I had a very consistent, although range & endurance limiting embouchure before I started BE.  

Warm regards,

1 comment:

  1. BEforHorn said...
    Guillaume emailed comments and a question:

    "Hi Valerie, I just read your last post on your blog and found it really nice and this for two reasons:

    "First: Like you, I started BE really quickly after coming back to the horn - actually just a month and a half, trying to recover from playing on a huge bass trombone mpc. And you know quite well my improvement speed! So we, both maniacs, aren't average examples to follow.

    "Second: Yesterday I talked with a horn player who started four years ago. He told me about his troubles having a stable embouchure (he has two set ups, on for medium and medium high register, and one for low, with a complicated reset around C, one ledger line under the staff). He says he is still experimenting on both set ups, neither of those being stable. So after reading your post I kind of feel it might be a little too soon for him to start BE. What's your opinion about this?"

    Thanks, Guillaume, for your comments and your question.

    Actually, from your description, I think your friend is an excellent candidate for BE. He's been playing long enough to know how HE plays his horn, even though he still struggles with set ups. He knows the difference between one set up and the other. The only "qualifiers" a person needs before starting BE is (1) to be familiar with how they play their instrument, regardless of the quality and (2) a desire to improve. I guess I should add one more: The willingness to learn something new and practice consistently.

    BE will guide him to optimize his old set-ups and bridge the awkward gaps between the registers. Eventually, he may not need different set-ups for different ranges.

    In a way I wish I had chosen a different word for "stable." Stable connotes excellence to some. What I meant by "stable embouchure," is that the horn player is familiar with how they play the mid range, upper range, etc. They need to be able to distinguish between their regular, everyday, embouchure and their BE exercise embouchure(s).

    What happened to one come back player is she was changing mouthpieces, horns, getting a new teacher and learning BE all within a short time frame. In her confusion, she applied her BE exericses to her regular playing at a lesson and got stuck. She became upset and experienced a temporary melt down. You can read about Tina’s experience here: