Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Embouchure and Cherry Picking

I liken the embouchure to a cherry orchard. You’ve got 300 trees, but only some make sweet cherries. Your job as a cherry picker is to find and pick only the sweetest cherries. It will take quite some time to sample the fruit of all 300 trees, so you need an easy-to-use system to enable you to quickly locate and remember the best cherry producing trees before the season is over. If you approach the orchard randomly you are sure to miss some trees, check others redundantly, and forget where the best fruit is found.

The embouchure is like a cherry orchard because there are hundreds of lip shapes (trees) possible, but not all will produce the desired notes (sweetest cherries). The Balanced Embouchure (BE) is a system that enables you to explore all possible lip shapes in a short period of time, with enough built-in repetition to store the memory of the most desirable note-producing shapes into both the mind and the muscle. It sounds complex, but BE is so simple, children master it.

The Balanced Embouchure systematically challenges the embouchure (or scans the orchard) in these important ways: (1) to play from as low as possible to as high as possible on an a “low note” embouchure, (2) to play from as high as possible to as low as possible on a “high note” embouchure, (3) tonguing with a rolled-out embouchure and (4) tonguing with the rolled-in embouchure, (5) an articulation/breathing challenge for accuracy and stability of attacks (snaps), (6) a breathing/articulation challenge to encourage tone support of individual notes, and (7) a breathing challenges to encourage support of the tone through phrases (specific crescendos). The basic Roll-Out and Roll-In exercises provide all this (and more) in a tidy, user friendly package that only takes about 12 to 20 minutes to execute.

The BE system is an organized plan for scanning all the possible shapes an embouchure can produce. The Roll-Out and Roll-In exercises are for locating and identifying the lip shapes that produce desirable notes. The Advanced Lip Slurs develop speed and efficiency to smoothly move from one desirable shape to the next.

To further abuse the cherry orchard analogy: BE is the plan that provides an organized method for checking every tree in the orchard. Roll-Out and Roll-In exercises are the part of the plan that provides a ladder to climb each tree to sample its fruit. The Advanced Lip Slurs are like providing a motorized cherry lift that makes quick work of gathering the sweetest cherries.

I hope this helps horn players better understand the purpose and value of each BE exercise as well as the entire BE development system. Understanding this should help the BE student appreciate that BE is greater than the sum of its parts. Practicing any one single exercise will provide benefits to the embouchure, but working the whole system is the surest way to achieve the maximum results of The Balanced Embouchure is designed to deliver.

Valerie Wells

No comments:

Post a Comment