Monday, April 26, 2010

Decisions, Decisions....

Several great questions came from a Doug, a three month BE’er:

"Is there some point in time or development where you're supposed to start moving from RO to RI as you ascend?"
Yes, as soon as you learn the RO and RI exercises you should begin practicing the Advanced Slip slurs to start the process of bridging the gap. The goal is a "continuous flex" as we ascend with no breaks. However, this goal comes from a trumpet player. Trumpet players strive for a no break, no reset embouchure and I believe they can achieve it more readily than a horn player. After all, when compared to horn players, trumpet players only have a mid and high range, no low register. Many horn players have a break, or a place where they must switch or shift their embouchure setting to accommodate the requirements of the range. Doug continues,
"I've been working on bringing the playable notes in RO up as high as I can. I think this is an area where I could use some face to face instruction."
I'd love to work with Doug face to face, but I'm not sure I have the answers he seeks.

At this point he has several directions he might move towards:
(1) switching from RO to RI seamlessly somewhere along the way up and vice versa
(2) developing some sort of RO-RI hybride to play the full range
(3) developing a RO that plays the full range
(4) developing a RI that plays the whole range
(5) developing a RI and a RO that significantly overlap to avoid resetting within phrases
(6) doing something completely different that I can't even imagine!

The Advanced Lip Slurs are designed to extend the range upwards and downwards step by step so the player can use techniques learned in RO and RI exercises to discover movements to eliminate or minimize awkward "breaks." It's impossible to say where any one player will shift from RO to RI or if they will need to. It will depend on personal architecture as well as the embouchure they start with, playing needs, personal choices, practice habits, etc.

BE students are encouraged to experiment with the extremes of the exercises to help them discover lips shapes and movements to develop more efficient "chops." BE is not like other methods that prescribe mouthpiece placement and exactly what one must do with the lips, the tongue, the teeth, for regular playing. Because BE is based upon universal principles, BE exercises compliment other methods so the BE student is free to explore and investigate other methods. One never knows where an important piece of the embouchure puzzle will be found.

Below is an example of a bold move a fellow horn player on BE recently made to tackle a very challenging situation.

"I have been flirting with BE for over a year with few results--I still can't get a decent RI. When I work on BE, my regular playing suffers, particularly high and soft playing, though TOL has helped that. The problem with my accustomed embouchure is that it is "conditional," and I don't have good endurance. However, a week ago I was faced with a grueling concert last night preceded by a rehearsal. First horn on Gershwin's Cuban Overture, Rhapsody in Blue, and American in Paris, plus I'm rehearsing Tchaikovsky's fifth, which is a lot of high playing, and I'm trying out for the solo. So, a week ago I did what you shouldn't do: I switched to the smaller mouthpiece I use with BE and changed my embouchure to lips together and air pockets behind both lips. Result: I got through the rehearsal and concert with no endurance problems. I could have played another concert. I had more clams than usual--usually when the air pockets collapsed, but the high notes sailed out, as well as the low. Today my chops feel fine.

"This is not a 'BE embouchure,' if there is such a thing, but certainly was influenced by the BE practice.

"It looks like I'm committed. I would expect that BE practice will only help with this setup. Sometimes desperation helps."

I have to disagree that Henry did what he "shouldn't do." I also disagree with his conclusion that this isn't a "BE embouchure." If it worked, it’s correct. And if BE exercises influenced it, then it is a "BE embouchure," no matter what it looks like!

I’ve encouraged Henry to work on this set up & see what he can accomplish with it. If he can make it perform cleanly with a nice tone, why not use it? He can call it his personal BE embouchure! :o)

Through my experiences with BE, I’ve had the privilege of getting well acquainted with some super good horn players. Some use a rolled in setting for the high range and gradually transfer to a more rolled out setting for the low. A few use a rolled in setting for all of their playing, even the low register. Others use a hybride of both roll in and roll out in varying degrees depending on the range. It varies from player to player.

If anyone is dissatisfied with their embouchure, it is important to actively explore as many avenues as possible, even things that seem strange or radical, in our pursuit of one's personal "balanced embouchure."

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