Friday, May 28, 2010

Forget the Chin!

“I don’t think BE will work for me, I play with a flat chin.”
“Andrew Joy plays with a flat chin, so that's not really BE.”

I've read statements like this. They are based upon a misconception that BE is an embouchure method that forbids a flat chin and requires a bunched chin. BE is not a particular embouchure (and thus there is no "BE embouchure") but rather a set of exercises that guides the individual horn player to develop an efficient embouchure regardless of how it visually appears.

Some BE'ers, including Andrew Joy* and Sandra Clark, play with flat chins. Some BE'ers, like myself, played with flat chins when they began studying BE and have seen gradual changes in chin shape. Some BE'ers have never played with a flat chin. However, anyone who regularly practices one or more of the BE exercises is legitimately developing their own personal BE embouchure regardless of their chin appearance.

The flat chin is neither a requirement nor a taboo in BE. A bunched chin embouchure is not the goal of the BE development system, however it is sometimes the result. The goal of BE is an efficient embouchure, not a specific chin shape.

Many believe Jeff Smiley is "against” the flat chin. He is not. Jeff Smiley is against requiring a flat chin. Here’s a related experience Guillaume, recently shared:

Yesterday was high F day! I went to my favorite horn shop in Paris after work and tried a couple of mouthpieces, mainly for fun... I ended up playing high F after high F on one of my regular mouthpieces (Holton Farkas MC). Even the Farkas SC gave lesser results. I just started higher (i.e. in the staff) than I usually do when I try to play above high C (usually start on pedal notes). I just hope I can have this back in the next days and weeks... And as strange as it can be, my lips were not fully RI [rolled in] ... I still had a significant bit of RO [rolled out] and almost no bunching chin... I am a bit puzzled by this I have to say...Those are my last experiments… And after one year on BE, I guess I can be proud of the way I already travelled... thank you for your advice and Jeff for writing the book.
A few days later Guillaume followed up with this:

It's still there. It is just another embouchure set up I can use for extreme high wire range or heavy 1st horn parts, I can more or less make it work from middle C. My regular RO [rolled out] set up gives me a fuller tone, but "only" up to high D (E flat when lucky). I started to see how I can transition between both... it seems doable. The real fun is to see how my chin can move freely, even on high F, up, down... whatever.
Guillaume summarizes the BE chin issue with one word: “whatever."
*Since this posting, I've learned that Andrew's flat chin days are long over. Please see the posting on June 25, 2010 to read Andrew's response.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Doug Wagner's Testimonial: It works!

I am filled with admiration of Jeff Smiley for taking on the whole academic establishment with his assertion of BE. What a great statement of certitude! Here - Do this. It works. No apology, no hedging. It works. Spend the time, do the exercises. It works. So I bought the book, taking on faith his certainty. Guess what? It works.

Doug Wagner

Thanks for sharing, Doug.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Transition Period: The Darkness Before Dawn


BE is going very well for me; I can't exactly describe it, but there is a more positive "feel" to my embouchure, the tone is more substantial.... particular notes that were always thin, stuffy, or unresponsive are sounding much better; arpeggios, both slurred and tongued are much improved, and the endurance and range is improving.
Jonathan has corresponded with me regularly since he began studying BE five months ago. He was so frustrated with his lack of progress a couple months ago, he put his horn down for a few weeks to take a break from the intensity of the situation. He was discouraged having failed with various other embouchure methods in the past and seemed tempted to stop studying BE.

I call a few BE students "fast responders" because improvements come so quickly it seems almost instant. But for the vast majority, it takes months to a year or more consistently practicing the exercises before they realize significant improvements.

The BE path is usually one of gradual and steady improvement, but for some it's not. I've gotten feedback from a few who have experienced a significant period of difficulty as their embouchures began to change.

One particular BE student after three months of seeing few visible signs of progress labeled herself as a "slow learner." While her overall tone continually improved from the very beginning of her BE study, she was frustrated that her endurance and range seemed "stuck" in the same spots they were prior to BE. She never-the-less persisted her BE studies and at the end of month five joyfully reported a breakthrough in both endurance and range.

The transition period challenges the BE student's will to continue. Those who weather the storm and persist find the dawning of a brighter day.