Monday, August 29, 2011

Julia Rose writes about The Balanced Embouchure

Here's an article Julia Rose recently published on her blog. I'll classify this as a positive BE testimonial!

I'm impressed with Julia, not only for the quality of the article's content, but also for her integrity. I appreciate that she took the time to give BE an honest, thorough investigation and trial period rather than dismissing it as some have without reading the book or trying the exercises.

Many thanks to you, Julia Rose.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two New Testimonials!

See the TWO new testimonials below from Luke and Colin Ng. Both were unsolicited, and both are deeply appreciated.

Luke Zyla, No Longer a Skeptic

The following is a composite of remarks Luke Zyla shared with members on the Memphis horn forum with in the last week. Thanks so much for sharing your testimonial with the horn community, Luke.
Dear Horn Listers,

I am not what you call a "stellar" horn player, but I do make a decent second income from performing with the West Virginia Symphony and freelancing in the area. I have been practicing the BE method this summer and have found positive results already. I definitely have not mastered the exercises yet, but working on them has improved my high register and endurance. One of the things I find most valuable is that it is not a method that tears down and rebuilds a new embouchure, but one that gradually improves ones playing.
Being a second horn player, I always dreaded having to play pops concerts where one plays music arranged by people who do not understand the custom of having horns 1 and 3 on high and 2 and 4 on low. The music of John Williams always brought concern to my mind. I have found that these exercises have enabled me to have better endurance and a more relaxed high register. I am not at the point where I am ready to attack the screaming high baroque horn literature yet, but I expect that my horn playing will continue to become more effortless.
The BE method does not involve lots of time practicing the extreme embouchures. I find that it does develop my embouchure in a positive way. The immediate result is that my endurance is much better. I think the best feature of this method is that it is not a sudden change and restructuring ones embouchure, but a gradual exploration and development that can result in positive results. Personally, I do not bunch up my chin when I play. Just can't get my chops to be that relaxed. It is more relaxed than before, which is a good thing. One thing I have noticed about the really great players in the world is that they all seem to produce tone in every register effortlessly. The method does not result in a goofy looking embouchure. Check out Steve Park's videos on YouTube. I don't think anyone would fault his embouchure.

The method is very simple. I was very skeptical about the method for a long time, but have come to appreciate the benefits of the exercises.

I would encourage anyone to buy the book and give it a try. The cost of the book is small compared to the benefits one can achieve.

Luke Zyla, second horn
West Virginia Symphony Orchestra

Colin's BE Testimony: A Zero to Hero Experience

To the Memphis horn list, Colin wrote:
Dear Fellows,

I have been following the BE thread with great interest. I hope you do not mind me sharing my recent BE experiences so far.

I am a band instructor and a specialist horn tutor in secondary schools (junior high?). I ordered my BE book months ago (February?) and decided then I was too busy for BE; and I admit that it also seem radical then. I thought I was managing 'well' despite my struggles on my instrument, but recently I am going through both a career change and hence having more time for playing the horn; and I am also being put through a much needed embouchure correction under guidance from a friend who is teaching French horn in Germany. I was struggling with the embouchure change to what that should be proper (flat/pointed chin and einsetzen), and was incapacitated for past couple of weeks.

Having the luxury of time now, and watching with interest the recent BE controversy in the forum, I thought I might as well use the BE method that was collecting dust on my shelf. I have nothing to lose really, so I read carefully and struggled with the roll-out exercise #1 to #3 for one whole day and managed also to effect the lip clamp squeak.

I then went for a rehearsal the next evening not knowing what to expect and tried playing the concert repertoire of about 12 crazy pop pieces with my 'normal and proper' setup. Nothing BE about it, but the facility of the 'normal' embouchure increased many fold. I hop around between 4th horn and 1st horn parts with growing confidence. I enjoyed surprisingly good tone with no distortion, greater flexibility and accuracy; and I can now take my mind off to focus on articulation and more musical expression. It's a very real zero to hero experience for me.

The next evening (which was yesterday), I only did 5 minutes of the roll-out exercises, a clumsy warm up, and used a mouthpiece totally different from what I used the day before. Surprisingly I had the same success with this mouthpiece (which I felt wasn't a good mouthpiece before). The change in the sound, efficiency and facility is equally dramatic but my colleagues observed little or no visible change in my einsetzen setup.

Tomorrow is the 3rd repertoire session -  "Mozart Serenade in C minor," I did nothing today save a couple hours of BE RO exercise #1 to #4 and lip clamp squeaking. I look forward to tomorrow and I am going use the most un-preferred mouthpiece in my inventory.

I have to say I still sound terrible when I struggled with the BE exercises for the 3rd day so far, but when it comes to 'normal' playing, the positive changes is both so dramatic and sudden, I can only attribute it to the effective of the BE program.

It give me back the same sparkle like how I fell in love with horn as a child 25 over years ago.

Hope this testimony is useful

Yours sincerely
Colin Ng
Soon after, I received the following in private email:
Dear Valerie,

I want to say a big thank you to you and Jeff Smiley, but words cannot express the extent of gratitude I am feeling now. All I can say is that the new playing experience is too sudden and too dramatic. It can only be BE.

If I was not brought to standstill and totally zero-ed because of the 'professional' embouchure change, I could not have experienced such dramatic improvement thru BE. The BE brought about what I previously thought would take months to experience through professional help.

Now I feel stupid to have put the book aside months ago then. It was so difficult to accept and understand because of our existing concepts and conventions. But BE is actually a very simple concept, so simple that we get to keep what we have and yet able to excel exceedingly. It's just that we have to approach with the attitude of the dry sponge, or the empty cup to receive and soak up what that was offered compassionately and sincerely.

Do give me a little more time and I hope to bring you more favorable progress report and perhaps seek validation on my BE progress.

Yours sincerely

Colin Ng
Thanks, Colin for your inspiring words.  To see more of Colin's writings see this or visit his blog:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


In a horn forum, Steve M. asked:
...I searched "balanced embouchure" on YouTube and all I found was a bunch of demented trumpet owners making horrible farting and screeching noises, so far I haven't heard any tone. Wassup with that?
Good question, Steve, although it may be a little insulting to trumpeters! ;o) There is a good reason BE exercises don't sound so pretty. What you see on YouTube are exercises specifically designed to develop tone while traversing the registers with the fullest range of motion possible. They are awkward by design and especially difficult to execute with a pleasing tone. Striving for and meeting this challenge enhances the player's ability to adapt the embouchure under the less extreme circumstances of "normal" playing. See: EXTREME EMBOUCHURES!

For an example of a fine musician who has used BE exercises for quite a number of years to keep his embouchure in top condition, see the links below. You may recognize Uwe Zaiser, the piccolo trumpeter and soloist, as the same gentleman who posted several BE exercises on YouTube. After viewing these clips, I doubt anyone would regard Uwe as a "demented trumpet owner."

Practicing BE exercises is like a football player running agility drills at practice. When it's game time, the athlete is better prepared for the rigors of the game. Like the BE exercises, you don't see the agility exercises in actual performance, but you do see the results of the training.

Exercising in the extremes to develop skills is not a new concept, but as far as I know, this has not previously been applied to horn pedagogy in this particular way. I suppose that's why some still considered BE controversial.

And, BTW, to answer the assertion one horn player has made that BE exercises will "damage" the embouchure, please note there is no evidence of damage in these clips nor in the experiences I've had working with over 200 horn and trumpet players studying BE for the past five years. As a matter of fact, brass players with "damaged" embouchures and health have testified that BE has helped them recover. (For examples see: Andrew Joy, Dave Stoller, lip swelling.)

I anticipate The Balanced Embouchure or a watered down variant will eventually be taught to brass players everywhere. Along these lines, Sandra Clarke wrote:

I believe that within ten years (less if there is any justice and fairness out there…), everyone will be teaching your concept of lip rolling – if not the entire spectrum of your method. (

Also see:  "Circus Trick" or Developmental Tool?
Also see:  EXTREME Embouchures!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Joy Continues on The Balanced Embouchure

My first contact with Andrew Joy was in 2008 when I received his enthusiastic email telling me how happy he was with the results of using the Balanced Embouchure for only 2 months. He commented that the improvements to his embouchure were "fairy tale like!"

In 2010 Andrew was interviewed by Dr. John Ericson for Horn Matters discussing his two years experience with BE.
Around the time of this interview, Andrew wrote me:
"Jeff Smiley is a genius and I'm on a serious mission to tell the world about it!"
Now that Andrew's been using BE for three years, his enthusiasm continues. He recently wrote on Face Book:Link
"The Balanced Embouchure is priceless genius. I spoke with an amateur horn player yesterday. It has also revolutionized her personal horn world and given her access to a greater playing experience. Jeff's a giant!!"
Andrew's concise description of what BE did for this amatuer describes my experience as well.

I agree with Andrew; Jeff Smiley is a genius and a giant!
Thanks Andrew Joy, for sharing your testimonial comments with the world.