Saturday, September 10, 2011

Believe It or Not, The Balanced Embouchure is Not an Embouchure!

In brass embouchure pedagogy, the usual training involves being told how to correctly place the mouthpiece and lips to play, such as einsetzen, ansetzen, 2/3 - 1/3, etc.  Because of this context, when horn players hear of The Balanced Embouchure, they often assume it's another prescribed embouchure setting.  And, because BE claims to work for everyone, horn players often doubt this claim knowing that there is no one "correct" embouchure setting that works for everyone.  Here's an example.  A thoughtful comment was recently left on James Boldin's blog that includes this sentence:

Being that there are anatomical differences from person to person, I don’t see how it is possible for one way to be “the right way." 

If the writer of this statement believes BE is promoted as a "correct" embouchure setting that works for everyone, I agree that it's impossible to be "the right way."  Fortunately that's not what BE is.  In fact, theory and practice, BE is quite the opposite.  BE is not an embouchure; BE is a set of well designed exercises that develop every embouchure. 

One of the specific reasons BE works for everyone, is that it is not a prescribed, one-size-fits-all, embouchure setting.  The application of BE to the embouchure is as unique as each brass player's anatomy.  There are no instructions in the BE book that say, "set your lips this way for the upper register", "drop your jaw for low notes," "frown for the high register," etc.  The only specific instructions in BE are how to set the lips for executing the BE exercises, not for regular playing.

BE exercises "work" by extending the brass player's range of motion in directions and to degrees most would never imagine.  In this ability stretching process, the intuitive brass player consciously and unconsciously finds positions, techniques, movements, lip shapes, etc. that can be applied to his/her embouchure.  Jeff Smiley recognizes that the individual brass player is the one best suited to determine what does and doesn't "work" when that individual is given good tools to guide their choices.  (See: I Am Not a Guru.)

See also:  Why BE Works

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