Friday, October 28, 2011

Feedback From a Horn Teacher

Jane Swanson, a retired schoolteacher who teaches privately and plays horn in San Luis Obispo, contributed an article to the latest issue of  "The Horn Call."  She reports impressions of attending her first IHS horn symposium in June of this year.  Here is what Jane wrote regarding BE:
Steven Park's Roll Out
Steven Park's Roll In
Workshops:  BE:  The Balanced Embouchure Method, presented by Valerie Wells with Stephen Park.  This workshop presented an approach to embouchure development that was 100%  new to me.  Valerie and Stephen demonstrated the exercises up close and personal, which was essential because I had no idea it was legal or possible, let alone beneficial, to do such odd things with a face.  I had only two choices:  write them off as nuts or try it.  Given Valerie's stunning demonstrations of producing super high, pianissimo, pure pitches out of thin air, and given Stephen's gorgeous sound and security as a performer (search for Steve Park to find some lovely video performances), I chose the latter.  And sure enough, the BE exercises do not demand the dreaded "embouchure change" but do lead to embouchure improvement in all registers.  I recommend their website ( as a source of information for those not at the workshop.

Jane emailed me to add a little more information regarding her progress:

My own progress with BE is hmmm..... maybe modest is the word but maybe not. I still don't squeak well - can't do what you do with those high sounds without and with the horn. But I am pretty consistent with the basics of roll-out and roll-in. And my endurance is still a work in progress. But here are my pay-offs:

1. Even when I play to exhaustion I do NOT have swollen lips afterwards or the next day! So I can jump right back into action.

2. In the midst of challenging playing, same story - my chops recover if I give them a few seconds off. That was not the case previously.

I am combining BE work with a focus on using air better, meaning those things we KNOW but which can slip away over time if we take them for granted:
monitoring speed of air
using more of it
using that low gut support every second

For me the combination is paying off nicely, and I know that more progress lies in my future.

Thanks for the feedback, Jane.  This ability to recover more quickly is something I hear often from those who study BE.  See the discussion on Julia Rose's blog about this.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Rule Breakers

Alexander Kienle recently shared a couple items that I find very interesting: 

Baborak bunches his chin up as he ascends for the last note of Don Juan.
Interesting to watch!  And what a grand moment in classical music to savor.  Does it get any better than this?

Some of you may have already come across Froydis' article about "nevers":  As Alex pointed out, this is particularly relevant when discussing BE!

With examples like these, it's hard to see how some believe bunching the chin or puffing the cheeks is "bad" or even "damaging" to the embouchure.