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The Balanced Embouchure
Bert Lochs' subtle understanding of the Balanced Embouchure principles constantly amazes me. If there were a worldwide list of sanctioned BE teachers, Bert would be at or near the very top.
-Jeff Smiley (trumpet pedagogue and writer/developer of The Balanced Embouchure)
Sooner or later almost every trumpet player is confronted with embouchure limitations and chop problems. Change of mouthpiece, embouchure change, braces,other teacher, dental problems, playing a different kind of music, having to play more and longer etc. Lack of endurance, jaw/throat/tooth/lip aches, bad tone, split notes, limited range and even focal dystonia. Solutions vary from creative to downright nonsense and as Jeff Smiley calls it 'bag of tricks'. For some of the players it helps to solve their playing problems, but a lot get stuck or get into trouble even deeper. More than once, people stop playing the trumpet because they think they don't have 'what it takes', but maybe the method or the teacher does not 'have what it takes' to make it work for this student.
Just to be absolutely clear: There is no magical method or quick fix. Developing an efficient embouchure takes time, commitment and a lot of patience. Somebody who claims to have gained an octave and plays the lead chair for six hours on end after a month of method this and that, is lying. Of course, there are always people who can. But for most of us it is very important to choose the right way. It is how you practice and what you practice that counts.
A little story about myself: when I was in my third year at the conservatory a C on the third line was a difficult note for me. I practiced about three to four hours a day...about practicing the right way.... Eventually I succeeded to get control again and become an outstanding jazz soloist, but my endurance, tone, range and the overall feeling was not really ideal. I had to rely on having 'a good day'. Like many trumpet players I accepted this as a fact of life. Great range and endurance had to be something for people with a lot of power and stamina. I assumed playing high, long and under control was something for the happy few.
The book 'The Balanced Embouchure' by Jeff Smiley from the United States represented a whole new approach. At this time there are more and more people that support BE, at least as much poeple that don't believe a word of it. In a lot of trumpet fora around the world, there are heated discussions about this method. Anyway, I ordered it, read it, and after shaking my head in disbelief for about hundred times, I found that there was some logic in this story. I had a last big laugh and started doing these very strange exercises. I can only say that I improved beyond every expectation and I think there is not one book that is so clear about how to develop your embouchure in an efficient and safe way.