Frequently Asked Questions
I get a lot of questions about the Lip Clamp Squeak. Here's a sample of the sound.Together with the squeak. I recorded a normal buzz. I have never been very good at normal lipbuzzing, but it's just to hear the difference between a normal buzz and the squeak. BTW the pitch is not so important. For some people it's higher, and I've seen and heard it lower, too. It's more about the typical sound of it.
The section Technical is only useful if you are doing BE. These are mostly questions I got from people asking my advice on BE issues. You cannot use this as a start for experimantation with BE. You really should have a copy of the book to understand how BE works. The advise provided here is based on personal experience with myself and my students.
BE is very suitable for beginning players. The fundamental exercises are easy to learn and can be performed even by someone who has never touched a trumpet before. In a lot of cases beginners tend to do the exercises easier than advanced players. BE gives you the right fundaments and builds an embouchure right from the very start. For advanced players it is a great and safe way to build and/ or restore a healthy 'balanced' embouchure when frustrated by forcing, wrong methods, teeth problems, heavy duty playing etc. Many advanced players and even pro's can benefit from the exercises in BE.
Absolutely not. It is a developmental method for all aspects of trumpet playing. Flexibility, tone quality, endurance, tonguing and of course range will improve. There are a lot of people who increase their range considerably, but that is not the main goal. The main goal is an efficiently operating embouchure.
BE is not an embouchure. BE is a method to develop and balance your embouchure through very specific exercises in order to play as efficiently as possible.This looks different from person to person. There is no embouchure setting that you have to maintain in your normal playing.
No, BE is not about music. BE enables you to play whatever music you want to play from a technical point of view.
This is unpredictable and varies from person to person. Small changes can be felt in the first couple of weeks, but it is rather a development than 'being there'. It is not a quick fix, but there are people that play better in a very short time. Others take considerably longer, but in the end everybody can benefit from doing the exercises.
Personally, I do the exercises on a daily basis. There are also people that do it twice or three times in a week and also have good results. In the beginning it does not take very long because you cannot do all the exercises. After that it is up to you how much time you want to spend on it, or need to spend on it. If you can play the whole program it takes you half an hour to forty minutes a day, but you can make a choice and adjust it for personal use. Most of the time it takes me about half an hour. Sometimes I want to dig deeper, sometimes I only do a few exercises and it takes me fifteen minutes.
Breathing is absolutely important, also in BE. Without proper breath support, some of the BE exercises are unplayable.In a more indirect way, your breathing will improve, too. It is right to say that BE does not overemphasize breathing. Mostly because a lot of breathing theory tends to overcomplicate matters. One of the most important differences with other methods is that the order is exactly the other way around.If the lips don't operate efficiently, you can have the best breath support in the world and still suffer from poor tone and endurance. This is one of my own observations in the process. Also, it is very well possible that if your lips work efficiently and you improve your breath support, you can make a big leap forward. So, breathing exercises can be very useful (if your lips move in the right direction).
Not as far as I know.
If there were one method that I could speak of as a selfhelp method, than it would be BE. The text is very clear and the CD adds to this clarity. On the other hand: BE is not a traditional method and some people will need some explication. A lot of people ask if I teach BE. When I advise them to buy the book and find it out for themselves a while, most of them don't come back to me for lessons. I don't think it is absolutely necessary to take lessons, but I also found that giving people a good start and coach them once in a while is a great way to keep track of the development. My advise would be: buy the book, read it, try it for a month and THEN take a lesson or two. Personally, I found that beginners need some guidance in the process.
I did it, and it made me a much better player.There are periods of instability, but frankly my worst BE days were my former best days. BE is an indirect method. It does not require a direct manipulation of lip, tongue or whatever. It is a set of exercises that will develop your chops in a safe way. You can keep playing and still gradually change the way you play.
In the first place it is important to abandon your frustrations once more and take the leap. If you have tried everything and you don't believe this is going to work, it probably won't. If you step into it with an open mind, chances are that in a short time things start changing that you didn't consider possible anymore. BE works unconsciously. You cannot 'think' what your lips have to do to play the trumpet. If you do the exercises slowly but steadily muscles that cannot be activated in another way, are triggered. BE gives you the unconscious muscle coordination you need. You do not really have to understand it, you don't have to think of what you are doing, just do the exercises and discover a much more effective way of playing the trumpet.
No. You can do the BE exercises on any mpc. It is possible that in the process you want to change mpc's; your embouchure will change!.Typically, this tends to be a somewhat smaller mpc (diameter, cup), but that is not necessary. Some people are perfectly happy with bigger mpc's and still benefit from BE. In the end the choice for a mpc depends on what feels good for you, what sound you want to make or what sound you need for a particular job.
I never tried it. Jeff Smiley had it made and it appears to fit remarkably well for people who are advanced BE players. But you don't need it to do the exercises, and I don't think that the exercises are more effective on this or any other mpc.
Yes. My own experience is that the somewhat deeper flugelmpc's are harder to do some of the exercises on, but in the end I don't think that this is less effective. On the shallower trumpetmpc it is just easier to get the right sound.
I think so and I hear it from more and more people. I only play trumpet and flugelhorn, so I cannot tell from my own experience.The basic thought is that BE makes your lips move in more or less the right direction and that goes for all brass instruments. The exercises are written for trumpet, so if you play trombone you will have to adjust some of the exercises, but the basics stay the same.
I have no idea. The method is based on the thought that the lips are the first valve and responsible for the necessary compression. For a certain amount of players this means that they don't want a horn that has a lot of resistance, so they choose a horn.that feels open. There are also a lot of players that do very well on a simple Bach mod. 37 ML In the end it is a combination of mpc., horn and player. Mpc, horn and embouchure should be an unbreakable unity, and you can only reach this by experimenting with all kinds of combinations. BE stabilizes one factor: embouchure, so you don't have to worry about that too much.
This can be difficult. If you really play easier on it (with the same or greater range, flexibility endurance and tone) then I would suggest to stick to it, whatever the band director says. A mpc that may sound a little brassy and even harsh in the beginning can smooth out after some time. When your lips adjust and are able to focus better in a smaller cup, the sound can be as warm as it was on a bigger piece. It can take some time, but it is not dangerous to try it, if you play comfortably on it. You can also try to find a compromise between your directors choice and your own, but this can lead to a lot of confusion and frustration. If you play a bigger mpc and your endurance suffers, you play with a beautiful big tone for the first fifteen minutes and after that you still don't sound good..On the other hand, a good mpc is always a compromise. It depends on what you have to play, how long, high, what sound you or your director wants etc., but if you find a mpc that seems to fit well, even if it is a small one which your director hates, give it a chance.
Absolutely not. The sound is different, and the way you use your lips and set your embouchure is different. It sounds as a balloonpeeeeep or a mosquito.Free lip buzzing tends to pull the lips out of the centre. LCS is the other way around. This is an extremely centered way of producing a tone. I think free lip buzzing is counter productive if you want to benefit from BE.
The point is: can you do it? If you can you have the basic lip setting for the first Roll in exercise.
Yes, it is correct if the sound is correct. You can practice until the sound comes from the centre of your lips, but this is not absolutely necessary.
LCS is mostly an exercise to get the basic, rough lip setting for RI. Some people really need the lips to squeak to make a sound in RI #1, and other people (including myself) don't need this, or are unable to do it that way. In that case LCS is too closed.The basic setup is right, but you cannot really make a tone out of it. Loosening a bit causes the squeak to become a hiss (rolled in air hiss) and this is also a good way to get your first rolled in tone.
I don't know. If it sounds as on the CD and your lips are rolled in, if a high note pops out without pressure, or even wants to go higher, you pretty much got it., You can only find this out yourself.
Use air pockets if you cannot get a squeak. Basically the Lip Clamp is the setup to begin with, and if no squeak emerges, 'blow up' your face, cheeks, lips. This will help getting the squeak easier. Some people make the mistake that they tighten the mouthcorners to get the squeak, but this is counterproductive. Ther is some air between corners and teeth.
This is a good way to start LCS and RI. No red of the lips showing in the second picture, bunched chin, air pockets everywhere.
The same goes for RI. In the beginning you shouldn't be afraid to use air pockets. Maybe you will play them that way forever, maybe they will go away. I, myself, started out with huge air pockets, and now I play RI with almost no pockets anymore. The feeling and sound is what counts. Easy high note, no arm pressure. Rolled in lips.
It is great fun the first time it happens. BTW If it doesn't happen it is OK, too. My advice would be to always go for the G top staff. If this tone is really 'too low' in the beginning, a high C is also a good starting point.E top staff is the lowest starting point.The exercise is meant to gain control over this extreme set up.If you try to make high E your starting point, the risk of forcing is high. If you get tired (and you will) high E is a high note even RI. If you still want to use this as your starting point, eventually you are going to force it and miss the point. Merely trying to find and play a G top staff is a great workout and makes your lips eventually do the right thing. It may take a while but it is a great coordination exercise.
No, there must be something wrong. Probably your lips are not properly rolled in. Is the LCS working or is this still a problem? This is the first indication whether you should be doing the RI exercises already. E or G top staff are the only notes you simply CAN play in this setting.When you do it right it is hard to play lower notes.
Check your lip setting. Can you do LCS, does your setup resemble the LCS? If this is the case then patience is the word. Experiment with mpc placement and air pockets. A week is a very short time to be able to control RI. There are people that can do it easily, but it took me two months to get a reasonable G top staff.
Use everything. Air in your cheeks, under your lips, loose corners, whatever. If it sounds like the CD you got it.
No, then you are totally missing the point. RI is an exaggerated motion exercise to trigger a certain lip movement. The sound does not have to be particularly pretty. It is more about feel than it is about sound.
Unless you have a fat, stable high G I would suggest to stick to the exercises.The goal is not to learn how to play rolled in, the goal is to make the lips move in more or less the right direction and thus to play more efficiently. It is very well possible that small elements of RI are already part of your 'normal' embouchure.That you do not look like the kids on the cover of BE is not important. BE is not an embouchure but a set of exercises. If, on the other hand, your playing is exectly the same as a year ago, then I would advise you to check if you are doing the exercises correcctly. A year should give some results IMO, however small.
It is not a good idea to do RI inbetween 'normal' practice.I think BE works best if this is a seperate session first thing on a given day.. If you take a short break and go on with other stuff, you will be fine.
That will be your experiment. For some Jeffs order is best, for some the other way around is better. You can even switch every other day or whatever. Do what feels best at a certain moment.
Make RI#1 stable. In RI#2: are you able to play the lowest tone? Then I think you can try #3.
RO#1 requires a double pedal F#. This should be no problem before you proceed. Before you move on from #3 to #4, #3 should feel pretty easy and flexible. RO#4 is an advanced exercise. RO 1-3 should be stable and I suggest a stable RI # and #2, also. Don't do #4 too early.
You can always experiment with this. If it feels good, you can do it. It is absolutely NOT necessary to do ALS this way. RI and RO are independent exercises.Look at ALS as a kind of integration exercise to get the ' continuous flex'.. If you are getting more proficient in RO and RI then elements of both will already be part of your normal embouchure. It is much more important to listen for the 'snaps' then to try to play them rolled in.
It is very well possible that your teeth are too close together, so your tongue does not get through. In that case you should open your mouth more (make the gap between your teeth bigger). . Another possibility is that your top lip is hidden in front of your teeth, or that you pull up your top lip when you ascend.One of the reasons you do TOL is to bring down the top lip, and to free it from being squashed between mpc and teeth. By doing TOL this is mostly an unconscious thing if you just try to hit your top lip squarely.
You can actually move this whole setup down in order to bring the top lip in reach for the tongue. This might not be easy at first, but it is possible and necessary, for that matter.
With some practice (watch the process in a mirror) it is possible to keep your bunched chin.. If this does not work use two steps: move your whole embouchure down. If this causes a flat chin, don't bother, Step two is to bunch your chin without bringing the whole embouchure back up again. Don't forget to look in a mirror! You can also check with your tongue. If you can still feel your top lip after these two steps you are on the right track.
Jeff also describes this. Some people just have another muscle structure and will always have a flat chin.. Just like other BE elements: air pockets, TOL, the bunched chin is not absolutely necessary. The point is: how is your progression in those two years? If nothing happened, something must be wrong. Doing BE gives different results for different people, but I think everybody benefits from it. BTW. I do BE for three years and I still look pretty flat chinned, too.
No, some people tend to move their jaw forward when doing RI (The danger is that it is an unconscious thing. Once you are aware of what is causing the pain, it is easy to overcome). This is not necessary.You can easily get rid of this by moving your jaw when playing RI and bringing it back into a more relaxed position. There are people that benefit from bringing the jaw forward a bit (not only in RI) for a better balance in mpc pressure on both top and bottom lip. But if your jaw starts to hurt you are definitely overdoing it.
In the beginning you are waking up muscles that you might not even know they existed, even if you have been playing for years before BE. Occassionaly your muscles may ache. Best thing to do is to take a day off.
There are three major parts: RO, RI, TOL. Next to that there are some important integration exercises, as I would like to call them. Lipslurs (snaps!), staccato(zips!), double tonguing and crescendo-decrescendo tend to coordinate and integrate the muscle movements learned in RI, RO and TOL.In the process you will find out which part is the most difficult to learn. This automatically needs the most attention.This does not mean that the other parts are not important anymore. You should always try to balance your practice of BE which means that all the parts get attention.
Congrats. You are one of the majority of trumpet players who can do this. You can focus more on RI and TOL, but don't forget to do RO. RO enhances RI and TOL, and to balance your practice also do the RO exercises. I could do RO #1 and 2 without ever having done this before. Now I know that RO has contributed much more to my progression than I had ever dreamt of.
You know it when you feel it, but that might not be the answer you are looking for. The best way to describe it is this: imagine your tone is a very thin thread. You try to grab this thread with rolled out/puckered lips. This focused feeling is the RO feel.. In normal playing your lips will not be as rolled out or puckered as in RO, but the focused and forward feeling towards the centre stays.
The inward movement of the corners is also an important part of the RO feel. You will discover that to ascend you need the same muscles with which you do the RO.
The bottom lip takes a more normal position, so back in the cup again. The RO feel stays as much as possible. Even if you play more towards a RI feeling if you ascend. The power of RO #4 is that RO gives room to RI. To see what I mean: try to roll in your lips with a big smile or while your lips are against your teeth already. My experience is that RO makes RI easier.
Look also at question 16. It can be potentially dangerous to do so. What you are trying to do, if you do as desrcibed is a direct embouchure change. One of the big advantages and IMO THE most powerfull thing about BE is that it is indirect. Your lip muscles get a chance to incorporate and get used to different movements. If you do this too fast, you risk total breakdown. The best advise I can give is: be patient and if you play music, do it with what feels best at that moment. Chances are that after a couple of months this might not be your 'old' embouchure anymore.
That is not wise. Your old embouchure is the fundament of your new embouchure. Don't be afraid to slow down the process if you play a lot on your 'old chops'.This way the new muscles get a lot of opportunity to integrate with your way of playing, which is a great thing. You can always do a couple of 'only BE' days, but always go back to normal playing after a while. Normal playing is an important part of BE.
I often see that people think they do the exercises right but actually go on much too fast. More often than not they are not following the instructions carefully enough. The best thing you can do in such case is to check every part of BE very carefully with what the book says. Even if this means that you start all over again. Is your Lip Clamp correct and do you do it every day? Is your LCS correct: listen to the sound, a squeak not a buzz. Are you doing RI correctly?
A lot of people fall into old habits again to make a tone happening in RI.There is no room for fumbling, there. It is either good or useless.Put your mouthpiece on the LCS setup (both with squeak or hiss is OK) and try to produce a tone this way. Is your RO sounding weak? RO is not a loose embouchure, it is an extreme forward and focused way of producing a tone. Is your TOL squarely against your top lip? Is is possible that you have no idea what and where and what you touch with your tongue? (This is a not uncommon phenomenon. To check this, start with putting your tongue against your top lip-check it in a mirror-place your mpc, blow and release the air by moving the tongue downward or slightly backward. This is where you should place your tongue in TOL). Check your sound with the sound on the CD and read the text carefully again.
Failure can be caused by using other embouchure methods . Things like free buzzing or mouthpiece buzzing and Gordon/Stamp-like methods, can be counterproductive. When you start with BE it is better to use only BE as chop development and play normal studies, concert pieces and play-alongs to integrate the new chops in your regular playing.
Of course there is a possibility that your playing level is very high already (you are already playing 'balanced' without knowing it). In that case the effectibveness is probably nihil.
If you are able to do all the exercises exactly as described in the book, then it is hard to believe that this doe not have any effect on your normal playing, but of course, I have not seen it all.
Also 29.. No, this is not good, indeed. In order to give some advice it is important to know exactly what you do - how long you do it - what mix of other exercises than BE you do? Just like any other method, BE can be overdone. Probably one or more of the things mentioned in 29. are not correct in your practice, but if everything seems to be OK, it is very well possible that you simply overdo it.. Also, doing BE and nothing else can be counterproductive in the end.You need to play on 'normal chops' to incorporate the newly learned things in your normal playing. It is also possible that you suffer from a short period of instabilty (mostly from a couple of days to a week).. Of course things are changing in the way you use your muscles and the way you play. Maybe you are in a phase of transition. For me, most of the time these periods are a prelude to a breakthrough.
It is possible that you still look upon BE as an embouchure. This can lead to too direct a change, which can lead to a lot of problems. It is very important to practice on 'normal (=changing/developing) chops and not work towards a certain lip setting. BE IS NOT AN EMBOUCHURE AND WORKS INDIRECT!!!
If this instability continues, you might need to take a few steps back in your lesson plan. You can also cut back on the time you spent on BE or try experimenting with doing BE every other day or three times a week. Just skipping a week of BE can be wholesome. Muscles need time to adjust to the new way of using them.
In BE everybody is a beginner, unless you have a great embouchure already (but then there is no need for BE, anyway), or you have a way of playing that is very similar to the way BE makes you play. If that is the case you still might want to begin with the first exercises and probably your progress will be very fast.
If your playing is improving and you know that you are doing it correctly, then chances are that you already play a bit BE-ish. Many beginning trumpeters also find them easy to do.Well trained trumpetplayers often find them hard, because they have so many bad habits they have to get rid of (yes, this is my own experience. Almost all of my students have a better sounding RI than myself).
Yes. If TOL is not your normal way of playing, it is hard to play with a lot of control and range is non-existant. TOL is not a high note exercise.The only thing that counts is to touch your top lip squarely. Range is not your first concern.
If you do lip slurs it is important that you feel and hear a 'click' from one note to the other. A good way to get this clickfeeling is to play the snaps. So the snaps are a 'soundbased trigger' for the right lipmovement. If the sound is good, the lipmovement is good. Some people asked me how I do the snaps and slurs, and to be honest, I haven't got a clue. I take care of my posture, breath in low and full, make sure my lips are set up right and then I play them. I am not aware of what the tongue does or what my air is doing. I think that whatever someone tells you, it's just a personal story of what this particular person feels and thinks he is doing. I suspect that everybody with good sounding (clicking, slotting) slurs does it the same way. I have no proof of that, but I do know that the snaps are a good way to get the right feeling.
Other methods (7)
A part of BE comes from the ideas of Jerome Callets Trumpet Yoga. RO comes from this book.The Maggio book is another source. According to what Jeff says Caruso, Gordon and Ghitalla are other sources of inspiration, I studied Gordon and Caruso and there are some similarities, but none of the theories outlined in these books are major issues in BE. I think BE is one of a kind in many ways. Despite the fact that most of the basics are not far fetched, the book and the exercises are far from traditional, yet simple to understand and apply.
I did masterclasses with Jerome Callet and Bahb Civiletti, and because I had done BE for more than a year, I didn't get lost completely. I knew, however little, some of the things that were expected of me. TCE purists claim that BE and TCE have nothing in common. BE teaches your lips how to make compression, in TCE the compression takes place between tongue and lips. Tongue position in TCE is different from BE. In both systems you tongue through the teeth, but in TCE your tongue tip stays anchored to your bottom lip, in BE you need your tongue tip to touch the top lip (or rather, in BE there is not a prescribed tongue position or use of the tongue, other then in the TOL exercises). Practicing TCE includes 'spitbuzzing' something that is not an issue in BE. So, really different systems. My own experience, though, is that BE makes the transition to TCE easier (if you would want to proceed in this manner). I don't use TCE, but my tongue tip rests against the bottom lip if I don't need it to tongue. I think this comes from my intensive practice of TCE a couple of months. If you really want to use TCE, I think you should stick to the real TCE routines. On the other hand, I think that BE is a great preparation for TCE (if you would want to look a bit further), and I know that TCE people disagree with me here. The reason I still think it is comes from my latest experiments. I feel that if I roll in the lips (especially the bottom lip) against my tongue, than the tongue takes over a part of the sound production. And when I say roll in, I really mean it the way it's described in BE. Despite the fact that the tongue controls the embouchure, I think the lips are an important factor and still do play an important role. The difference with BE is that in BE, RI is used as an exercise to teach the lips how to move in this direction an produce a sound this way, while in TCE RI is used to make the lips move in the direction of the forward tongue.
Practicing RI is important in both systems IMHO. If only to teach the lips how to do that.
NB. If you use RI to make lip compression, I think it is counterproductive when trying to learn TCE. Too much lip compression pushes away the tongue.
I have been doing a Caruso/ BE experiment for about half a year. My first experiences are positive. Important is that you understand both systems you work with (as much as is possible without having practiced this). That you are sure how to perform the exercises and understand the underlying mechanics and ideas. Caruso and BE seem to enhance each other. Again I had the feeling that BE is a safe way to Caruso, should you want this. BE made me method-proof. I don't ruin my embouchure again, because I understand how it works and how I got were I am today.
Both Caruso and BE say that the lips and not the abdominal support are responsible for the compression needed. Caruso and BE share the unconscious and indirect factor. Just do the exercises, be it BE or Caruso, and play with whatever feels good at a rehearsal or gig.The exercises themselves are totally different. Caruso is Long Setting,steady breath (the mpc stays in contact with the lips, nose breath) and timing/foot tapping. BE uses RI, RO, TOL (and more).
After half a year of Caruso the conclusion is that it's best to choose. I think both systems are great for embouchure development, but it's up to you to choose what works for you. My personal choice is certainly BE. It's not as stern and streneous as Caruso IMHO, and it takes less time per day.
Whatever you are practicing right now, you can always start with BE. The important thing is that you should not use another embouchure method. Especially when you start BE. It can cause confusion and may lead to failure. If your fundaments are strong you can always try and experiment with someother methods and try to mix them (I think TCE or Caruso are the only methods that combine with BE). Do not confuse yourself by doing too much at a time. Arban is not an embouchure method, but a great book with a lot of useful studies, but methods like Caruso, TCE, Stamp, Gordon, Spaulding, Thompsons Buzzing book, Lamart's, are not so great to do next to BE if you are not experienced in BE. On the other hand it is very important to play other studies and music next to BE. Every study, concert piece play-along or whatever, is great and probably will sound better after a while.
You can try everything if your fundament is strong. The risk of ruining your chops is not really big.. Maybe you should ask yourself if it is effective or productive to do other methods as well. Mpc buzzing and free buzzing is IMO counterproductive or ineffective to say the least. Stamp pedals are not adding to the process. Gordon's. A-E-I theory is not really necessary anymore.Quinques extreme GGG setting of the tongue for the high register is too much, and I advise everybody to leave this thing alone (it took me years to get rid of this again). In fact, methods that say that compression is made by tongue arch or breath support (they often imply an open aperture to 'let the air do the work') are contrary to BE.
Always keep in mind that if something really works for you, just keep doing it, however strange or simple it may seem (or what somebody else may think of that, and that includes what I am saying right here). If your warm up feels good when buzzing the mpc that is great. If a tongue arch makes you play lip slurs earsier, do it!, etc. Some of those things might just be part of your mental preparation and thus confidence enhancing. Don't expect, though, that every exercise is equally effective and try to observe whether flexibility, tone, endurance and range is good or improving.
All the exercises you like. Personally I play a lot of lipslurs and flexibilities. I do a lot of first attacks (play a note, take the mpc off and set it up again and play a note etc). These things work as integration exercises.Just because you can focus on the feeling of every note the new things can gradually sink in and become part of the playing chops. Of course play some music you like, just to make some fun and try your new chops. In the end the only goal is to make music as easy and beautiful as possible.
The most important thing in S/C is that it is a very precise embouchure with the focus on jaw position. BE is a set of exercises to develop your embouchure in a very personal way.S/C requires to move your jaw forward which has nothing to do with BE. It is possible that you end up the same but if not, there is not a problem.