lip trouble

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by euphfanhan, Feb 19, 2005.

  1. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    At band today the MD noticed that when I play my upper lip isn't fully in the mouthpiece which makes it pretty impossible to get above a top c, and said I should try playing with the mouthpiece higher up. The only problem is this would take quite a long time to get used to and I have my GCSE ensemble exam in a few weeks. I tried playing like the MD said, only now I can't get above a top g :frown:

    This could be a pretty big problem as the piece goes up to top c. Any advice on how I can get notes in the higher register without reverting back to the old habit?
  2. mp_TRMB

    mp_TRMB Member

    I dont really have any advice on how to play higher apart from stammina but I would keep your ensemble the same until your exam is over. My mate had the same experienece before her exam, dont change it!

    my advice is wait until your exam is over then try.

    For now ,, concentrate on getting the rest of your piece perfect,, one split note will not affect your results.

    Good luck!
  3. Seedhouse

    Seedhouse Active Member

    The only think that will help you is to practice lots...! :D
    other than that the only thing to suggest is to revert back to old habits until your GCSE performance and then work after it afterwards.

    However as long as the embouchure is working for you, there should be no need to change it. There are many top band players who play without a perfect embouchure, and look where it has gotten them. If you personally don't think that it's restricting you, you shouldn't have a need to change it.

    I don't know if you get BB but in this weeks issue, Bob Childs discusses embouchure changes and whether there is a need to do them, so try and get hold of it to read.

    Might be also worth getting a second opinion from someone before you make the change, as it could take months or even years to get back up to the same standard.
  4. Ian Bartram

    Ian Bartram New Member


    It's very difficult to advise you without seeing and hearing you play but my advice would be to stay as you are - at the very least until your GCSE is out of the way.

    Then you really need to consult a good brass teacher - but before you even do that: read Robert Childs' article in this week's British Bandsman (issue no. 5340) entitled "If it's not broken - don't fix it!". This "masterclass" article by Robert is all about your sort of embouchure problem. It's full of good sensible advice that, as a brass teacher myself, I fully agree with.

    If you haven't already got it, beg borrow or (well, maybe not steal) a copy of this week's BB and turn to page 7. Bob actually invites queries from players to his e-mail address at , he says he's always delighted to hear from readers so go ahead - ask one of the best in the business about your problem. He's a really nice bloke (but very busy, especially at the moment with the Areas coming up, so be patient in waiting for a reply).

    Best wishes

  5. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member


    I'd go along with what Ian has just said...if you can get the chance of expert advice then use it. What I would say for sure is not to try and change anything before your GCSE's, your playing standard will almost certainly drop as you try to adapt to any new technique. The best thing to do now is to revert back to however you used to play, at least until after the exam.

    I find playing high notes can be as much about how you approach the note mentally as how you tackle it physically. If you start to get a "complex" about a particular note then the tendancy is to tense up, which is the exact opposite of what you really need to do. Try to relax, practice lots and try not to stress about it too much. Easy to say I know, but I think thats the best advice I can give you.

    I know from my own experience that changing your embrochure can be a very long and difficult task. My own embrochure is pretty shocking and I tried to change it on my tutors insistance when I was younger (when things were in black and white and people walked funny) and failed badly. That doesn't mean to say its not worth looking at if you have a problem, just not immediately before your exams. I would suggest that after your exams are out of the way, you find a decent tutor (from a recommendation preferably) and ask them to look at all aspects of your playing to see if they can see a way to improve what you are doing playing wise.

    Good luck!!

  6. Ian Bartram

    Ian Bartram New Member

    A few more thoughts from me:

    How long have you been playing the euph? If you're just about to take GCSEs I'm assuming you're in your mid-teens. Unless you've been playing for a few years you shouldn't even be thinking about a top D! Playing high notes too soon has ruined many a potentially good player.

    However, if your playing is well established - and you seem to indicate that there's a top C in your exam piece (and it's OK with your present mouthpiece placing) then this may help:

    If you can play a top C without any forcing - you should be able to play it with a good relaxed sound at a piano dynamic (i.e. without blasting it and turning red to purple!) - then there's probably not much wrong with your embouchure! You should be able to "raise the bar" to a top D with the same ease of production (and same mouthpiece placing) given time and practice - and good practice technique.

    These points will help:

    Many brass band players make the mistake of trying to play a top D on first valve. Yes I know it seems to be the logical choice of fingering, but it's not necessarily the best choice.

    Top D is the ninth harmonic of the open valve (no valves depressed) harmonic series.
    Ninth harmonics are fairly easy to produce and are in tune (on most decent instruments).

    So - try your top D on "open" - if you haven't already.

    Similarly, top C# should be played with 2nd valve only (also ninth harmonic) not 1st and 2nd.

    Top register notes need more air support and faster air flow. To get this imagine you are saying the vowel sound "tee". Try it without playing first - sing "TEE" - and what happens? The mouth cavity narrows and the tongue arches upwards - perfect for upper notes. Try it from top G upwards to top C with firm diaphram support - keeping your tummy muscles firm helps with this.

    Then try this: play a rising chromatic scale at a very steady speed from top G upwards to top C on open as usual then top C# on 2nd and then hold a top D on "open".

    Don't lose heart if it doesn't happen at once. Try again in the manner I describe below. "Persevere with patience".

    DON'T FORCE the highest notes out.
    USE THE AIR FLOW TO GET THE HIGHER NOTES (not more pressure against the mouthpiece).
    USE the vowel sound "ee" as described above.

    AND most important, make sure you're really well warmed up (scales, arpeggios, lip slurs etc) before you attempt any high register work.

    Don't spend more than a minute or two at a time doing this type of high register practice. Rest for at least as long as the time you play - then try again. Rest again, try again.
    Just three short spells like this, with equal rests between, is enough at first. The lips will tire very easily. After a few weeks you can lengthen the playing time very gradually.

    When you have finished your three high range spells (with equal rest periods) play some quiet, long low notes: bottom C down to bottom G. This will relax and refresh the lips keeping them in good condition. This is like an athlete's "warm-down".

    One last tip: use the vowel sound TAW on these low notes. Again, the vowel sound gives the ideal mouth shape, this time for low notes. Try it - say "TAW" ("TOOR") - the bottom jaw drops giving a bigger mouth cavity, the tongue drops and the lips relax more. Perfect for the lowest notes.


    It may, or may not, help you in the long term to change your mouthpiece position - without actually seeing and hearing you play I can't tell. My own opinion is that an embouchure change is drastic - almost like starting all over again. There has to be a very convincing reason for such a change. I have to say that IMHO and experience some teachers have been much too quick to impose a change on their pupils.

    Always happy to help a fellow euph player :)

    Last edited: Feb 19, 2005
  7. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    With all respect to all commentators, the MD Hannah refers to is one of the best brass teachers (and players) around, with years of experience playing, teaching and training young people. Previous Principal cornet with Wingates, Besses, Brighouse and Kings of Brass. Some of the best bands in the country have players that have been influenced strongly by him in the past, myself included.

    Hannah, I think the best advice would be to stay put for now if a different setup doesn't work, but there is plenty of help in your current circle of contacts if you only ask!
  8. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    *is confused* I should carry on playing like I was doing until my exam and then get help from someone?Like Andy said, the MD is great and very well respected, so I'm pretty sure his comments are for the best.
    And in reply to Ian I've been playing euph for a year, but played cornet and baritone for about a year before that. Thanks for the advice about the fingering.
  9. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... your MD should respect that you have got exams soon, regardless of his ablity. You don't want to find yourself having to re-sit them because of an impulsive, yet well-intentioned change! Have a quiet word with him and tell him that you will work on it after your exams.
  10. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    He doesn't know I have an exam, he just said I should consider changing it. I didn't really have time to discuss it much as I had a taxi and a train to catch home! I was just wondering whether I should wait until after my exams or not, and how long it would take.
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Passing your exams is a priority and if your setup works well enough for the pieces, do not try and change until afterwards. Your MD might feel guilty if you tried to adjust your embouchure at this time, not knowing the circumstances. I'm sure he will appreciate and respect you even more if you tell him. Give him a phone and explain.
  12. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    Ok, now it's starting to feel as though I'm talking about his behind his back. No more advice needed! Thanks to everyone for the help. :tup
  13. sevenhelz

    sevenhelz Active Member

    sorry to reply after you said that hanna, but that's really interesting! i've always played euph and i actually have a pretty high embochoure - you can see a ring above my lip if you know where to look :) it's probably something to do with having played cornet, cause you dont need as much of the lip for that :) i would definately agree, keep your embochoure the same until after your exam. then think about changing it - since youre pretty young (and by that i mean adaptable) and under the care of a good teacher, it should only take you a few months to really get used to it, so dont think it'll be forever.
    best of luck in the exam!
  14. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    Ta for that! Maybe its just us ex-cornet players. My friend said that when he was told to change the way he played he used a pencil and had to keep it in the same position or something, and it fell off if his mouth was in the wrong position. I wasn't really listening, but wondered if anyone knows what he was talking about??
  15. wewizrobbed

    wewizrobbed Member

    holding a pencil in your mouth, without it touching your teeth, is meant to strengthen your embouchure, or so I was told! It's really quite sore.
  16. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member


    Get a copy of this weeks British Bandsman if you can and have a read of what
    It is a very good write up it is on page 7:clap:

    ian perks
    Gresley Old Hall Band
  17. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    'holding a pencil in your mouth, without it touching your teeth, is meant to strengthen your embouchure, or so I was told! It's really quite sore.'

    Erm how long for exactly? I know have wood and graphite sort of disintergrating into my mouth... :rolleyes:
  18. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    I've tried, but I've run out of people to ask! Everyone I know gets BBW instead. Honestly, what are friends for if you can't steal their magazines!
  19. tim

    tim Member

    Using the back of a pen is usually better as you don't get the wood or graphite in your mouth... Just don't use the nib end!!!!
  20. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

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