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Embouchure

  • An embouchure is a three-dimensional entity in motion created by wind rushing past lips.

  • An embouchure does not exist without air flow because an embouchure includes motion.

  • You can’t take a two-dimensional photo of an embouchure but you can videotape an embouchure.

Try thinking of this definition of embouchure as you play. If you are like me (and many of my students), the idea of including the wind as part of the embouchure will make a noticeable difference in your playing. My students are able to generate more resonance and their endurance is enhanced. They tend to be less worried about “having a bad chop day” because their focus is on the air instead of the lips.

When we include the air as part of the embouchure, we make the air a pre-requisite to tone production instead of an afterthought; the air is a requirement instead of a suggestion. This is a profound, meaningful change in the way we think about producing sound on trombone.

It can also be helpful to think of an equation I call “Embouchure Equilibrium”:

Air + Muscular Effort = Tone

Let’s call the value of Tone 10. In order for the equation to be true, the air and muscular effort must add up to equal 10 in any combination you choose. You could assign a value of 4 to air and muscular effort would have to be a 6 or if air is 7, muscular effort would have to be 3.

I propose a high number for air; perhaps an 8, which would mean muscular effort would be a 2. That’s not much muscular effort and it may challenge your idea of what is necessary to produce a tone.

Give it a try anyway.

If you’ve never tried this concept you may not know what you are missing!

I am continually surprised by how little effort we can get away with in the muscles of our face in order to create a resonant tone. I say use as little effort as you can get away with and if that means trusting the air more, then I’m going to blow!

The Breathing Book has some pertinent information about this topic, so I would recommend it for those who would like more help with their embouchure. My Body Mapping book, What Every Trombonist Needs to Know About the Body would also be helpful.

The Breathing Book for Tenor Trombone

The Breathing Book for Bass Trombone





What Every Trombonist Needs to Know About the Body

What Every Trombonist Needs to Know About the Body is the Body Mapping book for trombonists. It contains factual information about the body, similar to the discussion of the tongue above. In fact, every part of the body is included in the book, along with many images and playing activities to help you clearly understand how to move to play trombone.

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