An aspiring jazz trumpet player's blog about jazz improvisation and ear training.

January 18, 2004 Trumpet Technique 1 Comment

My embouchure - finding balance

I've been working on the Balanced Embouchure (BE) method since July of 2003. During this period, I've been using two separate embouchures. I use BE for warm-ups, slurs, and when playing etudes, but I typically fall back into my older embouchure when playing jazz. I do this because I still play better (although in a lower range) with my old embouchure.

When I started BE, I found it really tricky to play in the "lip clamp" position. I have a pretty significant overbite (at least 1/3 inch), so it's hard for me to get my teeth to line up in such a way that the mouthpiece forms a good seal. I'd constantly end up with gaps where air would escape. Eventually, I gave up on a full lip clamp (as shown in the book's pictures) and just did the best I could.

After a couple of months doing the exercises, I didn't feel like I was making much progress (looking back, I can see I was probably just being impatient). I figured I needed some guidance from the expert, so I sent an email to the author (Jeff Smiley), along with a couple of video clips showing my version of a BE embouchure.

Jeff responded with several observations and suggestions. Everything he told me was in his book, but now I had things personalized for my embouchure. More importantly, I knew I wasn't making any major mistakes. This gave me the confidence I needed to continue with the program.

It has only been 6 months since I've been working with BE, but I already have positive and consistent results. I find that I can play above the staff with very little mouthpiece pressure. Also, even though I still practice a lot, I have no scarring on the inside of my top lip, nor do I have any noticeable scarring on the outside of my lip.

I know I still have a long way to go, however. The BE version of my embouchure is still pretty unstable. I also find that it feels pretty good in the beginning of the day, but after a few practice sessions, my top lip feels sore. Around this time, my range and accuracy with BE declines rapidly. I should note that my embouchure is looking more and more like the lip clamp pictures in the book, so perhaps I'm just beginning to get it right.

To close this journal entry, I thought I'd post an audio clip of me doing some slurs: iwasdoingallright - audio clip. These were done at the beginning of the day, right after my initial BE warm-up. Yes, the slurs are sloppy, and yes the high notes are very weak... but I'd say the results are pretty incredible considering the fact that six months ago I struggled to play above an E in the staff. If you're wondering what note it is that I'm barely playing at the end.... yes, it's a DOUBLE C!

Further reading: my progress after 2 years, struggles with range and endurance.

Comment by Jesson


I began practicing the BE just a couple of months ago, and I feel really depressed cause my teacher told me: If it doesn’t work, you’re doing it wrong, but I followed the instructions.

Now I sound great in low register but as I get to E5, my lips don’t support me.

I’m affraid of what may happen with these changes, In three months I lose what I’ve been workin on for almost 15 years playing, studying. I don’t know yet how to resolve this, or am i out playing for ever?

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