Date: Sun, 28 Mar 2004 04:49:07 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: [TPIN] Embouchure crisis ANCHOR SPOT ID
DISCLAIMER: If you are an analysis=paralysis theorist, then please
don't bother reading this post, since it deals with details which are
of most interest to pedagogics and trumpeters who appreciate
understanding the mechanics of playing well. I understand that for some
the less thought about, the better approach is more effective. Please
realize that this post, and others like, are directed toward teachers
who must deal with remedial players, comeback players, and others who
respond best to an analytical approach (and please respect different
learning/teaching styles). If your best mode of learning is that of
listening/imitating, then you might prefer to delete this message right
Where are you located?
My immediate thought would be to find another teacher, however, it's
important that you check for your natural Anchor Spot (the spot which is
optimal for placement of your mouthpiece on your lips).
That's not to say that your chops won't work somewhat in a slightly
different place, but trying to play in a way that is contrary to your
natural, anatomical setup is not going to help you achieve your maximum
And that is as individual as every trumpeter: no two trumpeters have
the same setup. For a trumpet teacher to insist that everyone play in
the same spot (central), in the same angle/pivot
(perpendicular/straight out), in the same position vis-a-vis up and
down (half and half or 2/3's 1/3 or vice versa) is, imh but experienced
opinion highly irresponsible.
Now it MAY be that you were distorting to achieve the results you
mentioned. Was your sound full and pure in all registers? Were you
placing the upper, inner rim of the mouthpiece above the spot where the
red lip membrane meets the white muscle of the upper lip?
This is crucial to avoid injury to the delicate lip membrane,
particularly with someone who has not played before, or who has not
played in some time.
Please note: there are some players, with very thick, very fleshy lips,
who manage to play low on the upper lip, but it always results in
scarring (which impedes lip vibration, and ultimately finesse of
All that said, let's talk about the process of ANCHOR SPOT ID (ASI):
Because your lips' anatomy is uniquely yours, we need to take into
account a number of factors in setting up your embouchure.
1. Most important of all is
finding your best compression point (the spot at which your lips seal
best, which is where the center of your embouchure should be
located--and ultimately where the basic tone is produced).
This is found by using the following procedure: (watch yourself in a
WITHOUT tightening your corners, press your lips as strongly as
possible against each other, in front of your teeth, then pop the lips apart.
You should notice a brief, white spot on the lower lip (it fade
quickly, so watch carefully!).
Repeat the process a couple of times to be sure you've seen it.
Now, place the tip of your pinky finger into the flesh of your UPPER
lip, right above where you saw the white spot on your lower lip, but in
the white of the upper lip, just above where the white meets the red.
Press in slightly, and push side-to-side and up-and-down. You should
find that the muscle gives way slightly in this area (which is usually
roughly triangular in shape).
This is the area in which the orbiculares oris muscle joins back to
itself and attaches to the zygomaticus, but for your purposes it shows
you where you'll set the inner, upper rim of the mouthpiece.
You'll want to place the center of the mouthpiece rim here, but make
sure that you catch the INNER, upper rim just above the shelf where the white and red meet.
For some folks it's a bit higher, but it must be AT LEAST above that
meeting point of muscle and membrane.
Often, if the upper lip is relatively short from nose to edge, it can
be helpful to tip the mouthpiece upwards and use the width of the
mouthpiece rim to guide you in rolling the mouthpiece down to the
2. Now wet and close your lips,
and roll the mouthpiece downward just enough to affect a seal between
the mouthpiece and the closed lips.
You may need to angle slightly left or right to accommodate your tooth
structure, and/or slightly downward or upward to accommodate your jaw
structure to affect the seal.
Make the pertinent adjustments as you play.
3. The key is to stay very
relaxed as you play. Use lots of air, in the middle register.
You should begin by playing a second line G or third space C.
See Ole J. Utnes' website for a sample warmup that I use with students,
if you like:
4. The biggest change you'll
likely notice is that notes will speak more readily when you play on
your proper anchor spot. You'll also note that lip flexibility (lip
slurring) is more reliable. In addition, your sound will be more
centered and balanced.
5. It is also VERY important
that you keep your back molars separated/ jaws open, even though you
are keeping your lips closed. This puts the greatest work in embouchure
onto your lower lip, which has better capacity for doing that work by
virtue of its being free to move, unlike the upper lip which is tied to
the zygomatic bone.
You may find your lower lip growing very tired. Allow yourself ample
opportunity to rest.
6. You may find it helpful to
keep the tip of your tongue forward, over the top edge of the bottom
lip, to assist the lower lip and keep it from collapsing inward. Do
NOT, however, allow the lower lip to thrust between the lower and upper
lips because that would disturb the seal between them which is so
important for optimal tone quality.
7. Finally keep your hands
relaxed. Do not Grip the
trumpet: merely balance the trumpet on your left hand, and keep the
right pinky OUT of the ring (it's NOT an octave key <G>)! Allow the
trumpet to breathe (move
slightly) as you play. Remember to allow the lips' motion, though more
subtle, to flow just as the
Once the basics are down, you'll have the freedom to play with abandon
(muscle memory takes care of that!)
Hope this has helped you. Please feel free to write back to tell me how
it works for you, or if you have any further questions.
As the Armenians say: Hamperootyoon!
(Patience!) You will grow in your trumpet playing, it's not a
destination but a PROCESS!
Take Care and Best Wishes,