Akinoran By the ba,anced of 6th grade, all of my students can play a G above the staff, as demonstrated by playing a two octave G scale, up and down, in one breath. The only advice that makes any sense is to get a teacher! Thanks a lot for giving this advice, I think that what we need is a balanced way of seeing different kinds of methodology and search what best sniley according to our specific nature as human beings. Eventually, I muscled up so much it ended my ability to make a reliable attack. I came up with getting the bottom lip to mate more evenly with the top lip.
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The Balanced Embouchure An interview with Jeff Smiley It took Jeff Smiley 30 years to decipher the clues and discover an easier way to play trumpet, a dynamic step-by-step method that works for everyone. Jeff is a trumpet teacher who works with all age groups and skill levels. In the last 14 years, he has taught over twenty thousand lessons in the Dallas area in Texas. His book, "The Balanced Embouchure", is now available. It is the core text of a projected series of books dealing with unique dynamic range of motion exercises.
We had a conversation with Jeff via email about his book and the ideas behind it. Before we start talking about your book, could you please tell us a bit about your background as a trumpeter and teacher? Early on, I had little training, and developed the worst possible habits. Still, I was at or near first chair in high school concert band, and lead in jazz good to F.
But by the time college came around, the limitations from those habits had become painfully obvious, so I attempted an embouchure change. It was sheer ignorance of fundamental embouchure mechanics, and there was nobody around who could help very much pre-internet!
Oddly enough, I was also teaching trumpet throughout this period, and was having tremendous success. I had learned a wide assortment of techniques bag of tricks that enabled me to help just about anyone, although the laws underlying those techniques universal principles were yet a mystery.
Eventually my chops improved, through nothing but persistence. I was your basic 5 hours a day, days per year type of player, with an ability to focus on one thing for a long period of time. For many reasons, college eventually became a dead end. So, I joined the Army as a trumpet player. During this time, I met and studied for a year with Claude Gordon. To me, he was an archetypal character, larger than life, and a fabulous storyteller.
Just being around him was fun, which, I realize in hindsight, was actually the main benefit I received from studying with him. Certainly, I improved very little during that time. His own early life as a trumpeter had been filled with turmoil from faulty embouchure instruction. As a result, he later shied away from attempting to teach any specifics regarding lip position.
The problem was, I needed those specifics! After the Army, my whole life changed. My original plan was to move to L. Instead, I had an epiphany, a sudden clarity that my life was moving in a direction which was ultimately never going to be satisfying. This led me on a long search for self knowledge, the kind that is not easily found in books. Now, years later, the search continues, but several issues are much clearer.
I have chosen to put most of my energy into trumpet teaching rather than playing. In life, you take actions which always have an effect on your environment and those around you. Will the effect be more positive or negative? Plus, I enjoy giving service! There is a level of satisfaction in helping others that was never present for me in the performance environment.
For others, performance may be the right choice. By the way. Those that think that performance skills translate into teaching skills are sadly mistaken, a point that I cover in great detail in the book. In my opinion, most inefficient trumpet instruction is the result of failed attempts by pro players to reverse engineer their embouchures.
All of them play unconsciously, often from an early age, and do not understand the stages of development a typical player must go through to make progress. The book has the title, "The Balanced Embouchure. The same goes for happiness-sadness, or tension-relaxation. A trumpet embouchure offers a perfect example of this coexistence of opposites. In the typical embouchure, all of these opposing forces are present.
But which ones are most important for the developing player? The real answer is, they are all complementary to one another. Tension is just as important as relaxation. Air resistance must be there along with air power. In short, a balance must be struck in order for the activity of playing to take place. Any state of balance has a central point, a fulcrum.
To me, the central fulcrum when playing trumpet is the position and movement of the lips. They are responsible for an astounding array of activities, sometimes even in opposition to themselves!
And all too often, they are wholly inadequate to the task, as most players unhappily discover. In other words, through the repetition of relatively simple exercise targets, the lips become more intelligent, more able to move far enough and morph into more complex shapes to match the task at hand.
How did this book project start? About ten years ago, I sat down to write a trumpet method book, and quickly discovered that I still had more questions than answers. Then, a couple of years back, I awoke one morning with the Balanced Embouchure method in my head, clear and complete, right down to the title.
Anyway, my first reaction was, can it really be this simple? The results were truly unbelievable. It may sound impossible, or seem more likely that I just got lucky. But, since I work with between 50 and 60 students per week, the odds of it being the result of sheer chance are close to zero. Naturally, I wanted to share this knowledge with other teachers. But I learned long ago that people in general tend to be resistant to new ideas - look how long that Farkas has dominated our trumpet education!
In that way, the sheer volume of information would be almost impossible to dismiss, whether or not the reader decided to follow the program. In the acknowledgments, you say that without the help, inspiration, and genius of others, this book would never have been conceived. What do you mean? I think that it was Isaac Newton who explained that he saw further than most people only because he had "stood on the shoulders of giants", such as Kepler and Copernicus.
Although I am no Newton, I am sure that if this book enjoys any success, it is largely because of those players and teachers like Jerry Callet and Louis Maggio, who spent lifetimes figuring out stuff that I now take for granted.
How is "The Balanced Embouchure" different from other methods? I think that the relative positioning of my approach is easier to understand when placed in the following context: The goal of every embouchure development process is the same, which is to positively affect the coordination of the lips and tongue and air , fully integrating them into a system that operates unconsciously, at the highest level of efficiency.
What differentiates the various methods is the "target" used by each teacher to most effectively trigger and promote this unconscious coordination. A target is an action or goal intended to help the student more easily synthesize several smaller puzzle pieces into a larger one, and not have to be conscious about every little thing. For example, the instruction "blow faster air" is a common target phrase used with beginners in hopes that it will automatically trigger a coordination of air, lips and tongue that spontaneously results in the ability to hit higher notes.
This particular target, by the way, is often ineffective because there are a lot of ways to blow faster air, some obviously more efficient than others. These targets may be better described as "tricks" to activate or gradually massage in through repetition a greater unconscious mind response. Targets a convenient name only are used to generate more "unconscious competence. Complex targets tend to quickly pull together bigger chunks of the puzzle, but the resulting organization may be unbalanced.
This is an "end result" target, much like a golfer thinking about the ball landing in the hole, or the basketball player shooting a jump shop while concentrating on the bottom of the net. Ideally, this approach should work the quickest, prompting the unconscious mind to organize all of the details between beginning and end. Unfortunately, end result targets have limited effectiveness, because the majority of students are not "unconsciously open.
So, we start looking at manipulating the individual parts. When the targets are more immediate, such as a particular lip or tongue placement, they are easier to hit, but focusing on individual movements can get complicated in a hurry. Still, teachers continue to move in the direction of breaking down the complex chain of events into simpler targets, because the alternative such as learning by copying has been proven over and over again another huge topic for discussion to be a numbers game, working for only the few.
Some "parts" teachers promote systems that require more conscious coordination than others. For instance, the Jerry Callet Superchops embouchure contains extremely specific descriptions of the tongue and the position of both lips. Of course, getting these elements to work in harmony together is a different story although those that succeed often improve tremendously. In this case, as it is with most systems using simple targets, the hope is that if you focus on it consciously for long enough, the individual movements will eventually become automatic more unconscious , and then you can go about your business of playing the horn.
Since I knew that lip movement during playing was extremely complex - all of the microscopic movements going on inside the mouthpiece were certainly too complex for me to ever effectively model - I reasoned that by increasing lip range of motion, the lips would gradually grow in intelligence, unconsciously forming a more complex coordination that any teacher could intellectually conceive. Since increasing the lip range of motion means exaggerating lip movements in a specific direction, the key to success is understanding universal principles, which aids you in knowing which movements are more or less in the "right" direction for example, stretching or smiling is the "wrong" direction, even though a small percentage of players have success using it.
I found that specific roll-in and roll-out movements are the answer. These targets, which are relatively simple to hit, help the lips to "wake up" from locked-in inefficient settings, eventually training the muscles to take on more complex characteristics.
The end result is a continuously flexing embouchure, which allows students to play from the double pedal register on up G above high C and beyond. A huge side benefit of doing lip movements outside the norm, is that players can maintain their current embouchures while adding the increased range of motion.
My students have proven, time after time, that it allows positive change to take place more easily. These notes are actually very easy for the average beginner to hit when proper instruction is given.
Both notes are normally introduced into the lesson within the first few months to begin increasing the lip range of motion. One of the best side benefits of hitting G above the staff early on, is that students, by direct experience, learn that playing above the staff is no big deal.
Most of us learned exactly the opposite, and unnecessarily suffered long term psychological consequences as a result, including lowered self esteem.
Even after several years, part of me is still amazed to work with 6th graders who look at notes above the staff with little or no fear. As for the notes that are higher still, they understand how to get them - and exactly what tools to use - if they choose to put the energy into it.
JEFF SMILEY BALANCED EMBOUCHURE PDF
The Balanced Embouchure An interview with Jeff Smiley It took Jeff Smiley 30 years to decipher the clues and discover an easier way to play trumpet, a dynamic step-by-step method that works for everyone. Jeff is a trumpet teacher who works with all age groups and skill levels. In the last 14 years, he has taught over twenty thousand lessons in the Dallas area in Texas. His book, "The Balanced Embouchure", is now available. It is the core text of a projected series of books dealing with unique dynamic range of motion exercises. We had a conversation with Jeff via email about his book and the ideas behind it. Before we start talking about your book, could you please tell us a bit about your background as a trumpeter and teacher?