Jan 10, 2013

Embouchure and slide

This month I want to focus on the fact of how much the embouchure has on pitch variation. An easy test to find out how much is to play with a tuner and see where the needle goes when the embouchure is relaxed and when it is firm. Generally speaking, the more relaxed the embouchure the lower the pitch, and vice-versa. This has a profound effect on where the slide is placed, because the embouchure is in a different position every time we play a note, and never in the same place twice. I say this because there are about 300 muscles affecting embouchure placement, and the chances of them being in the same position on two different notes is practically nil.

Because of this it is necessary to make slight adjustments in slide placement to account for variations in embouchure firmness or lack thereof. Those of us that put the slide in exactly the same place no matter what the embouchure is doing will always be out of tune with ourselves, let alone others. A fact of life is when we sit in an ensemble and count bars rest for many minutes, our embouchure loses it's "warmed-up" feeling and unless we compensate for this loss of suppleness, the pitch will probably be lower than if we played continuously. Therefore a subtle change of slide placement is necessary to bring the pitch back into the target zone. Generally speaking again, an embouchure concept that produces the highest pitch on each partial will serve us better in the long run and make slide adjustments minimal, but still necessary. Obviously the way to produce the highest pitch possible on each partial is to have sufficient firmness in the corners of the embouchure to produce a clear, bright, focused center to the sound. This will allow us to stay relaxed in the other parts of the body which is the secret to a great sound.


This article has been translated into Italian by Alberto Tortella.

This article has been translated into Polish by Lukasz Michalski.

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