So what’s this embouchure thingummy?

Since Stratos is described as an embouchure training system I thought that this post should give an overview of embouchure. Nothing too deep or technical, but so we all have a standard frame of reference when looking at the benefits from using the Stratos system.

Embouchure is a term used by brass and woodwind instrument players and teachers. It is derived from the Old French verb s’emboucher, meaning to flow from the mouth. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the mode of applying the mouth to the mouthpiece of a brass or wind instrument”. Ignoring the difficulties of applying your mouth to an anemometer for the moment, we can expand on this definition and say that a brass embouchure includes both the positioning of the mouthpiece relative to the mouth and also other factors affecting sound generation, such as mouth aperture, jaw position, tongue, lip and facial muscles. Even head position and general posture will affect the flow of air into the instrument and thereby affect your sound. Clearly forming an embouchure is a complicated process.

Maybe because it is so complex many players and teachers have had a stab a defining what a “correct” embouchure should be, so we have the Farkas Embouchure, the Stevens/Costello embouchure, the Superchops or Callet embouchure and the Maggio embouchure to mention a few. However as we observed earlier many factors affect sound production including size and shape of the oral cavity, facial muscle power and co-ordination, location and shape of the jaw, and since these vary from individual to individual, it’s not unreasonable to assume that every player’s embouchure is unique to them. Therefore probably the honest (but slightly unhelpful) answer to the question which embouchure is, that the correct embouchure is the one that works for you.

Agreeing what a good embouchure should achieve is a slightly less contentious topic. I believe it should allow:-

  • a consistent, even and expressive tone
  • good endurance of both individual notes and overall playing stamina
  • an ability to play consistently over the instrument’s entire natural range

A further requirement is that all of the above should be achieved without causing pain or injury to the player, after all we’re supposed to be doing this because we enjoy it!

Next post I’ll look at how you can use the Stratos system to help develop and maintain your embouchure.