Sunday, February 15, 2009

BE Round-Up

Now that I've been working with the Balanced Embouchure method for a while, I think I can say it's the answer to my lip callus problem. Basically, I think my previous poor technique was asking that bit of skin to do too much of the work, while other parts of the embouchure weren't doing enough. Everything was fine until I really started to push for stamina and the high notes I'm expected to play in band. The extra stress precipitated the callus. For now, the callus is gone as long as I don't fall back into the old embouchure. If I use the old embouchure for high notes the skin will show signs of wanting to callus up again.

While endurance and the general feel of the embouchure are improved, at this stage while I'm rebuilding my embouchure, the range and tone are not what I'd like them to be. Only time will tell, but I feel confident the range will come. Not sure where the tone will end up. My guess is that the better understanding of embouchure will allow for a wider palette of tone colors.

Working with BE has given me an experiential feel for a number of things I'd heard or read about playing the horn, but either hadn't really understood or fully appreciated. Here are a few of those:

*Angle of the horn - I'd noticed on photos that most horn players hold it so that the lead pipe has a slightly downward angle from the lips, whereas I held it more straight out. With the BE, that downward angle just happens on its own.

*Cousin Steve, a "natural" trombone player always talks about "the air", and maestro says things like, "Let the air do the work." With the BE, I can now feel what they are talking about, whereas before it just didn't register.

*My tone is much "brassier". Andy says he can hear more overtones, and the sounding board (an old spinet with action removed and all strings tuned to the Bb scale) resonates more quickly and with more volume to the new tone. And I also now understand that when maestro was asking for more volume, what I really needed was a fuller tone, which my previous embouchure couldn't give me. (I hope I can regain my previous tone to use from time to time, as it was perfect for chamber music).

*Before BE I didn't understand what warming up was about, and all it did was to fatigue my lips. Now warming up makes sense, and I can play for much longer times. I was previously baffled by the amount of time horn players seemed to be practicing and had pretty much decided my 60 year old lips were the problem.

*Lip slurs were always a trial for me, but now I "get" what they're all about on a proprioceptive level and they're much easier. Lip trills no longer seem out of the question.

*One other result of BE has been greater ease in producing third octave tones on the flute. I think the better muscle awareness is what's making the difference.

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