Community Band has started up again, and I'm back on the Bb horn. Don't know how long it's going to last, but things are going very well and want to list some of the factors I think are helping.
Jeff Smiley's Balanced Embouchure book has been invaluable, mainly for giving me a mental construct for what's going on with the whole embouchure mechanism. Unless you're a pure natural player, the better the notion you have about how your instrument works, and more importantly, how on the physical level you make your instrument work, the better chance you have of finding your path to more fulfilling music making. Having something like that Catholic monk in China (Ricci?) called his "memory palace" for your music making is better than flailing away hoping something good is going to happen.
I've been carrying around a mouthpiece to buzz in free moments. Before I'd done some of it right before practicing, but it's different knowing that's all that's going to happen, that it's not just a preliminary. The best thing about it for me is that it allows for just the right amount of pressure for the seal, and without the distraction of actually trying to hit notes, that pressure can be calibrated very finely.
The work on the F horn this summer was a game changer for me. I'd actually gotten to where it was a toss up between frustration and enjoyment. Being able to get deeply into good tone has brought back my love of the instrument. There were times the good tone and intonation just flowed naturally without constant adjustment and I felt more like I was inside the tone than making it.
I'm using a Farkas medium cup mouthpiece, and the wide, rounded rim feels pillowed against my lips. That feels good in itself, but it also allows for me to better feel and adjust the various embouchure muscles. For my lips, this mouthpiece of the ones I've tried, provides for the most, and the most evenly distributed, surface contact.
I'm using a playing position that has trade offs, but really suits me. Back some time ago John Ericson (I think) put up a video of a horn player's audition tape of a Mozart piece and he had what's called a pip stick to hold the instrument. The instant I saw that guy's fingers effortlessly flipping the keys because his left hand wasn't having to hold any of the weight of the horn, I realized where a lot of my problems were coming from.
Pip sticks are expensive and apparently only available in the UK. Plus, the idea of stressing the horn where it rests on the stick would make me nervous (I can imagine it loosening braces). So I just raised the guitar footrest to it's highest level to raise my right leg and rest the horn there on a folded hand towel used for drying water in the bell. Not having all the muscle involvement holding the horn in position more than makes up for having to pay attention to not letting that leg position trigger bad posture and breathing.(If you're thinking of trying this non-standard position, please see what Jonathan West has said in the comments.)
And speaking of trigger, back earlier this spring I redid the trigger so doing nothing means I'm on the Bb side. There's enough tightening up going on for the higher horn without having to squeeze the thumb as well.
Photo - at John and Kate's in Echo Valley