Thursday, January 22, 2009

Balanced Embouchure

Because of my lip callus and struggling to play high notes on the horn, I've been on the lookout for embouchure information. One of the horn blogs over on the regular reads list sent me to Julia's Horn page, and she was talking about and linked to Jeff Smiley's site. He's a trumpet teacher in Dallas with a method called "The Balanced Embouchure". 

I was impressed by the sample information on the site and got in touch to get the address of his horn representative, Valerie Wells, and through her bought the book with the extra horn materials. Looks to be the best $50 I've spent on music materials in a long time.

Working with the materials in the book I have a much better idea of what's going on with my embouchure than ever before. I think I've figured out how I managed to get the callus and why the high notes were so hard. After taking off playing for a month have been back at it for over a week with no callus and the hope I'll play even better than before, though I do now understand why horn players talk about embouchure changes being such a big deal.

Once I get further along I'll post more about "The Balanced Embouchure", but not the details of the method. What impresses me the most about the book Jeff's approach to teaching music. The man has taught for a long time, been paying attention to what works and what doesn't, and most importantly, treats his students and the learning process with great respect. He gives you the tools and the general parameters, but realizes that every individual has to find his or her own way. 

A lot of music educators seem so focussed on the music, they seem to forget the students are individuals. It's an extreme exaggeration, but I've often thought some educators would be just as happy with a bunch of trained seals, as long as they performed the music well. 

Jeff has created an outstanding set of materials because he's been paying real attention to all his students all those years, and that has led him to a number of realizations about the learning
process that I've never seen so wonderfully and completely presented. Besides helping me play the horn better, I think working with these materials will help me better go about doing a better job on the materials I'm trying to create.

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