Trumpet Embouchure Tips
You may have learned in science class that all sound is vibration. When we play trumpet, we make sound by vibrating our lips together.
Roll in your lips so that only a small amount of actual lip can be seen, and the rest is face skin. (People with larger lips will need to roll in more than people with thin lips.)
Let your upper and lower lip gently touch each other, as if they are two feathers that happened to gently land on each other.
Think the “mmm” that you make when you smell homemade baked goods getting ready to come out of the oven. Make that sound and you’ll feel a lot of little muscles around your mouth flex. Those are the same muscles you need to flex every time you play trumpet.
Do not clench your jaw closed. There needs to be about ¼” of space between the upper teeth and lower teeth.
Flex the corners of your lips. Keep them tight every time you play.
Make your chin flat / point your chin down. *This needs to be checked in a mirror, as most people think it’s pointing down when it’s really scrunched up.
Pull the corners slightly back (toward your ears), but avoid stretching them too much.
Press the inside of your cheeks against your teeth. **Since your teeth should be slightly separated, some of the cheek skin will actually be between your teeth… so don’t bite down!
Put a straw in the center of your mouth. Don’t let it touch your teeth or your tongue. Flex your face muscles to aim it straight forward, then try making it move up and down WITHOUT moving your jaw or teeth.
For first attempts (or anytime you need to see your buzz), make the buzz into an embouchure visualizer or using two fingers to help the lips have something to vibrate against.
Place the mouthpiece in the center of your lips, aiming straight forward. Do not let it be to the left or the right.
Place the mouthpiece on your lips so that there are equal amounts of upper lip and lower lip in the mouthpiece.
Leave space between your upper and lower molars.
Buzz with just the mouthpiece.
Tip: Right handed people should hold it with their left hand & vice versa to avoid pressing it into the face too hard.
Think “soft lips” for low notes. Think “hard lips” for high notes.
Buzzing with just the mouthpiece, make sirens (sounds going up and down).
Rubber Band: Your lips are like rubber bands. As you stretch a rubber band and pluck it (like a guitar string) it makes higher sounds. As you stretch your lips, they will also make higher sounds.
Buzzing with just the mouthpiece, hold a balloon tight to the end of it and blow up the balloon while buzzing. (This helps you learn to buzz / blow with more air pressure.)
Different Size Straws: 1. Use a large straw to learn how big your hole needs to be for a low note. 2. Use a medium straw to learn how big your hole needs to be for a medium note. 3. Use a coffee stirrer to learn how big your hole needs to be for a high note.
Buzzing with just the mouthpiece, try to match pitches.
Buzzing higher and lower notes takes different face muscle. You can tighten your face muscles a few ways: 1. Keep them in the same position and flex them. 2. Pull the corners back (towards your ears). 3. Buzz a smaller amount of lip (not all the lip inside the mouthpiece needs to buzz).
Buzzing with just the mouthpiece, try to play simply songs like “Mary Had A Little Lamb”.
On the instrument, try buzzing low notes and high notes (lip slurs). *This is how music is made on trumpets. All trumpet players must master this.
Sing the notes, then play the notes. If you can hear it, it is easier to play it.
Buzz without the mouthpiece, then add the mouthpiece while continuing to buzz.
Use more air (blow harder). If you don’t put enough air in the horn, you won’t be able to make your lips vibrate.
Buzz with the mouthpiece, then take the mouthpiece away while continuing to buzz with just the lips.
Don’t pucker your lips… that makes it look like you’re kissing the mouthpiece!
Remove the tuning slide from the trumpet and buzz (with the mouthpiece) through the lead pipe.
*This is a great time to review the proper way to use tuning slide grease.
Air Direction? Most brass players blow the air directly through the center of the mouthpiece. Experiment with aiming it up and down, as well as forward. Do what works best for you.
Extremes? •What is the lowest note you can make with just the mouthpiece? …with the trumpet? •What is the highest note you can make with just the mouthpiece? …with the trumpet? •Learn to feel the different face muscles needed for high and low notes.
We will learn to play soft later. For now feel free to play loud while your lips are learning to hit high notes. Many beginner trumpet players can only play the high notes when they’re loud.
Pretend you are spitting out a piece of rice or a piece of hair that is stuck on your lip. Feel your tummy muscles moving? We need that same force of air when you play trumpet.
Relax your shoulders while you play. If they tense up you will close off some of your lung capacity and have sore muscles after you play.
When playing different notes by just changing your face muscles (lips slurs / low-mid-high) shape your mouth like you’re saying “ah” for the low note, like you’re saying “ee” for the middle note, and like you’re saying “oh” for the high note. That’s OREO!
Experiment with how far your teeth are apart. There needs to be space fore the lips to fold inward (over the teeth). The buzz actually happens on the soft inner surface of your lip.
Watermelon Seeds: Pretend you are going to spit a watermelon seed across the room. Use that same face muscle to play your trumpet (especially on higher notes). For lower notes, just pretend you’re not spitting the seeds as far.
Experiment with how much lip is in the mouthpiece. Try flattening out your lips (less), and pushing more in. Find what works best for you and do that!
Wall-Paper: Take a piece of copy paper to a smooth wall. Stand about 1 foot away. Hold the paper against the wall directly in front of your face. Start blowing and let go of the paper. Hold the paper against the wall with your breath for as long as you can. Now try playing high notes with THAT MUCH air pressure.
Experiment with the way you tongue: Try using “ta” or “tu” for lower notes, but switch to the “ti” syllable for higher notes.
The actual opening in your lips is called the aperture. Make the aperture bigger for low notes, and smaller for high notes.
Try pressing your bottom lip against the mouthpiece.
Experiment with moving the corners of your lips up and down. For low notes, think frown (or look like a bull dog). For middle notes, think flat. For high notes, think of smiling.
High Notes = Fast Lips Low Notes = Slow Lips
Skinny Lips vs. Fat Lips Make your lips skinnier for higher notes and fatter for lower notes.
Try to make dimples at the corners of your mouth & hold the dimples there while you play (spend time playing in front of a mirror).
Build face muscle by making a loud racing car engine sound with just the mouthpiece.
Keep your tongue flat (down). If you raise it up in your mouth it will make it hard to play high notes.
Experiment with placing the mouthpiece a little higher than center… Experiment with placing the mouthpiece a little lower than center…
While having 50% upper lip and 50% lower lip is ideal, do what works best for you.
Experiment with placing the mouthpiece a little to the right… Experiment with placing the mouthpiece a little to the left… While having the mouthpiece centered is ideal, do what works best for you.
Higher notes require more air speed. Think of a low note as 20 mph (slow). Think of middle notes as 30 – 40 mph (side streets). Think of high notes as 60 mph (highway driving).
Experiment with air temperature. Have your hand in front of your face. Open your mouth and throat as if you’re saying “whoa” and when you blow you’ll feel warm air. Then close your lips like you’re blowing out a candle and when you blow you’ll feel cool air. Try playing with different air temperatures, and do what works best for you.
Play long tones to build face muscle. Be sure to have your teacher watch you (or play in a mirror) to make sure your face muscles are being used correctly.
PUSHING If you press the mouthpiece really hard into your mouth you can hurt your face muscles, and possibly your teeth. Generally we want to play with as little pressure as possible. BUT, experiment with added a bit of pressure. If it makes you play better and doesn’t hurt, do it all the time.
Keep doing everything! Remember we need to grow face muscles and learn to control them. Practice, practice, practice.