The Balanced Embouchure Website – www.trumpetteacher.net
The Balanced Embouchure Discussion Forum – www.trumpetherald.com/forum
The Balanced Embouchure (BE) is a set of embouchure development exercises and practice methods that coordinate and strengthen the lip muscles so that they work better and more efficiently, and lead to improved playing – better tone, endurance, flexibility and range. It is a self-help method that can be done without a teacher, and works for everyone, regardless of age or ability, and regardless of how good or messed up their embouchure is.
The Balanced Embouchure is not an embouchure type. It is a set of exercises that complements ANY embouchure type.
For most people, the changes are very subtle, and help their normal embouchure to work better without fundamentally changing it. For a few, The Balanced Embouchure eventually leads to a point where their embouchure changes completely, most often from a Farkas or stretch/smile setting to a Stevens type setting, or one using a bunched chin. This generally occurs spontaneously, with maybe a few days of instability, after which you gain huge improvement in all aspects of playing.
Jeff Smiley (the author) uses BE with all his students. His average motivated high school students (16-17 years old) have a playable performance range of G over high C, played loud and full, and he does NOT specifically select talented students. This is realistic for anyone using BE, as is a rich, full tone, and the endurance to play for hours. You will learn how to play the trumpet properly and learn to do things you previously thought impossible. Your only limitations will be musical, not technical.
Most people experience steady improvement over months to years. It is not a magic bullet that will fix all problems overnight – it takes practice and patience. Most people notice an immediate big improvement in tone, then useful and noticeable improvements within a few months, and steady improvements after that in all aspects of their playing. Occasionally, someone starts BE and everything falls into place very fast, with their range extending by an octave or more in a few weeks.
Firstly, BE does not require you to adopt a specific lip embouchure setting or tonguing style – it helps you to make the best of what you have, and find what works best for you. Secondly, it is an indirect method, so does not direct you to play exactly one way, with a long list of do’s and don’t, (like blow more air, lift you horn angle, put you mouthpiece 1/3 on top lip etc) but shows you how to do the exercises properly, and the changes in your normal playing come about naturally, without specifically trying to play a different way. Thirdly, it actually works! Many BE students (including me) have tried a variety of methods in the past, and none have given any real improvement. For many, BE has given them real improvement for the first time in years and now they can do things that they thought were impossible.
It is new, published only in 2001, and not yet distributed widely. The author, Jeff Smiley, currently offers email support to all users of the book. That role is gradually being taken over by the internet discussion forum, after which the book will be released more widely. The idea is to grow the method gradually, through a body of trumpet players and eventually teachers that have successfully applied the methods.
BE is being used by all types of players, from beginners to players of over 50 years experience, from high school students to comeback players to professional trumpeters. What they all have in common is that they are making more rapid improvement than they have ever done – for many it is the first time their playing has improved in decades of dedicated practice.
No. One side-effect of BE is the ability to play well on small mouthpieces, but it is not required. Play on the mouthpiece you have, and only change if you want to.
Yes. BE does not need an ideal face and mouth structure to work. Even playing with braces is possible.
The minimum is about 2-3 sessions per week, 20-30 minutes each. Less than this will still give progress, but more slowly. More than this will not necessarily give faster progress.
The BE exercises uses all these and more. They are merely exercises that use the full range of motion of the lips. You don’t actually PLAY like this. And no, it won’t mess up your embouchure, quite the opposite, in fact.
Chances are your trumpet teacher has not tried BE, and has merely read through the BE website and decided that it can’t possibly work. Some other BE students have experienced the same thing. Some teachers feel quite threatened when their methods seem to be questioned or challenged. One solution is to do the BE exercises by yourself in your own practice, 2-3 times per week, and then wait until your trumpet teacher asks why you have improved so much.
No. One result of BE development is increased range, with a big, fat, loud double G a realistic goal, on any mouthpiece (or higher even), but this is not the main aim, or done at the expense of anything else. BE leads to great improvement in ALL aspects of trumpet playing – tone, endurance, clarity, articulation, flexibility, dynamics, and range.
Yes. BE enables you to play how you want to in any style, from screaming lead playing, to moody jazz, from classical solo work to modern orchestral playing.